Biscotasing and Indian Lakes

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
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Additional Route Information
65 km
7 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1000 m
Longest Portage: 
400 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

We chose to drive but the Budd cars out of Sudbury or Cartier would make a nice change of pace.

Technical Guide: 

From the town of Biscotasing head south and then Southwest to pass under the railroad tracks. Continue in a southwesterly direction through Straight Narrows and to the southernmost bay where there is a 400-meter portage into Indian Lake.
Spend several days exploring Indian Lake.
At the Northeast end of Indian Lake portage 100 m to an unnamed lake then 200 m to Soule Lake.
Turn South and portage 300 m to Hogsback Channel.
Paddle back North, passing under the railroad tracks and then turn West to return to Biscotasing.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

We left Hamilton at midnight on Friday August 30 knowing that we had about an eight-hour drive in front of us.
After coffee stops in Nobel, Azilda and breakfast at the Watershed we arrived in Biscotasing at 8:30 am.
This was the first time I’d seen Bisco since about 1981 - things hadn’t changed much. There’s a sign on the front of the general store that says we’re to pay for parking or get towed and another that says they don’t open until 10 am today.
We decide that we’ll leave them a note instead of waiting and begin unloading our gear.
A bunch of guys from Michigan are there moving a mountain of gear to the dock in preparation for a weeks outing on a houseboat on Ramsey Lake.
As I begin to load the canoe we strike up a conversation. “You guys going canoeing for the weekend?” one of them asks. “No, we’re going to be out for a week “ I reply. “Where’s your food?” he asks, with a puzzled expression. “See that barrel”, I say, pointing to a 30-liter barrel. “That’s our weeks food supply”.
“How can you possibly get a weeks food for two people into that little barrel?” “It’s easy”, I say, “As long as we’re not bringing steaks, potatoes, onions and beer” as I eye their mountain of coolers.
“Can you believe it guys?” “They’ve got a weeks food supply in that little barrel”
At this point the store clerk arrives – so much for the opening and closing sign - so we all troop in to pay for parking.
The map they have posted on the wall indicates a portage to Indian Lake at the Southwest location where we were expecting one to be.
I asked about the other portages we were expecting but the clerk had no knowledge of them.

August 31
We paddle south and then Southwest under the railroad tracks and continue in a southwesterly direction. The breeze is from the southwest as we begin to explore the islands looking for campsites. We’d like to camp in O’Neil Bay if we can so we’re just looking at sites for our return trip.
We find several, one that is a mess and several that would be acceptable.
Continuing southwest through some narrow channels we arrive in a larger part of the lake and are only a few kilometers from where we’d like to spend the night – but, you guessed it – there are no campsites to be found – and the wind is now up.
We work our way into O’Neil Bay to have a look at the island there and find nothing suitable. A tour of the East shore yields an acceptable spot in the bush that we’ll have to renovate slightly before we can get the tent and tarp up.
Renovations complete, we set up home for the evening. Since there’s no fire ring here we’ll use the stove for dinner and breakfast.
A bath and dinner followed by coffee and cookies and we’re ready for bed.
Distance today 13 km.

September 1
We’re up early to try to avoid the wind which always seems to blow from the southwest – and since we’ll be traveling south – and the lakes are running north to south – if there’s any wind we’ll be paddling into it.
The paddle to the portage is leisurely since we know we’re not going to far today. We’d like to camp on one of the good sized islands about 4 or 5 km south of the portage. That should give us a good base to explore the lake.
We arrive at the portage to find an ATV path and an old set of railroad tracks that go from Biscotasing Lake to Indian Lake. These must have been used in the logging days.
We carry our gear over and meet two guys just coming out of Indian Lake. They’re in a motorboat and have a cart with them to do the portage. As we deposit our gear and get ready to load the canoe the guy still in the boat tosses a rifle to his buddy. It’s not hunting season yet but I’m not about to tell them that they could be charged for hunting out of season – or for transporting a firearm in an illegal manner.
Kathy asks them what the rifle is for. “Bears” is the answer. “There’s lots around since the spring season was cancelled.” “Well, did you see any?” Kathy asks. “Only the ass end of one.”
We completed loading the canoe and shoved off. By now the wind was up and we knew that we’d be fighting our way down Indian Lake.
Not far down the lake a campsite appears on an island that is in a nice sheltered bay. Closer examination reveals a stash of empty beer and liquor bottles as well as a pretty unkempt site. After a little – What idiots talk - we decide to look further down the lake – but too much further because the wind is getting pretty pushy.
There’s a string of islands about 2 km away that need checking out before we give up and come back here to clean up this place.
The West shore proves to hold no sites but we find one on an island. The site is marred by a tree leaning over the best place to put the tent – and it’s swaying in the strong breeze.
The Moss Astraldome is going to get its first wind test. It goes up in a spot where the wind is blowing directly in from the South. The tarp goes up in the more protected tree overhang spot.
There are two fire pits here – both fairly exposed to the wind – so I spend the time to set each of them up to our specifications.
The canoe has been brought up and tied to a tree near the tent since there’s not a good place to leave it near the water.
The rest of the day is spent exploring our new home and using rocks to anchor the tent in case the wind gets worse – it does.
Distance today 7 km with a 400 m portage.

