The Big Loop

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay coast
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
135 km
10 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
10701 m
Longest Portage: 
2540 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at George Lake - main campground
P 50 m to Freeland Lake
East through Freeland Lake
P 1975 m to Kakakise Lake (or paddle creek if water levels permit)
P 890 m to Terry Lake
South then east through Carlyle Lake
Northeast through Johnnie lake
P 86 m + P 80 m to Log Boom Lake
P 190 m to David Creek
P 720 m R along David Creek
West on David Creek
P 190 m to David Lake
West on David Lake
P 2540 m to Great Mountain Lake
Northwest through Great Mountain Lake
P 470 m to Fish Lake
West through Fish Lake
P 90 m to creek
West on creek
West through Gem Lake
P 160 m to Howry Lake
West on Howry Lake
P 620 m along Howry Creek
West on Murray Lake
P 230 m to Howry Creek
West on Howry Creek
West through Charlton Lake
South into Frood Lake
P 200m past Whitefish Falls dam
South then P 100 m across highway
East through Iroquios Bay then east through North Channel
South through East Channel
West through McGregor Bay
East through Baie Fine
P 740 m to Artist Lake
P 100m at narrows on Artist Lake
P 210 m to Muriel Lake
P 400m to O.S.A. Lake
P 180 m to small pond
Liftover beaver dam to Killarney Lake
East then south through Killarney Lake
P 430 m to Freeland Lake
West through Freeland Lake
P 50 m L around dam to George Lake
West then south through George Lake to finish at campground

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

May 8th, 2004 (Saturday)

Start driving from Toronto around 4am and arrived to Killarney Park just after 8am. After we got our permits (it wasn’t easy due to our ambitions plan to do it in 3 days). After unpacking and getting our canoe packed, we have started paddling at 9:15am. Weather was calm, cloudy and temperature not very cold (probably above 10C). Not many people at George Lake Campsite.

Going toward east side of the lake, on the north facing slopes we could see quiet few frozen waterfalls and remaining snow pack. It was very enjoyable paddling, surrounded by great peaks of Killarney Ridge.

At the Freeleand Lake we had spotted smaller black bear on the right side of the lake, while couple hikers on the left side. Kakakise Lake was another fine spot following by touch of civilization on Carlyle and Johnnie Lake (with a bit of light rain)

Instead of going to Bell Lake we went to David Lake via Clearsilver Lake. At that time cloud cover has started clearing, so by time we have reached great portage P2945 sun was in full force. We have cleared very steep and rocky portage in 55 minutes. After that one, paddling was fun on Great Mountain, Fish, Gem and Howry Lake, were we stopped for night at 7:45pm.

After noodle soup dinner, we had good night sleep in our bivyies.


George Lake start 9:15am
End of George Lake 9:45am
Portage to Kakakise Lake 10:15 am
Creek out 10:35am
Portage to Terry Lake P890 11:30am
Johnnie Lake, 12:45-1:45pm (P 830)
End of Clearsilver Lake (P 980) 2:40pm
David Lake 3:10 – 3:50pm
P2945 from 4:00 – 4:55pm
Fish Lake entrance 6:00pm
Exit from P 130 at 6:55pm
Enter Howry Lake, 7:35pm
Stop for overnight 7:45pm

May 9th, 2004 (Sunday)

It was beautiful sunny morning. After brief breakfast we have started just before 7am. View and scenery have been great especially toward south ridges from Howry and Murray Lake. After complete drunkenness of scenery around Nellie Lake, and without consulting our map since last night we went on the wrong portage to Grace L. instead going south to Helen Lake. After 50min and 2km of portaging it was evident that we are on the wrong lake! It took some time to figure out how did we make mistake, even harder to make decision to reverse our path back to Nellie Lake. On way back, just off Grace Lake I have succeeded to fall into little Beaver Dam (trying to exit canoe with my heavy backpack on me). Luckily it was sunny and warm day.

Anyhow, after getting back to Nellie Lake (45 min in reverse direction), we need to recover our lost time in order to have any (theoretical) chance to arrive to George Lake in the same day.

