17 of the best Canadian wilderness books

by | Nov 23, 2023 | Gear

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When I’m not out exploring the wilderness on one of our epic canoe trips, I’m often inside reading books featuring the stories, experiences, and lessons from other adventurers.

I read almost every night, finding inspiration in these tales of perseverance and self discovery.

Of course, as a Canadian, I’m biased toward reading stories by other Canadian explorers.

Canadian wilderness books

Our country is full of vast landscapes, rugged terrain, and diverse wildlife that make for thrilling adventures.

From the chilling arctic tundra to lush coastal forests, Canada has it all.

Most (if not all but one) of the books I’ve read are based on true stories—many of which are rich in historic value.

I find that these types of books not only entertain me, but also educate me on the history and culture of my own country.

It’s fascinating to read about how people from different backgrounds and time periods have navigated through the same landscapes I often explore.

Their stories serve as a reminder of the resilience and ingenuity of human beings in the face of nature’s challenges.

Many of these stories are also based on canoe tripping—a mode of exploration that I’m biased toward because most of the trips I take with Elise are canoe trips.

So, without further ado, here are 17 books by Canadian adventurers that I highly recommend for anyone looking to get lost in a good adventure story.

I hope to add more to this list as I continue to make my way through my ever-growing reading list.

Epic Wanderer: David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West

Epic Wanderer

As soon as I dove into the captivating tale of David Thompson, I was immersed in his incredible journey through the uncharted Canadian wilderness of the early 19th century.

I was awestruck by his bravery and determination as he became the first European to venture into the Columbia River drainage.

The dedication and tireless efforts he put into his work left a lasting impact on the fur trade during his era.

What I loved about this book:

  • The vivid storytelling that brings David Thompson’s life and adventures to life
  • The engaging narrative of his physical and mental challenges while mapping the Canadian West
  • The inclusion of lesser-known historical details that enrich your understanding of the fur trade era

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Canoe Country: The Making of Canada

Canoe Country The Making of Canada

This book gave me the opportunity to learn about the captivating history of Canada, all through the lens of its iconic vessel—the canoe.

What I loved about this book:

  • Engaging reflection on the significance of canoe to the nation’s history
  • Colourful stories and insightful anecdotes that keep readers hooked
  • The author’s personal experiences that invoke nostalgia and stir emotions

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A Life in the Bush: Lessons from my Father – A Memoir of Duncan MacGregor

A Life in the Bush

I loved reading about the captivating life of Duncan MacGregor as he navigated the vast Canadian wilderness, guided by the lessons of his father.

I was immediately drawn into his world, following his journey through the Canadian wilderness and learning valuable life lessons from his father.

It was truly awe-inspiring to witness his ability to embrace the profound beauty and formidable obstacles of residing in a secluded setting.

Duncan’s profound connection with nature was palpable, illuminating his journey with a captivating blend of triumphs and trials.

What I loved about this book:

  • The rich narrative that truly captures the essence of the Canadian wilderness
  • The profound father-son relationship shining through the pages
  • The inspiring stories of resilience and adaptation in a harsh and unforgiving environment

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A History of Canada in Ten Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land

A History of Canada in Ten Maps

I’ve read all of Adam Shoalts’ books (which you’ll find out by the end of this list) and was lucky enough to attend one of his local speaking events just a few months ago ahead of the release of his latest book.

In this particular book, Shoalts takes you through a captivating journey through Canadian history, transporting you to the past and sharing the stories of explorers who transformed Canada into the country we know today.

What I loved about this book:

  • Unveils how maps played an important role in Canadian history
  • Brings to life tales of courageous explorers and their demanding expeditions
  • Combines fascinating historical accounts and adventure seamlessly

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Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic

Beyond the Trees A Journey Alone Across Canada's Arctic

It was an absolutely pleasure to join Adam Shoalts on his thrilling adventure through the Canadian Arctic—filled with incredible landscapes and treacherous conditions.

Embarking on his journey by foot and canoe, Adam Shoalts travels through the sub-Arctic landscape in a race against time.

Winding rivers lead him to breathtaking scenes that seem almost too beautiful to be real.

