person sitting near canoe on river shore

5 life-changing paddling routes of Northeastern Ontario

Whether you’re planning a scenic day trip or a rugged backcountry adventure, Northeastern Ontario is a paddler’s playground.

Last year, Northeastern Ontario Tourism asked their readers to vote for their top paddling destinations…

…and the votes are in!

Join us in counting down the top 5 paddling destinations of Northeastern Ontario:

5. Spanish River

Spanish River

Spanish River flows through towering old-growth forests and rugged outcrops of the Canadian Shield.

Spanish River Provincial Park offers a wide variety of overnight adventures ranging from 2-10 days. Explore the East Branch of the river for intermediate whitewater fun, or take the train to Biscotasing to start your trip on the wilder West Branch.

With Class I, II and III rapids, Spanish River offers lots of swifts and moving water to test experienced canoeists.

**Safety Reminder** Know your skill level before you hit the water! The Ontario Recreational Canoe and Kayak Association is a good source of information and courses.  

4. Mattawa River and Ottawa River

Mattawa River paddler

A popular destination for history buffs, these two waterways are both Canadian Heritage Rivers, retracing the historic canoe routes of Canada’s voyageurs and Indigenous people.

Experienced paddlers embark just outside North Bay, travelling east to the Mattawa-Ottawa junction at the Town of Mattawa. Midway along, stop in at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park — a great spot to camp for the night.

If you’re truly keen to paddle like it’s 1796, you can don traditional voyageur garb and take your seat in a 30 ft canot du nord on the provincial park’s guided Voyageur Tours.

3. Temagami

Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater canoeist

Searching for pristine wilderness? You’ll fall in love with Temagami’s towering pine forests, rugged cliffs and breath-taking waterfalls.

Temagami offers 2,600 lakes and 2,400 km of diverse canoe routes connected by portages thousands of years old. Aptly-named Solace Provincial Park features unparalleled flatwater canoeing, while Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park‘s rapids and falls will appeal to the full-fledged adventurer.

Day-trippers will love the region’s lakefront cabins. Outfitters offer everything an adventurous paddler needs, from guided tours to floatplane shuttles into the backcountry. Ready to choose your route?

2. Killarney

Killarney sunset

Killarney Provincial Park‘s 645 km2 of wilderness boasts 50+ exceptionally clear, sapphire lakes set among Jack pine hills.

Art-lovers return year after year to paddle the painted landscape, and rediscover the vistas captured on canvas by the Group of Seven.

Paddlers, too, always return, captivated by the wild Georgian Bay coast, the white quartzite ridges of the La Cloche Mountains, and the lake-dappled landscape. You never forget your first trip to Killarney.

And in the number one spot, the top-voted northeastern paddling destination is…

1. French River

French River scenery

The river that has it all.

Watch the landscape change as you paddle the 100 km from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay. Ancient Canadian Shield cliffs give way to the narrow bedrock-lined channels, islands, rapids, and falls.

Steeped in history, the French River was the first designated Canadian Heritage River. French River Provincial Park‘s award-winning Visitor Centre invites history buffs to retrace the experiences of Canada’s Indigenous people, explorers and voyageurs with its “Voices of the River” exhibit.

There are multiple routes along the French River from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay and interconnecting routes with the Restoule and Little French Rivers.  With 13 access locations along the river, you can custom-design your adventure.

Paddle back in time

paddler beside cliffs

Whether you’re channeling the voyageur spirit or watching the sun set over your favourite Group of Seven landscape, these five paddling adventures will capture your memory, your imagination and your heart.

Why not make a little history of your own?