Kayaking Georgian Bay – From Killarney To Snug Harbour – Intro and Logistics

Georgian Bay’s La Cloche Mountains in the distance from an island hilltop view

I pick up the rented Epsilon C200 at White Squall north of Parry Sound on Tuesday and then one of its drivers shuttles us up to the north end of Georgian Bay for the start of what will be a memorable paddle down the coast of “the sixth Great Lake”!

Boreal Design Epsilon C200 – 17′ long and about 2′ wide!

It has been a quite a while since my one and only major kayak trip!  Back in 1995 five of us from southern Ontario – we had three solo kayaks and one tandem –  paddled along the northeast shore of Lake Superior from Hattie Cove on the west side of Pukaskwa National Park back to Michipicoten. (That’s Puck a saw if you’re wondering!)

It was incredibly beautiful – and occasionally quite intimidating as I watched my fellow kayakers disappear as two-meter waves rolled in.  A couple of days we just sat out as the strong wind blew and waves pounded the shore. Lake Superior is a big open lake – the largest freshwater lake in the world – and when that wind is blowing from the southwest there is nowhere to hide! As Lightfoot sings in The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald – “It’s the lake they call Gichi Gumi“!

Georgian Bay overview map

This time it will be the northeast shore of a somewhat more gentle Georgian Bay (Champlain named it “La Mer Douce” on his 1618 map) that will provide the stunning seascape and island scenery.   Last summer’s four-day canoe trip with my brother Max around Philip Edward Island at the top end of the bay was my introduction to the area.

We came back raving about the beauty of the Bay and the pleasure of paddling past and down channels created by the countless islands (some bare rock and looking like whalebacks and others partially treed and with great campsites).   We were also reassured by the way those islands – supposedly 30,000 in all  – can serve as wind breaks and safe passage when the wind picks up.

Paddling Around Georgian Bay’s Philip Edward Island – Part One

This week Ken, Rick, and I will put in on the banks of  Chikanishing Creek in Killarney Provincial Park.  The starting point is about ten kilometers east of the town of Killarney and eliminates some open and exposed paddling in favour of a more gentle start. Rick has done several trips on Lake Superior and Georgian Bay; Ken is a lifelong sailor with lots of Caribbean big water experience. And me with my summers spent canoeing the interior lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield? I figure I’m the kayaking rookie and in pretty good hands!

The weather forecast for August 22 – August 30 looks excellent – all except for some rain on the very first day/   Maybe it will be over by the time we set off!

During that timeframe, the plan is to paddle the 150 kilometers down to Snug Harbour at the entrance to Parry Sound.  On the way we’ll make our way east on the Bay side of Philip Edward Island and past the mouth of the French River, the very first river to make the list of Canadian Heritage Rivers thanks to its association with the voyageurs and the fur trade from the early 1600’s to the 1820’s.

Then we cruise by the mouth of the Key River and the entrance to Byng Inlet – lots more history, this time of the lumber industry and railroads.   Nearing Point Au Baril as the weekend approaches we may see some boat traffic, because of the increasing number of cottages the further south we head.

Both Dillon and Snug Harbour are popular start and end points for Georgian Bay kayak trips.  While both are close to Franklin Island, Snug Harbour is closer to the many excellent camp sites at the south end of the island. Before getting shuttled up to the start of the trip at Chikanishing, we will park our vehicles at Snug Harbour.

The Gilly’s Marina parking lot makes for a convenient – and safe – spot. They charge $7.50 a day for the service.  The Dillon Cove Marina up at the north end of Franklin charges a similar fee.

West Fox’s gravel beach on the W side of the island

It will be non-stop photo ops as we make our way through some incredible “eye candy”!  Most of the shots will undoubtedly be taken from land but I plan to have my Fuji x20 on board inside a waterproof Pelican case as we are paddling so I can get the occasional shot from the water.

approaching the Bustard Rock lighthouse

Bell Cell Phone Coverage - Georgian Bay

Bell Cell Phone Coverage

We have set aside nine days to do the 150-kilometer journey.  If we don’t need the extra wind days, then we’ll get it done in a day or two less!

It is amazing that this beautiful slice of nature –  wild, even if not completely devoid of signs of “civilization” – is within a three-hour drive from Toronto and the G.T.A.,  North America’s fifth largest bit of urban sprawl! Except for the first day or two, we’ll be close enough to Highway 69 to be in cell phone coverage range for the entire trip!  Last year phone calls were even possible in the Philip Edward Island stretch at the top end of the route.

inReach Explorer+

iPhone & SPOT Connect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly just to get to know how it works,  I am taking along our new Garmin inReach Explorer+ GPS tracker and two-way communication device. It replaces our previous GPS tracker and SOS transmitter,  the Spot Connect pictured on the right. We decided to make the switch to the Garmin inReach because it not only sends out messages but can also receive them. The Spot can only send brief 45-character messages; it also requires a smartphone to be functional while the inReach can function on its own.

