Around the Big Bend: Canoeing in Arrowhead Provincial Park

I remember the times when we only went camping on long weekends. I can’t help but wonder how we managed to survive between the trips. Now to get a constant supply of Vitamin N, we plan quick weekend getaways at least every other week throughout the summer.

Camping at Arrowhead Provincial Park

This past weekend, we headed to Arrowhead Provincial Park. We have already been there a few times but we like going back. This park is a little over two hours away from Toronto but has a pretty secluded, remote feel to it. Plus it offers a variety of activities so you never get bored. The only drawback is occasional noise from Highway 11. This time we booked a site close to Stubbs Falls so the sound of the rushing water helped to drown out the road. Close proximity to the waterfalls also meant that we could just stop by any time we wanted. For our younger son, it was a big outdoor playground where he could climb, slide and pretend he was Spiderman.

Stubbs Falls

child climbing  child climbing

child climbing  child running up the rock

kids near the waterfall

For me, it meant endless photographing opportunities.

Stubbs Falls

Stubbs Falls  Stubbs Falls

stubbs falls at arrowhead provincial park   Stubbs Falls

Stubbs Falls  little plant with Stubbs Falls in the backgroud

Canoeing to the Big Bend

In one of my old posts on Random|Pix, I wrote about our failed attempts to paddle to the Big Bend, Arrowhead’s most famous attraction. In previous years, we either left too late or the water level was too low or we couldn’t rent a canoe. So paddling all the way to the Big Bend was our big goal for the weekend. It was supposed to be our first time on the water this year so we were really excited about it and kept our fingers crossed for good weather. Saturday’s sunny skies, bracketed by days of incessant rains, felt like a gift.

Canoeing on Little East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park

The route to the Big Bend starts at Arrowhead Lake, follows the Little East River all the way to the Big East River with a portage around Stubbs Falls, and then it’s all the way up the Big East River till you reach the Bend. It takes about 30 minutes to walk there from the canoe launch but canoeing requires way more time because of the river’s constant twists and turns and a strong current.

I could take you through all the twists and turns but I will use a shorter route and tell you right away: we made it this time and my shoulders still remember every stroke and every loop! After three hours of non-stop paddling (you have no choice but to keep going because the moment you stop the river turns you around and carries back), just as we were contemplating a lunch break, we finally spotted the tall sandy cliffs of the Big Bend.

caneoing on Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park

Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park   Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park
A beautiful sandy beach at the rim of the Bend was our reward. We had our lunch, kids played in the sand and we even took this year’s inaugural swim. The water was cold but after hours of paddling under the sun it felt refreshing.

Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park  Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park

child on the beach  kid on a canoe

Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park  swimming at Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park

The sandy cliffs across the river were dotted with holes and we watched swallows swoosh in and out, probably feeding their young. At one point, a beaver emerged out of the water right next to us.

swallows near sand cliffs  beaver in the water

It took us almost three hours to get back because we retired our paddles and let the river carry us. It was the most peaceful, relaxing experience with the birds singing and the river gently twisting and turning through the woods around sandy curves.

caneoing on Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park

caneoing on Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park  caneoing on Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park

caneoing on Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park

In fact, it was so relaxing that our younger son fell asleep – for old times’ sake (when he was younger, he used to fall asleep in a canoe all the time, check my previous post for photographic proof). When we turned into the Little East River, we came across a common merganser with her ducklings so we just sat there watching them swim around our canoe to the other side.

common merganser with ducklings

common merganser with ducklings  common merganser with ducklings

common merganser with ducklings  common merganser with ducklings

common merganser with ducklings

On Sunday, it was back to cloudy skies (at least the rain waited till we finished packing). We stopped by the Big Bend before heading home. Our tracks from the day before were visible in the sand down below, soon to be washed away by the rain.

Big Bend at Arrowhead Provincial Park

General info:

Arrowhead Provincial Park is located in the heart of Muskoka, close to Huntsville, ON. It boasts private wooded sites and offers a variety of things to do to keep you busy. You can hike or bike one of the park’s trails, paddle on Arrowhead Lake or Little and Big East Rivers, or go swimming on one of the three beaches. And don’t forget to check out Stubbs Falls and the famous Big Bend. The park offers canoe, kayak and bike rentals. To book a site, go to: https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/

10 thoughts on “Around the Big Bend: Canoeing in Arrowhead Provincial Park

  1. Is it possible to get down to big bend without canoeing there? My son is still nervous in a canoe and I don’t think that an hours long trip is a good idea just yet especially as I’ve only canoed 2x in my life! (though the hubby has more experience at it than i do)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can see the Big Bend from a viewing platform but you can’t get down there unless you canoe around. That river isn’t particularly scary since it’s very narrow so you are always close to the shore and it’s not deep. But going against the current requires a lot of work. Maybe that’s something you could do in a few years when both you and your son feel more comfortable. There are other great places for canoeing at Arrowhead, like Arrowhead Lake or even paddling down the Little East River all the way to Stubbs Falls.

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      • thanks! we’ve canoed the river and the falls (those were our first 2 experiences actually) I appreciate your answer and I will look forward to canoeing the route sometime in the future 😀 Arrowhead is a beautiful park and we go here every year. Just booked a trip for this month 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Our Favourite Canoeing Moments | Gone Camping

  3. Pingback: The Best Camping Moments of 2015 | Gone Camping

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