Temagami: Iceland Lake to Lake Temagami (Sandy Inlet), via Wasaksina Lake and Kokoko Lake (5 days / 58 km)

Trip Report - Iceland-Lake Temagami

This trip hits some absolutely beautiful lakes in the Temagami area, with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and hanging out. Wasaksina and Cross Lakes are both very peaceful, and while you briefly head back out into the busy crowded hub near Temagami Island, you are fairly soon back in the quiet seclusion provided by Kokoko Bay. This trip was slower-paced, with the goal to spend a fair amount of time relaxing at the campsites and fishing. 

Trip Completed: September 2022


Trip Summary

Starting PointIceland Lake (Access Point 7 on Jeff’s Map)
Ending PointSandy Inlet
Duration5 days
DifficultyBeginner
Total Distance58 km
Portaging Distance4,095 m
Number of Portages6

Location: This route is near the town of Temagami.

Traditional Territory: This route travels through the traditional territories of the Teme-Augama Anishinabe, Cree, and Algonquin people. 

Maps & Resources

Map: Jeff’s Temagami Map

Permits & Reservations

Campsite Reservations: Campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. We did not have any issues with finding sites.

Permits: You do not need any permits for the areas you pass through on this trip. 

Know Before You Go

Season: This is my favourite time of year to paddle in this area. It is a little less busy than July and August, not yet as cold as it gets in October, but most of the bugs have already died off.

Cell Reception: Cell reception is inconsistent in this area. I don’t bother checking when I’m out there, but you can be pretty confident that the smaller lakes will not have any service. The only place you might find it would be near Ferguson Mountain, or if you climbed to the top of it. 

Water: Once treated, all of the water that you are paddling through is fine to drink.

Wildlife: There are many different kinds of wildlife in the area, but we did not have any specific incidents. There are black bears, beavers, otters, as well as many other rodents and small creatures. 

Waste: I know that most (if not all) of the campsites had thunderboxes, but some of them were a little run-down and it was preferred to dig personal holes. If you somehow generate enough garbage in the first two days that you feel the need to throw it out, you pass by a transfer station at the end of the Temagami Lake Access Road (Access Point 8 on Jeff’s Map) where you could drop things.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Outfitter: This trip was fully outfitted by the Temagami Outfitting Company. Some of us had our own gear, but for those who didn’t, they provided tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, barrels, packs, and all cooking equipment. They also provided all of the food, which was a mix of dehydrated meals, as well as food from their restaurant that they had frozen and vacuum-sealed. 

Shuttle: Temagami Outfitting Company also did our shuttle. Cars were left at the outfitter, and they drove us to the creek that feeds into Iceland Lake for the start and picked us up at Sandy Inlet. 

Trip Report

Day 1: Iceland Lake to Wasaksina Lake

We left the Outfitter just after lunch and were driven in their van south of town to the access road. Erik from the Outfitter helped us unload where the road crosses the creek to Iceland Lake, and we loaded up the boats and pushed off. It was a sunny day, with blue skies and only a few clouds, and so we meandered our way down into Iceland Lake. Because of its proximity to the road and to town, this lake still feels a little busier, and we saw a few other travelers as we paddled.

Portage from Iceland Lake into Driftwood Lake (280 m): The portage from Iceland Lake into Driftwood is easy enough, especially coming from this side, but there are a few meandering trails that all make their way eventually to the end. If you stick to the widest of them you shouldn’t have any trouble. Driftwood Lake (and Wasaksina connected to it) is a popular fishing spot among locals, and so the Driftwood side of the portage has a dozen or so tin boats that people leave for their fishing excursions. 

Driftwood is quite pretty, and we floated there for a bit while Alex took his first few casts of the trip. 

In spite of how many people seem to fish here, he didn’t have any initial luck so we continued on towards the narrow section leading to Wasaksina. If you’ve read some of my other reports you know that I have an affinity for narrows. I love being able to see the trees on both sides in such detail and find paddling sections like that to feel like nature’s way of giving paddlers a welcoming hug.

Wasaksina is gorgeous, and would honestly make the perfect lake to just post up at for a few days if you were looking for a basecamp. We camped on the north shore of the lake, on the mainland, where the larger island comes close to it. Dinner for the first night was steak, with mushrooms and green beans cooked in garlic butter, and we settled into a mild food coma as we watched the sunset on our first day.

Campsite: Nice and open, with lots of room for tents. We have a few snorers on the trip, so everyone gets their own tent, which certainly limits us to the larger sites. This site has a small table setup as well as a very nice fire pit. 

Total Distance10.5 km
Time4 hours
Portaging Distance280 m
Number of Portages1
Campsite ReservationCrown Land – No Reservation Needed

Day 2: Wasaksina Lake to Cross Lake

We had a bit of a sleep in today, because we knew that we weren’t planning on going very far. Everyone had a leisurely coffee as we watched the mist burn off the lake, and slowly made our way through our bacon and eggs before packing up the gear. The sun was shining as we got on the water, and we paddled down the channel on the west side of the island towards the southwest corner of Wasaksina. 

