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There are few things more peaceful and tranquil than watching the sun rise over a mist shrouded wilderness lake.  A close second to this of the sound of a Loon and the call of the White Throated Sparrow as you glide silently along the lake in your canoe.  These things can only be experienced by canoeing into wilderness areas away from other people and the trappings of our modern society.

This site provides a summary of our experiences on different canoe routes and things we have done to prepare food for the trip and to setup and life in camp.


Pre-trip food preparation is critical if you plan to be out more than two days as you are a long distance from any hint of refrigeration.  We use fresh food for the first two days of the trip then dehydrated foods after that.  Except for some prepackaged foods such  as scrambled eggs, noodle and rice dishes, etc. we dehydrate our own food.  (Follow this link for a description of the dehydration process we use.)  We use Pita for bread as it will not be damaged when crushed in a pack.  Cheese becomes a lunch staple later in the week.  It will keep if it remains in  the unopened packages it was purchased in until it is used.  Foods we dehydrate are:

  • Ground beef and pasta sauce to go with noodles.  Beef is precooked and all oil removed before dehydrating.  A liter container of pasta sauce is dehydrated on a cookie sheet.

  • Chicken.  Again this is precooked and sliced into 1/4 inch strips prior to dehydrating.  It is used with alfredo noodle mixes.

  • Pork Tenderloin.  It is precooked and sliced into 1/4 inch strips then dehydrated.  It is used in a stir fry with rice.

  • Vegetables.  Corn, carrots, peas, broccoli for stir fries and other meals.

Topographical maps

Topographical maps are a vital resource for any wilderness canoe trip.  They provide details of the geographic area including lakes, rivers, marshes, ground elevations, roads railways and towns.  With these maps and a compass you can pinpoint your location within a few meters.

We have always used paper topographical maps but often found we required multiple maps to cover a route and in some cases only a very small part of the route was on a given map.  One solution to the problem of needing multiple maps is to get a computer readable copy of the map and only print the sections you require. 

 I have discovered two sources for softcopy maps.  One is on CD from Quo Vadis.  These are actual scanned versions of the paper topographic maps so contain all the information there.  The down side of the CDs is that they are quite expensive. The second source is the Toporama internet site.  The toporama maps provide basic information such as lakes, rivers, contour lines, roads and towns.  They do not show road names/numbers, man made structures, grid lines and other valuable details found on the topographic maps.   

There is one very significant negative factor about the Toporama maps that must be considered if they are to be used on a canoe trip.  The vertical and horizontal scales vary with latitude.  The dimensions of a paper topographical map are a factor of the East/West and North/South  area they cover with a given longitude and latitude as the boundary.  Maps will get narrower for higher levels of latitude but the 2cmx2cm grid will consistently represent one square kilometer.  The Toporama maps are sized to the longitude and latitude.  As they represent higher levels of latitude, and the lines of longitude converge, the horizontal dimension of the map depicts an ever decreasing East/West distance.  This causes all objects on the map to be elongated.

With the criteria used to create the Toporama maps they will only be accurate at the equator.  At the 46th parallel there is an error factor of 1.44.  At the 90th parallel, if anyone should get there, the error factor is 1.63E16.  From a canoeist's perspective this means that the grids required to represent one square kilometer become rectangular.  

To research this I printed the section of Toporama map 31E14 which shows Kawawamug Lake.  This is on the 46 parallel near the top end of Algonquin Park.  I marked the points where the grid lines on the topographic map crossed Kawawamug and plotted these on the Toporama map.  The resulting grid was 1.5cm high and 2.2cm wide.

I used PAINT to view and print the .gif copy of the Toporama maps.  It logically separates the map into two rows of five pages and enables you to print one or more of these pages.  Page one is the top left corner of the map, page ten is the lower right.  I then created a 1.5cmx2.2cm grid pattern that is printed over the map to show one square kilometer segments.  A note of caution here: you need to print a section of the Toporama map and confirm the scale with a topographic map to determine the size of the required grid.  Once you have established a process for this it should work with reasonable accuracy for maps between the 44th and 48th parallel.  The grid dimensions should have a ration of 1:1.44 between these parallels.

If PAINT is used to print Toporama map sections, the grid in the file below should give a reasonable representation of one square kilometer map segments it it is printed over the map section.  Open then save this .gif file to your hard drive then use PAINT to print it.

Grid for 46degrees latitude.

I consider the Toporama maps of limited value for use on canoe trips because of the missing detail and the horizontal distortion.  Where I will use them is for cases where only a very small portion of the route is on a topographic map.  In these situations I will print the necessary page of the Toporama map rather than buy the topographic map.


