Bell Lake to David Lake

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay coast
Submitter & Author Information
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Additional Route Information
24 km
2 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1640 m
Longest Portage: 
745 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at access point on Bell Lake
North on Bell Lake
North through Three Mile Lake
P 30 m to Balsam Lake (wheeled cart on rail system)
West through Balsam Lake
P 665 m to David Lake
Southwest then east through David Lake
Camp on David Lake night one
P 200 m to David Creek
East on David Creek
P 745 m to Bell lake
East then north on Bell Lake to finish

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

This route description is based on a trip paddled in July 1997 by a group of seven paddlers (three adults and four children) in three canoes. Although the trip can be paddled easily in two days, we made it a relaxed three-day trip.
Day 1
(3 hours / 10 km paddling / 30 m portaging)
On the water at the Bell Lake access at noon and on the water by 12:30 pm. Headed north on Bell Lake into a moderate headwind. A few other groups of paddlers on the water, and the occasional fishing boat. Things got quieter as we entered Three-Mile Lake.

First portage was at the end of Three Mile Lake - the easiest portage in Killarney Park. A concrete ramp with a wheeled trolley sits there to get fishing boats across into Balsam Lake, and it can be used to move canoes also. Lower the trolley down the underwater ramp, paddle the canoe onto it, then pull the canoe over with the attached rope. Doesn`t get any better than that!

Paddled west on Balsam Lake through some very scenic areas - drowned marshy areas with hundreds of water lilies and blue herons hunting for frogs.

Camped on site 117 at the west end of an island at the west end of the lake. Nice site with lots of flat bedrock at the water`s edge.

Off the water by 3:30 pm - not exactly a tough day`s paddle.

Day 2
(2 hours / 6 km paddling / 665 m portaging)
A lazy morning - on the water at about 10:30 am. We paddled the short distance to the west end of Balsam Lake to the Portage to David. I had done this portage before, and it wasn`t any more fun this time than the previous trip. The 665 m portage isn`t bad for the last two-thirds, but the first 200 m makes up for it. It involves a climb up a steep slope with lots of small rocks embedded in the soil base - great ankle twisters. We huffed and puffed our way up the slope, and then travelled the downward slope to David Lake. Lots of mosquitoes!

David Lake is the only location on this route where the white quartzite hills are visible. It is a beautiful lake, twisting and turning its way westward. Unfortunately, we were lucky enough to hit a stiff westerly breeze and spent an hour paddling into waves and small whitecaps. The hardest part of this section was locating an empty campsite. I don`t know if everyone else got an early start and took the sites; or if the people on the sites were just late vacating them, but there weren`t too many empty locations. We paddled to the extreme west end of the lake, then had to backtrack almost to the centre of the lake where we had already looked. Spotted a moose wandering back into the bush across from site 100. We finally settled on site 99, a nice shady site with some very large white pines.

A lazy afternoon swimming, reading and fighting over the hammock we had brought along and strung between two of the pines on site. On a previous trip, we had more energy and did some ridge hiking south of the lake. Paddle to the 565 m portage to Boundary Lake and leave the canoes there. Hike up the portage to the point where it intersects the Silhouette Trail, then head east. There are some wonderful vistas from a high point (right around where the "T" is in "Hansen Township" on the park map.

Day 3
(3 hours / 8 km paddling / 945 m portaging)
Sunday was our day to paddle out - we headed south then east on David Lake to the portage. The 200 m portage which leads to David Creek is flat and easy. A short paddle down the creek and we arrived at the 745 m portage to Bell Lake. Although long, this portage is quite flat and not difficult at all. A few muddy areas, but there are rock paths and cedar walkways over most of them.

A half-hour paddle on Bell Lake and we were back out at the access point.

Richard Munn
July 1997

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 I/3 Lake Panache
Other Maps: 
Killarney Provincial Park map published by Friends of Killarney - shows all campsites, portages, etc
Special Comments: 

A relaxed weekend trip through some of the most beautiful lakes in the park. The white quartzite hills of Killarney are not as visible on this route, but glimpses of them can be seen on David. Some good opportunities for day hikes. Reservations are definitely required. if you cannot book a site as soon as reservations open, there is little chance of paddling on these lakes in the peak summer months


Post date: Sun, 03/30/2008 - 16:29


I have done this route 2 times now. 2004 and 2006. A really beautiful route. A great family route. Our kids were 7 and 9 first time. We did it over 6 days with a Silver Peak climb on our 5th day. Always worth climbing. My one complaint is that since, the 2004 trip simple cottages have been added. This has brought some small motor boats and more float planes. If that doesn't bother you still a nice route.

Post date: Mon, 09/28/2009 - 13:28


The trolley between three mile lake and balsam lake is no longer there. The track is, and we just did a carry over as its only 30m and concreted. The portage between David Lake and Balsam Lake is probably easier David to Balsam than the reverse (grade difference). Add in a day hike from David to Silver Peak and you have a wonderful trip.

Post date: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 16:47


I did this trip with a few friends, three of which were newer to the experience. It was a great 3 day trip
not to difficult and the views were beautiful. We had planned to do the Silver Peak climb, but unfortunately it was a rainy weekend when we went and found one of our tents leaked. Looking to go back and do the hike up to the peak next time..

Post date: Wed, 12/02/2009 - 16:43


this is the Bell lake David lake we did ..

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


We climbed Silver Peak from the 200m portage on the southeast tip of the lake. It took us 1.5 hrs to get to the top from there. The approach is quike nice, (the east/west section up to the T) seems to be an old logging track. On the top we could see from Sudbury to Manitoulin Island and more. A good way to spend a day.

Post date: Fri, 04/04/2008 - 14:29


I have done this trip twice. Once with a group of 14 yr old scouts and the other thime with 3 dads and their kids. Both times I did the trip in reverse direction to what is described here. First day got us to David lake east end. Second day was a lazy day on David lake, paddling over to the west side for a climb to Silver Peak. Third day was the portage to Balsam (down the steep side) and return via the easy portage to Bell launch.

Excellent trip, that I expect to repeat again.