Trip Reports


Barron Canyon canoe-camping (August 12-14, 2011)

It is close enough to home to get there in a half day's drive but far enough out of town to count as "wilderness".  It is beautiful and inspiring, full of life and promise; and it's ours. My virtual introduction to the Barron Canyon reads like this:
*Photo courtesy of Karine


“The Barron River Canyon consists of a series of spectacular gorges with granite walls towering 100m and more above steep talus slopes which grade down to the water. Geological activity along the faulting zone has concentrated calcareous material along crevices and seepage areas, encouraging the growth of calcicolous plant species otherwise rare in the Site District and Algonquin Provincial Park. A number of these are relics of post glacial times that are otherwise rare in southern Ontario. The passage of a major post glacial drainage system through the Canyon is likely responsible for the introduction of a number of such taxa. The rocky shores and shallows of the Barron River support a number of locally and regionally rare southern taxa. Backshore forests are primarily intolerant mixed and coniferous vegetation dominated by Red Pine, White Pine, Trembling Aspen, White Birch and White Spruce, with scattered groves of Eastern Hemlock and Eastern Cedar on steep, cool slopes. The boggy ponds (such as Ooze Lake) and creeks in the zone frequently exhibit emergent, peaty shores in late summer.”


After reading this paragraph in a blog, I was convinced it would be a worthwhile adventure and I was not mistaken, my actual experiences far exceeded my own expectations.  It was truly a fantastic trip.  It simply has to be seen to be believed.


So this is how the story goes:

I.  The Meeting (or, Looking for my Tent Partner)

On Tuesday, August 9th, we took the first step towards this exciting trip. We met the group for the first time, at the shed.  Seven ladies and two gentlemen were about to engage in a great adventure. After introducing ourselves and letting seven strangers know the most-important thing they should know about you, laughs, warnings and advices sprinkled the rest of the conversation.  That was it!  We were committed. We all were in!  And all thanks to Judy, who took the time and initiative to organize this wonderful trip so we could also enjoy some of the wonders of Algonquin Park.  The balance of the evening was spent getting an overview of the trip, looking at maps, filling in forms, booking equipment and sorting out what shared equipment each could contribute and what we would need to borrow from the Club.   Roles were agreed on or assigned for sharing responsibilities for meal preparations, driving, tenting, equipment, first-aid, navigation, accounting, reporting, etc., etc. to get us there and back home again, safely.

II.  And, Off We Go!

Finally, August 12th came around and we all met at the Club boat shed at the un-godly time of 7:00 am on Friday morning to load boats and equipment and set off for our date in Cobden at the Coffee-Shop.  After that pick-me-up, in no time at all, all three cars and eight good-looking, happy campers registered at the Sand Lake Gate entrance to Algonquin Park. Judy, Maureen, Shahin, Paul, Lola, Kristen, Karine, and Adriana were eager to explore the Canyon and part of the Barron Canyon River circuit.  At this point, EC's rainy forecast for Sunday was putting some pressure on most of us, but it was Paul who had a great suggestion ... to take a short hike and see the view from the trail above the Canyon, before starting to actually canoe the circuit.

** Canoer's tip:  There is a nice, easy hiking trail at K29 of the Barron Canyon Road which can be included in a trip as a preamble to the adventure.

Our departure point was just a short drive further into the park at Achry on Grand Lake, a nice little lake where we get to meet other canoe-lovers as eager as us to get to the best camping spot on St. Andrews Lake.

** Canoer's tip:  For those not familiar with the area, at this point you will find a small but very interesting interpretation center, a soda machine and two closed-door bathrooms.

Image courtesy of Paul

While crossing Grand Lake from Achray enroute to Stratton Lake, we had the opportunity to admire the beauty of the area, and it was almost impossible to not help thinking of Tom Thompson's famous "Jack Pine" (above) even though it has been almost a century since this famous painting, it is still easy to understand the inspiration of the artist, when you are there.  After the first short portage (30 meters) on the Barron River we found ourselves on Stratton lake and then after a 4.5 km paddle had another short 50 meter portage into St. Andrews Lake at around 4:00 pm.  We paddled to the north end of the lake to find a large pleasant and empty campsite.


