Beauty Lake to Ishapatina Ridge

Route description submitted By:

General Info

Difficulty Ratings

Distance: 60 km
Duration : 5 days
Loop Trip : yes
River Travel : not applicable
Lake Travel : intermediate
Portaging : Moderate
Remoteness : intermediate

Portage Info

Maps Required

No. of Portages : 16
Total Length: 7620 m
Average Length: 476 m
Longest Portage : 1285 m
Topo Maps (1:50,000)
41 P/7 Smoothwater Lake

Other Maps
Temagami Canoe Routes planning map, published by Ontario Parks

Handicapped Accessibility

GPX Data for this Route

SuitabilitySuitability : poor

Long, rugged portages
no gpx data found

Route Description

Access via Beauty Lake Road
Start at bridge over Montreal River
South on Montreal River
South through Lady Dufferin Lake
South on Montreal River
South through Smoothwater Lake
P 840 m to Apex Lake
Southeast through Apex Lake
Chain of small lakes including portages of:
P 1215 m
P 65 m
P 30 m
P 165 m
South through McCullogh Lake
P 115 m to Mihell Lake
Southwest through Mihell Lake
P 125 m to small pond
Across pond
P 1285 m to Scarecrow Lake
(Access to hiking trail to Ishpatina Ridge)
Return via same route

General Comments

It`s a great trip. If you need any more information, send me an email. And if I can find some pictures I`ll add them to this posting.

John Wroe

Trip Log / Diary

Ishpatina Ridge, Ontario

by: John Wroe

Ishpatina Ridge, situated in the heart of Northern Ontario`s Temagami wilderness, is the highest point in the province. It can be a round-trip destination (as we did) or the mid-point of a north-south trip through the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park. This, however, requires a vehicle shuttle (about three hours) or a fly-in.

I`ll let you know at the outset that we failed to achieve our goal, but the trip was a great one anyway.

One of the beauties of the north end of the Temagami is its remoteness, our put-in point being about an eight-hour drive from Toronto. However it`s only two hours from our back door, and the park`s eastern access point is only about 15 minutes away.

Access: From North Bay, Ontario, drive north about 100 miles on Highway 11 to New Liskeard, and turn west on Highway 65 about 40 miles to Elk Lake. Elk Lake is a lumber town, and has everything needed for stocking up, with all required services. It is the last major stock-up point before the put-in. Proceed west on Highway 560 towards Gowganda about 12 miles to the Beauty Lake Road turn-off at Long Point Lake. Note that Long Point Airways, just before the turn-off, can offer fly-in services.

Proceed south on Beauty Lake Road about seven miles to a fork in the road, and take the westerly (right-hand) fork. After about five miles there is a bridge over the Montreal River. There are good areas to park, and your vehicle is relatively secure. The Beauty Lake Road is in relatively good shape, but watch out for logging trucks.

We were packed for a five-or six day trip, relatively heavily because Darlene and I like to travel in comfort. My canoe, built in the days when fibreglass builders simply added more material just in case, stayed at home, and we rented a 17-foot Kevlar that weighed only 48 pounds.

There is always that strange time just after you get on the water, and you go around a bend and can`t see the bridge anymore and your body gets into the rhythm of the river and muscles that haven`t be used for weeks let you know they`re still there. The paddle on the Montreal is upstream, but the river is slow-moving through swamps and moose-meadows. We passed through Lady Dufferin Lake, stopping at the abandoned lodge on the east shore. This was once a high-class brothel, with customers and staff flown in from the mining boom towns of the north. We continued on upstream, between the piney banks and occasional swamp, emerging onto Smoothwater Lake. There`s a gravel bar where the river flows out of the lake, which makes a great spot for a swim.

It is a given that when we are on a lake, the wind will be against us; Smoothwater continued the jinx and we paddled southward into a one-foot chop, keeping to the east shore for shelter, and finally camping on a small island about half-way down the lake. We like to rest after the first day`s paddle, so stayed two nights, taking a day-paddle around Smoothwater looking for rock paintings and swimming, and discovering that the rental canoe had serious bottom flex; fine if there`s a wanigan sitting on, not good with no load.

Day three took us to the south end of Smoothwater, and the roughest portage of the trip. We recognized that our packing was less than efficient; the wanigan stayed at the take-out point. It was the first time Darlene and I had undertaken serious portaging, but we managed the 800 yards in two trips, not over-loading ourselves since we`re a little old and decrepit. This took us to Apex Lake, which has to be one of the most excruciatingly beautiful bodies of water in the world. It is surrounded by steep pine-clad hills, and seems perpetually in shade.

It was only about a half-hour paddle to the south bay, and the longest fully-loaded portage of the trip. This one, though, was pretty flat, and since it also acts as a snowmobile trail in winter, it was wide and clear. This led to a series of three or four small lakes with increasingly short portages. We figured on one that if we could get the canoe up to planing speed and hit the landing just right we`d skid right over. And then we got to McCullough Lake.

