2015 Kioshkokwi - Maple - Birchcliffe Cabin - One Mile - Manitou - Kioshkokwi

Thursday, August 12 – Day 1

We arrived at the Kiosk access point about 11 o’clock.  We got our permits and unloaded our gear.  Packed up and away at 11:30 with blue skies overhead and a slight headwind coming down the lake.  The paddling was good and an hour later we were at the 775m portage that would take us into Maple Creek.  We had a quick lunch at the trail head.  The water level on the lake was quite low which didn’t bode well for traveling Maple Creek today and the next several days.
Kiosk to Maple Creek Portage Landing.
Once lunch was done we loaded up and were on our way.  The portage was good but uphill most of the way.  All the portages today would pretty much be like that as we were traveling upstream.  When we reached the end of the portage it was evident that we would be experiencing low water conditions along the way.
Maple Creek to Kiosk Portage Landing.
The next stretch of the creek took us about a half hour to paddle.  The first half of it was low but navigable.  Half way up the first part we ran into a rather good sized beaver dam.  Once we pulled over that the water level became deeper and easier paddling
Large Beaver Dam on Maple Creek.
Fifteen minutes later we were at the 190m portage.  Putting that one quickly behind us we were on our way again.  Water levels remained satisfactory and it wasn’t until we were almost at the 90m portage that we had to get out and walk the canoe the last few metres over the gravelly creek bed

Finishing with the 90m portage we were faced right away with another beaver dam which we easily lifted over.  After a while the open marsh gave way to alders that became more prevalent along the creek and began to close in more, but nothing that impeded our travel.  
Second of many beaver dams to be encountered along Maple Creek.
After fifteen minutes we were at the 630m portage.  As I approached the end I encountered two women with packs awkwardly trying to tandem carry a canoe.  When I got to the landing the rest of their party was their organizing their huge amount of gear for the portage.  They were two families with kids that had to be no older than 12 or 13.  Besides having a lot of gear and the one canoe that was already on its way over, they had two other canoes and a kayak.  At their pace it was definitely going to take them the better part of the day to get out to Kioshkokwi.
Little falls below 630m portage.

Upstream landing of 630m portage.

Leaving the family behind we continued on.  The creek continued to remain good for paddling with only a couple of shallow, gravelly spots where we had to get out and walk the canoe.   
Walking low water section of Maple Creek below 805m portage.
Several minutes later we were at the 805m portage.  This portage has a steep climb to it over the first part then becomes more manageable towards the end terminating in a big, flat rock outcrop.
Upstream 805m portage landing.
Continuing on our way we came across a bull moose feeding on water plants in the creek.  He seemed unconcerned that we were there and went about his business while we spend several minutes enjoying him and taking pictures.  He finally moved on into the forest and we moved on to our last portage of the day a 130m that would take us into Maple Lake, our destination for the day.
Young Bull Moose.
Finally at Maple Lake.
Quickly over that we headed out into the top section of the lake.  The little Island site at the top of the lake was taken.  That was ok as I was hoping for one of the other island sites on the main body of the lake.

As we came out into the main part of the lake we were met by a moderate wind coming from the west.  We headed to the northwest part of the lake to the site on the little island.  As we approached from behind the island another party was coming from the direction of Ratrap Lake.  We decided to forego that site and headed towards one of the other island sites in the southern part of the lake.

Using binoculars I could see that the southernmost site was occupied but the other appeared vacant.  We paddled over and it was available so we unloaded and went about setting up camp.  After camp was up we went for a swim.  The day had been hot but the water seemed cold but it was refreshing.
Maple Lake Campsite.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the rocks down by the lake and enjoying the sunshine and a glass or two of wine.
Relaxing on Maple Lake.
After dinner we headed off for an evening paddle and to collect some firewood.  After a short period we had a good haul and headed back to camp.  We had a good fire that evening then retired in good time to get rested up for the day ahead of us tomorrow.
Evening Campfire, Maple Lake.
Friday, August 13 – Day 2

It started to rain just after we went to bed last night.  About an hour afterwards I was awoken by a wet feeling on my left arm.  My sleeping bag was wet!  Turning on my headlamp I could see the whole left side of the tent was flooded.  I opened the tent and the area outside the door was flooded as well.  The slope of the ground wasn’t letting the water drain away and the earth was hard packed so it wasn’t soaking into the ground.  Dad quickly went about packing up the clothes and sleeping bags into the dry sacks while I attempted to trench the site a bit to alleviate some of the pooling water.  Once things were packed up we moved the tent to another spot and got ourselves re-established.  A little wet but no worse for wear we settled back in for the night.  No sooner had we gotten into the tent and the rain started up again and quite heavily this time.

