The Magnetawan (lovingly called the Mag) is a prime southern Ontario river to run for those who want to push their whitewater skills, dust off the rust before a big trip, or try a cool route that’s not too far away, yet can still feel remote. There are loads of fun sets, cliff jumping opportunities, waterfalls, and awesome fishing. In low water conditions, there are a lot of pin rocks, and at high water, the Mag transforms into a raging river with very powerful features. There are a number of access points along the route, allowing you to alter the route as you’d like. Generally speaking, this route has a few longer sets / portages that can be time-consuming, but overall the days are on the shorter side.
Starting Point: Ahmic Bay, put in at the Swiss Country House
Ending Point: Georgian Bay, take out river right at the Trailer Park
Total Distance: 74 km
Duration: 7 days
Gauge: We paddled the river at around 30 cm/s, but in the spring time flows can reach 300 cm/s (you can see Real-Time Hydrometric Data at Stats Canada).
The Magnetawan River flows through a mix of a non-operating provincial park, as well as crown land, private land, and conservation areas. Campsites and trails are all user-maintained, so please leave them cleaner than you found them and follow all Leave No Trace principles. Campsites don’t require permits and are first come first served.
Maps & Resources
Guidebook: I am not aware of a guidebook for this route.
Map: Canadian Topographic Maps: 17T 31 E/12 (Map 1), 17T 41 H/9 (Map 2), 17T 41 H/16 (Map 3) – You can find more info on topographic maps here.
Campsite Reservations: None.
Outfitters & Shuttles
Outfitters: There aren’t too many outfitters in the immediate area, although MHO Adventures offers canoe rentals and shuttle services, and Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville offers canoe rentals as well.
Shuttle: We used our own gear and set up our own shuttle for this trip. The shuttle distance is pretty short and takes about 2 hours all in. The route starts at Ahmic Bay (put in at the Swiss Country House) where you can park your car for $10 per day per vehicle. The route ends at Georgian Bay (take out river right at the Trailer Park) where you can park your car for $10 per day per vehicle. In both cases, be sure to call ahead.
Day 1: Ahmic Bay to Sellers Rapids (5 km)
We met up at the Swiss Country House at 10:00 am to get ourselves organized and set up our shuttle. After the shuttle and lunch, we were on the water at around 1:30 pm.
There’s a small set right away; at lower levels, it gets quite shallow. We paddled on down to Poverty Chutes which is the first major rapid you’ll see. The easiest option here is to portage along the ATV trail on river left, around the cottages. It’s short, and you won’t regret it.
Shortly after are two little sets (both CII) in quick succession, separated by a short, moving pool. This rapid is sometimes called Dog Leg. We scouted River Right for the first set, and boat-scouted the second set. We chatted with the owners of both cottages here and they mentioned how they loved watching canoeists come down. Try not to give them too much of a show!
About 1 km down is Island Rapid. We scouted on the left; at low water, it gets really shallow here. Sellers Rapid is about 200 m downstream, and the portage / campsite is on River Right.
Campsite: Sellers Rapid – The campsite at Seller’s is in pretty good shape, has awesome views of the rapid, and can accommodate at least 4 tents. It doesn’t have a thunderbox as I recall.
Day 2: Sellers Rapids to Maple Island Peninsula (10 km)
Started the day off with a bang by running our empty boats down Sellers Rapid. Look out for pin rocks in the washout if you want to try it. The portage is also pretty easy.
Next up comes Ross Rapid (CIII), which you can scout on the right. Be careful around the old cottage because it looks like it could fall over any second! We opted to run down the left, although there’s a portage on the left if you have to.
Following this rapid is another ledge-y rapid (CIII). We eddy hopped our way down the right side. Scouting down the right will also work well. There are portage and carryover options for the ledge near the bottom.
Cody’s Rapid (CII) comes next, denoted by the bridge. You can scout from the bridge (take out is River Right), and if you need to portage then cross the bridge and put in on River Left. Markham Rapid is just a swift, as is Porter’s Rapid. We camped on the peninsula, which was beautiful!
Campsite: Maple Island Peninsula – Maple Island peninsula also can easily fit 4 tents, and because it’s on a breezy peninsula there are typically no/few bugs! Again, no thunderbox.
Day 3: Maple Island Peninsula to Deep Bay (15 km)
The first rapid you get to is Upper Burnt Chute, which you can scout on the right. The next rapid, Lower Burnt Chute has more going on. Scout left, and portage left. We ran it and it was pretty fun, but we all got pretty full / almost swamped.
There’s an 800 m portage around Needle Eye Rapids. The trail is a little hard to follow, and it’s worth taking a quick look before carrying the heavy stuff. There’s also a site halfway along the trail, but it’s probably mega buggy. After this, it’s clear sailing for about 2-2.5 hours to the site.
