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Pickerel River (French River Prov. Park) in Ontario

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

When the summer weather is unpredictable, I tend to head for water only access camping parks that offer mostly first come first serve campsites.

The French River Provincial Park in Ontario is one of these types of parks. It caught my interest on the return from an extended trip I had made circumnavigating Manitoulin Island. I opted to paddle the Pickerel River, which parallels the French River a few kilometers south as the Pickerel River had no portages required and yet full access via the French River Channel to the Northwest Passage of the Georgian Bay where I wanted to explore the barrier islands.

There is a park visitors center just south off the bridge over the French River on route 9/400. They can direct you to the sites that actually sell the camping permits for the park.

Paddling down the Pickerel River was spectacular, as the passage is through a glaciated granite gorge. While there are some cottages along the route, most of the campsites are not within sight of civilization.

The most popular sport fishing is for Walleye. Its an excellent food fish.

This park is massive. It spans about 65 miles across. One must purchase a map at the Visitors center just to be able to identify all of the possible campsites. I could easily spend an entire summer in this park and rarely paddle the same water twice.

While it is situated relatively close to Killarney Provincial Park, because French River Park is a water access only park, it is deserted by comparison. The Pickerel River meets up with the French River about 16 kms west of Hwy 69/400. There is some boat activity (little from what I saw over the course of a couple days) there are hundreds of campsites that are so far out in the water land wilderness that Id expect you could spend a week and not see another soul.

If you are a fair weather camper and have flexibility on your timing, this park is a perfect solution. It is a bit far (about 3 hours) north of Toronto, but exploring the NE corner of the Georgian bay (of Lake Huron) is a place not to be missed.

This is a perfect park for the experienced kayak camper.


Primitive campsites w fire rings


Impex Category Force 5 fiberglass kayak


daily camping 8.50 + parking + some places charge launching fees.


North on 69/400 about 3-4 hours of Toronto.

When you pass over the Pickerel River Bridge, look for the signs for the visitors center for the French River Provincial Park, it will be on west side just before the French River Bridge.


The park map sold in the visitors center is a must have.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location