Thursday, October 10, 2019


A fairly easy and spectacular day trip into the Barron Canyon can be done by driving to the small Brigham Lake parking lot, putting in, and following the Barron River downstream into the Barron Canyon.  If you paddle just the length of the canyon and then return, it is about four hours. If you make it to Cache Rapids (worth seeing) the round trip can be six or seven hours. Add in a hike of the Barron Canyon trail, and you have a solid day.

A nice one day up the cascades to high falls starts by parking at the Brigham Lake lot, and putting in but going upstream along 'The Cascades'. Four portages will get you to High Falls lake, which is beautiful, and after paddling the length of the lake, you can explore the main portage along the river to St. Andrews Lake, or the side trail to check out High Falls.  If you hit the water by nine in the morning, you can lunch at the take out at High Falls, and get back to your car by three or four in the afternoon.

Book a campsite on Opalescent Lake, put in at Brigham Lake, paddling to your campsite and setting up camp,  return to the Barron River light, and spend the rest of the day exploring the canyon, at least to Cache Rapids, then return to Opalescent for the night.
The next morning, leave opalescent lake light, and head for High Falls via Ooze Lake and High Falls Lake. once you have checked out the falls, return to Opalescent via the cascades and Brigham lake, break your camp, and then head back to your car at the Brigham Lake lot

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


After a very nice night in total darkness, with the wind picking up and keening through the treetops off and on, and a little light rain or drizzle, we woke just before 8 AM, made a quick breakfast, cleaned up and broke camp, and headed for the canoe.

As we paddled out, we saw another canoeist loading his canoe at the far portage, which was a long loop that relatively few travelled, due to the two kilometer length of one of the portages on it, we paddled out and joined him as we all headed to the portage to St. Andrews Lake.

Shawn (or Sean) had been fishing on the next lake over for the last few days, and had just also broken camp and was on his way out of the park. Alex and I started the portage first, and did two trips, Shawn being much younger hoisted two packs and a canoe, and did it in a trip and a half, and overtook us.  Approaching the put in, negotiating the very steep slope, I managed to slip, and have the canoe come crashing down, crushing my pinky finger against a rock. Inspecting the damage was a bit hard due to the blood all over the place, but it looked like pinky was intact, but suffering a rather nasty gash exposing the muscle and tendons below.

Alexander immediately came to my assistance, and was able to get a roll of toilet paper out, which immediately saturated with blood, I asked him to look for a sock or shirt, as I had no first aid kit, and then asked him if Shawn was still at the put in, or had he left.  Thankfully, Shawn was not quite loaded, and quickly emptied his pack and found his small first aid kit... A brief period of panic,  two dense gauzes, a foot of medical tape, and ten minutes later we were both off in our canoes on St. Andrews Lake.

Looking south onto Marie Lake from our campsite. The morning was very mild, with a fine drizzle.

Alexander posing with Chippie the Chipmunk, any stuffy allowed into the park has to do double duty as a pillow.

Getting things organized and breaking camp. The tent was a Woods Backpacker three person tent.

After visiting Barry's bay hospital, my pinky finger in a bandage the next morning. I must have lost about a pint of blood in total.

A very happy young Alexander, proud of his achievement.  I was certainly proud of him.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


We reached the south end of High Falls Lake shortly before two in the afternoon, and made the half kilometer portage to St. Andrews Lake in one trip. The portage follows the Barron River as it drains St. Andrews Lake to High Falls Lake, but High Falls themselves are not on this course of the river, but on the course that drains Stratton Lake to High Falls Lake.
Nevertheless, this course of the river has a spectacular lower fall, numerous rapids, and a large bouldery fall near the top.  The portage rises about twenty meters, but is a nice easy walk.  We took a second break at the put in at St. Andrews Lake, then made our way down a short way to the portage to Marie Lake.

The Portage from St. Andrews Lake to Marie Lake was particularly brutal, as it was the longest at about 750 meters, and had a roughly eighty meter rise followed by a forty meter drop.  The first fifty meters was a very steep slope.  We did this in two trips, one with packs, and second with the canoe.

