• Happy National Letter Writing Day! 📝✉️📬

Algonquin Park: OPEONGO LAKE to McKASKILL LAKE Loop

Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
ACCESS POINT START : OPEONGO (11) | ACCESS POINT FINISH: OPEONGO (11)

# OF DAYS / NIGHTS: 6 D / 5 N | DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Advanced

TOTAL KM: 131.9 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 25 (18.1 KM)


1661190030445.png

The opening of all provincial parks in Ontario was delayed in 2020 due to Covid restrictions. We had managed to get a small two-night trip out of Kingscote under our belts so by the time our August trip rolled around we were champing at the bit. This loop had been on our radar for quite some time. We had avoided Opeongo for many years as we built up our experience, and decided it was now time to tackle the park’s largest lake. We were also looking forward to visiting four cabins and planned to stay multiple nights in the McKaskill cabin. The route we selected was going to start light, and then ramp up in distance quickly to afford a rest day at the cabin for nights 3 and 4. To save ourselves some time and energy, we elected to take a water taxi from Opeongo to the portage in Proulx. This was a neat experience, and we would recommend Opeongo Outfitters to future trippers!

This trip was going to include excellent river travel on the Crow, massive lakes (Opeongo, Dickson, Lavieille) and a healthy amount of mid summer portaging.

Goals of the trip were the following:


  • Perform a food drop at Shall Lake
  • Paddle Opeongo for the first time
  • Take Ryan and Rich to my favourite lake (Lavieille)
  • Visit 4 Cabins (Big Crow, Kitty, Tattler) and stay at one (McKaskill)
  • Take our first water taxi
  • Paddle Dickson for the first time
 

Attachments

  • 1661190079651.png
    1661190079651.png
    204 KB · Views: 4
  • 1661190127723.png
    1661190127723.png
    204 KB · Views: 2
  • 1661190135808.png
    1661190135808.png
    291.5 KB · Views: 3
  • 1661190150392.png
    1661190150392.png
    277.6 KB · Views: 4
  • 1661190168480.png
    1661190168480.png
    224.6 KB · Views: 2
  • 1661190189668.png
    1661190189668.png
    344.5 KB · Views: 2
  • 1661190243292.png
    1661190243292.png
    240.5 KB · Views: 3
  • 1661192440967.png
    1661192440967.png
    24.6 KB · Views: 2
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 1 : Opeongo Lake (Access Point) to Big Crow Lake

TOTAL KM:
27.8 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 1 (1.4 KM)


The start to this summer trip was anything but ordinary. The Toronto Maple Leafs were still in the playoffs, do not get too excited it was still only the first round (Covid delay). Evan was also coming off 3 months of working 16 hours a day, and the food packing had not taken place yet. We decided to purchase and pack the food on the Friday night while watching the Leaf game and then head up to Algonquin right after. Long story short, the game went to overtime and the boys hit the road around 11pm EST.

We had decided a few weeks earlier to adjust our drive-up logistics to include an Ursack food drop near the bridge at Shall Lake. We were going to be passing under this feature on day five anyways, so why not shed some food and alcohol weight, right? We drove to the Shall Lake access in the middle of the night, secured our food packages firmly to a tree out of sight, and headed towards Opeongo. By the time we reached the parking lot at Opeongo dawn was not far off, and we were thoroughly exhausted.

In Rich’s sleep deprived state, he hilariously thought Elon Musk’s star link satellites were alien spacecraft. We slept in our vehicles for 3 hours and woke up around 0730 EST to catch our taxi.

This was going to be our first time on Opeongo, and our first time using a water taxi. We decided that it was a wise choice to try the water taxi on day one to avoid any delays in getting our scheduled 7-day trip underway. We wanted to get deep into the park as quickly as possible. We also had the McKaskill cabin booked for nights 3 and 4, so we did not want to be late for those expensive rentals. Just our luck, the lake was like glass on Saturday morning. We paid a couple hundred dollars to save 3 hours of paddling… oh well. The boat ride was scenic, and it gave us a chance to scope out what to expect on our paddle out many days later. We spent most of the ride chatting with Matt (our chauffeur) about the lake, the surrounding lakes, the infestation of cormorants, and his experience in the park. We highly recommend Opeongo Outfitters for your taxi service. Taking the old cedar boats into the park was a neat experience, and Matt was excellent.

