Canoeing Georgian Bay’s French River Delta: Days 6 – To Pickerel Bay (The Elephants)

Previous Post: Day 5 – From CS 723 To Bass Creek to FR Park East Side

 Day 6 – From CS 913 North of Dead Island to Pickerel Bay (CS633)

  • distance: 18.2 km (and some hill scrambling)
  • time: 8:30 a.m.; finish 2:20 p.m.
  • portages/rapids:  1 – 150 m
  • weather: sunny and very hot; some wind;
  • campsite: CS 633 Pickerel Bay (The Elephants)

early morning – getting breakfast ready at CS 913

The Day  6 program?  Leaving the G’Bay coast and heading up north!  While we could easily have paddled out to the car, we decided to spend one more night in the park, going up the Pickerel River and finding a campsite in the Pickerel Bay area.  There are several indicated on the official Park map. We liked the southern exposure of CS 633 and its location right on Pickerel Bay and figured it would be the likely spot. Time would tell!

Note: In July of 2018 a massive fire which began on Henvey Inlet First Nation land reached as far west as the Pickerel River – and in some places went beyond to Fox Creek. Here is a map of the extent of the fire –

Parry Sound 33 Fire of 2018

In June of 2019, we paddled down from Pickerel Bay to Georgian Bay via the Fox Creek route.  This post will give you an idea of what it looked like.  Scroll down to Day 7 –

Day 7 – Down Fox Creek To Georgian Bay

As melancholy as it was – it was also raining that morning – it made for a memorable morning’s paddle.  While the campsites along the Pickerel River have been shut down because of the possible danger of burnt trees falling, the journey up or down the river is still worth making.  It can easily be done in a day’s paddle with some excellent campsites at either end  – in Pickerel Bay or in Fox Bay.

looking up the Pickerel River from a hilltop

To no surprise, the trip up the Pickerel was more of the same totally scenic vistas that we had paddled into on the previous five days in the French River delta.  I cannot remember a trip with as much of a “wow” factor as this one!

There was only one portage to do, a  150-meter scramble up and across a mostly rock outcrop with a bit of bush to dodge around. (The official park map has the portage at 90 meters.)  We were unsure initially about where the trail was but think we got it right. After the carry, we did go back and mark the beginning and end of the trail and gave the bush a bit of a trim.

A two canoe/four-person party – the first we had seen in days – came in just as we were finishing off.  They landed below the hut and improvised their own trail across to the put-in.  I remember thinking – “Well, so much for marking the trail more clearly!” We noticed that one of the other guys did it in bare feet. Later we found out that the rest of his group had nicknamed him “Tarzan”!

Just north of the portage, we paddled through a narrow and reedy channel. The notation on the park map reads “low water, dry area” but we did not experience that.  The two feet higher than before water levels help!  Even if it was a bit lower, the stretch is not all that long and a bit of walking the canoe up the channel would deal with it.  It is certainly not a reason to avoid coming up the Pickerel River from the Bay.

Pickerel Bay CS 633 – landing and tent spot

When we got to CS 633 shortly after 2:00 p.m. we were ambivalent about the site. On the one hand, it had a stupendous view of Pickerel Bay thanks to the 10-meter high rock outcrop that had a few campsites on top, as well as a few closer to the landing area down below.

However, we were not convinced that any of them would be a good choice in a possible storm;  we were especially concerned about water streaming under our tent thanks to the slope of the various possible spots.  We decided to check  CS 632 tucked inside the bay just 100 meters to the north to see if there was anything better. We did.  632 is a dud!

Back to CS 633 we headed and decided to make do with an imperfect spot at the bottom of the rock face.  During the night it did rain but only briefly; We found a bit of moisture under one side of the groundsheet when we put away the tent in the morning.

.sitting in the shade on top of CS 633’s scenic rock top – Pickerel Bay below

As for those hilltop views? They make the campsite a fantastic one.  We got to share the view with the canoe party we had chatted with at the portage. They were four guys from Quebec who were, like us, finishing off their one-week visit to French River.  One of them asked as they approached the landing –

  • “Would you mind sharing the campsite with us?”
  • “Not at all. Come on in; there’s lots of room!”

For a couple of them, it was a repeat visit and they already knew CS 633 having camped there last year.  They also had smaller tents and seemed to be less fussy than we can be.

Soon their three tents were up and six people got to enjoy the sunset from the top of CS 633, definitely one of the top 3 campsites of our six days out in the French River delta. The other two just as nice sites?

  • the one in the Bustards on Day 2
  • the one at Eagle Nest Point on Day 3.

And, for the record, the remaining three sites in declining order were CS 913, CS 723, and CS 624.

Hugo’s tent on the cliff edge at CS633 Pickerel Bay

Max gets a shot looking up to CS 633’s hilltop

night falls over Pickerel Bay – a quarter moon in the sky

As we sat up there on top of the rock with our cameras and our double shot of maple whiskey, we agreed that the trip had turned out even better than expected and talked about a return visit.  There were still more channels to paddle up and down and other great campsites to discover.  Late May or June, September or early October – all we’d need is the exceptional weather we had for the past week! And the best thing – it is all so close to Toronto – and yet a world away!

Day 7 - Pickerel Bay (CS 633) To Hartley Bay Marina -


We did this trip in September of 2017.  The next summer a massive fire (Parry Sound 33) which began on the Henvey First Nation spread just beyond the Pickerel River before it was contained.  As a result,  the campsites up the Pickerel corridor are closed in 2019.  It would still make for a very interesting half-day paddle.  In June 2019 we came down the Fox Creek route from Pickerel Bay to G’Bay. See the following post – scroll down to Day 7 – for some pix. New growth is already visible.

Day 7 – From Pickerel Bay To Georgian Bay Via Fox Creek

Henvey Inlet Fire 2018 – and east end of French River Provincial Park


Next Post:  Day 7 – Pickerel Bay to Hartley Bay to Recollet Falls to Toronto


Previous Posts:

Logistics, Maps  & Day 1 (Hartley Bay To the French River’s “The Elbow”)

Day 2 – From the Elbow to the Bustards

Day 3 – From the Bustards To Eagle Next Point (West boundary of Park)

Day 4 – From Eagle Nest Point to East of the Fingerboard

Day 5 – To Bass Creek And The Park’s East Side




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2 Responses to Canoeing Georgian Bay’s French River Delta: Days 6 – To Pickerel Bay (The Elephants)

  1. Dave Thomas says:

    Congratulations on putting together the best trip report on this area that I could find. We are heading out in our kayaks in a couple of weeks and I feel much more prepared thanks to the time and care you took in documenting your trip!

    • true_north says:

      Dave, thanks for making my day with the positive review! My posts provide me with a purpose for the photos I spend time fussing over and allow me to make use of some of the skills I developed over 35 years in high school English and History classrooms! However, I really do need to start shooting more video material!

      The French River delta area has become my favourite place to float a canoe! While you guys are out there on your kayaks, my bro and I will be up in Temagami’s Lady Evelyn Park for two weeks for a more rugged, beaver dam and portage-punctuated trip down the Lady Evelyn River system. If you post a trip report, do send me the link!

      BTW – check out this report for the first of my posts on a kayak trip we did from Killarney down to Snug Harbour three summers ago – total G’Bay eye candy!

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