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Canoe to Georgian Bay in The Massasauga

Parry Sound, Ontario


Added by Jonathon Reed

Immerse yourself in the quiet beauty of the remote eastern coast of Georgian Bay, following beavers and turtles through the waterways of The Massasauga.

The Massasauga Provincial Park covers the islands and coastline south of Parry Sound, forming part of the globally significant Georgian Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It preserves the unique landscape of eastern Georgian Bay; clear blue water, towering pine trees and ever-present Canadian Shield bedrock.

Before you head out on the water, you'll need to reserve your sites on the Ontario Parks online reservations system, because the Massasauga is a backcountry-only park. According to the Ontario Parks reservations rules and regulations, reservations are accepted up to 5 months in advance of your arrival date.

But before you can reserve, you'll have to have a route in mind! As you can see on the reservations system, there are two access points to The Massasauga: Three Legged Lake in the north section and Pete's Place in the south. Pete's Place is a bit farther of a drive in the backcountry, but both are accessible without a high-clearance vehicle. The reservations system map doesn't have a scale, so I recommend using something like the MNR online mapping application to get an idea of distances.

On this trip, I canoed from Three Legged Lake to Spider Lake, then west to Spider Bay; then south through Goose Neck Bay to Three Finger Bay and Clear Lake before returning to Spider Lake. Made for easy paddling with swimming, campfires and scenic views. Definitely suggest getting out to Georgian Bay just to at least get a glimpse of the open horizon. There are countless routes possible depending on how much time you have, how many portages you want to do and what sites are available. Hot tip: Check out Blair Caron's online list of campsites and descriptions to get an idea of which are the best sites. It hasn't been updated since 2011 and I don't know how long it will stay online for, but it's a treasure trove of information.

When you actually head out, turn west off Highway 400 onto Oastler Park Drive to get to Three Legged Lake Access Point. You'll need to stop at Oastler Lake Provincial Park to pick up your backcountry permit. If you're getting there after hours, make sure you have exact change in order to self-pay at the registration kiosk. 

Keep an eye out for wildlife. There's plenty of white-tailed deer, moose, black bears and wolves, as well as the rarely seen Massasauga Rattlesnake. Take care to not affect the lives of any at-risk or endangered turtles. When I was in Spider Bay, our campsite became a nesting spot for an Eastern Musk Turtle overnight.

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