Number of days: 4
Access Point: #25 Wendigo Lake
Visited: July 2016
Day 1: Arriving at Algonquin (a little too late)
We might have underestimated just how long it would take to drive from Toronto down to the Brent Algonquin Outfitters to pick up our canoes. And then how long it would take to strap all three canoes to the back of the trailer and fit all our gear and six people into one vehicle. And again how long it would take to drive all the way back down Brent Road to get to Wendigo Lake. That’s not even including when one of the canoes fell off the trailer and when everyone had to scramble out of the car to lighten the load in getting over a particularly steep and rocky hill on the road into Wendigo Lake.
We had initially planned to canoe down to North Depot lake. But by the time we rolled into Wendigo Lake it was just past 7:00p.m. The (nice) guys at the Brent Algonquin Outfitters mentioned that there were four unmarked campsites near the Wendigo Lake launching point. After scoping out the sites, they are located just to the right before the car park for the Wendigo Lake access point, there was only one that was really legit with a proper fire pit and tree stumps for seating.
We set up our tents, cooked some dinner, and built a fire. We then hit the hay to get a proper night’s rest. Tomorrow is going to be a long day.
Day 2: Wendigo Lake to Radiant Lake
We woke up bright and early at 7:30a.m to get an early start to the day. But we took a while making breakfast and getting our packs sorted out that by the time we finally were on the water, it was just after 10a.m.
The first part of our trek was fairly pleasant and easy enough. The portage into Allen Lake (180m) was sweet and short and we bypassed the portage (225m) into North Depot entirely – we just had to hop out of the canoe once or twice to get through a small shallow section. There are some pretty dope sites on this lake, including two island campsites. We ate lunch at the furthest island campsite before continuing onwards.
The second part of our route was challenging and consisted of more portaging and less canoeing. The next portage out of North Depot Lake (770m) was particularly strenuous. In part because we haven’t quite optimized the best way to transport all our gear to the other side. After making two trips to double back for the rest of our gear we were back out on the water. And it sure was gorgeous! This part of the river system was much shallower and a bit marshy. There were all these purple marsh flowers and lily pads everywhere. This was easily one of our favourite sections that we canoed on this expedition. The only thing that was missing was a moose!
When we reached our next portage (230m) we were feeling overly confident of our canoeing abilities and decided to try to bypass it. We made it over a beaver dam only to be hindered by a fallen log that was blocking our path. Luckily there was a place to pull over, hop out of our canoes and reassess the situation. Turns out there was a little waterfall nearby so we were forced to unpack our canoes and portage to the other side. This also set us back about an hour.
We were back on the water for a matter of minutes before reaching the second portage of 230m. This time we hopped out of our canoes right away instead of wasting more time trying to contemplate whether we could bypass the portage.
We did the same with the following portage of 235m into Clamshell Lake. But also because we knew there was no way we could forge through the rapids. After eating a quick snack at the end of the portage and admiring the awesome single campsite on the rocks (which is apparently a great spot to fish according to all the dudes on the site), we continued onwards.
By the time we reached the end of the 135m portage it was nearing around 7:30p.m. We only had one portage left (and it was only 20m), but we still had to paddle all the way to Radiant Lake and find an unoccupied campsite. A pair of Germans (who we actually saw when we launched off at Wendigo Lake) warned us that by the time we reached our destination, it would be dark. They offered us a spot on their tiny campsite, but we declined and decided to take our chances with Radiant Lake.
After carrying our canoe (we didn’t bother unloading our gear) over the final 20m portage we just had a short ways to canoe to the mouth of Radiant Lake. Luckily the weather was fantastic and there wasn’t so much a slight breeze to hinder our efforts to finding a campsite. We decided to turn left as there were more campsites on the Northern shore. Plus we spotted two fires on the opposite side and figured that wasn’t a good sign. Turns out we had nothing to worry about in terms of finding a campsite on Radiant Lake as the first one we came across was unoccupied. And it was awesome! The beach was a little sandy, the campsite was spacious with lots of flat spots for our tents and the fire pit was well maintained and had plenty of seating.
We rolled into our site just after 8:30p.m and managed to set up our tents, start a fire, and start cooking dinner before it got dark outside. It took us just over 10 hours from when we initially hit the water at Wendigo Lake to get to Radiant Lake. And we were exhausted!