The P1395 portage into Proulx Lake starts on a large dock then you head up a reasonably steep section. The rest of the portage is wide and flat and not difficult. A third of the way in you can elect to drop the boats into a small pond to cut off some of the portage, but we elected to just carry around as it might have just slowed us down. We passed two ladies on the portage, we know it is not a race in the park, and we had a particular campsite in mind on Big Crow. We picked up the pace slightly and made sure to separate from them ASAP.

On the Proulx lake end the put in is sandy, and it opens up to a beautiful view down the length of the lake. There was zero wind today, so the hills and trees were mirrored perfectly in the water. We made short work of the lake, but it was a gorgeous paddle. The sun was shining, and the oppressive heat of the day had not settled in yet. The entire week was supposed to be 25-30 degrees, with only 1 afternoon of rain scheduled for mid week.

You exit Proulx lake into the Crow River. The river itself is scenic, with plenty of twists, turns, and wildlife. Going is perceivably slow due to switch backs, and the occasional carry over, but the wildlife is worth it. We stopped to hydrate and snack at the end of the P3085 from Red Rock into the Crow. Evan had done this portage in the summer of 2015, and fondly remembered how long and hot this hike was. Accessing Big Crow Lake via Proulx and a water taxi was much easier.

The Crow enters Little Crow Lake and immediately on the right the cliffs between the crow lakes come into view. There was a rowdy bunch of campers near the “burned out” campsite on Little Crow. Whatever was happening sounded to be very funny, but our attention was on the natural backdrop. We swung the corner into the narrows, and Evan recalled hand pumping water in this section in a previous trip. This is not recommended, as this resulted in 4-6 litres of disgusting lake bottom water that tasted like compost run off. Much better to just wait until you reach the main body of the lake… hindsight is 20/20.

Big Crow Lake is a beautiful lake. Once you enter one of the first things you notice is a massive beach on the Northeastern shore. The lake does stretch out to the north side, so the wind does tent to funnel down towards to the cliffs. The next thing you notice is the towering cliffs on the right, and if you look in the right spot you can see the lookout point by the fire tower. We made a b-line right towards the beach campsite to the left of the Crow river, and luckily it was vacant. This campsite is top notch. It has ample areas for tents and hammocks, plenty of logs to sit on around the fire, and it even came with a game of corn hole! To top it all off, the beach is excellent, and you can walk out into the water on the sandy bottom of nearly 100 meters and still be above water. After we set up our camp, we spent our early afternoon wading as far into the lake as we could, sometimes with canoes passing within 20-30 meters of us.

The plan for the afternoon was to load up into one of the boats and head down to the “Giant Pines Trail” to see the old growth white pines. It is a short little paddle, and once you get to the widening of the river before the P240 portage head to river right. There is a white sign on the shore, with a tricky little rock landing. It was even trickier with 6-7 teenagers and multiple canoes taking up most of the good landing area. The trail into the pines is steep, so good footwear is highly recommended… not knockoff crocs that were purchased right before the trip and worn without socks. These old pines are a remarkable sight. It is hard to put into words, but the way the light was shining in, with the massive trunks towering up into the canopy… it was impressive. Rich, Ryan, and I could not link our arms around some of the larger trees. If you are camping on Big Crow, or even passing through the Crow River, you should make the effort to experience for yourself.

We headed back to camp and cooked up our night one feast (chicken pot pie with homemade biscuits), and a few ciders to wash it down. The after-dinner adventure was going to be an evening hike up the fire tower trail to hopefully catch a sunset from the lookout. While waiting for the evening to pass, Ryan and Rich played some corn hole and Evan managed to find a comfortable log to catch up on some much-needed sleep. When it was time to go, we loaded up some beverages, dessert, and a cell phone loaded with some comedic relief and pushed off.

The fire tower trail starts behind the Big Crow Lake ranger cabin. The cabin itself has the same footprint as the Birchcliffe and White trout cabins. It has two rooms with bunk beds, and a small kitchen/fireplace area. This cabin was in rough shape and based on the graffiti dates on the walls it had been used heavily in the spring during covid lockdown. The door appeared to have been kicked in and repaired numerous times, and the entire place was filthy / rubbish strewn. Left of the cabin, closer to the shore, there is a small trail that leads you into the woods. If you follow this trail fifty meters or so in, you will find a small spring. There are cinder blocks and remnants of an old lid. The water was very cold and refreshing. Make sure to grab some as the hike to the top of the cliff is very steep! If you head to the left of the cabin, you will see an outhouse back in the woods. Climb up and around several large blowdowns and eventually you will find yourself following the fire tower trail. Many of the blue portage signs have either fallen off or were originally on trees that are now lying horizontal. The trail is still simple to follow, but gains in elevation rapidly. By the time we emerged at the top we were huffing and puffing and ready to have an extended sit at the top. The metal fire tower base is still standing, but unfortunately the wooden platform is no longer present. On the backside of the tower platform there is another small trail which will take you out to the lookout.

