The Algonquin Park Canoe Hiker’s Map is a Labor of Love

“I haven’t been everywhere and there are places in the park I haven’t been to in 20 years.”

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Canoe hiker Jeff McMurtrie’s favorite parts of Algonquin Provincial Park are its more remote and isolated areas, but it was an experience getting lost that inspired his labor of love.

The 35-year-old Toronto native just released a series of five detailed and annotated maps that bring the park’s gems, challenges and dangers to everyone.

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“The way I present my maps is that they have everything important (the campsites and the transports) and that they are accurate. But the value I add is incorporating my opinion,” said McMurtrie, who first paddled in Algonquin with his father when he was eight years old.

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“I value routes, whether they are typical, challenging or difficult. That’s arbitrary, I know, but you see people asking those questions all the time. I get questions on Facebook or by email that say, ‘I’m looking for a trip for so-and-so and I don’t want it to be too difficult.’ Or maybe someone is looking for a real challenge.”

As a child, McMurtrie was a reluctant camper. But, as he grew older, his love for Algonquin Park grew deeper and more intimate. The Algonquin series took him five years to complete and is just the latest in his “Jeff’s Maps” series covering other popular wilderness areas such as Killarney, the French River, the Kawartha Highlands and the Temagami region.

McMurtrie started making maps after a high school canoe trip with a friend where the couple got lost in the park.

“The map we got of the park was wrong. The campsite was marked on the wrong side of the lake. The transport was in the wrong place. It had the wrong number of bays. I decided that, for me, I want something better.”

Around 2008, McMurtrie found a PDF map of Algonquin Park on a website and began adding his own scouting notes to it.

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“I thought, ‘Oh, I can modify it.’ It was just for me. “I had no ambition to do anything more than that.”

But his friends started asking him to share his map. He began offering it online and then as print-on-demand books. Word of mouth made the University of Toronto geography graduate’s maps the go-to source for Algonquian adventurers.

Much of the information contained in the maps comes from McMurtrie’s own experience. He estimates he spends between 30 and 45 days a year in the park. His longest trip was a 31-day excursion while he was in college.

But the vastness of Algonquin is beyond anyone’s experience. The 7,600-square-kilometer park is almost 30 percent larger than Prince Edward Island.

“I haven’t been everywhere and there are places in the park I haven’t been to in 20 years,” McMurtrie said. “In my opinion, it’s about merging as many sources as possible. I pick the brains of the people I meet. But other than that, it’s reading books, looking at old maps, reading online trip reports and YouTube videos. “Anything I can get.”

Jeff McMurtrie Algonquin Park Maps
Cartographer Jeff McMurtrie has produced a new series of detailed Algonquin Park maps designed for everyone from the novice to the experienced hiker. Photo by Photo supplied /ott

Users find bits of information annotated on maps: where to hear the double echo at Burntroot Lake, where to find the remains of a logging camp once operated by JR Booth. The places where Tom Thomson and members of the Group of Seven painted are marked, as are the lonely graves of murdered loggers in the park. There is information on the length and difficulty of the portages, including ancient routes now rarely traveled, locations of springs and hazards such as shallow water, waterfalls and rapids, and areas of poison ivy.

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The maps come in waterproof paper copies, but are also available in digital formats compatible with smartphones and Garmin devices and in expandable jpeg file formats.

McMurtrie prefers the quieter, more remote areas of the park: “the places that you can walk two or three kilometers to and that others may not be willing to walk to,” he said.

“But there is always more to explore. Part of the fun of making maps is that you look at different places and think, ‘Oh. It’s very nice. I wonder what it will be like. Let’s check it out.’”

Algonquin’s Maps by Jeff series comes in five parts for the East, North, Central, South and West regions at a cost of $25 each. There is a discount for purchasing several. They are available in mapsbyjeff.com.

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