Massasauga Provincial Park

Massasauga Provincial Park, Parry Sound: Address, Phone Number, Massasauga Provincial Park Reviews: 4.5/5

Massasauga Provincial Park
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Canadian_Guy1000
Toronto, Canada3,016 contributions
Couples
The Massasauga Provincial Park has plenty of reservable campsites which are only accessible by water. Some are less than 30 minutes by canoe from the put-in point, others may require several hours of intensive paddling and even a few portages.

Since 2008 I have visited this park 5 times, once I camped on an island (Wreck Island) whose at least one other occupant was an inquisitive black bear. Actually, bears can sometimes be a nuisance and thus it is advisable to hang food on tree branches—otherwise be prepared for smashed coolers, stolen food and even damaged tents. Also there is a relatively good chance to come across the only venomous snake in Ontario, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake—not a very common sight, though, as this species is quite rare and endangered.

We stayed for 3 days on a campsite located on the shore of Blackstone Harbour which was about 20 minutes by canoe from Pete’s Place and then paddled for almost 3 hours north to a campsite at Three Fingers Bay. Both campsites were great, although Three Fingers Bay was a designated mooring area and there were about 10 big yachts which spoiled the pristine view a little. The Moon River Marina, that we visited as well, had a store and an LCBO outlet (i.e., selling beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages). There are two hiking trails relatively close to Blackstone Harbour—the Moon Island Trail (4 km) and the Baker Trail (5.5 km). The latter starts at Calhoun Lodge and meanders around a blue heron rookery and the abandoned Baker pioneer homestead. It is also worth visiting the very picturesque Moon River Falls, less than 2 hours by canoe from the Moon River Marina. While staying at Three Fingers Bay, we paddled to Frying Pan Island, where the famous Henry’s Restaurant is located, and went to a small store which has an LCBO outlet with cold beer!

The whole area is quite scenic, has plenty of islands and bays and offers fairly good fishing. Wreck Island has amazing geological rock formations—the Wreck Island Trail (1.5 km) has a number of interpretive stops that explain the geology of the area. There are some private cottages in the park, cell phones worked pretty well. In the summer, especially on weekends, motorboat traffic can be quite heavy; their wake, especially in narrow channels or passages, may sometimes rock smaller crafts if they are not positioned properly towards the waves. Getting to some areas/campsites requires crossing of open and exposed waters of unpredictable Georgian Bay (which can be very risky or outright impossible to do if it is windy); therefore, it is important to listen to weather forecasts and have appropriate canoeing or kayaking skills—once I was unable to leave Wreck Island for several days due to strong winds and waves.
Written October 2, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Canadian_Guy1000
Toronto, Canada3,016 contributions
Couples
In August, 2013, we spent over one week camping and canoeing in the Massasauga Provincial Park and it was our 5th trip to this amazing park. This is a very popular park and it may be difficult to get campsites, especially over weekends, although more remote campsites, that require many hours of paddling, often over open and unpredictable waters of Georgian Bay, are understandably less in demand. Speedboats can be a problem, some do not pay much attention to canoeists and create relatively high waves—our canoe is very stable, wide and long (17 feet) and was still swamped and some water got inside. There are many cottages, most have electricity (via underground cables) and cell coverage is excellent. Depending on a campsite, it may be a perfect park for novices, who want to experience their taste of interior camping as well as for more advanced canoeists. Yes, if you are lucky, you can encounter the Massasauga Rattlesnake in the park—as well as black bears: several years ago a very pesky bear regularly ‘inspected’ campsites located along the shores of Blackstone Harbour and woe betide the camper who ignored to hang his food on the tree, or worse, left some in the cooler or tent—the bear usually got it—and it did NOT use the door to get into the tent! Yet this year we did not see any bears. There is a store in Moonriver Marina and on Fryingpan Island; both stores have small LCBO outlets (i.e., cold beer, wines and other alcoholic beverages).

BLACKSTONE HARBOUR

Our first campsite was less than 30 minutes from the access point at Pete’s Place, on the south shore of the channel leading to Woods Bay (and to Georgian Bay), so there was plenty of boat traffic. Nevertheless, the boats did not bother us — we could hardly see them — and we even enjoyed sitting on the rock and watching the passing boats and the setting sun. The campsite also looked out on a small island (private, but without any structures), sometimes we swam to the island and relaxed on its rocks. Next day in the evening all of us went for a paddle on Woods Bay, around Georgina and Fritz Islands. The weather was perfect and we could enjoy the wonderful sunset. Once we were back, we had a campfire.

CALHOUN LODGE

We also paddled to Calhoun Lodge and some of us did the Baker Homestead hiking trail, which was quite rigorous, but interesting. In 1939 “Judge” Joseph C. Calhoun, a lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio, purchased 300 acres on the shores of Blackstone Harbour, hired local people and soon built the main lodge and over the years added a number of other buildings. The Calhoun estate was named “Willebejobe” which is a combination of the names of his children, William and Betty Jo, and his wife, Betty Dean. In the 1970s the property was sold and eventually bought by the Government of Ontario and later became part of the Massasauga Park. Most of the buildings still survive in various state of (dis)repair. One of them, the maintenance shed, has a rather gloomy history: On May 24, 1968, Jerome Cassanette, the caretaker, dressed in his best clothes, and with a bottle of the Judge’s finest scotch, went to the maintenance shed, closed the shed door, started the tractor and then lay on the work bench until he succumbed to the fumes. The Judge, arriving from Ohio the next day, discovered his body. It is said that Jerome’s ghost haunts the property even to this day. While I was there alone, taking photos and exploring the buildings, I did not see any ghosts, although I was rather more concerned about encountering a black bear or an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in Ontario. There is a brochure published by the park on the history of Calhoun Lodge and the Baker Homestead. Also one of friends of Joseph Calhoun, who used to spend many a summer at the Lodge, has a very interesting website about Willebejobe.

