Trip report: Fall Canoe Trip Along the Tim River to Rosebary Lake at Algonquin Provincial Park
This canoe trip was to be my first starting at the Tim River access point on Algonquin Provincial Park’s West side, chosen in part for the many accounts of moose sightings by what seemed like everyone and their brother! Would we join the legions of people saying that the Tim River is where to go to spot the mighty animals?
Shortcut to the full slideshow: click on one picture, then on the little “i” and you will be able to read the picture descriptions.
Day 1: Tim River Access Point to Rosebary Lake (15.9 km)
My friend Cheryl and I arrived at the Kearney permit office around 11:15 AM on a Thursday in late October to discover the door locked, and a sign telling us that the office was staffed on weekends only. The sign re-directed us to the West Gate to buy a backcountry permit for “winter camping”. Apparently that sign foreshadowed our trip… There was a phone number for the park, so we decided to call to confirm that we needed to backtrack to Highway 60. The phone rang and rang and rang some more, but when a woman picked up and said that we could actually pay for our backcountry permit by phone, we were relieved! She gave us our permit number and we hand wrote a permit to leave on the dash of our vehicle. Outside the building, a helpful park staff member approached us and offered to open the office and help us, but we let him know that we’d just paid for our permit by phone. He must have been driving past and seen the canoe on the van. Very thoughtful of him.
We jumped back in our vehicle and headed for the Tim River access point, which involved driving through Kearney to the Forestry Tower Road, and then turning left at the split (right goes to the Magnetawan Lake access point, where I did a first mother-daughter canoe trip in September with my 12 year old). The road was well signed until the very end, when a sign confused us and we didn’t know if we should go left, or down a very steep hill straight ahead. We chose the latter and made the right choice. We arrived at the access point to find not a single vehicle in the parking lot.
Having recently taken a Navigation 101 course through Don’t Get Lost, I wanted to use this trip to practice my navigation skills rather than rely on my battery-powered GPS unit. By 1 PM we were ready to push off the dock!
With the temperature near 10 degrees Celsius, no wind but cloudy skies, the conditions were fairly good. We did wonder when the rain would start to fall, given the weekend forecast of rain Thursday and Friday, grey skies Saturday and some sun on Sunday. Within the first few minutes of the trip, we spotted a beaver on top of its lodge, but it saw us and slipped into the water. The Tim River winds back and forth, some sections requiring very tight turns and much cooperation between paddlers. We also had to navigate multiple beaver dams, at least one necessitating the removal of our canoe packs from the boat so that we could lift the boat over the dam. The water was cool on our feet.
The fall peak colours were past, so the scenery was a mix of green and yellow, with the odd tiny bit of red remaining. We really enjoyed paddling down the river – exploring small, narrow, marshy bodies of water is my favourite kind of paddling. We paddled through Tim Lake, and portaged the 120 m (around a dam) back onto the Tim River. We kept our eyes open for moose, but saw none. We didn’t hear anything in the woods either. Eventually we reached Rosebary Lake, and did quite the circle around it trying to find the perfect site. We did end up with a great one, though I’m fairly certain it was the windiest one on the lake! It was 5:30 PM by the time we pulled up to our site.
Cheryl set up the tent while I put up 2 tarps over the bench by the fire, so that at least we would have somewhere dry to sit if and when the rain came. We found a tree for the bear bag and threw a rope over a very high limb. By the time we were all set up, it was time to cook our dinner of pasta Alfredo with veggies. We prepared all of our meals at home ourselves, dehydrating most of it in our Excalibur 9-tray dehydrators. See full menu below.
We were surprised to be bitten by some kind of insect at our campsite – they weren’t mosquitos, but they were definitely annoying! After dinner was done, we washed the dishes and hit the tent for the night! In getting water to do the dishes, Cheryl spotted more of the bullfrog tadpoles – they were in the water right at the shore. We were too tired to gather wood and have a fire, but we did boil water on our MSR Dragonfly stove to bring hot 1 L Nalgene bottles into our sleeping bags for the night! That night we heard an owl very close by that we couldn’t identify. We were quite comfortable in the tent, me in my winter bag and Cheryl in her fall one with a fleece liner.
