Cedar Lake - Nipissing River Route

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Additional Route Information
60 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
11000 m
Longest Portage: 
3345 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at Cedar Lake (1.5 km)
Portage 715m
Petawawa River (1.0 km)
Portage 255m
Continue on Petawawa River (1.5 km)
Portage 2345m
Through small lake (100m)
Portage 170m
Through Narrowbag (2 km)
Portage 80m
Through Catfish Lake (2 km)
Thursday Total 11,665m

Catfish Lake (1.5 km)
Petawawa River (3 km)
Portage 365 m
Petawawa (1.5 km)
Portage 320 m
Through small lake (100 m)
Portage 90 m
Through small lake (100 m)
Portage 420 m
Petawawa River (2 km)
Petawawa (River km)
Portage 155 m
Burntroot Lake (1.5 km)
Friday Total 14,050 m

Burntroot Lake (0.75 km)
Portage 1,285 m
Robinson Lake (2 km)
Portage 25 m
Whiskeyjack Lake (0.5 km)
Portage 480 m
Remona Lake (100 m)
Portage 1,930 m
Dam 100 m
Portage 850 m
Nipissing (10.64 km)
Saturday Total 18,660 m

Nipissing (2 km)
Portage 365 m
Nipissing 100 m
Portage 100 m
Nipissing 1 km
Portage 180 m
Nipissing 5 km
Nipissing 1.5 km
Portage 230 m
Nipissing 1 km
Portage 915 m
Cedar 3.5 km
Sunday Total 15.885 m

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

This report describes the canoe trip that I, Frank Boyaner, and my friend, Henry took in mid-August 1998 in Algonquin Park, Ontario. It was a "loop" that started at the Cedar Lake Brent campground and then went through Catfish and Burntroot lakes, and finished up on a section of the Nipissing River ending back at Cedar Lake. Including the four hour drives from/to Ottawa, the trip took four days and three nights from Thursday morning to Sunday night. I familiarized myself with the route by reading Kevin Callan`s excellent paddler`s guide to Algonquin park: "Brook Trout and Blackflies".
Our equipment consisted of Henry`s ultra light 42 lb, 16.5 foot Kevlar canoe, two 140 litre canoe packs and two 20-40 litre knapsacks.

Please note that if you don`t already have the Algonquin Park map, you can download it from the internet.

The drive on highway 17 from Ottawa to Deux-Riviéres was very pleasant on the Thursday morning. Contrast that with the return drive Sunday night. Drivers on that road from Pembroke through Ottawa have a well-deserved reputation for dangerous passing maneuvers. The dirt road from the highway to the park boundary is smooth and maintained. Registration is at #25 at the fork in the road. Once inside the park boundary, the road to Brent is rough: washboard, rocky and narrower. It`s worth stopping at the wooden viewing tower on the right to see the edge of the Brent meteorite crater. Information pamphlets are available there that explain its origin. The drive from highway to Brent takes at least 45 minutes. This more difficult access helps keep this part of the park less crowded.

We started across Cedar Lake at 1:00 on the Thursday by heading south to P(ortage)715. There is a nice waterfall to the right of the portage but since we were pressed for time to reach Catfish lake we didn`t go to see it. The P2345 was tough since it was our first day. I seem to get more used to the effort of portaging as the days pass and find the second and subsequent days easier. We specifically planned to do single-pass portages and Henry`s lightweight canoe helped make that possible.

We reached Catfish by 5:30. According to Kevin Callan, the nicest campsite is the one on the point in the lower part of Catfish east of the island site in the middle of the lake. But by that time of day, it was taken, as were all of the other good sites. We backtracked to the one in the narrows to the left of the letter C in Catfish on the map. I soon found out why it was still available. The entire site, except for the tent pad, slants towards the water. This makes cooking interesting. Everything that you put down rolls toward the lake. Except for the slope, it`s actually a nice site. For the rest of the days, I realized that claiming a campsite by 4:00 ensures that you get the nice ones.

Friday morning, we headed south on Catfish. For a larger lake, it`s not too wide and makes for a very nice paddle. We were generally on the water most days by 9:15. Between Catfish and Catfish Rapids, on the Petawawa, we saw my first pair of Algonquin moose; a mother and young one. The river narrows but they were comfortable with us passing within 50m. The water was shallow in spots and we had to get out and walk the canoe but there`s a sandy bottom.

Make special note of the campsite on the small peninsula in the first half of Perley Lake on the North shore. We stopped for lunch there and I don`t remember ever having lunch at a nicer spot than that. The peninsula rises constantly uphill to a height of about 50m. The forest is open and occupied by very tall White Pine trees. There was a cool breeze blowing from the west right up the peninsula hill. The sound of the wind blowing constantly through the pine needles was very soothing.

On Burntroot we were fortunate to find a very nice campsite available. It`s on the first island with two campsites and the better site is the one on the western tip. Previous campers have gone to a lot of trouble to carry & position the numerous flat rocks in helpful ways. On the south shore they built a breakwater to make landing the canoe in a westerly wind an easy task. On the west shore they arranged a seat with a back rest in order to enjoy the sunsets and on the north shore there`s a nice swimming area. In the cooking area a large flat rock serves as a table. Note that the view west includes a small island with two lone pine trees towering over the island. It`s a wonder that high winds haven`t yet blown them down. One minor drawback is the many sea gulls on a small nearby island. They didn`t come over to our island but they made enough noise to mask the sound of the loons.
The other campsite, on the eastern half and south shore of the island is very dark and not very attractive. It`s probably used for the overflow from the nicer site.

