Number of days: 4
Portages: 14 (round trip)
Access Point: #29 Kiosk Lake
Visited: August 2020
For our annual trip to Algonquin this year, we planned a rather ambitious route to Erables Lake. Erables is the french word for maple, but shouldn’t be confused with Maple Lake, which is located just north of Erables Lake. Perhaps because our route was so challenging or maybe we had such a great time at Misty Lake last year, but we decided to extend our Algonquin trip by an extra day this year.
DAY 1: FROM KIOSK TO ERABLES
We left Toronto just after 1:30p.m on Friday to beat the traffic. Except there is no beating the traffic on a Friday before the long weekend. We arrived in North Bay just after 6:30p.m. After checking into our hotel, we met up with P, K, E, and M and went for dinner at Cecil’s since they had an outdoor patio.
We woke up bright and early this morning at 6:15a.m. The hotel typically includes a buffet breakfast, but because of the pandemic, has switched to a brown paper breakfast. We headed down to pick up our breakfast and then returned to our room to get changed and finish packing.
We left the hotel at 7:30a.m and arrived at the Algonquin Outfitters right when it opened at 8:00a.m. We were the first people there, which was great because today was likely going to be busy. We picked up our life jackets and paddles and headed to our access point at Kioshkokwi (Kiosk) Lake.
From Algonquin Outfitters it’s another 30min drive to the park office and access point. We checked in to collect our park permit and then headed down to the water to find our canoes. There’s a nice pebble beach to load your canoe and launch off of.
We hit the water just before 10a.m and canoed southwest along Kiosk Lake for about an hour. It was hot outside (27°C felt like 31°C), but wasn’t too humid. The lake was nice and calm, which made for an easy paddle. This was probably our longest stretch of paddling along our route.
The lake turns into a marshy area before leading to our first (of seven) portages. There’s a small beach area that made it easy to get your canoe in, but hard not get your shoes muddy. The portage (775m) was relatively flat with a few muddy sections and leads to Maple Creek. We’re not efficient enough packers to take the canoes and gear over in one go and it usually takes us all two trips to carry everything over. Somehow every year we manage to take more stuff.
It was a nice paddle through Maple Creek, but the small and narrow creek presented its own series of obstacles: beaver dams and shallow areas. We crossed over one beaver dam along the way to the next portage (190m).
The portage was short and sweet and we were back in Maple Creek in no time. It was a short paddle to reach the next portage (90m), which was also relatively flat.
We hopped back in the canoe and continued along the creek. There is a small waterfall right beside the next portage marker (630m). This was the only nice thing about the portage. The terrain was rugged and involved a few ups and downs. At the end of the portage there’s a (really shitty) campsite with minimal tree cover, limited seating, and no flat spots for a tent (unless it’s deeper in the bush). We took a small break here to eat some snacks (got to lighten the load) before heading back out on the water.
We were back in the water and had to cross over another beaver dam. There were also some steep turns and I ended up in some branches before paddling backwards out of harm’s way. Maybe this was a warning sign for what was to come: the next portage (805m). This was our longest and most brutal of the portages. Near the start there’s another campsite, which looked pretty decent. It had a nice seating area, a few flat spots of tents and you could hear the rapids. The only downside is that you don’t get much privacy being beside the path. The path was rugged and involved a steep ascent up a hill, but levels out towards the end and leads to a nice flat rocky overcrop.
We continued paddling along Maple Creek and had to cross over yet another beaver dam. There were an insane number of rocks we had to dodge. They are often hard to spot as they are just below the surface. We even got stuck on one. K was able to get out of the canoe on another rock, and push our canoe off it, before hopping back in. If that other rock wasn’t there, we’re honestly not so sure what we would have done as the water was deep. It was a bit tricky getting out of the canoe at the portage marker as the area was rocky and quite deep. The portage itself was a walk in the park compared to the previous one. The entry portage in and out of Maple Lake is brutal. There are large rocks near the shoreline, but the water itself is quite deep, making it a bit challenging to dock your canoe and unload your gear.
We initially reserved a site on Maple Lake, but when P was booking the canoes, the guy said Erables Lake was better. I was able to switch our reservations to Erables as there was still some availability (perhaps it wasn’t too surprising since it’s hard to get to). Once we entered deeper waters on Maple Lake, we refilled our water bottles. This was our first real opportunity to refill our water since Kiosk as we didn’t want to take any chances with Maple Creek.
It was about a 30min paddle across Maple to reach our final portage (170m) into Erables Lake. Luckily the portage was short and relatively flat as we were getting tired. Once we were back on the water, we just had to find a site.
Turns out the first site on the map along the Eastern shore was free. It didn’t have a nice beach area and it was a bit steep from the shore to the site, but it had an awesome seating area, was sheltered from the wind (this would be key for the next few days), spacious, and had some decent flat spots for our tents. But just to be safe that this was the winner, K and I paddled to the opposite site since it was still free, but it was on a slope and the seating area around the fire pit was terrible. The site next to this was occupied and some lady said the rest of the sites in this area were taken, except for maybe two at the very end of the lake. P and M ventured further and confirmed that the following few sites were taken.