Wawashkesh Lake can get windy. There are several nice-looking site options on this lake, although we opted to paddle on to the point by Deep Bay (also pretty nice). If this site is taken there’s another across from it.
Campsite: The point by Deep Bay – The campsite at Deep Bay is a bit smaller, and fitting 4 tents took some good tent spot scrounging. There’s a thunderbox at this one, although look out for goose poo, because they don’t seem to use it much.
Day 4: Deep Bay to Trout Lake (11 km)
Today presents you with many choices. Downstream from here lies Canal Rapid, which is a really cool canyon section with some challenging whitewater. Before you go too far, there’s a nice cliff jumping spot near the campsite.
Option A: Paddle into Deep Bay to where the resort is and follow the ATV trail (~1.2 km, apparently relatively flat, and can be muddy). It ends just after you cross the bridge on the River Left side (this is could be a camp spot if needed, and there’s an outhouse here too).
Option B: Paddle downriver towards the dam. There’s a portage River Right pretty close to the dam. The portage is cliffy and close to the river, so tread carefully. Shortly after is an island with a rapid – scout as needed – and we ran down the right side. Eddy-out on the left so you can scout / portage from here. There’s a nice lookout where you see the whole rapid – be extremely careful!! There also seemed to be an okay campsite mid portage. We ran Canal Rapids, so I can’t speak to the second half of this trail. There’s a nice lunch spot/possible campsite at the end by the bridge / outhouse.
After Canal Rapids, there’s one more rapid called Grave Rapids. We scouted River Right and it was pretty easy. Apparently a large hole forms at some water levels. If so, there’s a poorly marked portage River Right. We camped about 1 km down and on the right side on Trout Lake. It was a nice spot, and there are a few other nice ones.
Campsite: Trout Lake – The site on Trout Lake overlooks a lovely bay and is a bit more inset, so it gets buggier. It can easily fit 4 tents, has great views, and has a thunderbox.
Day 5: Trout Lake to Ledge-y Rapid (16 km)
Mountain Chute comes up quick today! You can scout and portage on the left, although the trail isn’t great. Depending on levels you might be able to run it as well, which is what we did. At our water levels, there was also a carryover option.
Stovepipe Rapid is a fun swift. Portage around Three Snye Rapids, following along the ATV on the left (~100 m). There’s a decent-looking campsite at the end, but look out for poison ivy! The next rapid ends in a big ledge, and you can line/portage this one on the right. Shortly after there’s the ledge-y rapid which we camped at. The site/portage is on the left.
Campsite: By Ledge-y Rapid on river left – The site at the ledge-y rapid is really nice, and has a lovely sloping rock out the front, giving a great view of anyone running the rapid or going for a surf session. Pretty sure there was a thunderbox. It can fit 4, but the spots aren’t huge.
Day 6: Ledge-y Rapid to Miners Lake (7 km)
First up today is a fun CII / CIII rapid under some train tracks! The train tracks are active so be extremely careful. You can scout River Right. Following this set is Thirty Dollar Rapids. Portage the first drop on the right, then paddle across the pool to portage the next bit on the left (~800 m). Sometimes you can run the bottom section. After, we paddled on down the peninsula site on Miners Lake.
Campsite: Miners Lake – The Miner’s lake site is easily the nicest one, with a nice jumping cliff, great views, and lots of space. It has a thunderbox.
All the sites were in pretty good condition when we were there, but we went pretty early season before anyone had really been around.
Day 7: Miners Lake to Georgian Bay Take Out (10 km)
Last day! But the whitewater isn’t over yet. None of these ones are named, so: portage left around the ledge (if the water is high, the put-in can be tricky). Then scout the next rapid on the right, and scout the final rapid on the left.
WARNING: At high water, there’s a large set under the highway – portage left. The trailer park where you’re parked is on the right! Overall this day took about 3 hours.
This is an awesome trip! There is loads of whitewater and we didn’t see a soul. In the summer I imagine it gets a bit busier. It can be buggy but make use of sites on points and you’ll probably be okay. We brought a bug shelter and made good use of it. Because the Magnetawan River flows through unmaintained areas, none of the portages or sites are marked so it’s best to pay attention as you go. It can make for a nice warm-up before going to northern rivers where this is normal. There’s great fishing all the way down the river so don’t forget your rod! This is a trip I’d love to do over and over.
Gregory Nettleton is a whitewater canoe guide and instructor from Toronto, Ontario. He’s been guiding and instructing for over 7 years. He splits his free time by paddling some more, skiing, taking pictures, fishing, and reading anything he can get his hands on. You can find him on Instagram at @greg.nett.