Georgian Bay's McGregor Bay and Baie Fine from Birch Island

Five day 73 mile in Georgian Bay, Lake Huron

Solo from Birch Island Ontario to McGregor Bay, Iroquois Bay, Frazer Bay and Baie Fine June 2023

When the 10-day wunderground weather forecast showed consecutive days of low wind and no rain during the 2023 summer solstice, I loaded up the car and drove to the Hawberry Motel in Little Current, stopping on the way at J&G Marina (aka McGregor’s Landing) in Birch Island to pay for parking at $13C/night. The marina was empty on a Monday night.

Day 1: Paddled east into McGregor Bay, then north to Iroquois Bay and east again along the North Channel around McGregor Island. The area is a maze of bays, coves, islands, skerries and straits with glacier-smoothed granite rock dropping into the water. Forests are white pine, white spruce, maple, oak and poplar, heavily browsed by deer. Cottages were almost always in sight until I got to the more northern and eastern sections. It appeared that most of the cottages hadn’t been opened up for the summer yet.
Water temperature was ideal for swimming. The clear water was marred by massive amounts of pine pollen rafting on the surface.

I paid for four nights of Ontario crown land camping but searching for crown land was a challenge. Pretty much any island that you could camp on had a cottage on it, but the cottages became fewer and farther between as I got farther from the marina. I had laminated copies of topo maps that showed buildings and I had updated them by marking more that I found on Google Earth. I ended up camping in Killarney’s poorly marked site #218 at noon after 17 miles. I wasn’t concerned that someone had reserved (and paid for) the site because it was Tuesday and I had seen no other paddlers. In fact, I saw no evidence that anyone had occupied any of the campsites I stayed at since the previous year. Also note the Killarney site numbers do not match those on my Killarney map.

Day 2: The solstice’s 17 hours of days meant I went to sleep when it was light and awoke when it was light. I left at six and continued around McGregor Island, heading south down the East Channel and past East Samson Island. Then I threaded my way through islands westward along Blue Ridge to get around McGregor Point. The long peninsula is a steep ridge with outcroppings of white quartzite. I checked out a portage trail across the neck of McGregor Point that would allow you to avoid the point; it appears to be three carries separated by two ponds. Mosquitoes here were thick. Both sides of McGregor point have coves with beaches suitable for camping, the only ones I saw during the trip.

I rounded McGregor Point into Frazer Bay. This was the only “big water” on my trip but there was little in the way of wind and waves. Temps climbed into the 80s well before noon and I was overheating with my PFD on. I stopped at a beautiful island south of the point in Frazer Bay and noted it would make a good campsite. The smaller island to the south had a house on it. I continued into the mouth of Baie Fine (pronounced Bay Fin) past a resort with mowed lawns and no visible customers.

Baie Fine is an 8 mile long bay with a narrow two mile extension, the end of which is called “The Pool”. It is remote – the resort at the mouth, a couple of cottages nearby, and a cottage on an island at the far end. If prevailing winds are from the WSW the waves would get heavy. The north shore, Blue Ridge, has white quartzite cliffs dropping into the water with a few coves. The south shore has peninsulas, bays, islets and skerries with plenty of places to camp. After 20 miles I found a good spot at noon on a peninsula that looks on the map to be a golf tee sunk into the shore. There appeared to be bear scat but the blueberries were still green. Shade was minimal. Water temp was brisker that the back inlets at McGregor Bay but the swimming felt great. Swimming on algae-slicked rock involved finding a place with steps to deep water and scouring the steps with a dish scrubber. Several speed boats cruised past during the afternoon and a sailing yacht was anchored at the end of the bay.

The area was scarily dry, a real tinderbox. I give the drought credit for keeping the mosquitoes down but forest fire smoke made the days hazy and the sun red, and killed any chance of seeing the Milky Way at night. Between the smoke and the pollen my lungs were not happy.