After the exercise of of paddling and portaging the first thing we did after setting up our campsite was, of course, to jump in the lake and go swimming!


















Photo, courtesy of Shahin

And, right after... a nice meal was already waiting for us:  Salmon Mornay and White Wine by Chef Gallagher; and for dessert: brownies from expert en reposterie, Lola.  And to end the day, some of us went canoeing at night to appreciate the wonderful full moon in the middle of the lake.  I can only describe this experience as overwhelming and humbling, to be surrounded by such stillness, such serenity, and yet amidst so much life.


III.  The PORTAGING Challenge!

August 13th arrived bringing with it another nice, warm, sunny day.  After a hearty breakfast of eggs and porridge, prepared by Karine and Adriana, washed down with "cowboy coffee", we were ready to start our challenge of the first portage (550 meters) to High Falls Lake, which, to our surprise, gave us the pleasure of paddling for only one km.  At this point we actually wondered whether we were on a hiking trip or a paddling trip because the major challenge was still waiting for us at the other end of the lake with a nice portage of 300 meters that led us to Ooze Lake, a nice picturesque lake that made us appreciate the beauty of all those water lilies.

This still lake provided us the opportunity to recover our breath for a few minutes before facing the major challenge of the day, a 650 meter portage into Opalescent Lake.  And, guess what?  Although some us were inexperienced and rather new to this whole canoe-camping environment, and portaging.  WE DID IT!!

Photos courtesy of Lola

The beautiful Opalescent Lake and its resident Loon and the perfect camping spot on the point was a prize for all our efforts.  Don (the ninth good looking camper), who had arrived earlier in the morning to stake out our choice campsite, almost at the end of the lake was waiting in his hammock to greet us when we arrived at 2:00 pm.

Photo courtesy of Lola

This lake has beautiful characteristics that makes  you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere and only we and our other five camping neighbours owned the entire lake.  The water is crystal clear and we were so lucky watching some fauna (first a water snake and later a beaver) swimming just a few meters away from us.  See our friends hereunder:

Photos courtesy of Don

Menu for that night: Some curry and noodles entree courtesy of Don.  Awesome vegetarian Chili (family recipe) from Kristin; and, of course white wine and nice date squares.


IV.  The Best Part yet to come .... The MAGNIFICENT Barron Canyon

Happily some of our friends like to get up early in the morning and took these amazing pictures of the lake with the mist around 6:00 am!

** Camper’s tip: Have your camera ready all the time in this camping site, fauna, sunsets, mist, etc. This was one of the best places for taking some wonderful pictures.

Photos courtesy of Lola

Our breakfast that day was a wonderful homemade porridge by Judy with some honey and cheese toast courtesy of Shahin.

Photo courtesy of Don

We re-crossed Opalescent Lake, passing close to the resident Loon, to get to a 740 meter portage into Brigham Lake and a short paddle down this very small lake with very still water and a narrow put-in.  At the end of the lake another short portage (100 meters) followed by another short paddle (also 100 meters) brings you to a longer portage of 440 meters into the Barron Canyon itself. After having lunch we were delighted and re-energized by the beauty of the Canyon.

Photo courtesy of Paul with Lola's camera

Its ochre-coloured walls due to lichens; and its trees clinging to the steep cliffs made the highlights of the trip.  cameras were being quickly grabbed to take advantage of some great photo opportunities.

Photos courtesy of Don

The weather forecast had originally been for rain all day on Sunday but we enjoyed bright, warm dry weather right up until about 2:00 pm on Sunday at the end of the last portage (420 meters) at the end of the Canyon, when the heavens opened up for a huge deluge which threatened to fill our boats.  But at that point it didn't matter so we paddled the last 1200 meters down the Barron Canyon River laughing in the rain to the take-out at Squirrel Rapids where our cars were waiting.

Big thanks to trip leader - Judy Olmstead O'Reagan and to all the group for having participated in this trip.  I had an awesome time!












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