Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bon Echo Provincial Park

We spent the last week and a bit at Bon Echo Provincial Park.  This was our first trip to Bon Echo, despite several years of trying to get in.  The park is quite large, with over 500 campsites, but only 132 electrical sites.  The park has a healthy population of both chipmunks, deer and mosquitos.

The weather couldn't have been better.  Sunny and dry, except for a humid day near the end of the week, with only a 30 second sprinkle of rain all week long.  The water at the main beach and the Joeperry Lake beach was warm enough to jump right in.  The beaches are nice and sandy, although the main campground beach is quite small.  The water slopes gently, which was a bit of a surprise considering the lake is almost 500 feet deep.  There are notices of swimmer's itch posted, but we showered at the beach comfort station right after swimming, and didn't have any problems.

Biking around the park is quite easy, as the main road is paved and mostly split into two separate one-way roads.  There are trails through the woods down to the beach, visitor centre and amphitheatre as well.  The campground areas themselves are fairly hilly, which is fun on the downhill but a workout on the uphill.

We arrived on the Monday of the Canada Day long weekend, and there were still some lingering yahoos in the park, so Monday night and Tuesday morning were really loud.  The park definitely attracts a different crowd during the week, though.  Tuesday through Thursday were quiet at night - quiet enough to hear an owl hooting.

One of the highlights of the park is the Mazinaw Rock.  The cliff is 1.5 kilometres long, and 100 metres high.  The sunset on the cliff face was a nice colour in the evening.  There are over 260 native pictographs on the cliff, and they're easy to spot from a canoe.  The exact age of the pictographs is not known, but it's estimated they're anywhere from 300-1000 years old.  I asked the seven-year-old if she could imaging canoeing over to the cliff and drawing something on it, probably getting yelled at by mom and dad for writing on the walls, and 1000 years later another kid is looking at it, trying to figure out what it means.  She was impressed.

We didn't do too much hiking, but we did head to the cliff top trail, for a great view over the park and lake.

Despite the park's main feature being a massive lake, we actually did quite a bit of canoeing.  Of course we paddled over to see the pictographs, but we also did the 21km Kishkebus canoe tour.  The tour travels through three lakes and a couple of small rivers, and includes a 1.5km portage around the North end of the Mazinaw Rock.  The park staff recommend doing it North to South, with the portage at the start.  We went the other way, though, to keep the wind at our backs down the length of the big lake.  The portage wasn't too bad at the end of the trip, except for the mosquito I swallowed.  Handy tip - keep a child handy under the canoe as you carry it, to swat the bugs away.

The kids were not too excited to do the portage...

We drove down to the group camping area on Bon Echo Lake and canoed around the perimeter of the lake.  Along the way we startled a couple of deer on the shoreline.

We also headed out to Joeperry Lake for a couple of day trips. There is a large island in the middle of the lake, but the water on the East side was too low to get through. The West side is weedy, but passable through to Pearson Lake, where we ran into snapping turtles and more deer. The parking lot at Joeperry Lake is a 500m walk from the water, but after the 1.5km portage it seemed pretty easy.

More photos here:


  1. Cool. We're heading back to Bon Echo in August, I felt like we didn't explore it enough last year. Next 1.5 weeks, Presqu'ile!

  2. Presqu'ile is nice - not as rustic as Bon Echo, but excellent biking.

    Also, the Hercs from Trenton buzz quite low over the beach at regular intervals.

  3. Holy crap do they ever! That and Brighton has "up to 65 trains a day" (that's in their tourist brochure) each of which blow their horns for 20 minute stretches.....

    The park has its charm, but I ain't going back!

  4. John Redmond2:10 p.m.

    Presquile is my favourite provincial park. Love the Hercs and C141s going overhead, and never found the train noise to be a factor. Last year we watched the Gryphons do practice search and rescue missions over the lake at night. What a sight.

    Love Bon Echo as well, but the area we were in was a bit overgrown since the last time I was there.