Through his detailed descriptions of the wild, readers can easily imagine the awe-inspiring sceneries, making them eager to explore a similar adventure.

What I loved about this book:

  • Remarkably vivid descriptions of Canada’s Arctic landscapes
  • Shoalts’ captivating storytelling and writing style
  • Engaging account of his encounters with wildlife

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River of Fire: Conflict and Survival on the Seal River

River of Fire

Author Hap Wilson is another renowned Canadian adventure and expert canoeist that Elise and I were lucky to meet and learn from during a four-day canoe clinic at his cabin (Cabin Falls Ecolodge).

In this book, Wilson takes two greenhorn American journalists on a riveting journey into the wilds of northern Canada, accompanied by a questionable assistant guide with a troubled past.

What I loved about this book:

  • Engaging narration that keeps you on the edge of your seat
  • Vivid descriptions of the Canadian wilderness that make you feel like you’re there
  • A fascinating glimpse into the world of wilderness guiding and the challenges faced by the characters

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The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

The Golden Spruce

Although I owned this book for some time before diving into it, I was absolutely captivated by the thrilling real-life tale of a fabled tree, a troubled man, and the harsh realities of the logging industry in this enthralling story.

The book explores human ambition’s impact on the natural world, logging’s history in the Canadian wilderness, and environmentalism.

Engaging and relatable, it offers a well-rounded understanding of the content with a captivating narrative.

What I loved about this book:

  • Engaging storytelling with rich, nuanced history
  • Insightful account of diverse subjects, including First Nations culture, logging, and environmentalism
  • Captivating plot lines that keep you hooked till the end

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A Long Paddle Home

A Long Paddle Home

It was all too easy to picture myself embarking on a thrilling adventure through the Canadian wilderness alongside ranger Stiles as he navigated the beautiful yet treacherous canoe country.

This book is one to love for its encounters with mysterious creatures and unexpected twists.

What I loved about this book:

  • The vivid descriptions of the Canadian wilderness that transport you to the heart of the great outdoors
  • The blend of spirituality and suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat
  • The strong connection between the protagonist and nature that deepens the storyline and invests you in the journey

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Superior: Under the Shadow of the Gods

Superior Under the Shadow of the Gods

As someone who’s absolutely fascinated by Lake Superior and spent 10 days paddling the longest undeveloped section of its coastline (Pukaskwa National Park), I can safely say that this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and beauty of this magnificent body of water.

What I loved about this book:

  • Captivating storytelling with a focus on Lake Superior’s Canadian side
  • Brimming with interesting facts and insights about the region
  • Excellent companion for both armchair travelers and adventurers alike

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Trails and Tribulations: Confessions of a Wilderness Pathfinder

Trails and Tribulations Lessons of a Wilderness Pathfin

Another book by Hap Wilson (which I believe is his most recent one) takes you along on a series of thrilling canoe trips and challenging outdoor adventures he experienced as a wilderness guide.

Dive deep into the mind of an experienced pathfinder as you follow his journey through interesting and sometimes humorous encounters.

While sharing his experiences, the author also delivers an important message about the value of preserving our natural world.

What I loved about this book:

  • Beautiful description of the Canadian wilderness that transports you to its vast landscapes
  • Enlightening stories of adventures and mishaps from an experienced guide
  • Valuable life lessons and reflections on the importance of respecting nature

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Another Bend in the River, the Happy Camper’s Memoir

Another Bend in the River The Happy Camper's Memoir

As someone who owns several of Kevin Callan’s Ontario adventure books and regularly follows/watches him on social media, it was enlightening to venture into the Canadian wilderness through the eyes of the Happy Camper himself in his engaging memoir.

Another Bend in the River takes you on an inspiring journey through the beauty of the Canadian wilderness with the experienced and knowledgeable Happy Camper, Kevin Callan.

In this heartfelt memoir, Callan shares his adventures in nature and offers valuable insights on how spending time outdoors benefits your life in various ways.

