The Northwest Corner
The northwest corner of Algonquin offers canoeing on some large and beautiful lakes
with far less crowding than is found in the Highway 60 belt. There are some good
opportunities for loop trips with moderate amounts of portaging. One possibility for
a long loop trip is to ascend the Amable du Fond River from Kiosk to Manitou lake and
North Tea lake, then return via Biggar Lake, Three Mile Lake, Maple Lake, Mouse Lake,
Club Lake and Mink lake. There are several alternatives to this loop, and it can
easily be shortened by, for example, returning to Kiosk on Maple Creek.
Out-and-back trips to Maple Lake and Erables lake are also popular.
The chain of lakes extending from Kiosk to Brent offer a rare opportunity to canoe
for a long distance with little portaging. The CN main railroad line once followed
this route, but since the relocation of the line outside the park in 1994 the noise
of passing trains has been eliminated. There are cottages scattered along the route,
particularly on Little Cauchon Lake.
The Kiosk access point is reached from Highway 17 via regional road 630.
630 is paved for its entire
length. Travel time is approximately four hours from Ottawa and six hours from Toronto.
Although Kioshkowki Lake has many canoe campsites, the lake does not have much
of a wilderness feel. The abandonned CN trestle bridge on the east side of the lake is an eyesore,
and there are a few scattered cottages.
The gravel beach at the put-in point at Kiosk provides a good opportunity for an
end-of-trip swim on a hot day.
The shallow inlet where the Amable du Fond River enters
the lake is crowded with logging debris, with many sunken
logs jammed in the river bed. Some of the logs are just under water, making
it necessary to paddle with care. This area is a serious obstacle in a
strong northeast wind.
Kioshkokwi lake to Manitou Lake
The landing at the first portage on the Amable du Fond at the western end of Kioshkokwi
Lake poses no problems. The portage trail
goes steeply uphill across a major logging road (there is a bridge over the Amable
at this point). The trail is wide and in excellent condition. The rapids are impressive.
The 200 m portage ends with a steep drop down a sandy bank
There is about a 500 m paddle to the next portage, which has a steep riverbank landing.
in this section is strong, and in typical summer water levels
there may be barely sufficient depth to float a canoe. It is possible to
continue along the portage trail and bypass this section of river in extreme low water conditions.
The next 275 m portage again goes steeply uphill, ending in a muddy pool.
Landings are good. Just above the second portage there is a mini-rapid with
quite strong current. Paddling up this rapid can be difficult, but there
is no portage trail to provide an alternative. After this point the Amable runs
flat and wide for over a mile. This can be a good area to see moose and other wildlife.
The landing for the 1190 m portage crossing the Dufond farm is easy.
The portage trail begins as a walk through coniferous forest, with some slightly
muddy sections. The trail is quite level. For the last 200 m or so the trail borders
the fields of the abandoned farm, now overgrown with waist-high raspberries.
The old Dufond farm is fronted by a beautiful white sand beach on Manitou Lake.
On a hot day, the beach offers a welcome opportunity for a swim in Manitou's pristine
water after portaging. The beach shelves so gently that it is necessary to walk far out into the lake to get
afloat. The sand is clean, with just a few mussels.
Standing on the beach at the end of the Dufond farm portage, one is immediately
struck by the majestic scale of Manitou Lake. Surrounded by high hills, the body of the
lake stretches into the far distance. There are a few cottages on the lake near the
old farm, and powerboats with up to 10 HP motors are permitted, but neither does much
to detract from the beauty of the place. Like Opeongo, Manitou Lake offers an attractive
destination for those who want to experience something close to the wild interior
of Algonquin but can't undertake long, arduous portages.
Manitou Lake offers many exceptional campsites. Both sites on the small island at the
eastern end of the lake offer exceptional views, but are suitable only for small groups.
The landing for the site at the
west side of the island is a boulder heap, and a steep climb up a wood ladder staircase
is required to reach the site's center. Two level spaces for tents have been built on
wooden terraces! The site on the east side of the island offers a much better landing on
a rock shelf, which also provides an excellent swimming spot.
