2011 Cedar - Calumet - Robinson - Catfish - Cedar

Friday, August 26th – Day 1

Left Dad’s around 8am.  Arrived at the access point at Cedar Lake around 11:30 and quickly got the canoe loaded and were on our way in good time.  Day is hot and sunny with only a slight breeze.  It’s a short paddle across Cedar to the 715m portage into a stretch of the Petawawa.  This is a good portage around a set of rapids and falls.  It’s uphill but all portages today are uphill as we are going against the river.

A short paddle brought us to our next portage, a 255m around a picturesque waterfall.  The campsite above the falls is one where Dad and I spent a night on our very first trip in Algonquin Almost thirty years ago.

Another short paddle brought us to our big portage of the day, a 2345m that was a steady uphill climb.  Dad took the lead and went for twenty minutes before taking a break.  Another twenty minutes brought us to the end where there was a large group of cadets just finishing up the portage.

Back into the canoe and a 50m paddle a small pond brought us to a 170m portage that took us into Narrowbag Lake.  Narrowbag is a nice long lake and was a pleasant paddle today.  We quickly left the cadets behind as they were still getting over the portage by the time we were half way down the lake.

We pulled up a small set of rapids at the end of Narrowbag, foregoing the 80m portage, and continuing into the north end of Catfish Lake.  Pushing 3 o’clock we stopped for lunch at a nice campsite on the eastern shore of the lake.

On our way again just after 3 o’clock but after a couple of minutes had to return to the site as I had left my t-shirt on a rock to dry out a bit.

Coming through the narrows that separated the northern and southern sections of Catfish we passed another party.  They asked if we came from the Nipissing or the Petawawa.  Seemed like they weren’t too sure which way they were going.

Heading into the southern part of Catfish we encountered our first party camped on the lake, quickly followed by a second whom we surprised while they were skinny dipping.

The nice island site at the bottom of the lake was occupied.  Hopefully it will be vacant when we return to camp there in two days.  Heading back into the river we passed another party out for an afternoon paddle.

Just before the Catfish Rapids we headed south into the Sunfish marsh.  The paddle seemed labourious as we were paddling against the current in a narrow creek.

After about twenty minutes we emerged into Sunfish Lake.  While looking for the other section of the creek to take us into the next part of Sunfish marsh I spotted a juvenile Peregrine Falcon circling overhead.  So far this is the wildlife highlight of the trip.

The second part of the marsh is not as good as the first.  The creek is narrower, it wound more and for most of it we were bordered on either side by bulrushes which made it difficult to bring your paddle back after a stroke.
Stretch of Cuckoo Creek from Calumet to Sunfish Lake.
After about a half hour we finally reached our last portage of the day, a 625m low maintenance into Calumet Lake.  The portage started out alright until the 50m hill that went straight up.  My legs were burning so badly I had to stop half way up to rest.  Finally at the top the trail levelled off before descending down to the lake.

A short paddle brought us to the first of only two campsites on the lake.  The southern most site is much better than the other one so we took it and quickly made camp.

View out onto Calumet Lake.
Cooking dinner, Calumet Campsite.
After a long, hard day we both took a swim and then relaxed with a couple of glasses of wine before we set to preparing dinner of steak, potatoes and corn.

With the sun dropping behind the hills just after 7:30 we quickly cleaned up and headed out for an evening paddle.  At the end of the lake we walked the 290m portage into Cuckoo Lake.  It looked like a nice little lake but we couldn’t see the only campsite on it.

With it getting dark quickly we headed back to camp and got a fire going and relaxed for a while before turning in around 10 o’clock.

Saturday, August 27th – Day 2

Up just after 7:30; had a very restless night.  Barred Owl called from across the lake periodically throughout the night.

Variable cloudiness to start the day and a bit humid.

Had breakfast of hashbrowns mixed with scrambled eggs and bacon.  Broke camp after breakfast and on the water by 9am.

The portage out of Calumet is better going the other way except for the bugs.  I can’t believe how bad the bugs are here for the end of August!

A half hour paddle through the marsh brought us to Sunfish Lake again and then another fifteen minutes through the other section of marsh brought us back to the Petawawa below Catfish.  It seemed so much longer going through the first part of the marsh yesterday than it did going out.  Going with the current really makes a difference.

