RV Camping at Quetico Provincial Park: Boys' Trip
Nestled in the boreal forest two hours west of Thunder Bay near Atikokan, Quetico Provincial Park is one ruggedly awesome locale. It's also the perfect setting for a 3-day, all-guys camping adventure. Several years ago, a few friends and I sat down with some spare time, an old road map, and motivation to do just that. Having already camped in several of Ontario's provincial parks myself, I had insight to share. “Northwestern Ontario is the place to go, boys!” I stated with conviction, "Atikokan and the magnificent Quetico Provincial Park!"
Seeing the three blank faces staring back at me, I chose to run with it. Here's how I explained my reasoning.
All About Quetico Provincial Park
As a teen, I camped across Canada with my parents, stopping at a different Provincial Park each night. We hit every Canadian province and over 20 Provincial Parks along the way. Quetico was one of those parks; I couldn't shake it from my mind and needed to return! Quetico’s vast 4,760 km² size shares its border with Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness, a component of the larger Superior National Forest. This fourth largest park in Ontario boasts 1400 km of canoe routes, over 2000 campsites, 500 lakes and the most picturesque views as far as the eye can see. Off to the Dawson Trail Campground we drove, in my Toyota Tundra with an old pop-up trailer in tow. Seventeen hours to Atikokan or bust!
Quetico’s Dawson Trail Campground, located on the shores of beautiful French Lake, has more than 100 campsites spread out in two separate loops: Chippewa and Ojibwa. Both campground loops offer electrical hookups and accommodate both tents and travel trailers/RVs. A total of 51 electrical sites are available for trailer/RV campers and folks with bigger rigs will appreciate the 28 pull-thru sites. Dawson Trail also has 27 seasonal sites which RVers may rent for an entire summer season. Vault toilets, flush toilets, showers, laundry, and water taps are scattered throughout. Many campsites are right on the water too! Dawson Trail is the only drive-in camping offered in Quetico Provincial Park. To reach all other sites you must portage and paddle, but since my tent trailer would not fit in my canoe, Dawson Trail it was!
Camping Cabins at Quetico
For campers without trailers or tents, the park has three rustic cabin options: a log cabin at Dawson Trail Campground, the Art Studio Winter Retreat, and the Ojibwa Cabin at Ojibwa Campground. Cabin guests get use of all visitor services and activities like the hiking trails. Cabins do not have running water or washroom facilities, but outhouse toilets are located nearby, plus comfort stations are open throughout the camping season. Cabins include electric heating, propane BBQ, microwave, fridge, coffee maker, firewood, and even snowshoes during the winter months. My buddies and I agreed that a cabin would be a great option here.
Quetico Provincial Park has some unique restrictions campers should be aware of. For example, your group size must not exceed nine. The only cans/bottles permitted onsite are fuel, insect repellent, medicines, personal toiletries, and items which are not food or beverage-related. It is an offence to possess non-reusable food or beverage containers. Large, powered machines such as chainsaws and generators are also prohibited. It is illegal to damage any live trees and other plants or to cut and remove any such plants from the property.
French Lake Fishing
Our favourite activity during the trip was fishing, of course, since we were all avid anglers. I brought along my 14-foot Sportspal canoe that's large enough for three people. French Lake is a virtual fishing paradise and was easily accessible right from our campsite. The lake provides a wonderful opportunity to fish for northern pike, smallmouth bass, lake trout and walleye. Throw in a traditional Ontario ‘shore lunch’ and you have the makings of the perfect day. We focused on pike, the easiest resident fish to catch which also offers especially good table fare in this icy northern water. We landed four nice northern pike including two smaller ones perfect for eating. I cooked and served the fish using one of the proven pike recipes from my award-winning book, the Canadian Fishing Cookbook.
Hunting & Fishing Regulations
Only barbless hooks are allowed in Quetico Provincial Park and only artificial bait is allowed; it's illegal to use any live or dead organic bait such as leeches, worms, or minnows. We carried barbed hooks in my tackle box which is allowed, but the barbs must be pinched down before being attached to your line. We used Williams spoons with no barbs which I prepared prior to arrival. No hunting is allowed or possession of any firearm is not permitted within the park.
A Boys' Weekend at Quetico is Recommended!
My buddies and I enjoyed a wonderful three days of camping, canoeing, and fishing at Quetico Provincial Park — I thoroughly recommend it. Those who love getting back to nature while returning to a comfortable trailer or tent campsite at the end of the day will love it there!
For more information on camping at Quetico Provincial Park, visit the Ontario Parks website here.