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Ultimate Guide to the Best Canoe Routes in Temagami

For a trip of a lifetime, try a fly-in canoe trip. • Credit: Ontario Tourism
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Ultimate Guide to the Best Canoe Routes in Temagami

Everything you need to know to paddle in a northern paradise

Insider info to plan your next adventure. Start dreaming now.

Discovering the wilderness of Temagami inspired my passion for wilderness canoeing. At first, the sheer number of paddling options was overwhelming: the country seems purpose-built for canoe tripping, with countless lakes, rivers and creeks linked together by ancient portages. Soon feelings of intimidation morphed into an addiction.

Distant view of 2 canoes on a lake surrounded by large pine trees
Enjoy incredible backcountry canoe and camping trips in the Temagami region. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Temagami canoe routes are close enough to be easy to access (a reasonable five-hour drive from Ottawa or the Greater Toronto Area), yet far enough away to escape the crowds of near-north canoe destinations like Killarney and Algonquin provincial parks. There’s a certain magic that comes with paddling here: dipping your paddle, walking the portages and making camp places you in a historical continuum, creating intimate bonds over space and time in a wild landscape where people have been journeying by canoe for thousands of years.

Whether you're looking for a Temagami canoe route for beginners and first timers, or the fly-in canoe trip of a lifetime, we’ve got recommendations for you. Plus: Don’t miss our top picks for the best old growth hiking trails to explore on your Temagami canoe trip below.

Two people paddling a red canoe.
Canoe outfitters make canoe tripping easy and affordable. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Temagami canoe rentals 

Temagami Outfitting Company offers lightweight canoe rentals, vehicle shuttles, complete outfitting and trip planning services, as well as all-inclusive guided trips for all levels of paddlers.

11 Lakeshore Dr.
Temagami, ON P0H 2H0
(416) 835-0963

Woman presenting delicious pancakes on a platter.
Enjoy delicious meals and great lodging at Smoothwater before and after your canoe trip. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge is one of Temagami’s original canoe outfitters based just north of the town of Temagami on Highway 11. Besides a variety of lodging options and great meals—a luxurious way to start and end your wilderness canoe trip—Smoothwater offers rentals, vehicle shuttles and complete canoe trip outfitting with top-notch gear.

34 Smoothwater Rd.
Temagami, ON P0H 2H0
(705) 868-6464

Float plane parked on beach with a red canoe beside it.
A fly-in canoe trip is a must-do adventure. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Lakeland Airways is your best bet for Temagami fly-in canoe trips. The air base is located on the waterfront in the town of Temagami and services the area’s best wilderness lakes. Canoe rentals are also available.

25 Lakeshore Dr.
Temagami, ON P0H 2H0
(705) 569-3455

Tent and canoe on smooth rocky point at sunset.
Guided trips make it easy to camp and paddle in the Temagami wilderness. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Guided canoe trips in Temagami 

Temagami Outfitting Company offers scheduled and custom guided trips to a variety of destinations, for all ages and levels of outdoor enthusiasts.

11 Lakeshore Dr.
Temagami, ON P0H 2H0
(416) 835-0963

Wanapitei Canoe is one of Canada’s original ecotourism outfitters, with roots in Temagami. All-inclusive paddling trips include visits to Temagami’s iconic old-growth pine.

338 Caves Rd.
Douro-Dummer, ON K0L 3A0
(705) 652-3199

View of waterfalls from deck of Cabin Falls ecolodge.
View from the deck at Cabin Falls Ecolodge. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Cabin Falls Ecolodge, owned and operated by Hap and Andrea Wilson, offers authentic wilderness experiences deep within Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. It is only accessible by floatplane and/or canoe.  

(705) 732-8254  

Temagami road access points for canoeing 

Central Lake Temagami Access Road 

This 18-kilometre-long gravel road serves as the main access for residents of Bear Island First Nation and Lake Temagami cottagers, so expect plenty of traffic. Turn west off of Highway 11, just south of the town of Temagami. There are two large public launches and a private marina. Free parking is available.

