Turtle River - Hwy. 622 to White Otter Lake and Return

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
80 km
5 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
3920 m
Longest Portage: 
600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Access is at the bridge on Hwy. 622. The bridge is unmarked, but is the first real bridge you come to heading south from Highway 17.
Proceed east (upstream) to twin falls island.
There are two portages here, island center, and on the right side, close to the small rapids. I prefer the center portage, about 150 meters. This is a well used camp site area.

Proceed south on river to north end of Pekagoning Lake.

East across north end of lake, then north on Turtle River to rapids by high cliffs.

There are numerous campsite locations along the river.

Portage 330 meters right, proceed north past two islands on east side of river.

Portage 600 meters east to Smirch Lake. This portage has some rugged sections on it, and I classify it as the hardest on this trip. In high water there will be about 50 meters of the trail under water from beaver activity.

Proceed south, southeast on Smirch Lake. There is an excellent campsite on the large island in the middle of the lake. Also a small one in the narrows at the end of the lake.

Proceed to Dibble Falls. There is an old log chute constructed here. You will notice by now that the water is becoming much clearer than at the beginning. This will continue till White Otter Lake, which is very clear. Portage is on the left, you will have two choices, up across the rocks at the edge of fast water, about 50 meters, or on the established trail further to the left, about 150 meters.

Proceed south to Dibble Lake, then east, northeast, then south to the end of lake.

Very nice campsite on the sand beaches on the east side of lake.

Portage 400 meters south to Un-named Lake. Very nice campsite to the right of portage end.

Proceed east to rapids, portage 530 meters left to White Otter Lake.

Proceed south, then east to White Otter Castle.

Just before rounding the southern tip of the arm of land on your left, there is an exceptional campsite on a beautiful sand beach. Just to the north of the castle are numerous lovely campsites among huge red and white pines. There are 2 alternate side trips to take on the return trip. #1.

Follow east shore of White Otter north to creek, portage to Nora Lake, portage to pothole lake, portage to Patricia Lake. This portage can be extremely muddy in wet weather, as the portage trail follows a snowmobile trail through a swamp.

The original portage trail bypasses this stretch, but is not always cleared of deadfalls. All these portages and lengths are shown on the White Otter Provincial Park map.

Proceed to the extreme west side of Patricia Lake. Note: the canoe route to Ignace exits on north shore of lake. This route now takes you off of the park map. Boats are usually by the portage on the west side.

Portage into Dimple Lake, about 500 meters. Beginning of trail is rather rough.

Proceed west, southwest across Dimple, past cabins at narrows, to northwest side of puddle. Clear, winding, fast flowing creek into Dibble Lake. Lots of fun, excellent swift water experience for novices to learn how to navigate narrow, winding waterways in swift water. Creek is navigable, except in very low water levels. Adds one extra day to return trip.

Alternate #2.
Follow Turtle River north out of Smirch Lake, instead of doing the 600 meter portage. This route takes you north into Bending Lake, then back south again to rejoin previous route.

This takes about an extra 6 hours and 9 sets of rapids and fast water. All the rapids are shootable with basic white water skills. The worst one (second one you come to) has a 50 meter portage on the right side. I would class this as a class two, non technical rapids. Straight through, no turns or ferry`s required. Gets rougher in high water. It is a good one for beginners and novices to run several times to build their confidence.

There is a really nice campsite on Bending Lake, on the north side of long sand point at the east side of treed section.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
52F/8 52G/4 52F/1
Other Maps: 
Turtle River Provincial Park map - excellent large scale, plasticized map showing portages and suggested campsites. Available from the Dryden Ministry of Natural Resources Office. Phone 807-223-3341
Special Comments: 

Our family takes a canoe trip just about every summer, and this is one of our favorites. We have done this trip 3 times, sometimes stretching it out to 12 or 13 days.

Walter Hochstetler


Post date: Sun, 11/27/2011 - 00:50


We are interested in making a trip to see the White Otter Castle. We would most likely be making the trip by car, what would be the best route from Beausejour Manitoba?

Thank you, Denise

Post date: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 16:27


Turtle River Provincial Park and White Otter Castle can also be accessed from Ignace, ON. The canoe/portage distance is the same as the 622 route within 500m or so. Ignace is the closest community to White Otter Lake and the Castle. There are a few more portages this way (15 one way) but many people prefer this route because it begins right in town on Agimak Lake. Also this route is the one traveled by James McQuat, the man who built the White Otter Castle, when he needed supplies.
If you wish to turn this into fishing/camping trip the lakes in Turtle river park are full of Lake Trout, Walleye, and Northern Pike. The best way to fish is by extending your canoe trip a few days and camping near the best fishing holes.
For those who wish to do a weekend only canoe trip to White Otter Lake the closest access is off Moosehide road into Devil's Gap Lake. Moosehide is a logging road that is just west of Ignace. This trip can be done easily in less than two days.

Post date: Sun, 05/23/2010 - 00:22


new email address - we enjoy answering questions about the route

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


I thought I’d just put down a few of my thoughts and comments on this trip, with a little option to remove some of the back-tracking on the loop.

I did a solo trip using a modified version of this loop in July 2005, and plan to do it again with company. Like the previous comment suggests, the 2005 water levels were high, and this made some aspects of the trip slightly easier while making the rapids into Bending Lake slightly more robust.

During my 6 day trip, I came across one group of Boy Scouts (4-5 canoes), and two sets of motorized boats (both on Pekagoning Lake on Day 1 and Day 6), so I found the traffic to be light given its ease of access. This area is used frequently by the Scouts, and sees its fair share of motorized use as well. You will come across numerous boat-caches, but if you can make the trip off the popular weekends, you could hope to see few people using them. Paddling with motorized boats is simply the trade-off that you make for a very easily accessed area where boats are not prohibited.

My suggestion to alter the route has the benefit of eliminating some of the back tracking, but also comes with cautions. The route is less traveled, and portages are less clear. Low water levels could also make for some hard travelling. Simply, the route uses Kenoshay to access the far west side of Dibble, rather than using the Turtle River and Smirch. This makes only the initial portions of the Turtle and the upper reaches of Dibble as re-paddled water.

I used the narrow (unnamed, at least to me) river that heads east into Kenoshay Lake off the Turtle. This will take you through several short portages (some over potentially ankle-twisting old boulder river beds) and a couple of small shallow ponds. At points the creek becomes just wide enough to fit a canoe and a paddle. While the high water levels during my trip allowed me to line the canoe up one point, drier conditions will make an extra portage necessary.

Heading south, then east through the L-shape of Kenoshay will take you to a short portage into the southwest end of Dibble Lake. There is an outpost cabin and a camping site on the north shore of Kenoshay not too far from the portage. The portage is easy to find, but traverses a bedrock knob, and starts off with only a little room to manoeuvre between the lake and bedrock wall. Once into Dibble, you can continue the route as well described by Walter.

Note: be sure to hunt for and enjoy the pictographs on the downstream side of the 330m portage by the high cliffs and on the south side of the large island on Smirch nearest (1 km) Dibble Falls.