A decade ago, I married a Canadian, and moved from England to Ontario. My new husband made it quite clear that we were “outdoorsy” people and camping, hiking and fire pits would be a regular feature of our summers. My inner, city dwelling Londoner, cringed at the idea of peeing in the woods and leaving behind all the comforts of home. And I must admit I mostly endured camping trips rather than enjoyed them, that was until we found Bon Echo.
Bon Echo provincial park and campground is just a 2 hr. 15 min drive from Ottawa and 3 hours from Toronto.
At first glance, camping at Bon Echo is much like camping at any other Canadian campsite, it features some roofed accommodation, some more adventurous canoe-in camp sites and the majority of car camping plots- where you can drive right up to your tent pitch and have all your belongings close at hand. Many of them even offer electrical hookup. There are two of these grounds at Bon Echo, and Mazinaw Lake campground is the spot we keep returning to.
We prefer to stay at the spots a little walk away from the amenities, these usually have less boisterous children running around and more tree coverage, which adds to the privacy and offers a much-needed break from technology and the wired culture we all live in.
Where this park stands out as unique from so many other campgrounds, is as you round the corner to the water’s edge, and encounter Mazinaw lake. The lake is clear and framed by the imposing and magnificent Mazinaw rock. A giant 100-metre high escarpment rising out of the still waters, to tower over the landscape. The rock features over 260 aboriginal pictographs, by taking a canoe out onto the lake you can get a close up of many of these stunning, centuries-old drawings and symbols.
The Mugwump Ferry also offers a good view of the face of the rock, an interpretive guide fills you in on the culture and history of this beautiful natural monument as you make your way over to the other side of the water’s edge, to access hiking trails only permissible from this route. You’ll need to be steady on your feet and physically fit to attempt this trail, it features a lot of stairs, however, the view at the top is worth the slight burn in your thighs!
The visitor center, art gallery and gift shop are all of interest, especially if the weather is not cooperating, but on a warm summers day, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the water and all the activities it has to offer.
If you are interested in lake side campsites or ones with great views you will need to be quick off the mark with your reservation, as they do get booked up quickly. If you are less picky you can still find a spot with less notice. We have particularly enjoyed staying right in the forest, Sawmill section- which is close to the bathrooms and showers and yet still feels remote.
We always enjoy camping here in summer, you can really enjoy the water and the beach area in the warmer weather. Although we once stayed in late September, it was pretty chilly, but as there were no bugs at all and fewer crowds it made for quite a relaxing stay-however nights were cold and we were glad to have our thermal sleeping bag.
On our last trip to Bon Echo, before becoming parents, we purchased a painting of Mazinaw rock, which now hangs in our home. We plan to return to our favourite spot as soon as our son is a little older, but until then, we can gaze at the artist’s impression of Bon Echo and dream.
Fiona Tapp, Freelance Writer and Educator, can be reached at www.fionatapp.com
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