We sat on top of the cliff, swapping stories, and partaking in many beverages long after the sun went down. The sky had clouded over so the sunset was underwhelming, but the view was still worth the hike. We donned the headlamps and made our way back down to the canoe. Hiking uphill during the day was unpleasant. Hiking downhill in the dark proved to be borderline dangerous. Either leave earlier, bring more sources of light, or drink less to reduce the difficulty.

We made it back to our campsite and decided to sit around the fire for a little bit. It had been a crazy year so far, with all the work from home, covid restrictions and such. It was nice to spend time with friends, blissfully unaware of the world beyond the circle of our fire. For the next week we could just tackle life one day at a time, and really soak in our surroundings without having to worry about masks or mandates. I think more people, at the time, could have really used this kind of escape in their lives. Day two was going to be reasonably long, so we eventually made the smart decision to drag ourselves into the hammocks.

 
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 2 : Big Crow Lake to Lavieille Lake

TOTAL KM:
26.7 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 7 (2.5 KM)


Evan woke up around 645am on Sunday morning to a light rain hitting the hammock. We had some extra time, so the snooze button was exercised a few times too many. By 8am the camp was stirring, and the breakfast chores were underway. The lake was heavy with mist and the day promised to be grey and cooler than yesterday. The plan for the day was to complete the stretch of river between Big Crow and Lavieille and find a campsite as far south on Lavieille as possible. We were looking to set ourselves up for a slightly shorter day 3.

Evan had been down the Crow River 5 years earlier and was looking forward to paddling this stretch again. With the high-water levels, we were able to bypass some of the smaller portages, but most were hiked. The P1220 is reasonably long but it exceptionally straight and wide for a river portage. We stopped to fish a little bit on the downstream end of this portage and managed to hook into a small Brook Trout. The section of river between the P1220 and the P385 is very nice. Some swifts, and towering white pines on the shorelines make for a special paddle. The river is not very wide, and the wind is non-existent, so the world becomes very quiet.

The lone campsite on this section of the Crow River is in an ideal place to stop for lunch. It is located on the north shore of the river and after a small hike up the bank it opens up into a small campsite nestled in the Jack Pine. There is nothing special about this campsite, but for a river spot it has decent hammock options. We stopped around 1330 EST and had a quick lunch and were back on the water within 20 minutes.

The next stretch of river is a series of back-to-back portages with very little to note. There are some elevation changes in the river so using the portages is recommended. A few of the take outs are harder to find than most, tucked back into the riverside and closer to the edge of the rapids than I would like. Eventually you find yourself in a widening of the river, with Lily pads all around you and Crow bay opening in front of you.

There are some exceptional campsites on Crow Bay, especially close to the opening to Lavieille. There is one campsite on the left-hand side that has a large rock face looking back into the bay. As we approached, we noticed 10-15 youth lounging in the sun, making us quite jealous. We assumed this was a summer camp group based on the size of the party, and the quantity of matching canoes at the campsite landing. We stopped at the last campsite on the right before entering Lavieille. This is becoming a tradition of ours now. This site allows you to land on the Crow Bay side and walk across the campsite to get a sweeping view of the North end of Lavieille. It was not overly windy today, but we figured it could not hurt to scope out the massive expanse of Lavieille ahead of time. Evan had previously crossed this lake in much worse conditions and has a healthy respect for the power in these waters.

The lake was calm enough, and once we pulled out into the lake the wind assisted us in our Southwesterly bearing. The hope was to camp on “Swifty’s” campsite in the group of three islands south of Crow Island. With the lake conditions being favourable we headed directly across the lake. Once you are halfway the view is amazing. The lake opens in all directions; West into Thomas Bay, East towards the Crow River, and the distant shorelines of Lavieille to the North and South. This lake is magical. One day I would like to spend more time exploring this lake, especially the north end where the large beaches are. There is an old ranger cabin marked by the northern campsite that would warrant an afternoon of snooping, combined with a few beach ciders… it sounds like bliss.

