Charleston Lake - Gananoque Lake Loop

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Marc Pyette
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
53 km
2 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
520 m
Longest Portage: 
500 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Portage between Red Horse and Charleston Lake could be a problem

Technical Guide: 

This loop goes through varied terrain on the Frontenac Axis. It is a straightforward route with minimal portaging and is suitable for novices, providing the winds are not too strong. In my opinion, the scenery wasn't spectacular, but the route is easily accessible and makes a great, easy weekend trip.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 


We started early from the Kingston area and drove Charleston Lake PP. At the gate house, we were directed to a designated canoe launch area on Runnings Bay. We commenced traveling along Charleston lake, which has quite a bit of cottage development on it. As we progressed along the lake, the clouds grew increasingly ominous. By the time we were on Outlet Reach we could see and hear an extremely heavy downpour, accompanied with thunder, heading our way. We tried, as best we could, to weather the storm on an island for about half an hour. We reached Outlet in heavy drizzle. Here there is a Lift-over (left) around a dam. From here you begin a 10km leg on the slow moving Wiltse Creek.

On Wiltse Creek, almost immediately the geography turns from shield to the rural scenery of the St. Lawrence lowlands. Soon you will find yourself in the Wiltse Marsh. It was initially interesting for the first couple of kilometers but after a while the cattail lined banks do get tedious. At one point, we thought we reached a dead-end but the creek continues a few meters past a thick group of “floating islands.” Once out of the marsh we continued north along Gananoque Lake, through The Crank to Lost Bay. We found a known campsite on the entrance to Lost Bay late in the afternoon. However, this site was very well used in typical cottage country fashion, (beer bottles, rubbish, and even fresh fish fillets scattered about the site). If clean this site would be okay for larger groups. We decided to make a provisional site on one of the islands in Lost Bay which worked quite well for us.

Day 2

We continued our journey North to Red Horse Lake. Now we were firmly back in the Shield. The wind was in our face but didn’t really impede or progress. I noticed that there were quite a few new cottages on this lake. We continued North to Washburn Bay and found the portage back to Charleston Lake (Donaldson Bay) in a small bay north of Peggy’’s Point. The approximately 500m portage is marked by a sign and is in good condition. We took advantage of the unusually warm Thanksgiving weather and went for a swim at the end of the Portage.
The trip back to the canoe launch on Charleston Lake, in my opinion was the most scenic. A keen eye on the map is required because there are a lot of bay and island on this section of Charleston Lake.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31 C/9 Westport 31 C/8 Gananoque
Special Comments: 

L/O L at Outlet
P 500m Red Horse Lake (Washburn Bay) to Charleston Lake (Donaldson Bay)


Post date: Sun, 12/27/2009 - 19:04


Hey CleverJoe,
If you were to paddle into the middle of lost bay and point yourself north. The camp site would be on your northwest. Info Ref. Backroad Mapbook Eastern Ontario.

Post date: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 21:09


Has anyone done this route recently? I've tried to find the opening to Wiltse Creek from Gananoque Lake (marsh side), to no avail. Also, where exactly are the camp sites - is this info available online anywhere? Thanks in advance!

Post date: Wed, 07/23/2008 - 08:55


The cattail marsh on Wiltsie Creek can sometimes be quite formidable, with large and numerous floating beds of cattails blocking passage. This route is best taken early in the season or during summers with high water levels in order to ensure passage through the cattails with a minimum of difficulty.