Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: The Massasauga Provincial Park - Blackstone Harbour

Location: 20 km south of Parry Sound
Website: Ontario Parks
Map: Google Maps or a Comprehensive Site Map (lists and reviews all sites, thanks gmps!)
Massassauga Provincial Park Blackstone Harbour
Welcome to Site 511
Camping Facilities: Backcountry Exclusively
Grade: B-
Summary: Waters can be rough and motorboats can be plentiful on the sites bordering Georgian Bay, though otherwise decent.
Thoughts: I want to like The Massasauga, but I haven't had the occasion to yet.  I think this park has a lot of potential; it has some inland lakes (which book up quickly), beautiful Georgian Bay coastline, and 135 backcountry sites within a 3 hr drive of the Greater Toronto Area.  Alas, I've yet to have a good experience here. My first attempt began at Blackstone Harbour but was foiled by high winds, the remnants of Hurricane Katrina.  The second attempt worked out much better, with easier winds and better paddling.  We were with a few newbies to the backcountry so we didn't venture too deep (site 511).

waterfall at massassauga provincial park
A waterfall not far from Site 511

The site was nothing to write home about, it was large enough for 3 tents and it had a nice view of the Harbour.  It was tough to find a good place to hang our food, which might be an issue now that since it seems to have a bear problem.  All in all, it was a pleasant stay.  Calhoun lodge, just around the corner, was kind of neat from a historical perspective (you can get sense of what was needed to meet day-to-day needs when living in an unserviced cottage), though there was no interpretive information available so the hike is what you make of it.
View from Site 511
 (never hang your garbage/food like that!)

The main problem is that most of the park is accessible by power boats.  Only the inland lakes are protected from the revving of motors.  So I'm not sure you'll ever feel you're in true backcountry in the remainder of the park.  As well, the winds from Georgian Bay can be an obstacle if you have novice paddlers (I consider myself a decent paddler but my canoe was almost swamped on a few occasions, so I don't know how far out into the Bay I'd venture on a windy day).  If you're a new paddler, I suggest sticking to the inland lakes, otherwise make sure everything is tied into your canoe, that you have all the vulnerable gear in waterproof bags and that you have a bailer on hand.  However, I think The Massasauga may yet provide a very nice wilderness experience and encourage comments on others' experiences.  

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