Willisville-Three Narrows loop

CanadaOntarioGeorgian Bay coast
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Additional Route Information
75 km
7 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
7000 m
Longest Portage: 
1200 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Charlton - Three Narrows - Iroquois Bay - Whitefish falls loop

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

August 2004 - average water levels, beginner/experienced paddlers, one canoe, two-pass portaging, 7 days, estimated distance 75 km. Note that water level on the Bay has been about 1-2 metres lower in recent years.

This route turned out to be surprisingly undocumented for one I thought would be more popular. As a result, I thought I'd write it up here.

The idea was to make a little loop somewhat less ambitious than the "Big Loop", plus to visit the crown land areas bordering the park on the west.

Campsite reservations were easily obtained about 5 weeks in advance of the trip for this route on the backside of Killarney. Ferry cost from Tobermory to reach the highway 6 access is $52.25 one way for two adults and one canoe on a car. The Widgawa lodge access is very pleasant with a shaded grassy area for unloading the car and organizing gear, plus free parking including any extra nights spent camping on crown land rather than in the park, plus they're open late (11 pm I think) for picking up your permits. They also had quite a few brand new Scott and Souris River canoes on hand which are likely available for rent.

We camped on crown land in Charlton lake and Iroquois bay. There are a few cottages and plenty of crown land, but we hardly saw any regularly used campsites; be prepared to set a bush camp if you are stopping on either of those two bodies of water.

The north edge of Killarney in the Hanwood, Van Winkle and Cat lakes area is open to motorized access for customers of lodges on Bear Lake and Lang Lake. They have several boats cached on the portages and their customers pack in a motor and fuel. These hard-charging sport fishermen can get themselves three lakes deep in the park in this fashion, hopping from cache to cache. Never mind that the beat-up scows look like hell piled up on the shore willy-nilly and chained to the nearest tree. At least the boats have not been dumped right on top of the canoe put-in/take-out as they often are in Temagami. I asked one intrepid angler whether anyone would bother fishing here if they had to haul their own boat with them, but he didn't get the question.

The creek between Fish and Gem lakes is easy paddling in deep water with about 4 beaver dams to cross. The portage across the LaCloche range out of Little Mountain lake is a relatively flat and easy carry. The little pond between the P900 and P1200 is shrinking fast and a bit of a hassle lauching in deep soft mud. Kirk creek is deep with several beaver dams providing good flotation yet easy liftovers. There are no serious obstacles in here, indeed we saw numerous signs of recent trail maintenance throughout our route.

The three narrows shortcut portage appears now to be unmaintained however, and is more like 1200 metres with extensions at either end of the marked portage on the (1990) map. In particular the west end is an odious place, where a loosely tied boot or even a small human could disappear into deep mud.

Kirk Creek downstream of the dam is a bit rugged with a half dozen liftovers and portages. It is a lot of loading and unloading in a short distance. Finally reaching the bay, you see the effect of lower water levels with an additional portage not shown on my 1990 park map, and it is all reeds and marshes here.

McGregor bay is an interesting maze of islands and inlets, which is not altogether overrun with motor traffic. Ole Evinrude staked a claim in this area years ago, so I can't complain about the powerboats too much I suppose. One nice variant in the parade of fishing rigs and houseboats sporting four-stroke VTEC engines was the tiny yachting dinghys and zodes putt-putting along barely faster than the canoe.

The passage from Iroquois bay to Storehouse bay is easy enough. The route follows a long narrow bay with two arms at the west end that looks like >-- on the map. To enter the bay from the east, there are two short liftovers. At the fork of the "Y", find a P200 going south into another section of Storehouse Bay.

To make the crossing from Storehouse to Bay of Islands, paddle around to the west towards the highway, and take a very small inlet to the south directly in front of the cottages. If any cottagers see you here, they'll assume you're lost or sorely misguided; they are not aware that there is through passage here for water craft, since all small water craft are essentially equivalent to aluminum skiffs with outboards in their view. Here make a liftover, paddle a small pond, portage the highway, paddle a small pond, portage the abandoned rail bed and you are in Bay of Islands, at the fourth inlet south of
Whitefish falls.

Be aware that some of the land between Iroquois bay and the highway belongs to the Whitefish River first nation. They request that canoe parties obtain prior permission from the band office to cross these

The passage around Whitefish falls, the bridges and the dam is accomplished with a single carry of about 1km. At the base of the falls, find a landing on the west shore, carry up the earth bank towards a shaded cottages/resort area, avoiding the rocky area along the cataract. Follow the road out of the resort to Highway 6, jog north 10 metres, take the dirt road 100 metres down to the railbed, turn north on the railbed some 400 metres, until you see the Frood lake on your right. (If travelling south, reverse these directions.)

A short paddle through Willisville then completes the loop. Oddly, we saw very few canoeists during our seven day trip which included the August long weekend, a total of just eight parties. Somehow I expected the place to be a little busier, given the stories one hears about how hard it is to get into Killarney during the summer.

Thanks to mrcanoe for providing me with a detailed description of the passage through Storehouse bay and Whitefish falls. I have taken the liberty of summarizing it here for purposes of this route description, because this route is a good one that is well worth doing. I got little help from the park; when I called, staff refused to comment on any part of the route outside park boundaries, professing to have no knowledge of such areas whatsoever. If you need more information, I
hope you have better luck with them than I did.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Killarney Provincial Park map published by Friends of Killarney


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


I did a similar loop but i think much more apealing ( no offence to above canoist)

charlton to grace(night one)

Grace, nelly, murray, howery(night 2)

Gem, Fish, GML(night 3)

LML, 3 narrows(night 4)

kirk creek, east channal(night 4)

Low, Helan, Nelly(night 5)

murry, howery creek, charlton lake(night 6)

the water clarity on GML, LML, nelly, hellan/low, grace are breath taking. also water in the north channal was absolutly filthy with visible sediments and almost microscopic bugs that were so plentifull that the water actually looked yellow.

Grace lake is famous for a painting bye charmicheal one of the group of 7(google it) howery creek on both the west and worse on the east is very low at least in august when i did it. saw painted turtles, snappers, 2 moose, loons, fox, snake many beaver dams, and fresh bear scatt.

measured it to be something like 88 kilometers total canoe distance, some of the portages are brutal especially between nelly and grace. uhg!

all in all the best trip of my life so far.