Quirke - Whiskey Lake (Serpent River)

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Brad Jennings
Trip Date : 
July 2016
Additional Route Information
64 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
3425 m
Longest Portage: 
600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Access is off Stanrock Rd near Popeye Lake.
Alt Access is where the Panal Mine Rd crosses the Serprent River - If you use this access you will have to run or portage 400m around a set of rapids flowing into Quirke 

Technical Guide: 

This loop is part of the longer Serpent River canoe route
As of 2016, parts of this route are in poor condition. Recomended only for experienced canoeists 

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

The map has the portage conditions listed. For anything other than a good or excellent trail you should expect some obstacles. The destroyed trails are almost impossible to find/follow, i.e. you'll be bushwhacking (and the forest is not to friendly)... thankfully, the 'portages' are short.

I did the route in 2.5 days... given the current condition of the route this is not reccomended... I was pushing hard each day.


There are rapids on the Serpent, up to CII Tech. You may run, line, wade or bushwhack around them. There are minimal portages. There is one on the first set out of Quirke, which was really rocky and too technical for me to run solo with a double blade. It is RL and I cleared/flagged the trail. The next portage is around a small falls. 15m on RR through the cedars. I cut a nice swath through. The final portage is ~600m out of Nook Lake. The take out is RR by an old, overturned blue boat. Don't run the river here as it quickly becomes too boney and littered with sweepers. The trail is in decent shape. I flagged much of it, except it gets confusing in the final 200m as it descends through an open Sugar Maple forest. Great to portage through as it is open, but the trail is swallowed up by tiny saplings. I put up some sporadic flagging tape, but you'll likely find your own route. Aim for a swampy area which leads to a beach as a defined trail is there. There's some nice old growth in here!

The portage from Bear to Whiskey is good. It's on RR before the river bends around and flows over the falls. Don't use the cabin's ATV trails. The trail is kind of obstructed by a cedar tree, but it heads up a steep ridge (near some cached boats) and then descends. At one point you will intersect with the ATV trail, bear left towards the lake. Easy peasy. There are some cottages on Whiskey, but much of the lake is undeveloped, especially in the south. Minimal campsites here, through there are plenty of small points you could easily pitch a tent on. There is one large beach site on Campbell Island which is quite nice, but you're close to the cottages. The site on the southern end is really an ATV turnaround point.... suitable, but I'd choose the beach! Of course, there are a few more beaches around that you could check out, I didn't have the time. 

After Whiskey, the Serpent flows freely for a while. There's a 15m 'portage' over exposed rocks at a large logjam/rapid. The put-in/take out can be tricky with the large boulders. The 180m portage is signed... but that's it.... It goes through a blowdown decimated area. I abandoned whatever trail there was and hucked north to a valley which had less disturbance and then found may way to the river again. It wasn't the original put in and I ended up wading down some rapids before reaching calmer waters. The old growth through here was stunning, which was the only redeeming factor of this slog! The next portage (to Pecors) is on RL and is good for the first little bit but it gets confusing as it veers south towards the lake. Look for evidence of cut logs and trees and look for the wide swath between large trees. There is some flagging tape downed on the trail as survey crews had used the portage to access the proposed dam site (good and bad news... at least the previous portage would not be needed due to headwater flooding). It's bushy going and is a semi bushwhack-trail combo.

Portages from Pecors to Hough Lake are in great shape. Short and easy. There's a nice campsite by the waterfall on Hough/Tees Lake. Not the best spot for multiple tents, but looks like great swimming and relaxing in the falls. 

The ~3km 'trek' was up the creek between Hough and May Lakes. Water levels were low, so I was lining and wading upstream. The first two waterfall portages are unlocateable (both on RL). I found traces of the path near the outlet of the first 150m portage north of Hough. It's a steep ridge towards the put-in at a small pond, and traces of the old trail and landing can be found. It's your best bet for launching... but it is steep. 

You'll paddle through a small pond before reaching a marshy area. The creek snakes its way through dense cattails and over several beaver dams. The flow can be a little confusing through the flooded out areas but you can get through here. Make you way up the creek until you reach the next falls. I found the obvious portage landings (RL) at each end, but the middle is decimated by blowdowns... so I bushwhacked to the creek bed and portaged over the open rock (Caution: slippery!). Wasn't too bad, and connected back with the trail which I followed to the landing.

The next 150m portage is RR, just before a small set of rapids and I put up some flagging tape. The trail is pretty good! There are 1-2 small blowdowns you can just skirt without issue. The 15m portage to May is a simple haul over exposed rock. 

May lake is gorgeous... hasn't looked like anyone has camped at the sites in ages, although there was ample firewood covered with a tarp. The 275m portage from May to the swamp is in good shape. I noticed a few trail junctions along the way, so don't get confused. You'll want to keep heading east and then descend over an open ridge to the swamp. If you have time to hike them, they may be worth checking out as they could lead to Sorely Lake and save you some bushwhacking. GPS or map/compass would be good to verify. 

I could not locate the 2 portages leading in and out of Lizotte Lake. It is likely the snowmobile trail follows a route different than the historical canoe route. Check it out, though I suggest walk it without packs first and if that fails you're in for some bushwhacking. After that, the trails are in great shape. There's a nice Killarney-esq campsite on the point on Oullette Lake. It is signed, though on a long dead tree, so leads me to believe it hasn't been used in a while. 

So there you have it, some challenging sections and some easy sections. If you plan it out right you can balance the hard work and make for a rewarding trip. It's certainly not the easiest route out there. 

Hope that helps! Be curious to know about the other lakes in the region! Best of luck and happy exploring!

Other Relevant Files Upload


Post date: Tue, 09/01/2020 - 20:30


Good Day,

I am pleased to report that, as of last weekend, portages from Vanhorn up to May Lake have been cleared. The portage from May East to an unnamed pond has been cleared and the portages North to Lizotte have been marked/flagged. I must say that this is a truly beautiful trip. The creek sections up to May have a couple very scenic waterfalls and the portages North have some truly beautiful table rock sections with some nice views. Ouelette Lake is truly a gem. Happy travels!