WRECK ISLAND CAMPSITE

After a few days we canoed to Wreck Island. The weather was awesome and even though we had to paddle on relatively open water, we had no problems with waves or winds. Unfortunately, some motorboats were totally oblivious to our presence and we had to carefully watch for the big rollers they created. At one point three powerful speedboats darted about 100 meters in front of our canoe. In no time they vanished, yet the high waves they had left behind literally swamped our canoe — had not we positioned the canoe perpendicularly to the waves, it would have likely capsized.

We had camped on Wreck Island in 2009 and we still remembered plenty of water snakes inhabiting the island at that time-they were quite ubiquitous, swimming everywhere and sticking their heads from numerous crevices. They were there again-one, very long and thick, was living under a flat rock, most of the time part of his body exposed to the sun. Others either swam or hid in cracks. We felt at home! Yet we did not see any other wildlife—we we kind of missed the lonely, shy black bear that inhabited the island in 2009 and sometimes was observing us from across the small bay!

FRYINGPAN ISLAND & HENRY’S RESTAURANT

We also paddled to the famous Henry’s Restaurant on Frying Pan Island. As our trip required us to be traverse through quite exposed areas, I had made sure that the weather forecast did not call for any rapid weather changes and we were monitoring the sky and cloud patterns. We saw an O.P.P. (Ontario Provincial Police) boat, checking boaters’ safety equipment-one hapless kayaker, who seemingly forgot to bring a life jacket, was turned back by the police. When we arrived at Henry’s, there were plenty of impressive boats, cruisers and sailboats (and one float plane) at the restaurant’s docks, yet we did not see any other canoes — we were the only brave ones! We just had French fries and briefly talked to the restaurant’s owner. Later we headed to the small store on the island. Catherine bought ice cream, I opted for several cans of cold beer and we headed back to Wreck Island. At one point we were almost hit by a fast-moving motorboat — the driver saw us at the last moment and appeared visibly embarrassed and even terrified.

THE WRECK OF THE WAUBUNO

Instead of paddling directly to our campsite on the south shores of the island, I proceeded towards an entrance to a passage between Wreck Island and Bradden Island. There I was paddling back and forth around small rocky islands at the mouth of the passage and constantly scanning the area around the canoe. Catherine had no idea what I was doing or looking for and became quite perplexed by my peculiar behavior, yet I totally ignored her bemusement and kept paddling hither and thither.

“Do you remember the story of the Waubuno?” I asked her.

Considering all the many stories I had been regaling her with, Catherine could not recall this name.

“Well, there is a Historical Plaque in Parry Sound in Waubuno Park, where a sizable anchor is located. So, to make the story short, let me just read you what it says”, I said and pulled out a sheet of paper containing the text.

“This anchor, recovered in 1959, belonged to the steamer "Waubuno", a wooden sidewheeler of some 180 tonnes which was built at Port Robinson in 1865. She carried freight and passengers in the shipping trade which flourished on Lake Huron during the nineteenth century. Commanded by Captain J. Burkett, she sailed from Collingwood on November 22, 1879, bound for Parry Sound. The "Waubuno" encountered a violent gale later that day and sank in Georgian Bay some 32 km south of here. All on board perished, and although some wreckage was later discovered, the bodies of the 24 victims were never found. The specific cause of this disaster has never been determined.”

“Wow, what a terrible disaster!” she exclaimed.

I pointed to something sticking out of the water.

“And you’re now looking at what remains of the hull of the Waubuno!”

Both of us were quietly looking at this old, rusty and decaying object which 134 years ago was part of this well-known ship.

THE WRECK ISLAND HIKING TRAIL

Then we paddled past the campsite to the beginning of the Wreck Island hiking trail. There was one cruiser docked, whose occupants were having a small campfire on shore. The Wreck Island Trail is quite short, but it is absolutely spectacular due to impressive rock formations! I was devouring the amazing and unique scenery and every few seconds took a photo — I could literally feel my camera overheating! I am not a geologist, but let me quote a few passages from “Wreck Island Trail” by Ontario Parks:

“Geologists believe that the rocks in this area have experienced a mid-continental collision beginning some 1.1 billion years ago. Mountain building was followed by millions of years of erosion. Some 450 million years ago a marine sea flooded this area leaving deposits of limestone, yet none of these thick deposits have survived the subsequent erosion on Wreck Island.

