Brain Lake to Hurdman Lake - 3 days - May, 2007

by - Andrew Dean

For the past seven years I have been visiting a friendís camp north of Algonquin Park off the Brain lake access and always thought about doing a quick canoe trip in the area accessing at Brain Lake. Since noticing there were no trip logs for Brain lake on the Algonquin Adventure web site I thought why not check it out and help fill the Brain Lake trip log gap.

The trip was done around the motherís day weekend in May of 2007. If youíre doing this trip be aware that you pick up your park tickets at the tourist centre in Mattawa.

Day 1.

The drive in was brutal. My canoe beater is a 98 Nissan Sentra at it was challenged to make it all the way to Brain Lake. The last 5 km were really rough and probably the worst I have ever experienced, made the Brent road look like a paved highway. We made it in with the black flies starting to hatch, but after carrying our gear to the access, located at the southwest corner off the lake, the flies subsided and we were off in a shot.

There were a couple groups camping on Brain Lake and they told us the fishing (speckled trout) was really slow. Brain Lake is nothing to write home about, just a typical small Algonquin puddle. We ended up cutting west to east along the south side of the lake, and headed straight for the first portage.

Southeast corner of the Brain Lake heading into Brain Creek.

Remember, this trip was taken in May with high water levels. Iím not sure what it would be like in the middle of August. We hit the first portage (215m) and it was easy enough. We made our way further down Brain Creek.

Brain creek from the end of the first portage (215m) looking east

Brain Creek

We made our way to the 25m portage, which was a caused by a rock shelf running perpendicular across the creek. The beavers leveraged this structure and built and dam on top of it.

Below the 25m portage looking east.

We started heading toward the third portage (845m). I started thinking about the long winter when I didnít work out at all due to some house renovations. I hoped that portage would be a flat one! We arrived at the 845m portage and there were some downed trees at the beginning. But about a third of the way, it crossed a creek. We had to get creative to cross that thing. I ended up using the canoe as a bridge. We did that, but in hindsight it was kind of a dangerous maneuver.

845 portage offering a unique obstacle.

While walking the portage we encountered a small black animal with a thick furry tail. It ran across the portage and over a log that spanned the creek alongside the portage. It was moving so fast and was really comfortable crossing the creek. Iím guessing it was an American mink.

After the portage you start canoeing south on Hurdman Creek. There is a 100m portage on the Algonquin canoe routes map but this is not required in the spring.

100m portage on the right is not required in the spring.

We headed south on Hurdman Creek and eventually entered Stretch Lake. This lake has a very pretty rock face on the east side and a treed ridge running down the west side. It is a pretty lake and probably a really nice spot in the summer for swimming if it doesnít get choked with weeds.

Getting close to Stretch Lake.

Stretch Lake rock face.

Well, we decided to travel a little further to West Corbeau Lake before calling it a day. The last portage of the day was 300m between Stretch and West Corbeau. This portage was full of blown over trees, but lucky for us the Algonquin crews did a fine job clearing the way.

Path cut through the after affects of a storm on the 300m portage,
between Stretch and West Corbeau.

End of 300m portage. The shell of an old cabin is hidden in the trees.

We finally made it to the only campsite on West Corbeau Lake. Sorry, there's no pictures. But the campsite was a large grassy area that probably had been the site of some logging operation. We setup camp and made friends with the black flies, looking forward to the next day.

Day 2.

This day we thought a trip down to Hurdman Lake and back would complete our survey of the area. So, we took off bright and early. We did some fishing on West Corbeau and caught some small mouth bass and released them all. So for the fisherman there is no trout after Brain Lake the whole chain of lakes are Bass lakes. We also caught lots of large creek Chubs or Fallfish. Iím not sure which they were.

Creek chub or Fallfish?

The first 120m portage was easy enough to get over, though we were traveling very light. The second portage (165m) is around a rock garden with a beaver dam at its beginning. The portage was flat and we continued on to Hurdman Lake.

165m portage south of West Corbeau.

Hurdman Lake.

The last portage is 80m down a swift that empties into Hurdman Lake. We entered Hurdman and checked out one campsite for a lunch. You could see the campsite was rarely used, with plants growing out of the fire pit. We saw enough of Hurdman and started making our way back to West Corbeau to our campsite. We packed up and then headed north again to Stretch Lake. We checked out the only campsite on Stretch Lake and stayed there for the night.

Stretch Lake campsite.

Day 3

We followed our route back from Stretch Lake to Brain Lake, where we once again saw people.


This trip would be an interesting side trip, if you were in the area. But, I'm not sure how summer travel would be. We didnít see anyone after leaving Brain Lake, so I suspect itís a quiet area. I would suspect the Bass fishing to be very good if you like wormy Bass. Many of the ones we caught and released were full of black parasites. Another interesting point was the lack of evidence indicating any Moose were in the area.

Andrew Dean