As we approached the group of islands, we noted 3 people occasionally stepping out onto the rock point on our desired campsite. We were disappointed but were fine with settling on the campsite on the northern island. We were paddling between the islands towards our camp when the gentlemen on the southern island began hailing us down. Ryan and Rich were tasked with claiming our campsite while Evan paddled over to find out what was so urgent. The group had one individual who was suffering from a badly strained neck, and they wondered if we had a satellite phone. We do not carry a long-range communication device, so we could not help in that regard. Evan did pull up and go over the map on what the fastest way out of the park would be, in this case (like most cases) the direction they were already planning to travel (Dickson-Bonfield portage to Opeongo). Evan also carries Aleve and some over the counter muscle relaxers, which were provided to the group to help alleviate some of the discomfort. Evan also suggested that the two healthy people in the group could paddle back to the summer camp group, who might have a satellite phone, if the situation became any worse. Bumps, bruises, and muscle strains are inevitable while back country camping. Hopefully they made it home in one piece and the travel out was not too painful. For us, it was now time to enjoy some of Stormzy’s brisket!

The campsite we settled on has a large whale’s back rock landing on the south side of the island. It is tricky to unload yourself and gear on these slick rocks, but once on solid ground it is a nice spot to relax. The campsite itself is superb. The interior is wide open, with an excellent fire pit and lots of hammock options. The best part of the entire island is an elevated rock face on the north shore where we spent most of our evening. The colour of the sunset was one of the best we have seen. The loons were vocal, the evening was perfect. We have also mastered the art of boiling our homemade brisket, mixing it with instant mash potatoes and finishing with gravy. Easy to make, full of flavour, and it sticks to your ribs. We went to bed early and did not partake in the whiskey nearly as much. Tomorrow is our biggest day which includes several large lakes to paddle. We went to bed early and said our prayers for a calm, windless morning.

 
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 3 : Lavieille Lake to McKaskill Lake

TOTAL KM:
25 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 5 (6.3 KM)



We woke up earlier than usual, trying to get a jump on the biggest day of the trip. We knew it was going to be taxing on the bodies and we wanted to be off the big lakes in the morning if possible. The weather was overcast, but with our (bad) luck there was a head wind coming from the south-east.

Paddling on Lavieille wasn’t too difficult and we made good time. Ryan and Rich easily pulled ahead of Evan (solo paddling into the wind is less than ideal, even with a double-bladed paddle), which would be the theme of the day. We stopped for a rest near the southern island and the rest of the way through Hardy Bay was much easier.

The P90m portage is a quick up and over with a nice little dock on the Lavieille side. By this time, Evan was bonking hard, so upon seeing the large waves on Dickson we decided to hydrate. Evan also needed to stretch and eat most of his lunch to get some energy back. On this portage we also had the second biggest casualty of the trip, as Evan’s fishing rod got left behind in the bushes on the Dickson Lake side of the portage. Evan did eventually notice this, but not until all of Dickson was paddled… and we weren’t going back for that poor solider.

For as long as we could remember Dickson Lake has been posted for Blue/Green algae. It was always a lake that we had wanted to camp on, which funny enough in 2021 it did indeed open for camping. On this trip, we were just passing through. We had filtered a 4L bag of water at our campsite on Lavieille to ensure we had plenty of water when we reached the portage to Animoosh. Dickson Lake is very nice, and with no one camping it feels more remote than it is. Lots of nice rock points and beautiful vistas… but way too many cormorants for my liking. Every exposed rock that we passed had flocks of black, as well as heavy amounts of guano. It was neat to see them diving to feed, but with the large flocks we could see I couldn’t help but wonder what it was doing to the fish populations. Between our boat ride and paddle through Dickson, this was our first experience with cormorants in the Park. We live on the Bay of Quinte, so these are a common sight/nuisance where we live though.

We made good time, even with the strong headwind (not many big gusts though, which helps), and finally arrived at the Animoosh portage. It has been one heck of a morning paddle, so we stopped for a minute to rest up before our grind of an afternoon. Evan was feeling much better, which was encouraging as we were staring down the barrel of nearly 6.2 KM of portaging (single carrying).

The P1220 into Animoosh is just long enough to get the lungs burning and has enough elevation change to make the calves bark. After spending the entire morning on a canoe seat using our arms for propulsion it was actually enjoyable to change up the mode of transportation. That lasted about 600 meters though. Animoosh is not a very memorable lake, but it would be quiet. The campsite on the portage to Fairy seemed like a nice spot. It has a small beach and sandy bottom that would be nice for swimming. You would likely get a nice breeze off the lake to keep the spring bugs down.

