2012 Algonquin Fishing Trip Spring: Grand - St. Francis - Rowan - Clemow

Wednesday, May 2 – Day 1
Spring came really early this year with record ice out in the Park  of March 29 which beat the previous record from two years prior of April 1st.  Despite the early ice out trout season still doesn’t open in Algonquin until the fourth Saturday in April.  Normally I’m itching to get out for the first trip of the season and this year was even worse knowing that the lakes were free of ice for so long before my first planned trip.
This year we decided on a really easy trip.  We headed over to the Achray campground on Grand Lake on the Park’s east side.  Rather than canoe in this year we set up camp in the campground and spent four days fishing the surrounding area by canoe.

We got away from home around 8:30am and stopped briefly in Barry’s Bay around 11am to pick up some lunch.  An hour and a half later brought us to Sand Lake Gate where we picked up our permits for the site.  We arrived at Achray just before 1pm, had a quick lunch and set up camp.  Once camp was established we headed out to fish Grand in the boat.  The day was overcast despite the forecast calling for a mix of sun and cloud.
Campsite Achray Campground, Grand Lake.
We headed up the lake following the western shoreline.  Just before the old CNR rail line crossed the lake we turned around and headed down the lake with no luck yet.  The lake itself was quiet save for one party in a canoe that we past heading up the lake.

We arrived back at camp around 6pm with no luck.  I hoped this wasn’t a sign of things to come.
After a late dinner we settled down to a relaxing evening around the fire.

Thursday, May 3 – Day 2

Awoke just after 8am.  After a good breakfast we headed out for St. Francis Lake.  The day was overcast and the forecast had called for a chance of rain and thunderstorms.

A short paddle brought us to the 50m portage from Grand into Stratton Lake.  We fished as we paddled down Stratton but had no luck.  No one was camped on Stratton but would change by the weekend.
From Stratton we did the short 45m portage into St. Andrews Lake.  On the Canoe Route map it says the portage is 75m but the sign says 45m which is correct.  The portage can actually be avoided by walking down, or up, the small swift, but today we didn’t feel like getting wet.
Portage from Stratton Lake to St. Andrews Lake.
Small swift between Stratton and St. Andrews lakes.
 A five minute paddle across St. Andrews brought us to the portage into Rouge Lake.  On the Canoe Route map this 400m low maintenance portage is shown to curve to the left and come out at the southwest end of Rouge.  Keeping this in mind I headed off down the old rail bed keeping an eye out for a portage sign or marker on the left.  Nearing what I figured was the end of the portage I spotted an old, tattered portage sign on a post on the left side of the trail.  Following the trail into the forest I figured I should be at Rouge shortly.  As I continued to walk along the trail I felt as if I was heading back in the direction I had just come.  After about 150m I could see a lake ahead of me.  Putting down the canoe I headed down to the shoreline.  Finding an old cedar boardwalk at the lake edge I realized I was back at St. Andrews!  The trail through the forest I had been following was the old portage from St. Andrews to Rouge before the rail line was decommissioned.  I was surprised how good of shape the old trail was in.

Back-tracking to the old rail bed I put down the canoe and headed off through the forest paralleling the rail bed to the north while Dad headed up the rail bed.  After about two minutes Dad yelled that he had found the end of the portage.  If I had headed up the rail bed another 40m I would have found the terminus of the portage which is marked by a small plastic portage marker.  Looking closely at the Canoe Route map the portage is shown to go south of the rail bed, and not along it, and comes out at the south western end of Rouge instead of the northwest end.
Looking up Rouge Lake from St. Andrews portage.
 After doing twice as much portage as we needed to, we finally headed off down Rouge.  It was apparent by the shoreline that the water level was easily down by two feet and must have been the result of a burst beaver dam.

The end of Rouge terminated in a marsh which didn’t look navigable but there was no portage sign to be seen.  A faint trail up the side of the rail bed led to a post which had had a portage sign on it at some point in time.
Portage from Rouge Lake to St. Francis Lake. Note post top left where portage sign should be.
 Loading up we headed across the rail bed following the path into the forest.  The 950m low maintenance portage in to St. Francis was in good shape with only a few sections with trees down, none of which posed any problem getting over.

About fifteen minutes later we arrived at St. Francis.  We started to paddle down the lake when it started to rain lightly, then a little heavier.  Pushing 1pm and not having our rain gear on, we decided to head to the only campsite on the lake for lunch and to suit up.

The site on St. Francis is a good one but I doubt it gets used much.  There were though two folding camp chairs in good condition and a blue recycling box on the site.  Either someone was too lazy to take the chairs out or they used the site enough that they just stash them there.  Either way it was a good place to sit and have lunch.
Campsite on St. Francis Lake.
 The rain came and went for the next couple of hours, never really getting too heavy.  With no luck by 3pm we decided to head back to camp as it would take three hours to get there.
Looking down Rouge Lake from St. Francis portage.
 Retracing our route we fished as we headed across St. Andrews but again still no luck.

Heading into Stratton we decided to head to High Falls.  I had seen it a few times but Dad hadn’t.  As we approached the landing a group of 19 high school students in nine canoes passed us by.  The point site on Stratton had tents on it so that’s where they were staying.
Natural rock slide above High Falls.  Great fun in the summer time!
 There had been no bugs so far on the trip but at High Falls the blackflies made an appearance.  It was probably because of all the running water. 

 After several pictures we headed back up the lake.  Passing the site where the high school group was camped I noticed that all 19 were on the one site with about 8 tents.  So much for the maximum party size on a site being a maximum of nine!

Rather than head straight back into Grand from Stratton we took the 255m portage into Johnson Lake.  Johnson is a nice lake with only one interior canoe site on the west shore and about five interior backpacking sites on the eastern shore.

