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Paddling & Diving in the Toronto Region
 
Sea Kayaking

Paddlers often look askew when you mention sea kayaking in Ontario. In a sense they're right. The only access to the ocean is along James or Hudson's Bay shorelines. Not exactly an easily accessible area. What they've missed are those great salt free paddling routes in Canada's inland seas - the Great Lakes.

 
 
 
 
  Certainly, there is good paddling in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie especially if you like to play in the waves when the wind is up (and when the wind is up this is no mean feat). The real prize however is to be found a little further afield on Lake Superior and Lake Huron's Georgian Bay. These two areas can match anything along Canada's coast, if you hold the tides and the salt, that is.
 
Note: The Great Lakes waters are cold (Superior never gets more than a few degrees above freezing), and many areas suffer thick fogs. Motorized boat traffic in Georgian Bay can be very heavy. Storms on the lakes, move at a wicked pace and have a fury that sinks large freighters. With all of that said (whoa!), it should be obvious that much of the shoreline is suitable for expert paddlers only. Georgian Bay's sheltering areas, the shorelines along Erie and Lake Ontario provide some exceptions. If your skills aren't honed enough yet, hire a guide, you won't be sorry.
Toronto

Yes, you can even sea kayak in the city and you might be surprise just how many people you meet while paddling on a sunny day.

  • Lake Ontario Shoreline - Beginner, Intermediate. There are number of interesting areas you can explore along the Toronto shoreline. These include the Rouge Beach Park area, the Leslie Street Spit, the islands off Coronation and Marilyn Bell Park and the area around Humber Bay Park Further afield the mouth of the Credit and the Credit River itself off some interesting areas to explore. An excellent area for exploring is the bluffs stretching from Victoria Park in the west to Meadowvale in the east along Lake Ontario. This is a remarkably scenic area, it's hard to believe its in a cosmopolitan area. You can launch at the base of the bluffs at Bluffers Park.
  • Toronto Island - Intermediate. Sweltering night in July, haul your kayak out from under the porch, head down to the waterfront and launch on the cooling waters of Lake Ontario, then head out to the islands. There are lots of places to explore in the areas park. Just make sure you stay away from the airport, which is strictly out of bounds (we're talking mega fines for crossing that line) and watch for the boat traffic which can get snarly.
  • Nearby the Toronto Region - Georgian Bay

    Georgian Bay has some of the best sea kayaking in the world. While much of the eastern shore is protected, the waters still pose many risks. Fierce storms can arise in a moment, (check out the Scuba section if your interested in wrecks) and the waters in the Bay are extremely cold presenting a very real threat of hypothermia if you have to swim. In addition you can get wind bound for days, no matter how good a paddler you are. Most of the area is suitable for experts or strong intermediates. There are guides available for almost every paddling area - take advantage of them.

