Revised Oak Lake Canoe Loop

CanadaOntarioNorthwest
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
John Schroder
Trip Date : 
June 6 to 20
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
180 km
Duration: 
13 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
16
Longest Portage: 
1500 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Low
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

I used Wine Lake Camp landing (you will need to let them know) at Perrualt Falls

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Initially, in 2011, I completed the Oak Lake Loop route mid June; thirteen days in total - Running solo (plus dog) I planned for 3-4 weeks.
 
The area is semi-remote with some sticky situations.  I would not suggest this trip as a leisure paddle.
 
Yes, you will be portaging and note that take-outs at rapids that are marked are very close to the actual rapid (1-5 meters in some places).

From my white-water kayaking days, rapids along the English (for this trip) are not small (when I went) and run from a Class II (in areas of overall rapid) to Class VI. The English River is a large volume river, hence the power dams. Would not suggest this route for a novice. If you go, you should know your strokes, be fit, be  a strong paddler and do research before you go. Once you get on the English River, due to current, you are pretty much committed to complete the trip or bail out at a fly-in lodge or continue to follow the English to Minaki.
 
Portages or creeks as marked on the maps are a tad out- of-date/over run.  GPS was no better.   There are lots of beaver dams and you  need to search for some of the portage take outs.

In Zizania Creek I dragged through shallows and think I pulled my canoe over 8-9 beaver dams and at the time noted more on the way. Zizania also has 3-4 drops (small waterfalls and swifts).  For  a couple of them, you can lift your gear over,  but the other two are going to test your endurance amongst a few other things and yes, forget looking for a portage. Also, I went at a time of high water.  I would sure hate to see Zizania in the middle of July or August...you will make the fan list for anyone loving Rambo images for sure! - Be sure to fill up with water before going into Zizania - I was boiling water in my canoe while paddling -- let’s just say it’s a little murky due to dams.
 
You will need to go all the way up to Zizania Lake. Yes, looks like you could do a shortcut but.....not going to happen - tried that.
 
Lots of moose (8), bear(2), eagles (lots) and things that sound big and circle the tent at night.
 
Fishing was really awesome to say the least.
 
Bugs did not seem bad (at this time of year), used a spray a few times.- End of June might be another story.
 
Once off Wabaskang, (some lodges around the Manitou Generating Station/power dam), you are pretty much on your own. Oak lake had a few fisherman, there is a fly-in lodge on this lake as with Anishinabi.  In 2015 I stayed at Wine Lake Camp (on Wine Lake).
 
If you have a dog, the ticks will freak you out (I freaked and I consider myself reasonably tuff). Some (deer ticks) are as big as grapes (when engorged with blood) and love to park and fill up in the ear canal of your dog. - Does not matter how mean or tuff your dog is/looks, they will come.
 
Potential camp sites are not plenty along the creeks/smaller rivers. I had great places to camp on English (island just before power dam) Anishinabi, Oak and Wine Lakes.  I think most of the lakes had good spots - - you might just have to look for them.
 
Some lakes are big and some places wide. I was very fortunate re weather having one wind-bound day on Wabaskang.  Looking back if I had the east wind I had on Wabaskang while on Oak or Anishinabi or a west wind on Wegg I would be going no-where for a while, so be prepared.

Overall, looking back I am very glad I did the trip and was truly blessed many times over. I really had the chance to witness many of the blessings; the trip was great for fitness/endurance, beauty and spiritual development/commitment/gratitude.

In 2015 I came back to figure out the portages between Zizania Lake and Anishinabi (I did some crazy portaging in 2011) only this time I came in from Anishinabi and paddled to the far north west side portage west over to no name lake to Zizania creek, now going north up to Zizania Lake- - needless to say, I wish I was much more patient when I did this loop in 2011. Also, on this round, I spent 4 nights at Wine Lake Camp. My partner flew in to meet up with me at the end of my trip. Strongly recommend stopping in here if you can; Wine Lake Camp was a great finish to the trip, it was clean, well kept, owners professional and friendly (!) with excellent accommodations and hot showers!

After the 4 days at WLC we padded out (10 hours with good weather) to Hwy 105 (Perrault Falls). I used Wine Lake Camp’s landing for my car. Looks like  (not 100% sure but they seemed very hospitable) the owners of Wine Lake Camp would shuttle you out (by boat) if you had bad weather - - frankly, after 10-14 days on the loop solo I might even consider booking it before you do your trip!!
 
Recommend a Grumman so you will not cry when dragging....solo you will drag, trust me.

All the best!

J.