Day 3: I continued east toward The Pool. A ketch was anchored at the end of the main bay and a cabin cruiser was motoring out as I entered the narrows. I could hear a noise near Killarney site #83 which turned out to be a waterfall from Spark Lake. There are several cottages at the turn into The Pool. Site #81 at The Pool featured a thunder box guarded by a grouse. The Pool is a yacht parking lot later in the season, but this morning it was beautiful and peaceful.

The ten mile paddle back out of Baie Fine was a slog. The ketch and I paced each other on the way out, and the skipper informed me that I was doing 3 knots even with pauses for pictures. We parted ways when I stopped for lunch at a cove two miles from the mouth of the bay.

I returned to the Frazer Bay island south of McGregor Point at one after 17 miles and set up camp. This was my favorite campsite during the trip. It had minimal mosquitoes and none of the biting flies (slightly larger than deer flies) that buzzed me at the other sites. A stiff breeze and a swim provided some relief from the heat, but the wind never got strong enough for whitecaps.

Day 4: I paddled past the tip of McGregor Point and headed north along the eastern shore of Waldrope Island, keeping my eyes peeled for a camping spot within a couple of hours of the marina. The shoreline here had no cottages to the south but I didn’t spot any possible sites from the water. The shore is rounded cobbles. I weaved eastward past more islands. I spotted something called Split Rock Passage on Jumbo Island on the map and headed for it. This turned out to be two very narrow (too narrow for a runabout) passages into a large, undeveloped bay that had several camp sites. After paddling 10 miles I camped near the south end within earshot of homeowners working on their cottages.

That afternoon I portaged Old Portage at the south end of the bay and talked to a homeowner who was just putting in his cabin there. He assured me that I was camped on crown land. He and his buddies paddled the bay later in the day to fish; they were the only other paddlers I saw during the whole trip. Lake levels were two feet below the high water mark on the rocks; at high water it would be possible to get a speed boat into the bay. I circumnavigated Middle Samson Island and returned to camp via Split Rock, 8 miles. There is plenty of camping potential in the bay on the south shore of Middle Samson and along the channel between Middle and East Samson.

Day 5: I paddled back west to Birch Island via Split Rock, 7 miles, and arrived at the marina before 9 on Saturday morning. The marina parking lot was packed and the place was booming. I was told that I timed my trip right, as this was the start of the busy season when everyone opened up their cottages and moved in for the summer.

McGregor Bay is beautiful with very little in the way of long fetches for waves to build up. It occurs to me that it would be a good Plan B if someone has planned a trip in bigger water that falls through due to high winds. Note the west shore is first nation and off limits. The campsites in Killarney were not the same quality as those at Massasauga P.P. The water was warm and probably hits 80 by August.

Baie Fine is beautiful and more remote than McGregor with good camping but the long fetch could be very problematic when prevailing winds run down it’s length. Note the portage across the neck of McGregor Point.

Ontario’s provincial park campsite reservation system is not appropriate to sea kayaking if you have to commit to each site and date before knowing what the weather will be like. While the site at The Pool is nice, you might have yachts anchored in front of you in July and the first half of August; the sites a mile west would probably be more enjoyable.
Bear protocol is called for. Bring deet. Cell coverage gets minimal as you go east from Birch Island and Little Current. I used a Sawyer Squeeze to filter water and cooked on a butane stove.

Topo maps: 1:50,000 raster maps – the tiffs (first link) print well. GeoGratis spatial product index

Crown land camping permits: Recreational activities on Crown land |
Killarney campsite reservations (choose Killarney backcountry paddling):
Boat: Epic 18x sport


A very nice trip report. Thanks for putting it together

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Fantastic, beautiful, jealous!

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I found a way to identify crown land in Ontario.
Response is slow to come up. Zoom way in and in Map Layers turn on Assessment Parcel under Watersheds. You have to be zoomed in enough that the map is only a couple of miles across.