The P2960 was brutal. It was made harder since we had just portaged over a kilometer, and we knew there was still nearly 2 km’s of portaging AFTER this one. It starts with some precarious tiptoeing on the portage trail, which becomes the top of a big beaver dam. The portage does link up with an old logging road for some time though, which was nice and very promising. Halfway through that section was some blowdown to deal with though. The luxury of the old road soon faded, and we were back into a winding, elevation changing slog. Somewhere near the halfway point Rich decided to empty the contents of his stomach (likely due to the oppressive heat, with some exhaustion thrown in). After one of the particularly hilly sections Rich and Evan decided to wait up for Ryan. We were waiting long enough that Evan put his canoe and pack down and went back looking for Ryan, worried he had taken a tumble. We were relieved to find Ryan still upright, slogging along, but he was visibly in discomfort. Evan took the boat, met back up with Rich, and the group decided to hydrate and just cool down for a bit. No sense pushing too hard, we still had three lakes and nearly 3 km of portaging left to go! When we arrived at the Fairy Lake end, we sprawled to the ground at the put in. This was short lived though, the mosquitos came out of the cedar, and they were thirstier than we were!

Fairy Lake feels like you are paddling in the middle of a big donut. No campsites to be found, and a paddle just long enough to lose the mosquitos on one side just to pick up a new batch on the other. We were very quickly on to the P1550m to Hidden Lake. Like a boulder rolling downhill, we slammed through the last big portage of the day. We received a second wind of sorts, and it was fueled by thoughts of sleeping in a ranger cabin for two consecutive nights. Our plan to tackle a massive day to afford ourselves a rest day was coming to fruition and our bodies knew it. Hidden Lake is nice, though it seems too small to have two campsites on it. It was early evening when we reached the P435 into McKaskill, so the heat of the day was fading, and the lakes were much calmer. The final portage of the day was short and sweet, and when we finally laid eyes on McKaskill the morale of the group was very high. We had done it; we were going to finally take a rest day in Algonquin Park!

The paddle down McKaskill is one that we won’t soon forget. The lake was calm, empty of people, and the sun was setting behind us. We paddled quietly through the multitude of islands and enjoyed the shorelines of the narrow northern section. The sky eventually went from a vibrant orange to a majestic purple as we entered the south end of the lake. Once you round the final island the McKaskill ranger cabin comes into view, nestled on the elevated southern shore. We had done some research (tourdupark.com is an excellent resource for many things, cabins especially) but were shocked to see the fully renovated cabin in front of us. The roof was new, there was a porch with benches, and the chinking and front door looked brand new! This is by far the best physical condition of any cabin he have stayed in or visited. And we were going to be here a whole day and two nights! A home-made dehydrated meal was quickly cooked and eaten even faster. We then retired to the veranda to enjoy a few cocktails. It had been a long, hard day with some very difficult moments. While sitting there, watching the moon rise and the loons call, all of this was forgotten, and everything was right in the world. It was nice to know that tomorrow we had no where else to be, a very foreign feeling. Hopefully the bodies aren’t too sore tomorrow!

 
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 4 : Rest Day at McKaskill Cabin

TOTAL KM:
0 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 0 (0 KM)


What a rare treat this day was. After a difficult day to get to the cabin it was luxurious to sleep in! We were extra tired due to the overnight mouse hunting Rich and Evan ended up enjoying together. Evan was woken up from a dead sleep to what sounded like the metal cabin door latch being played with. In the middle of the night, in the dark, this sound is quite disturbing. After a quick check with a head lamp, and no intruder in or around the cabin, he went back to bed. Shortly after, both Evan and Rich woke up to the same metal clanging noise, and this time they found the culprit. It was a tiny mouse, bumping and banging his (or her) way through the mess kit we had left drying on the counter! Rich tried to get some footage and tried to chase our friend away with the cabin broom. Neither were very successful. Now that we knew it wasn’t a bear trying to pry the door open, we slept more soundly after that.

We tried to sleep in, but before 8am we were woken up by Park Rangers pulling up to the cabin in their F250. They seemed surprised to see us, even though we had the cabin rented for two nights. We spoke to them briefly, they were doing a fish survey on McKaskill, and they left with a promise to return the next morning when we were scheduled to leave.

Usually, we only make a single pot of coffee, but this morning we had 2-3 pots. We spent the morning lounging on the front porch reading and chatting and watching the weather take a turn for the worse. The winds kicked up, and a heavy rain started, so we retreated into the cabin to play some cards. The rain continued for more of the late morning/early afternoon, but that was fine, we had no where to be and were quite content in resting under a roof.