September 2
The wind ratchets up several notches during the night and I get up to take the tarp down and wrap it around our gear, which I move away from the leaning tree.
Morning finds the wind still very strong so we opt for another stove cooked meal.
Looks like today will be a reading and journal writing day. I take a book and head to the eastern side of the island to a spot I’d found yesterday. It’s out of the wind and the sun is shining in quite nicely.
After I’d read for a while I looked up to see something swimming across a bay opposite our island. From this distance (about 600 m) I couldn’t figure out what it was so I watched as it approached shore. It came to shore; a moose materialized and began grazing.
I went back to gather the binoculars and Kathy so we could take a look. It was a cow and it stayed out grazing for about 45 minutes.
That was the highlight of our day – and yes, the wind did begin to die at the end of the day so we could make a cup of tea over a real fire after dinner.
Distance today zero.

September 3
The breeze is down to a manageable level as we arise so we plan to explore to the south. That way, if the wind comes back it’ll push us home.
We head down the lake and into Earl Bay. The point here appears to be more open than it should be so we get out to explore. There must have been something here in the past but there’s no evidence of it now other than an overgrown clearing.
Further down in the bay there’s a yellow tag on a tree so we investigate.
Turns out to be a bear bait site. There are three burlap bags here – one still hanging against a tree. All have been shredded and the one still hanging has an odor of rancid fat; something that would surely draw bears. I don’t see any fresh signs of activity and so we depart.
During the rest of our tours of Indian Lake we found several more of these yellow tags – one bore the number 14. They must have been remnants of the spring bear hunt but when I inquired at the store on the way out the owner didn’t know if anyone had been running spring bear hunts there.
Upon exiting Earls Bay the sky to the south looked threatening so we opted to fish our way back to camp. We didn’t bring any worms so we were forced to use plastic – and that’s our excuse for not catching any fish.
Back in camp – the tarp erected again – we watch the rain approach and listen to the thunder in the distance.
Miracle of miracles, it didn’t rain on us. To the south and west of us somebody got some dandy thunderstorms.
A quick swim and bath – the water is getting cool – then dinner and tea and cookies and we’re off to bed.
Distance today 13 km

September 4
Today’s plan is to explore the north end of the lake to see if there are portages that might lead back to Biscotasing through a narrow spot leading to O’Neil Bay or possibly north and east to Hogsback Channel.
The day is bright and sunny as the day pack is loaded and we set off.
The east side of the lake reveals a huge campsite on a point about 2 km from the portage.
Continuing to the north we finally arrive at the spot where a portage should be to an unnamed lake. Kathy starts to make lunch as I do my scouting thing. After a trip through the bush, which gets me to the lake in question, I return to say that we can get through by bushwhacking but I want to check out the next little bay. A 50 meter stroll along the shore reveals a piece of flagging tape and the portage, which I walk in about 2 minutes.
During lunch the next days adventure is planned. This portage is here so there’s a good chance that the other two will be there also – and if not they’re quite short. Let’s go for it.
On the way back to camp the dam and rapid outflow is visited to see if there’s a possible exit there. There is no portage.
Further south the narrow spot leading to O’Neil Bay is visited and sure enough there is evidence of an old path here. It’s traceable from Indian Lake but it ends on a rock outcropping so there is no indication from the Bisco side.
It was a long and fruitful day – tomorrow will prove interesting.
Distance today 16 km.

