After having experienced car camping on several occasions in the Highway 60 corridor of the park through the mid-90’s, I was intrigued by what the less popular eastern entrance to the park near Petawawa had to offer. In the fall of 1999, I decided to make a day trip to the area (more than 2.5 hrs each way from home) to check out the 1.5 km Barron Canyon Trail. Whether that’s dedication or just plain nuts, I’ll let you be the judge!
From the edge of the rock faces, the trail offers unparalleled views of this 100m deep canyon. The short length of the trail offers an excellent reason to sit at any of several viewpoints and stop to take in the natural surroundings. It was during one of those moments of stopping that I noticed a small group of paddlers making their way back home at the end of a canoe camping trip. That moment provided the inspiration for another addition to my bucket list – something important to do before leaving this earth. You can see a few more pictures from that hike here. Several seasons came and went, with opportunities being elusive due to either time, the weather, or simply just forgetting. All 3 elements finally came together 13 years later…Kelly and I had undertaken weekend canoe camping trips in the past, taking only a 1/2 day off on the Friday, and finding ourselves rushing to get to the outfitter’s canoe rental counter before closing time. This year, we played it smart and took the whole day off, affording us a much more relaxing pace for the trip. We had rented from Algonquin Bound Outfitters in the past, and the friendly service has and will keep us coming back.
Under sunny skies, and with temperatures reaching 26° C that weekend, we were excited about the experiences that awaited us as we strapped our canoe to the roof of the car. We checked in at the Sand Lake Gate entrance for our permits, then drove for another 2 1/2 kms before reaching the Squirrel Rapids parking lot to put in. We were finally under way at about 1pm that afternoon for our 2 day canoe camping adventure.
Fifteen minutes later, we had already paddled our first kilometre, and had reached the Cache Rapids portage. This was a nice spot to get wet and take a few pictures. The portage here is 420m, and took only 20 minutes to complete even with 2 trips (1 with the canoe, paddles & vests, the other with our backpacks). With a 15 minute break behind us, we continued upriver toward Brigham Lake, slowing down long enough to get close up views of the canyon walls here and there.
After 5 1/2 kms of paddling, we were due for another break. A rocky outcrop beckoned us, and after pulling in, we indulged in a few cannon balls before pushing on. We finally reached our campsite on Brigham Lake at around 5:15pm. With a total of 8 1/2 kms covered in an easy going 4 1/4 hour trip, we were ready to indulge in dinner, and be entertained by chipmunks fighting over our table scraps.
Let it be told that I do enjoy backcountry camping. Let it also be told that I hear every night sound that mother nature has to offer. The heat didn’t help either. The bullfrogs started their joyous chorus shortly after nightfall, and any number of insects chimed in as if on cue. After spending what felt like 3 or 4 hours in a sleepless state, I turned to Kelly and quietly asked “are you sleeping?” Unfortunately, nature’s music had been keeping her awake as well, and she quickly replied with a “yes”. I then asked “how about heading back home in the morning?” which was met with another “yes!”. And so with the pressure of having to manage a 2nd sleepless night off our minds, we did eventually catch a few snoozes, and thoroughly enjoyed breakfast the next morning.
Our day on the water Saturday was just as pleasant as the previous afternoon. We packed up camp and left around 8am. We spent some additional time at Brigham Falls to admire the flowing water, and took a long break at a 5 star campsite (super views of the river and canyon) on the Barron River for a swim. We clearly enjoyed ourselves on this day as well because it took 5 1/2 hours to get back to our car at Squirrel Rapids.
Even though we cut our trip short, we didn’t feel cheated. We truly enjoyed our experience on the river, and took in everything that the Barron Canyon had to offer.