Trip Planning: Maps Are Important: Which Ones to Bring

Looking at our maps on Day 1 and trying to figure out where we were. We turned around 10 minutes later. 

It was day one of our trip. We spent the morning loading the car. We visited the park office. We spent an hour and a half driving down forest roads spending much attention to our kilometer counts. We finally found the portage after driving past it a few times. We had just finished loading our canoes after an 800-meter portage. (We each had to walk this portage twice, meaning a 3.2 km stroll with heavy barrels and canoes). We had paddled into our route for about 30 minutes. We then realized, we were missing a map. We also realized we had began our paddling for the day at 8 PM. Thunderstorms were not far away. Grumpiness ensued. (We did go to bed at 1:30 AM the previous evening. Maybe not a wise idea.) The camera was turned off and we turned our canoes back around. We backtracked everything we had just done, walked back the 800 meters to our cars, and camped on the forest road. Some of us slept in a tent. The others chose the cars and discovered that they were far from bug proof. Well, geez. Welcome to all the glory that is canoe tripping.

It was an embarrassing moment for all of us. It was humbling. It made us question ourselves. It also made us doubt ourselves. Who on earth did we think we were to do this canoe trip, film it, and then go forget a map? During a conversation about this incident after our trip, Ledah wisely mentioned ,

“You have to be willing to fail.”

Welcome to all the glory that is canoe tripping.

You have to be willing to make mistakes, but you also have to be equally willing to learn from them. We could have kept paddling ourselves late into the evening without truly knowing where we were. We could have just tried to push through and deny our mistake. We could have hidden our failure from ourselves, but that would have probably meant setting up our tent in a marsh and waking up the next morning with the lingering uncertainty of where we were exactly. We swallowed our pride – it took a few gulps – and had an excellent group debrief while chowing down Sidekicks Fettuccine Alfredo. We quickly learned to be vulnerable around each other and trust one another. That was day one.

After all this map kerfuffle of day one, we found the correct maps hiding in our car and began fresh on the morning of day two. After that, our relationship with maps grew in a more positive direction. So, what maps did we bring?

Topographical Maps

Contour lines are all the rage with the kids nowadays. We also love them… on maps. Although we weren’t on a hiking trip, contour lines are particularly helpful to read the upcoming hills and better figure out where we were on the map. The hiker in Jocelyn appreciated these maps for this reason. We used Quetico Topographical Maps 52-B/6 edition 4 (Kawnipi Lake), 52-B/3 edition 3 (Knife Lake), 52-B/7 edition 3 (Mowe Lake).

Quetico Provincial Park Map

Combined with Mackenzie Maps, we used the park’s maps specifically for our portages. We found that they gave the best detail. It did help that the portages were marked in meters instead of rods. We specifically used The Adventure Map by Chrismar – Quetico Provincial Park and Area (1:125,000).

Mackenzie Maps

Although these maps are American and mark the portage distances in “rods,” we loved using them. They had great detail and marked many, many campsites. We specifically used 37 Kawnipi Lake (1:31,680) and 6-A Saganagons (1:31,680).

Northwestern Ontario Backcountry Roads Map

This book is a gem for those who live in Northwestern Ontario and we loved it during this trip. Not only did it help us read the forest roads and see where we were to better find our put in, it also had camp sites marked on the map in regions outside of Quetico Provincial Park. Although we didn’t use any of these campsites, it was helpful to know of them in case of an emergency. We also were able to see that we passed by Greenwood Lake Conservation Reserve and enjoyed a quick stop to admire old growth white and red pine trees. It is important to note that there are different editions of this map. As logging continues and more logging roads are built in a lot of paddling territory, be sure to have an updated map!

Looking at a Mackenzie map the evening before our trip, thinking we were prepared.

With the combination of these four map types and after learning to actually carry ALL these maps, we grew in our map-reading confidence and truly enjoyed that part of the trip.



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