17 Stunning Photos That Will Make You Want to Canoe in Ontario

Whether you only have time for an afternoon paddle or a full-on backcountry adventure, the province’s lakes and rivers are waiting.

Whether you’re paddling in Temagami, Algonquin, Quetico, or the French River, the province of Ontario is a paddler’s oasis. From rivers that wind through wilderness regions free of motors to lake water so clear you can spot fish darting through the shallows, there are so many reasons to plan summer adventures by canoe.

Here are 17 photos to help fuel your dream getaway.

1. Stillwater Revival

Life is busy, but the stillness of a lake in the moments before dawn and during dusk is a kind of magic that needs no magician to be conjured. The glassy waters coupled with the sounds of distant bird choruses and droplets from your paddle hitting the water are soothing beyond words. There are places where you can experience this connection without having to venture far from roads.

Overhead canoe shot on dark water
Outfitters across Ontario can get you ready for any length of trip. | Photo: David Jackson

2. Everything You Need

Canoe trips, be it for a day or a week, are the greenest, most fuel-efficient means of travel we are afforded today. When we pack our food and supplies into packs and place them in our boat, we need not worry about gas stations or oil changes, as food is our fuel and lakes are our highways.

These five outfitters can get you on the water and ready for your green escape wherever you dare to dream.

Campfire by the lake
Taking a moment to meditate in Turtle River Provincial Park. | Photo: David Jackson

3. Campfire Meditation

Considering the volume of lakes, streams, and rivers in Ontario, it’s not always easy to pick where your paddling adventure should begin. Of greater importance, though, is that regardless of where you end your day of paddling, you spend time with your toes by the fire, listening to the crackle of coals, and watching sparks rising to the sky. Namely, that you soak up those important hours of daily campfire meditation.

View of lake though a tent
This view is on Lake Superior, but you’ll find views like it all across the province. | Photo: David Jackson

4. Drift Away

One of the finest views, and one synonymous with the myriad lakes in Ontario, is that of a setting sun and an idle canoe framed by the door of your tent. Add in the sounds of the forest and murmurs of the water and you have a complete picture of paradise.

Yellow canoe at Agawa Rock.
Find connection at the pictographs at Agawa Rock. | Photo: David Jackson

5. Closer to Connection

The rivers, lakes, streams, and portage trails of Ontario are the ancestral highways of the First Nations people, many having been in use for over 8,000 years. Along the routes often travelled, paddlers will come upon rock faces painted with stories of spirits and travellers. While some of these sacred places may be reached on foot, making the journey by paddle and boat is a way to connect more deeply with legends of the north.

There are various Indigenous-owned guiding services and lodges in the province of Ontario. Connect with them and you will find a way to experience deeper stories of the land and its people.

Reeling in a fish in green lake
Feel the excitement of viewing a fish as you reel it in. | Photo: David Jackson

6. Life Below

On our crystal-clear lakes, it’s like paddling above a crystal ball. Paddlers can easily view the watery underworld teeming with hungry fish and other marine life.

  • Base your stay at or rent camping gear from the Seine River Lodge and enjoy the plentiful fishing in Quetico Provincial Park.
Drone shot of people swimmig
Always end your day with a swim. | Photo: David Jackson

7. Swimmer’s Oasis

A swim at the end of a day spent paddling is the best way to ready yourself for camp. The lakes and regions best known for excellent swimming are those with clear, warm water.

  • The waters don’t get any clearer than the lakes in Killarney Provincial Park. Take a guided hiking and canoe trip with Overhang Adventures.
  • Lake Superior is famous for the clarity of its water—find out for yourself with a guided interpretive canoe tour from Forest the Canoe.
Person with a handful of blueberries.
There’s no better taste than wild blueberries.  | Photo: David Jackson

8. Shore Lunch

Don’t associate a shore lunch with just fish fries, though those are delicious too, as so many Ontario shores are filled with juicy blueberries in the late summer. That’s a feast worth not missing.

Dog resting his face on the edge of a canoe
Tripping is made all the better with a canine companion. | Photo: David Jackson

9. Dog Days

Canoe trips are a great way to travel with your furry friend and most parks are welcoming to pets.

Campfire along the edge of a foggy lake
One of those times when you know in the moment you are making a memory that will last a lifetime. | Photo: David Jackson

10. Evenings to Remember

The crackle of a fire, fish freshly cleaned for dinner, a dog sniffing the sweet smells of summer—these are nights at camp to remember. Following are areas known for their sunsets, regions where the Group of Seven painted, and places where today’s campers find their muse. In short, these are the spots where you can enjoy evenings by the fire with friends and family.

Group of people under a starry sky in Quetico
The skies in Quetico must be seen to be believed. | Photo: David Jackson

11. Out with the Stars

Quetico Provincial Park was recently named a dark sky preserve, and for good reason. The region south of Atikokan, Ontario is a wilderness paradise of very little, or almost no, light pollution. The best thing to do on your trip is to stay up late by the fire, tell stories, and look up.

Yellow canoe along a rocky shoreline
Finding home for the evening. | Photo: David Jackson

12. Experience Wild

Not all campsites have a sign marking them—they are places uncovered with a little creativity and a vision for what makes a special campsite. Many parks—such as Algonquin, Killarney, and Pukaskwa—require you to book a permit, either by lake or specific site, for where you camp each night. But there are regions in Ontario that allow you the freedom of choice in campsites, adding a sense of wildness to your trip as you come across well-situated, established sites that are left unmarked, letting you discover your home for the evening when you’re ready for camp.

Two fishermen in a canoe showing off their catch
Double the action in wild Wabakimi. | Photo: David Jackson

13. Double Headers

You will likely never experience fishing as good as in Northern Ontario, especially for walleye, which the rivers and lakes are full of. Some places to try for a double header with a friend are:

Campsite on a small island in Woodland Caribou.
Making camp in Woodland Caribou. | Photo: David Jackson

14. Bedrock Dreams

What Ontario is perhaps best known for is its abundance of bedrock, which lends perfectly to a campsite you’ll never forget. Regions of expansive bedrock lie in  Northwestern Ontario near Kenora. Following are some trips where you can take advantage of tall white pines and sweeping rocks to call home for a night.

One of the least-known and best canoe routes in Ontario is a segment of the Trans Canada Trail called the Path of the Paddle, a 1,100-km canoe route through the best countryside that Northwestern Ontario has to offer. Learn more about the Path of the Paddle route

Loon with wings spread
It’s not a canoe trip in Ontario if you don’t see a loon. | Photo: David Jackson

15. Loon’s Call

Photographing and viewing wildlife is a staple experience when canoeing in Ontario. You won’t find anywhere else with such easy access to paddling trips that showcase an abundance of wildlife.

Misty morning in La Verendrye Provincial Park
Getting an early start in La Verendrye Provincial Park | Photo: David Jackson

16. Misty Mornings

The fog that rises from backcountry lakes in the summer is an experience akin to magic, and the best way to experience this surreal effect on the landscape is by travelling in a canoe. Whether preparing to leave camp or readying for a portage, the morning fog is a reason to be up early.

Waterway with lots of bends
Carving a path in Quetico. | Photo: David Jackson

17. Finding Your Path

There is a lot to be said about the independence and self-reliance we experience on a canoe trip. Where you go, what maps you study, and which route you pick are all decisions made by you or your team. The places you will go on a canoe trip can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world once you realize the interconnectivity of waterways in Ontario.

About David Jackson

David Jackson is a freelance photographer, writer, and coordinator for Path of the Paddle Association. He is an avid wilderness canoeist and has paddled many canoe routes in NW Ontario.

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