Marie Lake was small, and just a hundred yards or so from the put-in was one of only two campsites on the lake.  It looked good from a distance, and better from up close, so we started a fire, set up the tent, and relaxed before dinner.

Looking north over High Falls Lake, the Bob Special 15 is at the take out for the portage to St. Andrews Lake, directly behind me.

The put in at St. Andrews Lake, looking south.

Alexander showing off his scout knife, purchased in San Diego, at two points on the portage.

Alexander recharging himself before we set off for the Marie Lake portage.

The only seemingly flat section of the portage to Marie Lake, Alexander with his pack and the paddles.

Approaching the camp site we chose at Marie Lake. Tall white pines, a carpet of pine needles, and quite level - perfect.

The tent that got us into this adventure... it was simple to set up, roomy, light, and kept us dry.

We found enough dried or rotted dead wood for a fire for a few hours, and cooked dinner on an MSR whisperlite stove, in front of Alexander.

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Late summer I was itching to get into the park for at least a day trip, and possibly even an overnighter. A trip to Canadian Tire clinched the deal, as I noticed a decent looking three person tent on sale half price, weighing in at about eight pounds. Three weeks away Alexander had a PD day on a Friday, and a week later the two week forecast appeared to promise at least a good bit of decent weather for the weekend.

The forecast held, and we had everything packed and ready to go for leaving Tavistock and heading for the cottage on Thursday Afternoon. The plan was to drive to Barrie via Arther, pick up the last couple of supplies at MEC in Barrie, then drive to the cottage to spend the night. Friday we would leave for the park and make it in to our booked campsite on Marie Lake, and then Saturday head back out for a night at the cottage, driving back to Tavistock Sunday.

Leaving Tavistock at 4:30, we pulled into the MEC in Barrie exactly two hours later, and began looking for a few items... bear spray, a pot, a small dry bag, and an Led tent light Alexander wanted.  Assistance was provided by a gregarious and passionate young man named Brenan, who helped us choose the dry sac for sealing up and hanging the small quantity of food we were taking in, and selecting a nice pot. 

We got back on the road, and had a trouble free drive up highway 11 to Huntsville, and then across highway 60 to the cottage.

The next morning I attached the crossbars to the Honda roof rack, Alexander and I loaded up the canoe and our gear, and we headed off to the Sand Lake access, from Barry's Bay to Round Lake, across the Bonnechere on the one lane bridge and up Red Rock Road, then the Pembroke road to Alice, and across country via Station Hill Road and then Barron Canyon Road to the gate. We checked in, got our tickets, and then headed to the Brigham Lake parking lot and our put in.

Parked at the small lot at the Brigham Lake put in, the canoe is an unmarked H20 Composites 'Bob Special 15'.

About 200 yards from the parking lot is the upstream put in, for our trip up 'The Cascades', a series of small lakes and sections of river, peppered with a half dozen portages to get up to St. Andrews Lake.

A small lake on the first section of water, heading for the first portage. My bowman Alex impressed me greatly, this is one of very few shots of him with his paddle out of the water!

Setting out on our first portage, Alexander took  his pack and the paddles, and I took my pack and the canoe.

The take out for the second portage, approximately 245 meters, long, after a half kilometer of paddling on the Barron River.

Just between the portage trail and the river was an ancient timber shed probably used in the days they ran logs down the Barron River.

A view inside the timber shed, it looks like it only had three sides, so may have been a place for storing equipment, as the open side was to the east, away from the weather.

Approaching the take out for the third portage, which is very short, about 45 meters, after not even 150 meters or so of paddling.

Alexander coined this the valet parking at the third take out, two logs you can paddle your canoe between, the much can be deep, so step on logs and rocks.

Setting out on High Falls lake after portage number four, a mostly level but very bouldery 450 meter portage. High Falls lake is approximately a mile (1.5 kilometers) long, so a nice paddle but watch for submerged rocks at the north part of the lake.

Halfway up High Falls Lake the lake narrows considerably, with lots of rocks and small islets to negotiate, many rocks we passed had paint marks up to a foot above water from canoes passing when the water is higher.