A short paddle brought us to our first portage on the river around the Catfish Rapids.  We met a couple looking for Sunfish Lake so we pointed them in the right direction.  I think it was our skinny dippers from yesterday although it was hard to tell with their clothes on!

The 360m portage around the rapids was good.  A short paddle brought us to the 455m portage around the Snowshoe Rapids.  Met a couple going the other way on the portage and they sure had a lot of gear for just two people.

A really short paddle brought us to an 85m portage around a very small set of rapids.  Rather than do the portage I was able to track the canoe, with Dad in it, up the short stretch.

Another short paddle brought us to the 360m portage around the Cedar Rapids.  Another good portage but with more roots and rocks than the other two.

After the Cedar Rapids it was a nice paddle up Perley Lake and it took about an hour to reach the portage at the head of Perley into Burntroot.

The 155m portage into Burtroot is a good one and terminates at a campsite and little beach.  This site use to be the location of one of the old ranger cabins but no sign of it remains today.

We decided to have lunch at the start of the portage from Burntroot to Robinson and a twenty minute paddle from the Perley portage brought us there.

The 1280m portage to Robinson is relatively flat but has lots of roots and rocks that you have to pick your way around which doesn’t let you get a good pace going.  Twenty-five minutes later brought us to Robinson Lake.  This is a nice little lake with blue-green water.  There are only a couple of sites on Robinson.  The best is the high, rocky island site which I have stayed at in the past.  But this time we were headed for Whiskeyjack Lake, just a 25m portage west of Robinson.

A half hour paddle took us down the lake to the short portage.  Despite the shortness of the portage it does have to be done as a small lump of land separates the two lakes and the small stream between the two isn’t high enough to float a toy canoe.

Over the portage in no time we were greeted by a cow and calf moose in the far bay feeding on some water lilies.  We kept as much distance as the shoreline would allow between us and the moose.  Mother kept a watchful eye on us as we passed by.

Despite its small size there are five sites on Whiskeyjack.  But we quickly found out that none of them were to our liking.  So we decided to head back to Robinson and take the nice high rocky island site and hope that no other parties were booked to camp on Robinson as we weren’t suppose to be there.

We passed by the watchful gaze of mother moose again and again over the short portage back into Robinson for a 20 minute paddle to the site.

By the time we arrived at the site it was 3 p.m., having spent and extra hour paddling to and from Whiskeyjack.

Setting up camp quickly we headed down to take a swim and relax for the rest of the afternoon.  The water was colder than it was in Calumet but it was still refreshing.
Robinson Island Campsite.
Island Campsite, Robinson Lake.
After our swim we relaxed on the rocks with a couple of glasses of wine before dinner.

After dinner of pork chops and rice we headed out in the canoe to find tomorrow’s portage and to get some firewood.  The portage was easy to find as was firewood as there were a lot of blown down trees along the north shore of the lake.

The only other campsite on Robinson is on the north side of the lake but on the current Canoe Route Map it shows the other side at the west end of the western most island on the lake, but there isn’t one there.  Not even any evidence that there use to be one.

Back at camp we got a good fire going and relaxed for the rest of the evening before turning in around 10 p.m.  The sky was clear and full of stars which I was hoping boded well for the coming day.

Sunday, August 28th – Day 3

Awoke early to a gray day but it was warm and humid.  Had breakfast of backbacon on a bun, packed up and were on the water just after 8:30.  This was our longest day as there were three portages between 1 and 2 kilometres and all were low maintenance.

The first portage, 645m, out of Robinson to Juno Lake was no problem.  A short paddle across Juno brought us to a 1450m portage that took us into Hayes Lake.  Except for a cleared area with tall raspberry bushes, the trail was good, better than the portage into Robinson from Burntroot. 

