Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

A Hardy Group Survives Heavy Storm at 5th Annual MVFN Canoe Camp 2012 in Algonquin Park

A Hardy Group Survives Heavy Storm at 5th Annual MVFN Canoe Camp in Algonquin Park

by Cliff Bennett

Printable pdf with 7 photos [A hardy group survives heavy storm at annual MVFN canoe camp]

Coming through a drenching rain and high winds, which emptied most of Achray campsite in Eastern Algonquin Park, forty-one members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) actually enjoyed the challenges at their fifth annual Canoe Camp, September 7th to 10th. By pooling all picnic tables and camp stoves under a huge tarpaulin, members were able to continue cooking comfortably and taking part in activities in relative dryness. A few personal tents didn’t stand up to the continuous overnight downpour and six members packed up and went home to get dried out.










Photos by Simon Lunn (please see more photos in printable pdf; link above)

At the Friday evening opening activities, Camp Leader Cliff Bennett welcomed all and introduced the camp committee members and explained their roles. Health and Safety leader Graham Hunt talked about regulations and practices the participants would be following to keep everyone as safe as possible during the next three day’s paddling. Doug Younger-Lewis and Joyce Clinton revealed the activities and program items to choose from during the camp and the sign-up process to be used.

On Saturday, after the rain eased, the members divided into three activity groups. While one group chose to do the hike to High Falls and area, the other two decided to paddle in the rain; one travelling up Grand Lake and the other exploring around the local bays and wetlands. The Grand Lake group just got off the water in the afternoon when a real tempest stirred up the water’s surface.

Sunday saw the paddlers join into three explorations. One group paddled across Grand Lake and up to the Carcajou Bay Falls, another cruised down the east side of Stratton Lake to explore the top of High Falls while the third group took the west side of Stratton, through a series of portages and small lakes to explore the bottom of High Falls.

‘Seeing Nature from the Water’ was the theme of the camp and an impressive list of flora and fauna were seen. Thirty species of birds were listed including a barred owl, common merganser, ring-necked duck and green-winged teal, brown creeper, red-tailed hawk and great crested flycatcher. One black bear was spotted in the distance, a wolf and its juvenile appeared right behind one of the tents during the night and a painted turtle and a beaver were filmed during a canoe trip.

Dining was a great feature of the camp and members served each other a pot-luck dinner on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. A formal campfire program was conducted on Sunday evening with many skits, songs and stories creating good laughter and camaraderie.

After breaking camp on Monday, members had many choices including canoeing the famous Barron Canyon, exploring McGrath Lake or doing the hiking trail to the top of Barron Canyon. All returned home, happy and tired, without even a single scratch or upset canoe. Arne Snyder chaired the camp organizing committee, which started meeting in April to prepare all of the details, site reservations, site lay-outs and registration of participants.

The location for next year, MVFN’s 6th Annual Canoe Camp, has not yet been settled but the dates will be September 6th to 9th 2013. The MVFN canoeing program is a part of the Program Committee, chaired by Cathy Keddy. A new season of MVFN’s natural history lecture series has now begun at the Almonte United Church at 106 Elgin St. in Almonte. The next lecture will be held Thursday November 15; the presentation Earthworms: Whose Friends Are They? will be given by Paul Gray of the Science and Information Resources Division, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. For further information please visit or contact Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089


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Even a Moose Visits 4th Annual MVFN Canoe Camp 2011

              Moose at camp – photo D. Younger-Lewis










MVFN Press Story

September 17, 2011

Even a Moose Visits 4th Annual MVFN Canoe Camp

by Cliff Bennett

pdf of story with two photos

Magical, loaded with glowing memories of beautiful weather, full moonlight glittering across mirror-like waters of Grand Lake, colourful sunsets and lasting comradeship. All these describe the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ very successful 4th annual canoe camp held from Friday Sept. 9 to Monday Sept. 12. The four day camp took place at the Achray site on the eastern side of Algonquin Park and was deemed an unqualified success by all thirty-nine participants.

Occupying eight campsites, all in close proximity to each other, individual tents and a huge dining shelter were all erected and canoes parked at the edge of the beautiful white-sand beach, ready for action. By Friday evening, all was ready for the first of three group dinners and camaraderie. After dishes were washed and food stowed away in vehicles, all gathered around the first of three campfires, for chatting, singing and lots of laughter.

The theme of this year’s camp was “Seeing Nature From the Water’s Edge” and nature didn’t disappoint the group. Thirty species of birds and fourteen different mammals and amphibians were logged, most while out on the water during three different canoe treks. Many wildflowers and insects also captured the group’s interest.

On the water, the group launched an impressive flotilla of sixteen canoes and seven kayaks. The first trek followed the shores of Grand Lake into Carcajou Bay to a set of interesting rapids. There the paddlers beached their vessels, explored the area, swam and ate lunch. Birds listed included loons, great blue herons, wood ducks, spotted sandpipers and kingfishers. Out on Grand Lake on the return trip, many cormorants and a few herring gulls were spotted.

The second day brought the paddlers through a small portage into Stratton Lake. At the end of this long seven kilometre lake, the quest was the famous High Falls. Here the group poured over the broken rocky area between small pools and rushing water falls, enjoying lunch and a refreshing plunge down a smooth rock slide to the pool below. Many exciting observations were recorded including a bald eagle, osprey, Cooper’s hawk, flicker, pileated woodpecker, a flotilla of common mergansers, pine and yellow-rumped warblers and a hummingbird. Also noted were river otters, a couple of painted turtles and a mink.

