How to Bear-proof Your Campsite and Grundy Lake Provincial Park

how to bear-proof your campsite so that you don't have bears in your site
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picture of the sign at the entrance to Grundy Lake Provincial Park campground for camping near Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada
Grundy Lake Provincial Park Highlights

Pamela: Hello and good day, eh. My name is Pamela

Tim: and I’m Tim

Pamela: and we’re from SuperGoodCamping.com. We’re here because we’d like to educate and inspire other families to enjoy all the adventures and fun that we’ve had while we’ve been camping. Today we wanted to talk about something very important if you are new to camping that you really should know which is bear-proofing your campsite.  So we’ll tie this in with our trip to Grundy Lake Provincial Park because we actually had an experience with a bear at Grundy Lake. So we’ll get into bear-proofing, so Tim what’s the most important thing to know about bear-proofing your campsite?

Tim: Food! Well, I suppose you need to know that it’s your campsite but you’re borrowing it from bears and foxes and raccoons and nature.  But food is the number one offense. You leave your cooler because you’re just going to go for a quick swim or whatever. You’re going to be back in a half an hour.  At Killbear, they have a cooler in their visitor centre that has had food liberated from it by a bear.  It was a locked metal cooler and it is just destroyed. It has been absolutely ripped apart.  It gives me a little pause about leaving food out, because if there’s no food then there’s no attractant for them.

Pamela: I remember the mangled cooler, that was pretty bad. 

Tim: You look at it and you go “Wowwww!”  So don’t leave scraps. People often throw things in the fire pit, planning to burn them later.  Well, that’s some pretty tasty paper towel that you’ve mopped up your bacon grease with.  That’s going to be pretty yummy for a bear. Just because there are people around they do get acclimatized to the fact that there are people around and it becomes no big deal for them. So about our bear encounter at Grundy. Pamela’s brother booked a site, like a couple of weeks before we went. This is mind-boggling because you don’t find sites in popular parks like that for the summer a couple of weeks ahead. He must have gotten lucky because somebody canceled. Great site. Literally right on the water.  Just after the boys and I finished setting up, I think we went for a bike ride. I don’t remember for sure, but I know we were coming back to our site because her brother’s site was right beside ours and there was a bear in the firepit gnawing on God knows what. 

bear-proof your campsite so that you don't have bears like the one in this picture eating garbage in your campsite
Black bear eating garbage in the campsite right next to ours

That was pretty surreal to see a black bear that close. Like we weren’t 35 feet from him. Don’t leave food out for any length of time unless you are right there with it, and you want to minimize that.  Any time that you are leaving your site, put your cooler in your car. Ideally in your trunk, because some of the bears have learned out to open unlocked doors on cars. Just saying. 

Pamela: Wow! Even things that smell like food, so toothpaste and mouthwash, anything that might smell yummy, might attract animals, not necessarily bears, but raccoons and other things that you don’t want in your campsite either.  We have had raccoons.

Tim: I can’t remember which campground, but they tore into my bag of brown sugar cubes for my coffee. They managed to open one of the bins. And we listened to them on the picnic table having a very yummy snack. 

Pamela: That was a brutal night because they kept coming back.  They would come in and you could hear crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, and then Tim would get up and chase them away and then they would come back a little while later and crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. We haven’t had bears in our own site, thankfully. 

Tim: No, I think that bear cut through the back of our site, one other time that we saw him. But just cut through, thankfully, we didn’t have anything that smelled yummy.

Pamela: We have been quite careful. In other instances, people will string food up from trees.

Tim: For backcountry camping, yep. 

Pamela: But we are quite careful about anything that smells like food. Even our burner which we cook things on.  Maybe there has been a splatter of food on it, it still can smell like food.  So we’re careful.  Garbage can’t stay out in the campsite.  We put it in the trunk of the car overnight just so we’re not attracting anything. 

Tim: Yep.

Pamela: Often there are evening presentations that you can go to, where you can learn some things or you can sing some campfire songs, and one of the tips that we got, is that if you happen to encounter a bear and especially if you happen to have a grocery bag or a garbage bag with you, then take it and shake it really loudly. It’s an abnormal sound for the bear and because of that, it’s something that may frighten them away. 

Tim: Yeah, we’re talking about black bears and brown bears, not Grizzlies. That’s a west coast thing and that’s a very different deal.

Pamela: Yes, you definitely don’t want to encounter a grizzly bear and you don’t want to be standing up to one either. So then on to Grundy Lake Provincial Park.  So Grundy Lake is about 3 hours north of Toronto. It’s close to the town of Parry Sound. Something we should also mention is that often as part of our week of camping, we’ll deek into town, usually mid-week, and pick up some more supplies. So as our produce is running low we’ll freshen up our produce. And we’ll usually aim to go to those towns on those days on the days that they have a farmer’s market in town.  So it’s nice to get fresh produce from the farmer’s market, but then there will also be little craft stalls and fresh baked goods and things like that that we’ll also pick up while we’re there too which makes it fun for the kids and enjoyable to browse the market.

