A Refresher Course if You Will

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Happy May 1st!  THE ICE IS OUT!!!  The long weekend is not far away and for some of us (although not me) that means the first trip of the season is close at hand!  Algonquin Park has updated it’s advisory with regards to opening up the back country and Hwy 60 campgrounds.  The update is as follows:

  • Open on May 2nd: Tea, Kiosk, and Achray campgrounds in addition to Mew Lake (year-round).  As well, permits will be issued for the Western Uplands and Highland Backpacking Trails.  Be advised there may be flooding in some areas.
  • Open May 6th:  Permits will be issued for interior canoe trips except for Kingscote (southern tip) as there is a washed out culvert making it inaccessible at this time.
  • Rock Lake and other areas are expected to be open on time for May 10th.
  • http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/news/2014/spring_2014_update.php

With the camping season starting and the long weekend close at hand, it may be time for a quick refresher course on the rules of the campgrounds….especially the ones pertaining to alcohol bans during the season.

  1. Keep the volume of the music and your voices at a respectable level.
  2. Drinking Alcohol is only permitted while on your designated campsite.  You are not allowed to walk around with it.
  3. Take note that 30 parks have an alcohol ban from the second Friday in May until Victoria Day.  Other parks  may include other long weekends like July 1st and Labour Day.  Please check with your park
  4. It is against the law to destroy or remove anything from Provincial Parks.  I have seen people evicted for cutting down trees for firewood.  
  5. Make sure that you have a vehicle permit in your car at all times and one on your campsite post
  6. The maximum stay is 23 days in a year
  7. Pets must remain on a leash and under control.  Take note of the no dog signs
  8. Only 6 people allowed per site
  9. Campfires must be contained within the fire pit 
  10. No firearms or fireworks allowed
  11. Please clean up after yourselves.  This environment is on loan to us and we must take care of it to ensure that it’s around for years to come!

Some parks may have more specified rules than others!  Have fun as we dip our paddles into the lakes this summer and enjoy our times with friends and family.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Making Your Trip a Rewarding Experience

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Going camping is great fun for the whole family.  If its your first trip it can be a little daunting.  Here are some general things to remember when staying within any organized campground.

  1. Staying on a hydro site may be more convenient for your hairdryer and tv but do remember they cost more.  You’re here to enjoy the great outdoors and most trailer batteries will last a long time if you use them sparingly.
  2. Be courteous of your fellow campers.  We don’t all want to hear you new speakers or loud parties especially at night.  Remember that there are families around you and people who are there to enjoy the peace and quiet.
  3. If you are there for the quiet, then perhaps look into the Radio-Free sections.  Music is only allowed if you use headphones.
  4. Driving everywhere in the campground is not necessary and will cause problems with the eco system in the future.  Besides walking after dinner and around the campground is a great way to relax and enjoy the surroundings.
  5. Take advantage of the activities available.  Most provincial parks have an evening interpretive program and a lot of them have museums and hiking trails.  There’s a program that teach the kids how to take care of the park so that it’s around for years to come, called the Good Camper Program.  Utilize them, you’ll learn a lot about the park’s history that way.
  6. Make sure that your food is properly stored.  Countless times there have been bears spotted within campgrounds because people have left food scraps out or didn’t lock their fridge up at night.  (Believe it or not, last year someone at Canisbay lake tent camped on a hydro site and brought with them on a trailer a FULL SIZE FRIDGE AND FREEZER.  They left said fridge/freezer unlocked.  Needless to say…that night we had bears in our area).
  7. Prepare for rainy days.  If you are camping with the kids bring along lots of rainy day activities like crafts or books.  It makes the time go faster and they are occupied rather than saying “I’m bored”.  For some great rainy day activities/crafts check out my Pinterest Board.
  8. If you are camping with kids then entertaining them could be challenging if they aren’t accustomed to being outside for long periods of time.  Have a bucket of games, puzzles, and books that they can read/do.  Go on nature hikes and discover the park.  I have another Pinterest Board that can give you some more activity ideas.
  9. Take advantage of canoe rentals if you don’t have your own canoe or you want to try it for the first time.  At Algonquin Park you can rent canoe’s on your way into the park from Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or at their Oxtongue Lake location. You can also go to their Opeongo Lake location or have a canoe delivered to your campground from the Portage Store.  Prices vary so check out your campground bulletin boards.
  10. Take time to relax and unwind.  This is your vacation so treat it as such and return to work fully refreshed afterwards.
  11. Most importantly…spend time together as a family!  It builds memories that will last for years!  Kids don’t remember their best day gaming but they will remember the time you spent with them.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Being Bear (and critter) Proof