Reaching the south end of High Falls Lake, the outlet of one arm of the Barron River is reduced to a trickle over the boulder pile, the take out for the portage to St. Andrew's Lake is just to the right.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


The last of our two visits to the cottage this summer was without Rudi, who had a one week session at Camp Oochageas near Huntsville.  We left Tavistock before lunch on Sunday, driving across country via Arthur and Creemore to arrive at the camp for the three pm drop off time, then drove to the cottage via Highway 60, the West and East gates of the park Park, and Whitney and Madawaska, arriving in time for dinner with John and Susan.

I had decided sometime during our week at the cottage to take Alexander on a day trip into Algonquin, and rather than the Barron Canyon, which is always spectacular, I felt that finding High Falls would be a great in and out trip for an enjoyable day.  Two summers earlier, Rudi and I along with uncle John and his friend Chris did an overnight into Achray and Barron, and on the second day we went upstream on the Barron river, eventually seeing a series of waterfalls draining into High Falls lake, but only on returning home and checking maps did I determine we did not find High Falls themselves, but an imposter on an adjacent arm of the river.

So later in the week, with the canoe already topped on the van the night before, Alexander and I left the cottage bright and early at 7:30, arrived at Sand Lake Access at 8:45, and after buying out permit, driving to the small lot at Brigham Lake, were on the water before 9:30 AM.

Canoeing up "The Cascades", a series of small lakes separated by short stretches of the Barron River with low cascades and rapids and small waterfalls... There are four portages from the Brigham Lake put in to High Falls Lake

Looking west along the north shore of High Falls Lake, it appears a small swath of the forest ahead of the bow is suffering from disease, likely a bark borer.

The river inlet into High Falls Lake.  This is the easiest to locate, as it is very open and plain to see, and near the take out for the portage to St. Andrews Lake.  About three hundred metres to the right of the canoe, however, is a second inlet, that drains Stratton Lake via High Falls.

After leaving the canoe near the put in, we located the unmarked and unofficial trail that leads along this second river (that drains Stratton Lake) and to High Falls, pictured above... Well it probably is one of three decent waterfalls that could be called High Falls.

Another view of what is likely High Falls, the lower of three waterfalls on the Barron River draining Stratton Lake into High Falls Lake.

A small water slide that drains a small amount of the flow of the one arm of the Barron River from St. Andrews Lake into the other arm from Stratton Lake. Alexander jumped in to provide some scale, the slide was about twenty feet in height.

These are not High Falls, but are one of the falls on the Barron River draining St. Andrews Lake into High Falls lake. My bowman Alex for scale, this step of the staircase is about fifteen feet tall.

Monday, October 27, 2014


So we arrived at the cottage on Canada Day with two canoes (of the four I purchased from Jeff), the absolutely stunning boundary 17-6, and the well built ugly duckling Bob Special 15, one of the 'cosmetic defects' that were the three other boats.

Jeff had re-applied gel coat, and mostly sanded the one side, leaving me the other side to sand, with work progressing as depicted in the pictures above. I had just about got it good enough to go on our scheduled four day paddle into Algonquin Park, everything arranged and looking good, when our little world changed...

After two visits to the hospital in Barry's Bay about a week apart, Rudi was diagnosed with a collapsed lung, but more serious was the swollen lymph system evidently causing it. An ORNGE helicopter flight to Ottawa, and two days of tests while in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CHEO, we learned the diagnosis... T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

A week in Ottawa starting in ICU, and then the Children's Oncology Unit, treatment having actually begun the morning after his arrival, a full day before his actual diagnosis, followed by a Medivac plane flight to London where he spent most of the summer. Katherine flew with and stayed with him, while I headed back to the cottage to complete the minor bathroom renovation, and store the Boundary in its cradly in the basement...

Until next year, when we should try once again for our first four or five day trip into the park...

