For paddling enthusiasts, Quetico Provincial Park is almost too good to be true. Stretching across 460,000 hectares in northwest Ontario just north of the Minnesota border, Quetico is equally suited for a month-long canoe expedition as it is for a weekend on the water. With more than 2,000 lakes to explore, you’d have trouble tackling the entire park in the course of your lifetime, but it’s fun to try anyway.
Get (Way) Out There
The beauty of Quetico is that there is no set path that you need to take. Drop your canoe at one of six entry points and, from there, choose your own adventure.
Some lakes are busier than others, but if you’re willing to make a few short portages, odds are good you’ll pass several days without seeing another soul. Now that’s solitude.
Wild, Wild Northwestern Ontario
A true wilderness park, don’t expect to be coddled at Quetico. Campsites aren’t indicated on maps, nor are there signs pointing the way on the land. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for easy landings that lead to clearings in the bush, which would be your campsites.
There are no bivys or metal fire pits, though many campsites feature primitive fireplaces made out of rocks. No need to make reservations ahead of time; just paddle up to one of 2,000 campsites hidden in the park and stake your claim. Once you’ve had a little practice, you’ll have no problem locating them.
Fish Your Heart Out
Pick up a license and bring your gear, as Quetico Provincial Park is home to some excellent fishing. Play your cards right and you could have different fish for dinner just about every single night (walleye, pike, lake trout, the list goes on). The park only permits barbless hooks and artificial bait, so come prepared.
Peace and Quiet
Motorboats aren’t allowed in Quetico Provincial Park, so don’t worry about waking up to the obnoxious purr of a Sea-Doo. Another great bonus of being a motor-free zone: the water is pristine. Don’t be surprised if you see a local dipping a cup in the lake and drinking straight out of it.
Watch for Moose
Keep your eyes on the shoreline, and you may be rewarded with a moose sighting. Moose prefer marshy areas, and your odds of seeing them are best around dusk and dawn, which makes the perfect excuse to get moving in the morning. Watch out for other wildlife, too, such as black bears, bald eagles and wolves.
What to Bring
Regardless of how long you’re planning on staying in the park, you need to pick a permit from a ranger office. Invest in a good map, too, and make sure it indicates the locations of the portages; they aren’t marked on the land.
There are numerous regulations in place that help keep Quetico in its spectacular natural state. Your group can’t exceed 9 people, and most cans and bottles are forbidden. Familiarize yourself with the rules and do your part to keep Quetico wild. Pack it in, pack it out, goes without saying.
If you’re traveling to Quetico, consider renting your gear instead of lugging it with you. Local outfitters like Camp Quetico or Quetico North can provide you with everything you need. You can also book a local guide to show you the ropes; they know everything from the best campsites to the least muddy portages, to the prime location to catch a huge lake trout. It’s a worthy investment, especially if it’s your first time in the park.