David G. Pile's 2000 Trip From Magnetawan Lake to Canoe Lake

General Information:

Distance: 111 KM (69.33 Miles) calculated by Navitrak software
Duration: varies with options and weather
Loop Trip: No, but could be adapted to return to Magnetawan Lake Access
Our group was 6 adults, using 2 Timberline 4 person tents and 3 Swift Kipawa canoes and 1 Buckley Dry Fly
See Kevin Callan's Brook Trout & Black Flies for variations off this route

Portage Information:
No. of Portages: 28
Average Portage:293.39 meters
Longest Portage: 935 meters
Worst Portage: nothing stands out.

River Travel: beginner
Lake Travel: intermediate (wind on large lakes)
Portaging: easy to moderate with no "killers"
Remoteness: mixed with Burntroot Lake very good while the closer to Canoe Lake you get, well, what can one say?

Maps required:
Friends of Algonquin Canoe Routes Map
No topos required but trip covered by Tom Thomson Lake 31 E/10 and Burntroot Lake 31 E/15

Route Description:

Day 1 Distance: 16.96 Km/10.93 Miles
Shuttle to Magnetawan Access Point 3
Magnetawan Lake
P 125 to Hambone Lake
Paddle South to P 55 to unnamed lake
P420 to Daisy Lake - several lunch spots on Daisy Lake
Petawawa River
P 135
P 450
Little Misty Lake
P 935 to Misty Lake

Night One (Friday, July 28th, 2000) on Misty Lake - several good sites on island, also North shore upon entering Misty

We arranged for an Algonquin Outfitters shuttle to Magnetawan Lake due to the reputation this access has for thefts. We chose to not tempt fate twice in one season having been robbed while parked at Canoe Lake earlier in the season. The road into the access seemed more rutted than previous trips and we were delayed slightly by road clearing equipment. The parking lot was quite full and the activity made me wonder if we would have company as we paddled down the Petawawa. Surprisingly, the few canoes ahead of us after the portage from Magnetawan Lake turned away from the small bay which leads to the portages to Daisy Lake and headed East on Hambone Lake towards Butt / Ralph Bice Lake.

As we had gotten a late morning start on the water we had lunch on Daisy Lake at the first campsite in sight on the Southeastern shore before heading East Northeast and down the Petawawa River. There is also a nice lunch spot or campsite on the North shore just past the 1455 meter portage from Butt / Ralph Bice Lake. A couple stretches on the Petawawa between Daisy and Misty were low but the paddling was not much different than a year and a half earlier when members of our party traveled upstream from Misty to the Magnetawan Access on the US Memorial Day long weekend in May. Although we were treated to loon, heron and other small birds and animals no moose were seen along the river.

While intending to head for the large island on Misty, as we entered the lake a windstorm developed so quickly that we checked out the first campsite on the left shore. The one canoe still heading towards the large island was recalled with whistle blasts and we had the tents set up within ten minutes of landing. We were fortunate that the storm blew over in 30 minutes or so without rain and the site was actually suitable for our group. As I recall this site had some inviting rocks down by the water. Since Misty can be reached in less than a day's paddle it makes an inviting destination for a long weekend and offers alternatives for day trips in the area.

Day 2 Distance: 15.72 Km/9.76 Miles
Misty Lake
Petawawa River
P 850
P 155
P 195
P 160
P 80
P 200
Grassy Bay

Night Two on Grassy Bay / White Trout Lake

I believe it was at the last marked campsite on Misty that we stopped for a fruit and water break and there discovered remnants of a homestead or other site including bed springs, circular saw blade and other items which would not fit in anyone's backpack. We began meandering through the Petawawa River watching for moose but seeing heron, loon and other birds. With no large lakes lunch was at the semi-bug free end of a portage trail. The one portage that stands out in this section of the trip is the 160-meter walk, which is located at the bend where the Petawawa almost doubles back on itself. Though short, the initial climb is steep, then over some "helpful" stairs spaced just about at the wrong intervals and then the trail heads down to the river. Although tempted to shove off to the left, remember, downstream is to the right at the lower end of this trail.

While our route plan was to camp on White Trout Lake, we listened to thunder the last half hour as we descended the Petawawa River and meandered out into Grassy Bay. The camp site sign almost straight across Grassy Bay from the entrance of the Petawawa beckoned us and we found it to be a good site for our 2 tents. Although we were not on an island, as we unloaded the canoes one of our party dubbed this site Leech Island when several leeches began reaching for the Teva sandals as we stood unloading our canoes near the shoreline.. Since one of the canoes had dumped at a beaver dam mid-day we took advantage of the clothesline opportunities. Strangely, the nickname "Clothesline Island" was never mentioned by anyone. This site had some good hammock trees, plenty of area for the ThermaRest chairs but few good shoreline seats. The sunset was beautiful and a site with some more exposed waterfront would have been perfect that evening.

