Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Barron Canyon, Algonquin Interior

Location: 1 hr drive west from Pembroke
Date: July 2006
Website: Friends of Algonquin Ontario Parks
Map: Google Maps or Canoe Routes of Algonquin Park
Camping Facilities: Car Camping at Achray or Backcountry in the vicinity
Grade: B
Stargazing: Who knows, you're in a canyon.
Summary: Spectacular scenery, so-so sites, not a great base camping trip.
View from top of Barron Canyon
Thoughts:  The Barron Canyon is mos def one of the nicest areas of Algonquin, one which any camper in Southern Ontario and Southwestern Quebec should make the effort to visit.  With many trails and the deep canyon itself, there is much nature to be appreciated here.  While a great view is found at the top of the canyon on the Barron Canyon trail, it gets even better when you paddle the Barron river itself.  The camping, like most river camping, can be unfulfilling.   Personally, I like having a sense of endlessness in the natural environment, stretching beyond the horizon  past the shores at the opposite end of the lake.  You don't get that sense when camping in a valley of any sort, given the claustrophobic feel inherent in these landscapes (especially on a narrow river such as the Barron).  Throw the bugginess that you can encounter (due to the absence of breezes), plus the lack of a good view of the night sky, there really isn't much to draw you out of your tent at night.   Hence, don't take this as an indictment of the Barron Canyon, more a presentation of the general problems of camping along a river.

View from top of Barron Canyon
The campsites on the Barron (below the falls) are nothing to marvel at.  Ours was a pretty rocky one, with some decent tent pads, but not really much else.  The paddle in is a fun one (if you like river paddles) with plenty of variation in the scenery; you pass through marshes, rockslides, and wind through canyon with the path the river has made.  It's a decent paddle all the way up to the falls.  The single portage you'll have to do if camping in the valley (coming in from just above Squirrel Rapids) is a short 340 meters trek.  It can be a bit rocky in places, but nothing too difficult. I remember when we did this portage going upstream, there was a couple that was new to camping, who had likely just purchased their camping gear (including one of those ridiculously heavy Wind River canoes you get at Canadian Tire).  They were trying to carry the canoe (with all their gear sitting inside it) by using the deck plates as handles.  Ouch.   I tried to explain that its much easier to just put the yoke on your shoulders and carry the rest of the gear by hand, but I think the strain was getting to them and I don't know if they even finished the 340 m portage.  Hopefully they weren't turned off of camping forever, it would have been a shame.

The boredom that struck our group was likely attributable to our poor trip plan; this isn't a great base camping excursion.  Perhaps you can manage a linear trip starting from Achray (leave one car there and one at the picnic area at Squirrel Rapids), and just keep on moving each day (perhaps move up NW of Grand Lake and come back down).  That would probably be the only fun way to see the Barron Canyon from the river.  Otherwise, there's nothing more than a one-nighter here.

Inside Barron Canyon


  1. This is definitely an 'A to B' trip! If you had put in at Achray and finished in the Lower Barron Canyon I'm sure you'd mark this as at least an 'A' (we did it as a 3 day trip and it was awesome, if I could attached pictures I would)

    1. Yea, it's a great spot, I'm sure I would agree with you if we'd taken the Achray - LBC linear route. One of the most scenic parts of Ontario.