Hayes is a nice lake with a half decent campsite on it.  A 705m portage out of Hayes brought us to Macoun Lake.  We took a small detour into Plumb Lake to check out the two campsites there.  Both looked good but according to the map there was suppose to be a site on the western shore.  Instead there was a site on the southern shore but it was evident that there was a site on the western shore at some point in time.
Back on track we had our biggest portage of the day ahead of us, a 2170m into North Cuckoo.  The trail was excellent and 90% of it followed what looked like was an old bush road so it was nice and flat.  The last 200m was downhill and we had to pick our way around roots and rocks.  This portage is definitely better done coming from Macoun to North Cuckoo.  In total it took about forty minutes to do and to my amazement Dad didn’t stop once for a break!

A short paddle down North Cuckoo brought us to our last portage of the day, a 925m back into the Petawawa River just above the Snowshoe Rapids.  The trail was wet, muddy and the footing wasn’t the greatest and this was probably the worst portage of the day.  I’d rather have done the 2170m portage again.

Back on the Petawawa we had to portage around rapids that we had done yesterday.  Paddling down the river I knew we were in for a good headwind once we reached Catfish Lake.  I was also hoping that the nice site on the island on the south end of the lake was available.  It would be hard to tell until we were almost there as the site is elevated and hidden a bit.

The wind on Catfish was pretty strong and I was glad that we weren’t going too far.  On the upside, the site we wanted was available.
Catfish Lake Island Campsite.
Glad to be off the water we hauled the packs up the hill and set up camp and had a late lunch down on the rocks and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Looking towards Catfish Lake from the top of the island campsite.
 It took 5 ½ hours to reach camp and the day was still gray but to the northwest we could see slivers of blue sky just above the treeline.  Yet for all the time we watched the blue sky never seemed to get closer.

After a supper of pasta we headed out into the canoe for a paddle and to gather some firewood.  We headed into the bay behind our site and another party had taken the site on the point behind our island.  They were just finishing up skinny dipping when we rounded the corner.  There seems to be a lot of skinny dipping that goes on in this lake!

Skirting the shore we had our canoe full of wood in no time.  We then headed past the skinny dipper’s site into the adjacent bay.  The sun had finally broken through the clouds as we paddled in the warm glow of the evening.

After unloading and breaking up the wood we sat on the rocks by the water and watched the sunset.  Another red sky so hopefully tomorrow will be a nice day since it will be a rest day.

Monday, August 29th – Day 4

We awoke to a nice sunny, calm day.   Today was a day of rest and we planned to spend it exploring some of the lakes surrounding Catfish.  After a good breakfast we headed towards the portage to Luckless Lake.  Apart from our neighbour skinny dippers there was no one else camped on our part of the lake as we paddled towards the portage. 

The 520m portage into Luckless was pretty straight forward and we were over it in no time.  The portage terminated at a campsite which, according to the map, was not suppose to be there.  Paddling up the lake we noticed that the northern most of the two campsites on the eastern shore was non-existent.

Having to make a pit stop we got out at the site on the eastern shore.  It’s a really nice site, open amongst tall White Pine, good exposure and the waterfront surrounding the site was shallow for a good distance making it a good site for kids to run around and swim at.  I think if I’m ever back that way I’ll stay on Luckless instead of Catfish for a change.

After our brief stop we headed on to the 2835m portage to the Nipissing River which we decide to walk.  Despite its length it was a really good portage.  The first several hundred meters wound through a pine forest and there was evidence that there must have been an old logging camp in the area near the start of the portage.  There was also one of the biggest White Pines I’ve seen outside of the stand at Big Crow Lake.
Giant White Pine, Luckless Lake to Nipissing River portage.
After close to a kilometre the portage crossed and old logging road which was starting to get overgrown.  From that point the portage was a steady downhill following what must have been an old tote road pretty much right down to the river.

The entire portage took about an hour to walk and terminated at a campsite on the Nipissing.  After a brief rest and snack we packed up and headed back up the trail to the canoe.

Back at Luckless we headed off across the lake towards the portage to Lynx Lake.  The 595m portage seemed to take longer that it should have but it may have been because of the footing along the trail which prevented me from getting up a good pace with the canoe.

Luckless has a couple of half decent sites and if I were to choose between the two I’d camp on the southern most one.

Starting the day trip I was a bit concerned about the water level between Lynx and Catfish as when I had done this loop in the past the narrows between the two lakes was quite low and you had to pull and pole your way along.

