Wednesday, July 23, 2014


GPS tracks
Here we come, French River, again! Yes, we stayed here in 2011, two years ago, but because it was so windy every day, we could hardly paddle anywhere—even a very short trip around an adjacent island turned out to be a major chore. So, we hoped to make up all that lost time now!

We were planning to launch the canoe from Wolseley Lodge, but we took a wrong turn and ended up at Pine Cove Lodge. Unfortunately, it did not have a ramp and we were supposed to carry our belongings to the water and, on top of that, pay for that privilege $7.00 launch fee plus $8.00 per day for parking the car at a remote parking lot. So, we turned around and drove to Wolseley Lodge.
Setting up the tent

The put-in was free and parking was just $2.00 per day—much cheaper and we could literally drive the car into the water—as well as the parking was next to the water and the lodge. The lodge owner said they kept an eye on the parked vehicles—and Catherine believed her since she was German—maybe because Catherine has a German name too.

After paddling for over one hour—and hearing a few stinging comments from passing boaters about how much stuff we were carrying (to which we had already gotten accustomed), we arrived at our beautiful campsite—hallelujah, nobody was on it! Since we had camped on the very same campsite in 2011, we realized it was probably one of the best campsites in the area. Quickly, we claimed it. It had not changed significantly over the past two years. A primitive plywood table was quite convenient; there were several white bones kicking around, probably belonging to previous campers, who might have had a nasty encounter with a hungry black bear… OK, I am kidding… the bones were probably deer’s or moose’s and they were neatly laid out on the rock. The campsite was very spacious, with many potential tent sites, two thunder boxes (i.e., outhouse sans the house) and beautiful view of sunsets. At night we did not see anything around, just an occasional boat showed up here and there, with some fishermen, who kept fishing, but in most cases, to no avail. Because the shape of the island resembled a boomerang, I had always been calling it Boomerang Island.
At our awesome campsite!

It was full moon (blue moon) and in the evening we went for a paddle to other islands with several campsites—all of them were unoccupied. The moon was soon up and indeed, it was very bright, round and yellow-golden. While paddling, I was also trolling and finally caught a 63 cm pike. Alas, according to the Fishing Regulations, it had to be released; being a good, law-abiding citizen, release it I did, albeit half-heartedly. So long, our supper!
View from our campsite

Whereas evening paddles are relaxing, so are morning jaunts. Thus, one day we awoke early in the morning, at 5:00 am, got into the canoe and went for a sally on the lake in North Channel. The moon was still visible, everything was so quiet and we did not see any motorboats on the river. There was a tent pitched on the north shore of the channel, which was crown land, no park fee required. The campers were apparently asleep, yet their dog quietly ran down to the shore to check us out. On we went, finally reaching the characteristic pine we had seen from our campsite while sitting at the rock and admiring sunsets. There was a cottage on the other shore, at the park boundary. We loved paddling along the rocks and at one point came ashore—there was a fire pit made of rocks as well as a table: apparently somebody (or a group of people) frequented this camp.
Morning paddle in North Channel to the Cedar Rapids

Eventually we reached the Cedar Rapids. The water level was quite low, judging upon the water lines on the trees and rocks. We secured the canoe to a tree and took a nap, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the rushing water.

The paddle back to the campsite took us at least 2 hours. We also took other trips. Once we paddled to the Five Mile Rapids, just across from Crane’s Lochaven Wilderness Lodge. After carried the canoe through a shallow and rocky stretch of the river, we were able to again paddle for a while, until we reached another obstacle requiring a (longer) portage, the Little Pine Rapids (which obviously we did not attempt to portage). The area was very scenic and beautiful and we spent about one hour walking around.
North Channel-we saw this distinctive pine from our campsite

That evening I caught a 5-6 kg ugly looking catfish which I cleaned and later fried. It was the only fish I caught and ate this whole summer! Well, I can proudly boast that I rarely exceed the daily catch limit—in the whole year!

As I mentioned before, we had stayed on the very same campsite 2 years ago and of course, I wrote an extensive blog, in which I extolled virtues of this campsite. The next day after our arrival a few canoes paddled by and one of the canoeists shouted towards us:

            “Is this the famous campsite number XXX?”

            “Why was it famous?”, I asked.

            “It was featured in a very well-known blog”, she said.

I was almost flabbergasted at her words and would not say anything. Should I have told her that it was I who wrote that blog? During our stay at the campsite, we saw at least 3 other groups of canoeists who apparently were looking forwards to stay at this site and some were extremely disillusioned to find out that it had already been occupied. Well, it seems that people do read my blog and even act upon its recommendations!

While we were sitting on the rock at the campsite, we saw two loons performing a mating dance ritual, which ended in hopefully a new baby loon gracing this earth.

On Sunday we got up early, packed up and headed to the car. Our plan was to drive to Oastler Lake Provincial Park, located 6 km south of Parry Sound. No sooner did we get all our gear packed into the van when it began thundering, lighting and heavy rain pelted down. We drove to the Hungry Bear Restaurant on highway 69 (just north of the French River bridge) to have a traditional grilled hamburger. The place was packed; moreover, the cream soup, which Catherine wanted so badly, was not available. So we drove next door to the truck stop, had a very good salad and chatted with the owner for some time.
Near the Little Pine Rapids 

Catherine had a burning desire to once again drive through Shawanaga Indian Reserve, so she made a detour off highway 69 into the reserve and looped back out onto highway 69.

When we arrived in Parry Sound, it was still raining. We visited a few stores and then went to Walmart, probably the only store open after 6 pm. While inside, we could hear the rain pounding the metal roof of the store and very loud claps of thunder. At one point the store lost its power (as we were about to pay), but the generator kicked in and we were able to complete our payment. Some of the shoppers were buying plenty of tarps—they were camping in the nearby provincial parks (Killbear, Oastler) and their presumably cheap tents were already leaking.
We enjoyed watching such beautiful sunsets from our campsite

Considering the weather, we realized it would be impossible to set up a tent in the park. So, we made the wise choice and drove straight to Toronto, arriving about midnight. Because the weather was very crappy the next few days, this decision certainly saved us from a camping nightmare experience.

Overall, we enjoyed this trip very much. And although Catherine was always trying to visit an area we had not visited yet, I was discreetly planning our next trip to another stretch of the French River!


  1. Although, probably I'll have little chances to act upon your recommencations, I like your sense of humour, Jack and descriptions of your canoe trips. Beautiful photos!. Regards

  2. Daniel: Thanks for your comments. Well, if you come to Canada, you might act upon my recommendations!

  3. always liked your trip reports and photos! Boomerang island is actually called Banana Island. I know you paddled the east outlet of the French and the Pickerel River but I would like to suggest the west outlet of the Delta. My personal favorite! Happy paddling!

    1. Hi Ingo,

      I appreciate your comment. Actually, the island's shape resembles a banana as well, so it's a very appropriate name-alas, not listed on my map. West outlet of the Delta-do you mean the one on Georgian Bay?

      All the best,