Smoke to Lake of Two Rivers

Submitter & Author Information
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Additional Route Information
40 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
3865 m
Longest Portage: 
1030 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at Access Point 6, on Smoke Lake.
Paddle South down Smoke Lake to Ragged, then on to Big Porcupine.
The 240m and 590m portages to get to Big Porcupine are steep uphill climbs.
Paddle South through Big Porcupine to Bonnechere Lake (you can shorten your paddling time by taking the 400m portage over the spit of land in Big Porcupine. The portage is a nice, level, path, and it can be faster to walk it than to paddle around it).
Portage 200m onto Bonnechere.
Stay the first night on Bonnechere Lake.
Paddle through Phipps, Kirkwood, Pardee, and Harness Lakes to get to Head Lake.
There will be 5 portages along the way: 175m, 60m, 720m, 140m, and 1030m.
Stay the second night on Head Lake.
Head down Head Creek onto the Madawaska River, and on to Lake of Two Rivers.
There will be 6 portages along the way: 250m, 150m, 120m, 190m, 50m, and a 10m not marked on the map.
Exit at Lake of Two Rivers.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

We did this route over the first weekend in May, 2003. Our crew consisted of Jeff Ballak, Jon Belcher, Pam Kertland, Quinn Schneider, Arthur Tateishi, and Gord Tobias.
Since the lake ice had only thawed one week earlier, water levels were nice and high. The water was freezing cold, but Pam still went for a swim! We saw some mosquitos at dusk, but not many, and they were not generally in 'biting mode' yet. Arthur probably got the only bites on the trip, because he's one of those people that the bugs just love.

After getting our canoes from the Portage store, and shuttling 2 cars over to the exit point, we were on the water by 11am.
It took us 5 hours on the first day, to get to our campsite on Bonnechere, near the Phipps Lake portage. The campsite we stayed at was not marked on the 'Corridor South' map, but does show on the friends of Algonquin map. It's a nice site with a fabulous fire pit for cooking.
We spent some extra time on Big Porcupine, paddling around the whole lake instead of doing the 400m portage. We talked to some other paddlers who had tried following the creek from the West end of Porcupine into Murray Lake, but had given up, considering it impassable.

On the second day, it took us between 4 and 5 hours of paddling to get to our Head Lake campsite. But we were slowed down somewhat when Jeff's paddle broke in 2 on Phipps Lake, and we realized that we did not have a spare. Figures! The first trip in ages that we don't have an extra paddle, and also the first time we needed one!
As we relaxed on our Head Lake campsite, Quinn managed to repair the broken paddle with duct tape (of course!) and some tightly wound nylon cord. And that repair lasted through the trip!

On the third day, the paddle down Head Creek and the Madawaska River was much quicker than we expected. The creek and river are fairly wide, and had good water depth throughout. There were a few beaver dam liftovers, but nothing compared to the nightmare that was Cauliflower Creek (our Oct 2002 trip). The current was negligible, and there were no swifts or rapids to contend with.
When we got to Lake of Two Rivers, we had to paddle to the Eastern Beach to get to our cars, because the campground was not open for the season yet.
We had to contend with a strong Easterly wind crossing the lake, with whitecaps occasionally forming in the center. We stuck to the shore, and getting across was the only really challenging bit of paddling on the whole trip.
All in all, it took us only 3.5 hours to get to our cars, and off the water. Shuttling the canoes back to the Portage store took a while, but we were still able to get back to Toronto in time for Jon to get to his beach volleyball game (yet he didn't go... something to do with the torrential rains hitting Toronto).

Would we do this route again? Definitely. It's a nice 3 day route.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
The Adventure Map (by Chrismar), Algonquin #3, Corridor South map covers the route well. But it does not show the campsite on Bonnechere that we stayed at. The Friends of Algonquin map does show the campsite. Neither map shows the 10m portage on the Madawaska River, just about Lake of 2 Rivers.
Special Comments: 

The first 2 portages are the only ones with difficult elevation changes, the rest are either level or generally downhill. All portages have reasonable landings (in high water, anyhow), and are decent walking paths. The 200m portage into Bonnechere is mostly pretty good and level, but the last 10 metres is a steep rock shelf leading down to the lake.

Smoke Lake is the largest lake on this route, and it can be quite windy on some days. The rest of the lakes are small enough to be manageable, even on windy days.

We've previously done a similar route to this one: First 2 days are the same route from Smoke to Head Lakes, but the third day involves doing the 1640m portage into Cache Lake, and exiting from there. I think we preferred the river run down to Lake of 2 Rivers.