We were all excited about returning to Massasauga Provincial Park. However, when it was time to book the trip, we remembered just how popular this park is, compared to other parks. It took a long time and many adjustments to finalize our trip. Coordinating the trip to avoid portages on the weekend proved more challenging than usual. Some of the sites we wanted were available for one night, however, we prefer to book two to four nights at a site, so we had to keep looking. The final trip was not the trip we had intended, but we were able to book two weeks that worked.
This year we also had to accept that things do change. Our group of five has paddled together for the last 20 years, however, this year it was not to be; this year one couple wasn’t able to go. So we became a group of three. We decided to go ahead with the trip even though we knew that it would be an adjustment for everyone, especially for the two staying home. I was sure we could manage, until I realized I would be the only female on the trip – even our trusty dog is male – oh well – it will be a new experience.
We started the trip on a Monday, but still found the launch and portage to be surprisingly busy with people and dogs – not nearly as busy as a weekend, but pretty busy none-the-less. We met a family on the portage with a puppy that looked about 10 weeks old. Adorable! The kids were doing a great job taking turns supervising, but all I could think of was a puppy in a tent – I hope they had lots of paper towel with them.
The weather was perfect for paddling in – warm, calm, sunny! We had site 26 booked on Spider Lake for three nights. We had never stayed at this site before, but we had paddled past on many occasions. We knew that it would likely be a high traffic site because it was on a point on route to a narrow part of the lake. To access the sites and portages at the far end of the lake people need to pass right past site 26. However, in our travels, we had always thought this site looked inviting. Also, it is always good to try out new sites.
What we knew, but didn’t really comprehend, was that this site faces north, so it does not get a lot of sun. The sun only hits the shoreline, so we spent a lot of time sitting at the very edge of the lake. The shade at this site would make it a perfect hot weather site. The weather was nice, but not hot; we would have liked a bit more sunshine.
One of the nice things about this site is the range of flat options for tents; in fact it was the best sleeping I had the entire trip. The site is very open, which I like. At the back of the site there is a rock cliff. You can follow the shore along the cliff to the north past the KYBO. On the west side of the site, you will find a path that leads up the end of the cliff to a wide open area with large trees, a great view of the site and plenty of firewood.
When the sun comes through the trees at the back of the site in the morning, the green is amazing.
This site is on a point so you can see the sunrise and the sunset. We had read that it was a great site for star gazing – and it was. Luckily there wasn’t much of a moon to block out the stars, but the sky was bright because the site faced Perry Sound. The light pollution makes it harder to see the stars.
The swimming was pretty good off the point, although it was a ‘walk-in’ swimming site.
Even though we did have people paddling past during the day, it wasn’t very busy and there were no other sites visible, so it was actually a pretty private site.
One day we went for a paddle up the bay towards the 645 meter portage into Clear Lake. We had never paddled to the far end of this bay before. It was a very pretty paddle, with a lovely creek at the end. There is nothing better than the sound of the water flowing in a creek. There were many Cardinal flowers! We floated there for a while just enjoying the sound and the beauty. On the way back we stopped at a rock for a swim, there was a ledge, but it was not well used so the rocks were slimy and the water was a bit smelly.
It was on site 26 that we remembered our dog’s fear of fishing – something that developed the previous year. The sound of someone casting sent him into a spin. Really what is so scary about fishing? By the end of the trip he was getting better.
We had nice weather for our entire stay on site 26. The day we were moving on to Clear Lake the forecast was calling for rain in the afternoon, so we packed up in the morning and left for the very short trip into Clear Lake via Frog Pond.
The day before we saw a group of 13 people paddling past our site. On the way to Clear Lake we paddled past site 28 where they had set up camp. We were glad to be camped far away from that site, it was very active! We met a few people on the portage, but it was pretty quiet. We met one couple who had left a water bottle at the last portage and were heading back. What a drag that would be.
