An account, with photographs, of visiting High Falls and the water slide on the Barron River in Algonquin Park the hard way — by canoe from High Falls Lake.
2010 September 29
In our page High Falls, the Water Slide and the Barron Canyon: Some Trip-Planning Notes we ventured the opinion that there was no direct and easy route from High Falls Lake to High Falls and the water slide. This opinion was based on having traversed this area, on both sides of the river, many times over many years. But we had never actually tried it by canoe. Others have, and report that it is indeed possible to paddle and portage your way upriver from High Falls Lake. We did not doubt that it was possible; the issue was: is it practical and advisable?
Consequently Bob and his friend Richard set out to travel by canoe, as a day trip, from the Brigham Lake access point to High Falls and the water slide, going in via Opalescent, Ooze and High Falls Lakes, and returning via High Falls Lake and the Barron River. They had their opportunity on September 29. It was overcast, though not raining. Water levels were up and everything was soaked from the several very wet weeks preceding.
We landed at the foot of High Falls and left the canoe there. We climbed (scrambled) to the top. The climb was "OK", but with the wet conditions the footing was poor in places. We made our way to the water slide and ate our lunch there. We had the place to ourselves.
We're not sure what to conclude from this experiment. Clearly it is possible for a couple of old guys to get a canoe into the pond at the bottom of High Falls and then climb up to the water slide — all without broken limbs or heart attacks, or even breathing all that hard. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the water slide from High Falls Lake. About 30 minutes of that was recovering from swamping and getting around the first drop. We returned from the water slide in about 30 minutes. The return trip was down hill, down river, we then knew the route, and Bob spent less time on photography.
However, under the conditions of that day, the going was treacherous and there was the real potential for a serious fall or a slide into the river. Under drier conditions and at lower flow rates, the risk would be less, perhaps minimal. While accepting that our judgement is coloured by the hazardous conditions we encountered on that particular day, we stick to our original opinion that this is not a recommended route. But clearly, it can be done if you are so inclined and you recognize and accept the hazards.
We are chastened by the swamping of our canoe while lining. We are sufficiently experienced that this should not have happened. No excuses.
For a larger set of photos from Richard and Bob's trip to High Falls and the water slide, including a side trip to view the falls on the St. Andrews Lake drainage, see the photo gallery, High Falls (the hard way).