Over the last couple of trips there have been signs at almost every campground regarding the fact that there is a bear in the area.  Yes you read that right…there are bears wandering around the campgrounds.

DON’T BE ALARMED.  Bears are actually more scared of you than you are of them.  As well, if you take the proper precautions then you won’t be seeing a bear on your site anytime soon!  Unless your neighbours don’t read this post and leave their food scraps around.

  1. Pack all food away when you are finished, going to bed, or leaving your site!  Obviously this is common sense but hey there are still people out there who don’t do this!  Last year I was next to a group of campers who left EVERYTHING on their picnic table.  How they didn’t have a visit in the middle of the night is beyond me.
  2. Keep your site clean!  Again, it’s kind of a no brainer but you sometimes need to be reminded.  Don’t leave that empty milk carton or that empty cheese wrapper on your table thinking you’ll put it away later.  Do it right away and then enjoy the rest of your day!
  3. Put your garbage in the Molock containers at the end of each day!  I get criticized sometimes for this but I’m a very clean camper so I try not to have any traces of food around at all.  I’m also the type that has to throw out that bag of garbage even though it may only have a small amount in it.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.
  4. Hang your food bag/barrel!  This is for those in the back country.  There are still bears out there.  They and the raccoon’s will still eat your food if you leave it out.  Hang it up high and away from the tree trunk.
  5. Don’t hang fish from a clothes line (or any food) to attract bears!  Yes folks…I’ve seen this happen.  The campers wanted to get a picture of the bear.  I’ve also seen people put honey on their hands to get a picture of a bear licking their hands.  For your own safety don’t do this!  Bear’s are not Winnie the Pooh….they are not toys.  You will get hurt.
  6. Bring a cooler not a full size fridge!   Again…seen this happen.  A full size fridge is not going to stop any animals if they want your food.  Even if it’s padlocked.  Bears are pretty smart!  Bring a cooler that you can store in a vehicle.

One issue that can be controversial is whether to burn garbage while out canoeing.  I buy environmentally safe products but if I have paper plates I will burn them.  That being said DON’T BURN ANY PLASTIC PRODUCTS!  It’s not good for the environment.  I know people who do and that’s their choice but if you think about the carbon footprint and the effect that the chemicals in plastic have on the environment then you’ll think twice about it.

For those who take the Parkbus up to Algonquin there are bear proof food lockers available at the campgrounds that Parkbus stops at.  For a small deposit ($25) you can use it for the duration of your trip to store food and toiletries so that they don’t attract wildlife.

On a side note: This summer marks 30 years of visiting Algonquin Park for me!  The first campground we ever camped in was Pog Lake!  I was three at the time :).

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~Enjoy your trip!

 

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Park Helper Program in #AlgonquinPark

Have you driven down Hwy 60 and wondered what those Children’s Programs signs are all about?  Or maybe you’ve seen the buttons hanging in various locations around the park?  These are for the Park Helper Program.  This is a way for your child(ren) to learn about being environmentally responsible for the nature around them.

What exactly is the Park Helper Program?

This is a program that helps keep our campgrounds, beaches, and campsites clean.  Designed for kids, this program usually takes place 3 times per week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) at campgrounds and beaches through out the Hwy 60 corridor.  The locations are announced in the This Week In Algonquin Calendar that hangs on all the information bulletin boards in the campgrounds and museums.  Families can then take their kids to these locations and they help clean up the campground or beaches with others and the program leader for the day.

