The Georgian Bay area (often called the “other Great Lake”) is no exception. The area was originally frequented by First Nations people for thousands of years before great Canadian explorers like Jaques Cartier arrived and opened the area up for fur trading.
During the fur trade, large merchant ships frequented the area. Followed by Pirates (Yarrr!).
Pirates, who were normally looking to target individuals, or running from the law often found small inlets and bays to hide their vessels in to avoid detection.
One of these famous, historic inlets is known as “Collins Inlet” which Lies between Manatoulin Island and Killarney Provincial Park.
I decided to make the 6hr trek to the remote Killarney Provincial Park, and explore this inlet. It sounded like an enchanting place filled with ghost towns, petroglyphs and even shipwrecks.
An uneventful trip North led me to the long, and lonely highway which led into Killarney Provincial park. The forest seemed endless. Small narrow overgrown grass driveways seemed to disappear into the distance, holding untold adventures.
The George Lake Campground is the only road-access camping in
the entire 50,000 hectare park. The park staff was very friendly and helpful. The down-side to Ontario Parks is that it will cost $24.00 per PERSON to camp, and $14.00 per DAY to leave your vehicle and canoe somewhere else.
Many people feel that these prices are sheer highway robbery (speaking of pirates!). For a 7 day stay, it costs almost 100.00 just to leave your car in the unprotected parking lot of the park. The money is used to help make our parks better, pay staff, and maintain equipment, docks, build maps, etc. Expensive, yes. The experience, however is priceless.
Parking at the Chikanishing river area, a small rapid roars beside the launching dock and cuts through the beautiful silence. In the distance I can hear the “pee-paw” of the black capped Chickadee.
After removing the canoe from the roof of the car, I put it in the water and tied off the bow. Next I put on my life jacket, and put one on Luka. Next I loaded the canoe full of 10 days food, supplies, and equipment. It was surprisingly heavy.
Shoving off, the small unassuming inlet led me past tall grasses, and giant rock formations which towered overhead. The area was so quiet. In the distance, the LaCloche mountains met the horizon with their glistening white quartzite.
The Chikanishing river flows out into north eastern Georgian Bay. The site was spectacular. The protected river opens up into a wide expanse of clear blue waters, and tens of thousands of tiny islands sticking up out of the water. It’s hard to imagine that about three hundred years ago, Jaques Cartier was sitting in his birch bark canoe with the same wonderment as I saw before me.
It’s not hard to imagine this area with large, majestic sailing ships silently gliding by. When there was trouble with pirates, the British Royal Navy sent Admiral Henry Wolsey Bayfield to the area to patrol and survey these waters.
Passing through Chikanishing Inlet, I saw several large steel rings drilled right into the rocks. These rings served as tie-offs for the ancient sailing ships.
After a short paddle into Collins Inlet it started to rain. There was a small island, and I decided to head toward the island. A nice sandy beach welcomed Luka and I. I ran the canoe aground, and inspected the area. There was already an established campsite here, which I took full advantage of.
I set up camp, hung my large, blue food barrel 2m off the ground.
Shortly after the wind arrived. Cold, +3C wind ripped across the island. The wind kept getting stronger until the water was white capped. I turned on my crank-powered radio to hear a small craft wind warning. I wasn’t going anywhere for the rest of the day.
DAY THREE: After a restless sleep with the flapping my tent, I awoke to hear the wind howling fiercely. I opened my tent fly and saw the wind was still blowing. Trees were bending and holding fast. I decided to go for a walk around the island.
I quickly learned that I was not on Philip Edward Island as I had thought, but on a smaller island called “South Point Island” which lay at the North West edge of Philip Edward Island.
This island held the typical beauty of the area. Giant rocks covered in lichen and moss crunch under my bare feet. Huge cedar and pine trees with their roots exposed plant firmly on the rock. Small depressions where the wind can’t reach played host to softer mosses which enjoyed the calm air space.
Just near the campsite, someone had dumped a giant 4 by 20m tarp from a tractor trailer. I used the tarp and fashioned a shelter for cooking and eating which was outside my tent and down wind. (There were bears reported on these islands)
I spent the rest of the day listening to my iPod in the shelter I built and figuring out an escape plan. Worst-comes-to-worst, I would ring the Coast Guard to rescue me. Surprisingly, there was great mobile service coverage on this remote island.
DAY FOUR: I awoke to silence. Silence. Silence meant no wind. I peered out my tent fly and noticed everything was calm. I climbed out of my tent to look out at the water – it was fairly calm.
Wasting no time, I dropped my food barrel from its position, and started to break camp. It was only +8C and very cold. I packed up my gear and made a bee-line to the mainland. I was afraid the wind would pick up and tip me over in the frigid waters.
Thankfully I arrived safely in Chikanishing inlet and made my exit from the water.
After being trapped on a deserted island for four days, I saw nothing I had hoped to see. I decided to stay George Lake campground for the rest of the trip and do some day hikes. This trip was a bust.