The first part was low but it could be paddled.  Unfortunately that didn’t last long and we were having to pole where we could and pull on exposed logs to keep the canoe moving forward around an obstacle course of logs and rocks hidden by the mud and murky water.  Fortunately we didn’t have to get out and walk the canoe which was a good thing as I imagined stepping into muck up to my crotch.

Once back out onto Catfish we rode a nice tailwind back to the site.  It was just after noon and it looked like our end of the lake was still vacant.

Back at the site we broke out lunch and soaked up the sunshine for a bit before deciding to go for a swim.  The water was freezing!  Much colder than Robinson had been and definitely not what I expected at the end of August.  But then again I usually do my August trip in the middle of the month and not the end so maybe this was the norm.

About mid-afternoon we decide to go for a paddle down the bay behind us to the unnamed lake to the east of Catfish.  On the map it does look like it’s just a big bay part of Catfish but on the ground the bay was separated from Catfish by a stretch of land with only a small trickle of water coming into Catfish.  Maybe in high water conditions some of the surrounding land gets flooded making the bay part of Catfish.

We paddled down to the end of the bay as Dad wanted to explore up the creek at the east end to where a dam was located on the map.  Unfortunately the creek didn’t look wide or deep enough to float the canoe so we gave up on that idea and set out looking for firewood.  Scouting the north shore we had a full boat in about ten minutes time.

Back at camp we unloaded the wood, hauled it up the hill and broke it up.  I’d say the only negative about this site is that the areas for the tents and the fire pit is up top an you have to haul your gear up a good hill to get there.

Our neighbours behind us had vacated the site at some point that day but it wasn’t long before another party occupied the site.  Relaxing for the rest of the afternoon we observed more canoes coming into Catfish from the north.  One group headed behind out island intent on taking the site behind us but the site is situated such that if you’re coming from the north you can’t see if anyone is on the site until you are almost on the site itself.  Finding the site occupied they decided to head off across the lake to the north facing site on the southern most island rather than backtrack a few hundred metres to the nice high rocky site on the peninsula on the eastern shore.  Not liking the site on the island they headed up the western shore and took the hole-in-the-wall site in the shadows.

Soon after them another canoe came down the lake and tried in vain to get the site behind us.  They headed across the lake to the hole-in-the-wall site not realizing it was occupied.  Once they did they headed to the site on the southern island where they seemed to hum and haw forever about whether they were going to take it or not.

Not long after the second party came the third with two canoes who took the high rocky site on the eastern peninsula.  When I say high and rocky it looks like you’d have to be a billy goat to climb up to the site from the shore.  It made the climb up to our site look like a piece of cake.

By the end of the day, a Monday, it looked like all but two of the sites on the southern end of Catfish were occupied.  I wondered how the north end was fairing.
Sunset, Catfish Lake.
Tuesday, August 30th – Day 5

We awoke early as we had about a three hour paddle ahead of us plus another three hour drive back home.  The day was clear and warm and we were on the water by eight.  All our neighbours were still asleep as we paddled through the narrows into the top part of Catfish.  Although the bottom part of Catfish was quite busy, there wasn’t a sole camped in the northern section of the lake.

Retracing our route from the first day we passed by a group camped on the only site on Narrowbag Lake.  While the site looks half decent a good swath of water in front of the site is the home to a tonne of water lilies.  Not the ideal spot for a swim.

We were at the 2345m portage around the stack rapids in no time and breezed through it, taking a break half way.  Looking at the map at the end of the portage it shows a site about three quarter of the way down the portage (if going towards Cedar) but the site is actually located almost near the end of the trail.

In what seemed like no time from leaving the site we were doing the final portage of the day back into Cedar Lake.  We hadn’t met anyone all day on the water or portages until the end of our last one where there was an older couple taking a break.  After exchanging pleasantries we headed out across Cedar to the access point.  As usual there was a good wind coming down Cedar from the west but not strong enough to hinder our journey across the lake.  I was just glad we weren’t heading up Cedar.

We landed at the access point just after 11 a.m., about three hours since leaving our site.  We loaded up the truck and were on our way back home, another great trip with my Dad done for another year.