The French River (part of French River Provincial Park) runs from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay and it was the the main 'highway', used by early explorers, voyageurs and courtiers de bois, who transports goods in their big canoes. Later loggers moved in, towns popped up (some had almost 2,000 inhabitants in summers) and tens of thousands of logs drifted along the river, guided by log drivers. Now all the towns are gone and the French River is used by canoeists, kayakers and recreational boaters who can enjoy its unique beauty. Because it would take well over one month to explore the whole river and its numerous bays, inlets and rocky islands, usually canoeists just paddle one part of the river at a time. I have paddled various parts of this river since 1995 and I could probably write a book on the French River and its history... but let me just focus on my most recent trip that took in the summer of 2011.
In July, 2011 I and a friend spent almost one week canoeing on the French River south of Lake Nipissing. We started our trip from the Wajashk Cottages located on the Dokis Indian Reserve where we parked our car There were numerous campsites on the river and we could pick any campsite that was not occupied. Camping permits are required and can be purchased in many stores in the area (about $11 per person per night). We stayed on campsite #117, in Bob's Bay, which was quite secluded. Blueberries were so plentiful that one could probably survive on them alone—but so were the mosquitoes—NEVER before had I seen so many of those pesky insects, there were swarms of them, getting into our eyes, nostrils and mouth. It became so bad that instead of starting the campfire at 10:00 pm and sitting around it for several hours, we lit it before 8 pm, threw our steaks on the grill and were back into the tent by 9:30 pm, when the mosquitoes commenced their relentless attack!
During our stay we made a number of day trips. One day we went canoeing to the Riverview Cottages Marine and on to the Big Chaudiere Dam, where we visited the historic Chaudiere Portage which was used first by the Native People and later by all the other Europeans (early explorers, voyageurs and courtiers de bois), as it was the most efficient way to avoid the Chaudiere Rapids. The Portage was still discernible on an aerial photograph taken in the 1940s. Unfortunately, it was almost totally obliterated in 1949 and 1950 during the construction of the Portage Channel. Only the beginning and end of it are still more-less the way they appeared in the p
Every day I was fishing and caught a Pike—we put it into a strong bag and immersed in the water, to consume later in the evening. While paddling on Bob’s Bay, I again caught another pike, but when I was about to pull it out of the water, it got away. To beat the mosquitoes, we were back at the campsite relatively early. I prepared my filleting knife... only to find out that the pike had been gone! I thought it was a joke at first, but eventually saw a gnawed gaping hole in the bag. Well, it was most likely a common snapping turtle who easily ripped the bag and ended up having a feast of his life!
On July 7, 2011 we embarked early in the morning on a canoe trip to Nipissing Lake. It was a rather long trip (almost 40 km), we paddled on the main channel of the French River, passed many islands, inlets, cottages and bays, reached the mighty lake Nipissing and on our way back stopped at Keystone Lodge, located on Torrance Island. The lodge was quite impressive—it had several cottages for the guests, restaurant with a meal plan as the cottages only had a small fridge, its own generator, a helicopter landing pad, its own newly installed water system, a wood burning outdoor furnace pumping hot water heat to the cottages, a few boat docks (where the “Commanda” cruise ship sometimes stopped on its way from North Bay to Dokis, dropping off and picking up tourists) and other facilities. Apparently in the early 20th century it was mostly Americans who came here to spend vacation and also purchased most of the properties on the French River, enchanted by its beauty. One of the tourists who stayed at the lodge before the Second World War was Harry S. Truman and supposedly there is a photograph of him standing just in front of the “Keystone Lodge” sign.
As always, it was a great trip; the only negative aspect was the voracious mosquitoes which literally forced us to be in tent before 10 pm.
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