Canadian Canoe Adventures You Don't Want to Miss

Emerald Lake in the Canadian Rockies | © Deb MacFadden / Flickr
Emerald Lake in the Canadian Rockies | © Deb MacFadden / Flickr
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer31 March 2017

Canada is known for its incredible wildlife, rugged coastline, and stunning scenery. One of the best ways to see all of these elements is on a kayaking trip. Check out these 10 incredible canoeing adventures across Canada, which range from half-day to weekly explorations.

Orca Adventure

Imagine waking up every morning, getting in your kayak and canoeing alongside orca whales—this can be your reality in British Columbia. There are many tour companies, including Wilderness Adventures and North Island Kayak, which offer everything from overnight to six-day excursions around Johnstone Strait off Vancouver Island. This locale is where killer whales feed on salmon from mid-July to early September. Other Canadian wildlife that may be spotted include eagles, deer, otters, and seals.

Johnstone Strait, BC, Canada

Quetico Provincial Park

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Located 160 kilometers (99 miles) west of Thunder Bay in rural Ontario, Quetico Provincial Park receives just 10,000 visitors annually. The park is known for its towering rocky cliffs, over 2,000 lakes, forests, and cascading waterfalls. It adjoins the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota and offers an infinite amount of backcountry canoeing opportunities, which makes it a must-visit for canoe enthusiasts. The 10-day Hunter Island Loop is one popular option.

South Nahanni River

Nahanni National Park was the first park to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The South Nahanni River was made famous when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau canoed through its white water in 1970. Parks Canada recommends that kayakers take trips alongside a registered and licensed outfitter. The best time to visit is June to August. Highlights include 42 mammal species, Virginia Falls, canyons, and hot springs.

South Nahanni River, NT, Canada

Kayaking the Nahanni River| © Vadim Gouida / Shutterstock

Kayaking the Nahanni River | © Vadim Gouida / Shutterstock

Bloodvein River

Forest, Park
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Named after its red granite bedrock, Bloodvein River flows west from Woodland Caribou Provincial Park and Atikaki Provincial Park in northwest Ontario. It ends in Lake Winnipeg’s east side and goes through the boreal forest area of the Canadian Shield. A trip along Bloodvein River can take between nine and 15 days. First Nation people have used the river for transport for centuries, so their petroglyphs and imagery can still be seen on the river’s shoreline cliffs.

Canada's Rocky Mountains

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Emerald Lake in the Canadian Rockies
Emerald Lake in the Canadian Rockies | © Deb MacFadden / Flickr
There are various kayaking tours to choose from in the Canadian Rockies—take your pick of pristine, glacial-fed turquoise lakes. Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park, and Lake Louise in Banff National Park are just some lakes that offer canoe rentals within the Canadian Rockies. Banff Canoe Club allows you to step back in time and do a voyageur canoe tour along the Bow River. They also do kayak rentals if you want to go on your own journey.

Rideau Canal

Historical Landmark
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Rideau Canal at Night | © PoYang_博仰 / Flickr
Stretching 202 kilometers (125 miles) from Canada’s capital to Kingston, the Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a perfect place to paddle. If you want to tackle it in its entirety, it’s best to set aside six to 10 days and begin in Kingston. The canal is less crowded on the cusps of summer, such as May/June and September/October. There’s also many access points and campsites along the way. For a half-day adventure, kayak from Ottawa’s Dow Lake to Chateau Laurier.

Desolation Sound

Kayakers have begun to flock to Desolation Sound in recent years. Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park has more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) of shoreline, as well as many islands, bays, and snug coves. It’s also home to the warmest salt water north of Mexico. Although there are many tour companies offering trips, there are also rental shops located in the Powell River and Lund Area, for an independent adventure.

Desolation Sound, Comox-Strathcona I, BC, Canada

The Arctic Tundra

Alex Hall from Canoe Artic Inc. has paddled more miles in the barren lands than anyone else. Let him take you on an arctic canoeing adventure in the Northwest Territories along the Thelon River and other tundra and barren land rivers. His trips range from eight to 12 days. Expect to see a myriad of wildlife, including wolves, bears, muskoxen, moose, and so much more. Prepare to experience one of the most remote locations on the North American continent.

Thelon River, Fort Smith, Unorganised, NT, Canada

French River

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Georgian Bay scenery
Georgian Bay scenery | © Brett Hodnett / Flickr
Ontario’s French River runs 110 kilometers (68 miles) from Lake Nipissing to picturesque Georgian Bay. It’s historically significant in Canada, as it was the first designated Canadian Heritage River. It’s a great canoeing adventure for families and beginner kayakers and is a good idea for a long weekend trip during the summer. Paddle the route used by First Nations, French Explorers, and fur traders.

Bowron Lakes Circuit

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The Bowron Lakes Circuit was named one of the world’s top 10 canoe trips by Outside Magazine. It includes a chain of lakes and rivers in Bowron Lakes Provincial Park. It’s a 116-kilometer (72-mile) trip, and most people begin by going in a clockwise direction from Kibbee Lake. Experts say it’s an easy adventure to do alone, which can take from six to 10 days.

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