Almost every May, I go into Algonquin Park’s interior for a trout fishing trip with my father-in-law. It’s five days away from the city, with a campfire, canoeing, and the bonus of a couple fish. As with most things, 2020 and COVID-19 forced us to forego our annual May trip as the park was closed to backcountry camping. Instead we booked a trip to Algonquin’s interior for late September, fully anticipating that the fishing would be poor.
At 2:00am, we set out for Algonquin, travelling up Highway 400, through Barrie, and pulling into Huntsville, off Highway 60 around 5:30am. A quick stop at the only open Tim Hortons and we set off up the highway towards Access Point #3, Magnetawan Lake. In years past, we used to have to stop at the park office to pick up a permit, but the park was issuing e-permits this year, meaning we could get on the water earlier. The put in has a nice wood dock to load the canoe and we were on the water by 7:00am, with the sunrise.
Magnetawan is a 5 minute paddle around the point to a short 135m portage into Hambone Lake, which is a short 15 minute paddle.
In high water, you can avoid the 55m portage by taking the creek, but September water levels are very low and any attempt on the creek would likely result in having to drag the canoe over rocks and mud… not advisable. Following the 55m portage, there is a short 10 minute paddle across a pond where you then have a 420m portage, that was mostly uphill, before entering Daisy Lake, our destination.
We had planned to check three camp sites that were on our shortlist of possibilities, all of which were at the far end of the lake. Daisy Lake has one shore that is a steep hardwood hill, providing lot of fall colours.
We ended up paddling the full length of the lake in both directions as all but two sites were taken. The site we ended up with didn’t have the exposure we would have preferred, but it was a far better site than the other one.
By noon, we had setup the tent, rebuilt the fire pit, and had everything in its place. We took the afternoon to explore the lake and get some pictures while the weather was nice. The fall colours were near peak and the lack of wind and rain meant that the trees were still quite full.
On our third day, after still no fish and on/off rain the day before, we decided to paddle to the headwaters of the Petawawa River. This river traverses the entire width of the park, flowing west to east. The start of the river is a low water rapids that you need to portage around.
I tried my luck with fishing in the mouth of the rapids and managed to get a few nibbles, but nothing stuck.
The river in September is no more than a mild current in a narrow cut through the grasses. We paddled a fair distance before coming up to a beaver dam. We felt that was far enough and started to make our way back.
No trip to Algonquin’s interior is complete with photos of the Common Loon.
There were several loon families on the lake, with the immature chicks already the same size as the parents, distinguishable only by the last of the grey feathers around the head.
Our final night on the lake was calm and clear. Fortunately, we had a great view of the sunset.
Unfortunately, it meant it wasn’t a great spot for stargazing, although we were able to see the Big Dipper and other bright stars.
All-in-all, it was a good trip, even if we didn’t catch any fish. September is a great time to go interior. There are no bugs, the weather is still warm, and you can even catch the peak of the fall colours.