For much of its length, the French River is a broad, tree-lined expanse of open water. It also features falls, rapids, and steep, narrow gorges. The rugged topography of the Canadian Shield supports more than 450 plant species, some rare. The river's mouth on Georgian Bay provides wetland habitat for perhaps the largest community of Virginia chain fern in the province. The massasauga rattlesnake, the only poisonous snake in Ontario, is also found in this area. One of the largest populations of white-tailed deer in the province inhabits the rocky forests on the southern shores of the upper river. For at least two centuries, beginning in 1615, the French River was a vital transportation route for the French explorers, and fur traders. Because of its historic significance, the 100-kilometre-long waterway has been designated as a Canadian Heritage River. Today, it is a popular recreational corridor for canoeists, boaters, and anglers. French River is a non-operating park and has no campsites or facilities beyond those offered privately. The river is amenable to small-craft navigation, and a variety of tourist cottages, lodges and fishing camps may be found at spots along its banks. Highway 69, which passes through the town of French River, provides access to Grundy Lake Provincial Park to the south, where campsites are available.