MacLeod Provincial Park is a small campground in Northern Ontario. We had an... uh... Interesting stay there, here are our thoughts on it.
We pulled up from Sleeping Giant - a beautiful park! - and left the Thunder Bay area, heading east, aiming up the more northern route.
The trip to MacLeod was a bit interesting - both the Weather Network and Google Maps (Since when was THAT a thing?) were pushing severe weather outlook warnings to my phone for part of it.
They were calling for heavy rain and nickel sized hail, but we only ended up getting a bit of light rain.
We pulled up to MacLeod, and got to see a groundhog up close, as we waited to sign in. The trees as you entered the park were beautiful, we were excited for our stay.
... and then it quickly started to go off the rails.
Not since leaving Minneapolis have I felt such a strong sense of “we’re probably going to get murdered tonight”. I definitely never expected to get that vibe at an Ontario Provincial Park!
As a spoiler: our two night stay turned into an overnight stay.
A Disclaimer About This Review
Up til this point in our big road trip, all of the Ontario Provincial parks we’ve stayed in have been pretty idyllic.
There is no way we’re going to be able to write an honest review of our short stay in this park without sounding like MEAN people that have some kind of weird vendetta against this park.
I like to think we aren’t mean, and we definitely don’t have a vendetta.
In fact, things started pretty well here - check in was fast and friendly, and my husband was admiring all the tall birch trees around.
Yes, that probably sounds dramatic, I get it. It’s just the vibe here.
We actually considered just not writing a review at all, it was just so over-the-top comically bad from the get-go.
The thing is... we definitely would have liked to have a heads up before WE booked here.
We literally lost track of how many times we ended up saying “WTF!?!?” as we did our drive through.
To Be Fair...
As a note: We arrived on September 22, and the last day of the park’s season was on the 24th - the last day of our originally planned stay.
I have to wonder how much of the weirdness and general maintenance issues / disrepair could be attributed to it being the closing weekend, but really... we paid just as much as people in the summer months.
Also: Just as much as we’d paid for better maintained parks.
The thing is, a lot of this had clearly been an issue for a very long time.
Something, something, she ended up turning into a mannequin?
I have NO idea how a campground managed to evoke *that* memory, but it’s 1000% the vibe we were getting here.
Just, you know... if the mall she went into wasn’t an 80s or 90s mall, but one of those modern day malls where like half the store units are empty, and facility cleaning isn’t necessarily a priority.
Campground Name: Macleod Provincial Park
Address: MacLeod Provincial Park c/o Municipality of Greenstone P.O Box 1800 Main Street Geraldton, ON, P0T 1M0
Price Ontario Provincial Parks uses a pricing matrix across all their parks. See 2023 Camping Fees for more details.
Reservations: Ontario Parks Reservations
As usual, camp site bookings were quick and easy to do online, and check in was fast and friendly.
In general, the park and camp sites seemed to be in various degrees of disrepair, and the whole park gave off some serious “Abandoned Amusement Park” vibes.
As my husband observed: “It feels like this place was probably awesome in the 70s or 80s, and then was just ... left that way.”
The logistics were where things really started to go off the rails for us, as soon as we got past the front gate:
We were handed a low resolution map, one page, that looked like it had been printed off a 1990's inkjet printer. Such a stark contrast to the maps in other parks, which vary from “suitable” to a straight up glossy magazine format.
There was basically no legend (just electrical vs non), no scale, and none of the points of interest were marked on the map - just site numbers, several asterisks, the “garbage depot” (the dump and fill stations) and a few random letters - 2 Ps, and Y, and a K.
As we did our standard drive through, the asterisks and letters on the map didn’t actually line up with their places in reality, with some symbols seeming to represent things that were several sites away from where they were depicted on the map.
I’m in NO way trained as a cartographer, and I could give you a much more accurate map with like 2 hours work. This is so unnecessary!
Why are the comfort stations marked as “P”? That should be parking!
Why is the boat launch just marked “Y”? Why is the fish cleaning shack marked as a “K”? This is so bizarre!
If you’re going to be so random, at least have a legend on the page. There was room for one!!
As we passed the dump station, there were a couple signs with campsite numbers, directing you to go one of two ways, depending on which bank of numbers you were looking for. Fair enough, we headed to ours.
Drove down a bit of a road, came to a multi pronged fork in the road... and saw signs to the day use area / beach, boat launch, and picnic tables (all pictorial)... with no more numbers.
Did we take a wrong road somehow? No... they just expected you to know which way to turn to get to your set of campsites.
... not super convenient, given that we were on a one way road!
Then, there’s the matter of...
Getting to our Camp Site
The little road down to that loop of 3 camp sites looked like it had long ago been washed out, and wasn’t in any shape to bring cars down, much less the length of campers that those 3 sites were rated for.