Around the campsite we spotted many blue jays, a robin, turkey vulture, ruffed and spruce grouse. A red-bellied snake was caught, photographed and released. The magic of fading light across the lake brought out a whip-poor-will which could be heard from the opposite shore. Loons heralded mournful calls and bats began their swoops across the warm water searching for flying insects. A few flocks of Canada geese sailed into view.

Visitors were a feature of the camp. At Saturday evening’s campfire, a resident from Clayton area, Karen Lamb (along with her family and a visiting French exchange student), came from a neighbouring campsite and entertained the group with guitar and songs. Sunday’s surprise was a couple from Germany on their very first visit to Canada. They were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and joined the naturalists for dinner and campfire. But, the most surprising visitor was a huge bull moose with an impressive seven foot rack. Out came the cameras for this one.

In all, the participants in this year’s camp were appreciative of the organizational skills of the camp committee, Arne Snyder, Ashton area, who chaired the camp committee, Doug Younger-Lewis, Almonte, who was in charge of registrations and park communications and Howard Robinson, Clayton, who organized the daily program. Cliff Bennett was in charge of site layout and camp safety. MVFN President Joyce Clinton presented each with a gift of appreciation at the Sunday campfire. Other thanks go to Grahame Hunt, Ottawa, who conducted a canoe safety course on the first night of camp and Ron Williamson, Almonte, who contributed much to the camp’s success, having been to this area thirty nine times with school groups.

The camp was struck early Monday morning and, on the way home, over half the paddlers enjoyed the best feature of all, a paddle up the Barron River through the Barron Canyon. Others enjoyed the hike on the Barron Canyon Trail. Found during the paddle, was a small flock of gray jays, an Algonquin Park specialty. The concluding thoughts of the group were that next year’s MVFN canoe camp should be at the same location.

The final event of the MVFN 2011 canoeing program will be the Annual Fall Colours Paddle on Sunday, Oct. 2nd. This paddle will be organized by MVFN member Grahame Hunt and will be on Bennett Lake west of Fallbrook. For further details please visit MVFN’s website at


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Enjoying nature from the water during Whitefish Lake Canoe Camp 2010

Press Story

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

September 21, 2010

Enjoying nature from the water during field naturalists’ September canoe/camping trip

by Janet Snyder

While the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) canoe program usually focuses on day-trips around the lakes and rivers of Lanark County, once a year the group ventures further away on an extended canoe/camping trip. This year fifteen paddlers in kayaks, and solo and double canoes participated in the September 10-12 trip to Algonquin Park. Using the group camp site at Whitefish Lake as our base we took two different paddling routes. The route for Saturday was Smoke Lake (an approximately 20 kilometre drive from the camp site) and through the channel into Tea Lake. Then on Sunday we paddled directly from the camp site along a narrow channel to Pog Lake and Lake of Two Rivers.

Canoe camp 2010

MVFN paddlers on the Madawaska River on the way to Lake of Two Rivers during the September canoe/camping trip in Algonquin Park. Photo courtesy Rob Walsworth

For some, paddling was the main purpose of the trip. For others it was the opportunity to study the birds, plants and animals of the park. The presence of Cliff Bennett, a knowledgeable birder and Cathy Keddy, a botanist, contributed greatly to everyone’s enjoyment and learning.

Mornings were cool as would be expected for the time of year but by afternoon most paddlers were in shirtsleeves. A couple of hardy folks even went for a swim. Mealtime and the evening campfires allowed time for discussions of the days’ events, story telling (including a few tall tales) and star gazing. The lakes and rivers were calm and the sky just slightly overcast providing great paddling and an opportunity to concentrate on the environment around us. Bird sightings numbered nineteen species including melodious common loons, a flotilla of common mergansers and a small flock of American pipits. Paddling close to shore we could see small collections of plants in most unusual places such as pitcher plants and wild cranberry growing alongside sphagnum moss on an old log seen floating just off shore.

While there were many things we did see, some things were remarkable by their absence. There were few bugs on the water and no fish swimming in the lakes and rivers. Paddling slowly along the shore usually provides ample opportunity to spot turtles but in the two days of paddling only one turtle was seen, a painted turtle. This prompted much discussion and encouragement to continue the study of our natural environment and work to preserve the state of nature. Everyone agreed…same time next year!

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Killarney site of first MVFN Canoe Camp

The highlight of the year’s activity on the water was a four-day September canoe camp in Killarney Provincial Park.

A group of twenty-six canoeists/kayakers explored the upper end of Georgian Bay and also George and Freeland Lakes in the Park.

This was the first attempt to hold a canoe camp and the event was so successful that members demanded this become an annual event.

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Registration has begun for an MVFN’s Killarney Canoe/Kayak Camping Trip for 2008!

Announcing an MVFN Killarney Canoe/Kayak Camping trip for 2008

Full Moon

To all paddling members and friends,

This year, I am planning something more adventuresome, a canoe camp at
Killarney Provincial Park. 

Dates: Friday, Sept. 12 till Monday Sept. 15 (three nights)

Before I book the sites, I will need to know within a month, how many would be interested in going.

Please reply no later than April 30, of your intentions.

To make this camp viable, I would need a minimum of six participants. You don’t have to commit to all three nights; one or two will be OK.

Participants would bring their own food and camping equipment. I would be pleased to do the usual matching up of partners/boats/car pooling. I will pre-book and pay for the sites. Cost will be shared between participants; the more that come, the cheaper it will be.

Killarney Provincial Park is a seven hour drive from here, including time out for breakfast and/or lunch plus rest breaks. For more information or to confirm, contact Cliff at 613.256.5013 or .

-Cliff Bennett

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