Rock L. To Pen L

Submitter & Author Information
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Additional Route Information
20 km
1 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
375 m
Longest Portage: 
375 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Not applicable
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Starting on Access Point 9
Rock Lake to portage into Pen Lake.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Starting at Access Point 9, Rock Lake Campground into Pen Lake. This is either a good beginner route or a simple fulfilling route for more experienced trippers. The parking lot is plentiful with lots of spaces near the boat launch. If those spaces are full, there are plenty of spaces near the registration office, however I’ve never seen it full, even in the height of summer with all the day-trippers out and about. The single launch has plenty of dock space on either side to ease that unavoidable mid-summer-morning launch congestion. The river you launch into is the river which connects Whitefish L. to Rock L. When leaving, depart on the left side; the right side will bring you into Whitefish L. The departure point is a pleasant, short, meandering paddle lined with hanging bushes and trees that opens up to the lake quite soon. When you hit the open lake try to hug the right side because the portage you will eventually come upon is on that side. If you feel so inclined the left side of the lake has a nice cave that you can paddle into. Its on a large rock face that can been seen with the naked eye (but much more easily with a pair of binoculars) only a couple minutes into the open lake. It’s quite a nice piece of scenery but will add at least an hour to your trip, minimum. Without this detour, continuing to hug the right side of the lake there is only one other portage you will come upon; this will mark the halfway point. From here the lake takes on a different complexion, from a large open lake to a narrow and wonderful tree lined passage that leads directly into the portage. The portage on the Rock L. side can fit about three canoe parties easily. Anymore than that and there will be a slight wait but even that is all right because of the quaint small cliff and the rocky remnants of the rapids the portage navigates around. The portage length is 375m and can be walked from beginning to end in about 5 to 10 minutes depending the load you’re carrying. It starts with a short, narrow boardwalk that leads up to the most difficult part of the portage. It’s small hill that can be quite daunting when you have your canoe on your shoulders or when slightly wet. It can also leave you somewhat breathless up at the top. After that it’s a smooth trail with a few flat rock faces that become slippery when damp, otherwise it’s not difficult at all. However the end of trail that’s leads to the Pen L. side has a very short steep incline that you need to be careful on, even without a load on your shoulders. On the Pen L. side, the launch has room for about four canoes max, ready to get underway in the water and a small dock that makes it easy to replenish all the water you drank on Rock L. If you get to the canoe crossing late in the evening, there are two sites on either side of the portage that you can use to for the evening. One other point, this portage circumnavigates small rapids. There is a path closer to the Pen L. side, which leads to them. Depending on what time of year it is they can be charming to view or soak your feet in. Pen Lake is a finger lake that continues along the same fault as Rock L. and goes right on through to Clydegale L. and its narrow shape makes it very easy to navigate. On Pen L. there are lots of nice sites only a couple minutes off the launch; in an inlet on the left side is one and slightly south are two sites that also come up quickly once in the water. They are on the small peninsula that jets out from the right side of lake essentially forcing you to keep as far left as possible to get around it. An interesting feature also presents itself here. When keeping left you’ll see a small island that continues the landscape feature of the small peninsula. If you were to follow right of the island instead of left you will come upon an eerily straight line of boulders just under the surface of the water, which were deposited when the glaciers retreated thousands of years ago. If the water level is low enough they may be cresting the surface and can be easily visible otherwise proceed slowly - you’ll see them. It’s a quick lesson in how glaciers carved the lakes and it’s a nice detour that will only take you a couple of minutes to checkout and will allow you to get under way quickly. Most of the camp sites on this lake reside on the east side giving you some shade from the morning sun while allowing you to get the most daylight out of the setting sun. A couple campsites of interest on the lake, first the peninsula sites; they’re nice sites with a really good view of the entire lake. The big flat rocks make it easy to get the canoes up and out of the water and it’s proximity to the portage makes it an easy camp-for-the-night site in case it’s getting late. Moving half way down the lake is an absolutely great red sandy beach site. If you like swimming this site is fantastic. The beach’s very gradual entry into the water is great if you have kids and they like to splash around or make sand castles. Although the only beach site on the lake, most of the sites in and around this site are also awfully nice too. An easy trip that will have first timers wanting to come back year after year and an easy “fix” for experienced trekkers looking to get a quick Algonquin trip in. I’ve done this route more than half a dozen times, and once you arrive on Pen L the traffic is very light especially if you get sites closer to the south side of the lake. Generally the trip on Rock L. will take about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the wind. The portage can easily be done in 30 minutes or less if your party is a pair and you kept your luxuries to minimum. Pen L. can also be done in an hour or less considering that most of the sites center around the middle of the lake.

Special Comments: 

Easy route, no surprises.


Post date: Fri, 01/11/2008 - 21:26


Pen Lake is a great spot for a spring trout fishing trip. There are both Lake and Brook trout to catch, which we regularly do. ;-) Being only one short portage in from the access on Rock Lake, it also works well for a base camp trip, with day trips to Clydegale, Welcome (and depending on the day Harry and Rence), Gem, and Night lakes. For another trip report take a look at:

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00


I did this route with two children aged 7 and 9. It's a perfect introductory canoe trip if you want a portage and a "backcountry" campsite, away from the Algonquin corridor campgrounds that come complete with electricity and rock and roll music!

You can leave mid-morning on a Saturday, easily get to one of the many campsites on Pen Lake by early afternoon, spend a relaxing afternoon swimming, leave again early Sunday morning, and be back at the car park by noon. Or you can take 2-4 days and explore further, with a base on Pen Lake.

Michael Watson