The rest of the night was uneventful but our sleep was restless.  We didn’t wake until 9am.  The day was warm already with a mix of sun and clouds.  We had breakfast, broke camp and were on our way by 10:45am.  I had estimated about six hours travel time today to reach the cabin at Birchcliffe Lake.  A short paddle had us at the 170m portage into Erables Lake.  The portage was easy and in no time we were on the other side and paddling down Erables.  I had been through it before and had never been impressed with the sites.  There was one party camped on the lake about half way down.  Given our route for the next couple of days I suspected these would be the last people we’d see until Three Mile Lake.
Breakfast and drying out.

Heading to Erables.

A little less than an hour from starting at the top of the lake we were at the 660m portage that would take us into Maple Creek.  The portage was good and in no time we were at Maple Creek.  The water level looked low but no lower than the section we paddled yesterday to get to Maple Lake.  A short paddle and we were at the 90m portage around a large jumble of rocks.  In high water it would have been a nice cascading rapids.
Starting the second section of Maple Creek.
Back on our way again we continued up the creek and soon passed the portage to Skuce Lake.  I figured at this rate we should be at Tillie Lake around 1:30 and would stop there for lunch.  As we paddle on the creek became narrower and shallower.  Using Jeff’s Map on my GPS I could see we were getting close to the 245m portage.  As we got closer the water levels became really low.  We had to pull around a maze of rocks in the creek and then over a beaver dam.  At this point the GPS said we had gone past the start of the portage, which made sense given the state of the creek at that point. 

So we turned around and made our way back through the rock maze to the point where the portage was supposed to be.  From the creek there looked like what was a landing for a portage but there was no sign of a trail and no portage marker, just alders and then forest.  I knew we were on a low maintenance section of the creek now but this was a little ridiculous.  I got out and looked around and bush whacked into the alders and up into the forest but failed to find any sign of a trail.   

Heading back out to the creek I headed downstream a bit to another spot that looked like it might be a portage landing.  With GPS in hand I headed into the forest following the trail as marked on the GPS but having no actual trail to follow.  I bush whacked what was supposed to be half of the portage with still no sign of a trail.  I headed back to the canoe to discuss with Dad our options which were to bush whack or to just pull the canoe up the creek around the non-existent portage.  Dad didn’t want to bush whack and neither did I so the creek it was.   

Around the rock maze we went for a third time and over a beaver dam and then another beaver dam and then another.  The last dam was a big one in terms of height and it was the one holding all the water back.  The difference in water levels between one side of the dam and the other was easily three feet if not more.  Once over that dam we had a much easier time paddling.   
The splendor of Maple Creek.

So far still smiling.

As we continued on our way we passed the spot that should have been the end of the 245m portage, but again there was no sign of a landing, trail or marker.  About ten minutes later we came to a very clearly marked portage, 245m Maple Creek.  It seems that Jeff’s Map had the location of the portage incorrect but that section really could have used a portage.

