French River - Hartley Bay to the Delta No. 2

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Additional Route Information
55 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
210 m
Longest Portage: 
210 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Put-in at Hartley Bay, 15 km west of Hwy 69 on Hartley Bay Road.

West out of Hartley Bay then turn left at first opportunity.

Head south until you encounter Main Channel, turn right at Western Outlet.
Follow Western Outlet past cottages, where you will head west, then southwest, then finally south.
Some navigational skill is necessary in this area as you approach first the Five Fingers Lodge, then the Five Fingers.
Staying close to the west shore, paddle through two swifts and past the Lovers Lane Rapids and then turn left and then right to the area of fast water that will take you down to the mouth of the Crooked Rapids.
The current is fast here and you MUST have some moving water skills here; stay close to the right shore and be ready to eddy out on the right.
You are now ready to run the Back Channel but be aware, this is how the motor boats come back up in to the river you have just paddled.

Turn left and run through Devil`s Door Rapids or Little then Big Jameson Rapids (which makes for a longer paddle).
Staying close to the north shore head east through the Cross Channel. This is a great camping and fishing area (we saw large pickerel caught here).

The Cross Channel is shallow and VERY private. There are two lift-ups and two lift-downs (going from west to east, which is advised) or less depending on time of year.

Winding your way through here (again good map-reading skills are a must) you enter into the "French River Archipelago", a series of small islands west of the Main Outlet. Cross the mouth of the Main Outlet, heading in a northeasterly direction, toward Obstacle Island. This is a great place to bunk down on your second night out (we always do!).

Take the Eastern Outlet, for a leisurely 15 minute paddle to the bottom end of the portage boardwalk. This 240 metre portage is sometimes made easier by the lodge owner who has lent us a trailer or a wheelbarrow in which to carry our gear. This is the only compulsory portage of the trip. Follow the Eastern Outlet north through Bass Lake to the Elbow, where you can continue north in the Main Outlet or east following the Eastern Outlet. Another fine campsite awaits on The Main Channel across from Canal Island. A short two hour paddle on the final day completes the loop back to Hartley Bay.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 H/15 Key Harbour 41 I/2 Delamere
Other Maps: 
French River Provincial Park map published by Friends of French River - shows campsites, portages, etc.
Special Comments: 

This trip can be done in three days but take four and enjoy two nights at the large campsite on the point next to Crooked Rapids. Some map reading skill and compass dexterity is an added bonus. Winds can be a nasty reality, especially when crossing the Main Outlet. Keep the group together and take your time, keeping in the lee of islands wherever possible. Have fun, take only pictures, leave only footprints!

Fred Oliff

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