Day 3: Radiant Lake
We slept in pretty late this morning. Thankfully we were spending two nights on Radiant Lake so we didn’t need to dismantle our tents, pack up our gear, and canoe (and portage) to another campsite.
After making some tea and oatmeal for breakfast, half our party went back to bed while the other half collected firewood to make “the biggest fire the North has ever seen” and later took a walk down the Northern shore to scope out two of the other sites located east of us. The other sites were pretty nice and even had sandier beaches, but ours was more spacious and had better spaces for tents and seating around the fire pit. We were satisfied with our choice.
After returning back to our campsite we went for a swim in the lake followed by a leisurely paddle across Radiant Lake. We visited the old Ranger station that was marked on the map located just east of the old grave site.
We then pulled onto the beach to explore the old grave site. We managed to find the plaque to commemorate the bodies of more than twenty river men who drowned in the nearby waters when then completing the railroad in the area easy enough, but were unsuccessful in finding the actual gravesite. Granted, we didn’t search for too long because the bugs were particularly bad.
We then paddled back to our campsite to get a fire started and to cook dinner. We also (perhaps rather foolishly) thought that bringing 4L of wine and 24 cans of beer was a good idea. While we did enjoy a beer or two the first two nights, the vast majority (including all 4L of wine) remained untouched. With three particularly lengthy portages lined up for our route to Cedar Lake, not to mention that fact that we lugged it all the way out here in the first place, we were committed to let it not go to waste. And we didn’t. But for next time: less is more.
Day 4: Radiant Lake to Cedar Lake
Our final day in Algonquin. We woke up bright and early at 7:30a.m to get an early start on our final canoe trip into Cedar Lake (and back to civilization). We were a bit slow getting ready (probably because of all that wine from the night before), but we scarfed down a quick breakfast and hit the water. And in case you were wondering, we managed to finish all the alcohol.
We paddled out onto the Petawawa River for just over an hour before reaching our first portage at Devil’s Chute of 860m. By now our packs were noticeably lighter and we perfected the optimal way to carry all three of our canoes, packs, and paddles between the six of us. But once we scrambled back into our canoes we realized that the portage would have been easier by just following the old railway. The path we took wasn’t that well maintained. I guess crawling over a fallen tree should have tipped us off.
Once back on the Petawawa River we saw further signs of the old railway tracks.
We were back on the water for a short while before attempting our second portage of 685m. Once we managed to carry all our canoes and double back for our gear to the other side of the portage we rewarded ourselves by going for a quick swim to cool down. The water was amazing!
We paddled to the end of the Petawawa River and embarked on our final (and longest) portage of 960m to get to Cedar Lake. The beginning of the portage was quite steep and rocky. But the path eventually levels off and it’s smooth sailing (or rather hiking) to get into Cedar Lake.
Cedar Lake is a beast. Sure, it looks nice and sparkly from the shoreline, but don’t let its vast distance fool you. This lake is no joke to paddle. Luckily it wasn’t particularly breezy when we headed out onto the water. But just as a precaution, we canoed in between the three islands. Once we reached the open water, the wind started to pick up and it sure felt like the longest distance we had to paddle yet. The wake from the few motor boats that passed by sure didn’t help things either. We breathed a sigh of relief by the time our canoes hit solid land.
By the time we returned our canoes it was just after 5p.m. We went to the parking lot to pull our car around to load up our gear. But quickly discovered we had a slightly flat tire. We contemplated putting the spare tire on, but struggled to get it properly fitted since our car was on a bit of a slope on the grass. besides, there’s no way the donut would have made it on the gavel Brent Road. Thankfully the guys at the Brent Algonquin Outfitters were able to add more air to our tires. Given that the tire didn’t deflate after using our mad tetris skills to pack our gear into the trunk, we decided to just drive back to our other car parked at Wendigo lake. We stopped a few times along the way to check on the status of the tire. It was fine. Most likely just a slow leak. Thank goodness! Now to get back to Toronto.
We might have underestimated just how challenging those portages can be. But we sure had an incredible long weekend at Algonquin. It definitely helped that we also had gorgeous weather for the entire trip. Lessons learned for next time: less wine.
L & K
Return here for our complete list of Algonquin adventures.