The Happy Camper: Jeff McMurtrie’s Long-Awaited Algonquin Map

Jeff McMurtrie’s Long-Awaited Algonquin Map has finally been released and this author delves right into its intricate design.

Legendary map maker Jeff McMurtrie has just released his long-awaited map for Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. It’s been named by paddlers as the most detailed map of the park ever created. It includes countless tidbits of information such as locations of old-growth forests, exceptional moose habitat, favourite beach sites for swimming, remnants of old ranger cabins and fire towers, spectacular lookouts, spring water areas, fish species found in each lake and stream and the regular campsite and portage locations. Jeff McMurtrie

A new feature, what Jeff calls “Portage Elevation Profiles,” is basically a diagram beside each portage showing the side view of the elevation changes. He created it using hundreds of GPS tracks from fellow paddlers. It highlights where the hills are, how steep they are, how long they are and, in Jeff’s opinion, how tough they are (labelled as Steep, Very Steep and Crazy Steep).Jeff McMurtrie

There’s a colour code for route difficulties. Yellow marks a typical route. Orange marks a challenging route. Red marks a very difficult route. A real added bonus is the “adventure routes” Jeff has highlighted—old, forgotten routes no one has travelled in decades or even centuries. Bushwhacking is definitely required for these. And he’s added a 2.5-metre contour interval that shows the terrain in extreme detail, emphasizing the flat spots and valleys. 

Each route shown has a calculated distance and duration for the average canoeist to travel. This isn’t a bad idea for novice trippers to investigate who thinks they can take on more than their skill set. It considers how twisty a river is, the hills on portages, obstructions like dense alder and the condition of each portage.Jeff McMurtrie

When using this map on your phone, you can click on each access point and obtain valuable information: how much parking is, where the nearest outfitters are, permit info and a detailed description of the point. It also has a Take Me There! button that automatically shows the directions to access from your current location using Google Maps.

The clarity has improved from Jeff’s past map designs. He went from four single-sided map sections to five double-sided maps, giving the ability to increase the zoom/scale by an amazing 70 per cent—from a scale of 1:84,000 to 1:50,000. Wow!

It’s also a great deal—$25. When you buy a map, you not only get a waterproof, tear-resistant copy—but you also get five different digital versions as well:

  • An Avenza Maps compatible file for iOS/Android
  • A Garmin “Custom Map” file, compatible with the most modern GPS’s (except the inReach series)
  • A high-resolution JPEG, perfect for making enlargements
  • A Google Earth file

An interesting note: when you receive your online order, have a close look throughout the map and you’ll see your name in print in various places. This is Jeff’s way to make sure you don’t share your own copy. He needs to make a living after all, and that’s one way to stop bootleg copies.Jeff McMurtrie

It’s been a long journey for Jeff McMurtrie. Well over a decade ago the Toronto-based canoeists and entrepreneur launched a new map design for Algonquin by using historical records and gathering information from other canoeists online. It was far more accurate than any other map of the time, so he made it available by placing it online for a free download (in 2008). Paddler’s quickly demanded print copies, and his business “Jeff’s Maps” was born.

Jeff then added maps for more canoeing destinations, including the Temagami area and Killarney Provincial Park. His business grew and Jeff started making maps full-time—that is until he broke ties with his business partner in 2016. Jeff’s Maps still existed but not under Jeff McMurtrie. It wasn’t long before delayed orders and poor customer service greatly diminished the original business. However, it didn’t take Jeff long to bounce back. He soon partnered with his friend Deki Kim to create Unlostify. Maps for the French River, Kawartha Highlands, Killarney and Massasauga Provincial Park were launched—with a promise of a new Algonquin map to be released soon.

The Algonquin map has been released, five years later! There was also a rebranding of his business Unlostify to Maps by Jeff.Jeff McMurtrie

Five years is a long time but have a glance at the new Algonquin map and you’ll quickly notice all the detail. Maybe too much detail for some. Many traditional canoe trippers grew up discovering the elevation of a portage when they got to the portage. They also believe that some “adventure routes” should only be located by trippers who do the leg work to find them, not have a new age map pinpoint their exact location. They believe beach sites to have a swim in should be found along the way, a mini oasis discovered while en route.

To others, however, Jeff’s new Algonquin map was definitely worth the wait. It will certainly initiate some route planning sessions through the winter for the 2024 canoe-tripping season.

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