Trip Log - Nipissing River Loop from Kiosk
1979 May 17-24

In 1979 May, Bob and Diana undertook a seven night, unaccompanied, canoe trip out of Kiosk in north west Algonquin Park. The route was Kioshkokwi Lake; Manitou Lake; Three Mile Lake; Biggar Lake; south to the Nipissing River via Loughrin Creek passing through Barred Owl Lake and Nod Lake; west on the Nipissing River passing Allen Rapids, Spring Camp, and High Falls; and then north passing through Nadine Lake, Osler Lake, Little Osler Lake, Skuce Lake, Erables Lake and Maple Lake; and returned to Kiosk and Kioshkokwi Lake via Maple Creek. The trip straddled the May long weekend but was timed so that we would be deep in the park on the weekend.

The original plan had been to leave one day earlier, but at the time, Bob's term position was nearing its end and he was looking for a permanent job. The day before we were scheduled to leave, a good-looking position appeared, but the competition was scheduled to close before we returned. We delayed our departure by a day and a half to allow Bob to get his resume updated, application letter written, and the whole package submitted. That would be difficult to do these days, given the reservation requirements in Algonquin Park.

The body text below is a verbatim transcript (except for minor copy editing) of our trip log written during the trip. The figure captions are contemporary commentary.

1979 May 17 -- Kiosk to Manitou Lake

Clear, sunny; frost in morning, warmer later on; breezes and winds from W & SW. Left Kiosk about 2:10, to shore almost opposite Maple Cr. about 3:10, first portage about 4:00. Fighting wind all the way. 220 yd portage steep uphill. Fought current to next portage, 350 yd., also steep uphill. Rapids (falls) at both these portages unrunnable.

Arrived 1300 yd. portage 5:40, through by 6:30 - good trail (old tote road). Wind and waves on Manitou Lake. Nice beach at Dufond farm but campsite no hell. There is a cottage there with boats, apparently deserted today.

Paddled to smaller of two islands down lake and camped at north end about 7:00. Potato stroganoff for supper - not exciting but good. Nice sunset, stars; many loons, a snipe, heron, other unidentified birds. Wind died down but various breezes continued. Into tent for night at 10:35.

1979 May 18 -- Manitou Lake to Biggar Lake via Three Mile Lake

Relatively warm night, saw moon. Up at 7:00, sunny, warm, windy. On water about 9:30. Paddled down lake into stiff wind. Waves and wind became so difficult we decided to go to Biggar Lake via Three Mile Lake. Started 3060 yd. portage at 11:45, finished almost 2:10, having taken 20 min for lunch. Trail fairly good, mostly along roads old and new.

Paddled down Three Mile Lake into some wind, arrived at portage about 4:00. Finished 1230 yd. to Upper Kawa Lake about 4:45, trail mostly along roads. Saw a cow moose in the lake. 350 yd. to Kawa Lake mostly along part of same road. Saw apparently the same moose in the lake. 1050 yd. portage rough with mudholes, took nearly an hour. Last 550 yd. portage to Biggar Lake lumpy but not too bad - evidence of tornado's passage, especially near end.

Arrived at Biggar Lake about 6:30, paddled down to 3rd campsite on north shore and stopped about 7:00 (1st campsite not seen, second occupied, point also occupied). Large group camped on point to SW of here. Chicken Tetrazzini for supper - bland and easy to get down. Into tent for night at 10:20, very ready to sleep.

Trillium erectum Red Trillium

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One of those blackfly-indicating red trilliums on the portage from Manitou Lake to Three Mile Lake.

Biggar Lake in Algonquin Park

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Evening on Biggar Lake.

1979 May 19 -- Biggar Lake to Nod Lake / Barred Owl Lake via Loughrin Creek

Warm night, saw moon; noisy, with a porcupine gnawing on the john all night. Up at 7:00, sunny, winds from SW. On water at 9:15, to beginning of 2200 yd portage by 9:45. Through portage about 11:30. Paddled up marsh, saw a cow moose with twin calves, very young - had to pass very carefully about 20 feet away to continue along creek. She was not amused.

Ate lunch in marsh at 12:30 and continued on against current and gusty headwinds. After 700 yd. portage, got into Lawren Harris Lake about 2:00. Portaged 20 yd. to avoid embarrass and get into Loughrin Lake. Paddled on against headwinds to 550 yd. portage into next lake.

Arrived at campsite between Nod and Barred Owl Lakes about 4:00 and decided to stay. Chili tomato dinner for supper - quite good and copious. Saw a moose across the lake (also saw a moose at previous campsite on Biggar Lake in the morning before getting up). Large clouds moved in, wind rising and falling from south, sound of distant thunder. Into tent for the night at 8:30. Bugs bad - now mosquitos as well as blackflies. Spring peepers going nearby - another peaceful night.