Day 3 Distance: 17.87 Km/11.10 Miles
Grassy Bay
White Trout Lake
Big Trout Lake
P 300
Longer Lake
P 40
P 75
Redpine Lake / Redpine Bay

Night Three Redpine Lake

Having done the 12 portages to reach the White Trout Lake area it was nice to be on some interconnected lakes. None of our party had paddled East of Misty Lake in this area of the park so it was fun to see new vistas open up before us. We paddled through the lower end of White Trout Lake, marked Trout Lake on the topo and entered Big Trout Lake.

As we went past the island near the middle of White Trout, where we actually had intended to camp, we could see the clearing on the far Northern shore which was where the MacLachlin depot farm had been located. We also encountered paddlers who had arrived via the Opeongo Lake water taxi so we knew we were in one of those hub areas where Algonquin Park canoe routes and imagination join together so paddlers might expect to see others. It was Sunday and we saw fewer paddlers than expected.

As we exited the passage from White Trout and entered Big Trout we stopped to investigate an island camp site. Although it was mid-morning and much too early for lunch we did stretch our legs, climb the hill to see what lay beyond and then examined someone's attempt at a totem pole. We made a mental note of this inviting spot for later in our trip when we would return through Big Trout. We pushed off toward the portage into Longer Lake where we ate lunch at the Southern end which had more Sun and grass than the Northern end.

Longer Lake was a straight forward paddle and the stiff breeze we had encountered on White and Big Trout was left behind therefor the easy 300 meter portage provided a dividend for which we were thankful. As we reached the 40 meter portage on Longer Lake's North end we met a couple who indicated that the next portage could be run since the water was high and they had tracked their canoe upstream. We soon were back on the water after thanking them for the information and carefully stepping through the boulder / rock garden portage. We did indeed shoot the next rapids and it was, in our water conditions, simply a matter of keeping the canoes straight.

Upon nearing the entrance to Redpine Lake (topo) or Burntroot's Redpine Bay (canoe route map) we cut through the first grassy channel to the right and came out on Redpine near a small island on which we found a welcome site at which to set up our tents. Once again, clothesline appeared like flowers in the spring soon after the tents were up. We also set up a Buckley Dry Fly, which we were intending to test on this trip. Although we had seen the Buckleys demonstrate their camping and canoe gear several years earlier at one of the Algonquin Outfitters road shows in Ohio this was our first chance to try out the fly. We deemed it a successful first "flight" although we had the wrong side up, but after placing a small tarp on the ground we stored our personal packs under the fly and for the duration of the trip several members of the party used this area as the reading room.

By now the campsite routine was unfolding as if our team had done this for years. Some of the men gathered fire wood, using our Sven saws to cut up logs into usable size while others began to clean up the area and make certain that any wet items were on the line. Eventually, the "testers" were hard at work. You do know about the "testing team"? Every group seems to have one or more members who test the sleeping area within 45 minutes of arriving at any given site. Our group would soon shake out into those who sat and read, those who climbed into a hammock and read, those who panned for gold, explored the surrounding area and those who tested the tents from within. One of our members had severe blisters on his feet as he had removed his socks while wearing sandals which proved to be a major error. While the rest of our group brought Tevas and hiking boots or other shoes for the trail, thinking they were too heavy, he had left his other shoes in the car trunk.

Day 4 Distance: 5.74 Km/3.56 Miles
Redpine Lake
Burntroot Lake

Night Four Burntroot Lake

Our original route was to be longer but we adjusted our paddling to meet the weather and, to some extent, the ability of our group to paddle and portage. Rather than head East out of Redpine Lake and paddle through Lake la Muir and into Hogan Lake we paddled North into Burntroot, hoping to find a site and enjoy a layover day. See Kevin Callan's Brook Trout and Black Flies for the counter clockwise loop through Lake la Muir, Hogan, Manta, Newt, Sunfish, upstream on the Petawawa River to Perley and back out into Northern Burntroot. We chose to skip this portion avoiding ten portages including the longest pair of the trip at 1945 and 1105, meters.

