Moon River to Georgian Bay

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay basin
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
22 km
2 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1190 m
Longest Portage: 
450 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at access Road
(Just north of Moon River bridge on Highway 69)
A second vehicle must be shuttled down to Woods Bay Marina or Moon River Marina on Georgian Bay at the mouth of the Moon River
West on Moon River
Seven Sisters Rapid - line / portage / wade / run after checking
No obvious portage except a rugged 1700 m trail on the right
West on Moon River
P 220 m L around Curtain Chute
P 180 m R around first set of Twin Rapids
P 120 m R around second set of Twin Rapids
P 150 m L
P 70 m L
P 450 m R around Moon Falls
West through Arnold`s Bay
West through Moon River Bay
Finish at Woods Bay Marina or Moon River Marina

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Moon River-Upstream from the Falls

Looking for a location within a days travel/paddle of the general Toronto area to be a home base for a few days of exploring, fishing, and relaxation?

Try the Moon River from the bottom up. This eliminates the laborious walking/dragging/portaging of the 1.5-kilometer Seven Sisters rapids below the Moon River Bridge.

During the summer water levels the current in the river is minimal and although the river flows in a Westerly direction wind is not a serious problem. The river is fairly narrow and you can paddle along one shoreline or the other to minimize the effect. Fishing for pike and bass is good, with the occasional walleye or even the elusive muskie making an appearance. Beaver, deer, raccoons, waterfowl, loon, herons, and other species are seen along the river.

You need a topo map for Lake Joseph, 31E/4, having a 1:50000 scale, which shows the areas discussed.

Access to Moon Falls at the Georgian Bay level can be from one of two locations on Arnold`s Bay, or locations further down on Wood`s Bay (Sunset Point Cottages, Wood`s Bay Marina, etc. off Healy Lake road). Arnold`s Bay is the closest, by taking Twelve-Mile Bay road off highway 69/400 south of the Moon River Bridge. About 11 kilometers along turn North on the Moon River Cottage road. This road is a single, twisty, rough trail with poor sight lines around the turns, so take your time and be prepared to stop and back up to allow an on coming vehicle to pass. This takes you to the Moon River Cottages and Moon River Marina. I suggest the Cottages as they have a shallow beach to launch the canoe, whereas the Marina has a rocky shoreline and a dock. Also the Cottage launch has better protection from the prevailing winds. In 2001 I paid $4 a day for parking and $4 for launching my canoe. The owners have a small store selling the basics should you forget something.

The directions from here assume normal summer water levels, which are controlled by a dam downstream of Bala. High water from spring runoff is normal through early June and again in late October for the period when upstream lakes are lowered for the winter. Occasionally in a very wet summer high water may be encountered for a few days. For the most part the level is fairly constant once the spring runoff has passed as the control dam upstream lets excess water out only if the reservoir gets too full. .

Leaving the shore paddle East across the bay toward the Moon Basin. The entrance to the basin is shallow and narrow, and depending on the water level a strong current may flow through here. There may be marker floats indicating the deeper channel. Continuing up the basin your first obstacle near the Falls is a low ledge, which you have to drag or carry over. The right side of this ledge has a gentle sloping rock surface and I simply drag my aluminum canoe up over it, a distance of some 5 meters or so, and continue on up the river. The Falls are actually two drops with a pool between them. You paddle up the left shoreline as close to the lower drop as possible and take out for the portage. The trail runs over the rocks to the where the trees start and then turns to follow the shore to the top of the falls. It is about 450 meters to the put in spot. The trail is well worn with only a few spots requiring extra caution.

You are now on the river and can follow along the left shore toward a narrows and then to the right (South) branch of the river. The river divides here, the left (North) branch going through a deep gorge requiring a Herculean effort to portage up and over to the other side, with the right branch being the easier to navigate, although very shallow. Entering the South branch you have to carry round a short drop of about 1 meter. I usually carry on the left side, and it is about 10 meters in length. On up the river you encounter a small island with an old low beaver dam on the left side and a rock ledge on the right side. The water here is only ankle deep and you may have to line your canoe up to the dam. Depending on the water level one or the other may be easier to drag around. I usually drag over the beaver dam, as it`s easier on the canoe.

