Jim Hammill: Use of “Crown Land” in Ontario for RV Camping

I find myself lagging behind in producing interesting topics to write about, mainly because my good compatriots , Mike and Jennifer, Laura, and Campskunk are so darn interesting, and doing so many interesting things, that I cannot compete. I am struggling to be well………..interesting.

And of course, trying to untangle myself from the latest h196 unsolicited emails on various topics. ☺ ☺

So I decided that a good game of reporter tennis is a good idea, where I just look at what my fellow reporters are writing about, and try to beat them at it. At the very least, it may add to the discussion, and allow people some good info.

So here goes. Let’s play “affordable camping” tennis. My good Campskunk has been schooling us in the finding of less expensive places to stay, and in doing so, explained the concept of DAY camping, and then moving to the free or less expensive places. Well, I can beat that, albeit I have no casinos to go into…

In writing a recent post, Campskunk has spoken about the exorbitant cost of Ontario Provincial Parks, and Campgrounds. And he is right. They are ridiculously expensive, in my cheapass opinion. I would like to tell him that we toss those signs up as soon as we see his license plates, and to a certain degree that is true, as user fees are typically higher for non residents, but they are just high fees for all of us.

Well, I am going to talk about FREE camping, here in the Great White North (Green North, in the summer), in some of the most beautiful places that exist on the face of the planet. FREE. Ontario RV camping can be very affordable with a ton of beautiful views and places to see. Of course, if you are soft Floridian, you may not like it, it’s not a casino parking lot. (heh, heh, I had to take that shot).

First, let me do a little housekeeping and explain that land owned by the government in Canada, is called Crown land. This is due to the fact that we are a constitutional monarchy, and Queen Elizabeth, Queen of Canada, is our head of state (in fact -she designates the Governor General as her representative). So, the “Crown” is a term used to describe government in Canada in general.

Here in Ontario, and in fact, all over this great country, 87% of all land is owned by the Crown (government), either the federal or provincial branches. As you drive even two or three hours north in this country, huge tracts of land (makes me think of Monty Python – it will be interesting to see who gets that one) come available almost everywhere. And when that land is owned by the government, and not specifically designated for a use, like a park, or a building, then it is deemed to be something called General Use Crown Land, which, unless otherwise posted, is available for use.

Non-residents are supposed to pay a small fee, but where the heck you would pay it? There are no offices at these places, and no one checking them regularly. There are no park rangers on general use land. (I won’t say that I would chase trying to find where to pay a fee, if you are a non-resident.) I see non-residents out there all the time. As long as they are being good citizens of the environment, it is awesome to see them!! I even see Roadtrek owners. Once I even saw a dastardly owner of a P-way out there. ☺

Bottom line is: There are currently huge tracts of some of the most beautiful places that are available for public FREE camping on the beautiful lakes, rivers, and forests of Ontario. Here is a government website that generally discusses the topic that will help you discover Ontario for RV camping.
http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/LetsFish/2ColumnSubPage/STEL02_165432.html

Now clearly, there are lots of inaccessible places. But there are lots and lots of accessible places, and they are incredible. I will admit, in some, that having a bottle of bug juice or Avon Skin So Soft (my preference) may be a good idea.

As to bugs, well, for some strange reason, they don’t either bite me, or I have no sense of feeling. It perhaps is a result of those infantry years, lying in bogs, waiting, while millions of bugs create an airplane sound around your head, that makes me immune to a few million mosquitoes and a few black flies. Best time to go is July, between the bug surges. Hotter and drier is best to avoid bugs.

Again, bottom line, you want to camp in Ontario, find a clear space, and WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR. I have a five dollar bug head net I wear when I fish, and all the other people look at me like I am a space alien, for the first ten minutes. Then they ask me where to get one.

We have an old saying back in the infantry. And it applies heavily to Roadtreking. “Only a fool is uncomfortable.” But I digress….

These are places that require you to boondock. You will not get hookups, or water fills or dumping stations. But this huge Province of Ontario (and indeed the whole country of Canada) is setup for Outdoor activities. There are very few places you go that will not be able to service you for those RV items in the local community.

Let’s talk about planning a trip:

Legend

You can research online, a great spot for using crown land. I chose a spot at Buckhorn Lake, about three and a half hours north of my current location. Now, please, there are several Buckhorn Lakes, and this one is really isolated, not the big cottagey ones.
First, I went to the Ontario Crown Use Policy Atlas.
http://www.lio.ontario.ca/imf-ows/imf.jsp?site=clupa_en

Using that Atlas, which can be a little arduous, like a lot of government sites, I isolated a place near Buckhorn lake, and looked for the cream coloured areas, that are general use. Lots of them in this area. So in the event of a problem, I have other options.

I found an area, that has a road passing through a general use area – 12 Mile Bay Road

Buckhorn LakeI isolated down to a longitude and latitude, that is near where I am interested in camping.