We also made the switch because of an incident where the Spot initiated an SOS call without our input! It was a total energy-sapping fiasco which, like it or not, came to define the trip.  You can read all about it by scrolling to the tail end of this post dealing with Day Two of a recent canoe trip –

Canoeing The Little Missinaibi River: Day 2 – From Ramhill Lake To Below Rawhide Lake

Both devices provide real-time tracking information – the GPS location –  which is posted at the respective company-maintained website.    Below is a screen shot of the page as it looks right now – i.e. empty!

Check in after 2:00 on Tuesday, August 22 –  by then our kayaks will be in the water! Until then – some last-minute packing to do.  Cramming everything into the kayak’s two main hatches in little waterproof bags will be a novelty to this canoe tripper used to organizing everything in two large-size Duluth packs and two duffel bags!

Stay tuned for what should be some nice shots of Georgian Bay!

a protected channel near Hincks Island in Georgian Bay – a shot from last summer

Update: A fantastic paddle down the Bay coast!

Check out the following posts for info, maps, and pix of our paddle down the coast. Click on the following link to see our route – unfortunately I deleted the first and last days but you can see the remaining 140 kilometers of the route!

                              https://share.garmin.com/albinger

Days 1 & 2  Chikanishing Creek To Solomons Island to NE of Point Grondine

Days 3 & 4  Point Grondine To The Bustards’ Tanvat Island To S of Byng Inlet

Days 5 & 6  S of Byng Inlet To Hangdog I. Channel To Garland Island (Minks)

Days 7 & 8  Garland Island to Franklin Island To Snug Harbour

The weather – i.e. the wind and the waves – determined our route.  Safety first! Most days I wore the Farmer John wet suit that I had bought at MEC in 1995 for that Lake Superior kayak trip. I’m glad I hadn’t given it away in the meanwhile!

Our route down the Bay

Went like this.

Another time…

different conditions…

and it would have been

another route!

campsite on Tanvat Island in the Bustards

 

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8 Responses to Kayaking Georgian Bay – From Killarney To Snug Harbour – Intro and Logistics

  1. Looking forward to seeing those photos…
    Shirley Rose Cockburn
    CockburnStudio

    • true_north says:

      And having looked at your recent paintings, I can imagine what you’d do with Georgian Bay! Your painting #733 – Northern Lights – a tent spot with that as the view would make the trip! Wow!

      From the book In The Footsteps of the Group of Seven by the Sue and Jim Waddington, I learned that some of the Group spent time on the Bay and were inspired by the views. They brought their paints and easels. I am going to bring my tripod and massive dslr and hope for the best – i.e. #733!

  2. Garry Paget says:

    Ramblin’ Boy! Georgian Bay is beautiful so you’ll have your fill of ‘GB Eye Candy”!! But keep an eye out for the ellusive “Georgian Bay Turtles”….they can be especially pesky…should you “happen upon” one. Garry/Bolton

    • true_north says:

      Garry, thanks for the “heads up”! First I read about the massasauga rattlesnake in the French River delta area and on the various off-shore islands – and now you add “pesky” turtles to the list of wildlife! I should be so lucky as to say “hello” to either but will have my camera ready!

      In June for our trip through the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve – world-renowned for its bear population! – I bought two cans of bear spray…one for me and one for my brother. I was fully expecting some company! We did see two bears over the nine days but in each case they took off after seeing us. We’d have better luck if we hung around Chapleau’s garbage dump!

      • Garry Paget says:

        Ramblin’ Boy…with regards a bear…don’t forget, you don’t have to out run the bear…just out run your brother!!
        You do know what a GB Turtle is? Garry

      • true_north says:

        Good advice, Garry! That must be why they recommend you enter the woods in groups of four or more! Re: the pesky turltles! Clearly i missed that one completely! Thanks for sending the explanation via private email so I don’t look like a total idiot!

        A poijnt of clarification – the “turtles” Garry is referring to is…well, here is how he put it in that email …

        Georgian Bay Turtles are out-croppings of pre-cambrian shield that lie just under the surface…more a problem with low water levels (for outboards) but could also scrape a layer from a kayak hull !!

        Kas Stone in her guide-book to the Bay does mention the ever-changing nature of passages between islands and narrow channels that seem to disappear from one year to the next depending on water levels. I’ll have to be extra-careful with my rental kayak from White Squall!

        Garry, thanks for explaining the metaphor!

      • Garry Paget says:

        Just so you don’t feel so bad but…I first thought they had 4 legs as well…I learned through a friend who purchased a cottage years ago “on the Bay” and was warned by his neighbours…before he found out tha hard way. He strung me along for a while.

      • true_north says:

        Nice of you to come clean within the hour!

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