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.

Getting There

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.

Kioshkowki Lake

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. The current 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.

Manitou lake

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 seen from near Dufond farm

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.

Island campsite, Manitou Lake

Misty morning, Manitou Lake

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.

Maple Creek above 775 m portage

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.

Carrying over a beaver dam on Maple Creek

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.

Maple Lake

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.

Roughing it, Maple Lake

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.

Loon convention, 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.

Merganser family, Maple Lake

Lac Erables

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 seen twins!

Moose with twin calves, Lac Erables

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.

Dahinda Lake

We haven't yet explored the remaining three portages leading to Three Mile Lake.


Back to Virtual Algonquin main page Last revision September 2005

Copyright 2005 Garry Tarr and Jo-Ann Holden