Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Discover the entry points north of Quetico for an unforgettable paddle

Today’s post comes from Carter Morash.who has worked as a rural area warden in Quetico Provincial Park since 2015.

The north end of Quetico is a beautiful place.

There are calm lakes, great fishing spots, wildlife viewing opportunities and a variety of routes to try.

Did you know that there is also less paddling at the north end than at the south end of the park? That makes it a great area of ​​the park to explore in the fall!

Many of the U.S. Quetico paddlers use the Canada Border Service Agency’s (CBSA) Remote Area Border Crossing Program to begin their canoe trips at our Prairie Portage and Cache Bay entry stations along of the border between Minnesota and Ontario.

If you want to try something new, here’s a guide to the northern end of Quetico.

Choose your entry point, choose your adventure

All north end entry points are accessible from Highway 11, which runs along the northern boundary of the park.

When making a reservation, there are six entry points along the north end of the park to choose from.

You can pick up your permits at three different ranger stations: Dawson Trail Campground/French Lake, Atikokan/Quetico Park Headquarters, and Beaverhouse.

A map of the northern end of Quetico.

Whether you’re looking for a three-night base camp on big sandy beaches or a 10+ day adventure through waist-deep mud and beaver-dam-filled creeks, accessing the park from the northern entry points offers it all. type of paddling experience.

Interested in historical use? Come see remains of past logging, pictographs and routes used by both indigenous people and travelers.

Sandy beaches? Check.

A lot of nice campsites? We’ve got them.


Fishing? Enjoy the best small bass fishing in the park.

Both Pickerel Lake and Quetico Lake are very similar to Basswood Lake to the south.

Tall Trees and History: Dawson Trail Campground Entry Point

The Dawson Trail Campground is located in the northeast corner of the park and is located on French Lake.

It is the easiest way to access Pickerel Lake.

It usually takes less than two hours to paddle the meandering Pickerel River before reaching “The Pines”: a large sandy beach with campsites among a forest of Red Pine.

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Starting or ending a trip from Dawson Trail Campground also has the benefit of in-park showers and the opportunity to explore our Visitor Center, which features exhibits on wildlife, wildfire research, and park history.

Mud and Moose: Baptism Creek Entry Point

For those interested in more adventurous areas, Cache Lake (Baptism Creek entry point) is a hidden gem that offers challenging paddling excursions.

It’s probably the most secluded spot in the entire park, and with good reason.

A moose standing at the water's edge in a wooded area with tall grass.

The only access to this wonderful trout lake comes from a 3 km (2 mi) portage from Pants Lake or a 3.5 km (2.2 mi) portage from Lake Mackenzie.

Insects can be ferocious and can sometimes outnumber you thousands to one!

The hauls: long, muddy and wet (including a stream for fording). But if you want to see moose, this is the place to go.


I’ve personally been to Cache five times and only saw other people once. But I’ve never seen less than four elk paddling down the Cache River!

A more relaxing route: start in Beaverhouse

Breathtaking Views – Cirrus Lake and Quetico Lake Entry Point

person transporting canoe

While mistakes may exist everywhere, exhausting transports certainly do not.

For those interested in quieter paddling trips that focus on sightseeing and fishing, and include some quiet days, the north end of Quetico has those too.

Starting at Beaverhouse and paddling east (either an entry point to Cirrus Lake or Quetico Lake) is one of the easiest ways to cross the north end.

I always try to plan my own trips from west to east when possible because Quetico’s predominant winds come from the west.

Relaxing Paddling: Beaverhouse to Lake Nym Route

Beaverhouse Lake to Nym Lake is a medium-length trip, with fairly short and easy portages.

Cedar Portage is the most difficult of the trip. It is only 600m long, but can be muddy on both sides when there is little water.

The route is approximately 60 km long and takes you through one of the best Walleye lakes in the park: Jesse Lake.

A trip like this could be done in as little as three days for the most ambitious people, but 5 or 6 days would be more reasonable and relaxing.

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Amazing Fishing: Rawn Narrows and Russell Lake

Some other great places to fish for walleye include Rawn Narrows and Russell Lake. The narrows will take you to shallow weed beds where you should always have a rope dragging the water. It is not uncommon to hear of fish caught simply by paddling with the line sliding across the surface behind you.

Remember to pinch those barbs, though, as Ontario fishing regulations only allow barbless artificial lures in Quetico.

On the way to Lake Russell, the key fishing spot is both above and below Chatterton Falls. Get to fish while you have a beautiful view? Sign me up.

Waterfalls galore: Poet’s Chain, Keats and Shelley Lake

If you want to do more sightseeing than fishing, continue along Poet’s Chain to Keats and Shelley Lake.

Not only will you be able to see more waterfalls (Split Rock Falls, Have-a-Smoke, and Snake Falls), but you will also be able to pass through part of the 2023 season burn area without having to camp there.

My favorite carry: Have-a-Smoke

Personally, the Have-a-Smoke shuttle is my favorite area of ​​the park.

I have seen wolves there while stopping for lunch, the falls are beautiful and there is a great swimming spot at the bottom of the falls.

A person sitting in the back of a filled canoe, wearing a PFD and paddling on a lake.

Keep an eye out for oak trees along the trail. These trees show the history of both the indigenous people and the travelers who carried acorns for food.

It’s time to try a northern route!

I have already been to almost all the lakes in the park; I love experiencing new places and areas I haven’t seen!

In my opinion, don’t keep taking the same trip you’ve taken every year since you were a kid. Mingle!

sunset landscape

Go explore some of the other wonderful places Quetico has to offer.

So if you’re considering a quick, remote border paddling adventure, why not broaden your horizons and drive north to paddle Quetico this fall?

The sun sets in a light pink and purple sky behind a blue lake and dark beach.

Trip planning

To help you select your northern paddling route, visit our transportation maintenance map or contact the parks trip planning line at (807) 597-2735.

To reserve, visit the reservation website and select “Backcountry” and “Quetico.”

The north end of Quetico (Dawson Trail Campground) is accessible via Highways 61 and 11 from the Pigeon River Border Crossing (194 km/120 miles and 2 hours 15 minutes) or from the International Falls Border Crossing/ Fort Frances via Highway 11 (2 hours, 185 km/114 miles).

Happy paddling!