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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