Past Meetup

Kayaking, Bustard Islands via French River

This Meetup is past

7 people went

Location image of event venue


Entering earth's atmosphere as a ceremonial fireball, the spacecraft plunges into the clear waters of the archipelago...spluesh!

Timed for the full moon, the Bustard family exists their still steaming craft to once again walk on ancestral ground.

Judging by striations in the local rocks this ceremony has repeated itself for generations.

Through inordinate effort you too can join in their mysterious ritual. But, first you must paddle the mighty lower French River, navigate narrow channels used by bygone traders, and cross the open waters of Georgian Bay. There you will find the ancients in meditative state.

In reverential hushed tones, "Welcome to the Bustard Islands."


Option 1: Friday, July 11, 5:30 pm, or as soon as folks get off work drive 5 hours to Grundy Lake Provincial Park for the night. If still open, purchase French River permits at the variety store at final cutoff to the park.

Option 2: Join the group en route, at Grundy Lake Friday night, at the breakfast diner Saturday, 7:30 am, or at Hartley Bar Marina Saturday 8:30 am.

Both Options: Saturday, July 12, this will be a long day involving a portage with kayaks and lots of water to cover, 25 kilometers to be precise. 6:30 am, the bugle call resounds. 7:15 we're on our way to the diner, no special breakfast orders. 8:15 on to Hartley Bay. Pay, park, load, re-reload, start paddling. 10:00 the French River glides along underneath sleek kayaks. If not ready to roll by then you are on your own.

Paddle the Main Outlet of the French River to Georgian Bay, portaging around Dallas Rapids on the way. Find a campsite on the Bustard Islands, setup. There is an extraordinary site there but sites are on first come first serve basis. With luck we get it.

Sunday, take a relaxed clockwise tour of the islands, go for a moonlight paddle. The highlight of last summer was the moonlight paddle through the sheltered islands of the Bustards! The flowing smooth outlines of the weathered rock shore radiating in the night. The beacon-moon, a spotlight glistening across absolute quiet glass water.

Monday (this is not a statutory holiday), cross back to the mainland, paddle up Bass Creek, negotiate nasty Boardwalk portage, continue north to 'The Elbow', cross over to the Eastern Outlet, and back north to Hartley Bay.

Think of this as the traditional lower French 'figure eight' loop with the Bustards appended to the bottom.


To answer your first question, this trip isn't on a long weekend in order to 1) avail of a full moon, the festival after all 2) avoid holiday motorboat traffic on the busy lower French

To answer your next question, this trip isn't suitable for canoes. KW-Backcountry doesn't do canoes on open Georgian Bay crossings.


- Without kayak rental = $95

$10 (Friday night campground) + $20 (French R. per night camping 2 x $10) + $15 (marina parking 3 days x $10 / 2 persons) + $40 (shared gas, two persons per car because two kayaks per car) + $10 (launch fee per boat) = $95 before tax

- With solo kayak rental = $207

$112 (estimated three day solo kayak rental) + $95 (other costs above)

- With tandem kayak rental = $169 tandem

$74 (estimated 1/2 of three day rental) + $95 (other costs above)

Kayak Rentals:

As with all rentals, the problem is hours of operation.

Adventure Guide, Waterloo. Great policies for weekend pickup and return. Poor gas mileage hauling boats long distance.

Sojourn, Barie ( (705) 739-9694 Possible to make closing time Friday night, impossible to make closing time Monday night.

Swift, Waubaushene ( 705-538-0881 Hard to make closing time Friday, ditto for Monday, although, they have drop off at you own risk options.


The problem with defining difficulty is distinguishing between kayaking ability and athletic ability. Consider a comparison with running. Anyone can run but not anyone can run 10 km. Think of this as that 10 km run. Anyone can paddle a kayak but not anyone can paddle 25 km per day and haul a loaded kayak (with the help of a buddy) across a 'nasty portage'. Previous kayaking experience is an asset in that you know your capability, whether to sign up for this or not.
For comparison, one way Bruce National was 18 km, Mink and McCoys is normally 16 km, and Killarney is 13 km to base camp.
This is not an introduction to kayaking. If unable to keep up with the group after the first kilometer, solo or tandem, the larger group will need to leave you behind in order to cover the required distance by nightfall. We'll leave you at the nearest campsite and pick you up on the return. (The only exception is myself because I happen to know where we are going :)
Or we split this into two meetups, one of which doesn't go as far.
Photos from 2013 identical trip (
Photos from 2012 Bustard Islands scouting mission (
Bass Creek on the return
Shared Document ( for car and kayak sharing
notes: Grundy Lake Supply Post, Hwy 69 at Hwy 522, 705-383-2251