Algonquin Provincial Park: Tim River to Longbow Lake (2 days / 32 km)
The Tim River to Longbow Lake Canoe route is a remarkable backcountry camping adventure, beginning at Algonquin Access Point #2. You start and end your loop at the well-maintained parking lot, and canoe launch at Tim River. Along Longbow Lake, the beautiful, deep forest campsites will provide you all the serenity and nature you have come out to find.
Tim River’s canoe route is considered to have an easy to moderate level difficulty, especially depending on water levels and the time of year. The water on Tim River lowers and raises over the season, exposing beaver dams you may need to get out of the canoe to pass.
This trip report starts on Tim River, with a brief paddle on Tim Lake (and a 120m portage) and then back to more of the Tim River. Then it crosses Rosebary Lake to the campsites at Longbow Lake.
Trip Completed: August 2020
Starting Point: Tim River Parking Lot
Ending Point: Tim River Parking Lot
Total Distance: 32 km
Duration: 2 days + 2 rest days (4 total)
This route is located on the west side of Algonquin Provincial Park, beginning at Access Point # 2, just north of Kearny, Ontario.
Traditional Territory: This route in Algonquin Provincial Park is located on the traditional territory of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) and Anishinabewaki (source).
Maps & Resources
Map: Official Canoe Routes Map of Algonquin Park – can also be purchased at Algonquin Outfitters
Campsite Reservations: Campsite reservations are required through the Ontario Parks reservation portal. Reservations are for a campsite on A specific lake, not a specific campsite (i.e. Longbow Lake).
Outfitters & Shuttles
Outfitter: We used the Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville to pick up our equipment. We owned our backpacking gear, but still required a (2 person) canoe – we got the Algonquin Swift canoe, paddles (2 sets), 2 life jackets, a bail bucket- with mirror, whistle included, and also a 60-litre bear-proof barrel – could have used 30 litre for 2 people for reference.
Shuttle: No shuttle was necessary, as the trip starts and ends in the same place.
Day 1: Tim River to Longbow Lake (16 km)
Driving to Access Point #2 – Algonquin: We left Cambridge at 5:30 am and reached Huntsville at about 9:00 am, just as the Algonquin Outfitters was opening, to get our canoe strapped on. After that, we stopped in at Kearney Community Centre to pick up our camping and parking permits. We reached the Tim River Access Point #2 around 11:00 am, after a winding 30-minute drive down logging roads.
We had our cars emptied, and canoes packed for take off probably 30 minutes later. Luckily, we had the canoe launch to ourselves – as the parking was full other than the spot we found – and we ran into multiple groups on the same route later on.
Note: This was my first time ever being in a canoe. Looking back now, obviously, some experience would have much helped. I won’t go too far into detail but steering practice will come in handy.
Tim River to Tim Lake (and 120 m Portage): Tim River is a rather winding river. It has lots of grassy banks which could get a canoe stuck if you weren’t centred in the river. At some points the river is rather bog-like; the river widens then narrows and water levels change seasonally – changing the environment you are bringing your canoe through.
We came out onto Tim Lake around 12:45 pm, which felt like a relief hitting open water – as you weren’t restricted to the grassy banks and only a couple meter width of clear water to canoe through.
Here we came across a pair of rangers who checked in to make sure we knew where our endpoint was. It was apparently much further than we had imagined. The portage was just ahead of us, but that was only about halfway.
The total distance (from Access Point to Longbow Lake) is 15-16 km, but when the river winds back and forth with sharp turns, it adds time – especially if inexperienced.
The portage on this route is 120m which goes by quickly and easily, although the exit of the portage is rather steep (see photo). This is a good rest point, as you have quite a good stretch of the Tim River on either side of the portage. We ran into 3 other groups here, not a problem as long as everyone is respectful of shared space, and launches.
Tim River to Rosebary Lake: Coming out on to Tim River after the portage is a great sight; the grassy banks tower a few meters high, so you can only see the narrow winding river in front of you.
We came across four beaver dams. The water levels barely covered the tops, requiring us to get out of the canoe, stand on the beaver dam sticks, drag the canoe over the dam and hop back in to continue on the other side.
Rosebary Lake: Rosebary Lake opened up after the river and we were in search of campsites – to help us map out how far we had until Longbow, and ultimately what was open for us. The map was our saviour, we used that and a compass to point us in the right direction, having never been there before. We wanted the closest Longbow campsite at this point – mostly to get a rest after a tiring, but beautiful experience.
The first Longbow Campsite is somewhat tucked in, and might not be visible if you don’t know where you’re looking – which is what happened to us. We headed through the narrows between Rosebary and Longbow. It was an exhausting trip to the lake.
Campsite: Finally we landed at the second campsite (Campsite #2 on the map) from the Longbow entrance. It was probably around 6:00 or 7:00 pm at this point, starting to get dark and we really just wanted to find spots for the tents, firewood etc.