Anyhow our consolation prize was beautiful view from Helen to Low Lake. It was something different, looking into cascading geography of this part of the park. But this was the end of good part for the next 4 hours, going into maze of channels into Huron Lake. Wind had starting to increase, with quiet some gusts once being open in the McGregor Bay. It was quiet relief to escape wind and move to Baie Fine and completely sheltered zone (nice portage P900m took us only 20 minutes). Although this is somewhat long paddle, it is worth it due to constant view of Blue Ridge and steep rock faces coming down to the bay water.

Finally, after 1 hour we have entered back into Killarney Provincial Park. Once at the end, we have to spend some time navigate to P370, in the late afternoon sun. On the portage from Artist Lake, we met some campers warning us about mother bear and two cubs wandering around. Around 7:35pm we have arrived to Muriel Lake. Portage toward O.S.A is not easy one to find and trail, this one was the most confusing on the entire trip. Anyhow, once at OSA Lake, things looked very good, even as night was approaching fast. At that time, we were easy about stopping either at OSA or Killarney Lake.

But paddling in the sunset and twilight was very new experience for both of us. And we have started to enjoy thoroughly. Having no particular schedule and destination in mind, we decide just to go and have fun as much as it goes that night. After easy portage P455 we arrived on Killarney Lake in almost complete darkness. Previously cloud cover came and no additional light from moon or stars are available to us. Up to campsite #22 we had some idea of seeing Blue South Ridge against dark lake water, but this has completely disappeared. From that point we were in the pitch dark surrounding. Anyhow, we felt really great to explore further. Not much sounds around us, just sounds of the paddle and splashing water.

According to Killarney Canoe Guide orientation in this lake could be challenge in the daylight. You can imagine how this looks in the pitch dark! Things got quiet fuzzy when we have tried to sense where is passage between sites #21 and #19 and later on very hard to guess narrow passage in the lake to portage P455. Few times we have tried with our headlights, but no avail. We almost gave up and that point, but land on each side was looking pretty hard for any emergency overnight stop. So we had to push forward.

Once we have entered small inlet toward portage, we could hear roaming of Chikanishing River – oh what a relief sound. One of the best noises I heard in a while. This portage is very wide, and with a bit of light from our flashlight we could negotiate the last real portage. Rest was great paddling in the pitch dark. From time to time we could get idea what was ridge in the distance and what was lake, so this was enough to keep us in the middle of Freeland and George Lake. The only remaining part is to find our beach from where we have started. After 16.5 hours of non-stop adventure, we have arrived to the parking lot. What a relief for my boiled feet in the wet boots.

Around 5am, the same morning, I was back at home in Toronto, while my partner had to drive another 2 hours to Cobourg.

In total, this was very challenging trip taking us 2 days to do variation of Killarney Loop.

Summary of the 2nd day:

Wake up time 6am
Start paddling 7am
Entered Murray east end 7:40am
Nellie Lake, P2085 , Grace Lake 10:10am (50min)
Back to Nellie Lake (P2085) 11:15am (45 min)
P 2525 km to Helen Lake (40min)
Helen Lake 12:10
Low Lake 1:00pm
East Channel 1:40pm
Passing by site #138 at 2:50pm
P905 4:00pm (20min)
Baie Fine 4:20pm
End of the bay 5:25pm
Artist Lake portage 6:15pm
Muriel Lake 7:35 pm
After this point we had lost track of time!
George Lake parking lot 11:30pm

Trip summary:
Day 1: Total in action 10.5 hours (6.7 km)
Day 2: Total in action 16.5 hours (12.5 km)

Total: 27 hours, portaging: 19.2 km


Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 I/3 Lake Panache 41 I/4 Whitefish Falls
Other Maps: 
Killarney Provincial Park map published by Friends of Killarney - shows all campsites, portages, etc.
Special Comments: 

Obviously one of the longest trips through the park. This route does a circuit around the perimeter of Killarney and takes in many of the lakes and creeks.


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


Artist lake section is now a 900M portage. Check at gate for latest conditions on this section.