a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Jul, 2017

Camping at Bon Echo Provincial Park, part 1

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

Site 235 at Bon Echo Provincial Park

We arrived later than we had intended on Sunday, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It meant that we only waited 30 minutes for the rain to stop instead of 60+.

I love camping, but bad weather – especially given the amount of rain we’ve had these few couple of months – was weighing heavily on my mind and I was secretly dreading we were going to be a soggy mess the entire time. Also, related to that: bugs. Bon Echo had been buggy to the extreme the last time we were here so I drew a natural conclusion and assumed it would be just as bad, if not worse this year. So, that extra time in the car waiting for the rain to let up was enough for me to take a deep breath or two and get zen with the situation before forging ahead.

I should also mention that we had no real sense of what the forecast was. Bon Echo is in a black zone in terms of the 3G network and there’s no wifi, so we were definitely going to be offline for the foreseeable future. (We discovered later that you could get a weak signal in some areas at the edge of the water. The best reception was at the end of Cliff Top Trail, atop Mazinaw Rock, but you’ll have to paddle across the water, or take the ferry, and hike for a bit to get there.)

Finally it cleared enough for us to emerge from the dry comfort of our rental vehicle and get on with it. On first view, our site (which was #235 in Midway campground, and had an Ontario Parks rating of “good”) looked small, too small for our large family tent, screened in dining tent, and our minivan. Once we disembarked we saw it was a fairly decent spot. It went back further than we had thought, had a well-placed fire pit, and good privacy, as promised on the Ontario Parks website.

We got busy unloading our supplies and setting up the tent in case it rained again. The girls are a big help and set up is quick now. They put together our new screened tent and placed it over the picnic table. We bought it at Cabela’s just before we left. It did what it promised and also protected us from rain and proved to be a good shield from the bits that fall from the trees (including bird poop).

For dinner that evening we enjoyed chicken that I had marinated before we left (roasted over the fire), along with one of those bagged salads that come with dressing and crunchy bits because convenience trumps all when you’re living out of a cooler for five nights. For dessert, we had Nanaimo bars, made by my MIL, which were heavenly. After dinner, we walked down to the beach, twice (once to see it and a second time to star gaze), before we settled into our sleeping bags with our assortment of books and magazines. This is my idea of camping!

It rained overnight. Amazingly, neither daughter woke up during the deluge. It was a full onslaught of wet weather: thunder, lightning, and rain, which began as a gentle patter and grew to a pounding downpour. Frankly, I was amazed, and slightly alarmed, that the girls slept through it. After all, we were sleeping outdoors, in a tent (!) which means the only thing separating us from the weather was a millimetre of FABRIC. Fabric! I could only hope they’d wake up during any other serious emergency, e.g. a deranged bear wanders into our tent, a tree falls on their parents, our van explodes, or an angry elephant barrels through the woods. Sigh.

It was then that I realized that my rain coat and umbrella were in the car. I thanked the heavens above that I didn’t need to pee overnight and the rain cleared by morning. It was a dramatic rainy episode, that’s for sure, AND it marked the end of the rain for us during our trip. AMAZING.

Our tent leaked a bit, and Mark knocked a small bathtub’s worth of water that pooled on part of the roof (twice), and someone’s shoes got soaked, but otherwise, we survived unscathed. One night down, four more to go.

4 Responses to "Camping at Bon Echo Provincial Park, part 1"

1 | Misty Pratt

July 25th, 2017 at 2:42 pm


I’m curious to hear all about it! We did Bon Echo 3 years ago. We had one of the walk-in sights (dumb idea in hindsight, since we had a toddler that had to be carried a lot of the way! But I came home super fit) What bugged me (other than bugs, haha) was the complete lack of ranger oversight. Our friends staying in midway had a TERRIBLE night with a huge drunken group that didn’t get quiet until 4am – and instead of kicking them out, they came over to “talk” to them. And the people surrounding us seemed to have no clue how to camp properly, dragging in brush from the forest, using lighter fluid and leaving food out for the racoons. In years past, I’ve been told to be quiet by rangers even just whispering by the campfire…so I find the experience in provincial parks is pretty tough now when you’re there for some peace and quiet.

2 | andrea tomkins

July 25th, 2017 at 3:04 pm


We’ve had great luck at some campgrounds, worse luck in others. Part of it, I think, is a roll of the dice. If you booked a site near a rowdy group, you’re in for it. It seems like there are some controls in place (eg. there are limits to how many people and tents per site). Campground patrol, by staff, can be a very useful deterrent. We’ve been to some Ontario Parks where drive-bys were frequent occurrences, especially in the evenings. This wasn’t the case at Bon Echo. We had one group that was up LATE. Mark had to go over and talk to them because they were singing (!) and it was driving us crazy (the girls slept through it, of course). A different group across the way looked like they may be troublesome… there were multiple couples converging on one central site, but they actually packed it in at a reasonable hour. My point is that you never know what you’re going to get! To avoid this, one could look into sites that are a bit more remote and rustic. We’ve had quiet sites at Achray, for example, which doesn’t have comfort stations. (It’s something I don’t care about but I’m sure it deters the casual party camper.)

3 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Camping at Bon Echo, Cliff Top Trail - a peek inside the fishbowl

July 28th, 2017 at 12:07 pm


[…] was soaked on Monday morning, which was not a surprise given the rain storm we had the night before. We had planned a hike on the Bon Echo Creek trail but once we got there we realized it was too […]

4 | Misty Pratt

July 31st, 2017 at 1:57 pm


Yup, totally…it’s all just luck I think, but too bad they don’t patrol more at Bon Echo. As someone who has a lot of trouble sleeping at the best of times, camping is hard!! I absolutely loved Achray for that reason – remote, and seemed to weed out the less desirables ;)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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