After entering Burntroot at the narrows we paddled around two islands at the Southern end of the lake looking for a camp site. If you are checking this route using the park canoe routes map this area is North of the word "Lake" as I am following the terminology as found on the topo map which identifies the Southern portion of Burntroot Lake as the separate Redpine Lake. As we slowly paddled this area it began to sprinkle but we were not impressed by the initial campsites although we were intrigued by the artifacts discovered. It was here we added an old anchor to the list of items which by now included saw blades, bedsprings, stove parts and water pitchers from various historical sites. We stopped long enough to pull on some rain gear and then headed Northwest to a small island where we found two adjacent campsites, sandy beaches and someone's attempt at a sauna. Although this was a gem of a site, we spent the rest of the day dodging high winds and rain, feeling quite frustrated at being unable to truly investigate this area. This island was surrounded by some of the most beautiful lake scenery of the trip and we have marked Burntroot Lake down as a destination lake for the future.

Since we spent so much time on this island now is a good time to share our lunch menu. Many paddlers and hikers enjoy the same basic foods during lunch and so I do not pretend to be original here. However, recently our group has enjoyed a product manufactured by Bigelow which is a honey & jam spread which comes in multiple flavors including Black Currant, Orange, Raspberry and Cinnamon. This is used in conjunction with typical small pita bread and Jif "Smooth Sensations" peanut butter and squeeze bottles of clover spun honey. The straight honey is used up slower in our group than the jam honey combination but we count on the honey as emergency food as well. The one drawback to our present spread is the jars and lids which tend to pick up pine needles and the Lexan tablespoons which need cleaning post lunch. This is the one meal where we use more zip locks AFTER we eat simply to keep the sticky stuff separate. Over the years we have used $0.65 plastic putty knives as spreaders and other strange utensils but the goal for next trip is to transfer the honey jam and anything else of a similar texture into squeeze tubes or bottles. We don't trust the "camping food tubes" with clips holding the open ends closed so we are in the process of saving the old honey containers.

All afternoon we had short periods of brightness which prompted shouts of, "It's clearing in the West!", followed by 20 more minutes of rain drops which prompted shouts of, "It's uniformly gray!" and so on. The steady wind kept the bugs away to the delight of Sultan of Swat, the only person I know who would think to bring a fly swatter to Algonquin Park. About 7 PM, while finishing our cleanup from supper a thunderstorm blew in from the South and the thunder, lightening and heavy rain continued until sometime after 1 or 2 AM. The Buckley Dry Fly, the larger of the Buckley tarps, served us well on this day. Some of us crawled into the tents early in the storm's fury and others chatted while sitting under the fly, enjoying the lightening display.

Day 5 Distance: 19.31 Km/11.99 Miles
Burntroot Lake
Redpine Lake
P 75
P 40
Longer Lake
P 300
Big Trout Lake

Upon awakening, the sky was overcast and we decided to head back South in search of some sunny weather. Although cool during the early hours of the morning after we had been paddling for a short time we were soon back down to our shorts and tee-shirts. As we rounded the point and began to travel through the Southern portion of Burntroot or Redpine Lake we began to encounter light rain. As we approached the first of the 3 portages for the day the lead canoes discussed whether to line, track or carry around the rapids.

Before we could come up with a plan the third canoe team decided to go for it against the current. When they were two-thirds up the rapids and beginning to go broadside to the current we froze along the shore Though our two adventuresome paddlers made it without major incident the other four of us tracked our two canoes along the East side of the rapids. However, at the next portage of 40 meters, we carried the canoes and gear as the volume of water was such that we did not feel it was worth another attempt at either tracking or paddling.

By now the rain was really falling and while we thought of pulling over to shore at one of the 3 campsites on Longer Lake to "wait it out", we kept going since the campsites were occupied and the rain dissipated. By the time we made it to Big Trout the Sun was back out so we checked our maps and began a search for a lunch spot. The goal was to return to the small island near the outlet to White Trout Lake but upon reaching that location we discovered it was already taken. We continued down the South shore of Big Trout, picking our way through the islands and debated waiting for a family to leave a small site or continuing our search since we were looking for room to spread out, if not dry out.

Eventually we paddled across the waters of Big Trout toward the large island along the Northeast shore which has several marked campsites. We actually stopped at the small island just off this larger island and found a nice area for the Buckley Dry Fly and our cooking near the Northeast point and a large tent area just uphill and behind the point where we once again had clothesline strung up before you could say, "Where'd the Sun go?" We were in time for lunch and began the typical campsite routine of eating, filtering water, gathering and cutting fire wood, picking out hammock trees, sitting down on the rocks and enjoying a swim. At the opposite end of the island was another, more open, campsite which had little flat ground. While possible to pitch tents in 3 areas we realized if we had been at this exposed site when the previous day's storm had struck we would still be drying out rather than having already enjoyed a half day of paddling. Good thing we chose the other end, too, as once again the afternoon unfolded in what was becoming typical fashion. We cycled through 20 minutes of brightness (not quite sunshine), followed by rain sprinkles, breeze and a repeat of this pattern.