Tim: Absolutely!  Just as a bit of a side note, the park’s wood for your campfires, is not always the best wood in the world.  It’s often stored outside with no roof, so it could be damp, it might not have been aged as long as it should have been, so it’s a little green, smoky, hard to keep going, that sort of deal.  Again, doing the ridiculous amount of research that I tend to do for our car camping trips, one of the things that I do do, is often check in on one of the Facebook groups and see where a local supplier of wood is in around that particular campground. We usually grab some wood either on the way in or set up camp and go get some from that local supplier.  Because you only buy so many bags at a time, that day that we make a run into the farmer’s market we often pick up more wood, sort of plan things out that way.

Pamela: So yes, Grundy Lake has the usual biking, hiking, bird watching, boating, canoeing, swimming, all the things that you would typically expect to be doing while you’re camping. So there’s typically a highlight for us of every provincial park that we’ve been to. So the highlight for us at Grundy Lake Provincial Park, aside from the bear, is that there is cliff jumping that you can do there.  The cliffs are around 15, 20, maybe 30 feet at the highest and you can jump off them into the water. The water is reasonably deep. Children, again, we keep them in life jackets for anything that might be a little bit out of their depth.  But, cliff jumping was just fantastic. The kids enjoyed it and the braver people than us went off the higher cliffs. We went off the medium-sized cliffs.  But it was great fun.  It’s safe enough, you just need to be careful to push off the rock, you don’t want to be hitting your head on the way down and making sure that it’s deep enough.  Apparently, the place that everybody knows about for cliff jumping is in the White Spruce campground between sites 22 and 24. There is no parking there, so if you want to go you need to be able to walk, or hike, or bike in. 

Tim: There is a hiking trail that you can climb up to that site.  And yeah, you’re jumping into Gut Lake which is one of a number of lakes.  Grundy has an awful lot of water. We personally went to 3, maybe 4, of the lakes.  Gut Lake for the jumping, Gurd Lake we were almost camping on, we were a few feet from there, and Grundy Lake. I’m pretty sure we went over and fished there for one day.

Pamela: That’s it for me as far as Grundy Lake, anything else, any other thoughts Tim? 

Tim: For the record, it’s not as pet-friendly as some of the other parks that we’ve been to. In fact, they have a campground in there that is radio-free and pet-free. It’s not like they’re picking on the animals. It’s just that sometimes you get a barking dog, right? The trails are fantastic, but they’re hiking exclusive trails.  The roads themselves are great for biking. I know we did a bunch of biking, so, yeah. Oh, there is a store, it’s not an outfitter, but it does have an awful lot of camping supplies. Where you turn off of 69 onto 522, it’s literally right on the corner there. If you need to pick up any supplies, little propane tanks for your burner or your mini barbeque, bug shirts or spray. We’ll talk about that at a later date.  It’s a great site, we quite enjoyed it.  Just for the record, they do have some backcountry sites, that I know you can paddle into, short paddles, but I also believe there are some that you can hike into. 

Pamela: So yeah, just to recap, bear-proofing your campsite, just be careful  to always put food away in your car, in a locked car, the trunk seems like a safe place. Because apparently they can also recognize the look of a cooler, aside from the smell.  We always want to put food away, anything that has come in contact with food like paper towels and napkins and any garbage and always, whenever you’re leaving your campsite leave nothing out like that might smell like food including cooking things like a camp stove or a burner. 

Tim: Yeah, that’s it. 

Pamela: That’s it for us, if you’d like to reach out to us, we’re at SuperGoodCamping.com.  Our email address is hi@supergoodcamping.com, that’s “h” “i” at supergoodcamping.com.  That’s it for us, have a wonderful day.  Bye! 

Tim: Bye!

2 comments

  1. Thanks for the overview. I am always nervous about camping where there might be bears, and we have booked a spot at Grundy with two grandkids 9 and 5. We have a small hard side pop up camper that has a small fridge. Is it okay to keep food in the fridge or should it be put in the cooler in the trunk? Just wondering if the fridge container is a barrier to food odours for animals. Also, are Bear Bells a good idea to ward off bears while hiking. If one happens upon a bear, what is the best course of action to avoid aggression on the part of the bear?

    1. Hi Cindy,
      Sorry for the late reply, I’m sure you’ve already had an amazing time at Grundy by now. According to Parks Canada, if it’s a hard-side camper, then it’s fine to keep food in the fridge. If it was a soft-side one, then no.

      Yes, bear bells are definitely a good idea. As long as you are not near their cubs, bears are unlikely to be aggressive toward you. When we were at Grundy, a bear expert recommended having a big black garbage bag with you, and taking it out and shaking it really loudly. It’s an unfamiliar noise to bears and so they are likely to run away. When we had a bear ambling through our campsite, we just kept our distance and he/she moved along. The bears that we have here in Ontario are black bears. They are relatively harmless, other than the fact that they may damage your belongings to get at food if they smell it. Grizzlies are a whole different ballgame. I have no expertise where grizzlies are concerned and personally would avoid being where they are at all costs.

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