Glaciation has also contributed to sculpting the park’s landscape. Continental glaciation finished the job of removing the last traces of soft limestone. The last sheet covered the Wreck Island area approximately 60,000 years ago, however, it was 14,000 years ago that an event far to the north of Hudson Bay would leave a lasting record on the island. A catastrophic release of glacial meltwater occurred, releasing a huge quantity of debris-laden water with “nowhere to go”. Ice still covered this part of Georgian Bay, including Wreck Island, as the water rushed southward. It traveled beneath the ice under tremendous pressure. The water was able to push up the base of the glacier and travel along the ground. The rushing torrents was filled with sharp grit, cobbles and boulders. This torrent attacked the rock surfaces of Wreck Island much like a giant sand blaster, resulting in the erosional processes evident today.”

Percussion Boulders

“Fourteen thousand years ago a catastrophic release of glacial meltwater occurred, releasing a huge quantity of debris-laden water with “nowhere to go”. Ice still covered this part of Georgian Bay, including Wreck Island, as the water rushed southward. It traveled beneath the ice under tremendous pressure.

The water was able to push up the base of the glacier and travel along the ground. The rushing torrent was filled with sharp grit, cobbles and boulders. This torrent attacked the rock surfaces of Wreck Island much like a giant sand blaster, resulting in the erosional processes evident today. The large, black boulders is one of those rocks which were bouncing along under the ice hammering the rock surfaces. These rocks are known as percussion boulders, they were swept along in a high speed sheet of water under tremendous pressure. Geologists think this incredible flow may have been short lived, lasting anywhere from only a number of hours to several days.

We know that these percussion boulders have traveled a long distance; this black boulder looks very different than the bedrock on which it sits. The boulder is gabbro from far north of here and contains green epidote.”

It was a wonderful evening and I took over one hundred photographs with the rock bathed with the setting sun, yet no photograph will convey the exceptional beauty of this area. It was getting dark and we slowly returned to the canoe. We paddled for a while and finally reached our campsite in total darkness.

What can I say… yet another awesome canoeing & camping trip!
Written July 10, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

kerux
Toronto, Canada77 contributions
Couples
Why is it one of Ontario's best parks? Simple: You can't drive to the camp sites.

The Massasauga is a huge park carved out of Georgian Bay cottage country, which has pros and cons. The biggest pro is that all the sites are accessible only by water. If you enjoy canoeing, kayaking, or small-craft sailing this is the park for you. If none of that sounds like it's up your alley, read no further. But you'll be missing out on some of the quietest, most expansive camp sites in southern Ontario. Even the crappiest site I've been to in the Massasauga is better than most sites in more developed parks. The Canadian Shield rolls in and out of the water, creating fantastically Byzantine shorelines and random rocky islands covered in white pine, jack pine, red oaks and maples. It is absolutely incredible.

The cons: As this is in the middle of cottage country there are a lot of cottages that front on to areas of the park. They're all pretty far from the camp sites (so far as I've seen) but it means that there's a fair deal of boat traffic in the south end of the park. The north end is much more isolated, but there is one mandatory portage - it's pretty minor, though. In the north end you'll really only see other canoers and kayakers, and occasionally a park boat will motor by. But, it's the closest thing I've gotten to feeling the isolation of a northern Ontario campground without having to travel that far.

That's it for the cons.

If you're in to sailing a small boat like a laser or a snark, definitely try the south end. There are a few straights where you'll have to row, but otherwise the waters are open enough to sail small craft and there's usually decent wind.

Definitely get a map of the park ahead of time, book well in advance, and consult the internet about better sites. Some are windier than others, but don't forget: More wind = fewer mosquitoes.
Written June 14, 2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

herman k
Caledon, Canada26 contributions
Couples
Sliding downhill, fast. The Massasauga used to be an amazing experience. But over the past 5 years it has been sliding. Last visit there was a potful of kraft dinner dumped in the site. This time there is a broken booze bottle in the water and no-one will come out to see where it is so that it can be cleaned up. Some kid or adult is going to get their foot ripped up. There is also soiled toilet paper im two locations at our site, probably because the staffer who checked the visitors im dis not explain that there is a “thunder box”. No-one gives a damn and in my opinion it is 100% a management issue, ny not training and by not setting standards for these summer workers.
Last visitors here dug a fresh fire pit between 2 pines and burned through the roots of both of them. Disgusting.
Find a different park.
Written July 14, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

deldooks
Niagara Falls, Canada140 contributions
Couples
Brad and I camped for 3 days / 2 nights at Pete's Point Access, spot 523 and 520. We knew it would be a tough paddle to our campsite but had no idea it'd be like this. We were carrying Brad's fishing kayak, 1 canoe, 2 backpacks, 1 tote and 1 small lunch pail.

When we arrived we were told of bear activity at multiple campsites as recent as the night before. The office displayed the campers' coolers that the bear had torn into...they most likely didn't hang it. The girl at the desk didn't know much about the sites we were going to other than it was 5km away. And so we were off...It was 2:00pm (the time you are allowed to p/u your canoe rental).

We paddled with the wind in the canoe, dragging the kayak behind, to the first portage (didn't notice any signage). We portaged over the boulders and did a bit of fishing (nothing). We continued.. assuming that was the main hurdle...hilarious. Just around the bend, the beaver dams began. Eight of them actually. One was about 3 feet high, raising the water level on the other side. Another dam hosts a shipwrecked Ontario Parks boat. It was a little satisfying to see and recall the girl at the desk saying "ohh there's just a few dams, nothing crazy". Well, I definitely couldn't have done it alone.

