6 Inspirational Places To Paddle

These stunning landscapes will get your creative juices flowing.

A century ago, an adventurous troupe of artists took to the wilds of Northern Ontario and defined an iconic Canadian style of landscape painting. It’s little wonder the Group of Seven spent much of their time travelling the wilderness by canoe: Water is superabundant in Northern Ontario—and it represents a wide array of opportunities for landscape photographers and artists.

LAKE SUPERIOR 

Sunset reflecting over Lake Superior water and rocky shoreline
Lake Superior’s ever-changing waters and skies inspire paddling photographers.

The Greatest Lake is known for its mercurial moods, which range from glassy calm to thunderous surf waves that rival the oceans. Wawa’s Naturally Superior Adventures coordinates three photo workshops that offer photographers a chance to paddle and capture great images on Lake Superior. Get out in a sea kayak with pro shooter James Smedley on the Woods and Waters retreat, which focuses on seasonal change and the more intimate elements of the Lake Superior coast in late May. Come fall, landscape photographers Ben Eby and Andrew McLachlan will guide your search for dramatic skies and tremendous waves in the Fall Gales and Wild & Scenic retreats, held on consecutive weekends in late October.

Killarney

aerial view of canoeist paddling on turquoise lake
Capture an infinite palette of blues and greens in Killarney.

It’s no surprise that Killarney Provincial Park’s centrepiece OSA Lake, an aquamarine jewel set in a cradle of pine-clad, quartzite hills, is named after the Ontario Society of Artists. The wilderness park remains a source of inspiration for photographers and painters. Be sure to make reservations early if you’re planning to enjoy the annual Art in the Park art show and sale, artist in residence program, or summer concert series. Complete canoe and kayak trip planning and outfitting is available though Killarney Outfitters. Or connect with Killarney Mountain Lodge, which offers all-inclusive workshops with some of Ontario’s best landscape artists.

Wabakimi

Canoe resting on gunnels on shoreline of lake at sunset
Wabakimi’s deep wilderness is best enjoyed with a camera and a canoe.

Northwestern Ontario’s Wabakimi Provincial Park is the province’s second-largest protected area comprising an immense tapestry of lakes, wild rivers and boreal forest. This is a dreamscape for photographers looking for a range of subjects, including elusive wildlife like woodland caribou. But there’s a catch: Travelling safely in the park requires advanced-level canoe tripping skills. Check out Wilderness North if you’re looking to put more emphasis on photo opportunities and less on hard-core paddling. This outfitter offers guided trips and features all-inclusive accommodations deep in the wilderness.

Temagami

Venture into the legendary canoe country of Northeastern Ontario’s Temagami region with Outdoor Photo Journey on a paddle-supported photographic expedition in September. This workshop is perfect for all levels of photography: You’ll learn the fundamentals of the art and the skills to get the most out of your digital camera.

Sillouette of a man standing on rocky shoreline of lake at sunset

Or, if stunning waterfalls are at the top of your shot list, check out Hap and Andrea Wilson’s Cabin Falls Ecolodge, set deep in the wilderness of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park.

Abitibi Canyon

Beautiful view of river, blue sky and forested shoreline
Landscape photographer and workshop host Andrew McLachlan knows where and when to capture the magic of Abitibi Canyon.

The little-known Abitibi Canyon in northeastern Ontario is a photographer’s gem. A two-day trip in July with photographer Andrew McLachlan and local guide Rick Isaacson, Howling Wolf Expeditions makes use of a beamy freighter canoe to access historic New Post Falls, deep in the boreal forest.

French River

Back of person taking a photo of rocks
Discover the subtleties of fine-tuning exposure and composition.

This historic waterway has long served as the gateway to the north. The French River’s sculpted shoreline begs attention from photographers. A four-to-five day loop trip is perfect for intermediate canoeists, or go guided with Black Feather. Book a room at The Lodge at Pine Cove if you desire an all-inclusive artistic retreat.

About Conor Mihell

Conor Mihell is an award-winning environmental and adventure travel writer based in Sault Ste. Marie. Read his work in the Globe and Mail, Explore, Cottage Life, Canoe & Kayak, ON Nature, and other magazines and newspapers. He's been a sea kayak guide on Lake Superior for close to 20 years, and has paddled from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. 

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