Exploring Carcajou Creek

Some notes from exploring Carcajou Creek in eastern Algonquin Park. The route starts from Achray on Grand Lake and then proceeds through Carcajou Bay, Spectacle Lakes, Little Carcajou Lake, passing by Stone Chute and descending Carcajou Creek back to Carcajou Bay.

June 07, 2001

I (Bob) set out to explore Carcajou Creek accompanied by Richard O, Richard R, and Ric (Richard S). Richard O and I paddled together. The intent was to proceed upstream on Carcajou Creek because we were unsure of the state of the portages [for a downstream trip]. This route is no longer shown on Park Maps.

We left Achray at 9:45. We located the pictographs at the entrance to Carcajou Bay — an ochre backward E and a smudge — interesting but not very impressive. We proceeded up Carcajou Bay and then Carcajou Creek. We were eventually stopped by the current at [mgrs map reference] 18TTR 816 778. There was no sign, nor was there any need, of the 1000m portage from 828 770 to 819 773. Nor did we notice any campsites or road access to the creek. [Bob and Diana once encountered a pickup truck along the creek in the ‘80s. A road is quite obvious on current satellite images.] It took 4.5 hours to get up the creek and 3 hours to get back; we reached Achray at 5:30. While we were unsuccessful in our attempt [to reach Little Carcajou Lake], we were sufficiently encouraged to plan on trying it again in the opposite directions. Most of the lower part of the creek is navigable.

There was sufficient water in the creek for travel, but we have had a fair amount of rain in the last week or so.

We chose not to run the little rocky defile in Carcajou Bay at 844 797. It was not at all dangerous, but tricky at this water level, too tricky for unrehearsed paddling partners. It would be easier at lower levels.

2001 June 13

Richard R, Phil D, Ric and I successfully completed the Carcajou Creek loop in the downstream direction. It took us 8hr 15min and it was a hard day. There is a gps record of this trip, but no audio tape or photos. [However, by 2013 standards, the gps track is of quite poor quality.]

We launched from Achray at 9:00 am. Ric was paddling bow with me in my Grumman; Phil was bow paddler for Richard in his Langford. The weather was sunny and clear and Grand Lake was calm and covered with pine pollen.

Just a little downstream from the rocky defile we were checked out by three otters.

We proceeded uneventfully into the first Spectacle Lake. In the bushes, just to the right of the portage, were a deer and a fawn. I surmise that the fawn was too young to flee and we just caught a glimpse of it peeking out from the leather leaf at the water’s edge. The doe was uncertain whether to hunker down and hide or to flee. She retreated a little. We tried to minimize our disturbance, although we were within a hundred feet of them when we landed at the portage.

We proceeded to Little Carcajou lake. Ric and I portaged right through from Upper Spectacle Lake, whereas Richard and Phil paddled the beaver pond. Which was the better strategy is a toss up. We were a little faster to Little Carcajou, but only just. Clearly later in the year there would be no choice as the pond would not be navigable. The portage around the pond was difficult to follow in a couple of places.

We stopped for lunch / snack in Little Carcajou Lake and then nosed into the bay leading to Stone Chute. We did not meaningfully look for the portage around Stone Chute, but if it still exists, it is no longer signed. Stone Chute consists of a series of rocky obstructions. We decided to line / wade /paddle / lift the canoes through. This went without incident except when we first landed to inspect, Phil slipped and went for an unscheduled swim. Also at Stone Chute was some of the healthiest poison ivy that I have ever seen; one plant was growing in bush form and was a couple of feet high. We searched for the other end of the portage around Stone Chute without success.

We proceeded downstream to the start of the old 1160m portage at 18TTR 810 795. At this location the bush had been disturbed east of the creek, I would guess by logging 10-15 years ago even though this is not consistent with this being a natural area. (It was even a natural area in 1985; perhaps the disturbance is even older.) We were able to find and follow an indistinct trail for several hundred metres downstream but decided that it would be easier to make our way downstream in the creek. At this location there is the remains of an old logging dam. Not very impressive, but many protruding spikes constituted a dangerous navigation hazard. While we didn’t notice this hazard elsewhere on the creek, it is something to look out for.

We lifted over the dam and proceeded downstream. The creek here was fast over a boulder strewn bottom. It necessitated wading the canoe through and the footing was treacherous. I found this section very exhausting but mainly, I think, because Ric was setting too fast a pace. At one point, we had to go on shore to get round a tree windfall right across the river. After maybe 500m, the going became easier, but the need for occasional wading never disappeared completely. We saw no sign of the 90m portage at about 815 786, but neither did we see any need for it.

We continued the rest of the way down the creek without incident, but with the occasional need to wade. The water level in the creek was noticeably lower than it was the week previous; any lower would have been quite difficult. Some of the obstructions we had met the week previous were giving us a bit of trouble today.

In summary, it is possible to navigate Carcajou Creek from Little Carcajou Lake to Carcajou Bay but you need to find a window of enough water, but warm enough to wade.

We stopped for a swim at the campsite on Carcajou Bay at 842 805.

We reached Achray at 5:15. Grand Lake was glassy smooth.

Satellite Image

The Carcajou Creek loop out of Achray. According to the GPS, the loop is about 24km. The track was measured using a Magellan 315 gps. The waypoints were added manually based on the recorded map references (Mouse over to identify the waypoints). The quality of the track and accuracy of the map references do not meet modern expectations.

The current (2013 January) satellite map shows a large logged area south of the Spectacle Lakes and serviced by a logging road crossing Carcajou Creek near the bottom of the old 1000m portage. It will be interesting to return and determine how evident this road is. One wonders how much logging considerations play in delisting canoe routes.

Notes

This route is no longer recognized as a canoe route. We are not advocating that you travel this route; we are only describing what we did.

Google map layer, "Jeff's map", courtesy of Jeff's Map.