A Father-Son Bonding Trip to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

With a mutual love of both RVing and Canadian history, my dad and I made a trip to camp, hike, and learn. Experience the Voyageur lifestyle (but with better facilities)!

During the summer, on our way to go trout fishing in Northwestern Quebec, my father and I spent two wonderful days camping at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. Nestled between beautiful Lake Moore and the fabled Mattawa River, in Northeastern Ontario’s historic Voyageur country, this provincial park proved to be a real hidden gem!

A white and green wooden Ontario Parks sign that reads "Samuel de Champlain", with a wooden Voyageur cutout standing at one side. There are green grass and trees all around.
The Voyageur theme sets this park apart.

We booked an electrical hookup site at the Park’s Babawasse Campground for the tent trailer I owned at the time, very close to Moore Lake. This two-day, spur-of-the-moment trip was perhaps one of the best father-and-son bonding trips ever, while offering a wonderful glimpse into Voyageur culture.

Dual Campgrounds at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

a map of the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park campgrounds
Two beautiful and well-designed campgrounds make for a really pleasant stay.

Two main campgrounds are located within Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park: Jingwakoki Campground and Babawasse Campground. Both campsites are located on the northern banks of Moore Lake at the fork of the Amable du Fond River. The Park offers sizable sites with electrical hookups and water nearby which are perfect for either tenting or trailer/RV camping like we were doing.

Babawasse Campground

Babawasse Campground offers 74 campsites, a comfort station with flush toilets, showers, and a laundry facility as well. The name “Babawasee” is of Ojibway origin meaning “a lake seen through the woods”. Our campsite #7 was very close to the water and boat launch area of the park, and perfect location indeed.

the beach at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park campground; a large sandy beach with a still, glassy lake and dense forest on the opposite bank. There are 3 green inflatable water boards lined up on the beach.
"A lake seen through the woods"— the beach here is idyllic. 

Jingwakoki Campground

The other side of the park across the Amable du Fond River is Jingwakoki Campground, which offers 137 more campsites, mostly nonelectrical hookups, and some pull-thru sites. This campground also has a comfort station near the park entrance with flush toilets, laundry, and showers. The Ojibway name Jingwakoki describes this campground as “tall pine forest” which was appropriate given the stand of pine trees here.

Mattawa River Visitor Centre

the interior of the Mattawa Visitor's Center, with a large birchbark canoe in the foreground and visitors looking at displays in the background..
The Visitor Centre provides fascinating displays and programming to teach about the fur trade.

The onsite Visitor Centre was super interesting and comprehensive, with a period display offering a glimpse into the complex history of indigenous cultures. My Dad and I are Canadian history buffs, on top of both being actively involved in the fur industry for many years. The park staff provides interactive programming, guided hikes, spirit nights, campfire sing-alongs and children’s programs later in the summer. Visitors can also try paddling a replica Voyageur canoe, which we agreed would be amazing. The Mattawa River Visitor Centre showcases this region’s importance during the fur trade and voyageur days.

Hiking Opportunities at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

a map of the main hiking trails in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park features hiking trails of varied difficulty levels.

For campers who enjoy a stroll through the backwoods as we do, there are a variety of hiking trails to choose from throughout the park. The trails loop around the different lakes and rivers in the park and range from easy to moderate with some offering steeper climbs. There are a total of 7 hikes to choose from. There are three trails close to the campgrounds:

The Forestry Research Trail: 1 km long, less than 1 hr hike, easy walk.

The Kag Trail: 2 km, 1.25 hr hike. Moderate with some steep climbs

The Wabashkiki Trail: 1 km hike, 30 mins. Easy hike

The rest of the trails are part of the Etienne Trail System and meander around the Mattawa River and Long Lake. They include the 5.5 km Geology Loop, an approximately 3-hour walk with some steep cliffs and climbs. The History Loop measures 8.5 km in length and could take upwards of 5 hours to complete. The Nature Loop is an 8 km hike also with moderate steep cliffs. Finally, the Red Pine Loop (the one my dad and I walked) is a 3 km trail which takes about an hour to complete. All the trails are well-marked and easily completed with basic walking equipment.

