A mid-September, early fall trip to the northwest corner of Algonquin Provincial Park. The original itinerary was to complete a double loop route – first one to the east of North Tea and Manitou, and then one to the west:
- Enter @ Kawawaymog, Biggar, Manitou, Lorne, Exit @ Kawawaymog
- Day 1: 5 portages (all short), 6:15 h @ “Veteran” Pace, 32.2 km
- Day 2: 5 portages (2 short, 2 medium, 1 doozy), 5:40 h, 18.5 km
- Day 3: 9 portages (5 short, 4 medium), 6:50 h, 19.2 km
- Day 4: 4 portages (3 short, 1 long), 4:30 h, 15.1 km
However, due to impending weather, we cut it down to an out-and-back with a small portage-heavy loop:
- Access point location: Kawawaymog Lake Access Point (Access point #1)
- Distance: Toronto (320 km – 4-5 hr), Ottawa (405 km – 5 hr)
- Site reservation: Ontario Parks $11/adult per night. Less for children, seniors or those with disabilities.
- Canoe/kayak rental: Voyageur Quest Outfitting
- Canoes: $38 to $60/day
- Kayaks: $51/day
- PFDs: $3.50/day
- Yoke pads (recommended if you’re doing more than a couple portages): $2/day
- Duration: 3 days (September 16 to 18)
- Total Distance: 48 km
- Paddling: 41.7 km
- Total Portage Distance: 6.3 km
- No. of Portages: 7
- Difficulty notes: Moderate. Tiring and a bit challenging when in open water with moderate wind.
- Long first day
- 2 x 2 km portages – difficult, but optional
- Amable du Fond River between Kawawaymog and North Tea is wide, making it easy to get around turns and the dam is the only real obstacle. It was shallow enough for the paddle strokes to hit the river bed
- Moderate winds can make open water padding on North Tea and Manitou – some of the larger lakes in the park – long and tiring, particularly on the way back (west)
- Only a handful of mosquitoes in total, making portaging less oppressive
- Breakfast: pancakes & granola bars
- Lunch: granola bars, meat sticks and snacks
- Dinners: freeze-dried meals
Route map – Kawawaymog Lake/North Tea/Manitou/Lorne/Sisco/Lost Dog
These maps are waterproof and tear-resistant, so it is great for shoving into a front pocket or sleeve of a bag or backpack and pulling it out frequently it to navigate throughout your trip.
Kawawaymog Lake Access Point
The access point is located on the northwest corner of Algonquin Provincial Park. To get there, take Highway 11 north through Huntsville and past Sundridge, take the Highway 124 exit to South River, ON, turn left (east) onto Ottawa Ave which changes to Chemical Rd and will take you all the way to the access point.
As the 23 minute (20 km) drive – 15km of which is paved – begins and you take the bridge across Forest Lake, the views open up to the north and south simultaneously, immediately transitioning your surroundings from small Ontario town backstreets to thick Algonquin forest – as if you had taken a portal to the great outdoors.
The access point has a decent amount of parking located close to the outfitters office and docks. There is also a bathroom with 2 toilets.
There is a set of 5 canoe-sized docks (2 are past a bridge) that are large enough to easily launch or retrieve 8 canoes at a time:
Day 1: Kawawaymog Lake Access Point to Manitou Lake
- Distance: 22 km
- Paddling: 21.3 km
- Portaging: .710 km (2)
- Approx. Time: ~7 h
Setting out at 10:30AM, Kawawaymog Lake provided a short warmup of the paddling muscles and a great chance for the sterners to shake off the rust of steering the canoes before we hit the winding Amable du Fond River:
After hours of paddling, the wind started to pick up as we entered Manitou.
However, with the pre-trip weather reports calling for some rain on the following day, and an increasing chance of thunderstorms on days 3 and 4, we decided to adjust the route into an out and back.
As we were paddling hard into the wind and cutting through whitecaps – with the crests occasionally just breaking into white foam – we were ultimately only able to cover 22 km in 6.5 hours on the first day.
Tired, we made camp at the site on the southeast corner of the island in the middle of Manitou across from the significant basswood forest. Here’s a quick review:
- Canoe landing: Rocky shore, water shoes recommended for landing/put in. Space for up to 3 canoes that are well protected, visible and grassy. Gentle slope up to the fire pit and tents sites.
- Fire pit: Deep, reasonably sized pit surrounded by 3 large long benches in good condition. Plenty of dead wood available to make a fire for cooking.