Loughrin Creek Portage in Algonquin Park

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When heading south out of Biggar Lake along Loughrin Creek the first portage (2200 yd), climbs and descends a 200 ft. hill.

Loughrin Creek Portage in Algonquin Park

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Didn't bother Bob, though.

Loughrin Creek Portage in Algonquin Park

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When traveling down Loughrin Creek we encountered a cow moose with twin calves right on the edge of the creek. While the calves could stand, they were not yet old enough to be mobile. Unfortunately, our only route forward was down the creek; even by hugging the opposite shore we passed within about 20 ft. of them, perhaps less. We paddled by slowly and smoothly, talking to the cow reassuringly (well, we thought so), and trying to be as non-threatening as we could (no abrupt movements or stops for closeup photography). The cow was visibly disturbed by our presence -- flattening her ears back, showing the whites of her eyes, emitting grunts that sounded both distressed and angry. We were convinced that it was only a matter of a few seconds before a few hundred pounds of cow moose boarded our canoe, but we slipped by without incident.

(This photo was taken as we approached the moose; we are one creek meander away and had to pass on the near side of the narrow strip of water visible just in front of the moose. We are sure that if we had had to pass any closer, there would have been trouble.)

campsite at Nod Lake  Barred Owl Lake in Algonquin Park

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A chastened Bob contemplating the fire at the little campsite on the spit of land between Nod Lake and Barred Owl Lake.

The astute observer will note a pair of trousers and some wool socks drying on the line, plus a wet shoe hanging on the axe handle behind Bob. A short time before, Bob had launched the canoe in order to fetch some water out in the lake and away from shore. He pushed the canoe out from the stern and hopped onto the rear deck in a kneeling position in anticipation of then moving to the stern seat (Grummans have large decks at the bow and stern). This entry works fine when there is a bow person in place as a counterweight, but in an empty canoe, the results are a little more interesting. It's the closest he's ever come to doing an "ender" on flat water.

(We can't remember at this late date whether the Nalgene bottle, half full of Bushmills, appearing in this photo is significant.)

1979 May 20 -- Barred Owl Lake to Allen Rapids on Nipissing River

Extremely heavy rain squalls during night; thunder and lightning but not close. Up about 7:00 - sun shining, large moving clouds, showers, rainbow. Quickly cleared to reasonable day. On water at 9:15, paddled across to start of 2130 yd. portage. Portaged 9:25-10:55; trail fairly good, up and down, very few wet spots. Started down Nipissing River, encountered cow moose with yearling calf crossing river. Some consternation on both sides. Finally they crossed and we passed. Continued down river - easy going with tail wind and good current. Portage 340 yd around Stewart dam - trail mainly follows road, not too bad except wet in middle. Large cleared area with remains of old log buildings near beginning - a depot farm perhaps.

Continued on, ate lunch about 12:15 drifting in canoe. Paddled lazily to start of Allen Rapids portage, which is not where either the park map or the topo say it is. Completed 2000 paces of trail - fairly good going, a lot uphill, at first away from river, then downhill back to river. Much of rapids looks easily runnable at this water level. Stopped at campsite partway down at 2:00. It is a pleasant, open grassy spot by the river, with steep banks and large white pines nearby. Walked through to end of portage and back - there is a small grassy campsite at end, not as nice as this one.

Had a swim which was just the thing; water temp. 64°F (air temp also). Did some laundry. Had chicken and scalloped potatoes for supper - chicken tolerable, potatoes good. Built smoky fire and set up smudge pot in an old tin can since bugs were fierce. At least two groundhogs live in the vicinity and are busy rustling around eating green things and giving us the once over - one even nibbled Bob's shoe [while he was wearing it]. Retreated into tent for the night about 7:30. Sun is getting low and bugs very fierce.

Nipissing River in Algonquin Park

The Nipissing River.
The Nipissing River alternates between marshy areas, often alder-lined, and picturesque rapids and falls, often bordered by a few remnants of the majestic white pines that used to line the river. According to Ralph Bice, describing a trip in 1923, "there was one stretch where the pine trees grew close to the river and their branches almost met."
We are embarrassed to admit that we can't remember exactly where this photo was taken, but believe it to be the top of Allen Rapids. Another possibility is the top of the portage that passes through Spring Camp.

1979 May 21 -- Allen Rapids to High Falls (Nipissing River)

Fairly good sleep, woke up about 6:00, raining, went back to sleep till 7:45. Still raining, set up tarp and cooked on stove, with smudge pot running to keep bugs down. Rain fluctuating. Packed up and left campsite about 10:15. Ran the bottom part of Allen Rapids - nothing scary, lots of rocks, rather shallow. Rain had pretty well stopped when we left and sky partly cleared off, with varying amounts of white and grey clouds at two levels. River winding and marshy but not as open as marsh below. Saw many birds including unidentified warblers and small black bird with red and orange patches. Portage around Graham Dam 540 yd., reasonable trail. Fairly nice campsite halfway down with lots of garbage from previous inhabitants. Through about 12:30, ate lunch drifting on water.

