Five short and sweet Ontario canoe trips for the spring

Springtime in Ontario and paddlers across the province and beyond are itching to get back into the water. And, despite the erratic weather and spring run-off that makes some rivers more treacherous, there are plenty of options for those with little paddling experience, as long as safety precautions are in place. Here are five of our favourites to check out this spring. 

Thousand Islands National Park

One of the most gorgeous and relatively undiscovered regions of Ontario is the Thousands Islands. This group of 1,800 islands in the St. Lawrence River is a national treasure and a great place to take in the brilliant fall colours, especially from a boat. Although the area is brimming with boat traffic on weekends, Thousand Islands National Park on the eastern end of Lake Ontario allows paddlers to weave their way around Cedar and Milton islands near Kingston, perhaps even Wolfe Island if the winds are down. 

Bell Lake-David Lake, Killarney Provincial Park

The ideal and gorgeous weekend canoe trip is a loop through some of the most popular and beautiful lakes in Killarney. The distance is approximately 24 kilometres. Be sure to book your site ahead of time. Remember the weather hits early and often in the north so be sure to check the forecast and pack appropriately. There are four short portages on this trip. 

Saugeen River

Southwestern Ontario paddles will appreciate a day trip on the Saugeen River, which begins in the town of Hanover and ends at Southampton. Although the river does cut through some agricultural lands, the woodlands along the riverbank keep everything scenic, and during the falls harvest season, the colours are spectacular. There are a few short portages around dams, but otherwise, it’s a lovely day on the water suitable for all levels of paddlers, and families. Bonus: fantastic fishing along the route. 

French River

What better way to spend a day or weekend paddling than putting in on a bona fide Canadian Heritage River. The French River is a stunning and historic waterway that connects the Ottawa River and Lake Huron. It’s long and scenic, with all manner of paddling including rapids. For a day trip or weekender, consider a visit to French River Provincial Park as a starting point. There are literally hundreds of campsites along the route, so paddlers can make a longer trip of it if they wish. But it is just fine for an overnight or even a day trip. If canoeists put in at the Hartley Bay Marina they can spend the afternoon enjoying the splendour of Wanapitei Bay and a loop around Boom Island. 

York River

Located near Bancroft, ON, the York River is a lovely stretch of a meandering waterway for the most part, perfect for day and weekend trips. There are some chutes and rapids that require more skill west of Bancroft but before that, it is easy-going and scenic. One highlight of the area is Conroy Marsh, a vast area with great wildlife viewing opportunities not to mention lovely fall colours. There are outfitters in the area, like Trips and Trails, who have trips at the ready for all levels. 

Lead image by Mykola Swarnyk.


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