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Kayak Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario Canada


Kayak Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ontario Canada

Georgian Bay Islands National Park is perfect for experienced kayakers.  Begin your journey at Honey Harbour and head for the 59 Islands that make up this beautiful Georgian Bay park.  Beausoleil Island is the largest of the Islands, with 3 camping areas to choose from.  Services range from primitive to limited.  Please be aware that there is an abundance of boat traffic on this route and that weather conditions can change very quickly.  Suitable for experienced paddlers only.  Monitor weather conditions.

 

The more than 60 islands and islets in Georgian Bay Islands National Park occupy a corner of Lake Huron north of Toronto. Reached only by boat, with no commercial development, the islands comprise a paddling paradise for canoeists and kayakers. The exposed rocks and headlands typify the geologically famous Canadian Shield landscape; white pines provide green contrast to the glacier-smoothed rock. Wildlife is profuse, and paddlers can easily find peace and quiet during day trips or overnight journeys.

 
 
 
 

The main park campground, Cedar Springs, is also located on Beausoleil Island and can be accessed by private boat or water taxi. There are toilets and showers available. The other camping areas along the coast are primitive campsites with just the basic facilities. They are accessible by kayak or on foot (after a water taxi ride) if you're a backpacker.

 
 
    Backpackers and hikers have a wonderful trail system available on Beausoleil Island. The trails have a number of interconnections allowing you to choose from a variety of routes and camping areas, including a combination which will let you hike all around the island. Keep a close eye out for the endangered Massasauga Rattle Snake, give it a wide birth and ensure it has an escape route.  
 

You'll find the welcome centre for the park in Port Severn, rather than its old location at Honey Harbour. The Lock 45 Welcome Centre has presentations and displays as well as a friendly staff to answer all of your questions. The parks main office is located in Midland.

Camping

There are 15 campgrounds on the big island with 192 sites in total. The main campground, Cedar Springs has 87 sites, with toilets and showers available. The primitive sites are located along the parks shores stretching from the southern to the northern tip. These sites can be accessed by water or you can backpack in from Cedar Springs campground.

There are two group sites which must be reserved, one at Cedar Springs and a primitive site at Christian Beach, which you have to paddle or hiked to. All of the camping is on Beausoleil Island which is only accessible by water.

Reservations can be made through the parks website via Parks Canada

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Nature

The park sits on the border of the Canadian Shield and the transition is readily apparent in many areas. The intersection of the two distinct regions allows for a variety of wildlife to flourish. The venomous but shy Massausauga Rattlesnake may be found on the island. A protected species, give it a wide berth if you encounter one and notify the park as to where you sighted it. Watch for a variety of bird species as well as numerous orchids in the park.

 

Hiking

There are 11 hiking trails in the park, ranging from 0.3 km to 8.2km.

Cambrian Trail: 2km, Easy. A short walk through classic Canadian Shield the trail is a loop off of the Fairy Trail in the north of Beausoleil Island.

Fairy Trail: 2.5km Easy-Intermediate. A winding trail through coulees and hills on the shores of Goblin and Fairy Lakes. It can be reached from the Rockview Trail in the north of the island.

Rockview Trail: 1.5km, Easy. A short trail overlooking Long Bay it connects the Fairy and Dossyonshing Trails to the Huron in the north of Beausoleil Island.

Dossyonshing Trail: 2.5km, Easy. A rather beautiful area that contrasts marshes and ponds with hardwood forest. This is an easy walk. The trail can be reached from the Huron via the Rockview Trail in the north end of Beausoleil Island.

Massasauga Trail: 2km, Easy. The trail gets its name from the endangered Massasauga Rattlesnake which along with other reptiles and amphibians take shelter in this area.

Portage Trail: 0.3km, Easy. The trail gets its name from its use by the the first nations peoples and early settlers.The trail goes through a wetlands area.

Huron Trail: 8.km, Intermediate, Mixed Use. The trail moves through the transition zone between the lowlands and the Canadian Shield country. It stretches along the eastern side of the big island and connects with several other trails and provides access to a number of the backcountry campsites. This is a good trail for bird watchers.

