Algonquin Provincial Park: Lake Opeongo to Canoe Lake via Hogan Lake (6 days/ 90 km)

This route has you crossing the largest lake in Algonquin Park, Lake Opeongo, providing an opportunity for many trippers to enter some less-travelled areas of the park. Paddlers may also opt for a water taxi service (Algonquin Outfitters) to rocket them and their gear to the North Arm of Opeongo (or any part of the lake). The paddle up Opeongo is approximately 16 km from the access point to the top of the North Arm, and you should allow yourself a full day (6-8 hrs) to complete this in case of poor weather conditions.

You will also traverse the beautiful Big Crow – Hogan portage, aka “The Hogan”, one of the longest and most infamous maintained portages in Algonquin, as you enter the northernmost point of this route. The long, quiet Lake LaMuir offers trippers some of the best sunrise and sunset views in the park. Conditions in Otterslide Creek can vary depending on water levels. Paddlers should expect low water conditions as well as several small beaver dams which must be hauled over.

Trip Completed: July 2019

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Lake Opeongo

Ending Point: Canoe Lake

Total Distance: 90 km (total of 11.6 km of portaging)

Duration: 6 days / 5 nights

Difficulty: Intermediate

Location

Route travels through the Central-North area of Algonquin Park. Trip begins at Opeongo Lake and ends at Canoe Lake.

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: The Adventure Map Algonquin 1: Corridor North

Permits: Reservations can be made through the Ontario Parks reservation portal. Reserving a campsite on the lake (online or by phone) means one of the sites on that lake is reserved for you. You may not reserve a specific site. First come, first served.

Permits can be printed at home or downloaded to your device. Carry a copy of your permit with you at all times during your trip. If you are leaving a car at the access point, be sure to print a paper copy to be displayed on the windshield of the vehicle. This is your parking permit.

Outfitters & Shuttle

If you have only one car you will need a shuttle service (Algonquin Outfitters) to drop you off at your car following trip completion. Book this in advance of your trip.

Trip Report

Day 1: Opeongo Access Point to North Arm (16 km)

Portages: 0

At the Lake Opeongo Access Point, there is a great little parking lot right between the water and the Algonquin Outfitters store, where you can leave your car during your trip. Make sure you have a copy of your permit in your car windshield, as well as a paper / digital copy on your person. There are water taxis available on Opeongo, and if you are in a group of 3 or more the price is reasonable. If you opt to paddle instead, the distance to North Arm is approximately 16 km and may take you close to 6 hours, as Opeongo is often windy. Plan for this.

Our group started the trip with 21 people packed into 6 canoes. It was a calm day for Opeongo, with very few waves and little wind. After a final group pep-talk on strategy for the lake, we set off, tracing the western shoreline. Lifejackets should be worn at all times while paddling, but especially on Opeongo. It is recommended to stay within 500 m of the shoreline when possible, as Opeongo is huge and you do not want to have to swim over a kilometre to shore in the case that you dump.

Everyone in our group had practiced T-rescues, or canoe-over-canoe rescues, in an open lake environment. Because of this combined with how calm the day was, we chose to B-line straight across the lake. T-rescue is a method of rescuing an overturned canoe by dragging it upside-down over the gunwales of another canoe, flipping it, then sliding it back into the water right side up. Paddlers can then climb back in balancing between their canoe and the rescue canoe. This is a great skill for any open water paddler, as is the “shake-out” method for soloists.

Campsite: The campsite pictured below has a beautiful stand of Aspen. This also however attracts bears to the area, so all appropriate precautions should be taken with regard to food storage. I have camped on this site 4 years in a row and have never seen a bear in the area, but still: hang it or lose it!

Day 2: North Arm to Big Crow Lake (16 km)

Portages: 1290m (320m followed by 970m, connected)

The 1290 m portage into Proulx Lake has a turn-off after about 180 m, giving you the option to float your gear across a small pond. This will waste time and is not recommended, as you will have to unload again after about 30 seconds to continue the portage. There is a nice landing at the end of this portage, a great spot for a snack or rest.

Rounding the corner on Proulx to approach the Crow River, you likely will not see the entrance to the river. It is angled in a way that camouflages incredibly well against the background. On approach, paddle towards the right side of the marsh at the end of the bay. You should see the river entrance when you are about 30 m from it, with the marsh to your left and the northern shore of the bay to your right.

Leaving the Crow River, you should try to reach the campsite on Big Crow Lake which is closest to the 3750 m portage into Hogan Lake.

Campsite: On the northeast shore of Big Crow there is a campsite on a small jut of land. This site has a nice beach and a view of the whole lake. If you have the extra time, try the hiking trail up to the old Crow Lake Firetower.

