Kayaking the Muskoka: from Algonquin Park to Georgian Bay

Not many people can claim they have kayaked across Muskoka, from Algonquin Park to Georgian Bay, but it is a beautiful and entertaining route.

Kayaking across Muskoka can take paddlers from Algonquin Park to Georgian Bay by way of Lake Muskoka and the Muskoka River. The journey would include the Big East River, Fair Lake, Mary Lake and the Moon River. It would be like paddling the length of Prince Edward Island.

There are two towns on this route and a few outfitters but no commercial ventures. Experienced kayakers can easily guide themselves on this little-known adventure. The Muskoka watershed covers an area the size of Prince Edward Island, with an incredible number of small lakes and many small rivers. The big three Muskoka Lakes – Rosseau, Joe and Muskoka — are not small and the Muskoka River, including the North and South Branches which converge in Bracebridge, runs an impressive distance.

Different Muskoka Waterway Flavours

The Big East River meanders through Arrowhead Provincial Park and a landscape that does not look like the Muskoka made famous by painters in the Group of Seven. Arrowhead has a canyon and a lot of sand and a lake full of arrowhead, which is an edible plant, not a weapon. Its meandering river is particularly popular on Canada Day, when it gets clogged with canoes, kayaks and inner tubes, all carrying lilly dippers with coolers filled with lunches and beverages.

The North Branch of the Muskoka River has a huge waterfall called High Falls and big falls near Bracebridge called Wilson’s and Bracebridge. It also has swifts and chutes along the way, plus a natural water slide in Port Sydney, but portage routes around the fast water are well established. The South Branch is wilder and requires the skills of an experienced white-water kayaker.

Side Trip Features Waterfalls

A great side trip for flat-water kayakers follows the South Branch of the Muskoka River up to Muskoka Falls. This trip can be extended to include Bracebridge Falls for a scenic paddle from falls to falls. There are great places to swim at both ends of this route.

The water slide at Port Sydney has danger signs clearly posted, but it attracts many swimmers who ride the slippery rocks from the dam to the whirlpool at the bottom. Danger signs are also posted along Muskoka Falls, but its pools also attract swimmers, depending on the flow of water from the day.

There is a long section of the Muskoka River between Port Sydney and High Falls where the river meanders through forest with just enough curent to carry a canoe or kayak for very long stretches without even paddling. Algonquin Outfittters in Huntsville and Bracebridge can help paddlers with this and other routes. You could canoe from one outfitter to the other.

The Muskoka River

Muskoka Outfitters, in Bracebridge, is in the perfect location for the falls to falls trip and can recommend many other routes as well. Paddling the final stretch of the Muskoka River, from the confluence of the two rivers near Muskoka Outfitters, takes paddlers on flat water to Santa’s Village and Lake Muskoka.

Paddlers have to watch for motorboats and cruise boats on the Muskoka River and Lake Muskoka. The Moon River and the Musquash, which take paddlers from Lake Muskoka to Georgian Bay, cut through a more isolated area, and they are recommended only for kayakers with wilderness experience.