The Happy Camper: Autumn Bliss While Paddling Algonquin’s Opeongo Lake


Fall is one of my favourite times of the year to camp in the woods. Cool nights, warmer days, autumn colours, fewer mosquitoes and fewer people. You can’t beat that. And despite this season’s heat wave, wildfire smoke and increase in unethical campers, I still find myself out on trips more than ever.

My latest was a canoe trip across Opeongo Lake—Algonquin Provincial Park’s largest lake. It was a portage-free trip; Algonquin Outfitters took our group—Andy Baxter, Tim Foley, Evan Lefebvre and myself—to the far eastern end of the lake by water taxi. We then took four days to paddle back to the access.Kevin Callan

Evan was a new paddler in our group. We needed a fourth for the trip. Solo paddling isn’t a good option for such a large lake. Evan was a great choice—he’s a young, ethical and enthusiastic canoeist; plus, Andy and I kind of owned him for helping us out with a car shuttle when we did Ontario’s Mississippi River this past spring.Kevin Callan

It takes three to four hours to paddle the length of Opeongo Lake. Our water taxi ride took 12 minutes. And by luck, no one was on the prime beach campsite on the northeast corner of Annie Bay. Eric, the captain of the shuttle boat, pushed the nose of the boat right up on the beach and we were able to unload the gear and canoes without getting our feet wet. We then gave the boat a shove off the beach and gave Eric a wave goodbye as he sped off, leaving us alone and content on our first campsite of the trip.Kevin Callan

The weather certainly was on our side. The lake was calm, and the sun was shining. The autumn foliage was beginning to turn to vibrant reds and yellows. It was a perfect day to start a fall canoe trip. Tim, Evan and my dog Angel even had a quick dip in the lake—a rare thing to do comfortably during the first week of October.Kevin Callan

The weather stayed the same throughout the week. We were very lucky. Wind can be a real issue on Opeongo. Many paddlers have drowned in the lake, some of which have never been found. Windy Point, located near the entrance to the Northwest Arm, and Jones Bay, at the northeastern portion of the South Arm, are the most notorious spots. They are both exposed expanses of water where waves can gather in seconds. Thankfully, our group was able to paddle straight across without any issues.Tim Foley

Our second night was spent in a secluded part of the lake, along the north shore of the East Arm, called Deadman’s Bay. Not sure how it got its name, but we stayed well away from the business of the lake. Yet, it’s a campsite I’ll definitely be back to.

The third night was along the east shore of the South Arm, across from Wesley Island. This was our worst site, but we were lucky to get it. It was a Saturday, and the South Arm was busy with weekend paddlers.Tim Foley

The only downfalls of the entire trip were dealing with the South Arm, where we picked up litter floating along the shoreline and even went to shore once to put out a campfire someone had left burning after leaving their site.

The highlights certainly outdid the downfalls. Sighting 68 loons in the centre of the East Arm, gathering to feed before their long flight south, was incredible. So was having grey jays visit the camp to try and steal a piece of Evan’s homemade bread. The fall colours, sunny days and cold, crisp nights were joyful as well. However, it was the meals we made along the way that were the pinnacle of the trip.Kevin Callan

We split up the meal schedule. Andy got off easy on this trip with only the first lunch and last breakfast. I was on dinner patrol the first night, and breakfast and lunch for day two. Evan had dinner prep for night two, as well as breakfast and lunch on day three. Tim was on dinner for our last night.

Lamb and mint sauce were my main meal. Evan’s was a delicious French beef dip. Tim’s dinner was mushroom quinoa, sautéed vegetables and smoked duck with a savoury cranberry sauce. My lamb was good, but Tim won for the best meal with Evan coming in a close second.

Check out the video of the trip on the KCHappyCamper YouTube channel. 



And check out Evan’s video of the trip as well. It’s a totally different view of the trip.




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