The French River Provincial Park is a true paddler’s paradise. The scenic beauty is breathtaking with plenty of photography opportunities. There are very few portages and a variety of routes to venture. My French River trips have been in the delta area and have occurred in early May in 2004 and late September in 2002. Both trips were 7 days in length, however, we were in no hurry and did stay at a few sites for more than one day to relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery. During these times, you can experience plenty of solitude. The water levels do vary as they are controlled by a dam at Lake Nippissing. During our May trip, the water levels were quite high which created the occasional rapid. I have never
tripped the French River during the summer months, but I hear it can be quite busy at times. We found the best area beyond the cottages, in the Old Voyagers Channel, the Cross Channel, and in the Georgian Bay islands.
Our Trips began at Hartley Bay Marina which is located Hartley Bay Road off of Highway 69 at Bigwood. Parking is available at the marina for a small fee. If you try this adventure, don’t be discouraged by the numerous cottages and speeding motor boats (which, on all my trips, made no attempted to slow down while passing by) at the start of the trip. By the second day of paddling, you should be beyond this area. On my first trip, we paddled up the Wanapitei River and camped our first two days at Sturgeon Chutes.
On our second trip, we paddled south through Wanapitei Bay spent our first night on Pig Island. We took a short hike to find the Lost Lake and on our way, came across a Massassauga rattlesnake. He wasn’t happy to see us and after a display of tail rattling and shaking, he retreated under the safety of his rock. The next day we continued Western Channel. We had a little difficulty as the Channel tends to funnel the prevailing winds off Georgian Bay into a terrible headwind. We navigated our way to the opening of the Old Voyageur`s Channel were the wind quickly subsided.
The Old Voyageur`s Channel was the route used most of the time by the Voyageurs as they paddled through the Delta. It is a spectacular channel,
it’s like paddling in a whole new world. The words can’t describe it and photographs cannot give it justice. We spent two nights on a gorgeous campsite above a chute.
The next area is the High Cross Channel. We paddled by the area where the Five Fingers Rapids poured into the channel. In the fall, we could easily paddle the Devils Door and continue to the East Cross Channel. However, when we paddled in the spring, the Devil’s Door was impassible as it was a large hydraulic in high water. Instead we paddled from island to island to avoid the Jamieson Rapids towards Georgian Bay. We camped on when of the islands and proceeded the next day towards the Bay. We then returned to the East Cross Channel by paddling up the opening of the Bad River. The East Cross Channel is a stained narrow passage that looks more like strong black coffee.
After spending the night just at the end of the cross channel, we continued our journey, Winding our way through the "French River Archipelago", a series of small islands west of the Main Outlet. Cross the mouth of the Main Outlet, heading toward Obstacle Island where we spent our final night. The sunset was amazing.
In the morning, we entered Eastern Outlet and paddled to the bottom end of the portage boardwalk. This 240 metre portage is sometimes made easier by the lodge owner who has lent us a trailer or a wheelbarrow in which to carry our gear. We continued through the Eastern Outlet north through Bass Lake to the Elbow, where you can continue north in the Main Outlet or east following the Eastern Outlet. Although we had planned to stay another night, being amongst the motor boats and cottages, we decide that we would rather have our memories of our final night of the trip be the beautiful evening on Obstacle Island. We continued to Hartley Bay instead.
Canadian Canoe Routes - http://www.myccr.com/canoedb/region.php?provinceid=6®ionid=1