French River - 5-Day Advanced Canoe Trip
French River - 5-Day Advanced Canoe Trip
Our Advanced Canoe Trip! This thing has it all – narrow rivers, whitewater, historical routes, big water with waves, amazing night skies, and a lot of adventure and fun! If conditions are right and the group moves well together, you’ll end up in the town of Killarney. If conditions are too tough, we’ll stay and play in the French River Basin, a spectacular natural setting like nothing you’ve seen before! This trip is definitely challenging and not for those afraid of a true adventure! Experience is an asset, but no experience needed as long as you’re really motivated and keen to work hard. Do you have what it takes?
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Locations: French RiverActivity: Canoeing, Photography, WhitewaterDifficulty: Moderate/Advanced
Here it is – Bear Chutes Rapid. All day long, you’ve been going through progressively harder and harder rapids, knowing it would culminate in this – a ride down the tongue of Bear Chutes. You remember passing over the first Swift of the day thinking, “Pfft… This is gonna be easy”. Those words echo in your head faintly as the thundering sound of water crashing downstream quickly overpowers and drowns out your thoughts.
“Remember, if you want to walk around this, you definitely can. It’s a safe set, but no one has to go down this if they don’t want to.” your guide says. Not go down? This is why you came! Sure, the French River is stunningly beautiful, but you came for an adventure! You lock yourself into your canoe, and with a deep breath, look at your paddling partner. You may have just met today, but already you’ve got a bond and a trust, and although you’re both nervous, you’re both nervous together. You push off the shore and start paddling towards the chutes. Slowly slowly, as the river starts to take you, you start picking up speed. No turning back now, nowhere to go but down. You clutch hard to your paddle and prepare for the white-knuckled ride.
Little left! Slight right! You’re going too fast! You’ll never make it! Your boat hits the tongue and the front half of your boat flies up into the air with you in the front seat. Just as quickly, your boat slams back down and you have a split second to get your balance. You both work hard to stabilize the boat and you paddle harder than you ever have before to make it out of the set. Breathing hard, you look back at your partner. A slight smile hints across their face, and then you both start laughing at what you have just voluntarily done.
This is only day 1 of 5 and you’re still nowhere near the waves of Georgian Bay. Welcome to the 5-Day French River Advanced Canoe Trip with Overhang Adventures
TRIP DOES NOT INCLUDE:
Transportation to and from put-in point
Parking at put-in point
Personal gear (clothing, toiletries, camera, etc...)
Lunch on day 1
Dinner on day 5
Food, drinks and snacks while on trip
Canoes, PFDs, paddles
Paddling and Whitewater Lesson
Friendly, certified and professional staff
Group gear (tents, stoves, tarps, etc...)
Camping gear rentals (sleeping bags, underpads, etc...)
Permits and other fees
All safety and First Aid equipment
Day 1 – Getting started
Looking around, you see the other participants’ excited smiling faces. This is the Advanced Canoe Trip after all, so there are no beginners in this group. Your guides gather everyone around, and after a quick intro to the trip and what the day is going to entail, you find partners, load the canoes, and take off.
The start of the river is narrow and calm. A great opportunity for you to refine those strokes and get to know the folks on your trip. Good bunch it seems. So far so good. The group travels together nicely down the river.
Day 1 – 1st Rapids
As you paddle on, you come across your first set of rapids. Depending on the water levels, this might be no more than a swift. Still, a tiny rush runs over you as you feel your canoe picks up speed. No big deal though. You’ve got this.
Day 1 – Lunch
Further down the river, you come across a set of rapids that you should definitely not go down. Someone says, “Portage?”. Your guides just smile. There’s a secret way around this set, and it even has a rope swing. You skip the portage, rope-swing-it-up, and then enjoy lunch with the thundering sound of the rapids in the background.
Day 1 – Afternoon Rapids
Now that your belly is full, and your arms are warmed up from the morning, you prepare for the rapids throughout the afternoon. It’s essentially 3 sets back to back to back, but they’re progressive in their difficulty, culminating in Bear Chutes rapids. Sometimes we run it. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we portage the gear, paddle down, and see who can make it without flipping. Either way, it’s a wicked afternoon!
