September to October
Unfortunately, the coming of fall means that the summer is over, and with it the warm weather. The further into fall, the colder it becomes. Even when it’s moderately warm during the day, it will still be cold at night. Depending on where you go, late October can even see a few flurries here and there, so check the weather and prepare appropriately.
Contrary to what you might expect, fall can be a little more popular once hunting season starts if you’re planning on going anywhere that activity is allowed. Personally, I consider hunting season to be a mild con in and of itself. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather not be wandering in the wilderness while people are out there shooting at things wandering the wilderness.
Fall has the lowest water levels of the year, so by this point you must make sure the rivers are traversable.
Late June to August
This time of year is clearly the most popular. Vacation season has started which means everyone is heading up north. Even if they’re not canoeing, they’re clogging up the roadways making getting up there slow. This means reservations are absolutely necessary this time of year, campsites will be harder to find, and portages will be clogged up and slow. Not to sound like a snob, but this is also the time of year for the… well let’s just call them less-than-hardcore canoeists, which can cause some problems. They can be loud and disrespectful. You’ll see the most litter and trashed sites this time of year. If you want to avoid the onslaught of people, try to avoid the particularly popular times like the long weekends and of course the last-chance-for-vacation week just before the kids go back to school.
Black flies might be gone by July, but that just brings the mosquitoes – in droves. Also, the heat will peak the weeks before and into August, so if you’re not a fan of excessive heat avoid this period. Finally, check the water levels towards the end of summer as some areas might not be as accessible.
April to Mid June
Spring has the highest water levels of the year which means water runs faster causing, at best, exhaustive currents to paddle against and rapids to portage around that may only exist in the spring. At worst, high water can mean very fast moving water, making the canoe ride difficult to maneuver and less forgiving. That means swamping is more likely and much more dangerous. The first reason for all the water is the melted snow, which also means the water’s still pretty cold. Secondly, it’s the time of year when it rains the most. I have no real evidence of this, but I find that the spring is when weather is at its most unpredictable so spring trips must include rain gear no matter what the weather man says. With all that water, means mud and swampy areas that will dry later in the season. The biggest problem though, is that this is the worst time of year for bugs.
Let’s face it, Spring is the first time you can get out after the rivers thaw. After waiting all winter, spring’s most compelling attribute is that you don’t have to wait any longer. You can’t really beat that, and this alone may trump all other times of year, and any hardships that come in spring. One definite advantages of spring high water levels is that some areas not accessible the rest of the year are fair game. There are also areas that would normally require a portage to get around have enough water to paddle through or at least line around. Excessive heat usually isn’t a factor as it can be pretty mild. Finally, this isn’t the most popular season because it hasn’t warmed up yet and the vacation season hasn’t started, but you won’t exactly be alone out there either. Other people have been waiting all winter to get out there as well, so be careful to make reservations if you’re heading out on that first long weekend.
The Best Time
There is a lake on the east side of Algonquin Park named “Vanishing Pond”. Its name comes from the fact that it has been known to dry up later in the season, making it too shallow to paddle. It apparently disappeared completely in 1973. If you’re intent on going through this area, it might be best to do so in late spring/early summer.
Every season has its own merits and challenges. Some are warmer whereas some are very cold and will change what you need to pack. Water levels differ between them, making some routes better than others. Each has its own level of popularity where finding campsites, making reservations and waiting for portages to clear can be more or less of an issue. And of course, the weather is unique to each season.
So let’s take a look at the different times of year and how they can affect your trip, and discuss the pros and cons of the following three time periods. Generally, there are