When the trees begin their transformation from lush greens to vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and red, we Canadians seek out ways to soak up the warm days and spectacular views while we can. One way unlike any other is to take to our numerous lakes and rivers in a canoe for a leisurely paddle that will take your breath away.
Prepare to get the full effect of the fall colours on the water, sometimes in spots that may not be accessible by any other means, with our picks for the best fall canoeing areas.
Ontario’s picturesque Provincial Parks are one of the best places to take in the beauty of fall, and in Ontario’s Highlands we have quite a few parks to choose from. Plan ahead with their fall colour report tool to get an idea of how the colour changes are advancing at all parks across the province.
Earlier in the fall, visit some of our more northerly parks like Lake St. Peter and Bonnechere Provincial Parks to paddle their calm lakes before they close in mid-October. Trees in our more southerly parks like Bon Echo Provincial Park will turn just a bit later, so canoeing season can be extended by an extra week into October.
All three parks have rental canoes available for visitors.
Trade in the city for the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield and you are sure to be rewarded with a spectacular show of colours. The Haliburton Highlands Water Trails, three hours north of Toronto’s city centre, provide a true immersion into the colourful Canadian wilderness without having to travel far.
In the municipality of Highlands East, right off the 118, there’s a spot where you can park and paddle on Centre Lake. Or find secluded serenity as you paddle through the backcountry of Frontenac County at the North Frontenac Park Lands, less than three hours from both Ottawa and Kingston or Lennox & Addington's paddling destinations.
At the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails, you can pick up a canoe rental from Algonquin Outfitters in nearby Haliburton. Near the North Frontenac Park Lands you can rent a canoe from the Palmerston Lake Marina in Ompah.
The rambling rivers that cut through dense forest provide a unique opportunity to view the fall colours as you meander at a comfortable pace. Flatwater paddlers will enjoy the York River in Bancroft where you can launch at multiple parks and head north towards Baptiste Lake; or find a flatwater section on the Madawaska River like the areas around Calabogie and Burnstown.
The Irondale River runs along Haliburton County Road 503, with access points in various spots including Gooderham. If you’re a thrill-seeker looking for a bit of whitewater, the parts of the Ottawa, Madawaska, and Petawawa Rivers draw in whitewater aficionados all year round.
In Bancroft you can rent from Bancroft Canoe & Kayak while Calabogie Peaks Resort offers canoe rentals on Calabogie Lake which connects to the Madawaska River.
Nearly 300 of Ontario’s Conservation Areas are open to the public, including many within the region that can be considered hidden gems. Vanderwater Conservation Area in Tweed sits along the Moira River. The shallow calm waters provide an easy spot to put in, where you can start your paddle north to Stoco Lake. Sheffield Conservation Area in Lennox and Addington has a boat launch on Little Mellon Lake, where you can paddle along and bask in the quiet solitude.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you paddle and enjoy the fall scenery. As these spots are a bit off the beaten path, it’s best you BYO-Canoe to appreciate them from the water.
Bonus: Tour de Lanark
Load up your canoe or kayak and see how many lakes and rivers in Lanark County you can find time to explore this fall with their handy guide to paddling the county. This includes secluded areas as well as spots you can access right from their picture-perfect small towns.