We geared up and headed off down the trail.  Jeff’s Map also says that in 2013 the trail was littered with downed trees but in reality the trail was in excellent condition with no signs of any major blow downs in the past couple of year.  When we reached the end of the portage the time was now 3 o’clock.  I couldn’t believe how much time we had lost looking for that portage.  Given the time, and not knowing how long the next section of river would take before reaching the portage to Tillie Lake, we decided to have lunch. 
After a quick bite to eat we were on our way again.  Less than two minutes later we came to a rock garden.  We had no choice but to unload the canoe and carry the gear and canoe over it.  The river on the other side looked much more promising than what we had been paddling.  It was more of an open marsh with no alders along the bank of the creek and the creek looked wider as well.  I was hoping from here on out it would be smooth sailing.  Unfortunately my hopes were short lived.  After paddling for several minutes the creek narrowed again and began to wind more and the alders started to close in.  There were also more beaver dams.  Lots and lots of beaver dams. 
At least it's not a beaver dam.
A half hour after leaving the 245m portage we finally reached the 685 m portage to Tilly Lake.  As marked on Jeff’s Map it is actually 935 metres.  Glad to be off the creek we geared up and off we went.  I was actually happy to be doing a portage at this point.  We reached Tilly Lake at 4 o’clock.  From this point I estimated it wouldn’t be until at least 7pm that we reached Birchcliffe Lake.  So much for our six hour day.  
Tillie Lake.
Tillie is a nice little lake.  It was nice to paddle in water deeper than two inches and not having to get out of the canoe every two minutes to pull over a beaver dam.  All too soon we were at the 230m portage to North Raven Lake.  Again I was actually looking forward to doing the portage.

North Raven Lake is a beautiful clear blue-green colour.  It is at the height of land and I would suspect there would be some good Brook Trout fishing there.  By this point in the day it had clouded over.  It had been thundering quite severely for the past couple of hours to the south of us.  As we crossed the lake a light rain began to fall.  Being a hot and muggy day we didn’t mind the rain at all.

Out of North Raven is a 375m portage into Coral Root.  It also looked like a nice little lake but unfortunately we didn’t get to paddle much of it as once you leave the portage a short paddle around a point takes you into a wide, shallow section of Raven Creek.  If the water level had been any lower this section would have been impassible.  It took quite an effort to paddle through the shallow water and mud and is some sections we had to pole and shimmy to keep moving forward.  The landing of the 685m portage to Raven Creek was a mud flat that extended about 40 feet out from shore.  We had to get out of the canoe and walk through knee deep mud, dragging the canoe until we reached solid ground.  Once again I was glad to be doing a portage.
Muddy creek out of Coral-root Lake.
Raven Creek was no improvement over Maple Creek.  It was shallow, narrow, windy, and choked with alders and strewn with beaver dams.  The section of the Creek after the 645m portage was pretty much the same.  By this point my frustration level was peaking.  I had lost track of how many beaver dams we had encountered but I knew it must be close to a couple of dozen.
Raven Creek.
Around 6:30 we reached the 215m portage to the last section of Raven Creek that would then take us to Birchcliffe Creek and the lake.  The initially paddle after the portage was pleasant.  Initially it’s a little pond then a nice wide section of the creek.  Then all of a sudden there is a large dame cross the creek and things return to the shallow, narrow, windy, beaver dam ridden creek we had become so use too.

Finally we reached the junction of Raven Creek and Birchcliffe Creek.  The last time I paddle the section of the creek out to the lake was around the same time about seven years ago and it had been a decent paddle.  Today was different.  Although the creek was wide the water level was low and it was choked with aquatic plants.

At long last we were at Birchcliffe Lake.  It was like glass.  Storm clouds passed overhead and the thunder continued to rumble to the south of us.  When we reached the cabin it was 7:30.  What a day it had been.  Nine hours since we left Maple Lake this morning.  We were both glad to finally be there.   We hauled the packs up the hill to the cabin and went about getting unpacked.

Once we were settled into the cabin we sat down at the table and had a much needed glass of wine.  I had hoped to be here in good time to allow us to explore the lake and to fish for a bit.  It had also started to rain lightly so we weren’t even able to have a fire tonight and enjoy the evening outside.

After a hearty dinner we sat by lantern light enjoying more wine and contemplating the day ahead.  Two options for getting to One Mile Lake tomorrow lay in front of us.  We could back track the way we had come, finish heading up Maple Creek and take the portage from the creek directly into One Mile Lake.  This was the original plan at the start of the trip.  

The other option was to avoid what we had done today and travel down Birchcliffe Creek to Biggar Lake and then head into Upper Kawa Lake and east from there to One Mile which would mean the next day back tracking to Upper Kawa in order to get to Manitou.