Saturday, we had a big day ahead of us. Our goal was to reach the campsites far enough down the Nipissing to be able to exit at a reasonable time Sunday.
Robinson lake, in my opinion, is the perfect width for canoeing; not too big and wide to feel like you`re making no progress; yet not too narrow either. It also has a very nice elevated campsite on the tip of an island.

The P1930 after Remona Lake is very nice as far as portage trails go. To pass the time on the portage, I counted my paces: 2200 to reach the canoe rack rest stop and 4000 in total for the portage. While on the P850 we received our only rain of the trip; a brief but strong thunderstorm. The trail is grown over with tall, thick grass and bushes, so if they are wet, you will be too.

The Nipissing river has short stretches of very shallow water. You will scratch your canoe and get your feet wet, but it`s worth it. It`s a quiet, meandering river and well worth the effort to reach. It was a pleasure to pass by a portage, the P1410, without having to take it. The river was very quiet, with several herons and ducks and lots of curves. After about three hours of meandering we started to look forward to the campsite; any campsite. While some parts of the river have a current, for the most part the current is not a determining factor for which way you choose to travel. Many people do the route in the opposite direction, saving the portages for then end when they carry less food weight.

I had originally booked a campsite for this night anywhere between the upcoming P365 and P180. But because of Kevin Callan`s recommendation of the beautiful High Falls site upstream, I switched our reservation to that site when we obtained our permit at the registration building. Only while en route did I realize that there was no way we could get from High Falls to Ottawa in one day. There is only the one site on the stretch of the river after the meanders and we were fortunate that no one was occupying it. However, it is a large site and can be shared. It has a very peaceful view of a meadow/marshland across the river. I`ll warn you that if you go in for a swim, the fish were very hungry.

Sunday morning saw us out on the river while the early morning steam was still rising off the water and the dew was glistening in the eastern sun. This was one of those "this is why I canoe" scenes.

Some notes here: The P365, P110 & P180 may have their distances wrong on the map and their signs mixed up but it`s not a significant error. I believe the P110 should be marked as P180 and the P180 is actually P280. There`s a nice swimming pool area at the end of one of these portages; I believe it`s the last one but I don`t remember exactly which one it is.

The lower Nipissing is known as moose territory and we were treated to seeing seven of them. It took a while for the moose (and us) to claim one or the other side of the narrow river so that we could pass by without startling them. The last moose was our first male sighted. Even though he was standing right at the entrance to the P2835, he chose instead to swim across the river and disappear into the thick undergrowth of the woods. We stopped for lunch at the campsite one hour after the P2835, at a major bend in the river. It`s another top-of-a-hill site that`s well worth the climb. Once up there, you can enjoy the unique view looking both upstream and downstream of the bend in the river.

It`s always a great feeling when you know you`re doing the last portage, and in our case the P915 was no exception. I felt stronger after several days of, according to my friend Henry, portaging with some canoeing in between. Plus the trail is very smooth and wide. Then it was out the Cedar Lake delta and back to Brent.

Here are the numbers:
Distance: total 60 km, canoed 49 km, portaged 11 km, percentage of distance portaged, 19%.
Travel time: total 22 hrs, canoed 12.5hrs, portaged 9.5hrs, percentage of time portaging: 43% !!!
Average speeds: paddling: 4 km/hr, portaging: 2.5 km/hr including 4 minutes on average for unloading the canoe and 4 minutes to load. While most unloads/loads take 2-3 minutes some take much longer.

Coincidentally, each day had five portages. That`s one of the reasons why Thursday, the first (half) day was the most difficult.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Algonquin Provincial Park map published by Friends of Algonquin Park


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


Comleted the same trip in september 2005, solo using my home built 23 lb canoe.
I agree the first portage on the first day is the worst all up hill.
after that anything is a piece of cake.
I took the same four days to do the trip and only encounted two other people the whole trip.
I travel light, no tent, minimum of gear, I do pack in more than enough food which makes my camp stay really worth while.
on this route I only encounted four moose nearly ran into one on the Nippising river, paddling too close to the shore on one of the bends, we both did a bit of fast moving, The only part of the trip that required skill was crossing cedar lake in the wind, I used a spray skirt for that,
If you do the trip be sure to look for the Aligator tug on an island in Catfish lake.
Good paddling

Post date: Sun, 04/05/2009 - 21:34


I did this trip solo in 2004. The pre-WCA CCR had a link to my site (which does include GPX data). It's here: http://cmkl.ca/cedar

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


Just back from this trip. My two kids an I did it as a five day trip including all the driving. In the spring Catfish and Sunfish are more like one big lake rather than two lakes connected by a creek and marshland. To get a sense of this compare the Canoe routes of Algonquin map with the Algonquin 2 - Northwest map which use two very diferent ways to depict the route from Catfish to Sunfish. I say this because we were looking for the narrow part of Catfish which never materialized and we were well into Sunfish before we realized we had gone well past the portage. Not a big deal unless you are in bad weather or nasty winds.

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


Just finished this loop with our Scout Troop. Had a fantastic time! Highly reccomend the island site on Catfish with the bent tree over hanging the water on the west side or the site east across on the pennisula. Enjoyed the western site on the island on Burntroot Lake. We did the High Falls to end of Nippising/Cedar Lake in one 8 hr day. The site past the last portage on the bluff on the left is large and very nice. Water meadow across from this site has a LARGE bellowing bull moose in it. Say hello to Jake at Brent for me. Enjoy!