- Swimability: Okay, sandy but shallow with scattered rocks
- Tent sites: 3 sites free of rocks/roots, 2 of which are near the front of the site (1 was so level it looked unnatural) and 1 set further back.
- Thunderbox: In need of repair and sealing. The box is not securely placed and tilts slightly as you shift your weight. There are gaps along the bottom edges on several sides. There were mice hanging out in the thunderbox and darting in and out of these holes.
- Accessories: Large branch table between two trees set at around chest height. A half dozen grills in various condition, 1 of which was just large enough to be placed securely across the fire pit.
- Views: Okay – wide open view of the lake, with several islands far in the distance.
- Notes: I wouldn’t stay here again. At nightfall, a bunch of bold, fearless mice swarmed our camp, climbing on the benches, the food barrel and into the thunderbox and nothing we did scared them away. This forced us to pack everything up early, which really took away from the evening.
Day 2: Manitou to North Tea, Lorne, Sisco, Lost Dog and back to North Tea
- Distance: 17 km
- Paddling: 11.7 km
- Portaging: 5.3 km (4)
- Approx. Time: 7 h
I highly recommend taking the eastern 585 m portage between North Tea and Manitou – the falls are definitely worth adding an additional 130 m to your portage.
From there, for some added challenge and to avoid paddling against the wind across North Tea, we decided to take a detour towards Lorne Lake, then Sisco and Lost Dog.
The first 2 km portage was, well, long! It took us just under an hour start to finish to complete. The trail was pretty clear and flat for the most part, with some mild rolling inclines and downhills – nothing very technical. There was at least 1 spot to lean your canoe in order to take a break.
The 700 m portage between Lorne and Sisco was strikingly beautiful. Seemingly every rock – including several large boulders along the side of the trail – was completely covered in dense, green moss making the surroundings feel even more remote, lush, and untouched. We didn’t get many photos of this trail, but it was at least as rocky as the picture below, but further in, all the rocks were covered in moss like the two on the left:
However, the downside was that this rockiness and vegetation made the trail much more difficult to find footings and balance while traversing. There were also slightly steeper inclines than the 2 km. I imagine it would be quite slippery in wet weather.
The second 2 km portage between Sisco and Lost Dog/North Tea was similar in difficulty to the first, maybe slightly easier as it only took us around 40 minutes. Or as one crew member put it – we had simply been “warmed up” by the previous portages.
A short and tired paddle against the wind to get across the lake and we made camp at the site on the backside of a small, 2-site island on the southwest corner of North Tea.
- Canoe landing: Good. There are 2 options – it is easier to get the canoes onto land on the south side (right side in photo above), but then you have to haul your gear up a steep bank. Alternatively, there is a small silty beach on the north side with a gentler, smooth rock incline (photo below). Easier to get your gear up, but you’ll have to bring your canoe all the way up to the site as well.
- Fire pit: Good. Short but wide pit flat enough to securely place one of the grills and still have space to feed more wood underneath. 3 log benches in good condition with flat tops. Plenty of dead wood available to make a fire for cooking.
- Swimability: Great. Smooth solid rock bank leads down to a silt and sand waterfront that gradually gets deeper
- Tent sites:
- Thunderbox: Great options. There are 3 thunderboxes in good condition not far from the site, but it is unclear which, if any, belong to the campsite on the other side of the island.
- Accessories: Several grills and a cast iron pan that is cracked down the middle. No table.
- Views: Good. Wide open view of the lake or cozy view of the inlet and mainland.
- Notes: Great site, would definitely stay here again. The rocky point made a great spot to lie down at night and watch the stars.
Day 3: North Tea to Access Point
- Distance: 9 km
- Paddling: 8.75 km
- Portaging: .255 km (1)
- Approx. Time: 2.5 h
We got up earlier than usual and hustled back to our cars before the rain and potential storm.
For those headed back south through Huntsville, I highly recommend Westside Fish & Chips for some excellent fish and chips! Call and order ahead as they’re often very busy.
For a complete list of the things you may need on your trip, see Canada’s Camping Checklist.
- Algonquin Provincial Park Map (online)
- Best for planning: Algonquin Provincial Park Waterproof Map
- Best for navigating: Algonquin 2 – Northwest from The Adventure Map® series by Chrismar 1:80,000 scale
Over to you
Have any questions about this route? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them! Stayed on one of these lakes before? Tell us about your experience!