Charlton-Three Narrows-McGregor loop

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay coast
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Additional Route Information
75 km
7 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
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Total Portage Distance: 
7000 m
Longest Portage: 
1200 m
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Route Description
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Charlton - Three Narrows - Iroquois Bay - Whitefish falls loop

August 2004 - average water levels, beginner/experienced paddlers, one
canoe, two-pass portaging, 7 days, estimated distance 75 km. Note that
water level on the Bay has been about 1-2 metres lower in recent

This route turned out to be surprisingly undocumented for one I
thought would be more popular. As a result, I thought I'd write
it up here.

The idea was to make a little loop somewhat less ambitious than the
"Big Loop", plus to visit the crown land areas bordering the park on
the west.

Campsite reservations were easily obtained about 5 weeks in advance of
the trip for this route on the backside of Killarney. Ferry cost from
Tobermory to reach the highway 6 access is $52.25 one way for two
adults and one canoe on a car. The Widgawa lodge access is very
pleasant with a shaded grassy area for unloading the car and
organizing gear, plus free parking including any extra nights spent
camping on crown land rather than in the park, plus they're open late
(11 pm I think) for picking up your permits. They also had quite a few
brand new Scott and Souris River canoes on hand which are likely
available for rent.

We camped on crown land in Charlton lake and Iroquois bay. There are a
few cottages and plenty of crown land, but we hardly saw any regularly
used campsites; be prepared to set a bush camp if you are stopping on
either of those two bodies of water.

The north edge of Killarney in the Hanwood, Van Winkle and Cat lakes
area is open to motorized access for customers of lodges on Bear Lake
and Lang Lake. They have several boats cached on the portages and
their customers pack in a motor and fuel. These hard-charging sport
fishermen can get themselves three lakes deep in the park in this
fashion, hopping from cache to cache. Never mind that the beat-up
scows look like hell piled up on the shore willy-nilly and chained to
the nearest tree. At least the boats have not been dumped right on top
of the canoe put-in/take-out as they often are in Temagami. I asked one
intrepid sportsman whether anyone would bother fishing here if they had
to haul their own boat with them, but he didn't get the question.

The creek between Fish and Gem lakes is easy paddling in deep water
with about 4 beaver dams to cross. The portage across the LaCloche
range out of Little Mountain lake is a relatively flat and easy
carry. The little pond between the P900 and P1200 is shrinking fast
and a bit of a hassle lauching in deep soft mud. Kirk creek is deep
with several beaver dams providing good flotation yet easy
liftovers. There are no serious obstacles in here, indeed we saw
numerous signs of recent trail maintenance throughout our route.

The three narrows shortcut portage appears now to be unmaintained
however, and is more like 1200 metres with extensions at either end of
the marked portage on the (1990) map. In particular the west end is an
odious place, where a loosely tied boot or even a small human could
disappear into deep mud.

Kirk Creek downstream of the dam is a bit rugged with a half dozen
liftovers and portages. It is a lot of loading and unloading in a
short distance. Finally reaching the bay, you see the effect of lower
water levels with an additional portage not shown on my 1990 park
map, and it is all reeds and marshes here.

McGregor bay is an interesting maze of islands and inlets, which is
not altogether overrun with motor traffic. Ole Evinrude staked a claim
in this area years ago, so I can't complain about the powerboats too
much I suppose. One nice variant in the parade of fishing rigs and
houseboats sporting four-stroke VTEC engines was the tiny yachting
dinghys and zodes putt-putting along barely faster than the canoe.

The passage from Iroquois bay to Storehouse bay is easy enough. The
route follows a long narrow bay with two arms at the west end that
looks like >-- on the map. To enter the bay from the east, there are
two short liftovers. At the fork of the "Y", find a P200 going south
into another section of Storehouse Bay.

To make the crossing from Storehouse to Bay of Islands, paddle around
to the west towards the highway, and take a very small inlet to the
south directly in front of the cottages. If any cottagers see you
here, they'll assume you're lost or sorely misguided; they are not
aware that there is through passage here for water craft, since all
small water craft are essentially equivalent to aluminum skiffs with
outboards in their view. Here make a liftover, paddle a small pond,
portage the highway, paddle a small pond, portage the abandoned rail
bed and you are in Bay of Islands, at the fourth inlet south of
Whitefish falls.

Be aware that some of the land between Iroquois bay and the highway
belongs to the Whitefish River first nation. They request that canoe
parties obtain prior permission from the band office to cross these

The passage around Whitefish falls, the bridges and the dam is
accomplished with a single carry of about 1km. At the base of the
falls, find a landing on the west shore, carry up the earth bank
towards a shaded cottages/resort area, avoiding the rocky area along
the cataract. Follow the road out of the resort to Highway 6, jog
north 10 metres, take the dirt road 100 metres down to the railbed,
turn north on the railbed some 400 metres, until you see the Frood
lake on your right. (If travelling south, reverse these directions.)

A short paddle through Willisville then completes the loop. Oddly, we
saw very few canoeists during our seven day trip which included the
August long weekend, a total of just eight parties. Somehow I expected
the place to be a little busier, given the stories one hears about how
hard it is to get into Killarney during the summer.

Thanks to mrcanoe for providing me with a detailed description of the
passage through Storehouse bay and Whitefish falls. I have taken the
liberty of summarizing it here for purposes of this route description,
because this route is a good one that is well worth doing. I got
little help from the park; when I called, staff refused to comment on
any part of the route outside park boundaries, professing to have no
knowledge of such areas whatsoever. If you need more information, I
hope you have better luck with them than I did.