Iceland Lake 

A pull-off on the south side of the Central Lake Temagami Access Road, about five kilometres from Highway 11 provides free parking for canoeists setting off on Iceland Lake.

Temagami, Highway 11 

There are multiple options for launching a canoe in the town of Temagami, and paddling east (Snake Island Lake) or west (Lake Temagami). Arrange parking with Temagami Outfitting Company or Lakeland Airways.

This Ontario Park offers drive-in campsites, a comfort station with showers and a quiet launch site on Lake Temagami, located off of Highway 11 only a few kilometres south of the town of Temagami.

Red Squirrel Road 

Turn west off of Highway 11 about 10 kilometres north of Temagami. This gravel road runs 29 kilometres to Red Squirrel Lake (free parking is available) and 35 kilometres to Camp Wanapitei at Sandy Inlet. Driving conditions vary, beware of logging trucks.

Anima Nipissing Lake 

A good, 10-kilometre-long gravel road leads west from Highway 11 just south of the village of Latchford. There is plenty of free parking and a public launch.

two men sitting on ground at a campsite
Find your perfect backcountry campsite. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Canoe Trip Reservations in Temagami 

Six Ontario Parks in the Temagami area require permits for overnight camping for all visitors:

Study your route carefully to determine where permits are required (camping is free for Canadian residents on Crown land and conservation reserves) or work with a local outfitter. Permits are available from local outfitters, at the Finlayson Point Provincial Park Gatehouse, or through Ontario Parks’ online reservation system. For more information on how to obtain your permit online, click here.

Note: Non-residents must purchase camping permits from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for overnight trips on Crown land and conservation reserves.

Temagami canoe routes maps 

Canadian topographical maps are available from Temagami Outfitting Company, Smoothwater Outfitters and from the Ontario Parks gift store at Finlayson Point Provincial Park. The same locations also distribute canoe-tripping specific maps for the entire Temagami region from Chrismar Maps. Hap Wilson’s Temagami: A Wilderness Paradise is a trip-planning staple. Finally, check out Friends of Temagami for outstanding local knowledge. The organization has produced an overview map and a detailed map highlighting the classic Diamond, Wakimika and Obabika lakes loop.

Solo canoeist paddling on beautiful lake.
Whether you are going solo or in a group, there's a route right for you. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Best Temagami canoe routes 

There are countless Temagami canoe route options for all levels of paddlers. Many routes blend into one another, making it possible to create longer trips with more variation in terrain. Ottertooth is a great online resource for DIY trip planning or consult a local outfitter like Smoothwater Outfitters or the Temagami Outfitting Company.

Portage sign on a tree
Temagami contains 2,400km network of portages and waterways. Click to book your permit online. Photo: Conor Mihell

Best canoe trips in Temagami for beginners 

Obabika Loop 

The 100-kilometre canoe route including Lake Temagami, Diamond, Wakimika and Obabika lakes is a classic, providing novice to intermediate canoe trippers with an excellent introduction to the region. There are four portages, all under 900 metres, and great day hiking options at the north end of Obabika Lake to experience Temagami’s towering old-growth pine. Beginners should plan on at least five days to complete the circuit starting and ending at the Central Lake Temagami Access Road. A week will give you more time to enjoy. Wind delays are possible since most paddling is on larger, exposed lakes. Ontario Parks camping permits are required for Diamond, Wakimika and parts of Obabika lakes.

Looking up at old growth pine trees.
Hikers can explore canoe-access old-growth Red and White Pine stands, which are hundreds of years old and untouched by logging. Photo: Conor Mihell

Cassels Lake Loop 

This 30-kilometre weekend canoe route is accessed from the town of Temagami, making for easy logistics—yet it’s often overlooked by canoe trippers. Leave your vehicle at the Temagami Outfitting Company and portage 675 metres to Snake Island Lake. Head east from there, into Cassells Lake and south to Rabbit Lake before making two short portages to Sunrise Lake. Another couple of carries completes the loop back to Cassels. Be sure to make a side trip to Blueberry Lake for its pristine campsites and old-growth hiking trails. Camping permits are not required for Canadian residents.

