Paddling in Quetico | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Quetico Photo: Kevin Callan

Planning a canoe trip in one of the world’s largest protected areas.

This article originally appeared in Canoeroots and Family Camping magazine.

Summer 2009 marked 100 years since the inception of one of the canoeing world’s largest protected areas. When Quetico became an Ontario forest reserve in 1909 and then a provincial park in 1913, a paddler’s paradise was born.

It’s a place you can exercise your eyes on cascading waterfalls, reflective tannin lakes and stands of old-growth forest; spend calm evenings lying on a rock listening to loons call; pick marble-sized wild blueberries for morning pancakes;

This “island” area was first protected in 1909. It’s not really a true island. The Hunter Island area is a chunk of land and lakes that split the two historically significant fur-trade routes, Kaministiquia and Grand Portage. The route is chock-full of history and has far more water to paddle than trails to portage. And with Quetico being a border park, you can get to it either at the north end from Atikokan, Ontario, or from Ely, Minnesota and through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the south.

The 200-kilometre circuit takes 12 to 14 days to complete, though it’s possible to slice and dice the circuit to leave you with different trips of five or seven days. If you are in a hurry, have a go at the annual Hunter Island Canoe Race and try to break the speed re- cord. The current record, set in 1994, is just under 29 hours.

But you’re best not to rush the trip. Hunter Island has too many natural and historic treasures along the way. Paddling this route you will pass: the place where Bill Mason starred in his first film, a portion of David Thompson’s survey route of Canada, the route of the militia heading to engage Louis Riel during the Red River Rebellion, the place where the infamous John Tanner was shot, a portion of pioneering conservationist Aldo Leopold’s favorite canoe trip, significant native pictograph sites and Warrior Hill, where young Ojibway braves raced to the top to test their worth as warriors.

For reservations in Quetico call 1-888- ONT-PARK. If you are coming from the United States you don’t need to camp in the BWCA, but you’ll need a Remote Border Crossing Permit from  

For more information:

Quetico Provincial Park
(807) 597-2735
Friends of Quetico
Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Friends of Quetico: 
W.A. Fisher Maps:
 • McKenzie Maps: 
Etopo digital maps:
Voyageur Wilderness Programme
Atikokan, Ontario, (807) 597-2450
Canoe Canada outfitters
Atikokan, Ontario (807) 597-6418
Piragis Northwoods Company
Ely, Minnesota 1-800-223-6565 
See Michelle from the Voyageur Wilderness Programme, a local outfitter, speak with Rapid Media TV at Canoecopia 2013 below. 

This article appeared in Canoeroots & Family Camping, Spring 2009. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.

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