Into the French River Provincial Park – 4 days on north-eastern Georgian Bay
I have always leapt at the chance to take a trip to the French River Provincial Park Ontario, even as a young child. For the Canadian outdoors enthusiast, this place should not be missed. A chance to visit and explore the uniquely beautiful shore of north-eastern Georgian Bay came up the long weekend before Canada Day. I packed up my gear and headed down Highway 69 from Sudbury – for the Key River, an hour south. For the average boater, the 30km from highway to park centre does not usually present a large challenge, despite crossing large expanses of open water. However, for the kayaker or canoe paddler the journey is a challenging yet rewarding excursion into the back country.
The French River region was originally the home of the Ojibwa people, then later became a throughway for French exploration and trading. Hence the Voyageur Channel and French River. By the late 1800s, the region was being harvested for fish and timber and experienced booms for both. The park was established in 1989. While a handful of private properties and fishing lodges do speckle the area, it is largely a remote, wild and untouched wilderness. The park boundaries encompass 540km2, some 200km of waterways and channels, and 230 backcountry camping sites. A trip to the park is always rewarding.
The weather and conditions on the water can at times be unpredictable, but we didn’t have too much to worry about on this trip. The water body is the highlight of the French River Park – bad weather or a strong wind can really impact how much of it you get to experience. We were fortunate and over four days made our way through the Fox Islands, Otter Bay, Obstacle Island, inner Bustard Islands and the Eastern Outlet of the French River. Some of the best highlights from those days are included below.
Paddlers: A small group of paddlers contemplate the paddle to the Bustard Islands on a clear sunny day with low winds. Standing 8 km from mainland at the southernmost point of the park, this leg is for more experienced paddlers
The lower portage: The Lower Portage at the Eastern Outlet of the French River is well marked and easy to access via a floating dock.
Bass Creek: Looking north over the Bass Creek leg of the French River. The canoe and kayak portage comes up to the east.
Upper Portage: The Upper Portage at the Eastern Outlet is similarly well marked and easy to access, especially in the spring when water is higher
Rattle Snake: An endangered and unique species, the Massassauga rattlesnake is for me, one of the most exciting highlights of the French River Park. This is a young rattlesnake, with two or maybe three tail rattles
The Obstacle: The channel at Obstacle Island is well marked and should be approached with caution due to tight quarters and frequent boat traffic
Cloud Tower: Weather on Georgian Bay can be unpredictable and blow in off of the water quickly. We saw large cloud towers such as this one starting to form and decided to head back to camp to avoid getting wet
Canoe Campers: A larger group of paddlers shelter out the storm on the Obstacle Island campsite. This site is popular due to its proximity to main paddling routes while still remaining sheltered from the weather
Unpredictable Weather: While at times dramatic, extreme weather on the French River can be breathtaking. Often you can see clouds dropping rain from many kilometers away
Photo Essay by Jordan Nicksy
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