Words and Photos by Shawn James
Algonquin Provincial Park straddles the transition zone between the northern boreal forest and the southern deciduous forest, making for a unique and diversified landscape. It’s home to over 750 miles of rivers and more than 1,500 lakes spread out across 2,955 square miles of the Canadian Shield. Seeing every water body in the park would take a lifetime. If you don’t have a lifetime to spend in the park, consider visiting these lakes first.
While the lakes are worthy destinations on their own, the journey to them can be the highlight of the trip. Here are my five favorite places to paddle in the region.
Look at any map of Algonquin Provincial Park and you can’t help but notice the huge lake located in the south-central section of the park. It is easily accessed by car and motorboats are allowed, so it has the potential to be busy and less serene than the interior lakes. What it lacks in remoteness, however, it more than makes up for in beauty and variety. Opeongo is so vast that it is possible to find a private spot, especially outside of the weekends or any time during the spring and fall. There are over 100 campsites to choose from and they include some of the best in the park.
Whiskey Jack Lake
Whiskey Jack Lake is one of the jewels of Algonquin Provincial Park. Located far in the interior, it is at least 11 hours of paddling from the nearest access point: Cedar Lake. It’s what’s known as a green headwater lake, a spring-fed body of water that is clear and green-tinged (compared to the tannin-stained lakes found at lower elevations in the area). The landscape is stunning, and the five available campsites are beautiful.
From Red Pine Bay at the south end to the Portal Rapids at the northern outflow, Burntroot Lake is very scenic – the varied shoreline, deep bays and large islands all contribute to its rugged good looks. It is also historically interesting – evidence of homesteading, farming and logging can be found throughout the area. The 25 campsites on Burntroot Lake are above average, even by Algonquin Park standards. Eleven of them are located on islands–perfect sites from which to watch a sunset or cast a line for trout.
Lake Louisa is a gorgeous lake found in the southern section of Algonquin. Its bountiful population of small lake trout is a major draw for anglers and fish biologists, but the scenery alone is worth making the somewhat arduous trip from nearby Rock Lake. Many of the campsites are located on high, rocky points and offer expansive views of the lake in all directions.
Rosebary Lake is a magical place in late September and early October when the surrounding deciduous forest erupts in spectacular fall color. The weather is often stable and the average temperatures are comfortable, yet experienced paddlers may find they have the lake to themselves this late in the season. The trip down the Tim River to Rosebary often rewards paddlers with a close encounter with moose, which are extremely active during breeding season at this time of year.
— Shawn James runs MySelfReliance.com
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