Grand Lake & Barron Canyon

A Canoe Trip with Everything

This is a trip that has everything: wonderful lakes, dazzling beaches, gorgeous waterfalls, fun rapids, a magnificent canyon and great fishing. It’s easy enough for beginners, yet tough enough to make each day a solid days work. I've done this trip four times with four different groups of paddlers. The only negative point about this trip is that it can be quite busy at times. 

This trip begins at Grand Lake in the Achray Campground in the north east section of the Park. Our trip would end at Squirrel Rapids, where we left a second vehicle. After spending the night at Achray Station, we traveled south to where the Barron River exits the lake. We paddled east along the river until the first portage (30 m.) around a dam to Stratton Lake. Stratton Lake

is long and relatively uninteresting. St. Andrews Lake is only a short 45 metre portage away and is a much prettier place to set up camp.

After setting up camp on a rocky site on the northwest shore, we went back to Stratton Lake to visit the “must see” High Falls area. High Falls is a series of four falls and chutes interspersed with deep pools complete with a natural water slide and whirl pool. No wonder it’s a very busy place. Although this is a high falls is gorgeous area, it can be a difficult area to photograph.

There are two ways to travel to the Barron Canyon. One way is to 300 mitre portage from High Falls Lake to the aptly named Ooze Lake followed by a 640 Metre portage to the beautiful Opalescent Lake. This lake is a great place to stay the night or you could continue on the 730 metre portage that will lead you to Brigham Lake.

On this day, we chose the alternate route. We portaged around High Falls on the 660 metre trail found on the left shore of St Andrews Lake. Traveling northeast we continued through High Falls Lake to the north end where the Barron River exits through a narrow bay on the northwest shore. This time of year, the water level happened to be perfect and the rapids here could be run in part, but other sections needed to be walked or lined. The portage around the rapids is 530 metres on the right-bank.

Down stream a little further there is another set of rapids called "The Cascades". We chose to walk and line the rapids rather than take the 290 and 350-metre portages on the left shore. I think we would have been better off using the portages as it took much longer than we expected. This entire section of the river is 1.8 km. in length.

We continued paddling north 500 metres through the small lake to a set of rapids. The portage (160 metres) is located on the right shore. Just after Brigham Lake is a set of rapids. The portage is 100 metres on the left shore. Another 100 metres of paddling brought us to the portage around Brigham Chute. The portage is to be found on the left shore and is 440 meters long. We noticed other people put there canoes in just after the falls and shorten the portage considerably.

The next part of the trip is the Barron Canyon. I wish we would have slowed down more, as it is only a short 2 kilometre paddle to the end. The best plan would be to just stop paddling, lie back and let your canoe slowly drift through this awe-inspiring wonder. The walls on both banks of the river grow steeper as we drifted and soon the wall was over 100 metres high.

After the canyon the river widens out across a marshy plain. Further downstream is Cache Rapids, which is a definite mandatory 420 metre portage. From here, the river is placid and calm as it meanders to Squirrel Rapids. We camped just down from the rapids where we relaxed, fished and paddled back to the canyon to enjoy it again. That evening, the river was so calm that the water perfectly reflected the starry sky above. The quiet night was also perfect for a wolf howl. Our howling received responses from about a dozen wolves from all areas around us. Near our campsite, we also discovered a tree with a fungus that glowed in the night.

We spent a second night on the river, on a different site further down then river. The next day we proceeds to the Squirrel Rapid take out. Our troubles began when we arrived at the parking lot; our second vehicle wouldn’t start. We decided that two of us would hitch hike back to Achray Station to retrieve the other vehicle. To my surprise, when we tried to wave down a vehicle driving by, the first three vehicles wouldn’t even stop to at least talk to us. They all just drove right by us. The fourth vehicle did stop to help us out. It was a park warden going to Lake Travers to deal with a nuisance bear. He dropped us off at Achray. By the time we returned to Squirrel Rapids, the vehicle was fixed and running. All’s well that ends well.

Just an added point, The Barren Canyon is even more spectacular from the top. Anyone visiting this area should make time to hike the 1.5 km Barren Canyon Trail. Access to the trail is along the Achray Road about 30km from the park entrance.