A Day Trip out of Achray to McDonald Lake

An account with photos and audio clips of a solo day trip in eastern Algonquin Park, from Achray to McDonald Lake. I (Bob) started at Achray on Grand Lake, proceeded up Carcajou Bay and then Carcajou Creek. I portaged over to McDonald Creek and then worked my way upstream into McDonald Lake.

May 28, 2008

One thing I like to do is find, identify and photograph interesting plants -- orchids in particular. While not all orchids are found in bogs, a good sphagnum bog is an excellent hunting ground, especially during the bug season ;-) . With this objective in mind, the McDonald Creek area looked like a fruitful area to explore. Of particular interest would be Grass Pink Lake and Pogonia Lake in June. (No Arethusa Lake, however.) But that's a little far for a day trip out of Achray, so instead, I decided that I would check out McDonald Lake. McDonald Lake lies behind the hills, across from Achray. It is a dead end lake and not part of any recognized canoe route.

Carcajou Bay on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2008-05-28 - explore

At the mouth of Carcajou Bay on Grand Lake across from Achray.

Aquilegia canadensis Wild Columbine at Carcajou Bay Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2008-05-28 - explore

Columbine growing in granite along the shore of Carcajou Bay

Algonquin Park  Grand Lake  Carcajou Bay  rocky defile

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Rocky defile near the top of Carcajou Bay. Depending on the water level, you can portage (10m) on the right or pull the canoe up, hand over hand on the left. The latter can be tricky for a solo canoeist. The relaunch is the tricky part as I don't like to get my feet wet.

(Note the elm tree on the right hand side of this photo. It's nice to see tha a few are still around.)

Algonquin Park  Grand Lake  Carcajou Bay  Carcajou Falls

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Carcajou Falls at the top of Carcajou Bay. (My unofficial name; the more accepted alternative -- High Falls -- just leads to needless confusion).

Algonquin Park  Grand Lake  Carcajou Bay  Carcajou Falls

(photo by Bob: 2008-05-28 - explore

Carcajou Falls

Algonquin Park  Carcajou Creek

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Carcajou Creek above the portage around Carcajou Falls.

Algonquin Park  Carcajou Creek

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The start of the portage to McDonald Creek as seen from the canoe. There is a significant danger of damp feet here.

McDonald Creek in Algonquin Park

(photo by Bob: 2008-05-28 - explore

McDonald Creek looking east.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek

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Obstructions on McDonald Creek. There's not a lot of water in McDonald Creek, even in May.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek

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More obstructions on McDonald Creek

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek

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McDonald Creek

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek  side creek to McDonald Lake

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This is the little side creek that drains McDonald Lake. In many places, it was too narrow, even for my Osprey. Sort of like Latour Creek, only more so.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek  side creek to McDonald Lake

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Approaching McDonald Lake. We've got some width here, but no depth.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek  side creek to McDonald Lake

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My first view of McDonald Lake.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Lake

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McDonald Lake. Grand Lake is beyond the background hill. In general, the shoreline is dry to the north and marshy to the south. But no sphagnum. So more of a marsh than a bog, and consequently less interesting. No rare orchids in here; I guess I'll have to venture farther up McDonald Creek -- but on another day.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Lake

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The hummocky southern shoreline of McDonald Lake -- sheep laurel, leather leaf, bog rosemary and sedges.

Algonquin Park  McDonald Creek

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Back on McDonald Creek looking towards unexplored territory. Next time I will skip McDonald Lake and venture farther upstream towards the portage to Turcotte Lake and beyond. While common sense says that I couldn't make it upstream on McDonald Creek as far as Tarn Lake, I would like to see how far I could get. That's too ambitious for a daytrip however.

I returned to Achray without incident. I ran the little rocky defile on Carcajou Bay without adding further scratches to my canoe. The wind on Grand Lake was noticeable but not a problem. While I didn't find any orchids, it was an excellent day. McDonald Creek warrants further exploration.

Notes

This file contains audio clips recorded during my paddle. They may not be present when this page is viewed with older browsers.

The wind phenomenon that I was trying to remember the name of in the second audio clip was a williwaw. I note, however, that my understanding of a williwaw and wikipedia's differ.

Sources

For an interesting account of travelling through this area, see August 24, 2011 - Day 13 Something wicked this way comes... and August 25, 2011 - Day 14 Slogging through the solitude! by Mark Rubino.