There was absolutely no way we were going to drive the RV down that loop, so we went to the “Exit” side of it - which was in marginally better condition.
We decided to disconnect the car trailer, and just back the RV down the exit of the loop, and into our camp site.
Not ideal, but it also didn’t destroy the RV, so that’s a win?
... and we were supposed to bring a full RV down there?
As a note: This is the only road my husband has ever noped out of. All those stories about couples fighting over backing into camp sites?
Absolutely incomprehensible to us - he’s a pro! He has a remarkable ability to navigate WEIRD roads and wild situations, this was just not happening.
It wasn’t just that one loop, either. There was a fair amount of really badly maintained road with major water damage, deep ruts, etc.
Cell Phone Coverage
We were surprised to have a small amount of spotty cellular access in the park, everything we’d read before said that there was no cell phone signal here.
It was overcast during our stay, but the park claims to be a great place for seeing the Northern Lights on a clear summer night.
Campground Amenities & Info
As with most of the Ontario Provincial Parks, the sites at MacLeod Provincial Park don’t include sewer or water, and only about ¼ of them have electricity.
There is a single dump station, and a single fill platform towards entry of the park. The dump station has weird hours - 8 am to 8 pm - something we’ve never seen posted at any other one.
There didn’t appear to be any real reason for those hours, either - they weren’t right next to any camp sites or anything.
As for the water fill station, it was on the “wrong” side for most campers - the passenger side, as you’re pulling up to it. Just weird and awkward.
Generally speaking, Ontario Provincial Parks have potable water taps throughout every camp ground, easy access for people to get drinking water.
This one had lots of water locations... and every single one of those taps that we saw had a sign telling people not to drink the water.
I saw - I think 2? - potable water stations in the park, but I couldn’t tell you where they were - they’re not on the map.
Comfort Stations and Toilets
There is no kind way to put this - both of the 2 Comfort Stations looked like murder shacks. There was nothing comforting about them!
Oh, and BTW - don’t drink the water there, either. Another one of those warning signs, right on the door.
They have flush toilets and showers, but I don’t believe there were any laundry facilities at either of them.
Mind you, I could be wrong - I really didn’t feel like getting a closer look, though. Yikes.
In one case - the set of vault toilets by the #105 camp site - the mens had a fairly open walkway up to it, sort of overgrown with moss.
I mentioned that it looked cursed.
So we drove a few more meters, and the sign for the women’s vault toilet was just right in the trees, with a barely discernable trail.
It just looked creepy AF.
Macleod Provincial Park has a fairly sizeable ... beach?... area and clearing along the waterfront.
It was just... underwhelming.
Plenty of grassy area, though.
The view is pretty enough, but not really what we’d normally consider a swimming beach. There are a decent numbers of picnic tables on the grassy area, though.
There was a metal structure that may have housed speakers - or acted as the framework for a canopy or something. There are also flood light stands everywhere in that day use area.
Kind of has an abandoned Olympic Village feel, if that makes any sense.
Garbage and Recycling
There seems to be only one place to dump your garbage, and that’s in the poop loop up front.
It has the garbage shack thing that a lot of these northern parks seem to have - probably a bear issue? - but it was boarded up and looked long-ago abandoned.
There were two big bins that weren’t labeled - probably garbage? I guess there’s no recycling here?
While there may not have been many (visible?) garbage bins around the park, there was definitely *garbage* everywhere.
Is it normal for seasonal campers to leave so much trash behind?
Why are you collecting your trash in open piles? Why would you get a decent waterfront camp site with a view, then turn it into a dump? Inquiring minds want to know!
Oh, and one more question: Why on earth would you label your garbage dump site with your NAMES? Like why on earth would you put your name on that?
I have so many questions, Randy and Evelyn!
The toilets and showers at the comfort stations are apparently barrier free.
We also saw a campsite with an accessibility symbol on it - this isn’t mentioned on the park website though, and also isn’t on the map.
The park really isn’t clear about pet rules for this camp ground.
We didn’t see any areas marked as being dog friendly, but we also didn’t see any signs banning dogs from any area.
You know, because that would be useful information and clear communication!
We did see two VERY good babies, though. Huskies - gorgeous!
Most of the camp sites seemed big enough to accommodate at least one car, beyond your camping equipment.
Beyond that ... who knows?
The Ps on the map are the two comfort stations, the areas with obvious parking (beach, boat launch, picnic area / day-use area) don’t have that parking indicated on the map (most provincial parks do!), so I’m not sure where all additional parking is or would be.
For instance, the entry to the trail:
There’s a power post that has me thinking it’s all just someone’s camp site that park users have to walk through to use the trail.
Honestly, I’m not usually so snotty when reviewing anything, this ... this campsite was not designed by a logistics person, neither was their map.
HUGE pet peeve of mine.