Man portaging a red canoe
Archaeological evidence of the area’s rich Indigenous heritage dates back 6,000 years, and canoeists will travel on ancient portages, also called nastawgan. Photo: Conor Mihell.

Iceland, Driftwood and Wasaksina Lakes 

This is a great choice for an introduction to portaging and wilderness canoe tripping, with many options for weekend to weeklong routes. Access Iceland Lake from the Central Lake Temagami Access Road; there’s good parking at the five-kilometre mark. From there you’ll trace intimate, pine-cloaked channels and two short portages to arrive at the island-pocked waters of Wasaksina Lake—a great place to set up base camp. For more ambitious and experienced paddlers it’s possible to portage from Wasaksina to Cross Lake or make a series of portages through smaller, secluded bodies of water to reach Lake Temagami’s Shiningwood Arm. Temagami Outfitting Company can assist with vehicle shuttles for one-way trips.

Fish being filleted on a paddle.
Be sure to bring your fishing rod so you can catch your dinner. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Best wilderness canoe trips in Temagami 

Lake Temagami to Anima Nipissing Loop 

Anima Nipissing Lake sees a fraction of the canoe traffic of Lake Temagami and that’s a shame because its deep, clear waters serve as a hub for a wide range of canoe routes. You can launch at Anima Nipissing Lake (a gravel access road leaves Highway 11 just south of Latchford); Red Squirrel Road (another gravel road accessed from Highway 11); or the Central Lake Temagami Access Road. A challenging portage route heads west from Anima Nipissing through Harris and Shallow lakes, arriving at the scenic wilderness waters of Eagle and Turner lakes (the latter is a possible fly-in destination). Head south from there, following smaller bodies of water and several portages to Aston Lake and the North Arm of Lake Temagami. Check out Smoothwater Outfitters for complete trip outfitting, including shuttles and accommodations before and after your trip.

Temagami River 

The Temagami River offers some of Ontario’s best whitewater canoeing for intermediate to advanced paddlers, runnable all season long. You’ll need to organize a vehicle shuttle with Temagami Outfitting Company to complete the one-way, 80-kilometre downriver trip from Lake Temagami to the village of River Valley. Plan on five days to a week and anticipate class I to III whitewater rapids, some portaging and calm interludes to catch your breath on pristine lakes.

Man standing on edge of a lake at sunset
Temagami boasts an incredible diversity of landscapes, from island-speckled lakes, to meandering rivers, bedrock uplands and expansive wetlands, as well as towering stands of old growth pine and rocky cliffs. Photo: Conor Mihell

Obabika-Nasmith Loop 

The best way to find solitude in the Temagami wilderness is to explore smaller, more intimate waterways like the Obabika River and Nasmith Creek. Starting at the Central Lake Temagami Access Road, head west to Obabika Inlet portage to Obabika Lake. Access the winding Obabika River near the lake’s north end. Heading downstream, watch carefully for the portage route through old-growth pine forests to Lahay Lake and Nasmith Creek. You’ll journey upstream on the smooth-flowing Nasmith, navigating obstacles like beaver dams and portaging around a scenic cascade. After a day or two on the Nasmith portage east, making a series of rugged carries to Wakimika Lake. From there you have the option of returning to Lake Temagami via Obabika, Diamond or Bob lakes. The latter offers more portaging challenges and great solitude, linking to Lake Temagami’s Sharp Rock Inlet. Backcountry permits from Ontario Parks are required for a portion of this weeklong route.

Float plane with canoe strapped on pontoon.
It's a trip of a lifetime. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Temagami fly-in canoe trips 

If you’re tight on time and looking for a unique experience, accessing Temagami canoe country by floatplane can save you the hardship and weather-related uncertainties of setting off from the usual road-access launch sites on Lake Temagami. Wakimika Lake, Diamond Lake and Turner Lake are popular spots to start fly-in trips, giving you easy access to many of the canoe routes described above and a unique perspective on the region. Contact Lakeland Airways (Temagami, ON, 705-569-3455) to start your wilderness canoe adventure with a flight in an iconic deHavilland Beaver floatplane. Canoe rentals are also available.

