Paddle the Pickerel River

Randy from Explorers’ Edge turns voyageur by paddling the Pickerel River in Loring-Restoule – over 40 kilometres of stunning navigable waters

Algonquin Base Camp

My truck was packed and my wife and I were off on our canoe trip to beautiful Loring-Restoule – a paddler’s paradise in the northern part of Explorers’ Edge.. Algonquin Basecamp (located at the Almaguin Highlands Information Centre just off of Highway 11 at Emsdale) was our last stop to pick up an Ultra-lite 16 Souris River Quetico canoe, and then it was just over an hour’s drive from north Muskoka to our put-in-point in Port Loring on the Wolf River.

Before departing Port Loring in our canoe, locals told me about the old lumber camps that used to exist on our route and even about some remains of an old Alligator Boat along the way. As experienced paddlers with the fever for outdoor adventure, we set out to travel what historically was a three or four day canoe trip in just two days.

The Route for Day One: 29.8 km

Route 1 Pickerel River The Wolf River proved to be idyllic and serene.  With few cottages and only one other person encountered along our way, it felt like our own little slice of paradise.  Abundant wildlife greeted us around every corner, and we stopped to take pictures of the loons and blue herons.  Clearings along the river bank presented evidence of historical sites from years gone past.  Dollars Dam was a great excuse to stretch our legs on the short 190 metre portage around the only man-made obstacle on our route.

Pickerel River Blue Heron Pickerel River Dam Pickerel River Loons

The second half of the day proved to be a little more challenging as Mother Nature provided a 5-10 kmph head wind for the remaining 20 km of our trip.  We arrived late at our destination, the Lost Channel Inn, after paddling for almost 10 hours. The friendly staff greeted us and kept the restaurant open late so we could enjoy dinner after a long day of paddling.  (My love for local history kept me up even later speaking with inn keeper and owner, Russ Holt, as he shared hours’ worth of local history, from logging to steamships to railway stories.)

Pickerel River Lost Channel Inn Pickerel River Breakfast

Pickerel River Baby Humming Bird

Departing after a hearty breakfast the next morning, we headed east. Mother Nature again provided wind and a storm that forced us off the river.  Lucky for us, Brad and Kathy Doey insisted that we take shelter with them while the worst part of the storm passed – proving to us once again that one of the things we love most about the Loring-Restoule region is the incredibly friendly people we continued to meet along the way.

It also provided us with a great opportunity to spot a humming bird at their feeder and see it’s baby still in the nest near by.

Pickerel River Humming Bird Pickerel River Dunrouin Cottage

The Route for Day Two: 17.4 km

route 2 Pickerel River

Pickerel River SailingUsing some street smarts, we fashioned a makeshift sail out of a rain poncho, a paddle and a camera monopod.  Our GPS confirmed our speed at 12.6kmph, proving that sailing with a tail wind is much faster than paddling into a head wind, and much more fun too.

We stopped for lunch at the picturesque Tornado’s Canadian Resorts. The previous day’s storm had knocked out hydro in the area, but somehow our gracious hosts, Ladina and Lionel Mueller-Seelhofer, stillPickerel River Tornados provided a delicious lunch – even better that it was served by candle light! I learned about their fly-in lodges, including one located on Smokey Lake Lodge (which is also on an old local canoe route – I will have to come back and explore some more!).

Pickerel River Tornados Cottage Pickerel River lunch

Al Dare and his wife Elaine from Beautiful Wilson Lake Resort picked us up from Torando’s and, with his wife Elaine, introduced us to Roxie’s Diner that evening.  All along our trip, locals mentioned that Roxie’s and Jake’s Place were “the” spots to eat in Loring.  The home-cooked meals were served with a smile, and we left feeling comfortably full and revitalized. We settled into our private cottage by the water at Beautiful Wilson Lake Resort and enjoyed just watching the beautiful sunset after paddling nearly 50 km.

Pickerel River Roxie Club House Pickerel River Roxie Dinner
Pickerel River Wilson Lake Resort Pickerel River Jakes Place

Pickerel River Wilson Lake Panoramic 1Pickerel River Wilson Lake Panoramic 2Pickerel River Sundog Gallery

Before departing in the morning, we just had to sample breakfast at Jake’s Place, which has been serving customers for generations. Try their waffles and you’ll know why it’s so popular! Next it was a visit to the Sun Dog Gallery at Pine Grove Resort was one of them.  Pickerel River Stone Throw PotteryThis unique little gallery in the woods is full of personality and stunning pieces, and owner Hilary Chambers has a warm welcome for you. Stone Throw Pottery nearby also features pottery and jewelry by Bas & Lil Oorschot.   The pottery is spectacular (we left with several pieces) and the studio lives up to its promise: “Remember, the view alone is worth the drive!” It’s located on top of a hill overlooking the scenic valley and river below.

Our canoe trip to on the beautiful Pickerel River and throughout the equally breath-taking Loring-Restoule holds many fond moments – despite some wind and rain. We met many friendly tourism operators who enjoyed meeting us too, and their hospitality was second to none. We learned about fascinating local history and hear stories generations old.  And our stops for rest and respite at eateries and galleries were the perfect complement to long paddling days. I highly recommend a trip to Loring-Restoule and the Pickerel River system for a getaway that’s a bit off the grid, as nature intended. I’ll be back there soon myself.

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