A short paddle across Johnson brought us to the 100m portage into Berm Lake.  A quick paddle up the western shore brought us to the 650m portage back into Grand.  The portage was to briefly follow the Berm Lake hiking trail then veer off and terminate just north of the Jack Pine point beside two interior campsites.  Instead the trail follows the Berm trail right to the parking lot at Achray and definitely wasn’t 650m.  Rather than portaging right back to the campsite we cut through the southern section of the campground to the beach and paddled back to our campsite.

Paddling up Stratton and all the way back to Grand, thunder was rumbling to the south.  Five minutes after arriving back at camp the skies opened up and a steady rain persisted for the next hour.
The rain subsided around dusk and allowed us to have a fire for the rest of the evening.  It had been a great day on the water despite not catching any fish.  Perhaps tomorrow would prove more fruitful.

Friday, May 4 – Day 3

Up just after 8am.  Had breakfast, cleaned up and got ready for the day.  Headed up the lake in the boat with the canoe in tow to the portage to Rowan Lake.  Day is overcast and there is a chance or rain again.  Hoping that the fishing will be good today as Rowan is suppose to be stocked with Splake.

Arrived at the portage to Rowan after about 20 minutes.  The2155m low maintenance portage was relatively level with only a slight upgrade halfway through the trail.  After about ten minutes we came to a large beaver dam in the middle of the trail.  The first twenty feet could easily be walked but a ten foot breach in the dam required us to get into the canoe and pole to the other side.  The beaver pond looked interesting and there was a nesting Osprey in one of the dead trees.
Start of portage to Rowan Lake from Grand Lake.  Up the steep side of the rail bed is the worst part.
Large Beaver dam in the middle of the Rowan Lake portage.
 On our way again we encountered several sections with blow downs but only two that required us to bushwack around them.  Fifteen minutes past the beaver dam brought us to Rowan Lake.  Rowan has three sites on it but the site on the north eastern shore was not located where the Canoe Route map said it was to be.

After a couple of passes down the lake a misty rain started to fall and a stiff breeze out of the west made it seem heavier than it was.  After a while with no luck we headed to the site at the end of the lake for lunch.
The rain continued for about another hour on and off after lunch.  We continued to fish until about 3pm with no luck.  At this point we decided to head back to camp as I wanted to drive up to Lake Traverse and canoe into the marsh to look for waterfowl.

We were back at camp just before 4pm and quickly loaded up the canoe and were on our way.  The wind had picked up considerably and the sky started to clear making for a nice remainder of the day.

The sky had largely cleared by the time we got to Traverse.  There were only a couple of cars in the parking lot and there was a good wind coming out of the north making some good waves on the lake.

We paddled past the Turtle Club and headed for the marsh.  The only waterfowl we encountered in the marsh were some Black and Mallard ducks.  Heading further up the lake past the old mill site we quickly checked out the big beach for shore birds but with no luck.  With not much bird life present on the lake we turned around and headed back to the access point.

Loading up we headed back to camp to enjoy the sunshine at our beach.  Having a late dinner we passed on fishing that evening and settled in around the fire for the night.
Our beach site at the Achray Campground, Grand Lake.
 Saturday, May 5 – Day 4

Headed up to Clemow Lake today at the top end of Grand.  Had to lift the motor and pole up the small narrows where the old rail line crosses over the lake.  There are three sites in the top section of the lake but none were occupied.  

The portage into Clemow was 1000m along the hydro line road.  It took only ten minutes to do so it definitely wasn’t a kilometre.  I figured it was about 600-700m.
Clemow/Greenleaf portage split from Grand Lake.  Make sure you take the correct trail or you'll be doing 5.6Km!
 It was a beautiful sunny day with only a slight wind.  Clemow is a nice lake with only two sites on the eastern shore, the western shore having the rail bed.  The southern of the two sites is nice and low to the water but dead trees along that section of shoreline, due to a rise in water level, made the site not overly aesthetic from the lake.
Southern site on Clemow Lake.
 The northern site was a rocky outcrop with a good view looking down the lake.  The only downside to the site was the lack of viable tent sites if you needed to pitch more than one tent.  Judging by the fire pit no one had camped on the site yet this year.
Northern site on Clemow Lake.
 After several unsuccessful passes up and down the lake we decided to have lunch at the northern campsite.  After a quick bite we fished for a few more hours but with no luck.  Before heading back we explored a couple of the small bays at the north end of the lake and found a nice little waterfall tucked in between some cliffs.
Lunch on northern campsite on Clemow Lake.
 Back over the portage we gathered up some kindling then headed back down Grand.  We saw and adult Bald Eagle flying over the lake near the Rowan Lake portage.  I turned on my GPS when we left the Clemow portage to measure the length of the lake; it was about 10km from the portage to our site.

Back at the site in good time we relaxed on the beach with a drink before dinner.  After dinner we headed out onto Grand to try our luck one last time but to no avail.  This was the first time we have never caught a fish on a trip.  Better luck next year I guess.  It certainly couldn’t get any worse!

The full moon came over the hills just as we got back to camp.  We had our last campfire of the trip and then retired for the evening.

Sunday, May 6- Day 5
Up just after 8am as usual.  Had Breakfast then packed up and were on our way by 10:30am.  Despite not catching any fish it was another great trip with Dad and good to explore some new areas of the Park.  Already looking forward to next year’s fishing trip!


  1. We went into St. Francis lake last July for one night. I had to laugh at your reference to the two camp chairs and blue box as we also found those items on the site. It's a great lake to visit in the summer months when the more accessible lakes are busy. It was our first time in the lake and I'm sure not our last!

  2. Is St. Frances Lake worth the paddle?

  3. almost 10 years later....how were the rowan lake site ? Is it a nice lake or sawmpy?