Day 3: Big Crow to LaMuir (16 km)

Portages: 3750m, 710m

Portage from Big Crow to Hogan Lake (3750 m): Start this day early as the portage may take you longer than expected. If you are able to single-carry, this portage should take just over an hour. If you have to make 2 trips across, allow yourself 2.5 hours to complete the portage. After the first 600 m, there is a fork in the trail; the portage goes left and the cart track continues straight. Stay LEFT to continue on the portage trail, which should immediately begin a steep uphill section. The portage crosses the cart track a 2nd time 600m from the end. This time, walk straight across the cart track and back down into the woods on the portage trail. If you are on a wide, flat dirt road that seems as though a car could drive on it: this is the cart track. Stop and retrace your steps to find the portage trail.

The last 300m of this portage (into Hogan Lake) is a steep downhill. Take your time and use extra caution in muddy conditions. On this particular portage, I carried a 90-lb Swift Albany and finished in about 45 min. It took about 1.5 hours for our whole group to complete the portage.

Paddling to the 710 m portage from Hogan to LaMuir, the portage start point is mismarked on the map. Continue up the creek for a few hundred metres until you come to a muddy landing. You should hear and/or see a rushing stream to your left, flowing into the creek you are in, as well as a portage marking sign. The first bay before you enter LaMuir has a significant current flowing against you.

Campsite: Multiple sites on LaMuir offer views of both sunset and sunrise due to the geography of the lake. We camped at a site on the northern side of the lake.

Day 4: LaMuir to Otterslide (17 km)

Portages: 2590 m, 100 m, 730 m, 270 m, 390 m, 190 m

The 2590 m portage into Big Trout tends to be very buggy throughout summer. There is a dock on the Big Trout side which is great for loading canoes. This portage took our group just over an hour. Crossing Big Trout can be tricky depending on weather conditions. Plan accordingly, and always give yourself time for the worst of weather conditions.

Otterslide Creek has several small beaver dams that can be lifted over, as well as some short portages (see them labelled on the map above). We always try to leave the dams intact as much as possible. Some shallower sections may require dragging the canoe.

Our group found a great site on Otterslide Lake right next to the mouth of the creek. Had some spicy chicken stir fry for dinner after everyone went for a nice swim.

Day 5: Otterslide to Burnt Island (13 km)

Portages: 780 m

Started the morning by brewing some coffee through a sock (a clean sock) since no one brought a filter. A few stray grounds still made it through, but great flavour, very little socky-ness.

After the 780 m portage into Burnt Island, you should observe the wind conditions on the lake and plan your route accordingly. On this trip, there was a very strong headwind blowing northeast, with whitecaps. We chose to trace the north shore of the lake, which allowed us to evade some of the wind using the lake’s geography.

Campsite: We settled on an island site at the westernmost part of the lake. This is a frequently-used island site, so late in the season you may need to make a run to the mainland to collect firewood. Keep an eye out for Shelly, the island’s resident snapping turtle.

Day 6: Burnt Island to Canoe Lake Access Point (13 km)

Portages: 190 m, 430 m, 120 m, 290 m

Give yourself at least 3-4 hours to reach the access point, as there is a string of short portages and some river paddling to reach Joe Lake. The 430 m portage from Baby Joe to Lost Joe has a narrow creek flowing alongside it. There is another creek section from Lost Joe to the other end of the 430 m portage. These sections are navigable in high water, but the creek is very bony. Do not attempt without swift water paddling experience, safety equipment and a canoe appropriate for white water. After the 430 m portage the creek opens up and deepens. There may be several small beaver dams to haul over.

On Joe Lake there is a hiking trail to a great lookout point overlooking Teepee Lake and Camp Arowhon. There are 2 campsites and a landing area on the southeast side of Gibraltar Rock on Joe Lake. You can tie up here and hike the ~100m trail to the lookout.

The 290 m portage from Joe to Canoe is very wide and flat. There is a side trail down to the water just after the dam. If the water is high enough in this creek, you could put-in here and paddle a short creek section into Canoe Lake. Otherwise, the portage is very easy.

On your way down Canoe Lake stop and check out the Tom Thompson Cairn. The main islands on Canoe Lake are private property owned by Camp Wapomeo.

Reflections

This is an excellent route for the intermediate paddler who would like a taste of longer canoe trips. The route can be completed in 4-5 days by advanced paddlers, especially if a water taxi is used to cross Lake Opeongo. Personally, I recommend a 7-day trip on this route. This will give you time to paddle a little slower and enjoy the scenery.

Gallery


Author Bio

Hello like-minded trippers, my name is Noah. I am a guide with a summer camp and have led canoe trips in Algonquin Park for 6 years. I am currently a student, trying to get outdoors in all seasons as often as possible. My favourite portage in Algonquin is the 3750 m Big Crow to Hogan Lake, ‘The Hogan’. I love paddling narrow rivers and creeks, fishing, and walking barefoot through the forest on those quiet, rainy trip days. P.S. If you take this route, look for the rock on Hogan Lake just below the surface, and send me a picture of you walking on water!

Instagram: @noahbacal

YouTube: Noah Bacal

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