We returned to our original site, unloaded the canoes, and set up shop for the next three days. We set up our tents and put a tarp above them as the forecast was calling for a lot of rain tomorrow.
We then started a fire and cooked some dinner. We were exhausted. We started our journey just before 10a.m and arrived at our site at 6:30p.m.
DAY 2: RAINFALL WARNING
I was the first one up at 7:45a.m. I set my chair up by the water and started writing up my notes from yesterday while they were still fresh in my mind. K got up shortly after and we just enjoyed the views from the lake (before it started raining).
It started to lightly rain around 8:30a.m. P got up and the three of us set up a larger tarp over the seating area around the fire pit. We then went on a mission to gather as much dry wood as we could before the rain picked up. According to the weather forecast, we were expected to receive 20-30mm of rain today.
Once everyone was up, we made breakfast under the safety of the tarp. The boys went out on the canoe to refill our water bottles. When they returned, we started a fire to warm up. Our goal was to keep the fire going all day (and really, what else were we going to do in the rain?).
The rain picked up later in the morning and didn’t let up until the later afternoon. We were surprised to see other paddlers out on the water during the rain storm. We counted seven canoes that went by at various points throughout the day. That could not have been fun. At around 6p.m it started raining again and continued for the entire evening. Needless to say, we went to bed pretty early as there wasn’t much else to do. It continued to rain throughout the night and overnight the temperature dropped to 13°C.
DAY 3: PADDLE AROUND ERABLES
It was cold, damp and overcast when I woke up this morning. I waited in my tent until everyone else woke up to venture out. We started a fire pretty much right away and still had a decent amount of dry wood left from yesterday. We had a lazy morning by the fire eating a late breakfast.
In the early afternoon, P, E, K and I went for a canoe ride around Erables Lake. The nice thing is that most people left yesterday (in the rain!) so we were able to explore 6 of the 11 campsites on the lake, these are circled in red on the below map. Our site is circled below in purple.
The general consensus: our site was perfect for the weather we had on Sunday (as we were quite sheltered from the wind) and our group size. There were some other nice sites with better views of the lake, but there were also worse sites with a limited seating area and minimal tree cover. Overall we did pretty well.
When we returned from our excursion, we got dinner ready. We spent the remainder of the evening by the fire and started to do some light packing for tomorrow. We figured we’d get an early start to the day as it would be a long paddle back to Kiosk.
DAY 4: FROM ERABLES TO KIOSK
It took us nearly nine hours to get from Kiosk to Erbales on Saturday. Since we were a bit concerned about the weather and conditions on the portages from all the rain on Sunday and overnight on Monday, we decided to wake up super early at 5:50a.m. We didn’t even bother making breakfast and figured we could eat along the way.
By the time we finished packing and had loaded all our gear onto our canoes, it was 7:30a.m. It was a smooth paddle across Erables. It was misty outside and the clouds were low in the trees, giving us a sense of urgency to not dilly dally and to stay close together. The first portage (170m) was quick and easy. There’s a nice shallow beach to exit and enter onto Maple Lake. While we were paddling along Maple Lake we spotted two eagles.
The one benefit of all the rain was that it made the water levels higher along Maple Creek. This was great as we could just shimmy over some of the beaver dams instead of getting out and pushing your canoe over them. We still had to cross over three of them though. The one downside to it being overcast, was that it made it challenging to spot large rocks just below the surface of the water. We got stuck on one of these again, but luckily K and M were behind us to dislodge us from the rock.
The conditions on the portages were not too bad considering all the rain we got over the past couple of days. There were definitely some muddy sections though. But our packs were noticeably lighter, which made it easier to try to dodge the mud puddles.
Once we reached the 630m portage we took a break at the garbage campsite there to eat some breakfast.
We were making really good timing navigating through Maple Creek and with the portages. Before we knew it we were on Kiosk Lake. The paddle through Kiosk was brutal. It was cold and windy and we were going against the wind. But it wasn’t raining, so we couldn’t complain too much.
After a solid hour of paddling, we were back on the beach. We were much quicker on our return journey to Kiosk (8 hours compared to nearly 9 hours to get to Erables Lake on Saturday). I guess the fear of rain is a good motivator.
Now to drive home. We stopped in Huntsville for dinner to break up the drive. The one benefit of staying a day longer in Algonquin is that we didn’t have to deal with the typical long weekend traffic jams.
Despite the weather, we still managed to have a good time in Algonquin. It helped that we brought tarps and were able to stay dry. Things could have been a lot worse. At least we didn’t have to paddle in the rain. Turns out, the weather back home in Toronto was even worse with rain on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Return here for our complete list of Algonquin adventures.