Kioshkokwi Lake to Maple lake via Maple Creek
The entrance to Maple Creek is found in a shallow bay on the east shore of Kioshkowki Lake.
In late summer it will be necessary to wade through shallows just to reach the start of the
first portage along Maple Creek. Wading is also necessary to deal with obstacles along
other parts of the creek, so a spare pair of shoes or sandals will be welcome.
Although the straight-line distance from the Kioskokwi Lake to Maple Lake is only about
8 km, the route is quite challenging.
The first 775 m portage rises gently with a wide path and excellent footing.
This portage is followed
by a long paddle through marshland.
In most places the creek is deep and the current
relatively slight. Beaver dams are fairly common along the route, but in most
cases it will be possible to power through these. Two of the beaver dams are so
solidly built that they are almost permanent features, and it will be necessary to pull
the canoe over these obstacles.
The 190 and 90 m portages halfway along the creek are
typical river portages, relatively level with rough, boulder-strewn paths. All the
portages pass through lush forest with many mature, majestic white pines towering
overhead. The distance which must be paddled between the 90 m and 630 m portages
seems far greater than the canoe map would suggest. The 630 m portage is level, but the
footing is quite rough. Between the 630 and 805 m portages there are several places
in which boulders nearly block the creek. In a lightly loaded canoe it may be possible
to weave a path between the rocks, but in low water or with a heavy load it will
probably be necessary to wade. The 805 m portage includes a very steep, long hill, and
in places requires weaving the canoe around trees. For its length, it is one of the
most difficult portages in the park. The final 130 m portage to Malple Lake ends with
a very difficult landing in a pile of huge rocks.
Despite the name, conifers (particularly white pine) dominate the forests around Maple Lake.
Most of the shoreline is rocky, with thick vegetation down to the water's edge. The
lake is relatively shallow, but the water is clear and clean for swimming.
There are several choice island campsites. The campsite in the northernmost bay
is exceptional, with many level tentsites, good access for swimming, and surrounding
rockshelves that are ideal for sunbathing or stargazing.
The island campsite at the east end of the lake is also excellent, although the tent
sites are more enclosed in the forest. The island site just opposite the portage to
Erables Lake is scenic, but the landing is steep. Other sites on the lake are acceptable,
but more enclosed by forest.
In the late summer we often see large groups of loons gathering, perhaps as a prelude to migration.
The picture below shows two loons from one such gathering on Maple Lake.
Loons prey on Merganser ducklings, so Mergansers are usually careful to stay in shallow water
on large lakes. This prevents the loons from attacking the ducklings from below.
The route between Maple Lake and Lac Erables begins with a short paddle up a shallow,
swampy section of Maple Creek. In mid-summer water levels the creek will
probably be too shallow to float a loaded canoe, and it will once again be
necessary to wade. The 175 m portage is flat and easy. The portage crosses a major
interior road leading from Cauchon Lake to the north. Lac Erables is very similar in
appearance to Maple Lake, with lush vegetation crowding rocky shores and many magnificent
stands of white pine. The campsite on the point at the northeast corner of the lake
is almost impossible to reach without a long wade through shallows at mid-summer water levels.
The campsites along the lakeshore further south look quite attractive, but we haven't
checked them carefully.
On one recent trip we were astonished to see a cow moose with twin calves grazing
right on the shore of Lac Erables on a hot, sunny afternoon. Chances of seeing moose are
usually best in the cool of the early morning or late evening along marshy sections of creeks and rivers.
Although it's quite common to see a cow moose with a calf, we'd never before
Maple Lake to Three Mile Lake
The route from Maple Lake to Three Mile Lake begins with a difficult 440 m portage to Ratrap Lake.
The landing on Ratrap Lake is one of the most awkward in the park, requiring that the canoe be manhandled
over a steep drop to a rocky shore. Ratrap Lake offers a single, rather enclosed island campsite for those wanting solitude.
A shallow, marshy channel leads west from Ratrap to Dahinda Lake.
We haven't yet explored the remaining three portages leading to Three Mile Lake.
Copyright 2005 Garry Tarr and Jo-Ann Holden