French River Supply Post to Georgian Bay Loop

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Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
James vanRooy
Trip Date : 
July 1st to 4th 2020
Route Author: 
James vanRooy
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
92 km
Duration: 
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
4
Total Portage Distance: 
470 m
Longest Portage: 
310 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Easy
Remoteness: 
Novice
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
High
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

From Highway 69 Northbound turn right at French River Supply Post Rd. Continue straight until you arrive in roughly 2km.

Technical Guide: 

Route Description:

4 days 3 nights paddling the “Lower” French River from French River Supply Post and Marina, out the Old Voyageurs Channel and returning via the Main Outlet, Canoe Channel and Pickerel River.

Water Level Data:

July 1st Hartley Bay 177.91m

July 1st – 4th Michigan-Huron 177.45m (Record High)

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Wednesday July 1 2020 (Canada Day)

Left home at 4am. Picked up Luke at the McDonald's on Plains Rd East in Burlington at 4:45am.  Back on the road by 4:50am and took QEW to the 427 to 401 East to 400 North and then continued on to the 69. Stretch, coffee and gas up at Petrocan just before Perry Sound a little after 7am. made it to French River Supply Post at 8:20am. $8.50 a day to park and $5 to put in, $5 to take out very reasonable pricing I thought.

Paddled out at 8:45am. Heading under the new highway bridges was interesting. Some work still going on despite it being Canada day.

The canyon was nice and scenic. However every time we ended up near the walls we would be greeted by a small swarm of deer flies. Ricolet falls has two take outs, the first is marked with a yellow portage sign at the time of paddling. I would call the first the “high flow” or novice’s take out, it’s in a very calm and protected section of water about 25m above the falls on river left. The second take out is right at the brink and would allow you to skip the steep rock hill you navigate on the first takeout.

Lot’s of hydraulic power in the water as you paddle the takeout, even with these moderate flow rates. I was quiet surprised as we paddled past the outflow of the falls to have my paddle forced into the side of the canoe as I completed a J-stroke.

The next rapid (First Rapid) we ran without scouting right down the middle. A couple of semi submerged rocks on river right with some wood hung up on them. If the flow was much less this could be a pretty boney ride.

We then came up on Flat Rapid. Scouted from shore and at first it looked like we could run down the middle then skirt the large rock island on the right. However, we changed plans once back in the water and just ran the deeper channel on river left, staying left around the rock island.

After that just flat water paddling until we got to site 617 for lunch at 12:30pm. This is where the main outlet and western outlet diverge. Scenic still on the way down, leap frogging a bit with some other paddlers sticking to the left shore, while we paddled mainly down the center and river right. I feel like I’m basically in view of cottages or hearing a motorboat constantly. Don’t expect this to be a wilderness trip! Hopefully it will be quieter in the western outlet.

Back on the water for 1:00pm Extremely warm and not a touch of breeze until we turned the corner at Crombie bay. Some decent sites but with a nice breeze blowing up the river we decided to keep pushing and camp closer to the five fingers.

Our welcome breeze quickly built into a decent headwind. At almost 2:30pm on the dot it really started to blow. Paddled on for another hour until we found another site we liked (708). Missed this site at first glance. We paddled past it but it's tucked into the point when approaching from the north and an easy miss. Luckily, we turned and enjoyed a tailwind for the first time of the trip!

Site is well treed with a nice open sandy beach. 2-3 tent pads. Set up camp and then spent the afternoon swimming. The breeze is really good at keeping the mosquito’s away but doesn’t seem to do too much for the other biting flies. Deer, Horse, and Sandflies having a nice feast on us while we swim and later while we are air drying.

Forecast says 0% chance of rain and that’s always my signal for a night without the rain fly.

Forced down 3 hot dogs around the campfire. Too hot for a fire really, but we needed it to cook on. I mean the hotdogs tasted amazing, but it was just too hot with the fire.

Another swim. Just hung out in the water until the sun was down behind the trees. The breeze we had been enjoying suddenly tapered off and stopped with the disappearing sun.

We cleaned up camp quickly and hung out in the no bug zone. A little whiskey and some catching up and we were ready for bed by 9:30pm. Luke immediately fell asleep, while I read for about an hour. I think the cottage decided this was time to run their generator for a bit? Glad I didn’t take that site next to them! Could have been the campers too, in the morning it looked like a small flotilla of motorboats pulled up on shore.

