Canton Lakes Route

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
50 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
5290 m
Longest Portage: 
1200 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Rugged portages

Technical Guide: 

Access via Red Squirrel Road
Start on Ferguson Bay (Lake Temagami)
South then West through Ferguson Bay
P 450 m to Lake Temagami North Arm
West Across Sharp Rock Inlet
P 400 m to Thunderhead Lake
West across Thunderhead Lake
P 400 m to Virginia Lake
West across Virginia Lake
P 1000 m to James Lake
West across James Lake
P 360 m to Stiles Lake
West across Stiles Lake
P 560 m to unnamed lake
West across unnamed lake
Liftover 20 m at beaver dam
North on Bob Lake
P 1200 m to Diamond Lake
North then east on Diamond Lake
P 75 m to Sharp Rock Inlet
S then East through Sharp Rock Inlet
East across Whitefish Bay
P 825 m to Ferguson Bay
West across Ferguson Bay to finish

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Canton Lakes Trip Aug 18 - 25, 2002

Bohdan and Adrian Yemchuk, Neal Hardy, Ken and Nik Sumnall, Bryan Noble, Bob and Nich Shiell.

In researching for this trip we used Kevin Callan's route guide. It was a very helpful guide (most of the time). We left London at 6 am on Sunday, August 18 planned on having supper on the beach at Ferguson Bay. The trip up was great, traffic was light and the weather was decent. About 13 km along the Red Squirrel Road, my car quit. Neal, who was driving the second vehicle had to ferry everyone and gear to Ferguson Bay. During the 2 hour forced layover, several cars went by with fellow canoeist saying the tow truck operator was on his way in for another vehicle. We did not see him. Early Monday morning Bohdan and I used the phone at Camp Wanapitei (calling cards do have their uses). The rest of Monday was spent waiting for the tow truck to come and get my car and trying to figure out what the problem was. The driver figured it was the alternator (and he was correct).
Tuesday we were on the water by 9:30 AM (not your earliest start) Our paddle to the first portage located in Pickerel Bay was great. The water was flat and we were the only canoes on the water. The 450m portage was easy to locate and complete.
We used the 2 islands as markers and paddled across the North Arm into the narrows. Lunch at the narrows was corned beef, sardines and pumpernickel bread topped off with spicy ketchup. Coming into Sharp Rock Inlet, we angled off the southern tip of Beaver Island, then just south of the large island and straight into the little bay for the portage into Thunderhead Lake. There were remains a building or dock at water level at the beginning of the portage.
This portage was a very easy 400m. The beaver dam at the end did an excellent job of keeping the water level up in Thunderhead Lake. We started to paddle into a late afternoon sun. The lake was dotted with water lilies. It was quite pretty. The portage at the western end of Thunderhead Lake was also 400m long. The take out was one canoe at a time with a good high step up onto the portage proper.
Virginia Lake was a welcome sight. Our 14 km first day was complete. We camped on the most northern campsite for the night. Supper consisted of soup, Kraft dinner and fried spam. Two of us tried a dinner of Dutch Instant Herb Potatoes. Supper was completed just at dark, making washing the dishes difficult. The rewards were terrific. All 8 of us sat or laid on the rocks and watched as 8 satellites were seen. About 9:30 PM Bryan noticed the Northern lights, for the next 2 ½ hours we watched a wonderful show. By the time we went to bed about a third of the sky was covered with the northern lights. The campsite was crowded with 3 tents, however we all slept well. We could not locate the second site.

