Number of days: 3
Portages: 12 (roundtrip)
Access Point: #3 – Magetawan Lake
Visited: August 2019
Algonquin has become an annual tradition for us. For some reason we are quick to forget the (literal and figurative) blood, sweat and tears from our past trips, and are eager for more. More paddling, more portages, and more pain. The forecast was calling for nice weather over the August long weekend, which was great because we planned quite an ambitious route to Misty Lake.
Day 1: The paddle to Misty Lake
We had an early start on the water, in large part because we drove to Huntsville the night before and stayed the night in a motel. P, K, E & M picked up the permit for the campsite and checked in with Canoe Algonquin to get the paddles, life jackets and keys to the canoes (the canoes themselves were waiting down by the water for us). So we essentially just had to drive to the Access Point, find our canoes, carry them a few steps to the dock, and load our gear in. Smooth sailing (or rather paddling) from there. If only.
We put our canoes in at Magetawan Lake (Access Point #3) and set off around 8:30a.m. It was a relatively short paddle to get to our first (of six) portages of 135m. The portage was pretty straightforward and path flat.
It was another short paddle across Hambone Lake to reach the second portage of 55m. We contemplated just carrying the canoe across the portage with all our gear in it, but after a brief attempt of trying to lift it, even for a second, that option was a quick fail. I have the upper body strength of a kitten. So we emptied everything out of the canoe and carried it all over.
We were back in the water for a short period before the next portage of 420m into Daisy Lake. There is a wooden dock at the end of the portage to help with entry into a little marshy bit that leads to Daisy Lake. Use it. Trust me on this. There was a man in front of us that learned the hard way. When he tried to put his canoe down in the water beside the dock he went up to his chest in mud.
The marshy narrows opened up into Daisy Lake. This was probably our longest stretch on the water.
Our next portage of 135m into the Petawawa River marked the start of the journey through a large, narrow and shallow marshy area. The path meanders through a maze of lily pads, reeds, and other plant life. There is only one way to go. So this should make it easy to spot the yellow portage marker. Except when we reached a beaver dam, we were a bit confused. P was ready to just shove his canoe (along with E still in it) over the beaver dam and continue along. The rest of us were not so sure. Instead we circled back thinking we must have missed the portage sign.
To make matters worse, at this point it started to sprinkle. After searching for another 20 minutes or so (in the light rain), we headed back to the beaver dam. Luckily the rain was short lived. It was a bit tricky figuring out the best way to get over the dam as the water levels were different on either side of the dam. We were on the deeper side, so I got out first and tried pulling the canoe closer to the dam so K could out. It was a bit of a disaster, but eventually we got it over.
The next portage of 450m into Little Misty easily had the most challenging terrain. There were ups, downs, rocks, and roots everywhere. Oh, and mosquitos. We were back in the water navigating through the marshy area. And this time when we reached another beaver dam, we knew exactly what to do. We pulled our canoe parallel to the dam (as it was deeper on this side) and hopped out. One person went down into the shallow side of the river, while the other stayed on the dam to push the canoe along. There were a couple more spots where we had to get out and walk the canoe as it was quite shallow.
We eventually made it to our final, and longest portage of 935m into Misty Lake. And boy was it busy. Given the sheer volume of canoes and people at either end of the portage (and in between), as soon as one canoe was carried over, we loaded it up and sent two people on their way to find a campsite. Usually we stick together, but in this case we made an exception as we were eager to lock down a campsite for the night. It’s been a long day in the canoe and all the campsites on the lake were booked.
The one drawback to this approach was that a couple of us had to make three trips back and forth. But it was all worth it as K & M did manage to find us a site that was reasonably close to the entrance into Misty Lake. And it was on an island. The site was quite spacious and had a decent seating area around the fire pit to accommodate all six of us.
After setting up our tents, we built a fire and were then ready to rest and relax and eat dinner.
Day 2: The paddle around Misty Lake
When we visit Algonquin, we usually spend the first day canoeing and portaging to reach our destination. The second day we rest and stay on the same site. The third day we pack it up and return the way we came. This approach has served us well over the years.
I woke up feeling all refreshed from the day before. I sleep so much better when camping on an island. I feel so much safer with a buffer of water between me and the mainland and therefore the bears.
K and I woke up first and walked along the beach gathering more firewood. As soon as the others woke up, we made a late breakfast. Afterwards we embarked on a journey to paddle around Misty Lake and check out the other campsites.
We first scoped out a few of the campsites on the peninsula across from the island we were camping on. There was only one that could rival our current campsite. It was nestled up high on a rock ledge. The site itself was decent, but it was the rock ledge itself that made this site particularly special. We first canoed around the rocks to check out the depth of the water below the ledge. Once we were sufficiently satisfied that it was quite deep, we docked our canoes, climbed up to the campsite, checked it out, and then jumped off the ledge into the water.
I wasn’t even planning on swimming and didn’t have my bathing suit on. Given that this seemed like a once in a lifetime kind of experience, I threw all caution to the wind and took a leap off the ledge. Not once, but twice. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. As an added bonus, the lake was quite warm.
After we had our fill of jumping off the ledge, we continued along our journey around Misty Lake. Stopping at any vacant campsite along the way. It’s always interesting to check out the different seating areas and fire pit locations of the different sites. Only then did we truly appreciate how fantastic our site was. We canoed all the way up to the portage sign that would lead back into the Petawawa River.
Our excursion in and around Misty Lake took the better part of the afternoon. By the time we returned it was just after 4p.m. We cracked open a few drinks and started the fire to prepare some coals to cook our dinner on. Life doesn’t get much better than this. In the meantime, we cut up and prepared some veggies to roast on the fire along with veggie burgers (for me) and steaks (for them).
Day 3: The paddle out of Misty Lake
We took our time eating breakfast this morning and packing up. We hit the water just after 10a.m. The water was calm (for now) and we had a nice paddle to our first (and longest) portage of 935m into Little Misty Lake.
Up next: a paddle through more marshy areas. We weaved our way through the maze of lily pads to the first of two beaver dam crossings. It was actually easier to approach it from the shallow side as we could both easily hop out of the canoe and push it up and over to the deeper side. We then hopped onto the dam, positioned the canoe parallel to it, and scampered back inside.
We were quite happy to paddle through the marshy narrows as the wind was picking up. And we were canoeing into it.
Our biggest challenge was once we set our canoes into Daisy Lake. We were out on the open water and it was quite rough. Progress was slow. We stopped at one of the empty campsites on the island for lunch and to take a break from paddling into the wind.
Once we made it through Daisy Lake, it was just a matter of crossing over three much smaller and narrower lakes to reach the canoe launch. Oh, and let’s not forget about the three other portages too.
We made it back to Magetawan Lake just before 5p.m. We locked up our canoes, and dropped our paddles and life jackets off at the rental place. We then drove into Huntsville and stopped at the Boston Pizza for dinner, hoping that by the time we set off again, traffic would lighten.
This marks the end of another successful visit to Algonquin. It was probably one of my favourite routes that we travelled. The narrower river systems are more scenic and provide much more protection when it’s windy outside. The only thing missing was spotting a moose.
Return here for our complete list of Algonquin adventures.