After the last beaver dam, the water was so shallow we had to walk the kayak/canoe through the water until we just hit rock. At that point, Brad portaged the canoe to the lake...100 meters or 330 feet... and hand bombed the rest of our stuff. Luckily we had brought the wheels for his kayak with us and pushed it across the rocks. We walked the boats about 20ft into the water and finally began paddling again. It sucked. Definitely something we wish we had been prepared for, but it doesn't seem like any of the young girls at the welcome desk have a clue what's really out there, other than what they're told.

Little Blackstone Lake was very calm, and we were able to paddle to 523 in good time. Again, signage was terrible. We guessed based on the map Brad had on his phone. The sign was actually on a tree behind a bunch of others, facing the other end of the lake. It took us 5 hours to get to our spot (including fishing time). I want to say it was worth it...because 523 is pretty damn amazing.

523 is the furthest spot to paddle to. With no neighbours in sight and a perfect view of the moon, it's the best campsite around. There's a great landing for your canoe and plenty of spots to put down a tent. The boulders around the edge of the site were great for fishing off of and hanging out with a cup of coffee. Inland, there are many trees providing shade and protection from the wind. We set up our tent on the opposite side of the path to be away from the food and wind. It got pretty cold at night and we grew restless as there was a lot of animal activity. We heard a lot of rustling, twigs breaking and what seemed like footsteps. Brad got out of the tent twice to check for bears. We're guessing it was probably the same annoying mouse that was scurrying around during the day. We saw herons, tadpoles, frogs and loons! The loons were talking to each other all day!

The next day, we packed up and headed to 520 for 2:00pm. We were the only people on the lake; no other campers. 520 had more boulders and the shore was easily accessible. The sign was in a good spot; viewable from the lake. There was quite a bit of wind hitting our spot since it was more open than 523. We kept our tent near the picnic table here since the only other choice was to go further into the woods or on the boulders. Oddly enough, we weren't as cold at night and had a great sleep! No rustling animals. Just mosquitoes...blood thirsty, gluttonous mosquitoes.
We went fishing in the canoe along the shoreline at sunset; I'm pretty sure there was a small patch of sandy beach to the right of our site. A turtle hissed at me from the water while I was drying off on the rocks. Definitely wouldn't want to get nipped by that guy. This was basically our recovery day. The portage in destroyed our shoulders/arms; and Brad is used to kayaking for several hours...

The next morning we started packing up at 7:30am, had a granola bar and peaced the f outta there. The canoe had to be returned by 2:00pm and we wanted plenty of time to rest throughout the portage. We paddled against the wind on Little Blackstone Lake. There is a small portage sign on a tree to the right of the creek. The water level seemed much lower than when we arrived, which meant even more carrying. The first part of this portage you can either go over the pebbles/rocks through water, or go around on an uphill path through the trees and possible poison ivy. We stuck to the water.
We crushed the portage on the way back in 2 hours. Preparation goes a long way. This time, we were in separate boats and linked ourselves together with a bungee cord when we went across the lakes.

Overall decent trip. I probably won't do it again. Neither of us could have done it alone. The haul sucked. It literally sucked all the energy out of us. If we had known there were no fish in the lake we would have left the kayak behind which would've made the portage a bit easier.

THINGS TO PACK:
- Water Shoes with a good sole! You'll be walking across many slippery rocks and zebra mussels. (Zebra mussels are an invasive species. They line the bottom of the creek and Little Blackstone Lake. You do not want to get sliced by one of these!)
- Quick drying clothes, especially bottoms. I'm 5'0" so some of the water we had to walk through was at my knees.
- Balaclava or Buff; the bugs are relentless af. Black flies and mosquitoes swarmed my head 24/7...so much so, I could still hear the buzzing in my ears when I tried to sleep at night. Bug spray didn't do anything. I sprayed my legs and that's the only spot I'm covered in bites.
- Backup food; We brought 3 bags of dehydrated food, clif bars and trail mix. The wind can turn on a dime and make it a bit difficult to get a fire...even with our Whisperlite we were trying to make a barricade to boil water.
- Sunscreen; goes without saying really...
- Water! We brought 8L and drank it to the last drop. We officially ran out of water at the last portage.
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More about that... I asked a girl at the welcome desk for some water, tap water, anything. Apparently they don't have any taps on site... I couldn't tell if she was serious or just denying me water. We could have boiled the lake water once we got to the car, but considering the amount of time it'd take to do that versus find a grocery store, it wasn't worth it. We packed up our car and stopped at a Foodland (with 3 convenience stores surrounding it...) on the way to the 400.
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Overall, it was nice being the only people on the lake. We went Tues-Thurs. Brad is going to research other parts of the park to see if it's worth returning for some fishing adventures. I'd rather go somewhere new. Peace out Massasauga.
Written July 22, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Canadian_Guy1000
Toronto, Canada3,016 contributions
Couples
In June/July, 2016 we spent almost 2 weeks camping along Blackstone Harbour. The weather was almost perfect—very hot & dry, mostly sunny and even though the fire ban was in effect in the Parry Sound area, the park still allowed campfires. Unfortunately, our final 2 days we had two days of storms and we had to pack up and paddle in the pouring rain, but since it was still very warm, we did not complain much—after all, the area certainly needed rain. Perhaps because of the lack of rain, mosquitoes were not very bad at all—usually they appeared around 9 pm and disappeared one hour later.