What I loved about this book:

  • Well-written and genuinely captivating stories of wilderness adventures
  • Compelling depiction of Canadian back-country scenery and experiences
  • The author’s passion for nature and the importance of connecting with the great outdoors

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The Whisper on the Night Wind: The True History of a Wilderness Legend

The Whisper on the Night Wind

Here’s another book by modern Canadian explorer Adam Shoalts that will guide you through captivating history of a wilderness legend that will leave you intrigued and wanting more.

The Whisper on the Night Wind recounts the eerie tale of the “Traverspine Gorilla”, a mysterious creature that haunted the now-abandoned town of Traverspine, Labrador, in the early 20th century.

It follows author Adam Shoalts as he journeys through the wild, investigating the legend and uncovering secrets hidden in Canada’s most remote regions.

What I loved about this book:

  • The vivid descriptions of the rugged Canadian wilderness that make you feel like you’re trekking alongside the author
  • The fascinating mix of history, folklore, and adventure that keeps you engaged and intrigued
  • The attention to detail that provides a realistic and immersive experience for the reader

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Alone Against the North: An Expedition into the Unknown

Alone Against the North

How could I forget Shoalts’ very first book?

Dive into an uncharted adventure with Adam Shoalts as he explores the unexplored Canadian wilderness.

What I loved about this book:

  • The captivating and immersive writing style that makes you feel like you’re on the adventure with the author
  • The vivid descriptions of the beautiful, yet challenging Canadian landscape
  • The blend of personal journey and historical context, providing a well-rounded and engaging reading experience

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Being Caribou: Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd

Being Caribou

Now here’s a story that will educate and enlighten you about one of the most spectacular herding animals of the north—the caribou—specifically the porcupine caribou herd that migrates across the Arctic wilderness and is on the brink of extinction.

Karsten Heuer and his partner embark on a journey that takes them through the rugged Canadian wilderness, following in the footsteps of the porcupine caribou herd as they migrate to their calving grounds.

Witnessing first hand the struggles and challenges faced by these majestic creatures, the couple gains a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living beings and the importance of preserving our natural world.

What I loved about this book:

  • Engaging and immersive storytelling that transports you to the Arctic wilderness
  • Rich details about the caribou’s migration, behaviour, and their environment
  • Highlights the importance of preserving the caribou’s natural habitat and the delicate balance of nature

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The River

The River

This might just be the only book on this list that isn’t based on a true story—but it’s still just as good.

Wynn and Jack, best friends since college, embark on a canoeing adventure along the Maskwa River in Manitoba, Canada.

A wildfire adds urgency to their expedition.

They overhear an argument on the riverbank and later encounter a lone man paddling, wondering about the woman’s whereabouts.

From this gripping start, master storyteller Peter Heller takes readers on a heart-pounding adventure of wilderness survival, where every moment counts and desperation sets in.

What I loved about this book:

  • Gripping storyline that keeps you on edge
  • Vivid descriptions of the Canadian wilderness, making you feel like you’re there
  • Dynamic, believable characters that draw you in

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Paddlenorth: Adventure, Resilience, and Renewal in the Arctic Wild


Paddlenorth is an enthralling account of Jennifer Kingsley’s 54-day Arctic expedition.

Alongside five companions, she faces fierce winds, treacherous rapids, and escalating tensions.

Amidst the hardships, they find solace in breathtaking wildlife encounters.

The book also explores the transformative power of the wilderness.

What I loved about this book:

  • Jennifer Kingsley’s engaging writing style
  • The balance between describing adventure and displaying human emotions
  • The mix of historic Arctic exploration and contemporary adventure

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Where the Falcon Flies: A 3,400 Kilometre Odyssey From My Doorstep to the Arctic

Where the Falcon Flies

In Adam Shoalts’ latest book, I was more than eager to read about his most recent journey that involved traveling through 3,400 kilometres of Canadian wilderness.

This book captures the stunning landscape and unforgettable adventures from his doorstep to the Arctic.

What I loved about this book:

  • The vivid descriptions of Canada’s natural beauty, transporting you into the heart of the wilderness
  • The resilience and determination exhibited by the author as he tackles seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges
  • The sense of adventure and exploration that runs throughout every page, igniting your curiosity

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Feel free to bookmark this post and check back later for updates as I continue to discover and read more incredible books about Canada’s wilderness!

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About Us

Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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