French River: Otter Bay to Hartley Bay Marina (5 days / 72 km)

A tourist sailing in French River Otter Bay to Hartley Bay Marina

I just got back from a fantastic 5-day canoe trip on the French River. We went into it expecting a cold wet fall trip but were surprised with (mostly) great weather. My first time on the French was 11 years ago with my summer camp and it was exactly as I remember. There is some whitewater, but nearly all of it has well-marked portages. As beginners with whitewater, we portaged most of the rapids and paddled some.

The French River is a very important river in Canada. It was used as a major transportation route throughout history and in the 1800s was used by loggers to send the logs downriver. Nowadays it’s a popular recreation spot for canoeists, cottagers, and fishing enthusiasts alike.

Trip Completed: October 2021

Report Updated: September 2022

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Otter Bay

Ending Point: Hartley Bay Marina

Total Distance: 72 km

Duration: 5 days

Difficulty: Intermediate (but could easily turn it into a beginner-friendly trip by adding days and reducing the distance covered per day)

Location: This route takes place in French River Provincial Park, north of Georgian Bay.

Traditional Territory: This route takes place on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki and Mississauga (source). 

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: A Paddler's Guide to Killarney and the French River by Kevin Callan

Map: Ontario Parks French River Waterproof Map

Note: Campsite numbers in this report have been updated to reflect the campsite numbers in the newest Ontario Parks French River map.

Interactive Route Map: Click here to view and edit this route using the Canoe Route Planner

Permits & Reservations

Campsite Reservations: FRPP requires reservations. You can book online up to 2 weeks in advance through the Ontario Parks reservation site. You’ll book which zone you’re camping in each night, but sites within that zone are first come first serve. In the summerti...

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