There’s something special about paddling in the backcountry in the fall, particularly in secluded Restoule Provincial Park (65 km southwest of North Bay).
The water is smooth and reflective. The sky’s a deep, dark blue. The days are sunny, cool and crisp, and the trees, well, they’re a stunning display of red, orange and yellow.
You won’t encounter many other canoeists, but there’s wildlife all around you. If you look carefully as you paddle along, you may see white-tailed deer, bears, pine martens, beavers and foxes. Look up, and you could spot a rare peregrine falcon or bald eagle. Fish for Lake Trout, Whitefish, Walleye, Pike, Musky, Large and Smallmouth Bass, and Splake, and see Painted Turtles sunning themselves on warm sunny days. The sound of Jays, Chick-a-dees, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers break the silence from time to time.
You can plan a simple day trip. One of the most popular is Stormy Lake with its rocky shores and towering 100m bluff. At the top is an old firetower and a breathtaking panoramic view of the lake and the fall colours – but that’s for another day. It’s accessible only by land via the 7km Fire Tower Trail.
If you’re up for more adventure, be a modern-day explorer and try the loop. It’s recommended for beginner and intermediate canoers. An unrivaled backcountry experience, the loop takes four to six days paddling along ancient Indigenous water trails. The loop is another way to experience the French River.
You start at Stormy Lake and follow the route indigenous peoples travelled for 10,000 years to reach their winter hunting, trapping and fishing territories.
From Stormy Lake you paddle down the Restoule River into Restoule Bay before portaging to connect with the historic French River. This route was traveled by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the 17th century.
Three to four kilometres up the river is Chaudière Falls. Chaudière means kettle or cauldron, named by the French for the way the mist rose above the falls like steam from boiling water.
Finally, you return to Stormy Lake by way of the seldom-traveled backwaters of Shoal Creek, Shoal Lake, Bass Lake and Clear Lake.
Planning a backcountry adventure at Restoule this fall?
There are 13 backcountry campsites and 10 well-marked portages along the 72-kilometre route. No worries if you don’t have your own canoe; you can rent one at the park by the day or week.
To get a route map or check conditions, call the park directly at 705-729-2010.