What does your child get after completing the program?

Your child(ren) will get a badge every time they complete one of the programs.  I think this year I saw 4(?) different ones for them to achieve.  They are the Clean Campsite, Clean Beaches, Clean Campground, and the Good Camper, which they receive after getting all the other badges.  The badges change every year but this is what they look like:

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I have participated in this program numerous times and I have probably close to 10 sets of badges?  At one time they also had a bottle cap collector badge.  The badges that I posted are mine.  This program is a lot of fun!  It keeps the kids busy, gets them interacting with other kids, and helps them learn about keeping the park clean so that their kids can enjoy it in the future.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Trip Planning Part 4

Back in January I did a 3 part series on how to pre-plan for you next trip to Algonquin Park.  Today I’m revisiting that with the next part.

In just under a month I’ll be embarking on a 3 day trip into Algonquin.  I’ve already gone through the Ontario Parks website and booked my site in Kearney Campground.  (I know it says unavailable but that’s because I booked it haha)

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I’ve picked this site based on a few different criteria.

  1. Privacy – The site is surrounded by trees
  2. Water Access – The lake is right there :) which means some really amazing photos and quiet paddles
  3. One of my readers and friend Katie stayed there last summer and I loved it so I wanted to stay there :)

Now that I’ve picked my site and my dates I need to start my planning phase.  Remember that checklist I put on on here last year?  Those have made it to my computer desktop and are being edited away.  Planning ahead like this makes your trip alot easier to deal with.  As well it allows you to enjoy it more as you already have meals planned so all you need to do is prepare them!

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This year I have a bit of a dilemma that I’m facing and something you may face if you are planning on travelling to the park by transportation other than a car.  I’m going up via Parkbus this year and this means I need to plan extra carefully as I need to take up space on the Go Bus and TTC to get there.  Everything I take has to be able to fit in 2 bags…a cooler and my big dry bag.  Luckily for me my kitchen set (cutlery, knives, and cooking utensils) all fit in one travel bathroom bag.

If you are facing the same dilemma as I am then you will have to cut down on the amount of stuff you take.  For instance, you may need to cut down on the camping “luxuries” that you want to take.  Do you really need that camp stove or are you willing to cook on an open campfire?  Do you need to take those down pillows or are you ok with either a small travel pillow or inflatable pillow?  Remember that inventory I told you to take?  This is where it comes in handy.  You will be able to look at all you have and decide what you need to take based on how much room you truly have.

Other than equipment now is the time to plan my menu as well.  As I said, I have to carry a cooler bag with me…which limits how much weight I can carry realistically.  The question posed to me right now is do I want to take fresh/frozen foods with me or dehydrated meals.  I’m leaning towards a mix of both but because I only have 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners to worry about I’m thinking I’ll be ok with all freshly frozen foods like burgers, chicken, and hot dogs.  The menu below is what I made last year and I’m considering doing it again as it was very tasty!

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On the next post I’m going to walk you through my inventory and take pictures for you that way you can see one of the many ways that you can organize your equipment.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Over the course of the last few years I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding a large variety of topics.  This post is dedicated to your questions.

1.  Where in Algonquin can I get basic supplies?

If you are looking for the basics like bread and milk or condiments then you have a couple of options within the park.  You can go to the Two Rivers Store or the Portage Store.  If you are in the park for an extended stay then you can go to either Whitney on the east end or Dwight/Huntsville on the west end.

2.  Can I rent a bicycle in the park?

Yes you can!  You can rent a bike directly from the Two Rivers Store.  The store is located at the end of one branch of the bike trail which makes it easy to get to.

3.  Is the park open year round?

Yes!  If you wish to camp then you can camp at the Mew Lake Campground.  The campsites are first come first serve basis unless you wish to use a Yurt which you need to reserve.  You can use the interpretive trails and the backpacking trails.  The Visitor Center is also accessible during the winter.   Algonquin also has two ski trails that you can use.