  • Awenda Provinical Park - Intermediate, Expert. This is a beautiful park at the tip of the Penetanquishene Peninsula north of Toronto on Georgian Bay. The park is across the inlet from Georgian Bay National Park (too long and dangerous of a paddle) and has several beaches some of which are baby's heads (round rock shorelines) or sandy shorelines. The park includes a large island, with the interesting name of Giants Tomb, which in good weather is a nice destination for strong paddlers. Unfortunately there is no camping on the island, so you'll have to content yourself with the parks camping on your return (which isn't shabby). The park itself is beautifully forested and the campsites are reasonably well spaced. The nearest towns are Penetanguishine and a little further south Midland, while the much smaller town of Toanche is just outside the park. The park is located in the Central Northern Region of Ontario just north of Penetanguishene. From the 401 take the 400 north to exit 121 passed Barrie, then head north on the 93. From Penetanquishene follow the signs to the park. Park Weather - Georgian Triangle Tourism - Rainbow Country Tourism
  • Bruce Peninsula - Cabot's Head/Tobermory. Expert. - This area can provide a multiday trip along the beautiful escarpment or you can launch at either end and just explore the shoreline. The waters here are a unique shade of blue-green that sharply contrasts with the white dolomite cliffs of the shoreline of Bruce Peninsula National Park. There is a campsite at halfway dump, which is accessible from the water. This is a site along the famous Bruce Trail. You can reserve through the park.Another option is to stay at the parks car camping sites, but you'll have to carry you're boats a distance from the beach or find some other way to secure them. This is one of the best paddling areas in Ontario but it can be one of the most difficult particularly due to the reflected shores waves from the cliff faces and the possibilities of heavy seas brought on by high winds or sudden storms. There are stretches where landings are impossible in any weather. Be very wary of rounding the cape from Dunks Bay to Tobermory, where waves can increase in size dramatically. An alternative paddle is to camp in the park and take day trips along the coast line or another option is to paddle from the park to halfway dump and overnight. From the 401 follow highway 10 north to highway 6 south of Owen Sound. Follow the dogleg on the 6 until it heads north again onto the Peninsula. Turn off towards Dwyer's Bay for Cabot Head. There are guides and outfitters in the town of Tobermory contact the park for more information. Tobermory's Weather - Bruce County Website
  • Georgian Bay Islands National Park - Honey Harbour. Intermediate, Expert - Except for the crowds (particularly on the weekends) this is one of the most beautiful and accessible areas for sea kayaking in Georgian Bay. The launch point at Honey Harbour is easily reached by car and the paddle to Beausoliel Island is relatively easy (watch out for motor boats which are plentiful and be aware that a sea kayak is the lowest boat in the water, making it difficult to see). There are dozens of campsites on the east side of the island or if you're an experienced paddler you can head around to the unprotected side, where there is group camping (this area must be booked in advanced by selected groups, check with the park for details). There are hundreds of other islands in the area which can also be explored. To reach Honey Harbour take the 400 north from the 401 until just passed the Port Severn turn off, where you'll follow the 5 north for a short distance to the town. Contact the park for the information on guides and outfitters. Midland Weather (Midland is across the inlet, for a more accurate forecast contact the park).
  • Flower Pot Island - Tobermory. Expert. Located in Fathom Five National Marine Park, the sister of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, the paddle to these unique sea stacks is a siren for all kayakers. Perhaps its the stretch of open water, the sunken wrecks or the unique rock formations themselves. Whatever it may be, it seems everyone wants to paddle this route. Unfortunately, what looks like a short stretch on a map is actually a difficult and tiring paddle, especially if there is a wind working against you (which is almost always the case). If the the weather turns on route, it can have dire consequences, so narrow the odds by consulting the forecast carefully just before you leave. There are a limited number of campsites on the island, so reserve early. You can also stay at the light station for a fee (a donation is the preferred term and really seems a fair way of putting it) if the campsites are full. If your not an expert kayaker, don't hesitate - hire a guide. From the 401 follow highway 10 north to highway 6 south of Owen Sound. Follow the dogleg on the 6 until it heads north again onto the Peninsula and out to Tobermory. There are guides and outfitters in the town of Tobermory. Tobermory - Tobermory's Weather - Bruce Trail
  • Killarney Provincial Park - Killarney. Intermediate, Expert. You can launch from the park or just a short distance outside the park at the town of Killarney, depending on your destination. This is one of Ontario's most beautiful parks.The Le Cloche mountains are bleached white quartzite. The shoreline around the the town and the park is a rich red granite. The bays waters are multiple hues of green and blue making for a spectacular visual setting. There are never ending possibilities for kayaking in this area. With the protection offered by Manitoulin island you can kayak for hundreds of kilometers in and around the granite outcroppings on the shores of the park and beyond. One standout is the archipelago east of the park, between the park shores and Manitoulin Island.The area is made up of endless inlets and islands but it has one distinctive drawback - access. A second excellent area is south of the park, in and around Phillip Edward Island. There are thousands of small islands in the vicinity and the area is extremely beautiful. Sea kayaking in the park is only recently developed, you should consult with the park and the local outfitters for more information. Killarney is located just east of Manitoulin Island on the shores of Georgian Bay. Take highway 69 north from the 400, then follow the 637 about 50km west to the park. The nearest city is Sudbury to the north of the park along the 69. Killarney Town Info. and History
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      White Water Paddling

    It's often hard to convince people that you can run white water in the Toronto region let alone the city of Toronto. The Don, the Humber and the Rouge Rivers all have some good white water runs in the in the spring, while nearby Dufferin Creek provides another option. Elora Gorge and the white water section in the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park are less seasonal and only a short distance from the city core. Further north just outside Minden you'll find an excellent area on the Gull River. This area is managed by Whitewater Ontario.

