Today’s post comes from Lise Sorensen, gate attendant at Quetico’s Atikokan Entry Station and off-season trail officer with Path of the Paddle. If you plan to paddle the Maukinak Trail, this information will be essential.
Follow the path. It will take you through boreal rivers and crystalline lakes, past silent and watchful cliffs. Your guides will be eagles and your destiny endless.
An integral segment of The Great Trail (Trans Canada Trail), the Path of the Paddle is a ribbon of water that stretches from Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border.
The Maukinak segment of the Paddle Trail traverses vast expanses of uninhabited crown land and connects the small communities of Atikokan and Dryden.
Best traveled with a prevailing west wind, the route is easily accessible from Dore Lake Road, Snake Bay Road, and Highways 502 and 622.
Maukinak Trail Map
South of Dryden, the Path can be accessed from Highway 502 or Dore Lake Road. Dore Lake offers excellent walleye fishing.
Traveling south through Lakes Ingall and Kekekwa, all transports follow clear, flowing streams. You’ll never be far from the sound of running water, especially near Ingall and Kekekwa Falls.
One of the portages on Kekekwa Creek (the easternmost) takes you through an unusual microenvironment, where a stand of elm trees has survived under a protective cliff on the north side. Towards the south from this point, the stream meanders through an elevated swamp, where carnivorous plants grow at eye level. Aside from its road access, Lake Kekekwa is completely remote.
South of Kekekwa, shuttles connecting Navimar and two other small lakes pass through shady, mature cedar groves, following clear streams that sometimes collapse into small waterfalls.
A lake that stands out for its clarity.
Lake Navimar stands out for its clarity. After years of disuse, these transports still bear traces of human activity, such as the bones of an old cedar canoe south of Navimar.
A new 1km portage skirts the end of a ridge north of Harper Lake. Take a break midway and climb a gentle slope to a wide, open outcropping that looks across Harper toward the islands of Upper Manitou Lake.
A gold mine (literally)
Upper Manitou has been inaccessible by road for years. Around the turn of the century, it was home to “Gold Rock”, a major gold mining operation. The remains of a stamp factory and scattered pieces of ancient machinery can still be seen.
The lake is large and islands on the east side offer shelter, but check the wind forecast and plan to travel open stretches during the morning and afternoon hours.
A two-day paddle begins
At Rattlesnake Creek, just east of Upper Manitou Lake, the canoe route intersects Highway 502, providing easy access 40 miles south of Dryden.
From Rattlesnake Lake, begin a two-day paddle through small, protected trout lakes connected by clear, flowing streams and (mostly) short portages of 250 m or less. This segment is best traveled from west to east with the prevailing wind.
Clear streams and lots of shade.
At Katisha Lake, the route crosses Snake Bay Road. It is suitable for smaller vehicles as long as they can handle gravel and some major potholes. Highway 17 is just 30 km north of the Lake Katisha boat launch.
East of Kawijekiwa
Portages between Katisha Creek and Stormy Lake follow clear streams and offer plenty of shade. Some canals here feature extensive fields of water lilies.
This area is rich in wildlife. You may find nesting trumpeter swans or catch a moose or black bear swimming through a canal. Stormy Lake is a large, clear trout lake, lined with tall white pines and overshadowed by spectacular cliffs along the northern shore of Snake Bay.
Walk with stairs to small waterfalls.
Between Stormy Lake and Long Lake, the shuttle runs along a staircase of small waterfalls. The shuttle to Three Mile Lake passes through an ancient cedar forest with mosses and liverworts reminiscent of Canada’s west coast.
Highway 622 crosses the Maukinak Trail 20 km south of Highway 17 between Bending Lake and Three Mile Lake, and provides a secondary access point via the Turtle River.
Run some easy rapids
Just south of Bending, where the route enters Turtle River-White Otter Lake Provincial Park, two parallel waterways flow in opposite directions. Skilled paddlers can run six sets of Class 1 rapids heading north, loop around a point on Bending Lake and paddle back south, and down river in the Tortuga River. If you really like running easy rapids, a 600m portage is all that separates you from a second loop!
White Otter Castle
Turtle River-White Otter Provincial Park sees more travelers than any other segment of the route. Highlights include some formidable rapids, pictographs, sandy beaches, the remains of a prisoner of war camp and, of course, White Otter Castle, the famous monument to James McQuat’s 1903 log cabin.
The water here is luminous.
South of White Otter, Clearwater West Lake is aptly named. On calm, sunny days, the water here is nothing short of luminous as the light reflects upward from the sandy bottom of the lake, fifteen feet below your canoe.
You may spend days camping on one of its long sandy beaches, either by choice or because your progress on this large open lake has been “stopped” by northerly or westerly winds. But with convenient road access to Clearwater West, it’s easy to plan a strategic crossing when the winds are favorable.
Camp among tall pines on smooth rock outcroppings
Like Clearwater, Turtle is another large lake with road access from Highway 622 and camping opportunities on sandy beaches. Moving east and south across Lakes Crowrock and Dashwa, you’ll have a 35km holiday from the portage, but check the forecast and allow for some extra time in case the wind affects you.
But don’t worry: this part of the forest is full of five-star campsites with smooth rock outcrops and tall pine trees. The Turtle/Crowrock/Dashwa chain offers excellent kayaking opportunities, with road access and public landings at both ends.
Experience the floating five
Eye Lake is located south of Dashwa, just across Highway 622. Campgrounds on the islands at the southern end are noted for their ancient white pine. The small lakes and narrow channels between Eye Lake and Perch Lake are best traveled with the current (north to south).
Highlights include Eye Falls, the mature White Pine forest, and “The Floatable Five,” a series of shallow rapids and pools that, in the right conditions, are fun to run or wade through. There is also a short 850m shuttle for those feet who prefer to stay dry.
The secret waterfall
Between Lake Perch and the city of Atikokan, the Atikokan River meets the Seine River.
Stream flowing from Plateau Lake into the Atikokan River
This segment is best traveled from east to west with the current. The same applies to the segment east of Atikokan, where you’ll find numerous sets of Class 1 rapids.
Cedar Falls is a spectacular secret, hidden in a dense cedar forest. The Atikokan River meanders through wetland areas rich in wildlife. There’s a good chance you’ll see trumpeter swans, bald eagles, moose, and otters all in the same day.
Entrance to Quetico
At Fire Lake, Path of the Paddle crosses Highway 11 with a 3 km portage along Nym Lake Road. Just south of Nym, the Rowing Trail enters Quetico Provincial Park, the internationally acclaimed canoeing destination known to most North American paddlers, many of whom return annually.
With the participation of Quetico Provincial Park and generous funding from the Trans Canada Trail Association, Ontario Power Generation and Souris River Canoes, the Maukinak and Quetico Trail segments have recently been cleared of trees that fell during a devastating winter storm in October. 2017.
All portages are marked and in excellent condition. Maps of the Maukinak Trail, including shuttles, campsites and access points, are available at www.pathofthepaddleassociation.com.
To plan your trip, call Quetico Provincial Park at 807-597-2735, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Friday through Tuesday, mid-May to mid-May. of September.
Quetico Provincial Park is part of the Northwest Wilderness Quest.