Mackey Creek/McKenna Lake/Sweezy Lake

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
10 km
2 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
3500 m
Longest Portage: 
3500 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Supposedly was once a maintained canoe route until around 1980. My distances are approximate.
Mackey Creek Road turns SW off Hwy 17 just west of Mackey. About 5 km in it crosses a narrow bridge which is one access point. I went upstream for about 2 km and it took 2 hours with only a day pack! Creek is obstructed repeatedly with fallen trees, logs, shallows, etc. Stopped at a large tree, chest-high across the channel, gave up and went back.
My next approach was to the Garreau Lake road which turns N off Mackey Creek Rd about 8 km in from Hwy 17. The road was drivable (in a Subaru Forester) about 3 km to the turn off to Garreau Lake to the NW. The road past Garreau Lake is used only by ATVs. 50 m in it fords the stream from Garreau L and winds its way generally NW. 800 m in there is a duck pond to the west. 1.2 km in, just beyond the pond, two large poplars have fallen across the road. One has been chain sawed but they gave up on the second so it's a foot path from there on. The cuts appear to be a year or two old. There are more and more fallen trees to step over but it's manageable for a while. 2 km in from Garreau there are two large blow-downs. I got around the first one to the E side but the second I could only pick my way over and through. The road becomes progressively overgrown and 2.8 km in there is a turn-off to the E that goes 2 km to Sweezy L that is just as bad so I didn't take it. 3 km in the road dead-ends about 100 m from the creek. Bushwhacking down to the creek was difficult and comes out at a rocky section. Water levels were very low at the time so I was able to stepping-stone my way upstream 300 m and across to the N side where there is a rock outcropping and a small clearing. There was small fire pit that had not been used in many years.
I am not exactly sure how this figures on the maps. It would seem a likely place for a take-out since the creek is deeper at that point and I paddled upstream 250 m over two beaver dams and a ridge of rocks to McKenna L. I could find no recognizable trail in the bush around the point. Old maps apparently show a 550 m portage from McKenna L but it seems to start at the lake itself and goes past this area to somewhere near the end of the road but the creek downstream from there was not navigable at the low water level I encountered. There is a rocky point on McKenna in the vicinity where the map shows the portage starting but it was surrounded by muskeg and not accessible--maybe in high water. Anyway, I never found the portage and could not explore downstream toward Dunlop L.
Halfway up McKenna is an old campsite; a beautiful spot with expanses of flat moss-covered rock. The fire pit had not been used in many years. I was too tired to lug my gear up there so I camped at the lower point on the creek and it was also a splendid site.
At the W end of McKenna there is a channel through the bog which my GPS tracked almost exactly where the map shows it. It ends at a rocky chute coming down from Sweezy L. There was once a 60 m portage and I found the probable take-out but again no recognizable trail. This is a bit odd since there was, until recent years, ATV access to Sweezy and I would have expected some determined fishermen to have used the trail to McKenna which is a larger lake. I did not try to portage to Sweezy but I could see an area across the lake which is probably the end of the old road.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31K/4 31L/1<br />
Other Maps: 
<br /> Backroads Mapbook Algonquin Region, Mussio Ventures Ltd. CLAIMaps, Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mining. Jeffrey\'s Algonquin Provincial Park Map www_algonquinmap_com<br />
Special Comments: 

Best way in is by helicopter. Calling it a "canoe route" any more is really misleading. If you headed in there with a pack on your back and a canoe on your head you wouldn't get far. It would take at least a week and a crew with chainsaws to clear the whole thing. Overall this was a brutal trip and I won't do it solo again. I carried a SPOT satellite messenger (there is no cell phone signal for many miles) but I'm not sure how anyone would come to assist if it was necessary. The only way I managed it at all was with an inflatable kayak in a pack. It would be impossible to get a rigid boat through all that junk. I also used soccer shin guards. I can certainly say I had the place to myself! I saw no sign of recent human activity; not a beer can or butt anywhere. I didn't have any either so I built an inukshuk to mark my trail. One would think such secluded lakes would be teeming with trophy-sized trout but all I caught was a couple of bass.