We had a nice paddle, with this underlying glow knowing there was only one more short flat portage before we could set up camp. McCullough Lake is ... well ... any small lake in the Temagami forest is beautiful and remote and absolutely peaceful.

We camped that night on Mihell Lake, straying from Hap Wilson`s guide and instead going to a beach which seemed to have been frequented by hunters and fishermen, a nice open beach with lots of dead wood for a fire. Sunset was magnificent, especially since we could see our target just about three miles to the west.

This, however, is where we made our mistake. We should have rested for a day, but instead started out for the flat but long double portage to Scarecrow Lake, carrying just a day-pack and the canoe. The trail up the hill is easily identified because there used to be a ranger camp at the base. However, we were walking for less than an hour when we realized we were exhausted (I think I mentioned before that we are old and decrepit?) so we stopped by a little lake and had lunch and went back to the canoe. I was even having trouble with the concept of the long-flat portage back to Mihell and camp, so we took Scarecrow Creek instead, a twisting but gentle paddle through wonderful swamps, with a few liftovers.

That afternoon and evening we caught up on our rest, but a funny thing happened in the middle of the night: the lake jumped into our tent. I suppose the sound of our snoring kept us from hearing the thunderstorm, but suddenly 3 a.m.-ish it swept across Mihell with unbelievable winds and gallons of rain poured through the open windows of our tent. No time to batten the hatches; within a minute just about everything we possessed was soaked. Like most thunderstorms it passed quickly and we tried to dry ourselves out but sleep was difficult, so at first light we packed to head home.

The trip back was uneventful, and Apex Lake was as excruciatingly beautiful as it had been a few days before. The portage from Apex to Smoothwater was just as rough as it was before, but we had the knowledge that it was the last portage, and it made life easier.

Somewhere, heading north on Smoothwater Lake, I had a strange visual experience. I`ve had about 20 years of canoeing with Darlene`s back being at the centre of field of vision. She decided she needed a nap, re-arranged the packs, slid off the seat and opened my vision of the lake. The canoe had the same heavy feel I like on open water, lots of mass, lots of momentum, but my perspective had changed. I could see the entire lake in front of me, and I felt comfort in the knowledge that everything that was important to me was inside of the 17 feet of canoe I was moving through the water. I get that same feeling in my sailboat.

After Smoothwater it was all downstream on the Montreal River, with the only surprise being the couple skinny-dipping at one little swift. Not only had I not lost my keys, but the spare ones were still sitting on the front tire, AND I didn`t forget to retrieve them this time. We made it back to Elk Lake in time to catch the beer store, and supper at the Home Cafe.

Photo Gallery


User Submitted Information


Submitted by:  Peter Thomas         on 0000-00-00

Date of trip: Last full week of July, 2002. After a long drive up under sunny skies, we were greeted at the launch by thousands of the local inhabitants (blackflies & other no-seeums) and cloudy skies. The rest of the trip seemed to be a test of our perseverance in the form of head winds, rain and bugs. Expect to meet an occasional motorboat (fishermen) between Beauty Lake Rd. and Smoothwater Lake. Is "the abandoned lodge on the east shore" that large log cabin with the green roof at the south end of Lady Dufferin? It seemed to be occupied so we didn't stop in. The campsite on a spit of land at the north end of Smoothwater had a picnic table and room for 3 to 5 tents. Midway down Smoothwater is a large bay on the east side with a sand beach all the way along it. There is lots of room to pitch several tents at the north end while the south end has obviously seen a lot of use as a seasonal fishing camp. Judging by the antique garbage there must have been a logging camp next to the portage to Marina Lake. Very nice beach at the south end of the bay, very shallow descent to deeper water, this would make a nice destination to take youngsters on their first wilderness canoe trip. The campsite on south end of McCullough Lake is immediately adjacent to the portage and has 3 or 4 level clearings for tents. The site on the north east bay of Mihell Lake had a sand beach, lots of garbage and bitting insects and a swamp just outside the back door. On to Scarecrow Lake. The site of the old ranger cabin has room for up to 3 tents if you can cook down on the old dock. The little island to the south isn't really suitable for anything beyond a lunch stop - all rock, no soil, only a few trees. There are pike in Scarecrow, a fly- in fish/hunt camp on the south-end & a trapper's cabin on north-end semi-hidden in the bushes. We checked the site on a point on Woods Lake but it was too small and had not been used in quite some time. The trail to Ishpatina Ridge starts off politely enough but as it progresses up the hill it becomes narrower and a fair bit steeper near the top. Everything evens out though, while the panoramic view (from ground level) is not equal to Maple Mtn., there are lots of berries on top of the hill in late July and it was our second sunny day. After climbing the hill, we retraced our steps back to the boat launch at Beauty Lake road where we were given a warm sendoff by a few hundred horse and deer flies. There are other campsites along this route, but I only mentioned the ones that we used or inspected as possible sites.

