Massasauga Provincial Park: Three Legged Lake to Spider Bay (4 days / 35 km)
Georgian Bay has a well-deserved reputation for beauty. With a distinctive look characterized by rocky lichen-covered islands, shallow turquoise shoals, and windswept pine trees, the massive body of water attracts visitors from throughout Ontario, and beyond. Georgian Bay’s huge scale (making up, as it does, a large portion of Lake Huron’s surface area) gives it a warranted distinction as an inland sea. The Spider Bay Route in Massasauga Provincial Park is an excellent way to experience the majesty of the region by way of canoe, as the route gives the paddler an intimate view of the beauty of Georgian Bay.
The grandeur of Georgian Bay is a double-edged sword, however, as heavy winds and large waves can make paddling on the large body of water a dangerous affair in certain conditions. Likewise, navigating through the maze of islands and inlets that characterize the area takes both skill and patience.
Trip Completed: September 2019
Starting Point: Three Legged Lake
Ending Point: Three Legged Lake
Total Distance: 35 km
Duration: 3 Nights, 4 Days
This route is located in Massasauga Provincial Park, near Parry Sound.
Tradition Territory: This route in Massasauga Provincial Park is on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki and Mississauga (source).
Maps & Resources
Guidebook: Top 60 Canoe Routes of Ontario by Kevin Callan
Map: Unlostify Massasauga Camping Map
Camping Permits: As the Spider Bay route is within Massasauga Provincial Park, permits are required for camping. Permits can be reserved online though the Ontario Parks Reservation System or by phone, and should be done so in advance to ensure availability.
Outfitters & Shuttles
As the Spider Bay route detailed here is a loop (with the put-in and takeout being the same point) a shuttle is not needed. For boat and equipment rentals, check out White Squall Outdoor Store.
Day 1: Three Legged Lake to Goose Neck Bay (11 km)
After picking up our permits at the park office in Parry Sound, my paddling partner and I drove the remainder of the way to the Three Legged Lake put-in. With the gear unpacked, we left the car at the allotted parking lot and began paddling west across Three Legged Lake to the first portage of the trip.
Three Legged Lake itself is a moderately sized lake with a shoreline made up of small cottages, undeveloped crown land, and a provincial park. Paddling approximately 2 km west across the lake, and north of a large jutting point and small island, we arrived at the start of the trip’s first portage – a 370 m. Well maintained, but with a few small hills, we completed the portage fairly quickly, reloaded the boats, and began our paddle first west and then north on the larger Spider Lake.
Spider Lake is irregularly shaped, with lots of bays, points, and narrows that connect the more open sections of the lake to one another. Having reached a more expansive section of the lake after about 1 km of northbound paddling, we turned and headed west through a series of narrows that brought us to another open section of the lake. Continuing on another 2.5 km or so west, we arrived at the second and final portage of the day – a 100 m.
With the portage completed, and the boat packed, we continued paddling southwest through some narrows and into the more expansive Spider Bay. While now technically on Georgian Bay, the many islands and points that characterize the area sheltered us from the feeling of being on the open water. Nevertheless, while travelling to our first night’s campsite, we caught a glimpse of the scale of Georgian Bay that lay ahead.
We had decided to stay at Goose Neck Bay for the night, so we continued paddling southwest through some more narrows and into the sheltered bay. Having arrived, we found the site to have a nicely built fireplace, ideal tent spots, and an abundance of firewood. We set up camp and cooked dinner while enjoying a scenic sunset.
Day 2: Goose Neck Bay to Clear Bay (13 km)
We awoke, had breakfast, and packed up camp before backtracking through the narrows towards Spider Bay. Having made it back to Spider Bay, we turned westward and paddled approximately 2 km towards the expanse of Georgian Bay. With a blue sky and little to no wind, it was an ideal day to be paddling on a body of water as large as that of Georgian Bay.
Nevertheless, it was clear from its scale that the bay would not be somewhere I would want to be in less ideal conditions. Due to its size, conditions on Georgian Bay have the potential to be dangerous for boaters of all kinds. Heavy winds can produce large waves that make canoeing on the Bay especially dangerous. Likewise, the many islands and points make navigation difficult as their uniform appearance creates a maze of often indistinguishable landmarks throughout Massasauga Provincial Park.
Having made it to the mouth of Spider Bay, we veered southwest past a number of islands with various sizes of cottages on them before passing Ermyn Island and turning east through the narrows that lead to the more sheltered Echo Bay. Once we arrived at Echo Bay, we continued first east and then south through the Garden Channel – a narrow that is sheltered from the expanse of Georgian Bay by the relatively large Sans Souci Island.
Completing our approximately 2.5 km paddle through Echo Bay and the Garden Channel, we continued on another 1 km south before stopping on the end of a large jutting point to have lunch.
With lunch completed, we repacked our boats and paddled eastwards towards Clear Bay. After approximately 3.5 km of paddling, we circumvented Mathews Island through the northern channel and headed towards our intended campsite. We continued on another 1.5 km or so into the clear bay before arriving at our campsite. With our paddling for the day completed, we set up camp and made dinner.
Day 3: Clear Bay to Spider Lake (6 km)
We decided to have a bit of a sleep-in, as the day that lay ahead was to be relatively easy in terms of both paddling and portaging. With breakfast completed and our campsite packed, we loaded the boats and headed 1.5 km towards the northernmost section of Clear Bay where our first and only portage of the day was located. A 780 m, the portage had a few small hills and a small amount of deadfall scattered throughout its length but was nonetheless in fairly good condition overall. With the portage completed, we had arrived back at Spider Lake.
Having repacked the canoe, we paddled east and then north through a number of narrows split up by more open sections of the lake – similar to the character of the paddling on the first day of our journey. We arrived back at a section of the lake we had paddled through previously and made our way to the campsite we had chosen for the night.
Lined on two sides by rock faces, and with perhaps the nicest fireplace set up I have ever seen in the backcountry, the campsite was our best one of the trip. Satisfied with where we were staying, we had a late lunch, set up our campsite, and enjoyed the rest of the day basking in the glorious mid-September weather we had been blessed with all trip.
Day 4: Spider Lake to Three Legged Lake (5km)
Wanting to get home at a decent time, we awoke fairly early, packed up camp, and began paddling. We headed northeast through the narrows and into the more open section of the lake we had paddled through days prior, before turning south and backtracking through the first portage (370 m) of the trip. Having completed the portage, we continued to backtrack east across Three Legged Lake. We arrived at the boat launch we had used as our put-in, retrieved the car, and began our journey home.
With little portaging, spacious campsites, and incredible views of Georgian Bay, the Spider Bay route is an awesome trip for those looking to do some canoe tripping on a larger body of water. While the amount of paddling is reasonable for the majority of canoe trippers, bad weather can make sections of this route hazardous, and so care should be taken. Likewise, the many islands and points can make navigation difficult.
It is also noteworthy that I did the Spider Bay route in mid-September, rather than the peak canoe tripping summer months of July and August. As the area is a popular cottaging destination, I imagine that boat traffic is far more numerous in the summer months, creating an additional hazard and perhaps taking away the feeling of seclusion for some. Therefore, I would suggest doing the trip in either the late spring or early fall.
Connor is a wilderness guide based out of Ontario.