The campsite we started at had just enough room for the 4 tents, hammock and 3 canoes we had. It didn’t have any real tree coverage to get sun protection. Luckily it was outfitted with a brand new, practically sparkly clean boombox – which must’ve been recently installed – as well as a campfire grill and shield from sparks. I will note the boombox was rather close (because of the lack of space on this site) so it was hard not to be out of view.
We watched the most gorgeous, misty sunrise over the water and trees at this site.
Day 2: Switching Longbow Campsites
Today was a day of refuelling, gathering more wood we could use for fire – and further exploring our campsite.
Looking at the map again, we realized there was a dam somewhere nearby if we went through the forest – and we packed some day bags to explore. On the way to the dam, we went downhill from our camp and came across another (230 m) portage which happened to cross a much much bigger, shaded and empty campsite not far down the hill from ours.
Campsite: Switching to Longbow Dam Site (Campsite #1 on map). It was an easy choice to pack up and move, as it would be much better suited for the group. There was a great view of the dam flowing, a cool swimming spot, more paths to explore and such a soft flat flooring of pine needles to set up tents on. We were all able to spread out and honestly, could have had so many more tents set up. Ultimate big group campsite. Again the site had a heavy duty grill for the fire, and a big old metal scoop to shield from sparks and such. The boombox at this site was older, but better out of view from peers.
Note: We actually just packed up camp and hiked downhill through the woods, probably wasn’t even 1km. Then later hiked back and canoed around the bend to pull our canoes onto the new site.
Day 3: Hiking, Canoe Practice and Forest Exploring
Campsite: Longbow Dam Site
We stayed at the Longbow Dam site for the last night of our trip, soaking up our experience, freshening up our canoe skills and exploring the nearby woods.
In early August, we weren’t sure what to expect when it came to bugs. Expecting the worst, we came way over prepared and they didn’t bother us much at all. We ran into some black flies or deer flies, but that was the extent of it. We did notice a rather large dock spider along the shore of this campsite one night.
Day 4: Packing up and Canoeing out (16 km)
Having realized the long trip back out we had ahead of us, we planned to have the majority of our belongings packed the night and ready for this morning so we could have a hearty breakfast, clean up and get going quickly.
We woke up to loud rumbling thunder and then quickly soaked tents in the downpour. We had ultimate sunny, summer weather for the other 3 days of our trip so we couldn’t complain. So it really was best we began packing already. This put a damper on our last morning and gave us a kick in the butts to get going.
The rain ended up becoming our friend later on, as it was still a hot summer day and it helped cool us off on the long canoe trip back. Having done the trip out once before, we knew better where to look for entrance and exit points on the lakes. We did have to fight the wind slightly on the big areas of open water, seeing some white capping – but it didn’t end up holding us back.
The beaver dams are no harder to pass going upriver versus downriver (or maybe we got lucky with higher water levels from the rain on the way back). Because we headed out so early, we came up onto a large moose on the shores of Tim Lake enjoying the foggy morning rain. The trip overall was breathtaking and so worth the trip it takes to get there.
Coming out of Tim River back into the Access Point, we were happy to touch land again after feeling accomplished having made it this far.
Just as we were about to leave, we found our car with a very flat tire. It sat for three nights and lost all its air. We believe the drive to the Access Point (the 30 minutes down the windy logging road) left us with a huge spike in the tire and needing a tire replacement. After a swap, we were rolling out on a donut spare. It was probably a fluke, a one-off accident, but drive carefully on your way in.
Expect Beaver Dams: This route is rated easy-moderate. As noted above, the water levels of the river change throughout the year. There are beaver dams that may be exposed along the river that just require a quick hop out of, onto the sticks of the dam, and right back into the canoe – wearing waterproof footwear is recommended. We passed 4 or 5 dams and were able to slide the canoe over the last of the bunch without getting out.
The 120m portage is a short, quick trek but does have a slightly steep path down to the canoe launch on the other side. It provides a good rest point.
Tim River has quite sharp turns snaking back and forth, through narrow and very tall grassy banks. (It was my very first ever time in a canoe, and I would say some steering experience would have done well. By the end of 8 hours, my canoe partner and I were swearing and frustrated. The way back was much smoother.)
Bring a Map: Having the map on hand (with a proper compass) while canoeing can be a lifesaver. Familiarizing yourself with your route ahead of time can only help you once you’re out there and solely dependent on the map.
The trip overall went well. If I was an avid canoer I would have done better on the way in, and out. But, being my first time in a canoe and my first backcountry camping trip ever, it was exhilarating. I can’t wait to book another trip this summer season. This ignited my backcountry spark!
Raina Friedmann is from Southern Ontario and loves nature but had always lived in the city. This was her first backcountry camping trip, taken with her boyfriend and friends. Here’s to the beginning of many more to come! Raina enjoys photography – on any outdoor adventure she can be found behind the group taking pictures of anything and everything that catches her eye.
Very nice trip report! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Jamie! I’m glad you liked it!!