Submitted by:  Glenn Ford         on 0000-00-00

My son Tyler and I went to the Park on 23 June. Black flies, mosquitos and Horse flies were abundant. Iwould guess that we spent the first night on the same island on Smoothwater as Mr Wroe It allowed a nice breeze to keep the bugs away. It also had a MNR throne which was very nice. I think if a days rest was required it was after the portages into Mihill. We went down Scarecrow Creek from Mihill and only had 2 liftovers and quite a few pushovers. We did have a couple of trees that were down and someone had cut them to allow easy passage: a little bow saw would have been good foresight although not necessary this time. It took us about two hours and the best part was that my old legs were not worn out and I could manage the climb to the top of Ishpatina. Fear of rain made us make the trip from Hihill right to the bridge. It took seven hours and was a fair test of stamina after all the protages. Just a warning for others, we were overpacked. It was nice to have the few extras but when you carry them over all those portages, you see the advantage of necessities only. We used most of a full bottle of DEET in four days. If we had of run out we would have been in big trouble.

Submitted by:  Markus Wandel         on 0000-00-00

We recently did this trip, and writeups with photos may be found at Very nice trip for us.

Submitted by:  john plater         on 2009-09-21

Just got back from this trip. Sept 13-17 2009. Left beauty lake road on the river at noon and found our way up river and into smoothwater lake. 3hrs and we were on a beach in a cove on the east side of the lake. The lake held to its name as we had only the sun to contend with. the water was very cold. But we had to swim as we were on a beach. The next day we were on the water by 9:00. We got through all of the ports in 5 hrs and were sitting on the small island on scarecrow having a beer by 2:00pm. The next day dawned cold and overcast. By 11:00 we were on the trail to the ridge. About an hour later we were at the top. The fire tower was cool and the view was even better. The weather held so back to camp to stay warm. the next morning the mist was super thick. We woke up to a pack of wolfs howling. On the water by 8:30. When the mist burnt off it was blue sky sunshine again. The same 5hrs to get back to our beach. For another beer in the sun. We explored a litle from the canoe on the way back up the lake. There was a couple we were talking to who told us there is an old native village on the eastside of the lake. So we hade a slow paddle up the east shore to have a look. We of course saw nothing. But well worth the time it took as the area is beautiful. woke up the next morning to the wolves again. This was the first time I've ever heard this in the wild. Somthing I will never forget. We had a tail wind an some current for the trip out so we made it back to the bridge in 2.5hrs. I think when my son is a little bigger he and I will be on this same trip together.

Submitted by:  Andy miles         on 2013-09-21

Unless you are planning on ending up where you started, you always have a logistical problem with your canoe trip. The issue is this- How do you get back to the car at the end of your trip?  A trip down the lower Missinaibi, for example, leaves your car at the starting point in Mattice and you and your gear in Moosonee. It takes a six-hour train ride (200 km) to get back to Cochrane and a 185 km bus ride from Cochrane to Mattice to get back to your vehicle! Meanwhile,  your partner and the canoe and gear are still in Moosonee. Our initial solution to the problem this summer was to park the car in Temagami and use a fly-in service to drop us off at the starting point on Scarecrow Lake. After eleven days we’d have paddled back to Temagami. Problem solved.  Unfortunately, floatplane service will run you about $1000.-  a bit expensive (but priceless,  I’m sure- for the views alone!). So we looked for a Plan B.  It involved hiring a shuttle driver from Temagami Outfitters who would ride to the start of the trip with us and then drive our vehicle back to Temagami.  At the end of the trip we gave them a ring and in an hour our vehicle was at the take-out point with the shuttle driver.  The cost was considerably less.  Money problem solved. Had there been a couple of paddlers more it would have been 50%  cheaper per person!Andy

Submitted by:  Ben Smiths         on 2013-09-21

A journey to Ishpatina is a fun superb trip, but I'm uncertain that it can be done without any fair bit of portaging (because you are so close to the watershed divide).I approached from the north (via the Montreal River and Beauty Lake Road). It's a popular route to get to the ridge. There are many websites on the Internet with good route descriptions.But that as a round trip would only take 3 days and I recall something like 15km of portages (including double carries).I've never been on the Sturgeon, but I think mid-July might be pushing the water-levels (if memory serves, you need to first navigate Stull Creek, which has been called "murderous" and "a nightmare").If you just wanted to relax, you could paddle or fly in to Scarecrow, set up a base camp, and then do day trips from there?I did a trip last summer starting from the access on the montreal just north of lady dufferin. There is a great beach site on smoothwater that you could camp on (about 15km from the access if my memory is good). From there you could day trip via marina lake to sunnywater, a crystal clear lake. I am shure the kids would love that. Then you could paddle to ishpatina ridge, the portages are in good shape. The hike up ishpatina ridge is not that easy. Lots of branches in the way with which you should be careful not to whip your girlfriend walking behind you The campsites on scarecrow are good, but not great. Best Regards,Ben

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