Portage from Wasaksina Lake to Cross Lake (1080 m): We were a little apprehensive about the long portage to come, because a few of our group hadn’t tripped in a while and were already feeling sore from yesterday, but it turned out there was nothing really to worry about. There were a few fallen trees to negotiate over and under, but everything other than the highest and lowest had already been mostly cleared by people who came before us. Aside from a few short marshy bits (and those no more than a few inches deep), the trail was easy and dry. 

The good weather held as we reached Cross Lake, and paddled due west to the narrows between the island and the mainland, where we found our campsite for the evening. Sun-dappled and lovely, we had lunch on the rocks and spent the afternoon reading, fishing, and relaxing. This is the site where Alex caught his only major fish of the trip, and it made a great addition to dinner once we fried it up in some oil and lemon juice. 

We also saw a huge turtle at this campsite! It looked like some great primordial beast, easily three feet long from tip to tail, with what seemed like a whole ecosystem of different plants and mosses growing on its back. It did make swimming there somewhat nerve-wracking, not knowing if it would take that as an attack, but we still found time for a dip, and came out unscathed. 

Everyone was feeling much better after an easier day of relaxation, and ready to tackle the monster day we had planned for tomorrow.

Campsite: Lovely site with a table in the middle of Cross Lake, west of where the Wasaksina portage enters it. Lots of room.

Total Distance7 km
Time3 hours
Portaging Distance1080 m
Number of Portages1
Campsite ReservationCrown Land – No Reservation Needed

Day 3: Cross Lake to Kokoko Bay

We woke in good time this morning, and were only a little disappointed to find it misting on us as we emerged from the tents. Not the nicest weather, but certainly still better than a downpour. We had our oatmeal and loaded the boats, before continuing through Cross Lake. Cross and Wasaksina both are absolutely stunning, with a mix of narrow and more open sections keeping it from feeling too stagnant. 

This north end of Cross Lake is also in old growth forest, which was very cool to see as we approached the portage into Cross Bay Lake. This portage seemed a little less-travelled than others in this area, I think because most people tend to go to the south end of the lake, where it flows out into Outlet Bay without the need for a portage. 

Portage from Cross Lake to Cross Bay Lake (750 m): Once we started the portage, we could understand why. It was 750 m of swamp, and with the amount of weaving we needed to do to find usable ground we could actually travel, it felt like more. Still in good enough spirits, because the rain had started to clear, we had a bit of a chuckle at the oh-so-very original naming scheme of Cross Lake, Cross Bay Lake, and Cross Bay, and then had a quick snack before paddling our way towards the second portage. 

Portage Cross Bay Lake to Cross Bay (295 m): This next portage started giving us trouble before we even got there, as the west end of Cross Bay Lake is a tangled mess of drowned stumps, fallen logs, and marshy mounds of vegetation and debris coming up from the lake bed. After some figuring we were able to get close enough that a couple of us deemed it worthwhile to sacrifice our lower legs to the mud and walk the canoes the rest of the way. The other two were immensely grateful and promised us beers in exchange for our glorious service. The portage itself was actually incredibly reasonable after what the last one was like. 

Feeling a little bit behind after the unexpected issues with the portages, we decided to push on as much as possible and take a slightly later lunch so we could keep our momentum going. We set off into Cross Bay, and paddled to the opening back out into the larger waters of Lake Temagami. Thankfully the winds were with us, and gently pushed us along past the access point at the end of the Lake Temagami Access Road. 

It was strange to see so many people in the middle of our trip, knowing that we were still going to be out for a few more days. Usually we only see this many people at the start or end of a trip, but it was good to know that the world hadn’t ended in the couple of days we’d been out. 

Continuing north, we passed around the top of Temagami Island, stopping at one of the campsites on it for a late lunch, and then fought some minor crosswinds to reach the entrance to Kokoko Bay. This bay is an absolutely magical place that just keeps going for what seems like forever. I always struggle to find the words to talk about Kokoko Bay, but I think the best I’ve settled on is that it feels like a hug. The winds immediately die as soon as you’re into the narrows, and as the trees on either side draw closer and closer the farther north you get, it feels very comfortable. 

Finally, we reached the larger pool at the north end and set up our camp on the lovely rocky site that we found. It’s high enough that it gives a lovely view out towards the portage on the other side. We had some Happy Yak pad thai for dinner and then munched on some two-bite brownies as we bundled up against a cool evening and relaxed around the campfire. Eventually, it started raining a little bit so we scurried off to get some rest after our big day.

Campsite: Beautiful site in the wider section at the north end of Kokoko Bay. We were on the rocky sloped site on the western shore. 

Total Distance23.5 km
Time9 hours
Portaging Distance1045 m
Number of Portages2
Campsite ReservationCrown Land – No Reservation Needed

Day 4: Kokoko Bay to Ferguson Mountain

We once again decided to take it a little slower this morning, feeling a little beat after our big day yesterday, but satisfied and happy with ourselves. We hit the water around 10 am and paddled a couple of minutes across to the portage. There are two portages from the bay into the lake, and we opted for the eastern one, for the simple fact that it was marked as shorter on the map. 

