Wabakimi Provincial Park: Whitewater Lake Loop (8 days / 185 km)

This is a great wilderness route in Northern Ontario with relatively minimal portaging and is one of the few options to explore Wabakimi Provincial Park without taking a floatplane. Most campsites are not marked with a sign but exist where they are marked on the map. 

The trip went smoothly and the most challenging part was the wind on certain days. Be prepared to stay an extra 1-2 days. The wind could easily windbound a group for extended periods of time. We went in late July / early August so bugs were not an issue. However, we imagine that the bugs would be much worse earlier in the season. Wabakimi offers fantastic fishing, and the opportunity to see lots of wildlife, including the elusive Woodland Caribou. 

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Caribou Lake Rd and Little Caribou Lake

Ending Point: Caribou Lake Rd and Little Caribou Lake

Total Distance: 185 km

Duration: 8 days (could be done in 6-10 days)

Difficulty: Intermediate

Location

Wabakimi Provincial Park, beginning and ending at the road intersection of Caribou Lake Rd and Little Caribou Lake.

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: N/A

Map: Wabakimi Maps

Campsite Reservations: Ontario Parks Online Reservation

Permits: Permits need to be printed and are made for a number of days in the park, not by individual campsites.

Outfitters & Shuttles

We used Mattice Lake Outfitters to rent a canoe and personally shuttled it to the put-in. There is very little parking at the put-in and to be cautious found someone who lives in Armstrong, ON to shuttle our cars (Clem Quenville 1-807-372-1346)

Trip Report

Day 1: On the Road to Little Caribou Lake (2 km)

From wherever you are driving from, the road from Thunder Bay up to Armstrong is mostly a gravel road without service. Make sure to get gas in your car before you start this drive. Since we had one car, one canoe, and one rental canoe we went straight to the put-in (50.337850, -89.089178) after meeting our shuttle driver, Clem Quenville.

We then left a canoe at the put-in and drove back to Mattice Lake Outfitters to pick up our rental canoe. It was late afternoon by the time we got on the water after a big travel day. It is important to note that you are not technically in the park until arriving at the Caribou River, which means that you do not need to pay for permits on the first and last night of the trip.

Campsite: Island campsite about 2km of paddling from the put-in. Nice site with a sunset view. (50.350242, -89.089978)

Day 2: Little Caribou Lake to Funger Lake (35 km)

We left the campsite early and started the day as Little Caribou Lake is quite narrow, which could make it challenging if there were high winds in the wrong direction. There are other campsites on Little Caribou Lake which provide other options to camp if you end up with more time on day 1.

The portage from Little Caribou Lake to Caribou Lake is short and has a clear trail to the right of the stream flowing into Caribou Lake. When crossing Caribou Lake, make sure to keep an eye on the map as we went in the wrong direction for about 1 km.

There are two campsites next to each other on opposite side shores while approaching Caribou River. This is the location of the official “Welcome to Wabakimi Sign”.

These sites provide good options to camp but would only be suitable for two tents.

Travel down the Caribou River was clear, as the portages are commonly used. We took almost all of the portages to Funger Lake, skipping two by running the class I rapids. Dinner was pizza in the pouring rain. 

Campsite: Site on the west side of Funger Lake. 2-3 Tent spots. Nice low gradient rock shore. No sunset view. (50.546282, -89.293779)

Day 3: Funger Lake to Smoothrock Lake (25 km)

Funger Lake to the opening of Smoothrock Lake featured a nice stretch of paddling with some wind. The south shore of the opening of Smoothrock Lake from Caribou Bay has a campsite which we used to take a break and have a morning snack. Paddling across Smoothrock Lake we were lucky to have a light side wind and stopped at a rocky shore turning up into Outlet Bay for Lunch. On Smoothrock Lake we saw two motorboats that were taking out fishermen from the Lodge at the South end of Smoothrock Lake. We paddled until about 4-5 pm today finishing at the top of Outlet Bay and caught one fish. 

Campsite: The campsite furthest up Outlet Bay. Steep rockface at the takeout. Sunset view. (50.653162, -89.423232)

Day 4: Outlet Bay to Whitewater Lake (24km)

Another early morning paddling down both the Berg and Oogoki Rivers. We paddled or lined down all of the rapids. The water was low at the beginning of the Berg River but that was the worst part of shallow water that we experienced. We caught a fish at the end of the Berg River and had lunch where the two rivers meet on a rocky shore. There is a necessary portage around a handful of ledges on river right, which led directly into Whitewater Lake. Paddling up Whitewater Lake was beautiful with a blue sky day. 

Campsite: About 5-6km from the portage into Whitewater Lake we camped on a beautiful open rockface on the South end of the Lake on a point. The point we camped on was to the South-east of the first very large island. 