Next portage 400 yd., good trail, passes through large open area with many falling down old log buildings of what appears to have been a lumber camp. The sun was out and we spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of buildings and scenery. Left about 2:00. Next part of river winding, marshy and open. Wind came up and rain moved in suddenly, but pretty well let up by the time we hit 1300 yd portage around High Falls, about 2:30. Top campsite empty - someone has put an Appalachian Trail marker ("Maine to Georgia") on a tree where the portage trail takes off.

Walked down to second campsite which was empty and fairly clean so we decided to stay. Returned and carried stuff down, which took till about 4:00, including time for taking pictures of falls and chute. Set up camp, measured air temperature -- at first 56°F and later 44°F. Definitely colder air has moved in (and somewhat drier as well). Still overcast. Beef Romanoff for supper - quite good and lots. No bug problem due to temperature. Clouds thinning, moving fast from NW, a few blue bits showing here and there. Into tent for the night at 8:15.

Spring Camp a prisoner of war camp on the Nipissing River in Algonquin Park in 1979

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Spring Camp. According to Donald Lloyd, the old lumber camp referred to above is known as Spring Camp, and during WW II it served as a work camp for German prisoners of war. More of our pictures of Spring Camp can be found here: Spring Camp on the Nipissing River - 1979.

High Falls on the Nipissing River in Algonquin Park
High Falls on the Nipissing River in Algonquin Park

High Falls is a two-tiered drop. If you have Donald Lloyd's book, compare the above photo to his sketch 28 (page 158).

1979 May 22 -- High Falls on Nipissing River to Little Osler Lake

A cold night and clear. Up at 6:30 - temp. in tent 36°F, outside 31°F. Frost all over fly, etc. A beautiful clear sunny morning, mist rising off rapids. On our way at 9:15 down to end of portage. Paddled to next portage 1200 yd around Gauthier Dam and carried through 9:30-10:10. (nice campsite at end) continued on down river - stopped to look at old lumber camp where Osler Creek flows in. There is a reasonable campsite hidden away there. Stopped again for a snack about 10:40 where large round bloop sticks out from river on north side. Arrived at Nadine Lake portage, 1540 yd., about 11:05 and proceeded through. Harder going this way than coming down, but trail all good. Reached Nadine Lake a bit after 12:00.

Ate lunch on the water owing to bugs. Someone was camped at the place on the old road but was not home at the time. Water temp 60°F. Portaged 1930 yd to Osler Lake from 12:40 to around 2:15. Hard work - it rises 250' and drops 100'. Continued on through 950 yd portage to Little Osler Lake, arriving about 3:30. After investigating campsite where we ate lunch in '75 and finding it not too appealing, went and looked at the one near the next portage and decided to stay there.

A lot of garbage around - buried some and burned the rest. [see note 1 below] Kept the large plastic lean-to - it has its advantages. Chicken and rice stuff for dinner - OK (bland). Clouds started to creep out of SW when we arrived about 4:00. Became fairly well overcast by suppertime. wind died, everything quiet, mosquitos fierce. Heard pileated woodpecker in bush, also raven making strange noises. Into tent for the night about 9:15.

High Falls on the Nipissing River in Algonquin Park

Morning mist at our compact campsite along the High Falls portage.

threeman Taymor Hunter tent at High Falls on the Nipissing River

The tent is collapsed and it's time to change into traveling clothes before the final packing. The down jacket and long underwear have been packed away, and dry camp socks and shoes are being replaced by damp traveling socks and stiff cold shoes.

Nipissing River in Algonquin Park

Diana examining an old lamp at the logging camp ruins where Osler Creek flows into the Nipissing River.

Nipissing River in Algonquin Park

Nipissing River (possibly at Osler Creek).

Bear Claw Tree

Bear Claw Tree along the Nadine Lake portage. Bears like beech nuts and their claw marks often mark their passage up the tree. The tree may also often sport a "bear's nest", a collection of broken branches in a high crotch of the tree. The bear climbs the tree, sets himself down in a comfortable position and harvests the beech nuts by pulling down and breaking off the adjacent branches.

Portaging in Algonquin Park

It's beautiful country between the Nipissing River and Erables Lake, but it involves a lot of portaging. Here we take advantage of one of the canoe rests.

(Note the patch, perpendicular to the keel near the stern (near end in photo); that's a souvenir of the Dumoine and a rock-stuffed haystack. We came down hard on a rock that struck just forward of the rear flotation tank bulkhead. The bulkhead sheared right through the 50 thou aluminum hull. We subsequently (more than a decade later) did the same thing in the bow, but in the bow it was a multitude of small hits and scrapes over many years rather than a single bang. That's why you always carry duct tape.)