Georgain Trail: 5km, Intermediate. A shoreline trail along the west side of Beausoliel Island that takes you over stone and sandy beaches as well as the outcroppings of the shield. The trail connects to the Huron at the southern tip and northern section of the island. It can also be reached from the Christian Trail. A nice choice on a sunny afternoon.

Treasure Trail: 3.8km, Easy. The name comes from local lore of treasure buried in the area. The trail follows a ridge out to Treasure Bay. The trail can be reached in the south from Cedar Springs campground on Beausoleil Island.

Firetower Trail: 1.3km, Easy-Intermediate. This trail is a must do, after some climbing you are rewarded with an excellent view of Papoose Bay. The trail can be reached halfway along the Christian Trail.

Christian: 1.5km, Easy-Intermediate. The trail bisects the lower part of Beausoleil Island. connecting Cedar Springs campground to the group camping area at Christian Beach on the west coast.

All of the hiking trails are on the park's islands and can only be reached by water. There is a water taxi available from Honey Harbour but if your only going for the day make sure you have enough time to complete your hike and get back for the pick-up. Consult with the park for details.

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Backpacking

The park is in a spectacular setting in southern Georgian Bay, just off shore from Honey Harbour. The backpacking trail is on Beausoleil Island, which is only accessible by water. Beausoleil is the parks main island and consists of lightly wooded areas mixed with rocky shores and sandy beaches. The trails are most secluded on the back side of the island, which unfortunately provides the longest stretch of trail without a campsite. There is 24 km of trail and there are 15 camp areas along the way. If you want an extended outting.head south from Cedar Springs campground to Beausoleil Point campsite along the Huron Trail. The next day head north along the islands west coast on the Georgian Trail where you can connect with either the Rockview or Massasauga Trail and head for one of several campsite in the north of the park. You can return to your kick off point by following the Huron Trail (branch off on the Treasure if you want another route back) to Cedar Springs. This is only one of several routes you can stitch together on the island which can range from an overnight to several days.The island is only accessible by water so if you don't have access to a boat you can hire a water taxi in honey harbour. Contact the park for campsite reservations and fees.

 

Canoeing

Like sea kayaking you can canoe from island to island or just canoe to the large island (you might find a skirted kayak to be a far better option in these waters). Watch for the wake of motor boats in an open canoe, especially if your loaded with gear. You'll find canoe camping at any of the 15 campgrounds on the island with a total of 192 campsites. You can rent a canoe from the marina near Honey Harbour. The park is not really recommended for canoeing, as Georgian Bay is a huge body of water, usually very choppy, prone to fogs and very cold. Storms can brew up in a minute so check the weather conditions if you go.

Sea Kayaking

The park is a "boaters park" and is a spectacular area for sea kayaking with endless channels, bays and inlets to explore. You can sea kayak from island to island or just kayak to the large island, Beausoleil and go exploring. You'll find great camping on one of the 192 sites at any of the 15 campgrounds on the big island. Be aware the parks waters have a lot of boat traffic and even thought much of the area is protected, great storms can arise in a surprisingly short time. Only very experience kayakers should venture onto the unsheltered back of the island. Make sure your route doesn't exceed your capabilities. If you're not an intermediate or advanced kayaker, hire a guide to help you explore the park. Georgian Bay is a huge body of water, usually very choppy, prone to fogs and very cold. Storms can brew up in a minute so check the weather conditions if you go. Contact the park for more information on skill requirements, routes and conditions.

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Mountain Biking

There are easy mountain biking trials through the forest and along the islands shore. Bikes are allowed on The Huron Trail, a 6 km long fire road and The Christian Trail, a 1.5 km trail across the island. These are mixed use trail so watch out for hikers. Remember the park is accessible by water only. If you don't have access to a boat you can hire a water taxi in honey harbour.

 

Books, Maps and Literature

The Federal Topographic Series map of the area, is Pentanuishene 31 D/13, at at 1:50,000. You can acquire a map of Beausoleil Island at the park office. It shows the location of the campgrounds and the islands trails. The recommended nautical charts for the area are maps 2202 and 2239. These are available from the Canadian Hydrographic Chart Distribution Office and at many marinas and sport stores in Canada. You'll find paddling information for southern Georgian Bay in "Kayaking Georgian Bay" by Jonathon Reynolds and Heather Smith, published by Boston Mills Press.

Note: Geocaching is not permitted in the park.