     
     
    • Bronte Creek - II - Beginner, Intermediate. Put in Appleby Line - Take out in the Town of Bronte. You can run from north of highway 5, through Bronte Creek Provincial Park all the way down to the town of Bronte Creek. The best part of the run is the central section. NOTE: Scout the whole section and consult with local paddle shops before making a run. The river is prone to deadfalls, strainers and sweepers.
    • Credit River - II-IV Intermediate, Expert - March-May outside of this window you need a long heavy rain. Experts only in high water. Put In Brittania Road - Take Out is at Erindale Park. South of the 401 the whitewater section flows from Streetsville to Erindale Park. High banks make sections difficult if you get in trouble. The lower section of the river also has some white water. NOTE: You must take out river left at the fish ladder to avoid the dam at McCarthy's Mill. Scout the whole section and consult with local paddle shops before making a run. Canoe Country offers sit-on top rentals for paddling the section between Georgetown and Norval. The river is prone to deadfalls, strainers and sweepers.
    • Humber - II-III/IV. Season March, April and after a long heavy rain. Put In just west of Weston Road just below the 401 - Take Out at Dundas. Located in the western part of the city, the river parallels the 400 before it crosses under the 401. It roughly parallels, and runs west of Jane Street for the remainder of its course. The white water section is located between highway 401 and Dundas Avenue and runs through Weston Golf Clubs before it's back into public greenspace in Cruickshank Park followed by Cruickshank, Lions Raymere, Scarlett Mills then James Gardens, Lambton Woods. NOTE: There are a series of dams with wicked keepers on route, two are located on the section after the bridges. Scout the whole section and consult with local paddle shops before making a run on any part of this river. The river is prone to deadfalls, strainers and sweepers and the dams are potential killers.
    • Rouge River - Class I, II. Season March - April or after a long heavy rain. Put In Finch Avenue - Take Out Highway 2. Aside from the paddling the best part of this river is the scenery. The river runs through the park of the same name. You'll be hard pressed to believe this is an urban setting. Rouge Watershed - Friends of the Rouge Watershed - Rouge Valley Foundation - Rouge Park

    Nearby to the Toronto Region

    • Elora Gorge - Beginner - Expert. Season - Spring, Summer. Class II to V depending on water levels (the river is dam controlled). Put In Irving Creek - Take Out is the low level bridge at the west end of the conservation area. Located on the Grand River, this area is a classic, unfortunately like a lot of classics it's real popular, particularly on the weekends. Don't let that discourage you, this is a really nice paddle, just try to get up there during the week or early in the season.
    • Gull River (Minden Wildwater Preserve) - Beginner - Expert. Season Spring, Summer, Class II to IV(dam controlled). Further away than Elora, this white water area just outside of Minden, in the Haliburton area is well worth a visit. The river has been "modified" to provide a variety of features that ensure some really interesting paddling. The upper section is for intermediate to expert paddlers, while the lower area can be paddled by beginners. Whitewater Ontario is the administrator of the wild water reserve.They are looking to start work on enhancements, and could use your support - why not pitch in.

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    Canoe Tripping - River Information

    Just to be annoying we're going to tell you you can canoe camp in Toronto (we've showed you where you can do just about every other adventure sport, so why stop here). The Rouge River has the paddling and the Rouge Park provides the camping. O.K., so it's not the Thelon but it is a lot of fun for dad and the kids. At any rate, there are a number of canoe routes within a short distance of the city and seeing how this is Ontario, the land of the "J-stroke", there are hundreds more within a days drive.