The park office was closed when we arrived at Pete’s Place, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a self-serve registration & fee station. Since we had booked the campsite several months ago, our names already appeared on the list. We paid the remaining camping fee and proceeded to the put-in area. When our canoe was packed and we were ready to paddle to our campsite, a sizable water snake suddenly slithered from the rock above and jumped into the water, missing our canoe by a hair’s breadth; we almost ended up with an unexpected (and unwelcomed) guest!

We noticed that the water level was the highest in many years. Indeed, most of rocks that we used to walk on in the past now were under the water, as well as we noticed plenty of discolored and seemingly dying evergreen trees along the shores of the bay. Upon a closer examination, we realized that lower part of their trunks (and, of course, their roots) were submerged, which probably was causing them to slowly die—after all, they were not tolerant of growing in water.

After camping for 10 days on one campsite, we moved to another one, also on Blackstone Harbour. Both our campsites were quite nice and we quickly got accustomed to passing motorboats (noisy!) and lack of privacy, yet it was something we had expected—after all, it was my seventh visit in this park. Every day we saw many packed canoes and kayaks; some were heading towards Georgian Bay, others back to Pete’s Place.

There were plenty of water snakes along the shores of the campsite, they were often attracted to our walking or swimming. One morning I found a tiny red-bellied snake in the tent’s vestibule. There was also a beaver lodge nearby and once I spotted a snake sun-tanning there, but when it saw me, it fled with an astonishing speed and I was not even able to take a good look to identify it. Every day we saw a number of beavers swimming around the tip of peninsula our campsite was located on, from one beaver lodge to the other. They must have been quite active at night, as we often heard loud slapping the water with their broad tails. From time to time a majestic blue heron landed nearby, waded for some time trying to catch fish and later flew off. In the evening and at night we were often serenaded by loons and frogs. In the morning we were awaken by a pileated woodpecker doggedly pecking at nearby trees. A few chipmunks ran here and there, but they did not seek any interaction with us—unlike at some other parks, where it was next to impossible to get rid of the company of those sociable critters! We also had a resident seagull who hung around the fire pit looking for leftover tidbits—fruitlessly, I might add. And there was also an American Bullfrog, the largest frog in North America, patiently waiting in the shallow water for any prey. As I later found out, they have voracious, indiscriminate appetite and will eat virtually any animal they can swallow, including insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and even other bullfrogs.

I spent considerable time observing spider wasps, which were relentlessly digging holes in sandy soil. Later they dragged a spider (which they had paralyzed with a venomous stinger) to the nest. The unlucky spider was to become a host for feeding their larvae—the wasp would lay an egg on the abdomen of the spider and would close the nest. When the wasp larva hatches, it begins to feed on the still-living spider. After devouring the spider’s edible parts, the larva makes a silk cocoon and pupates. Interestingly, some wasps spent a lot of time burrowing potential nests in sandy soil, but suddenly changed their mind and ended up dragging a paralyzed spider for many meters on the ground and finally climbed up a tree where, I presume, they created the proper nest.

We enjoyed paddling on Blackstone Harbour, especially at night. One day we paddled to Pete’s Place and drove to Parry Sound (and caught sight of a medium-size black bear running across Healey Lake Road). An evening storm, accompanied with lighting, thunders and pouring rain, significantly delayed us from canoeing back to the campsite and for over one hour we sat in the car, waiting for the storm to pass. When it did, it became exceptionally calm and quiet, as though the storm had been just a bad dream. At 10:30 pm, in total darkness, we began heading to the campsite. There was no wind and nobody else was on the water; from time to time we saw distant lighting in the sky, but did not hear any thunders. It was a magical feeling! When we finally approached the shore, I was able to try out my new flashlight, which provided ample illumination at a fraction of its maximum output of 1,000 lumens.

The evening before Canada Day we canoed to Moon River Marina for a few supplies. Catherine was surprised to discover that the store and the LCBO outlet had just closed at 6 pm (somehow I anticipated that). She did manage to talk the sales person into a quick beer sale. On our way back we spotted a building with a lit neon sign ‘OPEN’; it was West View Resort—indeed, the small store carried cream which Catherine was desperately craving for her morning coffee. The resort owner, a very chatty gentleman, happened to sit in front of the store and we started talking to him. I noticed a book called “My Life on the Moon River” by Peter (Pete) Grisdale (who passed away in 2014, aged 94 years). I immediately pointed this out to Catherine, saying that the author used to have a house in the location where the parks office & parking lot were now located—“Pete’s Place Access Point” was named after him.

“This was my brother”, the owner said.

Wow! Indeed, his name was George Grisdale (and the resort was located on Grisdale’s Road!) and he briefly talked about his late brother. When I mentioned Calhoun Lodge (which we had visited several times in the past), Mr. Grisdale grabbed the park’s brochure, “Calhoun Lodge and the Baker Homestead”, opened it on page 5 and pointing to a photo depicting two men working near the fireplace, said,

“Although my name does not appear under the photo, the lad on the right—it’s me!”

Of course, I bought the (autographed!) book; Catherine borrowed it and said it was quite interesting and contained plenty of fascinating stories of people living in this area.

