The Yates Group Return to the Park, August 2 to 7, 2011

Achray – Stratton – Cork – Squirrel Rapids . . by Tom Yates

There were 8 of us in the group this year .. 6 from Sarnia Ontario and 2 from Toronto. We drove to the lodge at Algonquin Portage outfitters and stayed there Monday night. They charge $30 for the bed and $8 for breakfast in the morning.

Tuesday, August 2nd

We had arranged transportation of canoes and gear to Achray through the outfitters. We were on Barron Canyon Road at about 9 a.m. and on the water at about 10 a.m. This was an extremely easy day with only the tiny portage from Grand Lake into Stratton Lake.

On Stratton Lake

We then paddled the length of Stratton to get to a site that was near to High Falls. It was very busy on this lake but we found a suitable site about halfway up the north arm. Our plan was to stay on this site two night and enjoy a full day on Wednesday at the high falls area. We had a quick lunch and set up camp and enjoyed the afternoon. The lake was like the 401 of canoes with day trippers heading to the “waterslide”. We decided to stay put and venture there tomorrow. We had some hamburgers for dinner and played some wilderness poker. It was nice to be back in the park!

Wednesday, August 3rd

My 37th wedding anniversary! (Luv Ya Chris). We woke up to a very grey sky and an obvious threat of rain. The forecast had said light rain in the morning which turned out to be 100% correct. We waited until after lunch to head to High Falls. All of us did the standard sliding, jumping and swimming in this beautiful area. We kicked back and watched other groups do the same before heading back to the site for dinner. We had our Penne and Sausage and agreed that if we came again we probably would not spend 2 nights on Stratton. Too busy and no success at fishing at all.

Thursday, August 4th

This was portage day for us heading to Cork Lake. We did the 45m portage into St. Andrews Lake and then the 550 meter portage into High Falls Lake. We soon realized that this day was not going to be easy as we had at least three groups all taking the same route! There was a large group that seemed to have little experience and liked to “block” accesses in and out by placing canoes in the desired areas before they were ready to go or by leaving them in the way at the takeout while they carry their gear across. Very frustrating!

I did meet an 85 year old lady that was with a group and doing the route through Opalescent Lake to Squirrel Rapids! Amazing! This made for very slow going on the 300m to Ooze Lake and the 640m to Opalescent Lake. However we were the only ones going to Cork Lake!

Our last portage of the day was the 730m into Cork Lake. On the portage in, we met a couple coming out. They told us that they were coming out a day earlier than their permit. This meant that with only two sites on the lake, we were going to have the lake to ourselves at least for one day.

All the portaging becomes worth it when you arrive at a campsite like we found. I had day tripped here 11 years earlier, so I had some idea. But what a great site! We took the farthest south site and it is spectacular. I think it is the single best site I have been on in the park. Lots of nice flat tent sites. Ours had a grass bedding. There were rock porches that provided a place to jump in.

Cork Lake Campsite Waterfront

There was a large fire pit with a natural stone area around it. there was a brand new privy on a flat trail, with a views of the entire lake. We wished that we had more than two days scheduled here! After setting up camp we just kind of chilled the rest of the day away, relaxing from the hard work and enjoying the rewards it brought us.

Friday, August 5th

A full day in paradise! I am not sure of the “ethics” of talking about fishing, but I will say that it was good and 8 guys ate well this evening. All I had to cook was rice.

Cork Lake Sunset

Cork Lake is gorgeous, with high cliffs and rock overhangs and deep water. It's my favorite small lake that I have been on. I highly recommend a trip here.

Saturday, August 6th

We had to re-do the portage out to Opalescent Lake and then cover the 730 meter portage into Brigham Lake as well as the 400 and 100 meter portages before we got to the Barron Canyon.

On The Portage

Again .. the area gets busy, because of the easy access that people have to the area. We saw people portaging in flip flops and carrying their gear in pillow cases! No Thanks!

Into The Canyon

Of course the canyon is wonderful and we took our time paddling through it to the lower Barron River. We took the third to last site for our last night in the park. It is a typical river site in that it has poor access for swimming but was the best of the bunch along this stretch. We had some success at fishing the river too and again had fish for dinner along with our traditional last night KD.

Sunday, August 7th

We left the site at 7:30 a.m. and were at Squirrel Rapids at 8:30 a.m. Our pickup time was scheduled for 9:30, so we had time to swim and clean ourselves up a little in the river before the long trip home.

Another successful Algonquin Adventure!

Bug Report – OMG! Full time repellant needed.

Fishing report – Stratton nothing. Cork Excellent. Barron River Excellent.

Tom Yates