Lost and Found: Jeff McMurtrie’s New Mapmaking Project

A decade ago, Toronto-based canoeist and entrepreneur Jeff McMurtrie launched a new type of map that changed the way paddlers navigate Canada’s most popular canoe area. Frustrated with inaccurate government-issued maps, McMurtrie mined historical records, chatted with other canoeists online, and taught himself computer mapping to produce an improved map of central Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, which was released as a free download in 2008. The canoeing community ate it up—and demanded print copies for field use. And so, a new business—Jeff’s Map—was born.

Jeff’s Map included travel times, campsites, portages, hiking trails and historical information. The label expanded to include other popular canoeing destinations, such as the Temagami area and Killarney Provincial Park. McMurtrie gathered user feedback on social media to make updates; his goal was a series of ever-evolving maps that were “relentlessly accurate.” However, the name behind the maps broke ties with his business partner in late 2016.

After a brief pause, McMurtrie was lured back into mapmaking by his friend, Deki Kim. Together, the pair formed Unlostify; this April, they launched four maps for Ontario canoe country (including the French River, Kawartha Highlands, Killarney, and Massasauga Provincial Park), with a new Algonquin map scheduled to be released later this year.

Unlostify picks up where Jeff’s Map left off, with a range of user-friendly features tailored to beginners and experts alike. McMurtrie and Kim scaled back the map symbols to make the products less overwhelming and more intuitive for newbies; simultaneously, they plotted lesser-known canoe routes and portages, as well as high-resolution contour lines to cater to exploratory paddlers. Ground-truthing allowed Unlostify to more accurately depict creek routes that are often sketchy on typical maps. “If a creek is wider in real life, it’s wider on the map,” says McMurtrie.

Unlostify maps are flashy, with colorful graphics and unique “glow in the dusk” inks. “At twilight, when everything else starts looking faded, our special inks mean that the most important features on the map (the canoe routes) actually appear brighter and more vibrant,” notes McMurtrie. The maps are two-sided, with one dedicated to navigation and the other for trip planning. The plan side features a “whiteboard” finish that allows users to make notes with a dry erase marker, as well as route rating icons and launch site information.

Unlostify maps are waterproof, tearproof and floating. Even if you don’t need all the features, the $20 per map price tag (downloads are free) is well worth it when you consider that most canoe areas require several government-issue map sheets. McMurtrie says he’s excited to be back in the mapmaking game. “We’ll continue to innovate and hope to blow everyone away for years to come!”

Follow Unlostify on Facebook

— Local knowledge: The and in Algonquin Provincial Park

— Get beta on planning a canoe trip in Canada’s

—  with Alan Kesselheim

— Watch canoe adventurer Jim Baird’s  series

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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