The big sign at Pete’s Place said, “You are in bear country”, which was true: we had seen bears in this park before and heard plenty of stories of hapless and often petrified campers, losing not only their food and coolers, but also ending up with damaged tents. So, it was always part of our routine to religiously hang food up in the trees so that bears could not reach it. Not that we were looking forward to doing so—each time before leaving the campsite we had to secure the food and hoist it; each time we wanted to get anything to eat, we had to lower the food container and coolers—and hoist them back up.

This year we were for a huge treat—there was a food storage locker (a.k.a. the bear box/bear proof bin) installed on our campsite (and, as we found out later, on a number of other campsites too, especially those most frequented by bears). It was undoubtedly an EXCELLENT idea and I would like to extend my genuine gratitude and appreciation to the Park for installing them—THANK YOU!

However… I hate to rain on the park’s parade and be negative of this otherwise wonderful piece of equipment, yet after using the box just once both of us immediately noticed a number of issues with its design.

For one thing, the bear box’s opening was on top and it took some effort, sometimes considerable, to lift the lid—especially Catherine, who was in charge of the kitchen & food supplies, found it challenging to open (and close) the box and a few times she bumped her head against the lid (you should hear her thunderous swearing then!). Also while closing the lid, we had to exert some force, invariably causing a loud clamor. There were two rather awkward hinges inside the box—I thought they made it more difficult to open/close the box and were prone to break.

When we arrived at the campsite, the box was closed, yet there was some water inside (and a big dew worm!); since there was no opening in the bottom to let the water out, we had to manually remove the water (with a coffee cup) and later used plenty of paper towels to clean and dry its floor. After it rained, some water accumulated inside the box, even though the box remained closed—meaning that it was not totally waterproof.

We also found the locking mechanism somehow unpractical. There were hasps and staples on each side of the box and two carabiners, attached to the box with a thin steel line. I could immediately tell that sooner or later (probably sooner) the steel lines would break or unravel and the carabiners would become detached, they were simply too fragile to withstand continuous usage by throngs of campers, let alone occasional vandals—or a pesky and dexterous bear.

After over one week, we relocated to another campsite and as Catherine was about to put our food inside the bear container on the new site, she found it impossible to open it. It took both of us a lot of effort to finally lift the lid—it turned out that one of the hinges had gotten twisted & almost detached on one side, thus blocking the lid from opening. In addition, one carabiner was missing, the other one was already disconnected from the box. We could not believe that our predictions came true so soon! Furthermore, the box was on such uneven ground that it kept tipping backwards when the lid was lifted.

Last year we had spent several weeks camping at various parks in the USA (Yellowstone) and all of them had had bear boxes installed (due to Grizzly bear activity), so we could compare the boxes in the Massasauga to the ones in the USA.

The bear boxes in the U.S. parks were standard cupboard-style, with two front doors, very practical—the top area could be conveniently used as a ‘table’ for temporarily placing various items and it was much easier to put heavy items inside. The closing/opening mechanism was simple and quiet (no awkward hinges) and the latch/lock was ‘built-in’ and did not require fiddling with carabiners (i.e., less parts to break or get missing). The boxes were also permanently attached to the ground. I do not remember any water accumulating inside—and it was so easy to clean them.

Notwithstanding the above observations, we were still very grateful to the park for installing such bear-proof containers!

Incidentally, one morning we heard clatter; as Catherine got out of the tent, she saw a black bear hanging around the bear box. Upon seeing her, it hastily ran away and vanished in the forest. Fifteen minutes later we heard some commotion and yells on the campsite located on the other side of the channel—“there is a bear, there is a bear!” Apparently, the bear decided to check out that campsite and must have swam across the channel.

The following night we again heard some suspicious noises around the tent, as if something were slowly plodding nearby, but whatever was there, disappeared before I had a chance to get out of the tent and shine my powerful flashlight all over the campsite.

In a nutshell, we had a wonderful time in the park and we are looking forward to visiting it again!
Written July 18, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Pike53
Mississauga, Canada67 contributions
Friends
Our campsite on Blackstone Harbour was very private and offered amazing views of the bay. I just enjoyed sitting and admiring the scenery. There were very few motor boats and other canoeists/campers.

We appreciated the new bear-proof food storage. But its design was somehow flawed—among other things, kids could have their fingers trapped while closing the lid. The locking mechanism appeared to be fragile, but we were very pleased to have the bin at the campsite.

While fishing close to our campsite, for over 30 minutes we were admiring a mother bear with two small cubs wandering on the shore. The next morning we heard some whining on our campsite. We thought it was a bird making those sounds, but it was the small cubs that came over with their mother to check out our site! They wandered around for a while and left. What a wonderful experience!

Several times we saw blue herons, who were wading in the water nearby—it was just delightful to watch them take off, fly gracefully close to the water surface and then majestically land on rocks. One day a really big water snake appeared in the middle of the campsite and ended up under my tent’s vestibule—since the tent’s door was unzipped, it almost slithered inside! We also had a visit by a fox, but it quickly retreated into the forest after not finding any food. And of course, there was a resident chipmunk, whose burrow’s opening was strategically located next to the food storage container. Never mind the bears—it was enough to leave the lid open for several minutes and the chipmunk was already inside, rummaging through our food and stuffing its cheek pouches with it!

Despite numerous hours we spent fishing, we only succeeded in catching several small pikes. We talked to other fishermen and some did not even manage to match our very paltry catch.

