We go camping as often as we can and tried the Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park for the first time this year. Ontario is strewn with lovely camping areas but this park was exceptional.
We walked three of the 7 or 8 trails in the park. Even our 6 year old was able to manage the Kag trail (2.5 km), which had some very steep sections. The park says the trail is rated difficult, while this site says it is moderate. I’d quibble; it’s certainly challenging but if a 6 year old can do it, perhaps not difficult. Not impossible, but you’ll need good shoes to handle some of the inclines.
The other two trails we tried – Wabashkiki (1 km and boardwalk) and Ecology (2.5 km) – were both easy. But you’re spoiled for choice if you like rambling and many of the trails in the Etienne system take you up with lovely views of the Mattawa.
Our children are now interested in canoeing, so it has become a key part of at least one trip a year. Moore Lake is lovely and provided just the right mixture of distance and calm waters for learners. There is a beaver lodge at one end of the lake and we were able to head out for an evening paddle and see the beaver consistently at dusk. It was also handy to have the canoes to get us from the campground side to the large sandy beach on the day use side of the lake.
We paddled south along the Amable du Fond river for awhile as well, but you quickly come to impassable rapids. You might be able to portage but our rental canoes were barred from attempting them. Similarly, there was no way to take the canoes further up the Amable du Fond towards the Mattawa, since that stretch above Moore Lake is all rapids.
You can rent canoes in the park, something we didn’t realize until we arrived. We used Algonquin North Outfitters, who will deliver the canoes to the park and leave them by Moore Lake. If you want a canoe for a day or more, they’re the best bet.
We enjoyed feeling like we were in real Voyageur country – “Up the Ottawa, then the Mattawa” as The Voyageurs begins – and often hummed “C’est laviron” as we went along on our way. It wasn’t long before we were all able to paddle quietly along so that, in the morning mist, we could be almost as silent as the rest of the park before it woke up fully.
It would have been convenient, though, since our camp site was right on these lower rapids. We saw inflatable rafts and innertubes – even a lounge chair – float by with people on them but anything that drew much more would have had a devil of a time on the rocks. The rapids were a real favorite for the kids, since they could sit on the bottom of the river or on the rocks that protruded. There was a strong enough current to make you feel a bit adventurous but not enough to really be dangerous.
Having the river right there was an excellent option when we either hadn’t gotten started for the day or, as happened one day when the wind on the lake was quite strong, we decided to stay close to home. We all spent substantial time down there. One morning, I was watching the river go by and waiting for the morning trip up river by a half dozen common mergansers – they were as regular as clockwork, both in the morning and evening. Suddenly a small black creature popped out of the river, looked at me, and ran up the rocks and into the forest. I think it was an American mink, now that I’ve had a chance to try to identify it.
The East Jingwakoki campground is non-electric and there were loads of empty sites. We were surprised, since we had camped around the same time in Algonquin, at Pog Lake, and it was absolutely packed with people. For those who care, the pit toilets have been converted to flush so it meant the squeamish (including me) didn’t have to go to a comfort station for a flush toilet. Quite the luxury!
We were fortunate to have just a bit of rain one early morning, and the day that was extremely windy. Other than that, the weather was typical near north Ontario August: cool nights, warm days. We had one morning in the 40s (F) but it quickly warmed up and we all hung out on the river bank where the sun was beating down on the rocks.