Charlton-Cat Lake Loop, Killarney, July 2012


     After our successful trip over the May 2012 long weekend in Algonquin, we planned another ambitious trip for the July 2012 long weekend: this time in Killarney Provincial Park.  For this trip, we decided to set out from Charlton Lake at the Hwy 6 access point on the west side of the park, and our route would follow the Charlton-Cat Lake Loop outlined in the Killarney Provincial Park Canoe Guide.  We were excited by the prospect of seeing a new area of the park with the clear blue water of famous Nellie Lake and the white ridges of the La Cloche Mountains. 

     We left the access point in the late morning and from the channel quickly entered Charlton Lake.  Under the very hot sun, we paddled past several cottages along our way to Charlton Creek.  Fortunately, the creek was running all the way to the 210 m portage to Murray Lake.  We made quick work of the portage, said “Hi” to the park rangers we met there, and set out on Murray Lake.  Halfway through Murray Lake, we took the 1090 m portage into Leech Lake.  Leech Lake was very pretty and in retrospect we wish we had booked our campsite on that lake.  Nonetheless, we continued around Leech Lake to the short 150 m portage into Hanwood Lake.  We padded toward the end of Hanwood Lake and camped the first night on the island site #182.  There were several fishermen in boats with small motors which was a little annoying after our kilometer portage effort, but they left the lake before sunset and then we had the lake all to ourselves.  Walking across the small island that afternoon, we found the largest snapping turtle shell we have ever seen!

     The next morning, after a bit of searching, we found the uphill 120 m portage to Van Winkle Lake.  We paddled across Van Winkle Lake as some seagulls were attempting to dive bomb the canoe (we soon saw a nest on one of the islands there) to the flatter 480 m portage over to Cat Lake.  We were quickly across Cat Lake to the 665 m portage to Howry Lake.  We spent a very hot afternoon at site #150 on Howry Lake, which had a nice mix of rocky exposure and shady trees, and then slept peacefully under a bright, nearly full moon. 

    We left Howry Lake early the next morning and paddled west along Howry Creek.  After lifting over a beaver dam, we made it to the 465 m portage back into Murray Lake.  The east end of Murray Lake was full of lily pads, but the water was deep enough that navigation was

easy. We sat up camp on site #149 before setting out on a hike across the south side of the lake.  We were unable to find a clear path to the ridge but did eventually run into The Notch Creek.  We cooled off in a really nice swimming hole below a waterfall coming out of the small pond above and then hiked back around to our campsite.  That afternoon, we were visited by a huge, old snapping turtle, who would come ever so close to climbing out of the water to visit us before settling back into the rocks in the lake.  We were also thrilled to see our first baby loon swimming around the lake with its parents. 

     In the morning, we broke camp and made the short paddle to the 1470 m portage along The Notch Creek.  About 2/3 of the way through the portage, we dropped our gear and canoe and scrambled up the white granite  slopes of west side of the notch for views of Murray Lake behind us and Carmichael Lake ahead.  We have not had too many run-ins with black flies, but when we would stop hiking, or the wind would stop blowing, the flies would swarm us.  We continued the portage to Carmichael Lake and stayed on site #142 on Nellie Lake.  We spent some time paddling and swimming in the amazingly crystal clear blue water of Nellie Lake.  Under the bright sun, we could see our shadow on the lake floor 30 m down!!  We also parked our canoe just to the west of our campsite and hiked to the top of the north ridge.  This vantage offered impressive views of Nellie Lake nestled into the white La Cloche mountains that should definitely not be missed! 

     On our last day in the park, we had two long portages and quite a bit of paddling to get back to the access point.  That did not stop us however from taking a leisurely paddle through Grace Lake as well as a hike up to the ridge on the north side of the lake.  From here, we could look out onto the many small islands and white granite outcroppings to the south.  After leaving Grace Lake, it was a final 1745 m portage that brought us into Cranberry Bay.  Fortunately, we did not have to battle too bad of a head wind to make it through Frood Lake, past Willisville and back into Charlton Lake.  At the end of a long day of paddling, we made it back to the car with no trouble.  This is such a superb loop that touches upon a variety of landscapes in this beautiful park.

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