The park staff were quite efficient and nice. There was also a self-serve check-in station, but we did not use it.

This is a terrific park, especially in September/October.
Written October 19, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Canadian_Guy1000
Toronto, Canada3,016 contributions
Friends
Certainly, it is my favorite park… and in early September, 2014 my friend and I embarked on my 6th visit to this park! The weather was still very good and the forecast did not call for any rain. Upon arriving at the park’s Pete Access Point, we were told about very active black bears in the park and advised to hang our food, which we were planning to do anyway. It was a little windy, but most of the time we paddled in channels and were sheltered from the wind. It took us almost 4 hours to arrive at our campsite — this time we reserved campsite #601 on Jenner Bay My friend, a canoeing neophyte, found such long paddling quite challenging and was very content when we finally reached the campsite.

I had visited this campsite several years ago; it was located in a magical, a.k.a. eerie forest and it was rather dark. There was a small clearing on the shore of the lake, with the fire pit and a bench. Because I had almost always set up campsites on rocky islands, exposed to the elements, quite often on bare rock, it was certainly a totally different camping experience. There were two additional campsites on Jenner Bay (remained vacant during our stay), yet quite substandard. We quickly set up our tents and found two branches perfect for hanging food.

There were a couple of old pits here and there, most likely man-made. Later I asked a part warden about them; whereas he did not know their origin or purpose, he said that there used to be a lot of human activity in the park and it was very likely there were some kind of structures many years ago.

The bay was quite private, although a small boat moored for two nights and from time to time we saw a few fishing boats come to the bay.

Every day we were canoeing on Jenner Bay and on Lake Huron; the second day we caught a big, 16 kg. catfish, which we fried and it was delicious! Later we caught two pikes, both in Jenner Bay, and they ended up in our frying pan as well.

The water level kept visibly changing; sometimes it reached the fire pit, at other times it receded at least one meter. Although we religiously hanged our food on trees’ branches, no animal every disturbed it and we only saw a few cute mice at night near the fire pit. A few times we spotted colorful hummingbirds.

One day we paddled to Frying Pan Island, where we went to the small store (also an LBCO agency), replenished our beer and ice supplies and then paddled to the famous Henry’s Restaurant. Soon, I realized that something was amiss: the restaurant’s docks, normally bustling with activity and full of cruisers, motorboats, sailing boats and float planes, were completely deserted. I guessed the restaurant had closed for the season right after the September 2 Labour Day, just a few days earlier! Well, we stopped at the Sans Souci and Copperhead Association where I could finally read and take photographs of several monuments/inscriptions (which I had always seen from afar) and paddled back to our campsite, where we sat, sipped the delicious, cold beer and admired the rising full moon.

On the second-last evening, while sitting on the shore and reading a magazine, I suddenly noticed a coiled snake near the canoe; unmistakably, it was the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in Ontario, after which the park is named. I immediately called my friend and grabbed the camera. Initially he suspected that I had placed a rubber snake just to scare him, as the snake was motionless — but soon it began sluggishly moving forward, powerfully rattling its tail. Its rattle was made up of 9 rings. It was exactly the 5th time I had seen a rattlesnake in Ontario, but this one was the biggest: it was up to 1 meter long, very thick and unlike the previous rattlesnakes, it was not scared of us at all and did not try to escape as the others had always done. Instead, it kept forcefully moving forward across the clearing, then cut through the fire pit and eventually disappeared in the bush. Knowing that rattlesnakes usually hunt at night, patiently waiting for rodents, we became very careful while walking all over our campsite, especially after dusk. Although the last fatality due to the Massasauga Rattlesnake bite in Ontario was in the 1960s, we did not want to take any risks (by the way, the hospital in Parry Sound does carry have snakebite serum).

While paddling back to Pete’s Place, my GPS became totally misaligned and after trying to fix it, I gave up and got my back-up unit, which I always bring with me. Of course, we could have found our way back without the GPS unit, but it was much easier to do so using this modern piece of technology. It was fairly windy and we had to paddle hard on choppy Woods Bay, but once we reached Blackstone Harbour, the wind subsided.

The park staff told us that every day campers were reporting active bears visiting their campsites, but the bears were not in the area we camped. Fortunately, bears were only interested in food, not campers, but since I had had quite a few encounters with black bears, I could only imagine how scary, unnerving and unpleasant such confrontations must have been!

Overall, it was a nice canoeing trip: the park was almost deserted, the boat traffic significantly dwindled, most of the bugs gone and the weather still good. We had hoped to catch more fish, but well, you cannot have everything! I am looking forward to visiting this park next year.
Written November 23, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Canadian_Guy1000
Toronto, Canada3,016 contributions
Friends
Upon entering the park, I saw a very welcome addition—a new, big parking lot! Later I spoke to a park employee and was told that from now on it would be possible to park more than one car per campsite, which is awesome. By the way, park staff were very nice and helpful.

Because of very high water level, some campsites have apparently been flooded and become unusable. Even though I knew my campsite on Blackstone Harbour would be fine (I had camped on it several times, most recently in 2016, 3 years ago), a large patch of its rocky shore was submerged. There were 2 beaver lodges nearby—three years ago they were adjacent to the land—now they resembled small ‘islands’, some 3 meters from the shore. And many trees, which have been under the water for several years, have finally died.

