Rain to McCraney Lake Trip Report – 2 Nights in Algonquin

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Updated May 26, 2023

The following is a trip report for a May long weekend out-and-back trip to McCraney Lake on the west side of Algonquin Provincial Park.

McCraney is a great lake. It primarily serves as a destination for the campers who are staying on its 9 campsites and exploring the area, accounting for most of the canoe traffic you’ll see. The sites are pretty far from each other and feel private.

The lake is quiet. There isn’t a lot of pass-through traffic because the connecting routes are difficult to make into a loop and aren’t as popular. The length of the portage from Rain Lake also serves as a bit of a deterrence.

The lake itself is wide enough to feel open and breezy, but not so large that it feels like it’ll swallow you up. It’s long enough to have many little inlets, tributaries and crannies to explore, including the dam, Pincher Creek waterfalls, Stutter Creek, the islands (if not occupied). Though a bit shallow, the water looked great for swimming (it was a bit too cold when we were there to do so) and the campsite we stayed at was reasonably nice.

I enjoyed McCraney Lake, but would aim to get there early enough to get an island site next time.

Note: McCraney Lake water levels can be low in late summer for hydro purposes. Check the Algonquin Park Advisories page for the latest on low water levels and other alerts.

  • Duration: 3 days (May 20 to 22)
  • Total Distance: 19.8 km
    • Paddling: 16.4 km
    • Total Portage Distance: 3.4 km
  • No. of Portages: 2
  • Difficulty notes: Easy
    • 2 x 1.8 km portages – long, very muddy/puddles in May, but very flat, wide and smooth (clear of rocks and roots). The outfitter told us it was an old rail line.
  • Food:
    • Breakfast: pancakes and frozen breakfast sausages
    • Lunch: carrots, celery, crackers and pita with hummus, meat sticks/jerky and homemade granola
    • Dinners: freeze-dried meals, ramen

Route map

  • Day 1 (red): 1 portage (1695 m), 2-3 h depending on pace and site chosen
  • Day 2 (green): explore as much or as little as you want (see POIs in yellow)
  • Day 3 (red): Day 1 in reverse

We were unable to find the remains of the 2 cabins marked in yellow above, though they do not appear on the Backroad Mapbooks map. Photos of the dam and falls are near the end of this page.

Rain Lake Access Point

Once you’ve picked up your permits at the office and gear at the outfitters in Kearney, ON, it’s a 32 minute drive east to the access point the majority of which is a gravel road. Time will pass fairly quickly for the driver as there are many potholes to dodge.

The access point is small and spartan – consisting of 2 small parking lots, 2 outhouses and a dock a little longer than a canoe.

Parking was extremely limited. The 2 lots were full and cars had already started parking along the shoulder of the roads leading to and inside the access point.

Algonquin Basecamp dropped our canoes off at the access point and chained them to a tree next to a jump off campsite near the outhouse.

Water levels were high enough that the dock wasn’t accessible without wading into the water, so we put the canoes in alongside the grassy area beside the boat launch instead.

Getting to McCraney Lake

It was raining as we put-in. After a short and leisurely paddle along the narrow south portion of Rain Lake, we had arrived at the portage.

Portage from Rain Lake to Little McCraney Lake

At 1.8 km, the portage is long and a considerable distance to have a canoe on your shoulders. However, it was much flatter, wider and smoother (clear of rocks and roots) than your typical portage trail, making it much less exerting. The outfitter told us it was an old rail line.

There were a dozen or so mud puddles along the way, presumably due to the recent rainfall. Half of them could be avoided by walking around the side, another few had tree branches/logs laid across them that were well lodged in the mud and very stable, making traversing them while maintaining your balance doable, but challenging.

Bugs were practically non-existent along the portage when our hands were too occupied to defend ourselves, which was a pleasant surprise given all the small ponds that it runs next to.

However, at the end of the portage was a massive puddle/swamp:

If you want to keep your feet dry, my advice is: take the cart path. It adds another 185m of portaging, but was much drier and the put-in wasn’t a swamp.


The rain and wind picked up and the fog rolled in as we searched along McCraney for a campsite. We paddled to the site on the south island before turning around once we realized it was occupied.

The outfitter had recommended the island campsites, particularly those on the larger, northern island as well as the site to the far south next to the dam.

Unfortunately, the island sites had all been taken, but we still had our pick of the sites on the east side of the lake. While we didn’t land to scout any of them out, most seemed more marshy or surrounded by dense foliage than the first one we had passed so we retraced our steps to make camp.