Day 2: Exploration further East on the Tim River (6.6 km)
On our first morning on Rosebary Lake, we decided to explore the Tim River East of where we were. So, after breakfast we packed what we would need for a day paddle, including our morning snack, lunch, water, map and compass, emergency beacon, first aid kit, and extra clothing layers, and off we went toward Longbow Lake, which we could access from Rosebary without a portage. We did have to do a 230 m portage from Longbow Lake to the Tim River, but it was an easy one. It was a windy day, but we didn’t notice the wind in this section of the river, a part of the river that features frequent sharp turns. We had to lift over several beaver dams, and portage at one spot over a massive fallen tree. It’s here that we ate our lunch, with me wrapping my feet in my rain pants and a sweater to keep them warm. It was a pretty section of the river that we paddled, but we didn’t see any wildlife – at all! Before we got too cold, we decided to head back to our campsite. Just standing around made us cold (between 5-10 C according to a little MEC thermometer that I recently purchased – not sure how accurate it is). So, we had our afternoon snack with hot chocolate, and then we headed into the forest to gather wood for our evening campfire. In doing so I also spotted cool types of fungi, and I took pictures as I went.
Hiking up hill and breaking branches had me heating up and needing to shed layers!
Later we adjusted the tarps over the bench to block the wind better. After dinner we enjoyed a campfire, and only melted 2 small holes into my tarp! It was worth it for the heat the fire provided! That night it was too windy to hear anything outside our tent, even if an owl had been nearby. Once again we enjoyed our hot water bottles at night!
Day 3: Bushwhacking towards Longbow Lake (2 km) and moose searching toward Longbow Lake (2 km)
Before getting up in the morning, we could hear rain hitting the tent. Sigh. Cold, windy and rainy is not a great combination for a canoe trip! However, I eventually forced myself to get up, only to discover that it was actually SNOWING! Yes. My thermometer read -2 C.
We cooked our hot breakfast and ate it away from our campsite – in the woods – to get away from the whipping wind. Afterwards, we decided to go for a hike towards Longbow Lake, where there was a marshy area that we thought might be prime moose territory. Because my hiking boots fell apart in the spring when I hiked the entire La Cloche Silhouette trail, I returned them to MEC for full credit (manufacturing flaw) and since then have been hiking with hiking shoes that are not waterproof. I decided to put my feet into ziploc bags to at least keep them dry. Our hike was slow going, as we were bushwhacking the entire time, but the point was to explore (and keep warm!), and since we weren’t in a rush, we didn’t mind the slow pace! We achieved most of our objectives, so it was all good. The only thing we didn’t see was a moose! When we got back to the campsite, my feet were cold. Turns out they were sweating in the plastic bags and got damp. We collected more wood, and then decided to hide from the cold wind in our tent, where I put on warm socks and eventually fell asleep – clearly napping was the way to warm my chilly toes! We also read, and I studied my orienteering maps! We might have been happy to stay in the tent until the next morning, because the wind actually seemed to be picking up! However, we had to cook our dinner – or starve. We ate delicious egg/bacon/veggie wraps, while debating whether we should have a fire.
It was so windy that we weren’t sure it would be safe – or worth it. To get any heat from the fire, it would have to be fairly big or we’d have to be fairly close to it, but the crazy wind meant that embers would be flying all over the place. We scrapped the plan for the fire, and instead were in our sleeping bags with hot water bottles before 7 PM! It was pitch dark. We couldn’t believe that the wind hadn’t let up in 2 days, and that it seemed to be getting stronger. We also hadn’t had sun for longer than a few seconds at a time! Two nights in a row there was a pretty but very short sunset in a very small patch of sky.
