Smoke-Big Porcupine-Louisa-Rock Canoe Trip

A trip worth the All The effort


This middle Algonquin canoe trip begins at Smoke Lake and ends at Rock Lake. It has 9 portages and paddles through 10 lakes. This was the last trip I took in the month of July. Even though the weather is outstanding at this time of year, it is, as you would expect, also very busy. Needless to say, many campsites were full and the portage traffic was heavy at times. There seemed to be a lot of organized groups with guides and youth groups like scouts, etc.

We dropped off a vehicle at Rock Lake Access point

and camped in the car camping campground at Tea Lake. The next morning we headed out on Smoke Lake under cloudy skies, yet we were early enough to avoid the infamous Smoke Lake winds. We took the 240 metre portage from Smoke to Ragged Lake and picked a nice island campsite on Archer Bay. Ragged Lake is a nice lake full of islands and bays. We spent the early evening catching a few smallmouth bass. 

The next day we traveled south to the 590 metre portage that takes us to Big Porcupine Lake. Although it was  steep climb, the park has made it a little easier by constructing steps. The steps also aid in controlling the erosion of the trail. For our next campsite, we picked an island site on the southern part of Big Porcupine.  

That afternoon we observed something rather disturbing. Nature can be cruel. We were watching a cute baby loon following close behind it’s mother. There was another pair of loons some distance away, coming towards  the mother and baby.

As the other two loon approached, they dove under the water and disappeared for a moment. Then suddenly, from underneath the baby loon, one of the loons hit the young bird. It looked similar to a huge largemouth bass hitting a floating bait. A few more strikes and the baby loon was gone. Then, even more of a surprise, the mother loon and the two others went away together, leaving a badly wounded baby loon, floating on the surface. We helped the little loon to the shoreline of an island, but it died shortly after. I can only guess, but it looked like the other loons had decided that the capacity of the loon population on Big Porcupine had already met it’s maximum.

We continued our adventure the next morning, heading to Bonnechere Lake via the 200 metre portage followed by a 175 metre portage to Phipps Lake. The end of the portage at Phipps was extremely muddy. Unfortunately, we found this out when my son, who was at the front of the canoe we were carrying, stepped into the mud and sunk nearly to his waist. I was, thankfully, holding up the back of the canoe, on solid ground. After he scrapped of the mud and picked of the leeches, we continued on our way to Kirkwood Lake.

Kirkwood Lake has two campsites, and we were scampering to get the desired site before the large group that had been competing with us at each portage. Our perseverance paid off and we ventured ahead and quickly grabbed the island site. It was s nicely nested on top of a hill., was high above the water, with a great view of the lake in all directions. We were further rewarded with a lovely sunset.

Our adventure then took us to Lawrence Lake by a 715 metre portage. The next portage, from Lawrence to Rod and Gun is known as the Devil’s Staircase. Although only 415 metres in length, the first 100 meters is extremely steep and travels over huge rocks and boulders. It’s very difficult going up; I’m glad we didn’t have to come the other way as, I’m sure it would be worse portaging a canoe down the hill.

The last portage of the day was a 510 metre trail into Lake Louisa. Lake Louisa was even more beautiful than I imagined. It was very scenic with small islands, rock outcrops and peninsulas and away from the crowds. We choose a campsite on the south side on a rocky peninsula about halfway down the lake. The site was spacious, with a magnificent view. We were, however, a little disappointed with the mess left by some of the careless campers. The outskirt of the campsite was littered with toilet paper, the shoreline had garbage and food scraps. There was even a small box of detergent in the shoreline and soap suds all around.

Not long after we arrived, we heard a motorboat on the water. It was a park ranger with a maintenance staff and they pulled in to talk to us. They were going around maintaining the portages and campsites. We told them about the mess and they did a full clean up of the site. We spent the rest of the day swimming, relaxing and preparing for the evening.

The next day, we woke up to a beauty misty morning. Later that day, we decided to relocate to a different site on the lake.  Knowing that we would be tackling the 2895 metre portage in the morning, we opted to grab a sight closer to the start of the portage. We found a nice site with a beach at the east end of the lake. We swam, snorkeled and fished. We discussed the big portage between Louisa and Rock and decided to try to do it in one trip. We MacGyvered up a way to tie the packs and tents inside the canoes. It was heavy and difficult to put up and down, but at least it would be a one way trip.

The next morning, we headed out to the portage. We arrived just when a huge group showed up. We did the portage among about fifty or more teenagers from some kind of youth organization. They were all singing and laughing and having a really great time

With great difficulty and pain, we did do the portage in one trip. In hindsight, when I do this trip again, I will be doing it in two trips. It’s a long portage, but it’s not a difficult one.

Rock Lake is a well known lake in Algonquin. We paddled by the famous rock cliffs and proceeded to our take out at the Rock Lake Access.

The highlights of this trip was the scenic beauty of Lake Louisa and the gorgeous weather we had through out the trip.