The take out for the portage into James Lake was easy to locate. With the low water, it was mushy under foot at the beginning. A short walk up the trail, it split (just as Kevin noted) and we had a difficult climb over the hill. If you continued along the trail, you came to a wonderful little waterfall. The trail continues, how far we did not explore. Once we were up and over the hill the portage did not get any easier. The trail took a sharp right turn about half way across. Someone had put some logs and built a small cairn to direct us again to the right. We climbed a small hill and met a dead fall that was head high and branches to the ground. We lifted and pushed/pulled the canoes over this and continued up the hill. We walked into a sphagnum moss section that seemed to go on forever. We ate lunch about 300 m short of the end. This portage is about 1500 to 1600 m. My GPS unit measured our total day's travel at 1.8 km straight line distance. That was from our campsite on Virginia Lake to our campsite on James Lake. Our campsite on James was about 100 m along the north shore from the portage.
James Lake was surreal. The rocks along the water line were tinted reddish - orange. The trees were a deep green, and the water was grey and dead calm. We paddled the entire lake before setting up on the site mentioned above. The weather was changing so we put up the kitchen tarp (it didn't started to rain anyway). Supper was soup, tuna helper (with a can of shrimp), and fried apples for dessert. They were really good. We went to sleep with the rain. It rained steady all night soaking through an vintage tent leaving the kids (our sons and one friend) wet in the morning. By 9 AM we were on the water.
We had a difficult time finding the portage out of James Lake. We disagree with Kevin's "a very steep" portage into Stiles Lake. There was a small steep section in the middle, it was dry and easier than anticipated. Getting into Stiles Lake was interesting. The water level was low, making the entrance into the lake difficult. We loaded the canoes at the end of the portage then, lined them along a narrow channel through a through a quaking bog. About 60 m out (and some of us falling thigh deep in the muck) we were able to get in the canoes. Stiles Lake was not very interesting.
The 560 m portage into Log Lake was not as difficult as described. I found that name on a map in the store beside the public washrooms in Temagami (I can't remember the name of the map). When we went through the swamp in the middle of the portage, it was dried up. It was an interesting time hopping from rock to old root to another rock. Please don't step on the logs, they rolled away on one of us (fortunately with no injury).
An active beaver at the beginning of the portage into Bob Lake and another one on the lower end turned a 20 m lift-over into a 100 m portage along the logging road to the right. We had lunch here before putting into Bob Lake. This portage was marked with red plastic tape. On this portage and the portage back into Stiles lake were old canoes. Someone has left them there so they only carry their gear. The cabin on Log Lake is in bad repair.
Our paddle on Bob Lake was exciting. We were looking forward to the 1200 m portage into Diamond Lake. This portage had one dead-fall near the beginning. After that, it was a very enjoyable walk. We arrived at Diamond Lake with light hearts, looking forward to our campsite. We camped on the eastern end of the southern large island. At this site we saw our first people since leaving Steep Rock Inlet. Supper was spam spaghetti and butterscotch pudding eaten with a beautiful harvest moon. Our site looked southeast along our intended route the next day. The boys started the night sleeping outside, only one was still out in the morning.
The Sharp Rock Portage was about 175 m over fairly level ground. The dock made it easy to load the canoes. The paddle across Sharp Rock Inlet was interrupted by lunch. We ate on the point across from an interesting rock face. The soup was great (yes, fresh onions and extra pasta), accompanied with sardine sandwiches and cheese. After lunch, we headed off between the mainland and the first island; then across the top of the 2 small islands; between the larger island and the little one, and angled across the top of Beaver Island. The narrows between the mainland and Deer Island was easy to locate; from there we took a bearing from the point on Deer Island and headed straight across to the inlet for the 825 m portage into Ferguson Bay.

This was a good portage with some rough sections going up the hill. Going down the steep side at the end was again, not as difficult as anticipated. The hill could be difficult in wet weather, however the footing was firm enough for us to get down without mishap. We were back on the beach at Ferguson Bay about 6 PM. Another excellent day of paddling.
Saturday, unfortunately was spent retrieving my car for the drive home on Sunday. The final 1 km into the parking lot for Ferguson Bay was too rough for my big station wagon. We used Neal's van with its shorter wheel-base to get the equipment out to my car. The Canton Lake loop is an excellent trip. We completed the trip in 4 days. One day was really short and difficult. Two other days we were off the water about 6 PM, and other day was about 4 PM.. Kevin Callan's route guide was very useful. We are using it for another trip next year.Bob Shiell

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 P/1
Other Maps: 
Temagami Canoe Routes planning map, published by Ontario Parks
Special Comments: 

The 1000 m portage between Virginia Lake and James Lake is difficult, and most likely longer than the 1,000 m indicated.