Rain Lake to Big Crow Lake Loop

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111 km
8 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
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Total Portage Distance: 
25 m
Longest Portage: 
3 m
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See the trip diary.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Day 1: Rain L to Misty L.
Canoe: 18 km, Portage: 3880 metres (8)

The day started sunny, about 25 degrees, no humidity. It got overcast and breezy in the afternoon. We left home at 4:20 AM, arrived at the park office in Kearney at 8:15 am, and were on the water at 9:06 am. We arrived at the most eastern site on Misty Lake at 3:15 AM. It was a great day for paddling. This camp site is interesting and shows the marks of a history of industrial activity. There are lots of remnants of some sort of factory operation, with lots of iron pars laying around, including an old horse-drawn wagon. The foundations of several buildings are clearly visible. It would be interesting to find out what went on here.

Saw a moose in Sawyer Lake on the way in. The packs are still very heavy at this point. The portages between Rain and Misty are not real long, but are in pretty poor shape in a lot of places. There is a fair bit of climbing involved.

Day 2: Misty L. to Big Trout L.
Canoe: 18 km, Portage: 1640 metres (6)

We had great weather. 25 degrees, and a deep blue sky. We got going at 8:50 am, after a big bacon and egg breakfast. We split a pound of bacon and 6 eggs between the two of us, so we didn't feel the need for lunch until we arrived at our site on Big Trout at 2:00 PM. We have a really large site on a point on the northern part of the lake. It is breezy, but the flies are still really bad, biting us a lot.

The debate is whether or not we want to portage directly to Lake La Muir from Big Trout, or paddle around via Red Pine Bay tomorrow.

We had several striking views today. The first was the beaver dam on the Petawawa River. It was the widest beaver dam we have ever seen. We tried to pull over it, but Bernie sunk to his thigh in the mud, so we headed for shore, and found a make-shift path to the next portage. The second view was when we came out from the river onto Grassy Bay on White Trout Lake. It was suddenly wide open and we had Big Sky on either side. The water was smooth as glass as well and I got some great pictures. The third view was the cliff face to our right as we rounded the top of White Trout Lake. We could clearly see the remains of the depot farm on the north short of White Trout Lake.

Big Trout Lake is very beautiful but you sense that it could get very windy and tough to paddle. Fortunately we had glass-like water to paddle through. The portages were not memorable, which is a good thing.

Day 3: Big Trout L to Big Crow L.
Canoe: 21 km, Portage: 5575 metres (6)

Another great day for weather! Sunny, no humidity, and temperatures in the high 20s.

We decided to canoe around Longer Lake, Red Pine Bay, instead of portaging from Big Trout to La Muir. We wanted to save our strength for the big portage from Hogan to Big Crow.

We got an early start, on the water at 7:25 AM. We had lunch on the Hogan side of the 3.7 km Big Crow portage at about 12:45 PM. Three Cheese Broccoli soup with bagels and honey followed by coffee. An hour later we were on our way. The portage itself wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. It started uphill, but was pretty tolerable after that. It took us about 70 minutes to complete, including 6 or 7 brief stops. It would have been a lot more work coming the other way.

While on the portages today, we noticed a groove in the path, and a lot of white paint on rocks in the path. “Someone was dragging their canoe!” Bernie said. When we got to the end of the Big Crow portage, there were three guys with kayaks. While we were packing our canoe, one of them suddenly yelped: “I've got a hole in my kayak, man!” Big surprise. I don't know how they fixed it, but we saw them paddling by our site about 2 hours later, arguing all the way. I don't know why some people bother.

We camped at a site on the south-west side of the lake opposite the fire tower. We could see people climbing the tower from where we were. The first thing we did after setting up camp was wash our clothes. The second thing we did was take a bath. After that, supper was very good. Nasi Goering (a dutch spiced rice dish) with fried sausage, coffee, and our daily shot of Southern Comfort.

The most interesting part of the trip today was at the entrance to Hogan Lake. You have to canoe through a maze of reeds to get to the main part of the lake. It was kind of like wandering around one of those corn mazes. The other interesting thing was the east end of of Lake La Muir where it empties into the Madawaska River. The water was very shallow and clear, but the bottom was a very fine silt. You could paddle the stuff like it wasn't there. Then for the last half kilometre or so, it was like it felt like it was sucking us back. We seemed to be paddling twice as hard, and going half as fast. Weird.

The dock at the start of the portage to Hogan was useful. However, the water was so low that we really had to climb up from the canoe, and it was a bit of a trick to reach down and empty the canoe. That was the first portage where we didn't get our feet wet.

Day 4: Big Crow L. to Happy Isle L.
Canoe: 10k, Portage: 4330 metres (2)

We tried something different last night. We slept under the stars in our hammocks. The hammocks have been so comfortable during the afternoon snooze, that we thought they might work ok for sleeping. If you are going to try this, remember to dress warm. You have an open space under the hammock which tends to draw heat from you, no matter how good a sleeping bag you have. It is all compressed by your body weight. I would love to try a hammock-only trip some time.

We got going at 8:00 AM and got to our Happy Isle site just before noon. We have the huge site on the north side of the island. The site wraps around the front of the island, so if it is windy on one side, you can move to the other. Which was appreciated today, because it was very windy.