Day 5: Whitewater Lake to Wendell Beckwith Cabin (Best Island) (18 km)

We woke up and paddled across Whitewater Lake, island-weaving our way to the Wendell Beckwith Cabin. We took a snack break on a random shoal and ended up catching two fish, which would become our lunch.

We arrived at the cabin in the early afternoon, an incredible location to explore. Unfortunately, we took too long at the site and the wind aggressively picked up. Now that we were windbound, we set up camp at the campsite to the west of the cabin. There is lots of information about the cabin available online.

Note: Camping at the cabin site is prohibited, and we only stayed here because it was dangerous to move from our location in the wind.

When approaching the cabin by canoe, there is a beach shore for stopping in and looking around on the East side of the point as you approach it on Best Island. The campsite is located a hundred meters from the point, further South. 

Campsite: Nice low gradient rocky campsite with a sunset view. Featuring a picnic bench, which was quite a treat. (50.796294, -89.339550)

Day 6: Wendell Beckwith Cabin to Lonebreast Bay (24 km)

We left the campsite on a windy morning heading towards six portages. We were able to find all of them as marked on the map.

After about two portages, the landscape changes to what seemed more like James Bay Lowlands, as a forest fire had recently passed through a few years ago revealing a landscape of small rolling hills and empty tree stands (Photo 5).

After one of the portages, we caught a fish and had it as a snack alongside our lunch. We had some challenging winds from the last portage of the day paddling down Lonebreast Bay.

When searching for a campsite in Lonebreast Bay, approximately halfway down it there is an island site and a site on the mainland shore to the East of the island site. We were going to scout both sites but were unable to find the site marked on the shore after searching for quite some time. The island site proved to be a good site. 

Campsite: Island site on Lonebreast Bay. Fishermen from nearby lodges frequent this site. Comes with pros and cons: lots of fish scraps to attract unwanted wildlife, but also a full propane stove set up that will boil a pot of water in 30 seconds. No sunset view. (50.617157, -89.272802)

Day 7: Lonebreast Bay to Caribou River (38 km)

Today was the earliest that we left the campsite due to the heavy winds on Lonebreast Bay. We left the campsite as the fog was coming off of the water during a phenomenal sunrise, providing us with some great pictures. Worth the early wake up!

Arriving back to Smoothrock Lake to go back up the Caribou River, we had completed the loop portion of our trip. The rest of the day was spent paddling up the Caribou River and portaging around rapids.

We arrived at our campsite in the late afternoon and camped on the more Eastern campsite at Outlet Bay, where there are two campsites across from each other. The other campsite had the only Wabikimi sign that we saw the entire trip. 

Campsite: Slightly steep put in / take out. Sunset view. Nice firepit area. Larger site than the one across the water. (50.488785, -89.132941)

Day 8: Caribou River to Little Caribou Lake (21km)

We left the Caribou River campsite for a slower day, as we did not have far to go and knew that we would be driving all day tomorrow. We took a photo next to the Wabakimi sign on the campsite across from where we stayed.

We completed the one short portage back to Little Caribou Lake with ease and continued down until our campsite. We spend the night at the campsite closest to the put-in for an early wake up the next day to start the drive back home. 

Campsite: Campsite marked closest to the put in. Very small site and steep put in / take out. Would recommend another site for more than two tents. (50.344440, -89.093050) 

Reflections

This is a great route for exploring Wabakimi Provincial Park, without having to take a floatplane. Make sure to plan your start and finish days accordingly, since it is a 4-hour drive from Armstrong to Thunder Bay and there is no campsite at the put-in.

Make sure to be cautious when crossing Smoothrock and Whitewater Lake, as they both can get very windy. Make sure to plan some time to explore Wendell Beckwith’s Cabin on Best Island, Whitewater Lake. 

Wabakimi is not a well-travelled provincial park because of how remote it is. Consider this when planning trips. Portage trails are more rugged, privies / thunderboxes are less frequent, campsites are unmarked, and there are fewer groups of people compared to other parks. We saw a few other groups and fishermen from the nearby lodges. 

Its remoteness offered excellent fishing. We did not have any injuries on our trip but would encourage others to bring a GPS and/or SPOT device because of the remoteness. 

Gallery

Author Bio

Trip Report Written by Matthew from Mad for Maple

Mad for Maple is a social platform used to share the Canadian wilderness adventures of three friends: Matthew, Matt and Cam. We hope sharing our adventures in this setting will provide entertainment and inspiration for others, promote sustainable outdoor etiquette, and showcase Canada’s natural beauty. 

Our adventures are exclusively self-propelled and range from weekend excursions to multi-week treks. With our trips ranging in difficulty, we hope to have content available for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. 

Instagram: @madformaple 

YouTube: MadforMaple

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