Learn About Voyageur History at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park

a row of smiling people paddling a large birchbark canoe on a river. The end two appear to be paddling instructors, dressed as voyageurs.
Interactive programming provided by the Park's natural heritage education staff offers visitors the opportunity to paddle a replica voyageur canoe.

Reliving the voyageur lifestyle was an experience I will never forget. For those who aren’t aware of their place in Canadian History, Voyageurs were licensed travellers who transported goods such as furs, blankets, and tobacco throughout the New World in exchange for implements like axes, muzzleloaders and muskets. These brave men, like Samuel de Champlain himself, moved thousands of pounds of cargo down rivers and across large lakes using huge birchbark freighter canoes, like the one displayed at the Park’s visitor centre. The Mattawa River and adjacent lakes and rivers facilitated trade by canoe. The enormous 36’ birch freighter canoes of the Anishinabek were used to help satisfy the demand for Canadian fur, a business this country was founded upon.

Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park Final Word

My father and I enjoyed a wonderful trip to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park that year— Dad and I still talk about it. The river and surroundings were inviting and memorable and the facilities were very clean and well laid out. Learning and experiencing this region’s voyageur history is something we will never forget, and the campground was one of the nicest we’ve seen yet! Do yourself a favour and plan your own father-son historical bonding trip; you will not be disappointed!

For more information on camping at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, visit the Ontario Parks website

About Jeff Morrison

Jeff Morrison is an award-winning outdoor writer, book author, and nationally-syndicated newspaper and magazine columnist.

Recommended Articles

The Complete 2024 List of RV Shows in Ontario

Add these RV events to your calendar.

The 10 Best RV Itineraries in Ontario

Bucket list trips to destinations all across the province.

An RV adventure in Algoma Country

An epic RV road trip along the north shore of Lake Superior

Why I'm Glad I Went RVing at Killarney Provincial Park

Whether the rugged Ontario landscape inspires you to paint, hike, paddle or just enjoy, this park is a must-visit.

An Algonquin Provincial Park Family Camping Adventure

Gorgeous scenery, spectacular paddling and interesting (and surprising) vegetation make this huge provincial park an adventure for all ages.

Why Everyone Will be Boondocking in Ontario This Summer

Camping off-grid in your RV is a great way to beat the crowds.

Got Wanderlust?

Book your summer 2023 vacation early with this Airbnb for RV rentals.

Marten River Provincial Park Bucket List Trip!

The sights, the sites, the water and hikes — this park isn't one to be missed.

RV Sites in Ontario: The Ultimate Guide

A comprehensive list of where to book an RV site across the province!

An RV Camping Guide to Ontario's Provincial Parks

Which park is right for your next trip?

The Complete List of RV Dealers in Ontario

Looking to buy an RV in Ontario? Start here!

Have Your Toured Ontario's Provincial Park Nature Trail?

Go Tour Ontario's 10-Day RV Route

An RV Quest for Fun, Freedom and Fries

5 days from London around the Timiskaming Lake Loop

My 34-Day RV Road Trip to Thunder Bay

Every single place we stayed, ate, and played on this Northern Ontario adventure.

KOA Campgrounds in Northern Ontario

7-Day RV Road Trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park

Experienced RVer Jacob Sandler tells us his ideal itinerary for a 7-day trip from London to Lake Superior.

Be Bear Aware This Summer

From bear-proof bins to calling in a black bear encounter, here's everything you need to know about camping in bear country.

Toronto to Winnipeg and Beyond

One couple's RV trip across Ontario

RVing with dogs

Everything you need to know!

A Guide to RVing with Young Kids

7 essential tips for staying sane from a full-time RVing family.