Although everyone had brought along books to read we spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about previous trips including canoe, sea kayak, backpacking and horse trips. We were treated to hyperbole as well as fact, which is pretty typical of our forays into the wilderness. For "after supper activity" one pair of paddlers took a canoe across Big Trout to investigate the large bare spot on the Eastern shore. We had speculated all afternoon whether what we saw from the island was a rock slide, a rock formation, a patch of dirt or some other feature. Certain members of our group are great at instigating others to carry out such trips and this evening was no different. Four of us watched the two paddlers cross over and back waiting for the official report. "The spot is marked by a sign indicating it's a sacred Ojibway Council Bluff" came the report. "Council Bluffs, Iowa…who are you trying to bluff?" If our team members were truly creative they'd have planned an entirely different summer vacation.

Night Five Big Trout Lake

Day 6 Distance: 11.58 Km/7.19 Miles
Big Trout Lake
P 105
Otterslide Creek
P 730
P 265
P 390
P 250
Otterslide Lake
Little Otterslide Lake

Once again the morning brought mixed skies and as we set out to cross Big Trout Lake towards the Otterslide Creek portage we kept the rain gear tucked near the top of our packs. I have been intrigued by the name Otterslide since first discovering Algonquin Park in 1983. Of course, I wondered how many others our group would encounter during this last stretch towards Canoe Lake and would the remainder of our trip be somehow spoiled by "traffic". We did see a few others at one of the portage landings but nothing like the hoards at Temagami's Sharp Rock portage during our first year in that area. Each time we saw others, they were gone as quickly as they appeared and very likely those parties were thinking the same thoughts about solitude, quietness and enjoying the wilderness as were we.

Upon entering Otterslide Lake we paddled across the small bay from the portage and somehow managed to tie up 3 canoes in the wind even though we found no good landing spot. If I recall correctly, this was the only time we used the ropes in our throw bags. We were at the first site marked on the canoe routes map North of and closest to the portage from Otterslide Creek. Almost directly across from another site on the Western shore with a very good view of the lake this site was a good lunch spot but it did not have as many level tent sites as we would have desired had we been looking for a campsite.

I sometimes wish I had the nerve to bring a tape recorder on our trips. I think it is amusing how adults discuss the qualities of a campsite, especially when more than one tent site is needed. This discussion often begins while the canoes are a quarter mile off shore and someone is already asking the group to vote on what may yet turn out to be a root-infested, swampy or otherwise deficient place.

The sky again squeezed out the bits of sun that were trying to appear so we began our paddle towards Little Otterslide Lake. We paddled around the Southern tip of the island and checked out the campsite which provides a view of the route towards Burnt Island lake. We found this location to be the best of the 3 sites on the island and quickly claimed it in the name of King Louis, one of our rituals as we step from the canoes. Another ritual often observed as we step out of our craft is to slip and fall. Once again, in the face of sprinkles and wind the clothesline went up and several items were hung in the hopes that they would become drier. There must be a way of telling whether the wind flow will overcome the rain drops and moisture content of the air, but we fall prey to the theory that time on the line in sufficient quantity will provide us with dry socks. At various times during this trip, socks were found on sticks propped near the fire ring as if left as offerings to the rain gods.

While sitting around the campsite a couple of canoes passed through Little Otterslide heading North. When one pair of paddlers, who seemed to be searching for a campsite, were that the next spot up the island was vacant they asked if they were on Otterslide Lake. Actually, they asked if they were on Big Otterslide Lake to which we responded that they had paddled through Otterslide Lake and it was one lake back. The response which carried across the water shall not be repeated here but they were fortunate to have a relatively easy paddle back through the creek which separates the two Otterslides. Apparently, they were an overly aggressive advance party.

Night Six Little Otterslide Lake

Day 7 Distance: 8.36 Km/5.19 Miles
Little Otterslide Lake
P 790
Burnt Island Lake

The morning found continued cloudy skies and iffy weather so we slowly paddled toward the portage into Burnt Island Lake, anticipating paddling part way down the lake and camping near Caroline Island where we thought we'd find some nice campsites. The portage was uneventful but seeing the waters of Burnt Island Lake was exciting. The last of the "real" portages was over however the wind was up so crossing Burnt Island would be work. We stayed towards the Northwest shore, aiming at the point as we crossed the first bay. We paddled across the next bay in similar fashion as we approached the mid-section of the lake.