We had Site 34 on Clear Lake booked for four nights. For some reason I always have a hard time finding Site 34 from the canoe. It must be the islands that cause the disorientation. I also find ‘gray’ days make everything seem flat, so it is hard to get a sense of the shoreline. We actually had to get out the GPS. We hadn’t been to this site in a while and found it looking a bit tired. In fact all of the juniper bushes on the lake looked dead or dying. The previous summer had been hot and dry and this summer had been very wet, so perhaps they were just stressed.
Site 34 is the site we called ‘The Snake Site’ because of the large water snakes, however we only saw one on this trip. Not sure what happened, we hope they have just moved up the bay. I would hate to think something bad happened to them.
We arrived and got busy putting the tents up, then the tarp because it had already started to sprinkle. It rained a bit off and on for the rest of the day. The last time we arrived at this site we had rain too, the difference, this time, it was warmer. A warm day makes the rain much easier to manage.
It was raining enough that we decided not to have a campfire. We had gathered wood, but just put it under a tarp. We went to bed early to read, but one person in our group decided to sit up at the picnic table to read. Well, the sky opened up and there was a downpour of epic proportions. We were in the tent wondering if he was getting wet and whether he would ever make it to his tent. Apparently, when the rain finally did let up enough for him to get to his tent, there was a mini lake in the space between our tents.
We had two more dark days with rain off and on. We were able to move around, read, relax and swim, but things were getting very damp, especially the wood. We used tinfoil as a “wall” to protect the fire from the wind and rain. We also put tinfoil on the grill to keep the rain off the fire. We even dried the wood on the grill; my brother-in-law’s ingenious idea. Note, if you use this method, you need to be careful that the wood on the top doesn’t catch fire.
Finally, the sun came out and we had a full day of sun before it was time to pack up and move on. It is funny how some sites get logged in memory as “a rain site” and for me it is site 17 and site 34 in Massasauga Provincial Park. The wind was strong so it still seemed cool, but the sun was warm. So nice just to have a bright day.
Site 34 is a very private site, even though you can see people on the island, they are pretty far away. However, we had people sitting in boats next to the site – all day – popular fishing spot I guess. However, we found that the fishing was not as good as in previous years, perhaps it was the weather.
Unfortunately, the people on the island had a chainsaw. Ever since we had campsite ‘neighbours’ who cut down live trees, we tend to worry about the trees, however, the chainsaw only ran a short time each day – so it must have just been for firewood. It seems to me that it would be a lot easier to use a hand saw then to carry a chainsaw on a portage, but I guess not everyone agrees.
We saw the rangers in the distance one day. We later learned that they had been called to deal with a hornets nest on a site. I don’t envy that job.
We heard a big splash early one morning and wondered if it was a moose, there are trails down to the water back near the KYBO and the bay is very marshy, so it is possible. We are sure it was too big a splash for a beaver!
The high winds continued most of the time we were on this site. It was very windy the last time we were here too. I guess being on a point near Georgian Bay would have something to do with that. It kept the bugs down though so we were grateful, having given a bit of a blood donation at the last site.
Because the summer had been so wet there were the most unique mushrooms on all the sites on this trip. The one’s on this site were the most interesting. The white mushrooms almost seemed to glow in the dark. There were also giant brown mushrooms behind the KYBO.
Site 34 has a lot of nice features. A beach landing, a swimming ledge, the sunsets, the relatively flat tent sites, the wide open area, the pine trees, the firewood, the view on three sides of the point, and, the privacy.
The day we were leaving, the sun was shining. The forecast on our weather apps predicted a 5% chance of rain. We packed up and left the site just before noon. As soon as we were in the canoe we heard this rumble. Was that a plane? Nope, we saw black clouds off in the distance, it was thunder. As we paddled the short distance from the site to the portage the thunder got louder and the sky in front of us darker. We were paddling right into the storm. We were all nervous, but it wasn’t raining and it looked like it could get worse so we didn’t want to wait. We paddled past some boy scouts and figured if the boy scouts were on the water, we were safe – right? There was still 13 seconds between the lightening and thunder, so we pressed on. As we turned the corner to paddle toward the portage the sun came out. It was beautiful. No rain at all, we were very lucky.