We’re going to have a full moon for this trip. Interesting waking up at night and being able to see everything with the light of the moon and lack of rainfly.  I actually threw my pack towel over my eyes at one point as the light was a bit much around 3:00am.

Thursday July 2 2020

Work up just before 6am. Nice and cool but not humid or dewy at all. No breeze at all yet and that could only reveal the morning belonged to the mosquito. I was swarmed pretty much the whole time I was making and eating breakfast. Happy I took my bug shirt and No Bug Zone on this trip already.

Made coffee and had breakfast with Luke. Then packed up camp while Luke cleaned up the kitchen. On the water about 7:30am.

We where quickly into the five fingers, being less then an hour paddle from the top. We stuck with our plan of going down the Old Voyageurs Channel. A canoeist we had talked to around Crombie Bay had made to sound like we would have a good chance of running into motorboats blasting up this channel and the others. At any rate it sounded like the delta bellow the Western Outlet was a busy place.

The Old Voyageurs Channel was incredible as you spent basically the whole time with 15-20' tall walls of pink granite on either side and you navigated over small Swift's and around islands and rocks. We chased a young bald eagle almost all the way down the channel as well.

Only one "portage" and it was really a small lift over at Petit Facille. Palmer and La Dalle we scouted easily from the water. Palmer we stuck to river left as the first option on river right seemed to shallow for us. While at La Dalle we took the first option on river right. It was narrow but lots of room for a 16’ Prospector.

We didn’t portage at the Cross Channel Rapids (marked as a p50). Enough water was flowing that we easily paddled up (even solo at the end when Luke stopped to admire a water snake while the back half of canoe was still in the rapid.) However, the bottom of this rapid was shallow and full of round bowling ball sized rocks and I think this is where I cracked my paddle. I was certainly banging the bottom and got it stuck a few times.

From there is was an interesting experience paddling broadside to the currents as the other fingers entered into the cross channel. Trying to count the many fingers to keep track of where exactly we had progressed too. All pointless really as Devils Door was unmistakable as a notch in the rock with two 30' tall problem pink granite walls running north and south of it. We also noticed the small flotilla that had assembled around Little Jameson rapids (which don’t seem to exist at this water level).

We ran through the hydraulic and suddenly where in another village of large yachts. Everyone seemed to be sleeping still except a few people running around on their tenders or out fishing.

Slowly we paddled past this admiring these large ships and making our way to the eastern Cross Channel section. Water was high again and only 1 small lift over here. It did get a little shallow and confusing at some of the turns. By 10:00am we where crossing Whitefish and then Sand bay. Then we spotted the lighthouse turned north and headed up the Main Outlet.

Nearing the ruins of French River and the Lighthouse, we saw about 8 canoes coming down the channel. Singles, doubles and finally a set of four. We joked about the last set of 4 being like a biker gang, as they flowed out of the elbow perfectly spaced and then paddled down the main channel all abreast.

Soon after passing them we rounded the corner and started saw some divers diving around the base of Little Dalles rapids.

Paddled up little Dalles without any trouble and then turned the corner. Luke and myself decided to paddle / line up and were in the middle of taking a shot at it when about eight 20-year olds sauntered out and started playing in the rapid right in front of us. They were camping at the rapids and offered to let us portage through their campsite if we wanted. Sadly with our steam blown now and if we didn’t make it the prospect of running over someone we said thanks but we will just take the portage trail.

A very sweaty double carry and we then paddled across to 625, finding it un-occupied we decided this would be home after having our lunch on it around 12:00pm.

Nice beach (small pebbles and some sand) a small bit of algae where a creek comes in to the west. Might be smelly later in the year. Room for lots for tents but not a lot of afternoon shade. Unpacked camp (tent on the beach basically, behind a couple trees for some shade). Set up the no Bug zone near the back fire pit.

Nice new thunder box! I don't think it's even been rained on yet!

Quiet, hot afternoon swimming, reading, napping, and snacking.

Looked like rain suddenly just after dinner. We buttoned down everything and then sat in the bug shelter talking until 10:30. Nothing really came of it except we had clouds most of the night. Slept with the rainfly on tonight but everything else wide open.

