Moon River Falls

It took a while, but after a few debates, we decided on Moon River Falls for our Canada day long weekend destination. We had tossed around ideas ranging from the campgrounds in the Adirondacks, to Algonquin. In the end though, finding something close to Toronto and free pointed us in the direction of Crown Land. Matthias and I dropped off my wife, daughter and my good buddy Benson at our insertion point to the forest, and we went to Moon Basin Marina to park the car. When we met up and started hauling our gear into the forest three things became painfully apparent. The horse files and mosquitos were out in full force, lugging enough beer for a long weekend is very heavy, and it was hot… very hot.

It has been about five years since Matthias and I had camped in July, and to be completely honest, it caught us off guard since we were used to camping in the cold. To fend off the bugs, I pulled out my PCU Level 4 from my ruck and put he hood over my head, inverted the long sleeves and then tied them around my chest. This made a fairly effective "poncho" shield from the bugs, and allowed for decent airflow in the 30°C weather. The hike on the map was about 2km, but of course straight lines on maps never translate well when you're actually on the ground. During our hike we walked over large Canadian Shield hills, through shallow swamps, and saw what looked like an old logging road that has been completely grown over. It was a lot more challenging than we had anticipated, and in hindsight, it was probably a little too much for some of the less experienced members of our group. The bugs, heat, thick forest proved to be less than enjoyable for the girls.

Both the bodies of water that looked like lakes on maps, ended up being swamps, and we were lucky that we found a large clearing of Canadian Shield that proved to be a great spot for a site. Tents went up quickly and Matthias and I grabbed some dry bags and headed to the river to collect some water. During the walk, we talked about how lucky we were that we found such a great site, as the majority of what we walked through with our 60lbs packs was buggy and damp forest. There were a few instances where we considered ditching the idea of camping in the area and just heading back to a spot closer to the road after monitoring how the rest of the group was fairing on the hike. However after seeing pictures of the falls online, coupled with my stubborn attitude and Matthias' intrepid personality, we mentally high fived, knowing that we made it, and that the hard part was over.

When we got to the river, we were both drenched with sweat. Matthias and I had walked substantially more than the rest of the group during the day between walking down the road from the car to the insertion, and considering we did a fairly long recce to scout ahead of the group to find a suitable route to the site. We noticed that there were a few people at the river, and to their horror I'm sure, Matthias and I stripped down to our boxers, which were unfortunately white, and unapologetically jumped into the river. It was glorious. It's like I had never really understood the word refreshing until that very moment. It was at that point, floating around in the water, seeing the waterfall, and just enjoying the moment that I knew it was going to be an awesome weekend.

We slept that night without the fly, and woke up to yet another spectacular day. Barely any clouds in the sky, and perfect swimming weather. Most of the day was spent exploring the waterfall and swimming in the area. The waterfall was broken into three main parts. The lower falls which was wide, and was shallow enough to walk around in with the exception of one pool. It looked like a mini version of Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The pool was maybe 15x10 feet and had a nice ledge to sit on. The amazing part about it though was that the pool itself was at least 20 feet deep. People were jumping in and swimming around it it all day. The second part of the falls was a large pool that the main falls drained into. I wish I had spent more time swimming around in this area. Directly under the falls it was 15-20 feet deep and there were a number of fish swimming around. I think the water flow from Bala was lighter than usual as the water was fairly calm. I'm glad I had my Mares Opera mask with me because it allowed me to get a great view of the bottom of the falls. The last section that we explored was the main waterfall. It was only about 1-2 meters wide, but it moved very fast. And again, from the arial photos I found online I think that the potential for the falls to be a hell of a lot stronger is definitely a possibility. So anyone reading this that wants to visit the site to go swimming, should be warned to play it by ear as there have been fatalities at Moon River Falls.

Luckily we didn't run into any trouble at the falls and spent the rest of the day enjoying the weather and warm water. What really caught us off guard was that once 5pm rolled by, the number of people in the area went from over 100 people to just our group of five. We had the falls to ourselves! Further down the river we could see three other campsites and after the sun went down, the cliff that we were hanging out at gave us front row seats for a brilliant Canada day fireworks show compliments of our neighbours. I think it was at this moment that we all decided that Moon River had to become a Canada day tradition. Next time however, instead of hiking we'd probably rent some canoes. We saw a large amount of people taking a water taxi, but at $40 per person per trip, there's no way we'd ever pay that. Plus I feel like it'd be cheating. We took a different route on the way back to the Marina and followed the coast. It was longer, but the view was worth it.

What worked:
• Filtering our own water using the Katadyn Base Camp rather than lugging in enough water for 3 days.
• The MSR Mutha Hubba 3 man tent. It packs up small and doesn't feel like you're a sardine.
• Eating dehydrated food from Backpacker's Pantry. The shepherd's pie and Italian beef sauce over pasta were AMAZING!
• Bringing tarps and paracord to set up sun shelters
• Bringing water shoes to explore the waterfall

What was so so:
• The cheap propane stove we used for boiling water. I definitely see some sort of Jetboil or BioLite happening in the future.
• On the second night we moved campsites, and I just tossed everything into my pack. I totally lost track of where everything was which was super annoying.

What didn't work:
• Not having a bug suit. Battling horse flies and mosquitos in the forest was insane. The alternative of wearing pants and long sleeves in the heat was almost unbearable.
• Beer. I'm never hiking with beer ever again.
• We brought too much stuff. I can fit most of what I have into my 50L large ALICE pack, but I'd like to have 80+ so I don't have to bring and carry a second bag. Axing beer will help though...


  1. where did you park at one of the marina;s or on the road.


    actually same question for go home lake


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  2. For Go Home Lake, we called the Marina in advance and paid like $10 for the whole weekend if I remember correctly. For Moon River Falls, when I called the MNR, they said that since the road we wanted to stay on was on crown land, we could just park on the road as long as we weren't blocking anyone. I would call the MNR and the local municipality in advance. In our experience, sometimes the municipality has put up signs that say no parking. Whether they have jurisdiction for something like that is another topic, but it's hard to fight your case to the tow truck driver when you are not camping beside your car haha. So take precautions. Thanks for visiting!

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