The camp ground has about 100 sites, but the park was fairly empty during our stay. We did see a few different sizes of trailers, RVs, tents, etc throughout our drive.
About ¼ of the camp sites have hydro, and a good number of the electrical sites are also nice large pull through sites, so there’s a bonus if you don’t care about the view.
We had booked a non-electrical site, as all of the water front sites in the park are non-electric sites.
Ours was a relatively spacious site, just difficult to get to, as mentioned.
Ew. There were just a bunch of sites with various forms of disrepair - overgrown with weeds, a picnic table half in the lake, roads with years of deep ruts from water damage etc
Apparently there is also a group camping area, though I’m not sure where it’s located.
Maybe it was the site we saw near the trail entry - there were a fair number of people sprawled out there, but I think it would be a stretch to say it could accommodate 100?
BIG THING TO NOTE:
Booking a waterfront site comes with some assumptions about the ambiance. And yes, I know what they say about assumptions.
The thing is, it’s easy to miss that there’s a highway running along the campground, on the map. Even if you notice it, it’s across a body of water, and scale is absolutely terrible on these things, to start.
It straight up sounded like we were parked on the side of the highway.
I guess the sound carries incredibly well over water, because OMFG. There was absolutely no barrier to the sound, beyond a few sparse trees between us and the lagoon.
Definitely be sure to bring earplugs if you’re staying in the waterfront sites section of this park, but you may need them throughout.
Entertainment and Activity
Though a small park, it offers several different park activities to choose from.
We have a few thoughts, based on what we saw during our stay:
Bikes aren’t allowed on the single trail in the campground, but are allowed on the park roads. It’s a smaller pp, so you don’t have to worry too much about traffic.
I recommend sticking to the areas around the electrical camp sites, up by the trail, and near the day use area, personally.
The roads get a bit rough in places in the peninsula of non-electrical sites, but are probably ok if you’re a more adventurous cyclist, or have a mountain bike.
We’ve heard that the park has spectacular wildlife viewing, especially along the beach.
The park’s site mentions the possibility of seeing Bald Eagles, Broad-winged Hawks, Northern Warblers, Ospreys, Ovenbirds (What on earth is an ovenbird? A turkey? LOL!), and Red-eyed Vireos.
No idea what most of those are, but we DID see a rather large nest up in a tall tree on the drive up to the comfort station in the non-electrical loop of sites.
Boating and Fishing
The lake seems like a great place to go boating or canoeing - it’s got all kinds of different areas, curving in and out of the shore, there’s a large lagoon, marshy areas, islands, and more.
Apparently Kenogamisis Lake - and Kenogamisis River - also have great fishing: Walleye and pike fishing, for the most part.
There’s even a fish cleaning hut:
The boat launch is kind of ... rustic.
If you’ve got a canoe or something light, you should be OK - but I’d definitely recommend checking the launch out before committing!
Also... I don’t know what’s going on with that small ... dock? ... but it definitely didn’t look safe at all.
The 1 km MacLeod Trail is the only hiking trail in the park.
Apparently this short hike goes through a forest of trembling aspen.
There’s a trail guide explaining forest succession and the history of the forest - which burned down almost 100 years ago,
Of course, I’m telling you this based on what I’ve READ about the trail.
As the trail head appears to be right in the middle of someone’s camp site - literally with their power cords across the trail entrance - we elected to skip it.
As mentioned earlier, the beach area is underwhelming, especially after seeing some of the excellent swimming opportunities at other parks.
The water quality didn’t look amazing, and there was very little sandy beach between the grassed area and the water.
We did not have enough cell reception in the park to be able to load and play Pokemon go, or check Ingress for portals.
Nope. So, so much nope.
We were supposed to stay two nights.
A few hours into our stay, we ended up calling the next camp ground on our itinerary (the only non-Provincial park on the trip) to see if we could extend our stay by one night, allowing us to leave here sooner.
We’re not trying to be mean, the staff here seemed perfectly nice and we do understand that they’re all probably trying their best - I just have to wonder what they’ve been given to work with, in this case. Budget cuts, maybe?
This is only the second time we’ve had to nope out of a camp ground, the first being Conestogo Lake Conservation Area - our only other negative review on this blog, to date.
On the upside... our stays at Ontario Provincial Parks have been SO wonderful, in general... it’ll be easy to get over this. Almost need a bit of bad, to balance out the ridiculously awesome things we’ve been experiencing!
More Campground Reviews
Want to read some more of what we have to say about the campgrounds we've stayed at? Here are some more reviews!
Chutes Provincial Park
Conestogo Lake Conservation Area
Elora Gorge Conservation Area
Fifty Point Conservation Area
Killbear Provincial Park
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Long Point Provincial Park
Meaford Memorial Park
Neys Provincial Park
Port Burwell Provincial Park
Valens Lake Conservation Area
Selkirk Provincial Park
Turkey Point Provincial Park
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