    • Algonquin - This is what the park is famous for. It has over 1600 canoe routes extending over tens of thousands of kilometers. There are wilderness campsites throughout the park. The routes range from single lake access, to your choice of a never ending combination of lakes and rivers which usually involve portages. You can customize a trip to fit any itinerary or match any skill level. The main access points are off the parks main corridor along highway 60 but many routes are accessed outside the main corridor. Access to the park interior is often best from outside the corridor. For more information consult the canoe section in Out-There's Algonquin and from the official site for Algonquin Provincial Park. You can purchase a map of the canoe routes from the Friends of Algonquin. To get an idea of the routes you can also download a version of the map (for viewing only) online. The National Topographical Series Maps that cover the park are as follows: 31 L/3, 31 L/2, 31 L/1, 31 K/4, 31 E/14, 31 E/15, 31 E/16, 31 F/13, 31 E/11, 31 E/10, 31 E/9, 31 F/12, 31 E/7, 31 E/8, 31 E/1. Books: "A Paddlers Guide to Algonquin Park" By Kevin Callan, The Boston Mills Press 1997. The park can be reached from the 401 in Toronto by taking the 400 north to the highway 11 split just passed Barrie. Follow the 11 to Huntsville where you can pick up highway 60 which takes you into the park along the main corridor.
    • Beaver River - 20km (river length 40km), Beginner, Put In Beaver River Access Point on Grey County Road 13 just north of Kimberley, Take Out - Heathcote. The route can be shortened by taking advantage of the access point west of Road 13 on the road to Epping. The river flows through forested areas which progressively give way to more agricultural settings. For expert canoeists the river below Heathcote can be run in the spring but protruding boulders and barbed wire (?) limit this activity to high water. There is no camping along the route. For more information contact the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority at (519) 376-3860 also Grey County Tourism and Bruce County Tourism. The Beaver River is about 2 to 2.5hrs northwest of Toronto in the North Central region of Ontario.
    • Grand River - Total river length 290km , paddle routes vary in length from a few hours to days. Beginner-Intermediate - The most popular section of the river is the short paddle of a couple of hours from Cambridge to Paris. The trip takes you passed an area of scenic bluffs and through the Grand River Forest. . For extended trips you can launch below Elora Gorge and paddle all the way to Lake Erie. Camping is available at Elora Gorge and Byng Island in the Dunnville area. As a cushy alternative you can take advantage of some of the B&B's in the towns on route. Grand River Watershed Map - Online River Levels (or Phone the GRCA River Flow Information Line (519) 621-2763 ext. 519) For more information contact the Grand River Conservation Authority. The GRCA sells a guide book and video on the Grand River. Guides and Outfitters: Grand Experiences The Grand is a Canadian Heritage River with extensive historical significance. From north to south cities and towns that border the river include: Dundalk, Grand Valley, Lake Belwood, Elora, St Jacobs, Waterloo Kitchener, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caladonia, York, Cayuga and Dunnville. National Topographical Series Maps: 30M-4, 40P-1, 40P-8, 40P-9, 40P-16, 41A-1, 40P-2, 40P-7. The Grand is about 1hr from Toronto by car.
    • Leslie M. Frost Center - This canoe area has dozens of routes with varying degrees of difficulty. The routes can be combined with others in the Gull River System (some sections are impassible in low water) as well as routes in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. For more information check out the Frost website and map. A map is available for the Gull River System from the MNR Minden office which can be reached at (705) 286-1521. The Frost Center is located north of Minden between Carnavon and Dorset. From Toronto take the 400 north from the 401and branch off on the 11 north of Barrie. then head east at Muskoka Falls on the 118 or alternately keep going to Huntsville then head south on the 35. The center also has excellent hiking, cross country skiing and nature viewing. Friends of the Frost
    • Rankin River Canoe Route - 18km 5-7hrs, Beginner-Intermediate. Put In - Sky Lake at Isaac Lake, Take Out - Sauble Falls Provincial Park on the left bank just above the bridge. Later in the season there are sections that will have low water which will require lining. The route can be shortened by taking advantage of the access point on the way at county road 13, between Oliphant and Wiarton. There are two portages over dams near Sauble Falls as well as a third for a section of white water nearby the dams. The river is largely an easy paddle but travel on Boat Lake can be difficult. Camping is available at Sauble Falls Provincial Park. For more information contact the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority at (519) 376-3860, also Grey County Tourism and Bruce County Tourism. Federal Topographical Maps 31 A/14, 41 A/1. Rankin River Canoe Route Map. The Rankin River is about 2 to 2.5 hrs northwest of Toronto in the North Central region of Ontario.
    • Saugeen River Canoe Route - 102km, 3-4 Days, Intermediate. Put In - Hanover Park, Hanover Highway 10 and Country Road 4 - Take Out - Denny's Dam outside Southhampton. Spring water levels can require greater skill levels and late in the season low water levels may make some sections impassible. The route can be shortened by taking advantage of any of the numerous access points near the river side towns. The Saugeen is due north of London to the southwest of the Bruce Peninsula. The route takes you from Hanover to Walkerton, passed Paisley then just to the east of Port Elgin on your way to Southhampton. The river terminates at Lake Huron outside of Southhampton. Camping is available in Hanover Park, Saugeen Rendez Vous Campground between Hanover and Walkerton, Lobies Town Park just passed Walkerton, McBeath Conservation Area before you reach Paisley and the Saugeen Bluffs Conservation Area between Paisley and Port Elgin. While the area the river flows through is largely agricultural, the riverbanks are lined by forests and in areas you'll find scenic high bluffs. The Hanover-Walkerton and Paisley-Southhampton sections are essentially easy paddling but the central section has a number of rapids and is best left to more experienced canoeists. There are three dam's along route which require a carry between Hanover and Paisley. Guides and Outfitters: The Greater Saugeen Trading Co. - Paisley. Topographical Maps 41A-6, 41A-3. For more information contact the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority. River Levels. Canoe Route Map or Canoe Route Map. The river is about 2 to 2.5hrs north west of Toronto in the North Central Ontario region. Saugeen County Tourism.