I then go on Google Maps, and choose the satellite option, and I go down and isolate on the area I am looking at. I am then able to see, and get a better view of the area I am interested in.

I come in close, and I say, wow, look how much forest there is, and look at that isolated lake. That could be my fishing hole!!

12 Mile Bay RdUsing that photo, I can see that there is a road, called Twelve Mile Bay Rd, that runs right through the area, and that there are many places along the road that are possible overnight camp sites, pull offs. I know that they are public, general use land, and I know that they are definitely free for me. I also know that it is a green, wonderfully fresh, heavily forested area with lakes, rivers, and I can isolate in even further, which I do. And I may have to fish in the river. That could be good news. I don’t really care about catching fish. I just like to exist in the real outdoors, (in safety and comfort of a Roadtrek)

Here is my access area. I am going to use it as a camping base. It is open, and it has a driving access, and is less than 500 yards to the lake I am interested in being near for fishing, kayaking. I can have a campfire for cooking, as this is allowed everywhere, and I can boondock here for 21 days, and then I just need to move to a new site. Hmmmmm. Seems promising for my uses.

Buck Horn Lake Fall 2011 001You can find great examples online like this by reading blogs of others. You can read new ideas, and you can read about awesome spots. And of course, there are really rough hard camping spots, and there are many places, with a little research, that you can easily access in your Roadtrek, in every area. And they could look like this.

Now the point here is that you do not have to pay for peace and tranquility. And out here, aside from the occasional logger or angler, you just won’t see anybody.

But…….take my sincere advice on this one. Do not leave food out overnight. Wear pants. Take bug juice. Take a camera. Prepare for absolute peace and quiet. It will be so quiet you will wonder what happened. Prepare to be able to lie out on the ground at night, and have the only sign that humans exist be the satellites you can track moving across the sky.

Question people ask. How are these lands governed? The Ministry of Natural Resources has Conservation Officers that ensure that the laws and rules are followed. Police obviously have authority. So you need to make sure you have the current fishing/hunting licenses, and such items as may be required by law. Ask at the local store where to get a fishing license, if you need one, and go online for the rules.

Also, you need to make sure you are aware of the fire restrictions, if there are any. Generally, you can campfire anytime for food or heat. But you need to be safe with it. And you need to make sure you leave no sign/garbage behind you, when you leave. Make sure you have the map access sheets printed and saved, to show people who ask that it is general use crown land. Few people camp in these places, so somebody might ask, but ask nicely.

Check your location coordinates out with a GPS when you arrive, and confirm they are in the Crown land, not in a park, not on adjoining private land. Verify it. And then you are good!!

But, the advantages are amazing. No people. No trails. More wildlife (sleep in your Roadtrek, please). Incredible fishing, because these places are not overfished, like parks and open waterways.

And folks, trust me, these places are as safe as you make them. Safer than cities. Safer than parking lots.

I will be travelling to this location or one like it shortly, and I will report back to all of you, with photos, and my travails with several little bears with me.

So, Mr Campskunk, over to you, with my hardest serve…………. I have free and beautiful. What you got to top that…….? Hey, Mr Florida Man…….

Keep on trekin……….




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  • Campskunk

    ok, ok, i will admit that for a few brief weeks a thin layer of moss and lichens forms over the permafrost up there, and the polar bears aren’t as hungry as they usually are… to be honest, i only sampled the populated southern part of Ontario, which looks like the northeastern US (only prettier, Jim would say). anyone with a map can see Jim’s point. in Canada, if you want to blow the stink off and be able to stretch out and scratch where it itches, you don’t head west like we do – you head north. i didn’t have time to go up north like the Canadians do, but all of my beautiful Canadian bride’s friends have cottages up north, and fly-in fishing weeks on lakes without names… i guess i could get used to that. maybe. if it ever warms up up there. i’ll have to bring my own grits and Dr. Pepper, though – the stores in Canada are woefully understocked with these vital supplies.

  • Maureen

    Thanks Jim…..you’ve also educated a fellow Canuck and I suspect many more!

  • Lisa

    Nice info, Jim! Will have to add that area to my bucket list for sure!

  • Stu

    Great story and information I’ve never had the opportunity to go to Canada but hope to some day. I hear it is beautiful all over.

  • shari groendyk

    Boy, armed with the right info you can have some serious good times in Canada. Who knew? Thanks for enlightening us! And, I know and love Monty Python too, by the way. My fave: Four Yorkshiremen’s “we were so poor ….” I laugh out loud every time I hear it… 🙂

  • Well now, this type of planning is not for the faint of heart, but several other provinces have similar setups….. Just needs research.

  • Pam Hicks

    Great article, Jim! You are a wonderful writer – the perfect balance of fact & humor.

  • Cheryl Gregorie

    Sounds beautiful and peaceful …. Thanks!

  • The great outdoors!

  • Made in Canada.

  • yup