Algonquin Provincial Park: Opeongo Lake to Canoe Lake (6 days / 58 km)

A fantastic route for a week long flat water trip through the heart of Algonquin Provincial Park. This route has a great combination of large lakes, challenging portages, small creeks, and brilliant views. Suitable for intermediate paddlers looking to spend more than just a weekend in the park.

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Opeongo Lake (Access Point 11)

Ending Point: Canoe Lake (Access Point 4)

Total Distance: 58 km

Duration: 6 days / 5 nights

Difficulty: Beginner / Intermediate (a few long portages)

Location

This route is located in Algonquin Provincial Park. Both Opeongo Lake (starting point) and Canoe Lake (ending point) are accessible from Highway 60.

Traditional Territory: This route in Algonquin Provincial Park is located on the traditional territory of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) and Anishinabewaki (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: N/A

Map: Official Canoe Routes Map of Algonquin Park

Campsite Reservations: Campsite reservations are required through the Ontario Parks reservation portal. Reservations are for a campsite on A specific lake, not a specific campsite (i.e. Rock Lake).

Camping Permits: Camping permits must be picked up from Opeongo Lake before starting your canoe trip.

Outfitters & Shuttles

An outfitter wasn’t used for this trip, however, a shuttle is needed from Canoe Lake (Access Point 4) to Opeongo Lake (Access Point 11) at the end of the trip. Algonquin Outfitters is recommended.

Trip Report

Day 1: Lake Opeongo Access Point to Middle of Opeongo (8 km)

Launching from Access point 11 has many benefits. The Algonquin Outfitters on site is a great place to rent gear or buy items you may have forgotten to pack. There are also washrooms and showers.

From there it comes down to how long you wish to paddle on your first day. It is an 8 km paddle to my favourite site at the most northern point of Windy Point along the western shore. For paddlers looking to clear more distance on the first day, the island sites south of the Western Narrows provide some amazing views and unparalleled protection from the summer bugs. For those looking to truly put in the paddling hours, the island sites in the North Arm are well worth the extra effort.

Winds on Opeongo can be relentless. Algonquin Outfitters provides shuttle service to any point on the lake. When paddling, stick to the shore where possible.

Campsite: Northernmost Windy Point site. Massive site with multiple areas, including a large rock hill complete with a rope swing.

I also recommend the southernmost island site in the Western Narrows. A secluded island site with spectacular views of the lake. The take out is a little tricky, but the rest of the site is flat and perfect for a large group.

Day 2: Lake Opeongo to Happy Isle Lake (10.5 km)

Paddling through the Western Narrows can be challenging even in moderate winds. Expect this stretch to take longer than you might think unless you are lucky enough to have a tailwind.

It is an 8.5 km paddle from Windy Point to the portage. When approaching the last bay at the end of the lake keep an eye out for Moose. I have personally spotted moose every time I have canoed there, one time seeing three adults and a baby.

Portage from Opeongo Lake to Happy Isle Lake (2235 m): This portage is the most challenging of the trip. A moderately hilly and very buggy 2,235 m portage will challenge most and make you question your choice of route. However, it’s great to know your worst portage is over early on in the trip. Notable features are the buggy swamp in the middle and the steep uphill that follows it.

But fear not, as the lake waiting for you is one of my favourites. Happy Isle Lake is a medium-sized lake with clear water and fantastic fishing.

Campsite: Happy Isle Lake offers many great sites, but the crown jewels are the three sites on the island. Each site has its own selling point.

The northern site is large, flat and open with a sandy shore. The eastern site is a large site spread out over a few dramatic hills. The campfire is on one of the hills, providing a unique view well above the water. There are also some fun rocks to jump off of. The western site’s big feature is one of the most impressive fire pits in the park, complete with stadium stone seating.

Day 3: Rest Day

Did I mention this route has a well deserved break? You can place a rest day anywhere on this trip, but enjoying it on Happy Isle means you will give yourself plenty of time to recover from the long portage before undertaking a challenging day of portaging to get to Big Otterslide Lake.

Day 4: Happy Isle Lake to Otterslide Lake (5.3 km)

Today is the reason for the rest day; this will be one of those days where you will spend more time carrying your canoe than you will spend paddling it. I recommend getting an earlier start to the day.

It is a 2 km paddle to the first of three portages.

Portage from Happy Isle Lake to Shiner Lake (930 m): The first portage, from Happy Isle to Shiner, starts by going up a large hill. Luckily the majority of the portage is downhill from there. But fear not, for this is the only notable hill you will face this day.

Shiner Lake is a short half-kilometre paddle across. The middle of the lake is a great spot for a floating lunch if the bugs are too much (and they can be).

Portage from Shiner Lake to Mike’s Lake (1,855 m): The second portage, from Shiner to Mike’s, is almost entirely flat. A large portion of this portage takes place on a wooden walkway. The end of the portage can be a muddy mess trying to launch your canoe into the narrow creek that takes you into Mike’s Lake.