Once the rain stopped, we emerged from our sanctuary and spent the afternoon collecting wood, and swimming to the west of the cabin. There is a small stony landing at the bottom of the hill. The plan was to have a big outdoor fire and cook up our dehydrated butter chicken. This plan was 100% successful, the dinner was one of the best we have had in the bush, Rich may disagree. We spent way too long around the fire, drinking way too much whiskey, but our first ever rest day was wonderful. We made sure to square away any dishes, and all food items were hung, in the hopes our tiny four-legged friends would leave us alone. We all slept soundly through the night!

 
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 5 : McKaskill Lake to Tattler Lake

TOTAL KM:
25.4 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 8 (5.5 KM)


The plan for today was similar to day 3. To afford the time for the rest day we decided to pay the piper on the days leading up to and after the cabin. We had a campsite booked for Booth Lake and we also needed to stop in at the Shall Lake access point to pick up our food / booze drop. Part of why we decided to drop the food was the 6.3 KM or portaging on day 3, and the 5.5 km of portaging day 5. After picking up the extra weight, we would only have less than 800 meters of portaging to complete today.

We packing up as quick as we could, it was hard to leave what we had considered home for the last day and a half. Our departure was sped along by the Park staff returning with their truck and motor boat to start their survey. We briefly spoke with them, and pushed off on to a calm McKaskill Lake.

The first portage is a tiny carry over. We hand bombed the boats, while loaded, into the swampy bit before the big portage for the day. Surprisingly another group was pulling up to run this portage as well. The P2420 is not an enjoyable experience for most of its length. Travelling from McKaskill you spend what feels like a lifetime portaging on a long slow incline. There are sections where the trail winds and is more like a goat path on steep slopes, and other sections that are wide and road like. In either scenario there is the constant upwards direction. With legs and lungs burning we stopped for a quick rest at what we though was the high point. We were all pretty sweaty and the bugs quickly found us. There must be some correlation between bug intensity and amount of alcohol consumed the night before. We were very happy to see Shrew Lake, and once loaded up we basically drifted to the next portage. Not much to see on Shrew, the lone campsite looked fine, and the lake feels like a big circle.

The P545 was mostly downhill, but we were still tired from the previous slog. We made it to Big Red, and I don’t know why it has that name but the first thing you notice is how shallow and Lilly pad filled the water is. The entire lake is filled, making every paddle stroke a tangled mess. There is no surprise that this lake is without a campsite, I would not want to swim in this body of water.

By this time we were picking up steam. We quickly completed the P230m and were finally on to Ryan Lake. Ryan and Evan had been talking about visiting this lake for years on either a spring or fall trip. Every time this lake came up in trip plan their hopes were dashed due to Blue-Green algae warnings. Ryan Lake is a beautiful little lake, but i imagine if all of the campsites were occupied it would feel cramped. There are 10 campsites in total, so basically if you see a point or a nice rock sticking out on the shore there is likely an orange blaze close by. No one was on the lake due to the on going restrictions though, so we trolled the lake in perfect solitude. The water looked really clear but alas no fish were caught.

The portage from Ryan to Shirley could be done by a dump truck. This portage, being 515m quickly has you crossing an active interior park road, and then is a straight shot to Shirley. Wide, flat, and really enjoyable when carrying a canoe 5 days into a trip! We stopped for lunch at the Shirley Lake side of this portage, on a sunny patch of grass with a small sand beach. We even decided to pull out our phones to see if we could contact home / pull up the NHL playoff updates. When Evan turned his phone on, to call home to his wife, a work call came through near instantly. What are the chances! Everyone exchanged quick updates with family, all was good on the home front minus the Leafs lost 3-0 in game 5 to the Blue Jackets. Rich and Evan spent the next hour discussing how hard it is to be Leaf fans, Ryan couldn’t care less.

We have travelled this part of the Park several times. Rich, Olivia (Evan’s daughter) and Evan had spent a night on Shirley in 2019. We had also enjoyed a large boys trip with Stormsy to the Tattler ranger cabin in October of 2017. We knew what to expect on all of the portage, and didn’t stop to sight see too much. The P1050m into Crotch is another easy portage, albeit a tad long. There is also a spot, right after the long walk through the ferns, that has you walking across a large fallen log over a narrow but deep crevasse. The put in is beside a babbling creek, with a shallow winding bit out to Lake. We had been required to walk this section on our Sept trip, but this time we were able to paddle through without issue.

