Smoke Lake to Lake Louisa and Back - Aug. 4th to 8th, 2007

by - J. A. "Karior"

August 4

There were three of us on this trip. After meeting at the Smoke Lake access and consolidating our food into one barrel, we headed out across Smoke Lake. We crossed Smoke Lake, portaged up into, and crossed Ragged Lake, and then portaged up into Porcupine Lake. Portages were quite steep, but portage lengths werenít too long. We paddled from the north arm of Porcupine down into the south end and picked out a campsite near the Bonnechere portage.

August 5

We slept rather late into the morning. Hey weíre on vacation right? Baaaaad mistake! Portaged into Bonnechere Lake, crossed the lake and portaged into Phipps Lake. The put in LOOKED innocent enough, but the second I stepped into 4 inches of water with what looked like a sandy bottom, I sank up to my thigh in mud. Yeeechh.

A nice reedy channel starts Phipps lake, but beware the put in. The mud is well over a meter deep!

After paddling through a long winding creek, we crossed the lake and portaged into Kirkwood. The portage followed a swift flowing creek that ended at a nice falls into the lake.

Nice set of falls at the entrance to Kirkwood Lake.

The island campsite near the portage looked like a perfect swimming spot, but it was already 1pm, with a lot of travel to go before Louisa. So after eating a quick lunch on the island, we headed out across the lake and portaged into, and crossed, Lawrence Lake. The portage into Rod and Gun was murder, the first hundred meters of trail had an elevation rise of 50 meters! We portaged into Lake Louisa, saw a pair of otters near the put in, came across a moose AND found an unoccupied island camp site. This made for a great end to a long and tiring day. Sleeping so late in the morning had proven to be a bad idea, we were fortunate to have found a campsite, much less such a nice one, considering that we didnít arrive at Lake Louisa until well after 5 pm.

Hard to see, the otter is swimming near the shore, roughly in the middle of the picture, 2/3 of the way up the frame.

August 6

This was our scheduled rest day, and it was definitely needed. Our island campsite had a nice rocky outcropping overlooking the lake which we could sit back and relax on.

Dozens of mergansers.

My better half had the cooking chores for the day, so we were able to enjoy some very nice meals. The wind was fairly strong for most of the day, but in the late afternoon when the wind died down, we decided to explore lemon creek at the western end of the lake. If the creek proved to be navigable to Lemon Lake, then we could cut out a significant chunk of the portages on the way out. Water levels in the creek were quite low, and we would have had to manhandle our canoes straight up a VERY steep rock face, so we dropped that idea and decided to head out the way we came in. If I am ever in the area in early spring, I will take the time to explore this creek.

August 7

Remembering how tough the trip was on day 2, we rose early, gulped down some grape nuts and hit the water. The earlier departure allowed us to stop for more pictures on the way ...

The falls at the start of the portage to Phipps Lake.

Turtles sunning themselves on Phipps Lake

Dam those beavers!

Bonnechere Lake Loon

We arrived at Big Porcupine Lake at 3pm, and had time to paddle north into the north arm and were able to find an available campsite on a peninsula directly across from the portage into Ragged Lake. The swim after the long hot day was pure heaven.

August 8

Again we rose early, ate quickly and headed out, hoping to arrive at Smoke Lake early enough to avoid the prevailing winds, which tend to come out of the north in this park.

Half our stuff at the bottom of the Porcupine-Ragged portage

We crossed Ragged Lake without incident. But, by the time we hit Smoke Lake, the winds were HOWLING. Fortunately the winds died shortly after we passed the shelter of Molly Island. Paddling solo, I was dreading the thought of paddling those last couple of clicks with no possible shelter from the wind.

We stopped in at the visitors center on the way back. Iíve been there many times before, but always enjoy taking the time to stop in for an hour or so.

The view from the balcony at the visitors center. Always brings me back for another visit.

The town of Wilno is a customary rest stop on the way home. There are lots of small artistsí studios with a great assortment of paintings, pottery and other crafts, not to mention lots of good places to eat.

The Red Canoe Cafe, Wilno

This was a great trip and I would highly recommend to anyone. Pack for single portages, get an early start (8 am perhaps) on travel days, and you would be off the water by 3 pm each day.

J. A. "Karior"