After we left the site on Big Crow, we headed through Little Crow Lake, then onto the Crow River. It was really interesting, because the rising sun caught all of the spider webs to our left. There were thousands! To our right they were invisible, but we knew they were there. The low water level made travel difficult along the river, and the portage to Redrock Lake had a really gross take out. We couldn't get close to shore due to the low water and had to step through about 30 feet of marshy bog to get to solid ground.

The sun was out most of the day, but it got very windy on Happy Isle Lake. We canoed straight into the waves and eventually worked our way into the lee of Happy Isle. We saw about a half dozen canoes passing the site during the afternoon, fighting the wind. The water is very clear and we went for a swim/bath this afternoon.

There was a full moon tonight, which I captured on film. Very nice, with the reflection on the water.

Day 5: Happy Isle L. (Rest Day)

We stayed put on Happy Isle. I fell out of my hammock last night, but was only 6 inches off the ground, so no harm done. I spent the rest of the night dreaming of ways to avoid falling out of the hammock.

We did some fishing this afternoon. Bernie caught a smallmouth Bass, which made for a very good supper. The fish kept flopping around in the canoe (no stringer). Bernie finally beat it with his paddle. Bernie battered the filets in biscuit mix. I fried them up, added a little salt and pepper. Every tasty!

It never got particularly warm today. There were not many people on the lake today either. Maybe we're not the only ones taking a rest day.

We saw the Delamater plaque on the south side of the island. It reminds you how nasty the weather can be, and how far you are from help.

Day 6: Happy Isle L to Burnt Island L.
Canoe: 14 km, Portage 2130 metres (2)

It was chilly all day. We started off under an overcast sky, fighting a stiff west wind. We had some tough portaging as well. Not long, just tough after a rest day.

We got to Burnt Island Lake just before noon, and took a site in the east half on the south shore. The site is full of giant hemlock with a girth of over 6 feet.

Bernie caught two smallmouth bass this afternoon. One of them was quite large, so we had a great fish fry again for supper. The seagulls have been having a field day trying to dive bomb the guts laying on the bottom of the lake.

We had to take an undocumented portage on the creek between Otterslide and Little Otterslide. The water levels are probably a foot lower than normal.

Day 7: Burnt Island L to MacIntosh L
Canoe: 15 km, Portage 3650 metres (4)

The day was interesting for a number of reasons. Who would have guessed that the whole summers rainfall would fall on this one afternoon? I'm exaggerating, but boy is it wet! We slept last night in the hammocks again, but that will be the last time I think.

We left our site on Burnt Island Lake just after 8:00 AM. It's a good thing we left when we did, because as we traveled, we saw large youth groups on both sides of us heading in the same direction. We counted 18 canoes and kayaks headed our way. We paddled hard, and got to the portage on the west side of Burnt Island about 5 minutes ahead of them all. We packed quickly and headed for Little Doe Lake. From there we went to Tom Thompson, and portaged 2.4 km to Ink Lake. This is without a doubt one of the worst portages I have every been on. The ground is uneven, the path meanders, and the portage was crowded with people headed the other way.

Ink Creek is very dark in colour, unique compared to most of the lakes in the park. A little farther on, Ink Creek was pretty low, and therefore a slow paddle to MacIntosh Lake. However, once there, we knew where we wanted to go and pointed the canoe straight across the lake to the north-east point. The wind was building, the lake had breakers on it, and the sky looked like it would open up any minute. We arrived at the site just minutes before the rain started, tired after a tough paddle against the wind. Then we realized we had forgotten to fill up our water jugs and headed out to quickly fill them up. We got the tent up, on a high spot, then the tarp, and got all of our gear protected just as the first drops of rain were hitting the trees. We even got a real big fire going, but eventually it died out too.

The noise of rain hitting the tarp all afternoon and evening gets a little monotonous, and it would be nice to stretch out on a hammock, but not today. Thank goodness for a good book!

Day 8: MacIntosh Lake to Rain Lake
Canoe: 15 km, Portage: 4660 metres (9)

We have decided to cut our trip short by one day due to the wet weather. Our original plan was to circle up to Little Trout Lake for the last night. However, we are ready to head home after the rain last night.

It rained all night, and only stopped around 5:00 AM. We packed the tent wet and had a big omelette breakfast before heading out shortly after 9:00 AM. While packing, I got stung on the ear by a bee. Nothing got wet inside the tent, so we are grateful for that. We actually slept good. Thank goodness for ear plugs.

It took about 5 hours to get to the eastern end of Rain Lake. We stopped for lunch on one of the backpack sites on the south side of the lake. It gave us a chance to take a bath in the lake (It's more like a river here, very narrow), and get in a big lunch before the trip home. On the trip out, we passed many waterlogged campers. We gave our tarp to one group who had everything on the clothes line, including sleeping bags! I can't imagine what it would be like to sleep wet. Good preparation makes for a much more enjoyable trip.

After we got back to the access point, we packed everything in the car, changed into clean clothes, and were just tying down the canoe when it started to pour again. Talk about good timing!

This was a great trip. The river travel was particularly enjoyable where it wasn't too low, we had great weather until the last day, great sight-seeing, and the scenery was fantastic. Not the most restful type of vacation, but well worth the effort.

Total: Canoe 111 km, Portage 25,865 meters.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Chrismar maps: 1:80,000 Algonquin 1 Algonquin 2
Special Comments: 

Challenging route, great scenery along the way. Fairly remote in several places.