It was the second part of June and I did not expect to see black flies anymore. Unfortunately, I was wrong: due to the rainy weather, they were still active and in spite of using Deet-based insect repellents, I got 20 nasty bites during my entire 12 day stay. Surprisingly, mosquitoes were not that bad—perhaps the wind blew them away. But when I went into the forest, they were swarms of them all over me.

Motorboats are an integral part of the park and their noise did not bother me that much. Yet I found jet skis (a.k.a. sea doos) very annoying. In my opinion, they should be banned from certain lakes in provincial parks. We also heard float planes taking off from Woods Bay, very noisy—and one aircraft even landed on Blackstone Harbour and then took off, generating plenty of deafening noise.

Having the food storage bin on our campsite was terrific, we did not have to worry about hanging food every day. I wish more parks considered installing such containers, they are extremely convenient.

The weather was very good—it rained once or twice, but otherwise it was not very hot and we enjoyed paddling or just sitting on the campsite and watching the scenery around us.

Several times we canoed to Pete’s Place and then drove to Parry Sound or MacTier to replenish our provisions. Once we saw a turtle laying eggs in the parking lot near the ramp. The park staff placed pylons and posted notices so that tourists would not drive over those locations.

Fishing on Blackstone Harbour was very poor. For several days I watched a bass just off our campsite and it took me a lot of time and effort to finally catch it—it was delicious! Our second—and the only other fish we caught—was a small pike. I often observed fishermen in motorboats fishing near our campsite, but never saw them catch anything. We spent several hours on Woods Bay, but did not have any luck either. At least we did not have to worry about breaking any fishing regulations and exceeding the catch/possession limit…

During my previous visits to this park, in 2016, we saw several black bears at our campsites. This time the only black bear we spotted was crossing Healy Road—it was quite small, timid and quickly disappeared in the forest—it moved so clumsily and awkwardly that we burst out laughing! But we were lucky to see plenty of other animals on or around our campsite. Water snakes of various sizes were plentiful, either swimming in the water (one even approached me while I was bathing) or sunning on the rocks. There were two garter snakes on our campsite—one apparently lived in a tree hollow next to the food storage bin. Chipmunks and squirrels were sporadic and always avoided us. My outdoor hunting camera, which I set up near the beaver lodge, recorded a raccoon, but I do not think it ever visited our campsite, we would have certainly noticed such activity. Every evening we saw a beaver or two, swimming nearby—as well as an otter or muskrat. Grey tree frogs commenced their concerto each evening—the sound they generated was earsplitting! It took me a while before I finally spotted one—it was sitting just a meter from our campfire (on the ground) and I gently relocated it farther from the campsite—yet each night I found it at the same location! I saw a lizard, most likely the five-lined skink. Several snapping turtles were swimming just near the shore. Every evening we were serenated by loons—one apparently had his habitat next to our campsite and we saw it all the time. Another distinctive sound came from barred owls. Sometimes they were just meters from us, up in the trees—but it was impossible to see them and hear them as they relocated—yes, they can fly noiselessly! Crows would often wake us up, much too early to our liking, though! Twice was saw hummingbirds, but since there were not any flowers, they quickly flew off. The first few day seagulls paid us friendly visits, hoping for a snack, but once they realized that they were not going to get any, they ignored our campsite. Once I was standing next to the tree on the campsite when I heard tapping. I thought my friend was making this sound, yet he was not around. Just seconds later I heard the same sound again—and at the same time pieces of bark and wood chips were falling off the tree all over me. I looked up—and just a meter or so from me was a beautiful pileated woodpecker, aggressively pecking at the tree! I saw it again a few days later, pecking at the same tree. We also saw its smaller cousin, perhaps a red headed woodpecker. But the most majestic sight was watching blue herons take off and fly gracefully just above the water surface and land on the shore. Twice a family of geese, including several goslings, came over to our campsite, walked around the tents and proceeded to the water—as well as a flock of ducks & ducklings often swam in front of the campsite. And one day, as I was reading a book, I suddenly realized that a magnificent deer was just standing meters away and intensely staring at me—and then gracefully ran into the forest! I should also mention insects. At night there were swarms of mayflies which were probably reaching the end of their short lifespan—the area around the campfire was covered with them and resembled a living carpet. Dragonflies were plentiful and often hoovered all over us, hunting for mosquitos. We saw several dragonfly nymphs, they were sluggishly moving on the rocks or trees—and in the morning there were only empty shells (called an exuvia), from which the adult dragonfly must have just emerged. Nightly several cockchafers (May bugs) flew around us, attracted by our headlights. And there were plenty of ants everywhere—some were quite big, others smaller and living on the tree—as well as many ant queens.

Hopefully next time I will camp on in a more remote location of the park, but camping on Blackstone Harbour can be very enjoyable, too!
Written July 18, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Anna OD
Rutland, UK336 contributions
Family
We spent five magical days on a canoe trip in the Massasauga Provincial Park. We were travelling as five adults, six children under ten, and one dog. We hired three canoes, in which we carried not just ourselves but everything we needed for our trip - food, tents, etc. It’s camping in the truest sense; campsites have a site for a camp fire and a thunder box.

We saw an abundance of wildlife; snapping turtles, snakes, and birds of every shape and size.

If you want an escape from everything - no WiFi, no phone reception - this is the place to go.
Written January 8, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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