The Passionate Paddler Visits OLC
Written By David Lee
You know the saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” As an avid canoeist, I have paddled canoe routes all across Ontario, including other provinces and territories throughout the country. But for years, unknowingly, I missed out on a paddling gem in my own backyard. In the formative years where I developed my passion for canoeing, I came to believe that I had to drive far away to enjoy a canoe trip. This notion although not entirely correct, definitely has been rewarding as I’ve witnessed and experienced some incredible waterways. But I also recently found that there are equally incredible paddling destinations close to home.
Ontario’s Lake Country encompasses five distinct districts (Oro-Medonte, Rama, Ramara, Severn and Orillia) which provides a veritable playground for adventure seekers like myself. It is located just north of the GTA, so it is both close and easily accessible. But more than that, it is a region full of rivers, lakes and waterways which to a canoeist like myself is a backyard treasure trove. Only have time to get away for a weekend? Don’t want to drive for hours and mire yourself in traffic? Look no further. There are many options in this region close to home whether canoeing, camping or just getting away.
I was recently invited by Kris Puhvel, Executive Director of Ontario’s Lake Country to paddle a couple of the local rivers and immerse myself in one of the regions camping possibilities. You don’t have to convince me when paddling is involved, so I jumped at the opportunity. While discussing possible options with Kris, he directed me to their website, www.ontarioslakecountry.com, which provides a wealth of information to people looking for things to do in the area, including paddlers like myself. Under the “Paddle Lake Country” link, I was quickly able to find detailed information on routes as well as places to camp and eat. I was set.
I pulled into Black River Wilderness Park, a private family camping facility that provides a wide range of overnight options that includes sites for RV’s, tents and cabins. As I normally spend my time outdoors in a tent, I opted to explore the riverside yurt option. Let me tell you, if you haven’t stayed in one, I would highly recommend it. It is a unique experience that is a fusion of modern conveniences and a distinct outdoor theme. With its judicious use of wood and natural materials, including an airy sunlight interior, your senses will be in for a treat. After getting settled in, I toured the park and was pleasantly surprised at the well managed grounds which provided hiking trails, access to the river, as well as clean facilities to campers. I could already tell it was going to be an enjoyable stay at this park.
That evening, my partner and I headed a short distance into the quaint town of Washago to have dinner at the highly recommended R’ Cottage. It was the perfect setting to discuss our paddling adventures for the next couple days. The first thing you’ll notice as you enter is the cottage-themed decor that adorns the cozy dining area. We were just as intrigued by all the paraphernalia as we were by the mouth-watering menu. After chatting with our waitress, we ordered Chef Thompson’s signature Meatloaf and the popular ¼ Chicken ½ Rib Combo dinner. It wasn’t long before we found out exactly why this eating establishment is so highly acclaimed. The presentation was as mesmerizing as it was delicious, as our palettes were treated to a culinary delight. If you find yourself in the area, I would highly recommend it. You won’t regret it.
The next day, it was time to get into our canoe and see what this region offers in terms of paddling destinations. One of the most highly recommended places to visit is the Green River, known for its crystal-clear water and its uncharacteristic green hue. It is hard to believe this kind of river exists here in Ontario, but you really have to see it to believe it. It is simply stunning. Not only could we see the vegetation and riverbed below, but the fish as well. This was one time I wished I had a glass bottomed canoe! This route is roughly 7-9 kms long as a there and back paddle and can easily be completed in half a day or less at a leisurely pace. This route takes you along cottage lined shorelines, as well as stretches of forests, granite outcroppings and a marsh. Best of all, you can paddle right to the town of Washago and treat yourself to an ice cream before heading back. It certainly is one of the most unique rivers I’ve paddled in Ontario.
The following day, we decided to paddle a section of the Black River. The Black River’s headwaters start in Haliburton as it flows through Simcoe County on its way to the Severn River. This river is rich in history as a travel corridor for the First Nations, as well as its use during the logging era. But now, it is mainly a source of recreation. There’s couple routes listed on Ontario’s Lake Country website on the Black River. We opted for the one through Black River Wilderness park, which is an 8 km linear route, therefore requires a shuttle. This section also requires a bit more skill as the river drops over several rapids, which can either be run or portaged, but if you are up for it, you can have the best of both worlds. A bit of thrill running the rapids, as well as a relaxing paddle in between them. Overall, we found it to be an extremely scenic paddle that imparts a remote feel with its mature trees and granite lining the riverbank. We especially enjoyed exploring its various channels and braids as we made our way down the river to our waiting vehicle.
Our limited time spent exploring and paddling a small section of Ontario’s Lake Country was amazing. The general mood and atmosphere we got from both locals and visitors alike was telling. They engaged us and were extremely kind and helpful as we navigated this locale both on and off the water. Even if there wasn’t a paddling destination in this region I would be highly inclined to visit again, but knowing that I can easily load my canoe and drive a short distance to these paddling gems is really the cherry on top. It’s simply not a matter of if I’ll come back, just when.
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