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    Rafting

    • Blue Heron Rafting - Float Trips, Grand River, Brantford Ontario, Southwestern Ontario, approximately 1 hr from Toronto by car
    • Esprit Rafting - Rafting, Eastern Ontario - Ottawa River, Petawawa River and Magnetawan River in the Eastern Ontario Region 4-5hrs. by car from Toronto.
    • Owl Rafting - White water rafting on the Ottawa River. Resort/Lodge. Also does family float trips. Located north of Ottawa, outside Beachburg in the Eastern Ontario Region. 4-5hrs. by car from Toronto.
    • River Run - White Water Rafting on the Ottawa River. Resort/Lodge. Also does family float trips. Kayak and canoe instructions. Located north of Ottawa, outside Beachburg in the Eastern Ontario Region. 4-5hrs. by car from Toronto.
    • Wilderness Tours - White water rafting on the Ottawa River. Resort/Lodge. Also does family float trips. Located north of Ottawa, outside Beachburg in the Eastern Ontario Region. 4-5hrs. by car from Toronto.
    Photo courtesy Fathom Five National Park
      Diving

    The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence river have seen hundreds and hundreds of wrecks going as far back as the 1700s. While many have been located, there are still more to be found. Given that this is a freshwater area, the wrecks are often in much better shape than what you find along the sea coast. While you'll find some interesting dives in the Toronto region there are a lot more areas just a short distance away. The best of these is Fathom Five, a few hours north of Toronto, which is considered one of the best diving areas in the world.

     
    Photo courtesy Fathom Five National Park
     
    Toronto Area Wrecks
    • Sligo - Originally a wooden triple masted schooner - Located just off Humber Bay in Toronto in just over 18m of water. Built in the eighteen hundreds the ship sank in a storm during WWI (but not as a result of the war). Access is by boat.
    • Juno - Located outside Oshawa, take the Bowmanville exit 431 south off the 401 to Lake Ontario. The wreck can easily be accessed from shore a few hundred meters west of the entrance in 3 to 4m of water.

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