The creak is a beautiful stretch of wetlands, that opens into a very small lake with the next portage less than 500 m away.

Portage from Mike’s Lake to Otterslide Lake (540 m): The third portage, from Mike’s to Otterslide, feels like a short lift over by this point. It is flat, but uneven with some boardwalks to help out. It is almost always thick with bugs.

Now that you have made it through the portages, get some water in you and paddle a couple of km to find the site that looks best to you.

Campsite: I personally love the site on the first island you paddle by. It doesn’t look like much from the water, but it’s a beautiful flat site with a large woodlot that makes up most of the island, making firewood collection surprisingly easy for a small island site. It also has shallow rock beach that is perfect for cooling off after a long day.

Day 5: Otterslide Lake to Burnt Island Lake (12.2 km)

One of the more beautiful lakes in the park, Otter Slide offers large hills and plenty of wildlife. The narrows connecting it to Little Otter Slide is a personal highlight of the trip. Tragically short, it is a scenic paddle through a rich wetland teeming with wildlife, colourful flowers, and the promise of a moose sighting. It is a 5.5 km paddle from your site to the next portage.

Portage from Little Otterslide Lake to Burnt Island Lake (780 m): Your only portage of the day is an easy, mostly flat portage that ends on a beautiful beach overlooking Burnt Island Lake.

From there it is a scenic 6 km paddle to a cluster of campsites along the narrows that take you into the southern section of the lake. There are plenty of sites in this area, which is nice as it is often a busy lake.

Campsite: The somewhat hidden gems can be found in the northwestern bay (follow the right shore after the narrows). These sites are large, open and covered by tall red pines. Did I mention that they all have big sandy beaches? Because they do and they are beautiful!

Day 6: Burnt Island Lake to Canoe Lake Access Point (15.5 km)

You have now entered a higher traffic area of Algonquin Park. But fear not, there is still plenty of sites to take in. This also means your portages just got way easier. Even though your map makes it look like you have several portages, there is a shortcut for those willing to get their feet wet.

Portage from Burnt Island Lake to Baby Joe Lake (200 m): There is a short, unremarkable portage onto Baby Joe Lake.

Once on Baby Joe Lake, paddle south toward the portage to Little Joe Lake. Instead of taking the portage, however, paddle to the right where there is an opening to a shallow river. Here you have the option to drag your boat through a beautiful low-flow river into Little Joe Lake.

These narrows are tight and full of turns with the odd beaver damn to drag over. They open up into a large section of lily pads where a big bull moose is often sighted.

The shallow river ends at Little Joe Lake, which is connected to the east arm of Joe Lake.

Once on Joe Lake, you just need to paddle to the far end of the lake and turn south, where you will see a small bridge. Past the bridge, you will find your last portage of the trip.

Before turning south and towards the portage, I highly recommend stopping at the most western site on the north shore. It may not look like much, but there is a path that will take you to a spectacular lookout where you can see Camp Arowhon and near countless maple-covered hills.

Portage from Joe Lake to Canoe Lake (230 m): Your final portage is a near-perfectly flat and very wide gravel path that takes you to Canoe Lake, complete with composting toilets.

From there it is a 4.6 km paddle to the take out.

If you still want to paddle around and explore, Canoe Lake is a great place to do so. The first sightseeing option is definitely the most adventurous. Going to the northwest arm of Canoe lake will take you past some cottages and into the hidden ruins of an old logging town, made famous by Tom Thompson. Speaking of Thompson, there is a memorial to his legacy found on the northeastern shores of Canoe Lake.

There are two summer camps on this lake, Ahmek and Wapomeo. Ahmek is notable for being the summer camp of choice for the Trudeau family. Tucked away on the western shore is an inlet to wetlands known as Whisky Jack. Not only is this a beautiful area to explore, but it is also overflowing with wildlife, including a large bull moose that frequents the area.

Once you have reached the take out, you would be hard-pressed not to smell the delicious food being made at the Portage Store restaurant. Treat yourself to a burger and ice cream. You earned it!

Reflections

This is one of those routes that is both accessible to novice paddlers but also has no shortage of challenges to overcome. Those long portages can mean spending a lot of time away from water, so make sure you have plenty of filtered water on hand before leaving the lakes. I have guided this route four times now and it always is loved by those that undertake it.

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Author Bio

Kevin Fraser is an outdoor educator, canoe guide, and the owner and operator of Wild Connection Outdoor Education. As a lover of the outdoors, Kevin is passionate about sharing his curiosity of nature as well as teaching wilderness living skills. When not teaching and guiding, he can most likely be found relaxing around a camp fire or playing in rapids in a canoe.

Website: Wild Connection

Instagram: @_kevinfraser_

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