A Walk to Whitson Lake
in Algonquin Provincial Park

Much of the Petawawa River in North Eastern Algonquin Park is accessible by foot from the park boundary along old logging roads and trails. Today, my friend Richard, his son Gregory and I walked into Whitson Lake from the end of the Wylie Bronson Road. A good time was had by all.

2004 September 10

Much of Algonquin Park away from the immediate vicinity of the canoe routes is laced with current or old and overgrown logging roads. Consequently, most locations can be approached to within a kilometer or two by foot. The practicality of doing so is a separate issue.

For almost 20 years, I have been intrigued by the "dotted line" that starts at the end of the east branch of the Wylie Bronson Road at the boundary of Algonquin Park (map reference 18TTS 956 001) and then runs parallel to Louie Creek almost to Whitson Lake. It then runs along the eastern shore of Whitson Lake to the foot of Five Mile Rapids. Today, I convinced my friend Richard and his son Gregory to play hooky and help me explore this "dotted Line".

The first part of the walk is relatively easy. But while the topo shows only a single track, in reality, just inside the park boundary, there are roads heading in all directions. You need to pay very close attention to your navigation here to stay on course. But the route to Whitson Lake does indeed follow the "dotted line" on the map.

Other than navigation, the major obstacle to progress we encountered here were black berries; it was hard to stop eating and keep walking! (And I was so busy eating that I didn't think to take a photograph!)

But at map reference 18TTR 919 976 the road ended. We were a little far from the lake for straight bushwhacking but we had come too far to turn back. After stopping for a short snack, we discovered a very faint path along an almost invisible old overgrown road. The road was just discernible in the forest canopy. We decided to press on. This path was the remnants of the "dotted line".

Gregory breaking trail

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Gregory breaking trail. Here the openness and the break in the canopy make the road relatively easy to follow.

Thickly overgrown trail

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This indeed was the way forward. The path can just be seen, slightly left of center near the bottom of the photo. You can pick it out by the sunlight flecks on the forest floor.

For the most part, the path was faint but reasonably obvious. But in some places, if you were more than a foot or two off to the side, you would loose sight of it. Refinding the path after detouring around blow downs was often a challenge.

Another aid to following the path were old, deliberately broken twigs. But they were more of a confirmation that we were still on the right path, rather than a help in following the path.

a widening in Louie Creek

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A widening in Louie Creek about half a kilometer upstream from Whitson Lake.

However at map reference 18TTR 901 978, we lost the path completely. No big deal since we were, according to the gps, only a few hundred meters from our destination, the campsite at the bottom of Five Mile Rapids; we could easily make it there by dead reckoning. Our major concern was coming back; we would have to hit this point dead on to be sure of picking up the path again. Because the path was so faint, you could easily walk right across it without noticing it. The next time, I'll bring some flagging tape.

View across the Petawawa River from the campsite at the bottom of five mile rapids

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View across the Petawawa River from the campsite at the bottom of Five Mile Rapids on the Petawawa River (top of Whitson Lake).

view up Petawawa River from the foot of Five Mile Rapids in Algonquin Provincial Park

View up the Petawawa River from the gravel bar across the river from the campsite. This photograph was actually taken previously on a visit to this spot by canoe. Coming here from the McManus Lake access point is a pleasant day canoe trip (and as an entertaining bonus it seems to be very disconcerting to trippers to encounter someone going up river on the Petawawa.)

Since you are reading this, you know we were successful in relocating the path and finding our way out again. All in all, a goods day's effort (for an old guy)-- 17 km round trip with about a third of that as a barely discernable trail through the bush. Our total time was approaching seven hours, so we weren't exactly speedy. I assume this reflects the difficulty of the walk rather than the length of our snack breaks. My curiosity about the dotted line is now appropriately satiated.

We didn't see much in the way of wild life. We flushed two deer on the way in and several grouse on the way out. And then this little guy. I assumed it was just a toad, but Richard insisted on having a closer look.

Wood Frog

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Wood Frog — Rana Sylvatica