We chose to keep to our original plan as we at least knew what lay before us back to Maple Creek whereas we didn’t know the condition of Birchcliffe Creek.  A few years ago we had traveled up it in August and because of a rainy summer the water levels were high and it had only taken us about 2 ½ hour to do upstream.  Several years prior to that I had done the creek in a normal summer and the water was low and the alders choked the creek and it took us six hours to do the creek.

As the rain continued to fall we wrote in our journals, talked and finished off the wine before calling it a night after such a difficult day.  Both of us agreed we had never had a day like that in all our years of tripping the Park.  Unfortunately tomorrow wasn’t looking to be any better.

Saturday, August 14 – Day 3

Despite being exhausted after a long, hard day I had a restless sleep.  We were up in good time and had breakfast then packed up and were on our way.  The rain had ceased overnight and the morning was clear but fog hung about the lake making it look overcast with the sun trying to burn through.
Foggy morning on Birchcliffe Lake.

Heading out from the Birchcliffe Cabin.

Stillness on Birchcliffe Lake.

Neither of us was looking forward to the day ahead as we knew what the first part had in store for us.  The next part was a question mark but probably wasn’t any better than what we had already experienced.

The return trip back up Raven Creek didn’t seem as bad as yesterday.  Probably because we knew what to expect and we were also not exhausted as we had been at the end of yesterday.  In what seemed like a shorter time than yesterday we were soon at the portage taking us from West Raven Lake into the next stretch of Raven Creek.
New day, new attitude.  Raven Creek just before West Raven Lake.
By this point in the morning the sun had burned off the fog and it was a beautiful day.  This helped psychologically as it made the task of navigating low water and pulling over beaver dams less arduous than if it had been raining. 

Before long we were back at the mud flat of Coral Root Lake that would eventually take us out to the lake proper.  Rather than struggling through the mud and trying to find footing on submerged logs and rocks we portages a little farther along the shoreline through the sedges until a suitable spot was found that would prove easier for getting back out into the main channel.  With a little shimmying and poling we were soon into floatable water and slowly made our way out into the lake.
Muddy portage landing to Raven Creek.
 Coming back to the Coral-root Lake muddy creek.

Shortly we were in deeper water and back at the portage leading to North Raven Lake.  This was the only part of travel today that I was looking forward to but I knew it would be short lived and we would soon be back at Maple Creek.

By the time we reached Maple Creek it was around lunch time.  We decided to have lunch as we didn’t know how long the rest of the creek would take and wanted to fuel up before tackling it.

After our quick respite we headed off up the creek into the unknown.  On the map the stretch of creek between the 685m portage to Tillie Lake and the 225m portage on the creek looks short but that could be deceiving as the creek could twist and turn and be chocked with alders.

Fortunately the stretch was short and only took us about 20 minutes to do.  Unfortunately the water level once again was too low to float the canoe for most of it and alders also posed a problem.  We took some time at the portage landing to rinse off our feet from the mud and to rehydrate as the heat was getting stifling in the creek.  We loaded up and headed off down the 225m portage to the next section of creek.
Start of 225m portage.
The next section of creek looked more promising.  It was more of a marsh than an alder swale and the creek was wider and looked deeper.  I was hopeful it would be like that until the next portage but in the distance I could see more alders and suspected things would get worse.
False Hope.
The first part of the paddle was a great change to what we had been experiencing but by the time we reached the alders the creek reverted back to being narrow and with little water.  We reached a point where there wasn’t enough water to float the boat or even drag it loaded.  So we got out and loaded up with the packs and dragged and lifted the canoe down the rest of the creek.  Fortunately we didn’t have to go far and we were soon at the 645m portage. 
Having fun yet?

Running out of water.

Now what?

As we rested before heading off down the portage I noticed that the pack rested right near a Yellow Jacket nest and the wasps were swarming all around it.  How we didn’t notice it earlier or already get stung was a beyond me.  I slowly walked over and gingerly dragged the pack away from the opening of the hive, fortunate not to get stung.
Start of 645m portage.