4.  I camp by Parkbus is there a way to get around?

If you came by Parkbus and you are camping along the corridor you have very little options for getting around.  If you feel up to it you can bike along Hwy 60…be cautious however because the Hwy is very busy.  The other option is by calling a cab from Whitney.  Be prepared as this will cost you a lot of money.

5.  Best time to see wildlife?

A camper once asked a ranger (at my campsite) what time they let the wildlife out.  Without missing a beat the ranger looked at his watch and replied “Oh in about 5 minutes”.  The camper ran back to their car and took off.  Though the wildlife isn’t let out at a certain time, there are a few good times to see wildlife.  First is during the spring run off.  The wildlife is drawn to the side of the road for the salt from the roads.  Early Summer at dusk and dawn is another good time to see wildlife.  Most people go out for a drive at dusk while camping to “moose watch”.  The other good time to possibly see wildlife is the fall during the rutting season.  

6.  Are there restaurants located in the park?

The park has 6 restaurants located along Hwy 60:

  • Killarney Lodge – Lake of Two Rivers
  • Bartlett Lodge – Cache Lake
  • Portage Store – Canoe Lake
  • Arowhon Lodge – Joe Lake
  • Two Rivers Store – Between Mew Lake Campground and Two Rivers Campground 
  • Visitors Center – Across from Spruce Bog Boardwalk

7.  Is there any lodging available for those who may not be into camping but wish to enjoy the park?

If you aren’t into camping and want to stay somewhere with the comforts of home you have a few choices both in the park and outside the park:

  • Arowhon Lodge
  • Bartlett Lodge
  • Killarney Lodge
  • Couples Resort (Whitney)
  • Blue Spruce Resort (Oxtongue)
  • and many other options.

8.  Can I get a canoe rental at my campsite?

Yes.  The Portage Store offers rentals at all the campground beaches.  Check your beach bulletin board for the times.  As well Opeongo Outfitters (not affiliated with Algonquin Outfitters) will also deliver canoes to the campgrounds.

9.  Are there ATM’s located within the park or is there interac service.

Both!  There is an ATM at the Visitor Center and at Two Rivers Store.  The park also has Interac available.

10.  Is there internet or cell phone survice within the park?

Surprisingly the internet question is one of my more popular ones.  There is no wifi service within the park except in the Visitor’s Center.  There is however cell service.  The cell towers have about 3km of service so you may have really good service in one part of the park but then in another part you have a dead zone.  

11.  Are the beaches in the park patrolled by lifeguards?

No.  You swim at your own risk.

12.  How will I know there is a fireban?

You can check out the Friends of Algonquin Website (www.algonquinpark.on.ca) as well here on my blog.  You can also follow the friends of Algonquin Park on Facebook.

13.  What are Radio-Free Zones?

Radio Free Zones are a section of a campground where radios and pets are not allowed.  You are allowed personal mp3 players or radios as longs as they have headphones.  

I hope these answer some of your questions as you think about booking your trip into the park!

~Enjoy your trip

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Why I Love Algonquin

155_8974591202_2273_nPeople I’ve met over the years have often asked me why Algonquin?  What’s so special about it?  Those who have been to Algonquin many times get it and understand.  It’s hard to describe that feeling I get when I’m in Algonquin.  It’s one of peace, serenity, and the feeling of being able to breathe.  As I said it’s hard to truly understand but I’ll try to explain.  When you live in the city and go through the daily life you sometimes find it hard to breathe.  That life is passing you by and you are missing everything.  Algonquin is my place to breathe, to take in life, and to get rid of all the stress that builds up during the year.

I was introduced to Algonquin when I was around the age of 2.  I don’t know what exactly we did whether2071_62528811202_9479_n it was a canoe trip or just a camping trip and I really don’t remember the trip at all but there is photographic evidence down in my basement.  I’ve grown up there though pretty much every summer since I was around 5/6.  It has been my summer vacation playground.  My home away from home.  It’s where I learned how to canoe and be considerate of nature.  It’s where I discovered who I am as a person.  It’s where I watched my mom come alive.  Where my family felt the closest with no worries or fears.