When we did the portage into Frog Pond we were greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes. I honestly don’t think I have ever had so many mosquitoes on my arms and legs before. Because this had been such a wet year there was a bumper crop of mosquitoes. I got out the bug spray, something I don’t use often, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Because of the challenge booking this trip, we were just heading to a site minutes from the portage. It was a very short paddle and portage day. We had four days booked on site 29 back on Spider Lake. We had never stayed on this site before, although we had paddled past it for years. From the water it looks like a very large and open site. It also gets a good review. So we were all looking forward to exploring this new site even though the forecast was not looking good.
As I mentioned, it always takes me a while to adjust to a new site, however, I never really warmed up to this site. It may have just been that it wasn’t what I was expecting and we had just been to two nice, big, open sites. This site had a nice rock area along the shore but it was steep so the “livable” space was small. There were lots of tent site options, but there was a lot of undergrowth and the tent area was set back from the water. Again we were facing north, so we had to huddle near the shore to get the sunshine, although, as it would turn out, there wasn’t a lot of sunshine to miss.
When we arrived we found wood left by previous campers, which is always nice. We try to do that too. They also left us a note on birch bark. When we saw the note we thought perhaps it was a bear warning, but luckily it was telling us to boil water because they saw a beaver. How cute is that? I guess people still drink unfiltered and unboiled lake water.
We got the tarp up quickly because the rain was to start that night. The ropes created quite an adventure, because they had to run across the entire site to reach the trees. We had to hang things on the ropes just to make sure people didn’t walk into them.
There was a great spot for taking the canoes out at the south end of the site. We found a really good little “launch” rock for swimming, just to the north of the main rock area. There is also a swimming area at the far north end, but it is not as easy getting in and out.
One of the most amazing experiences on this site, was the loon family that came right up next to the site. We got to watch the mom feeding the two young ones, something we had never seen before.
We also heard wolves howling at night which was very cool. We sat at the campfire one night listening to wolves for a very long time at dusk. There was bear ‘poop’ just past the KYBO but we did not see a bear – thank goodness. We saw a few snakes and a giant spider as well.
One afternoon we also heard a helicopter close to our site and assumed someone had been injured. It was later confirmed that a kid fell out of a tree and was hurt, but they were OK – good news. I hate hearing the helicopter. We were told that the number one injury while camping results from people falling out of trees.
There is a large, beautiful white pine just past the KYBO. Then there is a weird grassy area at the base of a rock hill. Just past the rock hill we found a path and trail markers, but it just leads to a swamp. Good firewood back there though.
Our dog has been helping us find firewood for years. He knows exactly what type of wood we collect, and has now started to drag the ‘right’ wood out himself. He leaves it on the path for us to pick up. My brother-in-law was quite impressed.
One of the drawbacks to this site is its close proximity to site 28. However, site 29 does not get a lot of boat traffic because people travelling to the portages are usually on the far side of the inlet. There were people on site 28 our first night. They were up very late and we could hear them talking until at least 3. It was a family that included a few teenagers. It was so nice listening to them having fun together. Strangely, they were gone before we were up, apparently the huge storm in the forecast got them paddling early. Perhaps they didn’t even go to sleep at all because they must have packed up at some point.
Site 29 was empty the next two nights, but on our final night we saw people arriving. Soon after they arrived we heard the chainsaw. It was the people who had been on the island. We heard them talking into the early morning hours as well so I guess they needed a chainsaw to cut enough wood for their all night campfire.