A 20 minute floatplane ride from Temagami takes you into Katherine Lake, where you will be greeted by Hap and Andrea Wilson. From there you are personally guided by canoe downriver to the unique Cabin Falls Ecolodge, a small lodge nestled in the ancient forest atop a 30 foot waterfall. Spend your days canoeing and hiking in wild Temagami.

Kayaking routes in Temagami 

Lake Temagami is one of Canada’s most intriguing bodies of water, speckled with countless islands and hundreds of kilometres of undeveloped shoreline. Those attributes lend perfectly to kayak touring: You could easily spend a week exploring Lake Temagami’s deep bays, experiencing a sea kayak destination that rivals the Great Lakes. More options abound if you’re willing to make a few short portages to Diamond and Lady Evelyn lakes. Sea kayak rentals are available from the Temagami Outfitting Company.

Sightseeing opportunities in Temagami 

You don’t need to paddle deep into the wilderness to experience some of Northern Ontario’s finest old-growth forests. You’ll encounter towering white pine while hiking the White Bear Forest trails, located in the town of Temagami. For sightseeing you can’t beat the panoptic view from the historic Temagami fire tower. Perhaps the ultimate experience is to book a sightseeing flight with Lakeland Airways for a bird’s eye view of the Temagami wilderness.

Accommodations in Temagami 

Finlayson Point Provincial Park boasts a family-friendly campground with great access to Lake Temagami. For a more luxurious experience check out Temagami Shores Inn and Resort (866-866-7733), Ojibway Family Lodge (705-840-3792), Lake Obabika Lodge (416-548-6129), or Smoothwater Outfitters and Lodge (705-868-6464).

Temagami’s Old Growth Pine by Canoe: 7 places to behold giants 

Part of the lure of canoeing in Temagami’s backcountry is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the ancient forest that once cloaked all of Northern Ontario. White pine is Ontario’s provincial tree and some of the best old-growth can still be found in Temagami. Here are some of my favourite places to stand amongst the giants.

Looking up at ancient white pines
Feel the power of the ancient pines. Photo: Ontario Tourism

Temagami Island Old Growth 

A series of short loop trails on the north end of Temagami Island provides easy access to tall pines, located a short one-kilometre paddle west of the Central Lake Temagami Road access point. You’ll recognize white pine for its thick, rough bark and wispy needles in clusters of five.

Temagami’s Wakimika Triangle

One of Ontario’s most contentious stands of old-growth white- and red pine was the site of the province’s largest act of civil disobedience during a 1989 blockade. Today, the Wakimika Triangle is protected in Obabika River Provincial Park. From the trailhead at the north end of Obabika Lake you can easily spend a day hiking through giant trees and experiencing Indigenous spiritual sites on Chee-skon (Spirit) Lake.

Lahay Lake Old Growth Forest in Temagami

This hard to reach pocket of old-white pine is worth the journey by canoe, located on the portage route between Obabika River and Nasmith Creek. 

Blueberry Lake near Temagami

East of the town of Temagami, the Blueberry Lake Trails are the wilder sibling of the popular White Bear Forest trails. It’s a half-day paddle to reach the trails via Cassels Lake. Backcountry camping is available.

Island Bay on Lake Temagami

Most paddlers overlook the labyrinthine inlets at the south end of Lake Temagami. Island Bay in particular features granite cliffs and huge white pine, quiet backcountry camping and a secluded portage route to Peninsula Lake.

Eagle Lake

Rugged portages bar the way to Eagle Lake, located west of Anima Nipissing Lake. Your reward for a tough, multi-day canoe journey is access to a stunning forest of pure red pine, identified by its smooth, warm-coloured bark and two-needle clusters.

Anima Nipissing Lake

Island campsites on this vast, clearwater lake offer quiet places to pitch a tent beneath towering pine trees.

Plan your Temagami Canoeing Trip Now

Temagami offers incredible canoe routes for beginners to experienced trippers plus fabulous fly-in canoe trips options. Start planning your trip now. 

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