September 5
Hogsback channel here we come. It’s a pleasant day with a slight breeze from the south. It’ll be at our backs for a while at least. The sun is out – it’s a great day for an adventure.
Seems like no time at all until we’re at the first portage. The path is there and it’s narrow – but hey – it’s only 100 meters. Now we’re ready to see what might lie ahead.
Expectations are not high as the canoe approaches the east end of this unnamed lake – but what’s that? – a square marker on a tree and an obvious path. Good fortune is with us. This path is wide, easy and only about 200 meters to Soule Lake.
South on Soule Lake and viola, another portage, complete with two upturned boats. This portage is a little trickier since it’s over a ridge with a few big steps up and down and then steeply down to Hogsback Channel. From here to Bisco it’s clear paddling.
We hope to find a campsite about 4 km north of here around some larger islands on Houghton Lake since they’re far enough from the railroad so that we’ll not be disturbed.
Such is not our luck. The channel is fairly narrow here so we can se both shores and still no campsites appear. There is another potential area just ahead but that proves fruitless and now we’re paddling alongside the tracks for the next four kilometers.
There are aluminum canoe silhouettes nailed to trees at every turn along this stretch of the journey so someone went to a lot of trouble in the past to establish a route through here. However, we never saw any of that handiwork on Indian Lake or the approach to Houghton Lake so I wonder where the route originates?
After passing under the tracks and back into Biscotasing Lake we spot a place on the right shore that has possibilities. It has been used in the past but it looks like only for shore lunches. There are the remnants of a fireplace and we find a suitable tent site so it looks like home for a night. It’s a little close to the tracks but if we continue we might as well paddle to Bisco since it’s only about 5 km away.
The tent and fly are soon erected and I construct a new fireplace that’s a work of art. There are a lot of sizeable square stones here so the task is easy. Coffee is soon on the go and we have a swim and bath before starting dinner.
The flask comes out; we toast those that have gone before us and our good fortune to be able to experience things that most people never get to see.
Distance today 21 km with three portages totaling 600 meters.

September 6
Our last day – we’re sorry to be leaving since Indian Lake was only about one third explored – oh well, another trip for the future.
A flotilla of fishermen pass on their way from Houghton Lake to the north end of Biscotasing Lake. They can smell our campfire but the sun is in their eyes as they try to see us.
The sun’s rays are employed to dry some of the dew off our tent and tarp before packing up for the trip out.
Ever notice how much you dawdle on that last day? – and how you tend to drive in silence for quite a while as the realization sinks in that civilization is once again surrounding you?
Distance today 5 km paddling and 660 km driving.

Scott and Kathy Warner

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Biscotasing 41-O-08 Indian Lake 41-O-01
Special Comments: 

This turned out to be a circle route – It didn’t start out that way but our wanderlust took over.
When looking at the maps prior to our trip and trying to plan a route to Indian Lake we noticed several places where portages might be located and decided to check them out.
The rest just fell into place.
The route itself could be done over a weekend without exploring Indian Lake.


Post date: Sat, 07/14/2012 - 19:23


July 15, 2012 => The portages (500m or 40m + 110m) at the north end of Indian Lake (into Soule Lake) seem to be gone now, probably from lack of use. We found the 40m to the unnamed lake, but it was very VERY rough... very overgrown. We never found the 500m, and not for lack of trying. :-( JAS2012

Post date: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 14:57


The trolley RR tracks at Indian were put in place in the 18oo's for the arrival of the Prince of Wales to go to an exclusive fishing lodge built for his trip by the Canadian Gov't. unfortunately, he never showed up and local Indians took over the lodge and ruined it. The gov't in their wisdom, decided to burn it down so that there would be no liability. All that remains is the massive stone fireplace and walkways and of course the tracks and trolley although they have been maintained since they were first installed

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


There is a campsite 1.5 kilometers from the ridge portage from Soule Lake on the north shore at the beginning of the narrows.