In the night, the wind continued to howl and the tent flapped. We wondered what the paddling conditions would be like in the morning for our trek back to the access point. Despite the cold conditions, we were cozy in our sleeping bags (with our hot water bottles!).
Day 4: Rosebary Lake to Tim River Access Point (14.6 km)
Given that we went to bed so early the night before, we were up early on our last morning. After breakfast we finished packing up, and were on the water at 9:25 AM. There were blue skies and real sun for the first time in 3 days! Predictably, we had to paddle into the wind as we crossed Rosebary Lake to the Tim River. In fact, the entire paddle back to the van felt like we were in a wind tunnel. Surely we’d be protected in the twisty turny river sections, we thought. Nope. We worked hard to keep the boat from going off course.
We were both dreading the moment when we would have to get our feet wet to cross the beaver dams. Our fingers were frozen (despite wearing Neoprene paddling gloves) and our toes in our sandals and socks were also cold. The first beaver dam we were able to handle without getting our feet wet, but the second was not so easy. We checked both sides of the river, just in case one was better than the other and offered a way to keep our feet dry. Nope. There was quite a height difference between the water we were in (low) and the water we were going into (high). Not only did we have to get our feet wet, but we had to stand in the cold water while we removed our 2 canoe packs, put them on the ground/stick pile and lift the boat up, then replace the canoe packs. By the time we got into the boat our feet were freezing! We dried them with a towel, and put on not 1 but 2 pairs of socks. As we paddled I tried to keep moving my feet to get blood flowing into them again. They were so cold and felt miserable!!
As we approached the portage around the dam, I heard what I thought was someone saying “Andrew”. We hadn’t seen a soul since we left the Kearney park office, and I thought that if we saw anyone on our way out, it would be Camper Christina (“Exploring and blogging about it in hope of inspiring others.”), who told me that she planned on doing a day paddle to the Tim River in her kayak that day. However, I figured with the crappy weather, she wouldn’t go. But we turned the corner, and as we got closer, I saw that it was her (and it turns out she yelled “Woohoo!” when she spotted my yellow canoe, not “Andrew!”). This would be our first time meeting, though we’ve been in touch through social media for a while. It was nice to have the opportunity to meet her in person! After chatting briefly, we were on our way again – she was heading the way we had come.
At Tim Lake we were passing an island campsite when I noticed that the campfire was smoking and no one was there. So we pulled over, I took our bailer and doused the fire. We had a quick snack then continued on our way, back through the winding Tim River. We were not too far from the parking lot when I noticed something dark brown up on the hill – something that didn’t look like trees. A moose! Yes! We quickly realized that there were actually 2 of them, and they were making their way down to the shore. So we paddled a tiny bit closer, stopping with vegetation beside us to hold our place (the wind was pushing us into the plants). Cheryl was in the stern and she had to correct our position slightly as we sat and watched the moose. I took lots of pictures on my camera, but given that we were still quite far away, they aren’t as close up as I’d like.
After watching for 10 or 15 minutes, we decided to move a tiny bit forward so I could get less obstructed pictures, but mamma moose didn’t like that, and they left. It turns out we were less than 500 m from the van! We travelled nearly 41 km in order to see moose just metres from the van. We worked hard for those moose, in particular on that last day! Later, Cheryl said that she thought she had heard something in the woods before we spotted the moose – apparently she had.
We arrived at the parking lot just before 3 PM – a full 5 1/2 hours after leaving our campsite. The wind definitely slowed us down!! We weren’t there for too long when Camper Christina arrived, so we chatted a bit more.
Cheryl and I loaded everything back into the van, the canoe on top, and headed for Huntsville and a hot drink at Tim’s! The drive home was much longer than it needed to be because of an accident, but by 8:30 PM or so, I was home!
We had a good trip, but the weather could have been better. At the same time, it could have been rainy, and that would have sucked!
I look forward to going back to the Tim River earlier in the year. It is a beautiful spot.
Menu for our 4-day trip: