Achray - Cork Lake


"The Disaster"

Portage 11, 5.25 KMs

Total Distance 30.25 KMs


Route - Maps of our route.

Photo Gallery

Unfortunately I waited way too long to write this trip report, and some of the details here are likely to be missing. 

This trip was a complete disaster. 

For this year’s trip we faced a few challenges from the get go. Each year we typically head to Algonquin for the third weekend of August.   My wife was pregnant and due at the end of July while Ted was getting married also at the end of July.  So we decided to change our plans a bit, in fact not only did we move the date, but in order to accommodate everyone we had to change the route and reduce the number of days from five to three.  We do not normally like to travel to the more populated areas of the park however due to these circumstances we thought it would be a good opportunity to check out the Barron Canyon.   

Our original plan was to travel down Stratton Lake and take the long way around through High Falls around to Opalescent Lake then on to Cork Lake.  The reason for taking the long way around is so we can stop at High Falls and enjoy the diving rocks and natural rock slide.  It would make for a longer day but we only have 3 days so we need to cram more in.  On day two we planned to just stay on Cork Lake and take a day trip over to the Barron Canyon and canoe through it.  Day three we were to get up and head home going the quickest and shortest way out; back to Stratton Lake via Length Lake and Marie Lake. 

Our route called for leaving first thing Saturday morning stopping only to pick up our canoes on the way in.  Once in the park we stopped at the Barron Canyon Trail to check out the view.  What an incredible area of the park, here are some of the pictures we took.

Another shot down river.


Rob, Brandon and Moe






Here we are, all set to go.  We put in at Achray and we're off!


Stopped for an early pose.  Still all smiling at this point.


After spending about an hour we got back in the truck and headed for Achray.  The access point was busy, much busier than we are used to.  Jumped in the canoes on a wonderful sunny day.  We headed South on Grand Lake towards Stratton Lake. 


Brandon on Stratton Lake

First portage was a short one P30.  Once on Stratton we headed for the High Falls area, I believed you accessed the High Falls Park from Northern point of St. Andrews, however when we got there we met up with some people who redirected us back to Stratton Lake.  After a quick discussion we decided to turn back and make the trek.


Brandon getting set - portage between Stratton and St Andrews.


Brandon, Rob & Moe


Moe and Rob on St Andrews.

We got to the High Falls Park and as expected it was busy, however we had a lot of fun.  Moe and I went down the slide while Brandon and Ted simply went for a swim.  After a few hours we decided we better get going and headed back to St. Andrews Lake.  It was now mid afternoon and it was really hot, however when on the water it wasn’t so bad.

Finally some play time.  The High Falls play area (as they call it) is awesome!!  Unfortunately it was pretty busy, but we still had some fun.=


Moe going down the natural rock slide.


Rob going down the rock slide.  Looking a little more concerned than Moe.

We got to the portage to Marie Lake, and faced P770 that sucked, BIG TIME.  As I mentioned earlier it was HOT, and this portage was rocky and uphill most of the way.  We needed to stop and rest, however every time we stopped the mosquitoes simply attacked; it was a no win situation and at this point we were starting to get tired and began to think that maybe back tracking to High Falls was not a good idea. 

After a short paddle we had a small portage P345 however again the heat and bugs were killing us.  It was probably about this point were the trip just wasn’t fun; we come here for the challenge, but also to relax.  Knowing we still had a P1810 was also wearing on us.  From what I remember the P1810 was relatively flat and easy to navigate.  The bugs were still bad so again we tried not to stop at all, only stopping long enough to pass the canoe.   

We finally got to Cork Lake around 8:30 at night, (day started around 5:30 am) to find that both sites on the lake were taken.  The map shows a third site at the Northern part of the Lake but its wrong.  There is absolutely nothing, not even a clearing.  We paddled to each site and both groups told us they were booked in.  In hindsight we perhaps should have challenged them on this and asked to see their permits but we didn’t.  We paddled to the Northern part of the lake to get out of the canoes and discuss our options.  Moe and I decided to walk the P730 to Opalescent Lake and see if we could find a site; we couldn’t. 

 When we got back it was now about 9:00, getting dark and we were starving.  Ted started to make some dinner and this was when a bad day became a horrible day.  Ted decided to refill the stove with fuel thinking it was out.  Well you guessed it, the flame, although not visible was still going.  Flames shot up right into the plastic fuel container and exploded just as Ted threw it…..into a bush that immediately went up in flames.  We had a pretty hectic 5-10 minutes as we scrambled to get things under control.  We were on a rock face that slanted downwards towards the lake.  And the burning fuel simply rolled down and headed towards our gear.


Ted was in shock and simply didn’t say much the rest of the night.  We no longer had any fuel to cook with for the remainder of the trip and based on how things went all day long we decided to set our tents up on the P730 trail, get some rest, then wake up and simply go home the next day.  It was after all July 1st weekend and we could be home to spend July 1st with out families and try to make the most of a horrible weekend. 

We got up and were simply on a mission, the earlier we could get out of the park the better.  No one wanted to be portaging in the afternoon with the heat and bugs as bad as they were.  On the way out we took a different route, heading to Opalescent Lake, Ooze Lake, and High Falls Lake then back to St. Andrews where we stopped for a bite to eat before finishing the rest of the trip out.  We managed to see some wildlife on this day, as we spotted a bear on Ooze Lake and a deer on High Falls Lake.  We even saw two more bears on the road out of the park.

One picture on the way out.  These falls were pretty cool so I had to go under them

A rough calculation shows that we covered over 30 KMs in less than 24 hours in really hot weather with the bugs like we’ve never seen them.  On the way home we started looking forward to next year, although I wondered if all four of us would be willing.  Turns out we were and 2003 was the best trip we’d had to date.