There’s an old saying that I just made up: The route to Canisbay is paved with long portages. Also, nice lakes. And one highway crossing. As far as sayings go, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but it’s pretty accurate.
As both the title of this post, and the preceding paragrah suggest, this trip was a day trip from Canoe Lake over to Canisbay Lake. Once again I was joined by my lovely wife who was thrilled about the idea of an eastern trip but not as thrilled about the 5:15 wake up call. But, I reminded her of another old saying of mine: the early bird gets out on the water before it gets too hot out and maybe the bugs won’t be that bad. My old sayings need some work.
We left Canoe Lake just after sunrise, crossing at access point 5 (home to the Canoe Lake permit office and the Portage Store) over to Smoke Lake. The portage between Canoe and Smoke must be the flattest and most road-like portage in the Park. Mostly because it’s a flat road. Smoke Lake is a surprisingly long lake to paddle, and can be really tough in a headwind. Fortunately the water was like glass and we were only going a third of the way down the lake to a small bay (Deer Bay on the Jeff’s Map) where the 1390 m portage into Ouse Lake begins.
The portage between Smoke and Ouse is long, but relatively easy. There’s some up and down, but not much, and the path is pretty clear. The only hazard would be the crossing at Highway 60, where my wife made me stand in the middle of the road with the canoe on my shouldes while she took pictures and waited for a transport truck to come by.
Ouse Lake itself is little more than a paddle dip between Smoke and Source Lake. Source Lake, on the other hand, is a good sized lake with a very peaceful feel to it. We paddled past Camp Pathfinder as they were ringing their breakfast bell, which I soon learned wasn’t an invitation for anyone in earshot to come get breakfast. Something about it being for staff and campers only and please don’t come back. Whatever, Pathfinder. (In all seriousness, it looks like a really nice camp and I know a couple of people who went there and loved it. Apparently the breakfasts are top notch. I wouldn’t know).
The loop from Source to Canisbay passes through a number of smallish lakes with good sized portages between them. The first few lakes (Bruce, Raven and Owl) are pretty uniformly what I would consider standard Algonquin lakes. Clearish water, fairly dense shoreline and nice enough campsites. None of them has more than 3 campsites on them, so each offers a nice degree of privacy without having to go too far from Highway 60, if that’s what you’re looking for. Bruce Lake, the first after Source, has only one site on it; so if you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to have an entire lake to yourself, Bruce is the one for you. Or you could rent out every site on Tom Thomson, but that would get expensive.
If I were on a longer trip, I think Linda Lake is the one I would want to camp on. It’s the largest of the lakes between Source and Canisbay and has a couple of nice sites on it, along with some beautiful scenery. I must not be the only person who likes Linda Lake, because judging by how well hidden the portage from Owl Lake into Linda is, someone out there definitely wants to keep it a secret. Speaking of portages, on the map the portages along this loop can look pretty daunting. There’s one 2.6 km carry, two more that are over 1 km and a couple others that are just under 1 km. Despite the distance, these are all relatively easy portages. There isn’t much up and down, the paths are well maintained and we ran into exactly zero spear pits or swinging log traps, so pretty much ideal conditions.
The last lake before Canisbay is Polly Lake. This was, I think, the prettiest of the lakes we saw on this route. This is mostly due to a picturesque little island with two large pine trees just past the portage. You can tell it’s picturesque because I took a picture of it. It is also the only lake on this route where I was able to get a cell signal, so maybe one of those pine trees is actually a cell tower in disguise. If so, bravo cell tower camouflagers.
The final stop on this particular trip was Canisbay Lake. The portage between Polly and Canisbay is 2.6 km, but fortunately it’s relatively flat and very well maintained. The animals seem to think so as well, judging by the mother moose and her two calves who walked out of the bush about ten feet in front of my wife. Now, I like moose. I’m team Bullwinkle all the way. But I prefer to see my moose from across fifty feet of water (or in cartoon form on my TV), not standing close enough that you can smell his breath like some drunk guy close talking you after he’s eaten a wheelbarrowful of garlic cloves. Being close to a moose, particularly one with offspring to protect, seems like an invitation to a flattening. (As an aside: To anyone who’s ever thought of stopping on Highway 60 to try and get a selfie with a roadside moose: don’t. This is a bad idea. Like, profess your love to the homecoming queen on Prom Night in front of her large and angry quarterback boyfriend level bad idea. Moose are bigger, stronger and faster than you and half of them have multi-pronged coat racks attached to their heads specifically designed to fight off threats. Of which you are one). Fortunately, the moose decided we weren’t a threat, or edible, and trundled off into the woods, taking the calves with it. Strangely enough, this was not the first, or the last, time we saw this particular family. We’d seen them beside Highway 60 as we were driving in the night before, and saw them again later that day, back beside Highway 60. We did not stop for a selfie.
We ended the trip paddling the length of Canisbay. Canisbay is a nice enough lake but I imagine it gets pretty crowded between the drive in campground and the multiple paddle in sites around the lake. We pulled up on the Canisbay campground beach thinking that was the access point where we’d be meeting my wife’s parents and the kids for a picnic. It turns out that it was not the access point. It was, however, a place where a bear had just wandered through someone’s campsite. We decided to take off for other, more bear-free, parts of the lake and ended up at the actual access point where we met up with the kids/in-laws and a full bag of Mrs. Vickie’s chips. Which were just super.
All in all, it was another great day on the water (I’m just going to save that line somewhere and paste it to the bottom of every post). We only passed one other trip on the loop between Source and Canisbay, and I think they were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. I have no idea how it gets later on in the summer, but I’m betting the long portages (especially betwen Canisbay and Polly) keep the traffic along that route low. If you’re looking for a moderately challenging trip without having to go too far from Highway 60, this loop would be a great place to start.
31 down, 69 to go.
Canoe Lake to Canisbay Lake
New Lakes Paddled: 9
Total Lakes Paddled: 9
Total Portages: 8
Total Distance Portaged: 8.835 km
Total Distance Covered: 24.1 km