The first part of the portage was flat and wide and looked like it followed an old tote road.  After several metres it veered off into another part of the forest but the trail remained good and there were no major obstacles along the way.  
The portages are better than the creek!
Sooner than we expected we were at the end, or what I hoped wasn’t the end.  The creek and water level in front of me was not only unpaddleable but also unnavigable.  I put the canoe down and looked around and sure enough there was the portage sign.  The scene in front of me did have some hope.  Rather than the alder swale that had been so prevalent along the creek this section flowed through a meadow.  I grabbed my binoculars and looked down to the end of the meadow but couldn’t see the landing for the next portage but I surmised that it must be around the far point and out of view.
Definitely impassible.
Knowing there was no way we could get the canoe up the creek we just loaded back up and portaged across the meadow to the start of the 535m portage into One Mile Lake.  This was actually the best section of creek we had done since passing the 695m portage to Skuce Lake yesterday.
Portaging along Maple Creek.
In no time we were at the portage to One Mile and stopped there for a rest and a snack.  To my surprise it had been only an hour and a half since we left the portage from Tillie Lake.  I would never had guessed in my wildest dreams that it would have taken us just over five hours from the cabin to One Mile Lake.

The portage to One Mile was good and after navigating a narrow, shallow section of the lake we were finally out into deep water and would be for the rest of the trip.  It felt great to be done with Maple Creek.  I don’t know if I’d even want to do that section of creek right after ice out when the water levels are high.
Finally at One Mile Lake!
A short paddle brought us to the first of three sites on the lake.  Since we had lots of time and the lake wasn’t very big we checked all three out and decided on the middle site.  We went about setting up camp, having a snack and then went for a much needed swim.

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing and enjoying the sunshine as it had been a hard couple of days.  After dinner we went for an evening paddle around the lake.  As we past our site we noticed that at the east end of the lake there was a moose along the shoreline.  I broke out the binoculars to get a better look.  It was a huge bull with a massive rack.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a better look as he trotted off into the bush and wasn’t seen again.  I suspected if he stayed in the area the meadow we had portaged across earlier that day would be a great area for him to call in females come the rut in a few weeks.
Glad to be at One Mile Lake campsite.
We collected firewood as we completed our circuit of the lake.  Back at camp we cut it up and then sat a relaxed with a glass of wine as the sun set beyond the distant hills.  A short while later we started a fire and enjoyed that for the rest of the evening before calling it a night after a better than expected day.
Relaxing after another hard day.

Beautiful evening on One Mile Lake.

Sunday, August 15 – Day 4

We awoke to another sunny day with calm waters.  It had been a good rest and a much needed one after a strenuous first part of the trip.  The rest of the trip would be easier and our biggest obstacle would be the big portage out of Three Mile Lake to Manitou.
Morning, One Mile Lake.
Beauty day, eh?
 After a good breakfast we broke camp and were on our way.  A short paddle soon had us at the 810m portage to Wahwahtaysee Lake.  Despite being low maintenance it was a good trail.  Shortly we were on our way again across the lake and in a few minutes we were at the 805m portage into Totem Lake.  This trail was good as well and we were soon at the end and paddling our way down the lake.  Totem is a nice lake with a couple of decent campsites on it.
Leaving One Mile Lake.
Totem Lake from Wahwahtaysee Lake portage.
We had a slight head wind as we paddled down the lake and the sunshine felt good.  The 950m portage into Upper Kawa was another good one and we were soon on the lake.  There was a party camped on one of the sites on the lake and another group paddling up from Kawa Lake.  We ran into two more parties at the start of the 1220 m portage to Three Mile Lake.  From here to the end we’d definitely be seeing more people than we had in the last two days, which had been none.

We had a quick snack at the portage landing then geared up. The trail to Three Mile Lake was good and slightly downhill.  The wind on Three Mile was more substantial than what we had experience since leaving One Mile earlier that morning but fortunately it was blowing in our favour.
Fueling up before heading to Three Mile Lake.
The paddle up Three Mile was a pleasant one and in less than an hour we were at the 2810m to Manitou Lake.  By this point it was around noon so we decide to fuel up and have lunch before heading out.  After a quick bite we loaded up and were on our way.  The trail quickly linked up to what looked like and ATV trail and there appeared to be fresh tracks.  We passed another couple coming the other way after about five minutes in.  Shortly after that we stopped to take a break.  The sound of a motorized vehicle was coming from the direction we had come and shortly an ATV appeared with an Interior Warden and a Canoe Ranger.  They didn’t stop and continued on up the trail.  
Lunch at Three Mile portage.

