View topic - Just how crowded are the big 4 canoeing areas?

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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 1:22 pm 
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Interesting that no one has mentioned Quetico so far. I thought with it's proximity to Boundary Waters that it was quite busy?

Anyone with any commentary on the relative busyness of Quetico vs the others?


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 7:48 pm 
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I'm a Minnesotan, and we go to the Quetico to escape the crowds of the BWCA. Thing of it is, once you get into the interior, the number of people drops way off. I went on a 15 day trip last summer, and we saw plenty of people on the first few days and the last few days, but in between maybe 4 groups total, and several of those were distant sightings on big lakes. Of course, the whole US Canadian border is busy with BWCA traffic, as are the entry points in the north. My observation is that more and more people tend to go in one lake or two and base camp. I've never had trouble finding a campsite. 100 people on a portage? Never seen anything like that. I've been to Woodland Caribou and Wabakimi and both of those are much quieter, but the numbers in the Quetico are highly tolerable.


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PostPosted: July 17th, 2019, 8:49 pm 
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I find people tend to exaggerate the crowdedness of Algonquin. Yes it's a bit ridiculous on peak season weekends if you're heading north from Canoe Lake. But just like there's more to Temagami than the "rumble lakes" there's more to Algonquin than the most popular access lakes. Start at a less busy access point and it tends to be pretty reasonable, and then once you get past a solid day's travel into the backcountry you won't be seeing people on the regular. I mean it depends a bit on your standards of solitude, like there will be the occasional fellow canoeist just about anywhere in Algonquin in July and August, but constant streams of people and actual crowds at portages would be linmited to some specific, very popular areas.

Last year around this time I did the Kiosk-Mouse-Maple-Kiosk loop in northern Algonquin, over a Saturday-Monday period. On the portage from Mink to Club we saw the last humans we would see until one distant canoeist passed our final campsite on Maple Lake. This year on the May long weekend I started from Canoe Lake but went west instead of north. Aside from passing one person on a portage on my way out, I saw nobody off of Canoe Lake itself.

With Killarney the whole park or close to it will tend to be booked up at any given time during the high season, so unless you're in the far flung reaches of the park there will be some people around. It's not necessarily oppressive though. The thing is getting reservations.


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PostPosted: July 18th, 2019, 7:08 am 
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Difficult for me to comment, since I'll avoid crowding like at the APP popular spots and so don't really know what that's like, not having seen it lately. Algonquin is a large place, over 7660 sq km so there must be places that see few visitors.

Recently I was surprised to find APP campsites available at some scenic spots and not at others, at the park reservation website. My guess is, with time, you'll get to know which places become crowded and which do not.

I'm with Wotrock on going for crown land campsites during the most popular midsummer times... I really can't see the point of paying to stay in crowded areas when there are other no-fee choices out there.

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PostPosted: July 18th, 2019, 8:16 am 
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ameaney wrote:
Interesting that no one has mentioned Quetico so far. I thought with it's proximity to Boundary Waters that it was quite busy?

Anyone with any commentary on the relative busyness of Quetico vs the others?


Pickerel Lake is fairly close to Thunder Bay and on weekends families use it.. That is the only lake and only on Saturday and Fri Nite I would even think of as peopled

Otherwise people in the Q are few and far between.. Most BWCAers do not apply for a RABC to get into Quetico from that end..

Quetico is also far more expensive especially for non residents compared to the BWCA

And like others I have been alone . Totally alone. In Algonquin in June and the end of August on.

100 people on the Canoe- Joe portage.. Well yes.. Its popular with day trippers and is essentially a short road . Graveled too and with a potty. Hardly representative of the rest of the park..
Get away from an entry lake and you will find aloneness


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PostPosted: July 18th, 2019, 5:53 pm 
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A few more thoughts:

- Killarney gets quite into Great Mountain and North, Three Narrows and North, and the west side entry tends to be more quite once into the park (Grace, Nellie, which are always booked, but very few sites).

- The worst crowding I've experienced was actually in the French river, over the Canada Weekend/week. They do not limit the number of permits they issue, and you cannot camp except on established marked sites. So, they can actually overflow easily. We had several people stop trying to squat on our site one day! And, wardens boating around checking permits (which is a good thing). All the same, it meant no isolation really.

- The Highway 60 lakes in Algonquin are always very busy, almost always (like the Canoe Lake portage... what a highway!) Generally, I've seen people daily even in the interior lakes, but less off the beaten path.

- The 'buffer' site thing is true for some limited lakes in Algonquin and Killarney, which can only be booked in person at the offices. These tend to be the lakes near the park offices, but it's somewhat difficult to find out for sure (I know Bell and George have them, I have actually taken advantage of this in person on a late arrival, switching a car-camping spot for interior).

- Because Kawartha's and Haliburton book by site, you can usually plan a last minute trip with knowledge of avoiding crowds on some smaller interior lakes. I like Gun Lake for novice trips, for this reason.