While some of our party had paddled the lower section of Burnt Island Lake on trips to Sunbeam Lake, none of us had been at this end of the lake so we were relying on descriptions of the campsites provided by others. The sites opposite Caroline Island were occupied so we continued down the shoreline and made our way back into a small bay where we found a large, flat site about 5 feet up an embankment. The site turned out to be an excellent location for our last night as we had plenty of space for the tents and fly, as well as hammock trees and reading spots. However, the breeze was so strong that anyone trying to enjoy the spot ended up sitting behind a tree, under the Buckley shelter or in one of the tents.

By now, we had come to expect this type of weather and made the most of it. Around 7 PM a solo paddler came by asking if we had seen Mark. It turned out that his companion had gotten bored, walked off for a "two hour hike" and was still missing after 5 hours. We began to discuss the situation, alerted the occupants of the next campsite and blew our whistles into the face of the still-strong wind. We resisted the urge to go searching in the darkness but two of our group who had previously hiked across the peninsula behind our site took lights and walked over the trail. We had decided to get up and check in the morning to see if the paddler was still missing. If so, we'd paddle out at least as far as Arowhon Pines Lodge and attempt to make contact with the park staff. A leadership group from a summer camp was going to leave early in the morning and paddle out to Canoe Lake and report the missing person.

Night Seven Burnt Island Lake

Day 8 (Friday, August 4th, 2000) Distance: 16.11 Km/10.01 Miles
Burnt Island Lake
Baby Joe Lake
P 435, in high water investigate the Lost Joe Lake landing to shorten the downstream run.
P 165
Little Joe Lake
Joe Lake
P 295
Canoe Lake

As Friday morning dawned, two members of our group paddled off to check on the situation and while the rest of us boiled water and prepared for either a quick departure or breakfast we were surprised by the appearance of a fellow who walked out of the woods. We greeted him with the statement, "You must be Mark.". He had walked away from camp, gotten lost, found a campsite and tried yelling at some folks at another site but apparently they either did not understand his call for help in the strong winds or were afraid of leaving their site. Mark put one of his jackets on backwards to afford some protection for his face from the bugs and hunkered down until morning. He stated that he had been walking for 2 hours when he came out of the woods at our site. We gave him some beef jerky and water then paddled him over to his camp site.

Soon we were packing up to leave and begin paddling towards the Southern end of Burnt Island Lake. I continue to a chuckle at the wooden construction at the portage into Baby Joe Lake. The original rocky landing on the Burnt Island side would be sufficient and the timber "wading pool" seems to be out of place. The portage's other end, with its large stairway, seems to be a more overkill than usefulness. If either of these structures were dismantled paddlers would still be able to get into and out of their craft and make it across the trail without difficulties.

The next carry can be shortened from its posted 435 meters but during low water it is faster to walk the whole trail. We reentered the creek at the second put in on the edge of Lost Joe Lake and made it through to the marked put in downstream but it was not a time saver. While fun navigating through the deadfall the water level was insufficient to make it a wise choice.

At the portage prior to entering Little Joe Lake the trail goes both ways so make certain that you head in the correct direction. This is a short carry and a beautiful spot but watch the muddy landing as you get out at the upstream end. The bottom drops off quickly about 3 feet from shore. From here on to Canoe Lake, depending upon season and day of week, expect to encounter many others. Little Joe, Joe and Canoe Lakes were crowded with paddlers looking for an overnight spot and we were lucky to stop at one site to discuss our plans for the remainder of our trip. We decided to paddle straight out to Canoe Lake and call the shuttle even though we were tempted to find a location away from the crowds by diverting up into Tom Thomson or Littledoe. We successfully navigated the last portage into Canoe Lake without losing any of our gear to the scores of others crisscrossing the path.

Four members of our party had not been to the Tom Thomson Cairn so we headed over that way, tied up our canoes at the small dock and scrambled to the top. The view from the top of the hill is quite nice and provides a good perspective of Canoe Lake. However, upon descending the hill we found that the camp group behind us had tied their canoes up in such a way that ours were blocked in and we had to carefully navigate ropes and boats in the strong wind to extricate our canoes. Upon arriving at the shore of Canoe Lake we began the process of acclimatizing to life off the water. We eased the process a bit by eating our lunch on the beach waiting for Algonquin Outfitters to arrive and since we were ahead of schedule, we had sufficient time to eat the pitas, clean up the zip loc bags of junk and relax a bit. Of course, Horse and a few others took advantage of the ice cream on sale at the Portage Store. Some traditions are hard to break.

Text by: David G. Pile