Hooked on Camping in Algonquin Park
It is funny how time passes in the blink of an eye. I still remember my first few trips to Algonquin Park that got me hooked on camping. In many ways not much has changed, although the popularity of the park has grown and it’s great to see so many people interested in Algonquin.
I have been camping all my life – there are photos of me on my parents back hiking through Algonquin. Not only did I grow up camping, but I am the third generation to become enchanted by the quiet beauty found in the Park. I have introduced friends to backcountry camping, explored new areas of the park, learned what 20k of portaging over a trip feels like and enjoyed the peace of the wilderness. 25-years later, it seems fitting this fall trip will be with my mom – the one who started my passion.
The plan was to deviate from my regular visits to the west side of the park and see how the HWY 60 corridor has changed. I elected to enter at Rock Lake and travel to Clydegale Lake with one particular island site in mind. I also made plans for special side trips along the way.
We started our trip at the Algonquin Outfitters Oxtongue location where the staff helped load the canoe on our car. This was my first time with the featherweight prospector canoe and I was anxious to try it out, but not before a stop in the store for some shopping (because why not?).
We arrived at Rock Lake to find the water flat as glass with the sun peeking out from behind the clouds. Encouraging. We decided to leave exploring for later and powered to the Rock-Pen Lake portage. It was unexpectedly busy for a fall afternoon. I was excited to find that I could lift and portage this canoe with next to no effort. Kudos to Algonquin Outfitters for suggesting it! I happily finished the portage beside people that struggled with heavier canoes.
Pen Lake greeted us with a cloudy afternoon, but the wind was at our backs. We admired the mix of sandy beaches and rocky cliffs that bordered the lake – a beautiful place to camp. Our route took us one more portage to Clydegale Lake where we found it empty. The second portage gave us the true back country experience we hoped for. On a recommendation from Algonquin Outfitters we headed to the island site at the end of the lake – we were not disappointed. A beautiful island greeted us with its own small beach and sunny rocks to watch the sunset. Our day came to a close while clouds receded from the almost full moon – the next day would be lovely!
A trait in my family seems to be an inability to relax, so day two involved exploring the Madawaska River out of Clydegale Lake. There is something magical about spending an afternoon meandering down a river deep inside the park. The river posed some challenges, but we were not deterred. We carefully lifted the canoe over five beaver dams and walked the canoe through a shallow area. Lunch time was slipping by, so we enjoyed a meal from the comfort of the canoe, as we bobbed beside a rather large beaver dam. The sun was hot above, as the wind funneled down the river – a perfect afternoon in the park.
Our last day started early, as the fog burned off the lake. Halfway across Clydegale Lake we were greeted by a family of Otters. I have not often seen Otters in the park, so we paused for photos and to watch them play.
We planned to explore the falls between Rock and Pen Lake. The sound of rushing water greeted us at the portage. After moving our gear, we followed a sign pointing to the falls, and emerged to rushing water and vibrant leaves in the brilliant sunshine. The falls are a magnificent example of the power of nature and its beauty. I leisurely walked the falls, while imagining this as a beautiful swimming and picnic spot for a summer afternoon. Eventually we left the portage for Rock Lake.
The next destination was the Aboriginal Pictographs listed on Jeff’s Map. We started at one end of the cliff face and traveled the shoreline. The light canoe handled beautifully while we hugged the cliff wall. Eventually we stumbled across the Pictographs. The magnitude of the rock face above was equally as impressive. Passing from the middle of the lake does this area no justice and I am glad we took the time to see it up close. We hung in the water pondering the people who sat in our place hundreds of years before crafting the pictures. What an unique and easily accessible spot to visit.
Another trip has come and gone, but I am reminded to appreciate everything Algonquin has to offer. There is always a new adventure waiting to be discovered.
Algonquin Park Camping Photo Gallery
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Useful Algonquin Park Camping Links
- How to lift and portage a canoe video
- Algonquin Outfitters canoe rentals
- Algonquin Park maps
- Algonquin Park Website
Adventure blogger, equestrian, skydiver
I am a blogger that can be found horseback riding, camping or skydiving in my spare time. A communications person by trade, I love the written word and also enjoy taking photos.