Charlton-Murray-Little Bear-Lang Loop

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay coast
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Franz Neumann
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
37 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
2400 m
Longest Portage: 
1090 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Entrance at Widgwawa Lodge

Charlton Lake to Howry Creek - 7 Kms

Howry Creek to Murray Lake - 6 Kms with 210m portage

Murray to Leech Lake - 1.1 Km portage (mostly uphill)

Leech to Phange to Little Bear Lake - 3.5 Kms with 412m portage

Little Bear Lake to Whitefish River to Lang Lake - 13 Kms

Lang to Cross to Charlton Lake - 7 Kms with 3 portages (100 m X 2 and 500 m)

Exit at Widgwawa Lodge

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

This trip was designed for a quick loop trip that would involve some moderately difficult portaging over three days. The reason we chose this area was largely to explore the region on the northern boundary of Killarney. Motorboat traffic is encountered through most of the route, but the boaters were very few (maybe 10 were encountered in total) and they were very respectful of canoeists.

Day 1 - Tuesday

We launched from Widgwawa Lodge off Hwy 6 just south of Espanola. Beware that the road is not well marked as an entrance point. Also, while the Lodge does rent canoes, it is not a well equiped outfitter (be sure not to leave anything off your checklist, as there is little in the area). We forgot our headlights, for instance. However, the woman running th Lodge was very helpful and lent us two for our trip (a real lifesaver!).

The first day of paddling is about three to four hours in total to Murray lake. There's a small and very easy portage into the lake at the end of the paddling. Charlton Lake is very reminiscent of Temagami - incredibly beautiful and the water is well sheltered from the wind.

Murray Lake has a view of La Coche mountains and three good campsites. We took the one on the north side of the lake, as it gets both evening and morning sun. On the park map it is shown as being right on the portage but it is actually about 300 meters west of the portage, so there is no thru traffic.

Day 2 - Wednesday

When brewing our morning coffee we saw some large trees shaking off to the west of our camp. We paddled over to investigate and saw a teenage black bear scaling the cliffs - an incredibly majestic animal who scoped us and then quickly made his way up the peak and off into the forest. We decided not to cook bacon that morning.

We started the day with the portage from Murray to Leech Lake. This portage is just over 1 KM and is fairly difficult in that it is a semi-steep climb for the first 600 meters. We managed to do it in one trip (kind of) by carrying all of out equipment to the end of the climb and then leaving some and coming back for it later. Basically, a one and a half trip through.

The entrance onto Leech Lake is marshy but not difficult. There's a short 500 meter paddle to the portage from Leech to Phange Lake. This portage is marked by a number of older canoes on the shore (generally, portages are not very well marked in Killarney). This portage is a little over 400 meters and is quite easy, although there are a couple of muddy areas.

We encountered an older couple coming through the other way when we were about halfway through. They had three dogs, a rather large 18 foot canoe and looked like they would be doing three or four trips to get through (I didn't ask, but hope they were not planning on the Murrary Lake portage with that load!).

From the portage at Phange Lake we paddle to Little Bear, encountering a dad and kids fishing in a small motorboat at a very narrow point as you exit Phange at the south (nearly bumped boats, as the current is fairly strong and was pushing them into us).

At the entrance to Little Bear there is a very nice campsite that is rarely used. We paddled past to check out the other sites and into Rocky Channel. Unfortunately, the sites at Rocky were taken, so we paddled back to the first site, which turned out to be a great spot, despite the fact that it's a thoroughfare for boat traffic. In the 24 hours we were there we saw 2 motorboats and 4 canoes pass by. The site looked like it hadn't been used all season, presumably because of the boat traffic. However, there's plenty of privacy and it was not problem at all (it was especially nice having a privy that smell like roses).

Day 3 - Thursday

We departed for the trip down Whitefish River and Lang Lake to Charlton a bit late in the day (about 2 PM). The trip took approximately 7 hours, as we didn't notice the rapids at the end of the route and had an unexpected portage on crown land.

The paddle down Whitefish River and Lang Lake was very relaxing. Again, this area looks and feels just like Temagami with the large pines and well sheltered waterways.

After paddling about 13 KMs with cottages dotting the shores but very little boat traffic, we came to the channel that leads from Lang to Cross Lake. there's two portages in here. The first is around a dam and is very easy (no more than 100 meters). To our surprise, there were rapids as we came to the entrance to Cross Lake. These are not marked on the park map, but were only moderately challenging to portage. We scaled the rocks alongside the rapids and this brought us to Cross Lake.

On the south side of Cross there is a small river running to Charlton. We had not noticed these rapids on the map when planning our trip (must have had the optimistic blinders on!). There's a cottage right at the mouth of the rapids whose owners are evidently rather hostile to portagers, which no trespassing signs posted prominently. As there was no one home, we decided to walk through and survey the rapids, which turned out to be entirely impassable. We paddled east on Cross and saw markings for a portage to Charlton that was about 500 meters to the east of the rapids. This portage is very well marked with yellow ribbons hanging all around.

It was dusk and we needed to get through before the sun set. This portage is well maintained and not terribly difficult with a bit of hill and about 500 meters. We did it in two trips and managed to get onto Charlton just before the sun set. The paddle into Widgwawa was pretty much in the dark, which was a tad difficult, but the entrance to the small creek is marked by lilies and a few buoys.

We were out with the car loaded at 10 PM.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Killarney Park map
Special Comments: 

A nice little 3 day workout with some relaxing paddling on beautiful lakes.