On up the river you come to the Twin Rapid. Take out on the left side. Getting to the top of the rapid is a steep rocky 15-meter climb. Watch your footing and take your time. On top an easy path leads to the put in spot, about 100 meters along the shore.

You are now on the longest stretch of rapid free water and can camp in the immediate area to explore the river at your leisure. There are 2 large camping areas here and a couple of smaller 1- tent sites. From the time I put my canoe in the water until my camp is set up here takes me about 4 hours. That`s for a 5-day trip load, which for me means 3 trips per portage if I have to unload the canoe.

From here you can take day paddles up the river using either the North branch (narrow and shallow) or the right branch to where they join up. At the junction is a bay having the deepest water in the river, over 35-meters. A creek comes in on the North from a small lake formed by a beaver dam. A short portage takes you in to the lake. Back on the river continue upstream to Curtin Chute. Depending on the water level you can walk and line the canoe to the base of the ledge and the carry around the right side of the big rock in the middle of the river (just a note, in high water this rock is covered, with meter high haystacks coming off the backside). From her you can paddle up to the Seven Sisters rapids. On the return trip at the junction take the opposite branch of the river for a change in scenery.

Day tripping down river on the right (North) branch, portage the Twin rapid, again a steep rocky 15-meter climb. Start by paddling into the narrow entrance leading to the rapid and take out on the right side. Carry over the rocks to the climb down to the water (total distance about 50 meters). Note there is a large camping area at the top of this rapid (if the water is high or you are not sure take out on the right bank just before the entrance and scout it out, or carry from here, adds about 100 meters). Down stream another short island divides the river. On the right an old low beaver dam creates a 1-meter drop, and on the left a rock ledge does the same. I usually take the right side, as it`s closer and easier to drag over. From here the river opens up into a large lake like area leading down to the gorge I mentioned above. Take the opportunity to climb to the top of the gorge and have a look around. If you have the time and energy to portage, this route could be used on the way back to the falls! There are a couple of small lakes to the north end of this area which can be portaged into and provide good bass fishing. If you look around the area you should see evidence of a trail into these lakes.

On the way back out to the falls stop after your portage and take a swim. This is a popular spot for area cottagers and campers to visit for picnics and cooling off on hot days. Although the basin is shallow for the most part try trolling a lure as use paddle out and you may just catch your dinner. Arnold`s Bay is also worth a try to catch something on the way back.

Moon River Circle Trip

A 3 to 4 day circle trip on the Moon River and area lakes can be started from various points. My son and I did it in the late 80`s, starting on the river where the old Tower Road meets the river below the Seven Sisters. This is the road you see on the map starting at the bend in #69 north of the bridge, where you note a mobile home park and dump (the trial starts at the dump and goes to the river). At that time you could drive a vehicle to the river as long as you didn`t mind a few scratches from the trees along the narrow trail, or dents in the gas tank from rocks and deep ruts. I don`t know if the trail is still passable. You might check with the local MNR for current information.

The route could also start from Arnolds Bay, or Sunset Point on Moon River Bay (you can drive to this point from the Healy lake road). Portage from Sunset Point to Healy Lake; paddle North East up Healy to the dam where Kapikog Lake enters. Both Healy and Kapikog are developed with cottages but the rest of the route is crown land with no cottages. Go south across Kapikog, portage to a little lake called Dunbar, south to an unnamed lake, portage to Eagle, continue on South to Vaughan, portage to Buckhorn, and portage along the Tower trail to the Moon River. From here it`s down river to Arnolds Bay or Sunset point, depending on where you started.

Canada Canoe Routes, edited by Nick Nickels (1973), describes this route (page 52) in a little more detail. We took 3 days starting from the river, camping below Moon Falls the first night, on an island at the North end of Eagle the 2nd, and driving out late on the 3rd day. We started on the river before noon the first day, making camp early evening. The 2nd day we set out shortly after dawn before the wind got up, and made camp on Eagle early afternoon. The 3rd day we fished our way down Eagle and Buckhorn, walked to the river to get our vehicle, drove back, loaded up, and were out on the highway in a restaurant by 6PM.

Have fun!

Dave LaClef

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31 E/4 Lake Joseph
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