Evening paddle of the 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe on Little Osler Lake

Evening paddle on Little Osler Lake. Little Osler Lake is a headwater lake and from this photo looks clear and maybe a little greenish. Perhaps it is a Green Headwater Lake -- no option but to go back and check.

1979 May 23 -- Little Osler Lake to Maple Lake

No rain during night. Heard creatures running around (rabbits?). Up at 6:45, took various photographs, on our way at 9:15. Through 1300 yd. portage to Little Nadine Lake about 10:40, 600 yd. portage to Skuce Lake by 11:05. Paddled around Skuce Lake to look at new campsite (small but looks nice) and old campsite (dead white pine is still standing, [see note 2 below]). Took time for photos and large snack. Found a 4-part trillium at beginning of 790 yd. portage out and took its picture. Portaged from about noon to 12:30. Continued on down creek and did 100 yd. portage. Ate lunch drifting on creek.

Finished 710 yd portage into Erables Lake about 1:40. Paddled up lake - no one camped there at all. Some of the campsites look very nice. Portaged 90 yd to Maple Lake and investigated 2 island campsites near entrance to lake. Settled into more westerly one around 4:00. The island has a mooching squirrel, also a hummingbird, a pair of black-backed 3 toed woodpeckers with a nest hole in a red pine, purple finches, a sparrow with stripes and a spot on his breast, plus nearby kingfishers and a raven. 2 canoes appeared heading for here and abruptly about faced when they saw we were here. They headed back to campsite on point NW of here and were later joined by 3 more canoes. First people we have seen since Biggar Lake.

Overcast quite thick, though fairly high and well-defined. Wind from N and temp. 56°F. Lipton Goulash for supper - bland. Started to rain lightly after supper so we cleared everything away and prepared for the night. Rain stopped but both of us are tired so into tent for the night at 8:15.

threeman Taymor Hunter tent at Little Osler Lake

Morning coffee at campsite on Little Osler Lake. Although we disapprove of plastic lean-tos -- in a few months it will be in shreds and littering the local environment -- one might as well make use of it if it's there.

four petal painted trillium

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"Quadrillium". A painted trillium -- Trillium undulatum -- exhibiting four-fold symmetry rather than the normal three. (C4 rather than C3, if Bob remembers his group theory correctly.)

portaging 15 ft Grumman lightweight canoe
Portaging in Algonquin Park

The link from the Nipissing River to Erables Lake is a bit of a walking tour.

1979 May 24 (written June 6) -- Maple Lake to Kiosk and Home via Maple Creek

Wind blew all night; no further rain that we detected. Up about 7:00, wind strong from north, overcast, temp about 50°F. On water about 9:00, as was other party across the lake. They had 2 more canoes, perhaps camped around the corner. Paddled across to Maple Creek against wind - not too bad. 140 yd. portage short, around embarras. 880 yd. portage steep down at end; passes falls and rapids - very pretty. 690 yd. portage not as steep - more falls and rapids. Sun broke through and clouds were blowing away. After marshy section and 100 yd portage around rocky section, another marshy section and 210 yd portage around more rocks.

Ate lunch drifting on the creek about 12:15. Long winding marshy section followed by 850 yd. portage along old tote road. Wind not bad in bay. Paddled out to end of point, arriving about 2:20. Wind very strong down Kioshkokwi Lake - gusty, large swells and whitecaps. Paddled straight for point with cottage, almost directly into wind, taking some slight benefit from shelter of land. Stopped behind point for a well-deserved rest and snack. Last leg was paddle straight for Kiosk. Wind seemed more from NNE with interfering swell from east arm of lake - hard work, rough going and very slow progress. Wind seemed much stronger and gustier. Finally got slight shelter from north shore and pulled in at MNR station about 3:50, glad to be off the water and out of the wind.

Home by about 6:00. Strong wind continued through night and next day, so probably just as well we finished when we did.

Maple Creek in Algonquin Park

Maple Creek

P.S. Bob didn't get the job. We might as well have gone the day before, for all the difference it made.

Notes

  1. Almost 30 years on, we can't remember the details of this, so don't know if we should condemn or defend our actions. We do remember, however, that the campsite also had fish guts in the lake just off shore. We don't disapprove of disposing of fish guts this way, but please do it well away from the campsite.

  2. Four years previously, we had spent a very restless night at that campsite, listening to a pine sawyer beetle hollowing out the interior of that white pine. (see our trip log Brent / Maple Lake / Catfish Lake Loop - 1975 August 11 to 21)

Sources

Ralph Bice (1980), Along the Trail with Ralph Bice in Algonquin Park, Consolidated Amethyst.

Donald L. Lloyd (2000); Canoeing Algonquin Park, Published by D.L. Lloyd. Distributed by Hushion House Publishing Ltd. Toronto.