With over five hundred lakes and eight thousand rivers in Canada, there are many opportunities to canoe or kayak in the Canadian wilderness. Today we’re discussing twelve of the most beautiful places in Canada to canoe or kayak. Some places provide a couple of hours of scenic beauty, while others are a multi-week canoe/kayak adventure.
Most of the longer river routes have many outfitters and guide options to make your trip as smooth and safe as possible. While some places on this list have boat rentals on the water, like Lake Louise, many others require you to bring your own. Either purchase one or rent in town if you are not taking a guided tour.
Baffin Island, Nunavut
Canoeing or kayaking on Baffin Island is an excellent way to experience the arctic. Sitting just north of the Arctic Circle, the lake is in pristine condition and abundant with northern wildlife. Spot narwhals in the lake along with polar bears, arctic foxes, and caribou on the shore. While summer is only two weeks long, it might be worth hiring a guide to lead you through this polar trip.
Yukon River, Yukon
The emerald waters of the Yukon River for an unforgettable trip through one of Canada’s most iconic rivers. Make it a half-day activity in Whitehorse, or take on the historic Gold Rush route in 8 to 20 days, ending in Dawson City. Either way, you will likely be able to spot bald eagles, grizzly bears, and moose during this famous journey.
The Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories
Dramatic cliffs line Canada’s longest river in Northwest territories. Start in Hay River on Great Slave Lake and finish in Tutoyatuk on the Arctic Ocean for an extended 48-day trip. If you go the whole way, you will canoe (or kayak) through the Canadian Shield, the Northern Rocky Mountains, and the Arctic Tundra. Make sure you don’t plan your trip until June. Anything before that will result in dodging massive icebergs.
Johnstone Strait, British Columbia
Kayak with the orcas in Johnstone Strait, an ecological reserve surrounded by rainforests, mountains, and rocky shores. Keep your eyes out for minke, humpback, and gray whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, porpoises, and seals, in addition to killer whales. Johnstone Strait is the orca capital of the world. Stay a few days, overnight camping on Telegraph Cove, to gain the most out of this experience.
The Bowron Lakes Circuit in British Columbia
This 6-10 day trip through 116 km of scenic Caribou Mountains, lakes, and connecting streams is considered by some to be one of the top canoe trips in the world. Navigate the waters on your own or go with an outfitter. Catch glimpses of beavers, bears, otters, moose, and diverse bird species. As you paddle, you pass by the Caribou Mountains and the Quesnel Highlands. A campground is also available for overnight stays at the Provincial Park.
Lake Louise in Alberta
For a stunning canoe or kayak, rent or bring your own to Lake Louise. Soaring peaks in Banff National Park encircle Lake Louise. Spend a couple of hours to a day navigating the shimmering turquoise waters and keep your eyes on the shore for wildlife. Lake Louise is a popular tourist destination, so arrive early or book in advance if you’re renting or need to find a parking spot.
The Churchill River
Canoe the Churchill River for a trip down the canoe paths of the voyageurs. You will be greeted with a series of lakes, rapids, and falls on this 4- to 7-day journey. The campsites offer soft ground and ready-made fire pits. There are 20 rapids of varying classes on the river; navigate the easier ones or portage to calmer water. Enjoy the warm water that can reach temperatures up to 25 degrees Celsius while you make your way to Missinipe.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
You could spend years exploring the thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams in Algonquin Provincial Park. Enjoy views of pine and maple trees, calm glistening lakes perfect for swimming, and various calls of birds and other wildlife. Suppose you’re willing to trek further into the park. In that case, you can find places of the serene wilderness, practically untouched by humans.
Killarney Provincial Park Ontario
Killarney Provincial Park can be a short day kayak excursion to a ten-day exploration of the almost 50 lakes. Enjoy dazzling white quartzite cliffs of the La Cloche mountains, aquamarine lakes, luscious green forests, and red granite shores at the park. If you have time, navigate to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron as well.
La Vérendrye Reserve
With over 800 kilometers of canoe routes, La Vérendrye Reserve offers quiet opportunities for a trip into the wilderness. The park is often not very busy, affording you views of local wildlife and diverse landscapes. Spend a short few hours on the water, or plan a multi-week exploration; La Vérendrye Reserve has plenty of routes and circuits to choose from.
Oven’s Natural Park, Nova Scotia
Explore sea caves at Ovens Natural Park near Lunenburg on a kayak. Rocks streaked with bright yellow and orange grace the entrance to these caves or ovens. Spend a couple of hours adventuring, paddle back to Lunenburg (16km there and back), or overnight at the Park campsites, right on the water.
100 Wild Islands, Nova Scotia
Clear aqua water and long stretches of white sand in the protected archipelago north of Halifax will have you wondering if you are in Canada or the Caribbean. You can spend up to five days kayaking the region, which has, in fact, more than one hundred islands. However, the place is still relatively remote and unknown, so pack accordingly.