Day 1 – Dinner, fire, and prep for Day 2
Once you’ve had your fill of Bear Chutes, the group travels on to the campsite for the night. Tasks are divvied-up, and in no time, there’s a fire going, tents are up, and food is prepared. You all gather-round as the guides go over some of the lessons from the past day and discuss the route for tomorrow. See, tomorrow, you get to navigate the French River. There are literally over a dozen possible routes that you can take. Each option has its historical value, its visual beauty, and its varying amounts and difficulties of rapids. What you have to decide as a group is which route to take to get onto Georgian Bay. Once you do that, it’s campfire, story time, star gazing and sleep.
Day 2 – Wake up, breakfast, and head-out
Today, you get to sleep in until about 8am (I know… we spoil you!). When you awake though, you tear-down the campsite quickly and have a fast breakfast – with coffee of course. In almost an hour from the time that you woke up, you’re on the water, prepared for the day ahead.
Day 2 – French River
This is where your map reading skills get put under the microscope. As you navigate down the French, you realize there are so many inlets and bays, so many possible channels. The Voyageur Channel, Main Channel, Eastern Channel. They’re all beautiful, and they all lead out to the Georgian Bay. The only question is, do you want today to be a 28km day? A 35km day? Or a 40km day?
There’s something really cool about paddling through what was once the water highway into Northern Canada. All groups used this waterway at one point or another. The Aboriginals, the voyageurs, those who settled in the north and the west, and now you. As you paddle through some of the faster moving water sections, you can't help but think about doing this 200+ years ago without a PFD or helmet. Damn impressive.
Early that evening, you make it onto Georgian Bay and the landscape shifts from lush green forests, with narrow rivers to the ocean-like vastness of the bay, with it's 40,000 islands. As the sun begins to dip down, and the reflection creates a streak across the ever-calming waters, you have a moment of peace and realize why the Group of 7 came here so often to create their works of art.
That night, you camp on one of the islands. The oddly flat rock which makes up the island allows you to sleep more comfortably than you expected. Good thing too, cause tomorrow is an early morning as your group attempts to get around Point Grondine!
Day 3 - Crossing Point Grondine and Paddling the Bay
We have now entered the crux of the trip. Everyone in the group knows that we either cross Point Grondine and head for Killarney, or we decide the conditions are too rough, and we head back to explore some more of the French, ending up at Hartley Bay. Both options are good, but you're hoping you can take a stab at the wind and waves of Georgian Bay. Luckily this trip has a built-in buffer to give you two chances at it.
To optimize your chances, your group agreed to wake up at 3:00am, and, with the tiniest breakfast, be on the water by 4:00am. Never once did you imagine you'd be paddling on open water at 4 in the morning. Although still dark, your guide shows you how to use other landmarking skills to navigate, and off you go.
This entire day is up in the air. Where you stop for breakfast, for lunch, how far you travel, and when you travel all depend on such a multitude of factors that's it's literally impossible to predict where along you route you'll end up. You may even decide to stay put at your campsite and have a rest day filled.
What you can likely expect though is that the sunset will be spectacular and that it'll be an adventure.
Day 4 - Make or break day.
This is the day that determines where your trip ends. If you've made it past Point Grondine, you'll most likely have ice cream in Killarney at the end of the trip. If you don't, you'll have to go back up the French River and make a dash for Hartley Bay. If you made some miles on day 3, today might be a short day with a lot of time to soak in the beauty of Georgian Bay.
Day 5 - Completion of the adventures
After 4 solid days of paddling, laughing, and growing with these once-were strangers, you can all feel that the trip is coming to a close. Everyone seems a little bit slower at packing up the campsite this morning. You take a few more selfies with one another, saying the campsite is just really pretty, but you know it's because once you go in those canoes, your next stop is the end of the trip, and no one is quite ready for that.
You think back to the start of the trip. The introduction to the river. You think about the rapids of the first day and are blown away by how long ago that felt. You then think through the trip and all that you have collectively done. You smile and feel a sense of accomplishment.
You head to the canoes. Look at your partner. With authority, you give each other a paddle-5, and launch your boat into the water. Then without saying a word, you start paddling with a synchronicity that is the sign of a great duo. Today is a good day.