Secret Lakes of the Madawaska Valley

Die-hard Muskoka adventurers discover the unpopulated waterways of the Barry's Bay area for a PWC trip to write home about.

At the end of July, I got to spend one glorious day on the waters in the Madawaska Valley. After devoting Thursday to riding the ATV trails with Renfrew County ATV Club around Barry’s Bay, I was super excited to change it up and spend some time playing and touring around one of Ontario’s hidden lakes.

Friday morning, I woke up from another great sleep at the Pinewood Inn and joined the What A Ride crew and Random Ryan Tarrant for breakfast. After a delicious breakfast wrap at the Ash Grove Inn, I was ready to head over to Paugh Lake and meet up with Randy, who would be our guide for the day’s adventures.

Living on Lake Manitouwabing back in Parry Sound, I’m used to seeing cottage after cottage, dock after dock lining the shores of the lake I call home. With this in mind, I was so surprised at how few buildings there were on Paugh Lake. When Randy told me that approximately 75% of the lake is actually Crown Land, I was more than ready to pack my bags and move to the lake. It is so rare in Cottage Country to find a lake this size with next to no human interference. I can only imagine how peaceful the lake must be come fall, when the few cottagers have gone home. I couldn’t wait to head out on the water and investigate this beautiful place for myself.

After unloading the two Yamaha WaveRunners (one 2017 EX Deluxe and a 2016 VX Deluxe), Ryan and I donned our life jackets and headed out for a quick playing session to get a feel for the different machines. I have always ridden Sea-Doos so this was my first time on another brand, and boy was I impressed! Light and nimble, the EX Deluxe not only matched my red life jacket, but it matched my personality too: fiery, hot, and ready to play! Fast and fun, the EX Deluxe also had a super comfy seat, so I was all set for a day of both playing and touring. Boy, do I love having the best of both worlds!

Once we got accustomed to the new machines, Randy took us for a nice tour around the lake. The big island on the lake made for some calm waters and, being strictly Crown Land, it had a beautiful shoreline only broken by trees, rock outcroppings, and a single sandy beach.

Ryan and I did a few drivebys while Virgil snapped some great shots along the way. That was the next thing we had to learn about the WaveRunners! They can throw water pretty far out the back—I don’t know how many times we almost pegged Virgil and his camera gear with the water spout. Sorry Virgil!

After checking out the island we headed over to the jumping rocks, where the kids and Ryan had a hoot! I always loved jumping off rocks growing up, so it was fun to watch the new generation enjoying it as well. Afterwards, the kids decided it was time to go tubing behind their Sea-Doo. Now, this I couldn’t pass up! I haven’t been tubing in years so it was certainly a blast!

After having some fun tubing and enjoying the Crown Land, we took back to the water to finish off our tour. Getting to see so much untouched shoreline made this day so remarkable. I felt like I was out on Georgian Bay enjoying the serene settings of the hidden channels and small bays so rarely seen. This lake was so tranquil, with next to no boat traffic and perfectly calm waters, even in the open section; it really did make for the perfect place to ride.

Before retiring for the day, we stopped over for a quick visit at Randy’s friend's beach near the North end of the lake. It was great to relax and take a walk on the beautiful sandy beach. We also made some new friends during our adventures—Casey, Charlie, Brody, Ethan, and Thomas were all super welcoming and really made the trip memorable!

About Shelby Mahon

Growing up snowmobiling in Northern Ontario has been a defining aspect of Shelby's life. She is now the owner of Backcountry Motorsports Media and travels across North America photographing and documenting motorsports events and tourism destinations. Check out her Facebook, Instagram and website for more info.

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