The Ultimate Guide to Canoe Tripping in Obabika River Provincial Park

Discover the best routes, campsites, fishing holes, outfitters, access points and more.

Nestled in the heart of Ontario’s Temagami canoe country, Obabika River Provincial Park is part of a vast network of wild rivers, pine-clad lakes and meandering creeks linked together by ancient portages. When you journey the canoe routes in this waterway park, you are part of a way of life dating back thousands of years. Obabika River Provincial Park protects some of Temagami’s most important spiritual sites, as well as the largest stand of old-growth red and white pine in the world. Pulling up your canoe on polished bedrock to walk among these four-century-old giants is an incredible privilege that’s possible nowhere else on the planet.

Just a five-hour drive from Ottawa or the Greater Toronto Area, this wilderness canoe country is remarkably accessible, yet far enough away to escape the crowds of near-north canoe destinations like Killarney and Algonquin provincial parks.

Find out everything you need to know about planning a canoe trip to Obabika River Provincial Park below.

bow shot of a canoe floating on the Obabika River
The beauty of the Temagami region is on full display in Obabika River Provincial Park. Source: Melissa Giamou // @m.gamma

Obabika River Canoe Routes

Obabika River Provincial Park canoe routes offer exceptionally varied terrain for canoe trippers of all levels. Those looking for a shorter or easier trip can plan an out-and-back foray from nearby access points, or make a one-way trip with help from a local outfitter. Many routes blend into one another, making it possible for experienced trippers to create longer and more challenging itineraries. Read on to discover our favourite Obabika River Provincial Park canoe routes.

Diamond, Wakimika and Obabika Loop

The classic Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika Loop is one of the most popular canoe routes in Temagami—and with good reason. This five-day loop (72 kilometres) is perfect for novice to intermediate canoe trippers, with beautiful clear-water lakes, spectacular old-growth forest and just enough challenging portages. Add in the many stunning campsites and side route options, and you could easily spend a week or more exploring this fascinating area. Because of its popularity, plan to visit early or late in the season (June, September or October) if you’re looking for solitude.

Begin your trip at lovely Sandy Inlet on the north end of Lake Temagami. The launch is located on the Camp Wanapitei turn off Red Squirrel Road, a passable gravel road that leaves Highway 11 about 10 kilometres north of the town of Temagami. Paddle and portage west into Sharp Rock Inlet, then enter Obabika River Provincial Park via the short portage into Diamond Lake. Look for pictographs here and on Wakimika Lake before entering the twisting meanders of the Wakimika River, a gently flowing waterway that offers great wildlife watching en route to Obabika Lake.

Plan to spend a full day exploring the Wakimika Triangle at the north end of Obabika Lake. Today, this stand of 380-year-old red and white pines is protected within the Park, but in 1989—threatened by logging—this peaceful grove was the site of the province’s largest act of civil disobedience. From the trailhead, hike through giant trees and portage into Chee-skon Lake to experience an Indigenous spiritual site. More pictographs and important cultural sites await on Obabika Lake, where you’ll finish your loop with a portage back into Lake Temagami. If you have time, hike to the lookouts atop Devil Mountain and Ferguson Mountain on your return paddle north to Sandy Inlet.

a person portages a blue canoe across a lush meadow
The portage to Willow Island Lake. Source: Melissa Giamou // @m.gamma

Obabika-Wawiagama Loop

A superb early summer trip, this four- to five-day loop combines the open waters and sacred sites of Obabika Lake with outstanding wildlife viewing in the intimate meanders of the Obabika River. Go in June for optimal water levels and the best chances of spotting moose. Later in the summer, the current slows and you’ll find yourself lifting over deadfalls and logjams. Few portages make this a great trip for experienced novices.

Access to Obabika and Wawiagama lakes is from Highway 805 (partly paved but mostly good gravel), north of the village of River Valley. There’s free parking and portages into both lakes from the road gate at kilometre 58. Make the one-kilometre carry into Obabika Lake, then paddle north towards the top of the lake. Be sure to spend some time exploring the Wakimika Triangle Old-Growth Trails before heading across the lake to the start of the Obabika River. Ojibway elder Alex Mathias has a cabin here on his ancestral family land; call in advance (705-498-2818) to ask about a guided tour of the trails.

As you enter the Obabika River, you’ll notice the clarity of the water and the vibrance of the maiden-hair weed dancing on the bottom. There’s a lone rapid to portage, followed by several oxbow lakes where moose are often seen feeding. Keep a close watch for the mouth of the Wawiagama River, where you’ll paddle upstream to Wawiagama Lake. At the lake’s east end, a short portage leads back to your vehicle.

If you have a couple extra days and don’t mind a bit of a bushpush along lesser-used portage trails, add a side trip into Lahay Lake, returning down Nasmith Creek to rejoin the Obabika River. This hard-to-reach pocket of gargantuan old-growth white pine is worth the journey.

For a longer trip, combine an exploration of the Obabika River with the Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika route described above.

