Best 5 Ontario Paddling Routes to Explore this Summer

The region of Northeastern Ontario boasts big things: BIG fish, BIG trees and especially BIG water. It’s a paddler’s paradise. From the French River to the James Bay coast, there are countless bits of expansive water to paddle. The only problem is trying to decide which one. Paddlers know full well the potential of some prime places like Killarney’s Philip Edward Island and the lower reaches of the French River. These places are legendary amongst paddlers. But there’s a lot more across the region that offers exceptional BIG bodies of water to explore. Here’s five of my favourite Ontario paddling routes:

North Shore Lake Huron – Ontario Paddling Routes

The “Whalesback” in Lake Huron’s North Channel matches the beauty and rugged shoreline of the more popular eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay. But not many people know about it. It’s possible to do multiple short trips or a full week excursion along the areas sheltered passages; camping on sand beaches or smooth granite islands.

north shore lake huron

Biscotasing Lake – Ontario Paddling Routes

This is the land of Grey Owl. Forest Ranger, Archie Belaney, paddled the area before he masqueraded as a Native writer and conservationist. He described it as a territory that was “untamed, defiant and relentless.” It remains the same. It would take days, even weeks, to explore every bay and inlet Biscotasing Lake has to offer. Neighbouring Ramsey and Island lakes can be easily linked to Biscotasing, adding even more water to explore. Campsites are scattered throughout the lake’s islands and shoreline, capped with old-growth pine rooted in mounds of granite. You can drive right up to the access point.

biscotasing lake

Upper French River/Lake Nipissing – Ontario Paddling Routes

Most kayakers head down the French River to paddle through the maze of islands and inlets where the river flushes out into Georgian Bay. But they’re missing out on the best part of the river. The upper section has less boat traffic and more wilderness. Add the west shore of Lake Nipissing to the route and you’ve got some amazing water to explore. Apart from the incredible scenery, it’s the sense of history that draws kayakers here—to paddle the same waters as the past Natives, explorers, missionaries and voyageurs. Totem Point Lodge makes for a perfect access point.

french river lake nipissing

Lady Evelyn/Maple Mountain – Ontario Paddling Routes

Lake Temagami is a regular paddle spot for kayakers. Further north, however, is the lesser-traveled Lady Evelyn Lake. There’s still some fishing lodges and cabins dotting the shoreline. But due to its sheer size and elongated shape, it’s also quite easy to find solace here as well. The route combines viewing Temagami’s legendary old-growth forests, swimming at the lower cascade of the Lady Evelyn River, and a hike up to the summit of Maple Mountain—the second highest point in Temagami. Temagami Outfitters and Smoothwater Outfitters offer gear and boat rental.

lady evelyn maple mountain

Abitibi River – Ontario Paddling Routes

A 40km stretch of this northern river provides exceptional kayaking. Access is at Abitibi Canyon, built in the 1930s and which marks the graves of four bodies (rumour has it that the number is as high as 200) who lie dead, encased in the concrete dam during the initial construction. The trip continues downriver where you camp on gravel bars and spend time visiting the historical monument, the old New Post Fur Trade site, abandoned in 1924. Natural monuments exist as well. The New Post Falls marks where the Little Abitibi River flushes into the main river. It’s the Niagara of the North.

abitibi river