Join the Conversation! Follow Me Here....

A Day On Algonquin Park's Hailstorm Creek

Did you know that a canoeing venture into Algonquin Park's backcountry can be done as a day trip?

Back country bliss. This was the Algonquin Park we were seeking on a day trip paddling Hailstorm Creek.
We've been to Algonquin Provincial Park a bunch of times, with each visit giving us a different glimpse into this amazing parcel of Ontario nature. For the most part, we stick to campgrounds and trails located along the Highway 60 corridor.  But recently we decided to do something a little different that would give us a small taste of what the park has to offer off the beaten track.  We booked a water taxi through Algonquin Outfitters to drop us off (and pick us up) at the mouth of Hailstorm Creek, so we could spend a day paddling in the Algonquin back country.  Hailstorm Creek is located at the North arm of Opeongo Lake, and offers canoeists and kayakers an easy five hour paddle on a secluded creek.

Spoiler alert: we had a great time and would definitely recommend this day trip to families with kids and paddlers looking for quiet, calm waters.

Our day started early, with the water taxi booked for a 7 am departure. We left our Canisbay Lake campsite just after six am, and drove along the highway in fog that was pea-soup thick. Our eyes peered through the fog looking for moose to appear in front of us and hoped that the sun would hurry up and bring us clear views.

Once we arrived at Algonquin Outfitters, the sun was bright, the fog had moved out and we were excited to start our paddle adventure.  Our driver loaded our canoe and daypacks onto the boat and off we went, thrilled to relax with this bit of luxury.  The taxi is pricey, but it is worth the money spent. Opeongo Lake is the largest in Algonquin, and just paddling from Algonquin Outfitters to the mouth of Hailstorm Creek would take a full day.

Getting ready to go on the Algonquin Outfitter Taxi. 
 As we zipped along Opeongo and passed fishermen and women who clearly woke up way earlier than us, we discovered the fog we experienced on the drive to the lake hadn't disappeared. It just moved.... To the North arm of Opeongo. Our driver slowed to a snail pace and Alex loaned him our GPS unit to navigate his way through the fog. Our worry this time wasn't about moose. Instead we worried about hitting other boats on the lake. And islands. The trip should have taken us 15 or 20 minutes, but turned into a 45 minute tour.  Our driver was as calm as the still waters he was navigating and we felt like we really were going on an epic adventure. 

Our trip to the drop-off point was slowed by unbelievable fog. This little island was a waypoint for our driver. When he saw this island, he knew exactly where we were and where we needed to go.
Happily, the fog lifted again as we approached the mouth of Hailstorm Creek. The taxi driver will try to drop you off at a campsite near the creek, but if the sites are occupied they land on a small beach. We were dropped on the sandbar - a tiny little beach with just enough room for the three of us and our canoe. As we got ourselves organized, we discovered we were sharing the space with a few frogs, a tadpole that was just a few days from becoming full frog and one huge leech. These were a few firsts for all of us. We'd never jumped off a boat onto a sandbar and then been left to fend for ourselves. We'd never seen a tadpole that far along in its transformation. And we'd never, ever seen a leech. As we loaded our canoe I squashed the desire to start talking like a pirate, or start using reality TV show cliches. And the leech was a good motivator for us to get our feet out of the sandy water and into our canoe!

Our drop off point.

We were hoping to spot at least one of Algonquin's famous, big game residents -  deer, or a moose, a bear or a wolf  - while we steadily worked our way along the creek. We even hoped we might see beaver or otters. But we didn't. Not one single mammal showed a whisker on our tour.  Although the evidence that beavers were in the neighbourhood was plentiful. We saw several dams as we paddled. As a side-note, Algonquin Outfitters offers a guided trip along Hailstorm Creek.  Randy from Algonquin Outfitters told me that he has guided trips where people would have completely missed seeing a moose if he hadn't pointed it out. (I really hope that there isn't some moose laughing at us in the backcountry because we decided to go without a guide.)

What we did see was a lot of birds. And we came upon a surprising number of turtles, who were all hanging-out together soaking up an incredibly warm May sun. (Interesting factoid: a group of turtles is called a "bale". I decided to look that up for this story, and then decided not to use it. But I felt compelled to share the info. So, now you know, too. Impress your friends with it at the pub.)

Before we left for Algonquin, I was given the advice to "stop at the hill" for a break.  That was it. Stop at the hill. The directions seemed a little vague at the time. But sure enough, after a couple of hours of paddling we came to a large hill that was perfect for landing the canoe, stretching our legs, eating our lunch and tossing our fishing lines in the water.  If you are planning on doing this trip, take note of this advice...  There is really only one hill along the route. And this hill is the only place that is easy to land and get out of your craft for a stretch.

While we cast our fishing lines for about an hour, we didn't have any luck. Not even a single nibble. Alex is convinced that all the stories he's heard of catching beautiful back country fish in Algonquin are just that - big fish tales.

During our trip along Hailstorm Creek, we only encountered a silent kayaker and one other small family in a canoe. Both of these paddlers passed us while we enjoyed our break on "the hill". The rest of the time, we truly experienced how it feels to be completely alone in Algonquin's backcountry. With cool, calm water and a big, blue sky, paddling Hailstorm provided a day of peace and quiet and a little taste of what lies beyond the Hwy 60 corridor.