The brilliant mind of Pierre Burton once said, “a true Canadian knows how to have sex in a canoe.” The reality might be a bit different, but the sentiment is there! The canoe was invented by the original indigenous peoples of Canada, most often made with birch bark, wood and pitch. It is a marvel of engineering, showcasing the ingenuity of First Nations. It is so versatile that it was adopted by Western European explorers and settlers as it is able to carry its own weight in freight, can be easily portaged and serve as a shelter or windbreak.
Today, the canoe is an icon of Canada and while we may not need it to discover new trade routes, it is a great way to explore and access much of Canada’s great wilderness in all our lands and provinces. Canoeing offer us a chance to leisurely explore, stopping at scenic spots, going down estuaries and finding new trails.
We’ve pulled together a list of what we think, based on experience and recommendations, the top 5 canoe experiences in Canada. You can go for a day trip on most, or, like your author, go for an extended trip of 12 days or more!
Kejimkujik National Park – Nova Scotia
Most commonly called “Keji” this experience offers rivers and lakes with portages for some routes. It is at its best in autumn with resplendent colours mixed with evergreens along the shores. There are a number of camping sites that are well maintained and stocked with wood, even in the back country. Canoe and kayak rentals are available. The park is about a 2.5 hour drive from Halifax.
Algonquin National Park – Ontario
Several routes are available, from day adventures to weeks at a time. If you’re planning an extended trip, be sure to know your stuff. You’ll need provisions and skills with white water canoeing. The range of scenery is stunning and can be enjoyed spring through fall. It’s about a three hour drive from Toronto. Check out the Friends of Algonquin Park site.
Missinaibi River – Ontario
This long, winding and stunning river starts in the northern Canadian Shield and saunters down to the Hudsons Bay Lowlands. The upper part of the river has rapids, so you’ll want to have skills for that part. The lower part is more straight and you can do several day trips easily. A little more work is needed to find and rent a canoe if you don’t own one. If you want to do the whole route it’s 520 KM and takes about three weeks.
Napoming Provincial Park – Manitoba
This provincial park offers so many lakes to explore! Day and multi-day trips are easy and there are lots of rental places around for both canoes and kayaks. Portage trails are well marked and there’s few white water areas so if you’re new to canoeing and want a multi-day experience, this is a great place and not far from Winnipeg. Midsummer can be sketchy with the bugs so early spring and late fall are perfect.
Bowron Lakes Circuit – British Columbia
There are guided tours available in this area. You can do some great day trips or go for between six to ten days if you like. It’s mostly lakes with portages that are well designed and not too far. It’s flat water with stunning mountain views everywhere! Explore here.
Each Canadian province offers many choices when it comes to canoe trips. If you just want to do a day trip when you’re in a province, most offer them. If you’re new to canoeing, stay on flatwater lakes and rivers that don’t have any rapids. Check to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Canoeing white water is a skill learned over years. You need to know how to navigate rocks and look for danger signs. Be sure to wear a life jacket too. Let people know where you’re going and your anticipated return.
Discover More: Check out this article on building your core strength. If you’re going to be portaging, you’ll need it!