Crotch is a nice lake with a horrible name. It would be a nice spot to take the young ones when learning how to camp/paddle/sleep in the woods with all the bumps in the night. The north end is slightly more private, but the south end has some nicer beach spots. No portaging required, and you can even paddle right into Shall lake and enjoy where the high voltage power lines cross the lake. You can see these lines running from McKaskill lake, FYI.

We made it back to the bridge at the Shall Lake access point, put in at the beach, and quickly retraced our steps to the north side where we had stashed our food well out of the way of other campers. This is likely not allowed, or at the very least frowned upon, but we could not find any particular rules we were breaking. We also didn’t really look that hard, and made sure it was stashed properly. The food was not touched, and more importantly all of the booze was accounted for. The backpacks very quickly became much heavier.

Paddling on Farm Lake always seems to be into the wind, and the “End of Steel” cabin is always worth a stop if unoccupied. Luckily it was free, so we poked around inside for a bit. You could house an entire hockey team in this cabin.

Evan portaged the 90m, and Rich and Ryan decided to paddle / wade up it. Either way works if the conditions are right, but Rich did manager to snap his paddle when paddling away from the top end. Good thing we bring spares (note to future self, when a paddle breaks throw them out… don’t add to the rest in storage…). The P645m is a little more technical and is where we really felt the added liquid weight we were carrying. This portage passes by a large dam where Booth Lake empties into Kitty Lake.

We made it to our final lake in the late afternoon, so the wind had kicked up a little come from the northern arm of Booth. The plan was to paddle along the eastern shore and take the first campsite we find. Little did we know the only available campsite must have been somewhere in the south west corner of the lake, as we did not find it! After passing 8 straight campsites with happy campers all huddled under tarps out of the wind we started to get a little discouraged. We stopped on a little spit of land right before you enter the north arm. It is a tiny beach with a massive piece of driftwood on the east shore that provided an excellent vista to our current predicament. On the same short, out of view, there were several more campsites we had yet to check. We assumed the one at the end of the Chipmunk Lake portage would be empty, as most end of portage sites are. The other options was to paddle the length of Booth again, blindly hoping to find a site open in the southern end. We all didn’t want to do much more paddling, especially in the opposite direction to our travels tomorrow. The backup plan if we continued north and struck out would be to carry on to Tattler. It has the cabin, and also a pretty crappy campsite when you first enter. We saw only one boat pass during our deliberations, so either the cabin or the campsite was taken, but hopefully not both. At the very worst, we could always make a big push to Annie Bay, but no one was excited for that kind of evening / night.

The decision was made, we paddle up the east shore and quickly realized that Booth was out of the equation. As a side note, those two north most campsites looked kind of nice, or maybe we were biased due to jealousy of the people sitting on them. We swung into the north arm and made the long paddle into the wind towards Tattler. We found the group that passed us setting up at the campsite, and not a sole at the Cabin. We were not supposed to be at the Cabin, and the Park may not like us staying for cheap, but I don’t feel bad for Ontario Parks. They have enough of my money. We did feel bad enough to not displace someone who actually had the cabin booked though. We left all of our gear in our bags, set up the stove and made dinner while sitting outside. We waited until well after 9pm, we even paddled back to the north arm of Booth to make sure no other boats were on their way, before we finally unpacked and settled in for the night.

The Tattler cabin, this being our second stay, was in much rougher shape than our last visit. The door was ragged, barely hanging on. This was our fourth cabin visited on this trip, and we got the impression that Covid and illegal camping had done a number on the cabins (McKaskill doesn’t count as it was recently renovated). It was weird to be indoors again for our third straight night… any more camping like this and we might get soft! Some three player Euchre by camp light, some well deserved drinks, and we slept like babies again. Now we are slightly ahead of schedule and tomorrow would be the first time any of us paddled on Opeongo. We all prayed for calm winds and smooth sailing!

 
Joined
Mar 16, 2022
Messages
17
Reaction score
5
Day 6 : Tattler Lake to Opeongo Lake (Access Point)

TOTAL KM:
27 KM | # OF PORTAGES (DISTANCE): 4 (2.4 KM)


We woke up to a warm and extremely calm morning on Tattler Lake. If these conditions could hold for the rest of the day we were feeling really confident for our Opeongo paddle. We had paddled up the Opeongo River from Tattler a little bit on a previous trip, so we knew the river can be shallow in sections. We fished a little on our way to the P770, hoping to snag a snot rocket laying in the weeds looking for breakfast. Must not have been hungry that morning.

