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French River

French River Provincial Park - main photo of the park

What you'll like:

  • A river of national historic significance the French River is the first designated Canadian Heritage River
  • Paddle the route of First Nations, French Explorers, fur traders and Voyageurs
  • A 105 kilometre canoe route of interconnected lakes, gorges and rapids from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay
  • Georgian Bay coastal kayaking is available through the French River Delta
  • A variety of experiences ranging from wilderness paddling to motorboating, fishing and private lodges
  • The award-winning French River Visitor Centre on Highway 69 with its “Voices of the River” exhibit
Park Bus logo

This park is serviced by Park Bus.

Camping Experiences

By the Numbers

  • Backcountry Campsites - 230

Camping

French River Provincial Park offers backcountry camping only.  There are many channels, bays and inlets to choose from and the stunning views of classic Canadian Shield scenery with rocks and pines are seemingly endless. 

Access to the park is through marinas and lodges along the river and a fee for parking and launching is required.  These are all private lodges or marinas except for Otter Bay on the Little French River.  A list of private sector partners selling park permits is included in the park map, along with all access points.  Interior camping permits are also sold at Restoule Provincial Park for those entering via the Restoule River and at Killarney Provincial Park for those paddling from Killarney to the French River Delta on Georgian Bay.


 

Backcountry Camping

The French River is 105 km in length, running from headwaters at Lake Nipissing to its mouth at Georgian Bay.
Along this route are numerous campsites where paddlers and boaters will find opportunities for fishing, swimming, photography, or just relaxing. Paddlers can spend hours weaving through the braided rocky channels. Coastal kayaking on Georgian Bay is popular. 

The campsites are marked and there are box privies on some sites.

Some sections of the river and delta are more remote and undeveloped with shoals and shallow sections which can provide paddlers with more of a wilderness experience.

Park permits are required for interior camping. Reservations are not required.

Highlights of Things to Do

The French River was the key travel route to the western Great Lakes and Canada before there were roads. The Aboriginal trade routes were later followed by French explorers like Samuel de Champlain, fur traders and French-Canadian Voyageurs. Many traits of the current Canadian multicultural identity arose from those joint canoe trips of the Aboriginal and French people. It can be expressed today as “we are all in the same canoe”.

Explore this heritage by stopping at the French River Visitor Centre and checking out the historic “Voices of the River” exhibits. Throughout the summer the Visitor Centre works with the local Aboriginal communities and the Municipal Cultural Industries Council to host a number of Aboriginal cultural festivals, artisans and workshops with an emphasis on First Nations, Métis and French cultures. Be sure to walk to the bridge immediately outside the centre for a magnificent view up and downriver.

You can also follow in the footsteps of these past travellers by packing your own canoe and tent and taking the same canoe routes and portages as those who have gone before. Most of the park looks much as did in times past.


Just the Facts

 
Hiking
Take only pictures, leave only footprints: don't bring any plants, animals or other natural objects with you. Park regulations prohibit this. For more information on Leave No Trace practices, visit www.leavenotrace.ca.

Recollet Falls Trail: 4 km, moderate
This trail begins at the Visitor Centre and follows the edge of the French River Gorge, and ends at the historic Recollet Falls. The short portage around the falls has been walked by generations of First Nations, famous explorers, hardy Voyageurs, fur traders and missionaries.

 
Canoeing

French River Canoe Route: multiple days, moderate difficulty
There are multiple routes along the French River from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay and interconnecting routes with the Restoule and Little French Rivers. Paddling upstream and downstream is possible in non-flood conditions.

During flooding (usually in early spring), the river at some locations can be 4 m higher than times of low flows. Recollet Falls in the French River Gorge has no passable portage during periods of high flows such as spring runoff.

There are 13 access locations along the river. The majority are private sector tourism operators who will issue permits on behalf of Ontario Parks. Parking and ramp fees are in addition to interior camping fees. French River interior camping permits are also available at Restoule Provincial Park for those entering via the Restoule River.

Reservations are not required.
For information on current water flows contact the park at 705-857-1630 (May to October).

 
Swimming

Yes, but no designated beaches.

 
Boating

Rentals, dock space and launch facilities are available at multiple private marinas.

 
Fishing

Walleye, Small-mouth Bass, and Northern Pike are just a few of the fish species that are found in the river. Fishing is a very popular activity at over 50 lodges and marinas along the French River.

 
Natural Heritage Education

The French River Visitor Centre tells the stories of this historic waterway in the “Voices of the River” exhibit hall. Various interpretive panels, displays and interactive exhibits take the visitor along the length of the river and through time.

Themes include the First Peoples, the Explorers, French Fur Traders and Missionaries, the Canadian Fur Trade, and the French River Today.

 
Birding

A wide variety of bird species are found along the river. Forest songbirds like Blackburnian Warblers and Red-eyed Vireos are often heard and seen in the towering pines right around the visitor centre.

 
Hunting

Yes except in the nature reserve zone.

 
Other

Sea Kayaking
Multi-day sea kayaking trips are popular along this wilderness coast of Georgian Bay. Popular kayak launching locations are at the Chikanishing River at Killarney Provincial Park, the Key River and Britt. Kayaking is also possible within the French River Delta, accessible from Hartley Bay Marina.
Portages are necessary when kayaking the entire length of the river. Interior camping permits are required. French River interior permits are also available at Killarney Provincial Park. Kayaking on the open waters of Georgian Bay requires skills similar to ocean kayaking. Waves can build to 4m in storm conditions. Carry a marine radio, follow safe paddling procedures and listen for updated coast guard weather forecasts.

Amenities

The award-winning French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre is located just off of Hwy 69 at the river. A great picnic site with washrooms, the centre is well worth a stop to check out the building and its exhibits. A park store is located in the Visitor Centre.

The majority of the park is backcountry with few amenities.

The French River area is a popular vacation destination. With over 50 small lodges along the river, boat rentals and boat launches along with roofed accommodation is available. The park map includes a list.

Just the Facts

 
Flush Toilets

Flush toilets are available at the Visitor Centre.

 
Barrier Free Access

The French River Visitor Centre has barrier-free access.

 
Day Use Area

Picnic tables are available at the Visitor Centre.

 
Boat Launch

The majority of boat access to the French River is through private marinas and lodges. Launching fees are required.

 
Rentals

Private canoe and kayak rentals are available at a number of locations along the river.

 
Park Store

A Park Store is located at the Visitor Centre and sells maps, gifts and souvenirs.

 
Visitor Centre

A recipient of the Governor-General’s Architectural Award for public buildings in 2010, the French River Visitor Centre is located at the junction of the French River and Highway #69 – about 65 km south of Sudbury.

The Visitor Centre’s exhibits showcase the rich history of First Nations, French and English cultures that have lived, worked and travelled these waters over the centuries, as well as the river’s plants, wildlife and unique landscapes. The Centre offers local tourist information and a wide variety of specially selected sales items at the Ontario Parks store.

Park Location

Park Maps (pdf)

Park Overview - pdf

Fire Ban

None

There is no fire ban at this time.

Boil Water

No

There is no boil water advisory at this time.

Beach Posting

No

There is no beach posting at this time.

French River Provincial Park

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