Canoeing to Burnt Island Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

Panorama view of our campsite

For our 30th wedding anniversary this year, the only gift I wanted was for the two of us to spend time together, away from everything. Thus we chose to go camping in the back country of Algonquin Provincial Park Thanksgiving weekend.

After checking with our adult children that they didn’t mind us going away for Thanksgiving, we left Hamilton at 7:15 am. As we were driving towards Algonquin, my husband decided that we should add an extra day to our trip to avoid the traffic coming home.

Once we arrived at Canoe Lake, we then changed our destination from Little Doe Lake to Burnt Island Lake since there were just too many bear warnings for the first area. We are quite prepared with our cans of Bear Spray, plus we keep a clean camp site and make sure our food is always in a barrel tied high up in the trees. (The one exception is my cream, which is in a thermos, in a thermal bag, tied in the water).

Food barrel tied high in trees.
Food barrel tied high in trees.
Keeping my cream cold in the water
Keeping my cream cold in the water
Matt and I ready to embark
Matt and I ready to embark.

We left Canoe Lake at 12:30 p.m., arriving at the first of four portages at 1:45 p.m. Our itinerary went as follows: Canoe Lake to first portage to Joe Lake, then Joe Lake to the East Arm, then to Joe Lake; we avoided the second portage into Lost Joe Lake since the water was high enough to paddle through the river; the next portage was from Lost Joe Lake to Baby Joe Lake, where I proceeded to fall trying to get back into the canoe (the lake was not deep enough for us to sit in and paddle, I walked well hubby pulled the canoe through the river); soaking wet from the waist down and with sore knees since I fell onto rocks, we headed towards the portage to Burnt Island Lake, at this point we had to do the portage since there is a dam between the two lakes.  Once in Burnt Island Lake we found a campsite around 5:15 pm. We had spent approximately five hours in the water.

Day two: We awoke around 7 a.m. with a drizzle of rain. Erect second tarp beside the tent, so we do not get wet from the rain. Our daily was spent lazily by the fire playing scrabble and cribbage. There was quite a violent rain and wind storm Saturday night, apparently the remnant of Hurricane Nate. The tarp over our tent did an excellent job of keeping our tent dry. Once the tarp would fill with water, it poured off each side. Around 5 a.m., there was one last huge wind gust that made one of our ropes snap, but this was easily fixed. Another day of relaxation, until I picked up the bear spray and accidentally sprayed myself in the eye. I had neglected to put the safety back on the can after going to the toilet. It sprayed forward, but then there was a back-wind. Thankfully we always have a jug of water on hand, so Matt quickly jumped up with the water, and flushed my left eye.  The rest of the day was again spent just relaxing and enjoying the view and silence.

Our two cans of bear spray
Our two cans of bear spray

Day three: Was shorts and t-shirts. We did some fishing and took lots of pictures. In the afternoon we went for a canoe ride, where I became so involved with picture-taking I didn’t realized I was moving back in my seat, only to fall backwards into the canoe. It hurt, and I couldn’t right myself back into the seat. Matt paddled back to the campsite so he could remove me from the canoe. (I tend to be the comic relief).

Laying down in the canoe because I fell backwards.
Laying down in the canoe because I fell backwards. Please ignore the rat’s nest of a hairdo I have.

Day four: Monday, another day of tuning out and enjoying nature.

Day five: We packed up our campsite and started the paddle back home.

Over the five days, we snapped, between the two of us, with our Nikon’s and phones over 1000 pictures. Here are a select few:

Tip of the canoe

I couldn’t get enough of the sunsets in Algonquin:

Our daily view:

Red merganser resting on the warmth of the rock
Red merganser resting on the warmth of the rock


red breasted merganser having a stretch
Red breasted merganser having a stretch


Burnt Island Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park

Middle child decided that her dad and I needed to get away, and knowing how much I love camping, she booked a last-minute trip to the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park, Burnt Island Lake. Normally we would not book Burnt Island Lake since it involves four portages and with me not being able to carry anything heavy, it is a lot of work for my husband, but it was the only spot left with available sites. There are three creeks that run along side the portages, and middle child was betting we would be able to take them.
Canoe all ready for Canoe Lake
We arrived at Access point 5, Canoe Lake around 12:30 p.m. this past Thursday. While I picked up our interior permits and maps, Matt loaded up the canoe. We made it across Canoe Lake and the first portage (190 metres, this portage is unavoidable) and into Joe Lake in a little over an hour. We then paddled up Joe Lake, making a right into the East Arm, passing by the very first site we had camped on with the kids years ago and then as luck would have it, we saw our first Moose of the trip. MooseAfter the East Arm, you enter into Little Joe Lake, then the second portage at a length of 120 metres but as luck would have us, we were able to take the creek. It was a beautiful zigzagging creek before we came across the third portage of 430 metres. This time we were only able to canoe part of the creek, the second half I walked and Matt pulled the canoe over the extremely slippery rocks. He said pulling the canoe was still far easier than unloading, carrying, walking back, carrying some more gear, walking back, putting our 17ft canoe on his shoulders and carrying it, then reloading everything! Matt pulling the canoe

The second creek led us into Lost Joe Lake, where yes, you could say we became lost. We had accidentally paddled to the end of the lake, just missing the opening to the third creek. Matt had seen something in the corner of his eye, not realizing it was the creek we needed to take. Using the compass on my phone, we reoriented ourselves, just to double-check we hadn’t really screwed up as we doubled back and followed the creek into Baby Joe Lake. We were only able to walk up half of the last creek, it became far too rocky with very little water. As Matt walked ahead to take a better look at the rest of the creek, I waited by the canoe. Being the curious type and thinking he was taking too long, I started walking and of course I fell, regardless of the fact I had two walking sticks for balance, lol. More bruises added! Me in the creekWe couldn’t go further up the creek, but there happened to be an opening taking us up to the portage, now we only had half of the 90 metres left. We were finally entering Burnt Island Lake.

Burnt Island Lake is very large and has fifty-one camp sites. I am never worried about finding a camp site since we had reserved one but I certainly didn’t want to have to paddle the entire lake. We paddled along the left side of the lake, and we were lucky to find the sixth site available. It was a lovely site in a small bay, completely isolated. We arrived on the site around 5:30 p.m., it had been a long day of travel, we set up our tent, cooked some food, hoisted the barrel up into a tree (hanging your food is the only way to keep bears away from your site, there was a bear warning out for where we were). Food barrel hung in tree

Friday morning. We awoke to a beautiful calm morning and a blazing sun. We spent most of the day resting, exploring our camp site, playing scrabble, then later we went for a swim. Actually, I ran into the water, lost my breath because the water was so cold and high-tailed it as fast as I could out of the water! Around 7 p.m we were preparing out meal,Our food which meant boil water, add two and a quarter cups of water, wait 13 minutes, then eat. (Taking dried food into the bush is easier and can be quite good.) Well we were waiting the 13 minutes, all of a sudden heard there was this very loud sloshing sound. We ran to the edge of the water, just in time to see a cow with her calf climbing up onto the shore behind our site. It was amazing.Cow and her calf

On Saturday we saw one mink swim in front of our camp site, then another swim to a tree stump in the lake, crawl all over it, swim to the next tree stump, crawl all over it, then swim to the last tree stump, doing the same thing, crawling all over it. I have no idea what it was looking for, possible food. We spent this day fishing but not catching anything, playing scrabble, and canoeing. We stayed up late Saturday to look at the stars in the sky. We took the canoe out on the lake around 11:30 p.m. making sure we knew exactly where our camp site was (under the big dipper and the largest pine tree). As we looked at the stars, we saw a number of meteors streak by.

Sunday morning. We packed up and started the long trip home. When in the East Arm we saw another moose and a loon with her chicks (once they are able to swim they are also called loons), so we actually saw 3 loons swimming in front of our canoe. I was exhausted by the time we entered Canoe lake, and trusting my husband with my life, I fell asleep in the canoe, leaving him to paddle the lake.Yes, I am sleeping in the canoe