Canoe Routes and our experience on them

Algonquin Park

We have been into Algonquin twice through the Kawawamug access point in the North West corner of the park.  This part of the park is not as heavily used as other areas.  You have to paddle across a small lake, down a stream and cross two portages to get into the park.  Once in the park there are a number of routes that can be taken without the portages required by other routes in the park.  Camp sites are well cared for and offer facilities not always available (treasure chests).  Many sites have sand beaches.  Moose and bear are common.  Wolves can be heard on occasion.  Fees are required for entry permits.  An excellent route

French River

The French river from East of Highway 69 around 18 Mile Island and back is an excellent route.  The trip in along the north side of the island is wide and slow water.  Coming back south of the island is river with a variety if rapids and water conditions.  You can run many of the rapids but some must be portaged

Gogama 4M Circle route.

We plan to do this route in August.  More information will be provided after the trip

Topographic map 041P12 covers the majority of the route.  I plan to use Toporama maps 041P05 (Page 2) for the section of Mollie River going into Dividing Lake and 041P13 (Page 7) for the section from Makami Lake through the Makami River into Wizard Lake.

4M Circle Route Guide

Killarney Provincial Park

Killarney offers a number of routes that vary from easy to difficult.  We have been into two areas.  Fees are required for park permits.

The East/North sides of the park are very nice and sites well maintained.  The route covering Bell/Three Mile, Balsam, David, Boundary, Clear Silver and Ruth Roy lakes is an excellent route.  Sites are good and well maintained.  Many of the lakes are dead due to pollution from the Sudbury smelters so are very clear and allow you to see to the bottom in most cases.  The lakes are now recovering.  An excellent route.

The route from the North West corner of the park and along the North side was a disappointment.  Sites are unmarked and not maintained.  One lake was cut in half by a beaver dam and impassable forcing us to change our route through very difficult terrain.

La Verendrye Park in Quebec

This is a huge park with a large number of routes.  We went around route 77 which starts and ends at Baies Barker towards the north end of the park.  Sites are well marked, well maintained and many are very large and open.  There are quite a few portages which vary in length from 2KM to 50 meters.  All are easy to cross.  An excellent route but caution must be taken due to winds on the large lakes.

Mattawa River

The route starts at Trout Lake in North Bay and ends at Mattawa where the river flows into the Ottawa River.  You can continue past Mattawa but the Ottawa is bigger, faster water so caution is required.  This is an excellent route that offers still water and rapids that can be run while others must be portaged.  Sites are good.  Some sand beaches.

Megnetawan River Route

The route starts and ends at Harris Lake.  It combines lakes and rivers.  The lakes are near the start of the route and have a large number of cottages and boat traffic.  The rivers are wide and slow moving.  Not a great route.

Mississippi River-Big Gull Lake

This is a loop route, starting and ending at Bon Echo Provincial Park, that is on mainly lakes.  The area is heavily populated with cottages and there are parts of the route where you have to slug through marsh and muck if water levels are low.

Pickerel River /Wolf River Route

This is a short, interesting route that would be a good selection if you did not have a full week for the trip.  A shuttle is required to the start of the route.

Spanish River

The Spanish River is a one way trip so requires a shuttle 150KM up highway 144 to get to the start point on Duke Lake.  You pass through a number of small lakes then onto the river itself.  The river can be high, fast end very dangerous.  We went early in the year (end of May) and had to abandon the trip half way down.  A recommendation would be to end at The Elbow rather than trying to get around Graveyard Rapids and down to Agnew Lake.  Fox Lake Lodge would be a place to seek a shuttle.  This route sits as a challenge for our group.

In August of 2006 we ran the Spanish again and had a great time.  The water levels were lower so we encountered a lot more rock beds and shelves that required walking, lining and lift-overs.  There is a lot of fast water after you get South of Second Lake which made the trip exciting and a lot of fun.  The Agnew Lake Lodge shuttle took us up to Duck Lake to begin the trip


Temagami offers a number of routes.  We have been on two.

Lady Evelyn Lake is an excellent route with many sand beaches and nice sites.  There are few cottages but a number of fishing camps and fishing boats.  We had problems with some of the boats when we went in the first time but they were not a problem the second time on the lake.

The second time we went onto Temagami we started at the end of the Lake Temagami Access Road with plans to go through Diamond lake, Obabika Lake and back.  A very string South West wind came up and we could not get across Diamond into Obabika.  We took the North arm of Diamond then into Lady Evelyn Lake and exited at Mowat Landing.  I would recommend this route but caution is required because it is mainly on large lakes and exposed to winds.