Algonquin’s Barron Canyon is one of the park’s gems. Named after Augustus Barron, a member of the House of Commons, the waterway is lined with steep walls of hard, crystalline rock that tower far above the river, over 100 metres at their highest point.
The cliffs dominate the primitive landscape. It took only a few centuries of glacial melt, once equivalent to a thousand Niagara Falls, to retreat northward, from what geologists labeled the Fossil Outlet, to a lower geological fault—The Lake Nipissing-Mattawa channel—reducing the Barron River to a mere trickle.
I gave the canyon a visit during Thanksgiving weekend and camped at Achray Campground on Grand Lake. The campground closed after the holiday, but the hiking trial and viewing area are accessible year-round.
The trailhead is reached by access point #22, located at the east side of the park. Permits are picked up at the Sand Lake Gatehouse, along Achray Road, just west of Pembroke.
The trail is a short one, measuring 1.5 kilometres. The loop begins with an uphill climb through stands of pine and poplar. The scenery waiting for you is breathtaking.
What’s even more inspiring than viewing the canyon’s north rim from the day trial is to paddle through the canyon itself. A two- or three-day trip can be planned from the Achray Campground, but a day outing or short overnight can also be done by organizing a shuttle between the Forbes Creek Access and Squirrel Rapids Access. You can even eliminate the shuttle by simply putting in at the Squirrel Creek launch, paddling upstream to view the cliffs and floating back down to your vehicle.
Whichever way you choose to explore the Barron Canyon, you won’t be disappointed. It's easy to imagine that you have traveled back in geological time.
Check out my video on my latest trip there.