Total precipitation on the day was a moderate 35 mm, but it felt like more due to the single digit temperatures. Our party was getting cold and tired, even though we hadn’t traveled as far as we usually would have in a day.

Swarms and clusters of blackflies or midges appeared as soon as we got to the site, but we got few, if any bites during the whole trip. They seemed to be interested in warmth and/or moisture – occasionally flying into our eyes, noses and mouths. Our head bug nets came in handy.

Interestingly, only 4 of 42 species of black flies recorded in Algonquin Park bite humans, the rest only feed on birds. If these flies were the biting kind, they were not old enough yet – becoming adults starting mid- to late-May.

Soaking wet, we set up our tents while trying to (somewhat unsuccessfully) keep our gear dry and got a fire going. Thank goodness for fire starter, and the leftover pizza boxes and other cardboard packaging we packed in that acted as a windscreen and kindling, respectively as firewood at the site was soaking wet.

The dampness made the night’s low of 8.7°C feel very cold and only slightly warmer than the second night which was a low of 1°C, though we had mostly dried things out by that point.

Note: If temperatures are going to be single-digits and there’s a chance of rain, bring more than a summer sleeping bag and/or more than a single layer of merino wool clothing if you want to get a decent sleep.

Canoe landing

There’s space for one canoe to land/put-in at a time due to the shallow shore and you can do it without getting your feet wet with a little balancing. There is plenty of space for canoes to be securely stacked, though not very visibly a couple of steps up and into the site.

Looking East
Looking West at sunset

Tent spots

There are 2 tent spots that are flat, root and stone free with good drainage.

Spot #1
Spot #1 with tents
Spot #2 with tents

Due to a partially downed tree, the area that could have held a third tent was no longer safe, so we ended up pitching our tents side-by-side on the 2 good sites.

Fire pit

The firepit is big, deep, solidly constructed, higher facing the water to act as a wind break and lower on the opposite side to make it easier to feed and manage the fire. 10/10

There are 2 small grills that are in good condition (one pictured).


The main area is very flat and clear.

There are several large, flat and impressively level rocks that can serve as tables and/or seating. However, they’re a little short to be good tables, the layout doesn’t serve well as seating (one is too close to the fire, and the fire isn’t in the middle of the others) and there isn’t enough to use as both tables and seating for a group of 6. We found ourselves standing most of the time and taking turns sitting down.

It would have been great to have a wood/log bench across the foreground of this photo:


The shore consists of small pebbles on sand with a shallow, gradual drop off. There are a few medium sized rocks that can almost act as stepping stones to the “tanning rock” that is large enough to for one person to lie on or a few to sit and put their feet in the water.

The water is clear and weed-free with little to no current.

Looking towards the south end of the lake, the site offers a nice view of the north island between two points.


Other than small sticks and twigs, there is little to no easily accessible dead wood available near the site. The trees that look dead still had new growth on them.

To find decent sized firewood, you have to either:

  1. travel further inland and scramble up an incline, or
  2. push through the foliage along the shoreline for a while

We ended up collecting some firewood while out exploring in the canoe to bring it back to our site.

There is a fair amount of driftwood along the shoreline, but much if it was waterlogged due to the higher water levels.


In excellent condition and looked recently built.


Looking inland, there is a small valley followed by a gradual incline. The brush is pretty sparse and mostly consists of young trees.

Other features

Here are some additional photos of the partially fallen tree.

McCraney Dam

On the south end of the lake is a dam that lets them control the water levels. The water level on McCraney Lake appeared to be 10 to 12 ft higher than McCraney Creek.

Waterfalls along the McCraney Lake to Clara Lake portage

The 1,165 m portage to Clara Lake is an unmaintained portage which wanted to hike. The trail takes you along Pincher Creek, which has at least 3 waterfalls/rapids, some of which cascade and each larger and more impressive as you travel toward Clara Lake. It feels as if they keep going, and going, and going!

The area was thick with swarms of blackflies – much more than our campsite – but again we received few, if any bites.

Waterfalls/rapids #1
A closer view of #1
Look, waterfall #2 in the distance!
A closer view of waterfall #2
Look, waterfall #3 in the distance!

These were well worth the visit.

Trip resources

For a list of the things you may need on your trip, see Canada’s Camping Checklist.


Over to you

Have any questions about this route? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them! If you have on one of these lakes before, tell us about your experience!

About the author

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Alex Wideman
Alex Wideman is a consumer rights advocate, serial entrepreneur and the editor-in-chief of Cansumer. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Queen's University. He is passionate about helping others save time and money and has been creating consumer-focused online resources for over 10 years. More about Cansumer Read more

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