On the first morning we had a thunderstorm. I was in the middle of eating a delicious breakfast when it became clear that I needed to get to the tent. The water was running off the rocks and under the picnic table and the dog was under the picnic table getting very muddy. Not to mention he is afraid of storms and was starting to look a bit frightened. So I shoved one more bite in, grabbed my coffee and ran to the tent with the dog, just as a bright flash of lightening hit and the sky opened up. Very bad timing. Then I proceeded to spill coffee in the vestibule. You should never eat in the tent because it will attract bears, but I was hoping coffee in the vestibule would be OK because I really needed my coffee to help me warm up and wake up. The storms ended mid morning but it rained off and on all day. That night it cleared so we were grateful that we had wood under a tarp. We were able to have a nice fire.
We got to enjoy some sunshine the next day. The wind was very strong all day. Our resident fisherman even had a bit of luck. We had read that this site was great for fishing. He didn’t have a lot of success, but there was enough for dinner.
I warmed up slightly to this site, but I am not driven to return.
We were very fortunate that all of our ‘move days’ were rain free – thunder and lightening but no rain. We packed up again in the sunshine and decided to have a long leisurely paddle to our last site, ‘the beach’. We paddled, explored, fished and checked out a couple sites for future visits to the park. It was such a nice day.
As we were approaching site 5, I woke up the dog to tell him we were almost there. He sat up, looked at the beach and started shaking with excitement. Apparently he remembered Site 5 from a previous trip. He has a very good memory and I guess he likes the beach the best. Turns out, so did we.
Finally, we had a site facing west, and nice weather, which meant we had sun all day, starting mid-morning. Lots of wind, but with the warm sunshine that was just fine. No bugs! We measured the beach and found that it is about 420 feet. It really is an amazing site, an amazing park and we are so lucky to have such great provincial parks.
The tent pads are near the water, which means they are flat, however, it is very steep behind the tent area and we could see where people had tried to divert the water coming down the hill. This likely happened during the big storms we had experienced the past week and a half. We were very lucky to be on this site in sunshine, not even a sprinkle. This is one of the sites where, in my mind, it never rains. I just can’t imagine what it would be like in the rain, I am sure there would be water running through vestibules.
We didn’t put up a tarp because the forecast was great. We did however get our hammocks up pretty quickly. Lots of great hammock sites right along the beach. At the top of the very steep hill behind the site you can find lots of firewood.
It was sad seeing how many trees in the park have been damaged by people trying to cut them down for firewood. So much deadwood can be found on all the sites by walking a little ways into the forest. I am not sure why anyone would try to cut a live tree, unless it is just lack of knowledge or desire to damage. There is a very large tree right at site 5 that someone tried to cut down. They cut all around the tree which killed the tree. Now it is just dangerous. We also noticed that many birch trees in the park had the bark peeled off as high as you can reach – likely used to start fires. Please remember to pack fire starters. I have said for years that people need information when they register for a back-country trip – a few tips like if you cut a live tree it will not burn.
The swimming at this site is very good if you don’t mind walking in. It is just nice to walk in the water on sand. We also found a lot of great spots to sit and read along the beach.
This site is very private, there are no other sites close. However, there is a portage just past the site to the north. We had a very large group of canoes paddle up to our site the first night we were there. They stopped to ask us if we could tell them where the portage to Canoe Lake was located. It was dusk so they would be doing the portage in the dark and then trying to find their site in the dark. I wish I was that brave. They were all so happy, I would not be that happy in that situation. It was a good thing that the group was large. We saw them leaving two days later so I guess they made it safe and sound.
There is a great rock wall just to the north of the site and people use it for a lunch and swim spot, but other than that, we didn’t see anyone other than the rangers. The rangers stopped to check our permit, which was the first time they stopped at our site in the entire trip; very unusual. At this park we are usually visited often by the rangers.
We survived the trip as 3 + a dog. We had some fun and did some relaxing. It was not the same and we hope to have our friends back next year. Looking forward to another adventure together.
Rating: Very easy trip. Not a lot of portaging. Several of the sites are very close together.
Lakes: Spider Lake Site 26, Clear Lake Site 34, Spider Lake Site 29 and Spider Site 5.