Great portage trail.

We ourselves continues on as well.  After a while the trail split and we left the nice, flat ATV trail and headed west towards Manitou.  We took another short break several minutes later.  I figured one more carry should have us at the lake.  The last part of the trail was a really steep downhill towards the lake and I was glad we were not going up it.
Taking a break.
When we reached the lake the wind was even stronger than it had been on Three Mile.  Where we were on the lake and the direction the wind was blowing meant we had a fairly strong head wind to contend with.  It wouldn’t be until we got out into the main body of the lake that the wind would be less of a problem for us.
Arriving at Manitou Lake.
We hugged the far shoreline and slowly made our way up the lake. We passed the island in the centre of the lake but didn’t see any sites there that we liked.  We pushed on towards Pine Island but didn’t like the sites there or on the little island beside it.  Continuing on we headed down the lake toward to portage to the Amable du Fond River.  The site on the beach beside the portage wasn’t appealing.  Years ago I had stayed on the site off of the opposite end of the beach past the cottage but it no longer existed.  We checked a site around the corner and then across the bay but none of those were to our liking.  Our next course of action was to paddle back up the lake and to check out the sites on the point at the part of the lake that leads into Fassett Creek.  This wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the intense head wind.

When we passed the first island when we first got onto the lake I had noticed a couple of those sites looked like they had nice beaches but hadn’t decided to check them out.  I now wished we had as we muscled our way back up the lake.  In about a half hour we were at the sites.  The two on the point weren’t appealing but the third one was.  It had a great beach and the site itself was elevated and had a great fire pit with nice benches.  It also had a good supply of firewood.  For some reason though this site was not marked on the FOAP map nor on Jeff McMurtrie’s map.
Awsome, not mapped beach site.

We set up camp and then went for a swim.  Afterwards we relaxed on the beach with a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunshine.  From what we saw there was only two other parties on the lake and from our site we couldn’t see any of them.  It was like we had this whole, huge lake to ourselves.
Heading in for a dip.
After dinner we explored the beach and the campsite around the corner at the end of the point.  It’s a nice big flat site but you had to climb up a set of makeshift stairs to get up to the main part of the site.  It would be a really good site if you had a large party with big tents.
The wind subsided as the evening progressed and that allowed us to have a really nice fire for our last night.  The sky remained clear and it was a great night after a much better day than the previous two.

Monday, August 16 – Day 5

The morning was clear with a good wind already coming out of the west, perfect for a leisurely paddle down the lake.  We had our last breakfast of the trip then set about breaking camp.  Loaded up we were on our way just after 8 o’clock.  A half hour later we were at the 1355m portage to the Amable du Fond River.
Portage landing to Amable du Fond River.
Putting the first portage quickly behind us we were on our way again.  We paddled leisurely down the river in the morning sunshine.  All too soon we were at the 310m portage.  We carried to the end where there is an optional 440m portage for low water conditions.  To us the water level looked high enough, especially after what we had to go through earlier in the trip, so we decided to skip the portage and paddle to the next one.  The water level turned out to be high enough and there was only one small section where we had to get out and walk the canoe over a shallow, gravelly section.
Beautiful morning on the Amable du Fond River.

Tracking low water on Amable du Fond.

A short paddle around the bend had us at our last portage of the trip, a 265m into Kioshkokwi Lake.  The wind had picked up a bit more by this point late in the morning and we ended up having a nice tailwind all the way back to the access point.  This was a great way to end the trip after the first half had been so challenging.  
Heading out into Kioshkokwi.
Despite the challenges it was another great trip with Dad.  But we both agreed we never wanted to do Maple Creek again.  I plan on making next year’s trip a little more relaxing.


  1. Glad to read how you can share the park with your Dad that way. The low water creek travel sure sounds like a 'bonding experience'. A great read and great photos!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your trip, especially the travel on the lower maintenance portages. I was in the area the first week of September last year and the water was very low. Went from Kiosk to Manitou-Biggar-Three Mile-Erables-Mouse-Mink-Kiosk. Had great weather!

  3. Wild trip, and a great write-up!