The portage sign for the P770 is on the right as we approached, with the river turning to the left. As we paddled up we realized with the high water conditions we could easily paddle / walk up the river to avoid this portage. The bottom is sandy with little rocks, so the river option was far superior to the ¾ of a KM portage.

The section of river between the P770 and the P150 was really nice. The sun was rising, the mist was listing, and the river felt very serene. There are some submerged logs and rocks here and there to avoid, but for the most part it is a simple yet satisfying paddle. The P150 has a little more water flowing through it, as it is much narrower, but we were able to walk and pull the boats over this section as well without major issue. When getting back into the canoe Rich did manage to snag his pants on the pike breakfast from earlier. Not able to snag any pike, but he sure did catch himself good with the trebled on his spoon. So good in fact he had to change his pants as this was quicker than cutting the lure out!

The P305 is uneventful, your typical river portage with a slight elevation change. By this time of the morning we could feel the heat of the day starting to slowly build. It was going to be a hot, steamy afternoon! With this in mind, we were not looking forward to the P1075 portage coming up, were really hoping to walk the river on this one too. The end rapid at the bottom of this portage was around some big rocks, and with what we could see it is likely smarted / faster to just take the portage. Once we started we quickly realized that this portage is really nice! For most of the portage it follows an old access road, so the going is very easy and it was nice to be under the tree canopy for some shade. We finished the portage rather quickly, and after a quick paddle we were staring at the backside of the large dam where Annie Bay empties into the Opeongo River. As far as man made structures go on a river, this dam was nice. On the backside there is a really wide section of water tumbling over the rocks… and hopefully it keeps as many pike below the dam as possible!!

We sat on the rocks above the dam for a bit, poking around for artifacts from the old Camboose camp and hydrating for the big paddle that was about to happen. From where we were we could not see up the bay, but it was still really calm. The plan originally was to camp somewhere around the East Narrows on Opeongo for the night, leaving the park early the next morning. We had made such good time and were well ahead of schedule. The conditions were nearly perfect, so around the Annie Bay dam we came to the consensus that we would just paddle the entirety of Opeongo and head back to the cars today and cut the trip short by one day. Just a quick paddle and we would be on our way home!

We started up Annie Bay and it was awesome. The bay was like a big bowl of soup, warm and calm with just the tiniest whisper of a breeze. The second thing we noticed was basically every campsite we passed was full. This was the theme for most of the day, so we were glad to be leaving the park today. Even if we decided to stay, I don’t recall seeing any campsites all day that were open. Opeongo is not a lake I would like to take a lap on looking for an open campsite! We ran into some fishing boats and other canoes when we were passing from Annie Bay into the East Arm and then started the slog westward towards the narrows. This paddle seemed like the longest stretch of the entire lake as there is not much going on. You don’t pass any islands, there are very few campsites on the way, and the shorelines are big and green. The occasional water taxi blasts by… we even considered flagging one down to negotiate a quick drive back to the store. We stopped for lunch on a small section of beach near the cluster of three campsites halfway down the southern shore of the East Arm. All campsites here were taken, so we just found a section far enough out of the way to not intrude. Hydration was a priority, he were all getting scorched by the sun and were feeling the effects a little.

We finally made it to the narrows, navigating through this section while trying to stay out of the way of passing taxis and fishing boats. The view when we emerged on the Southern Arm is one I won’t forget. It was beautiful. The lake fading away from us to the south, the massive bays to either side of us, and the water being essentially a mirror was amazing. Extremely luck as well, I doubt many days look like this on Opeongo, especially in the middle of the afternoon!

We paddled south while discussing the various part of the trip. We drove two vehicles and would not all be driving home together so this was a nice opportunity to compare our pros and cons of the trip. The sections we would like to do again (McKaskill, Crow River, Lavieille) and the sections we would much prefer to avoid in the future (Dickson to McKaskill!). Every campsite we passed on our way to Sproule Bay was occupied, which is not something we are familiar with. We are normally not around these busy access points in the summer for this exact reason… too busy for our liking. A lot of noise, lots of blue tarps on shorelines, and limited options to stop.

We pushed on and eventually landed on the docks at the access point feeling really good about what we had just accomplished. We had completed all of the trip goals, had a lot of fun, and came out of the park in good health. After our obligatory stop at the Mad Musher in Whitney we were headed south and back to the real world (and Covid) with big smiles and rejuvenated souls. We didn’t know what the latest pandemic update was and did not have any further trips on the books currently. Like always, it was a bittersweet moment when leaving the park.

 
Top