Friday July 3 2020

Woke up at 6:00am and packed up my kit. Got completely swarmed by mosquito's while trying to do my morning business.

A quick breakfast and Luke did dishes while I packed up the rest of camp again. On the water for 8:00am. Heading east towards The Elbow and Canoe Channel.

All campsites occupied from ours to the elbow. Luckily we got our site when we did I guess. Huge fish (Muskie?) jumping out of the water between the elbow and cottages on Canoe Channel.

Nothing too eventful on the paddle up Canoe Channel and into Ox Bay the only place we paddled twice. Kept the shoreline to our right and before long it was obvious, we where heading up the Pickerel.

Stopped at campsite 931 for a quick leg stretch and snack. Very pretty and barren area.

Nice little village of cottages near the CP? Line (first train bridge when coming from the west). I guess this is Pickerel and apparently it even boasts a small road connecting the cottages together. Formerly this was a full-time settlement and most of the cottages are still held by decedents if the internet is to be believed.

Soon we turned South into Little Canoe Channel. Nice canyon walls have been the theme all down the pickerel river. This was no exception, perhaps this was some of the narrowest section. But almost as soon as your out of Little Canoe Channel everything flattens out.

We canoed up to the top set of sites (900-904) only 903 looked ok and it was full already. 900 would be okay but it was just swarming with deer flies. We easily had 50 flying around the both of us just walking the site and it had very little protection from the Sun.

Paddled back to 904 and had lunch at 1:30pm. A nice piney site with a large tent pad on top of the little bluff. Easily could fit 4-5 tents here.

Set up camp then had a nice float in deep bay in our life jackets. Lazy afternoon reading and snacking. Maybe I should take up fishing but I don’t think I could stand another minute in this Sun.

After dinner a motorboat pulled up claiming they couldn't find a site open and this was their favorite site. Tom and his son Adam joined us for the evening. A couple cold beers from Tom helped to really smooth things over. We probably saw the most motorboats anywhere on the trip in the Pickerel River, but everyone was very nice and courteous leaving as much space as possible and always slowing down well in advance before passing us. A lot of the wall of the Pickerel are near vertical and in some narrow sections you feel like you can never escape the wake anyways and it bounces back and forth.

Saturday July 4 2020

Up early and broke camp quickly. On the water at 7:20am.

About an hour's paddle brought us up to Cedar Village and Smith Marina.  The CN train was running like clock work, whistling by about every hour.

We made it to the CN bridge just in time to see the train cross and passed under the bridge just after the last car passed over. Another 15 minutes of paddling brought us past what looked like an old low bridge structure (a matching twin could be seen on the far shore in the village of Pickerel Landing). After that we turned left and went past a solar powered angel marking Trestle Gully Lake.

Shallow and narrow Trestle Gully Lake runs past one cottage at the rocky narrow and then over one of the biggest beds of fresh water muscles I've seen at a shallow sandy narrow.

We couldn't find the lower end of the portage around Little French Rapids. It’s just a big rock face and I’m sure when it has to be portaged people just pick the best route up. Don’t expect cairns or a yellow arrow.

The rapids were basically dry and we just portaged and lined right up them. We did spy a what looked like an entrance to a portage at the pool at the top of the rapid. Didn’t see any portage signs on the top side either, but again it’s just a big sloping rock.

After that another easy 45 minutes of paddling back to French River Supply Post. Just keep the shoreline roughly to your left until you come out to Dry Pine Bay. Busy today at "The Swift's" with inbound and outbound boat traffic. We hung close to the walls and everyone heading up stream was going slow enough that they made no wake. Slipped under the train bridge one last time and then paddled around the docks to the French River Supply Post’s gravel takeout.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
041H15 KEY HARBOUR, 041I02 DELAMERE, 041H14 COLLINS INLET.
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Other Maps: 
Unlostify West French River
Other
Suggested Resource Material: 
Special Comments: 

You can also check out Erik Oosterop’s trip report posted in the comments this CCR trip report (https://www.myccr.com/canoeroutes/french-river-hartley-bay-delta) in almost the exact opposite conditions! River in flood and Georgian Bay in record lows.