The Meanest Link Canoe Route

The Meanest Link 420km / 261 miles

This week on Canoehound’s Outdoor Adventure Show we will be joined by Co-founder Gord Baker, Canadian Author of “Once Around Algonquin” Kevin Callan and the current record holders of the fastest unsupported circuit of the Meanest Link, Chris and Julia Prouse.

The meanest Link is a 420km (261 mile) canoe route that was created to honor the memory of Bill Swift Sr. who is the founder of Algonquin Outfitters, Swift Canoe and Kayak and Camp Pathfinder. Bill Swift Sr., also known as Swifty, Mean Dude or Meanest had a deep passion and love for Algonquin Provincial Park.

Gord Baker and Alex Hurley who both knew Bill Swift Sr. decided that one of the best ways to honor Swifty was to create this challenging Canoe Route that would connect 4 Algonquin Outfitters Locations (Oxtongue Lake, Huntsville, Brent on Cedar Lake, and Lake Opeongo) plus Camp Pathfinder and of course Swifty’s favorite lake and Campsite on Lake Lavielle in Algonquin Provincial Park.

“This is not a trip for the faint of heart”…

The Meanest Link is a challenging route that can be run either Clockwise (preferred by most) or Counter Clockwise and covers rugged terrane, beautiful lakes and rivers and challenging portages. The Meanest Link Canoe Route may be run in its entirety or in sections of which there are 4. In order to qualify for a successful run there are rules to be followed:


There are not many rules but they are important to the spirit of the trip:

  1. “Linkers” must follow the official route for each section and complete the section in a single trip. One exception is the Huntsville to Brent leg, which could be done in two parts: Huntsville – Rain Lake, then Rain L. – Brent.
  2. You can go either direction. (Clockwise or Counter Clockwise)
  3. You can do a section at a time, two or three sections or attempt the whole loop. If you attempt the Full Link but do not complete it, your completed section(s) will be recorded on the Meanest Link Wall of Fame.
  4. No solo trips (for safety).
  5. Take pictures of the portage signs (at the very least) to prove you did it.
  6. You have to use the same self-propelled watercraft for the whole section, or for the whole Link if you are doing the continuous loop. Paddlers using anything but a canoe will be scoffed at.
  7. You can travel as fast or as slowly as you like. It is not a race. Enjoy this route and Swifty would.
  8. Safety is of paramount importance. Travel carefully!
  9. When paddling the Brent to Opeongo leg, the party must stop at (preferably camp at) Meanest’s favorite site on Lake Lavieille.
  10. Each trip member has to drink a particular refreshing beverage on that particular site. For more information on rules 9 and 10, please contact the Meanest Link Advisory Board at Oxtongue Lake.
  11. When paddling the Opeongo to Oxtongue Lake section, you must go up the Little Madawaska to Source Lake and stop at Camp Pathfinder, in order to pay your respects to the place where it all began for Meanest in Algonquin Park.

All in all this is not a trip for the faint of heart and should be attempted by paddlers with good wilderness tripping skills as it will throw you many curve balls. There are many resources available including The Meanest Link Page on the Algonquin Outfitters Website and on The Meanest Link Facebook Group.

Feel free to watch the video below for more information on THE MEANEST LINK or watch it live on June 8, 2021 at 7:00PM EDT (YouTube Link)

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