Camping at Algonquin’s Canisbay and Pog Lakes

@ Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

With spring finally here and summer just around the corner, my family is busy planning our first camping trip of the season. Outdoors enthusiasts who travel to Algonquin Provincial Park are fortunate to have many campgrounds from which to choose. In our hearts, however, there are but two choices: Canisbay and Pog Lake. We’ve been having more than a decade worth of fun at each of these unique camping destinations.

POG LAKE CAMPGROUND

Pog Lake Campground is nestled within a pine forest at km 36.9 along the Hwy. 60 corridor. There are close to 300 campsites in three different areas of the campground, marked A, B and C. Several sites offer electrical hookup. A small number of sites are located within a dog-free and radio-free zone.

Setting up the tent at Pog Lake campsite
Setting up the tent at Pog Lake campsite
Tall conifers provide a large canopy over Pog Lake campgrounds
Tall conifers provide a large canopy over Pog Lake campgrounds
Sunset at Pog Lake beach
Sunset at Pog Lake beach

For privacy, we enjoy section C. Here, a number of short roads branch off from the main campground road and lead to private sites that are located at loops where each road ends. Each of these loops has two to three campsites which offer privacy.  All of the sites in this section provide access to the beach area within a short walking distance. And because the sites are mostly located along water—either Pog Lake itself or the Madawaska River which empties into it—these are great spots from where to launch a canoe or a kayak. We generally find ducks making their way up from the water’s edge at our site. In the night, the tranquility is such that you feel like yours is the only family in the park. It’s truly a great place to “get away from it all.”

When we camp with friends and extended family, we like to book adjoining sites in section B. Although many of the sites here are not overly private (and this is particularly true of sites located closest to the beach), if you are camping with a group, the short footpaths through the woods from one site to another offer convenience for keeping an eye on kids at play or when the group wants to share a place to cook, eat and enjoy camp-fire together.

The beach at Pog Lake, just off from section B, is a beautiful spot. We’ve often taken picnic lunches down to the beach and spread out our blankets to catch some sun and spend the afternoon. We love to swim in the clear waters of Pog Lake beach or go for a paddle around the lake (no power boats are permitted here) and the kids like to build sandcastles and skip stones on the shore. Each evening after dinner, we go for walk down to the beach to watch the sun set over Pog Lake in Algonquin. It’s truly an idyllic experience.

The beach at Pog Lake

 

Although taking a campsite close to the beach at Pog Lake may seem idyllic—to wake to the sounds of Loons in the morning or be lulled to sleep by the gentle lapping of the water against the shore—a bit of a cautionary note is required here because in reality, on a cold and windy night, there is little to no shelter as the woods are sparse along the beachfront sites at Pog. Things can get a little chilly.

If you are lucky, you’ll spot a moose feeding along Hwy 60
If you are lucky, you’ll spot a moose feeding along Hwy 60

When the weather is more severe, we retreat to one of the sheltered amenities close to Pog: the Algonquin Visitor Centre or the Lake of Two Rivers general store and gift shop. At the general store, we always treat ourselves to delicious Kawartha Dairy ice cream. On nice days it’s pleasant to sit outside the store on one of the several picnic tables under the canopy of tall pines. The Algonquin Visitor Centre is a short minutes-long drive from the Pog Lake campground.  There is a large interpretive display that chronicles the history of the park and speaks to its nature and wildlife. There is also a restaurant, a gift shop and a fantastic view of the landscape and surrounding lakes from its lookout deck. Before we leave the Visitor Centre, we stop just outside the bookstore to look upon the donor wall. There, we have our own personal connection to the park, which is a plaque dedicated to my dad. It reads: Powell (Nick) Gospodaruk, in memory of his love for nature and for Canada’s northland.

There are a few day trails located within a short drive from Pog. These include Centennial Ridges, Spruce Bog, Lookout, Big Pines, Two Rivers and Bat Lake. In addition, bicycle trails are easily accessed from within the campground. From section B, you can bike from Pog to nearby Kearney Lake campground. Or, bike past section C and cross a dam at the Madawaska River to take the Old Railway Bike Trail north to Mew Lake and Lake of Two Rivers, or south to Rock Lake and Coon Lake. The railway bike trail is our favourite. We always stop at the dam, which is a portage route. Then we continue on to Rock Lake which runs on an even path alongside Whitefish Lake.

CANISBAY LAKE CAMPGROUND

Where the woodland of Pog Lake is mainly coniferous, Canisbay’s woodland is mostly deciduous—which makes it a colourful place to be in the autumn. In addition, the sites at Canisbay Lake Campground are sandy compared to Pog Lake. Canisbay is located, at km 23 on the Hwy. 60 corridor. It has just over 240 campsites which also offer radio-free and dog-free zones as well as electrical sites and RV campsites. Site seclusion at Canisbay is very good in most cases.

The drive into Canisbay campground in Autumn
The drive into Canisbay campground in Autumn

Canisbay has a number of interior paddle-in campsites that are easily accessed across Canisbay Lake from the beach area. We paddled out one day just to check out the sites, and were fortunate to come upon a site that was vacant. We pulled up to the site and docked our canoe along the rocky edge of the water. We took a stroll up a slight rocky incline to the main part of the site where we discovered a spot that would be ideal to pitch a tent. The site, as most that we saw during our paddle around the area, was secluded. We felt like we were the only people in this area of the park. From the rocks at the site, we dipped our feet into the lake. Having a swim would have been ideal. To drink in the landscape from this perspective is a treat.

Canisbay camp site
Canisbay camp site
Canisbay Campground
Canisbay Campground

Another activity we enjoy when at Canisbay Lake Campground is a bike ride at Minnesing, around Linda Lake or Polly Lake. In this area there are 4.7, 10, 17 and 23.4 km loops to enjoy. If you want to try a change from camping food, you can try the nearby Bartlett Lodge located at km 23.5. It’s open for lunch and dinner. Nearby trails include Peck Lake, Track and Tower and Hemlock Bluff.

Pines whipped by the winds slope closely to Canisbay Lake
Pines whipped by the winds slope closely to Canisbay Lake

Another attraction close by that is not to be missed is the Algonquin Art Gallery, located at km 20. (Remember those inclement days I talked about?) The Algonquin Art gallery features a gift shop that features unique jewellery, books, paintings, sculpture and other items. The mainstay of the gallery is the variety of changing exhibits and permanent installations by local artists and others. Being from Southern Ontario, I enjoy seeing works by artists from “home”—like the brilliant painter, E. Robert Ross. Ross’s large sweeping oil paintings offer his own unique, colourfully bold interpretations of Algonquin. To be in the presence of one of Ross’s paintings is to peer into the soul of Algonquin—an experience very much in line with viewing a Tom Thomson painting.

Painted canoe outside the Algonquin Art Gallery
Painted canoe outside the Algonquin Art Gallery

When camping with friends, we mums enjoy taking our kids to the beach at Canisbay and doing some artwork. We use water from the lake to give our acrylic paintings on canvas that extra little touch of Algonquin. No one would know it but us of course, but it makes us feel close to the park we love when we’ve taken our works back home to display them. With the beautiful coloured leaves seen across the lake during the fall, artwork in Algonquin in the autumn is one of our special and most memorable ways to spend an afternoon. And we usually find people on their way to their canoes or just enjoying a walk by the beach stop by and marvel at what we’re doing.

Throughout the years we have certainly made some great memories at Pog Lake and Canisbay. We are looking forward to making many more this year.

By Veronica
A Canadian writer and communications professional from Southern Ontario

 

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