2071_62528896202_4667_nWhen I saw my mom in Algonquin camping or at our Dorset cottage she was a completely different person.  It was like all the stress of the school year melted away and she was able to relax with us.  She was happy all the time but she was even happier when we were camping.  It wasn’t uncommon for her to make friends at the campgrounds that have ended up being life long friends.  She sat on the beach either reading or knitting, talked with other mom’s, or swam in the lake with us.  There were many times where we would swim from the beach in Canisbay lake to the island across the way or we went for a canoe ride at sunset.

Algonquin is my place to run away from the everyday.  It’s my sanctuary, my place to breathe, my place to live.

Part of me is baffled that there are many many people out there that haven’t had the opportunity to experience it like I have.  My family used to go on overnight canoe trips.  My dad took us kids out for two or three nights at a time.  When we bought a cottage I started to lose that love I had for Algonquin…it was harder for me to have the same feeling and I turned away for a few years.  It wasn’t until I was older and I started camping by myself that I realized how much I missed it.

My love for Algonquin is the main reason I started the blog.  I love being able to share my experiences with others.  I love helping people discover what Algonquin is all about and hopefully discover how much they love it.  Algonquin isn’t for everyone I know that but one can dream.  I hope this makes it a little clearer about why I love it.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Pre-Planning Pt 3

Please note:  The fee’s that I quoted from the Algonquin Park site will change as of March 31, 2013!

 

Pre-Planning Pt 2

This morning I took you through the basic run down of pre planning for your next canoe/camping trip.  This afternoon we are going to walk through picking a campground/campsite for you and your needs using OntarioParks.com.

So for my trip in May as we saw the only campgrounds open are Mew, Tea Lake, and Rock Lake.  As easy as this makes my choice campground wise…it also makes my choice that much more difficult because the sites are limited.  The biggest problem is finding a site that fits everything you need it for.  You need to decide what you are looking for in a site:

  • privacy?
  • do you need a site for a tent or trailer?
  • close to water?
  • close to bathrooms?
  • water access for your canoes?
  • close to camp store?
  • any other criteria?

Once you figure out what’s important to you then it makes finding the right site easier.  Everyone’s needs are different.  For me…typically it’s just me so I don’t need that big of a site however I do need one that’s big enough to fit my truck if I have it.  I also prefer a site close to water as I always have my canoe.  Being close to the bathrooms is not a draw to me as it’s always busy with traffic.

So…for my trip…I’m looking into going to Mew Lake.  Here are my reasons:

  • A lake to canoe in
  • Access to the Madawaska River…via a road and trail
  • Access to trails and camp store
  • Rock lake’s sites are very open
  • Tea lake’s are small and open

Here is a map of Mew Lake:

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See this section here:

mew1It is a dog free and radio free section.  That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  The good thing about it is that you don’t need to worry about people being inconsiderate by blaring their radios or dogs getting lose and wondering around.  The bad thing is though that you are not supposed to have music playing without headphones.  It can make it a little too quiet at times if you like to have your radio playing.

I have camped in this section before and I did enjoy the peacefulness of it.  At this time of year the only sites that are going to be busy are the hydro sites so you may get that whole section to yourself.  You must keep in mind that you do have different sections when booking a site and hydro sites…will cost more.

 

 

For my trip I’m thinking I’m going to go in the radio free section for the fact that it will be more secluded and I will have access to the waterfront with my canoe.  Let’s take a more in depth look at that section!

mew 2So as you can see on the right here…most of this section is wide open and can be reserved.  All the yellow triangles that you see are non-reservable.  These are first come first serve only.  There are waterfront sites available which makes my life easy if all I want to do is canoe in small Mew Lake.  If I wish to canoe somewhere else I will have to either portage my canoe to the Madawaska or put it on my car and drive it to my drop off point.  There is a downside to this section…the comfort stations are a fair distance away.  Not that I mind but if you were to camp with small children or if you really can’t live without flush toilets it can be a hike.  All that I ask is that when you camp in a campground and need to access the comfort stations….please don’t drive unless you absolutely have to!