- Although Massassauga Park books by site, it is so popular that it is always packed. You can't make last minute reservations generally.

- Chiniguchi tends to be less busy than most parks in prime season, once you get a bit north, relative to other crown-land parks.

- Temagami surprised me how busy it was last time I was there. We even got dropped off my plane into the middle of the park, still a lot of groups around.

Good luck!

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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 7:28 am 
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Ottawa-Temiskaming Trail and Heaven's-gate trail are 'relatively' unknown to the masses - not being in operational parks. I'd compare them more towards a lesser used crown land or non-operational canoe routes, where you're likely to have a similar experience.

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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 7:47 am 
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Stajanleafs wrote:
Ottawa-Temiskaming Trail and Heaven's-gate trail are 'relatively' unknown to the masses - not being in operational parks. I'd compare them more towards a lesser used crown land or non-operational canoe routes, where you're likely to have a similar experience.


Agreed they are both essentially crown land.


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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 2:34 pm 
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Try going to La réserve faunique La Vérendrye. Lots of elbow room. About twice the size of Algonquin & way less than 1/10th the visitors. Also, you register a route, but not specific lakes. http://www.canot-camping.ca/home.html

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PostPosted: July 19th, 2019, 3:17 pm 
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SteveBoal wrote:
Try going to La réserve faunique La Vérendrye. Lots of elbow room. About twice the size of Algonquin & way less than 1/10th the visitors. Also, you register a route, but not specific lakes. http://www.canot-camping.ca/home.html


I've wondered about that spot.

Certainly would love to explore that part of the country. Of course it is 7 hours drive from me so I have to think If I went seven hours straight north I could get to some pretty remote canoeing in Ontario as well.

However this review on Google makes me want to really check it out:

Four times we've been canoeing in Verendrie - vast expanse of land where crystal-clear lakes flow one into the next, and you can go days without seeing other people. Campsites on small islands - no moskitoes there, since there is no life on that island large enough for moskitoes to feed on. Breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, campfires... I could write a novel about Verendrie. Will be going there as long as I am capable of lifting a paddle.

I mean that sounds perfect? N'est-ce pas???


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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 7:58 am 
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I've been spoiled by La Verendrye as well - it is my dream place to do flatwater. I try to get there every summer but alas this year it will not happen. My buddy and his wife are doing circuit 34 right now and sending updates as long as they have cell coverage.

I love LaV so much I bought the company - I mean I made a map :-)

http://www.prospector16.com/p/la-verendrye-map.html

It has most of the core on it but I am missing a few of the official maps


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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 8:48 am 
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Prospector16 wrote:
I've been spoiled by La Verendrye as well - it is my dream place to do flatwater. I try to get there every summer but alas this year it will not happen. My buddy and his wife are doing circuit 34 right now and sending updates as long as they have cell coverage.

I love LaV so much I bought the company - I mean I made a map :-)

http://www.prospector16.com/p/la-verendrye-map.html

It has most of the core on it but I am missing a few of the official maps


That's damn impressive. I might make us of this for some trip planning (or trip daydreaming). Thanks for sharing.


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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 10:29 am 
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Quote:
Four times we've been canoeing in Verendrie - vast expanse of land where crystal-clear lakes flow one into the next, and you can go days without seeing other people. Campsites on small islands - no moskitoes there, since there is no life on that island large enough for moskitoes to feed on. Breathtaking landscapes, wildlife, campfires... I could write a novel about Verendrie. Will be going there as long as I am capable of lifting a paddle.


that is a bit of hyperbole.. There are plenty of mosquitoes and other insects in La V.. I wonder what the author was smoking.. For sure they do not know the diet of mosquitoes and their range. Most campsites are NOT on smali islands.. Remember La V is primary a wildlife reserve and managed for hunting.. I know a chap who ran out of daylight and bushed a camp.. There was an awful smell.. In the dark he had managed to camp next to bear bait.
After Labour Day the circuits save one ( maybe two ) are closed to canoeing and they do not open till mid May

There is always a road that crosses a portage( not all of them of course) and often..traffic.. Enough so you should not assume no one is coming.

There are several interior SEPAQ campsites and of course small motor boats.. But the density of those is not a bother. There will be days you are alone.. And days you are not.


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PostPosted: July 20th, 2019, 12:22 pm 
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Little Red Canoe is right on all points - that was exaggerated and all those things are true. I've seen power boats pretty far back in in LaV, but it is still amazingly pristine and you will see a lot fewer people than a lot of other places 3 hours from Ottawa (where I live). I still think it is an amazing place and I want to go back again and again.


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PostPosted: July 21st, 2019, 4:18 pm 
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Islands or not - many established campsites in Ontario are to some extent mosquito-free, at least till dusk and as long as you don't venture into the bush.


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