The Minesing swamp is located about a one hour drive north of Toronto making it easy accessible. The swamp changes in size as it expands hugely in the spring with a different look each year. However do try to visit this area in the spring when water levels are higher.
As a boy scout we used to take part in annual races along the Nottawasaga River from Nicholson Dam to Wasaga Beach and Minesing was about half way along the route. The organizers always warned us never to get out of our vessel in the swamp due to the mud.
Whether you are in a canoe or kayak expect the channel in the to meander and it almost seems you are going in circles at times. Also expect to see a lot of wildlife, especailly birds and with a few beaver dams to lift over on some years. This is how one writer described his experience and which is similar to my own.
You’ll quickly learn that this section of the river is a muddy experience. Be careful not to sink in too far as you’re getting in and out of the canoe, or you could find yourself plunging into the river. The river is a pleasant paddle downstream, and fairly high banks serve as a buffer against any wind. The river is lined with Red Maple trees and Fiddlehead ferns (my friend tells me these are edible plants and in fact, quite tasty when fried in butter).
Wildlife spotted along the river includes a good selection of birds. There are cormorants, mallards, and kingfishers. At one point, I spotted a large furry bundle sitting high in a tree and enthusiastically eating the leaves. At first I thought it was a raccoon because of the size, but closer inspection revealed it was a porcupine. He paid me little attention as I shored up to the river bank and sat underneath him, taking photos and trying to get a clear shot from all the branches in the way. He never stopped snacking the entire time I was there.
The river does pose some challenges for paddlers with log jams. The steep, muddy bank can be tough to climb out on, so choose your your spots carefully.
Paddling back to the access point is a bit tougher because of the fight agains the current, but this route is still suitable even for beginner paddlers. The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority does ask for a $2 fee for each visitor that enters the park, but I didn’t come across any opportunity to pay this fee. ….More at Minesing Wetlands, Barrie, Ontario – Urban Paddler
Unlike the writer above our group entered the Minesing Swamp at Willow Creek where there is a parking lot and paddled first west following the creek and then north on the Nottawasaga River exiting at the Edenvale Conservation Area. We had a large number of canoes and kayaks so were able to run a car shuttle prior to setting off.
As a kid my mother and father would bring us to the banks of Nottawasaga in the spring to pick the fiddleheads. I soon learned to hate these green boiled vegetables but I now realize it was just the way they were prepared.
The log jams mentioned above can be tricky at times, particularly in the spring, as the current on the Nottawasaga can sometimes force you up against them and then you need to carefully climb over and lug your canoe or kayak over as well. But as I said earlier it does vary each year.