Photo by Jim Harris

Photo by Jim Harris

By Conor Mihell
As austerity budgets strangle backcountry services across North America, a new generation of amateur filmmakers and citizen mapmakers is taking the future of wilderness tripping into their own hands. The result is a growing array of maps and detailed trip reports that are tailor-made for paddlers, better than any bureaucrat could deliver. We've hashed out the beta on three of them.

Tripper: Jeff McMurtrie

Roots: McMurtrie's crusade began at age 16, when he and a friend struggled to make sense of errors on a government map while canoeing the hinterlands of Algonquin Provincial Park. Now a 26-year-old entrepreneur, mapping Ontario's most popular canoe areas is McMurtrie's fulltime job.

Process: "Relentlessly accurate," canoe-friendly maps for Algonquin, Killarney and Temagami, available in print and online at

Inspiration: "My goal is to try and make people's trips better. That might sound like a bit of an odd aim for a map—after all we often think of them purely as tools for navigation—but it's really all just about working to minimize the number of bad experiences resulting from people having the wrong expectations about a particular route. The fact that I have the potential to influence people's trips is really, really inspiring."

Tripper: Doug Crews-Nelson

Roots: Crews-Nelson, a cartographer by trade, spent two years developing a poster-sized map encompassing the entire Boundary Waters Canoe Area. He made the map in memory of the late friend who introduced him to the BWCA.

Process: Paper or fabric wall maps in sizes up to 77-by-44 inches, available for purchase at

Inspiration: "This map is a labor of love for others, as much as it is for myself. I love studying the region, drawing inspiration from the trips I've taken and those I take in my imagination."

Tripper: Brad and Wayne Jennings

Roots: Call it a father-son tradition: Wayne Jennings first introduced his son, Brad, to canoe tripping as a toddler. A videographer by profession, Wayne took advantage of the compact, waterproof revolution in digital photography to document the Jennings' canoeing experiences.

Process: YouTube trip reports highlighting well-known and forgotten canoe routes across Ontario, and detailed maps available online at

Inspiration: "Exploring seldom-traveled canoe routes and sharing our videos and trip reports helps to spread awareness of great paddling destinations—and ultimately help protect those places."


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