 

I’m beginning to have a few second thoughts about Mew lake for the reason that I really can’t canoe anywhere.  It’s leading me to consider Rock Lake.  I have access to the Madawaska River and can access a couple of portages at the end of the lake…one of which will take me into the town of Whitney on the east side of the park.

rock lake

I think I’ve found my site…it offers decent privacy…adjacent to the lake…water tap right beside it (will create traffic issues).

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That’s it for today.  Tomorrow I’m going to do a video blog on planning a canoe trip.  A lot of what I’ve put in today for a campground applies…the difference is the process that you have to go through to get to the step of booking.  Closer to my date I’ll update you on my Mother’s Day weekend plans by showing you my packing, booking, and the actual trip itself.

~Enjoy your trip!

Pre-Planning pt 1

Good Morning!

The sun this morning is deceiving…but nice anyways :).  Going on a canoe trip or camping trip is great and very relaxing.  However there is a lot of work that goes into a trip and usually I start in January.

Planning for a trip consists of a number of things.  Step one is typically done at the end of the season which is to take an inventory of all your gear.  This is so that during the off season you can repair what needs to be repaired and stock up on gear that needs to be replaced or any new gear you wish to purchase.  Step two is planning when you are going to take your trips and start planning your route/base camp.  Step three is to finalize your route/base camp and reserve.  Step four is to organize your gear, food, and anything else you need for your trip.  On a side note: everyone plans their trips differently.  This is how I plan my trips and you yourself needs to find your own method.  I’m planning my first trip of the season which is looking like it will be on Mother’s Day weekend.

So let’s get to planning.  My family is in the process of moving so we’ve already taken an indepth inventory of what we have.  Closer to the beginning of the season it will be leaving the boxes and stored where I have quick access to it.  I suggest maybe making an excel spreadsheet of your gear so that you can quickly pull it up anytime.  This is really important if you have people coming with you that have never camped before so you can make sure you have enough gear for everyone.  This spreadsheet can then be printed if you like or emailed to people in your family so everyone has a copy on their computer.

Step 2…choosing the date and location of your trip.  This is going to be my first trip of the season so I’m looking at May 10-13th.  Because I’m camping on a Friday and Monday…I’m going to have to make sure I book the time off of work.  This is where a planning binder can come in handy.  Typically I’m a very spontaneous person in the fact that my trips are booked and planned within a week or so but I do like to be organized when it comes to trips that I plan well in advance.  You can get some handy printables from A Daily Dose of Davis.  Or search on Pinterest.com.  I will post some planning templates later today on my pinterest site.

So we have the dates – May 10-13th.  Now we need a site or route in mind.  Because it is early in the season…there are only a few campgrounds open along the HWY 60 corridor in Algonquin Park.  This is a very important part of planning as it can make or break your trip.  You need to take into account that your favorite site may not be available yet.  Let’s go onto Ontarioparks.com to check availability

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 So for the dates in question this is the availability:

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As you can see…the only campgrounds open/available are Tea Lake, Mew Lake, and Rock/Coon Lake along the HWY 60 Corridor.  There are other campgrounds up north and to the east as well.  For all intents and purposes we are going with HWY 60.  Part of your decision in picking a place to camp requires you to find out information about the campground you want to choose.  All three campgrounds here are great..however they do have some con’s as well.  For example, Mew Lake has a great location with the airfield behind it and access to the Track and Tower or Highland Backpacking Trail.  However, a bunch of the sites back onto the hwy and can be quite noisy.  Rock Lake is fairly secluded from the main road however the sites are fairly open to each other.  So you need to decide what is right for you and your family.

This afternoon I’m going to walk you through choosing a site using Ontarioparks.com and making sure you choose the right site for your needs!

~Enjoy your trip!

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