Monday, June 9, 2014


Having essentially depleted my 'fleet' of any good quality canoes for the cottage and tripping, I decided over the last winter to try to assemble a small collection of boats for such purposes.
Sometime late this past winter, I emailed Jeff to see if he had any 'cosmetic defect' or 'manufacturer seconds' available, boats that were waiting for cash from prospective purchasers before Jeff could commit to finishing them.
He emailed me a list of a dozen or so canoes, all of which were 'firsts' yet on sale, representing great value. Of them all, the one that interested me most was a kevlar 17-6 Boundary, on sale for $2500, which was conveniently located at Jeff's shop.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

CONROY MARSH - July 2013

The day after our Barron Canyon trip, Rudi, AJ, Alexander and I headed out to the Conroy Marsh for what was intended to be an overnight canoing and camping adventure. The plan was to put in at Burnt Bridge Road on the Little Mississipi river, traverse the length of the marsh, taking out across Negeek lake at the MNR dock and spending the night there. Katherine would drop us off, and then meet us that evening with our tent and supplies that evening, and then the next day we would leave the MNR dock on Negeek, and take a shorter paddle up to Combermere and the take out in town.

It all started out well, albeit a little bit windy, and with those vaguely ominous little puffy clouds scudding southward overhead. Paddling was a little tough, be we made decent time down the Little Mississipi to our first break at the point that marks the entrance to the marsh.

On entering the marsh, the wind picked up a bit, and made paddling more challenging. Additionally, just over the Craigmont hill it appeared a squall had formed, and had us right in its path. I decided to try to cover more water, and lashed the boys canoe to mine to keep them in line, and really dug in. Still, progress was slow, and sure enough in less than twenty minutes the nasty weather hit, wind driving at least 50kmh, heavy rain, and the water on the marsh pushing back up into half foot tall standing waves.

Entering the Conroy Marsh on the Little Mississippi River, the marsh opens up to the right, the York River enters behind the trees directly ahead of our canoes.

AJ, Alexander and Rudi posing at our lunch stop, a small point of land that demarks the point the Little Mississippi enters the Conroy Marsh.

This was likely after we got drenched in the squall, the winds too high and the time to late to make it to the other end of the marsh, I decided to turn back.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

BARRON CANYON - JULY 2013 (Part 3)

About two kilometers past the end of the canyon, the river widened considerably into a marshy lake, and we pulled the boats up to a campsite to have a swim. Rudi 11 facing away tying up his shorts, AJ 12 looking over his shoulder at Alexander 5. This is after a seven hour day of paddling and hauling canoes over portages. Tough little kids!

A short while later, we put out again, and found the portage around Squirrel Rapids, a half kilometer trek over bouldery ground, and after three trips with backpacks, paddles, and canoes, we put in again for the last kilometer of river to the take out at the pit in an parking lot, very close to the road and bridge over the Barron River, and just down from the Sand Lake access gate.

Rudi, AJ, and Alex taking a dip in the deep cool water of the Barron river after a hard day of paddling through the canyon.

Alexander looking back upstream after our last portage, our final take out at Squirrel Rapids is downstream to the left.

Some low rock walls with the take out at Squirrel rapids just coming into view ahead of the canoes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

BARRON CANYON - JULY 2013 (Part 2)

We paddled further down the canyon, past the highest point, and the lookout trail above. The Canyon has a curve to it, and from either end the north face marches away like silent soldiers in a never ending file. Of course, paddling the canoe well and getting an ideal photograph are mutually exclusive endeavors, so one must just do a little imagining.

I decided to continue the entire length of the Canyon, and exit at the Squirrel Rapids parking lot, even though that meant having to find a way back to the van at Brigham Lake. Squirrel Rapids is just about a kilometre from the Sand Lake access gate, and I was pretty confident I could leave the boys with the boats for a bit, make the gate, and get a lift back to the van.

With that considered, we continued paddling east, passing a group of girls heading in the opposite direction in three large canoes, and finally exited the canyon, continuing on toward the final portage upstream of Squirrel Rapids.

Looking back to the west, Rudi and AJ in the jaws of the canyon.  The walls above are about two hundred feet high.

Looking east, with the camera lens zoomed out all the way to a mid - telephoto, 105mm focal length

This picture was taken within seconds of the photograph above, with the lens zoomed back in to a fairly wide angle, 28mm

Again, this photo is within ten seconds of the previous, after turning the boat around and looking to the west.

East again, the canyon walls simply disappear from view from the river, folding away into hills on either side.


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