Obabika Lake Tour

With dozens of gorgeous campsites, a diverse shoreline and loads of fascinating sites to explore, you could easily spend three or more days just touring Obabika Lake. Head up the east side of the lake to find a stellar sand-spit campsite and natural spring, followed by ko-ko-mis and sho-mis—Grandmother and Grandfather rocks—perched by the shore. Continue to the north end of the lake to spend a day strolling beneath the giant pines of the Wakimika Triangle trails. When you’re ready, return south to the one-kilometre portage back to the parking area on Highway 805.

person sits at a campsite in Obabika River Provincial Park
Campsite bliss. Source: Branden Cosman // @brandencosman

Obabika River Provincial Park Camping

Obabika River Provincial Park boasts some of the finest and most varied backcountry campsites in the Temagami canoe area. Variety is the name of the game here—from sandy shores to perfect pebble swimming beaches and granite points shaded by old-growth pines.

Ontario Parks classifies Obabika River as a waterway park, meaning you won’t find any visitor facilities; however portages and campsites are marked and maintained. Camping in the park is restricted to designated campsites. Backcountry camping here is suitable for novice to intermediate canoe trippers with previous map reading, compass and portaging skills.

Portage trails and campsites in Obabika River Provincial Park are part of an ancient canoe route network that is thousands of years old. Treat this pristine landscape and its rich cultural heritage with respect by practicing low-impact camping. For example, use established firepits where available, and don’t build fires on campsites and shorelines without an existing firepit. Similarly, you will find pit toilets—known locally as “thunderboxes”—at many campsites, but don’t expect such luxuries deeper in the backcountry. Bring a trowel and bury human waste at least 60 metres from water sources, trails and campsites.

As a general rule, pack out what you pack in. Burying or burning food waste can attract wildlife, leading to encounters that are dangerous for both you and the animal.

Obabika River Fishing

Fishing in Obabika River Provincial Park is centred around stalking the deep holes and bays of Obabika Lake for hefty smallmouth bass and trophy-sized northern pike. The weedy shallows on Wawiagama Lake also offer prime pike habitat, while the lake’s open waters support lake trout. Heading north, Diamond Lake rewards anglers with trophy lake trout, walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and whitefish.

Ontario provincial fishing regulations apply throughout the Park.

people paddling on Northeastern Ontario's Obabika River
String together the perfect route for you. Source: Melissa Giamou // @m.gamma

Outfitters & Tours

Guided Canoe Trips

  • Temagami Outfitting Company offers scheduled and custom guided trips to a variety of destinations, including twice-weekly departures in July and August for the classic Diamond-Wakimika-Obabika loop.

Canoe Rentals

  • Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge is one of Northern Ontario’s original canoe outfitters based just north of the town of Temagami on Highway 11. Besides a variety of lodging options and great meals (a luxurious way to start and end your wilderness canoe trip), Smoothwater offers rentals, vehicle shuttles and complete canoe trip outfitting with top-notch gear.
  • Temagami Outfitting Company offers lightweight canoe rentals, vehicle shuttles, complete outfitting and trip planning services, as well as all-inclusive guided trips for all levels of paddlers.
  • Lakeland Airways is your best bet for Obabika River Provincial Park fly-in canoe trips. The air base is located on the waterfront in the town of Temagami and services the area’s best wilderness lakes, including Diamond Lake. Canoe rentals are also available.
a person sits on a rock overlooking the Obabika River at dusk
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful campsites. Source: Melissa Giamou // @m.gamma

Lodging

  • Book a well-appointed log cabin at Lake Obabika Lodge and paddle from your door into the park.
  • Nestled in the Northwest Arm of Lake Temagami, Ojibway Family Lodge offers an idyllic slice of island life with easy access to Obabika River Provincial Park.
  • Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge is located just north of the town of Temagami on Highway 11. Cheerful rooms, lakeside camping and a bunkhouse—plus great meals—make this a convenient and comfortable way to start or end your Obabika River canoe trip.
  • Finlayson Point Provincial Park boasts a family-friendly campground with great access to Temagami town and lake.
  • For a more luxurious experience check out Temagami Shores Inn and Resort.

Maps

Due to the interconnected nature of Temagami canoe routes and protected areas, there isn’t a discrete Obabika River Provincial Park map. Instead, canoe trippers rely on a selection of excellent Temagami canoe routes maps to locate campsites and portages:

woman paddles a canoe on the Obabika River
Find beauty no matter what the weather. Source: Branden Cosman // @brandencosman

Obabika River Provincial Park Permits

Obabika River Provincial Park requires overnight camping permits for all backcountry visitors. The regular per campsite fee is $32.50 (+ HST) per night. Permits are available from local outfitters, at the Finlayson Point Provincial Park gatehouse in the town of Temagami, or through Ontario Parks’ online reservation system.

Canoe routes beginning in the Park may also venture into other protected areas where camping permits are required, including:

Together, these five parks are collectively known as the Temagami Cluster in the Ontario Parks reservation system. Select “Backcountry Registration” to obtain a first-come first-served interior camping permit up to two weeks in advance of your arrival date. Permits do not guarantee availability of specific campsites.

Study your route carefully to determine where permits are required (camping is free for Canadian residents on Crown land and conservation reserves) or work with a local outfitter.

Note: Non-residents must purchase camping permits from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for overnight trips on Crown land and conservation reserves.

About Virginia Marshall

Virginia Marshall is a freelance outdoor adventure writer, photographer and editor with roots in Muskoka and Lake Superior. Read her work in Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Rapid, Paddling Magazine and Backroad Mapbooks.

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