Portage from Kokoko Bay to Kokoko Lake (120 m): I’m not sure what the western one is like, but this one was fine. The takeout was a little rocky, but once we were moving it was super reasonable. Kokoko Lake was a gem, as it always is, and we were thrilled to once again be in another patch of old-growth forest. We paddled past some lovely island campsites in Kokoko Lake and then reached our last real portage of the trip, other than the one we would need to get to the van at our pickup. 

Portage from Kokoko Lake to Upper Kokoko Bay (570 m): This portage, in spite of being longer, was an absolutely lovely trail. Kokoko Lake is a popular fishing spot, so the trail sees enough use to be kept in top form. We had a quick chat with another group at the west end of the portage, swapping stories of trip while we had a much-needed snack. We set out into Upper Kokoko Bay, paddling past Devil’s Mountain. We had some group members who were less than thrilled with the idea of hiking, but if you’re travelling with people who are into it, I would highly recommend taking the trail to the top. The view from up there is stunning, giving a proper look at the many arms of Lake Temagami. 

Not feeling like hiking, we turned north and continued our way up Ferguson Bay. This section of the lake has the potential for absolutely brutal winds. I’ve had trips where it is an hours-long fight just to drag out a couple of kilometers, but thankfully this was not one of them. While we did have some head- and crosswinds, they were very light, and we were able to make decent time to our campsite beneath Ferguson Mountain. 

Another afternoon spent relaxing and reading was enjoyed by the entire group, with lots of swimming in spite of the day starting to cool off. I was even able to find some lobster mushrooms, and fried them up to go with our pasta dinner! A fantastic treat, and one that I’m always happy to find. 

Campsite: Gorgeous site with lots of benches and so many tent spots. Easy takeout at the south end, just a large flat rock with some nice gravel to stand on that’s only in about a foot of water. 

Total Distance14 km
Time5.5 hours
Portaging Distance690 m
Number of Portages2
Campsite ReservationCrown Land – No Reservation Needed

Day 5: Ferguson Mountain to the Take Out

The rain had rolled in overnight, so while we weren’t eager to get out of the tents, once we were moving we were pretty quick to pack up, enticed by the idea of a warm shower and comfortable bed. We made the paddle across Sandy Inlet in good time, the winds having died down since yesterday, and started to make our way up the portage.

Portage from Takeout to Parking Lot (1000 m): The first few hundred metres are a nice wide trail, but since we were getting picked up by Temagami Outfitting we had to keep going a bit to get to the next parking lot. 

The stretch of road between the two is absolutely terrible and can be impassable after hard rains. Only attempt if you’re incredibly confident in the off-roading abilities of your car. There will be a great many puddles to either walk through or pick your way around. The worst of them usually have a slight trail going around one side of them, but for the ones that don’t you’re going to want to walk straight through the middle, the wheel ruts can be a good foot or so deeper.

We were a little bit early, but by the time we were finishing our second loads of the portage, Erik was pulling into the parking lot with a thermos of coffee to warm us back up. Before long we were heading back out the Red Squirrel Road towards the highway, and Temagami beyond. 

Total Distance3 km
Time1 hour
Portaging Distance1000 m
Number of Portages1
Campsite ReservationN/A

Reflections

I really enjoyed this trip, but I did find the pacing a little weird. I absolutely love the areas that we were in, but if I were to do it again I would either add some more days, or do two shorter trips. Swinging between really short and really long days isn’t my usual style, and was a little bit dictated by the desire that some of the people I was with had to fish. They had been hoping to camp on Wasaksina, Cross, and Kokoko Lakes, but going all the way from Cross Lake to Kokoko Lake would have been a little brutal, and if we had camped in between the two and planned for Kokoko Lake to be our final night’s campsite then we wouldn’t have had enough time to get all the way to Sandy Inlet for our pickup. 

If you’re looking for a longer, slower-paced trip, then I’d recommend adding an extra day, and camping somewhere near where Kokoko Bay feeds into the main hub of Lake Temagami, then camping on Kokoko Lake itself. This would then also give you the time to hike Devil’s Mountain if you were interested. 

I also felt a little weird paddling by the Temagami Lake Access road on day 3. Maybe it’s just the kinds of trips that I’m used to, but I prefer trips where the most people you see are at the start and/or end. I’m not a fan of the whiplash of feeling like you’re semi-remote, then seeing a bunch of people, then going back out into the solitude. If that resonates with you, but you still want to explore the area, then you could do two separate trips.

One is south of the access road to hit Wasaksina, Cross, and then Outlet Bay and the southern end of Lake Temagami, and the other is further north, allowing you to spend more time in Kokoko Lake and around Devil’s Mountain and Devil Bay. 


Author Bio

Hey folks! Thanks for reading this far. My name is Liam, and I’ve been canoeing since I was a kid when my parents would take me out on short trips with their friends. The Temagami area is my playground, and I grew up going to Camp Wanapitei. For the last seven years, I’ve worked as a guide for a few different companies in the area, and absolutely love getting to take people into the outdoors and show them the cool places that I love so much. When I’m not living in the woods I usually spend time out on the West Coast, working in an outdoor equipment shop so I can just chat with people about trips they’re planning, and wish that I was tagging along.

Instagram: @white.squall

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