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Canoeing the French River
By:  Megan McTavish   (2011/08/07)


The French River has always been on my list of places to go, but somehow I hadn't made it there.  Without really ever looking into it I think I thought it was too far away and too complicated, given that it is a river.  I assumed that a shuttle would be necessary and that seemed like just a bit too much work. 

Last week, we took some time off work and the plan was to go canoeing somewhere and to visit my family cottage near North Bay.  The original idea was to paddle in Algonquin park in an area we had been before, but a week before the trip when we got out the maps to make the plans we decided that we really wanted to do something different.  That was when the idea for the French River came up.  A phone call to Karl's brother sealed the deal when he proclaimed that it was "awesome".  It turns out that it is quite easy to do loops, even though it is a river, because there are so many channels as you get close to Georgian Bay.  Also, you don't need to reserve campsites ahead of time and there are lots of different places you can park your car and buy your permit.  The night before our trip started,  XC Ottawa alumnus Brian Suke and his wife Judy helped us figure out a loop to do and on Sunday morning we headed off.  We started in the town of French River which is just off highway 69 just north of Parry Sound. 

In the end, it was a super trip and I would HIGHLY recommend going there.  We went for 5 days (starting kind of late the first day) but it would be easy to do longer or shorter trips.  Also, there are options available to arrange shuttles if you have the time to get that organized ahead of time.    

Here is a map of our route: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4697037

Below is a bit of a photo diary of our trip:

This is a view from our first campsite Sunday night.

Our first campsite, and our canoe which is starting to look well used!

Karl relaxing at lunch on Monday.

Beautiful spot for lunch and a swim.

There were so many yummy plump blueberries at our lunch spot we stayed for quite a while.

Heading into the Old Voyageur Channel, a must see spot in the French River.

The narrow river and rock walls were really neat.

Karl checking the map - it was actually kind of hard to find the smallest part of this channel.

 We found it though, and it was well worth it!

Monday night we stayed at a really neat rocky island campsite on Georgian Bay.  Here I am doing everything wrong in terms of Rattlesnake safety.  "Walking barefoot and looking for firewood at night are two of the most common activities that result in snakebites."  Karl saw a rattlesnake just before we went to bed - this was rather exciting and made it a bit hard to fall asleep after.  I also read that "If camping, check your sleeping bag before getting into it - snakes are also looking for a warm place at night."  After checking that our tent was free of snakes we read the instructions on our map which told us what to do in case of a snakebite.  Among other things it tells you to keep the limb immobilized, the person must remain inactive and be brought to an anti-venom treatment center (Parry Sound Hospital) right away.  Also, it was be a good idea to bring the rattlesnake with you!  Glad nobody got bit!!  I imagine it would have been an epic trip through Georgian Bay in a lightening storm trying to get an inactive paddler to the hospital.

The location of our tent which was causing us concern as we watched the lightening coming closer and closer for a few hours.

We made it through the night:)  Karl about to go for a swim in Georgian Bay.

Day 3 - the was shown as a narrow channel on the map.  It also took us a while to find it! 

Beautiful spot for lunch, one of Karl's favourite places on the river.  The Western Cross Channel.

Bottom of a waterfall, fun place for a quick swim.

2nd night on Georgian Bay.  Fire right beside the water with a beautiful sunset. 

Getting packed up and ready to go for Day 4.

Our tent on the top of the island.

There was a portage made of wood with a place called the "Rainbow Camp" at the end.  It was an old fishing camp and had a trolley so you could portage your fishing boats.

Karl with our canoe.

This was a small town on the Pickerel River which was on our way back to French River.  The Pickerel River is parallel to the French and allows for a loop.

Last campsite - there were natural chairs in the rock to eat our meals in.

Some nice waterfalls near the end of the trip.

Karl bringing it home.

Interesting Reading. . .
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