Algonquin Park - Brent-catfish-burntroot-hogan-brent

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Rodney Wilson
Trip Date : 
August 9-14th, 2021
Additional Route Information
85 km
5 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
13660 m
Longest Portage: 
2345 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Access Brent via Brent Road (40 km long gravel road with logging trucks possible for first 25km) from highway 17.  Smaller vehicles may not enjoy the gravel road access.  Actual put in point at Brent is excellent with a dock or beach option.  Ample parking during mid week for vehicle and trailer.  Surrounded by camper vans and generally a well attended area

Technical Guide: 

From Brent put in, open water paddle across Cedar Lake (2.5-3 km) to campsite on South shore.  Portages to Catfish Lake via petawa river were mostly uphill, modest technical footing.  Absolutely remarkable waterfall following the 300m portage (#2). The 2345m portage, dubbed Unicorn Hill, presents a constant, moderate uphill that does require quite a lot of effort.  It is followed by a short hop across a pond to a steep 170m portage.  Minimal resistance from the current during August.  NOTE - sites on Stacks Rapids are on the portage trail, maximum 2 smaller tents, poor firepits and no open space.  They appear as emergency sites vs the usual Algonquin sites that you may be accustomed to.  Catfish Lake has numerous campsites and is easily navigated via island/point landmarks.  It is also a relatively small lake with windbreak potential on high wind days. 

Catfish - Burntroot: This was a relatively long day.  Portages are fairly simple through Cedar rapids.  We paddled up the 80m rapid instead of portaging as the water levels were doable.  It takes a lot of effort though!  From the last 360m portage, through Perley Lake, to the final 155m into Burntroot, is a long paddle.  It is beautiful, but expect a couple of hours to make it along that section.  Campsites in that area looked OK from shore.  Burntroot lake can be a hard paddle when southerly winds are up.  We faced head on white caps for the initial paddle to the first island.  Campsites in the island are fantastic, particularly the one on the southern aspect of the island. 

Burntroot - Hogan:  With even moderate southerly winds, burntroot lake can get wavy.  Navigate via points on the eastern shoreline to advance to the southern aspect of the lake and the inlet to Redpine Lake.  This will take about 1 hour with a light-moderate head wind.  735m Portage to Lake La Muir is relatively straight forward.  La Muir is a wide open, straight paddle with potentially big water.  We travelled with a strong tail wind at 5.5 km/h with minimal paddling effort.  The winds blew us straight to the inlet and portage.  Expect 1.5 hours to travel to portage.  685m portage to Hogan is easy to find and has a dock/boardwalk take out.  NOTE - at the end of the boardwalk (about 75m), there is an old cart path that leads LEFT.  Do not take that path.  Instead, follow a short ramp to the right.  Make sure other paddlers and especially children are aware of this!  The put in at the end of the portage has been leech infested every time we arrive there.  The following marsh paddle is beautiful but does require 20 or so minutes of winding around the twists and turns.  Hogan Lake has a host of campsites in the southern area but they do fill up as many paddlers make the turn back to highway 60 in this region.  This is a fairly big lake that can get heavy with moderate winds.  We were forced to travel to the northeast corner of the lake to find a site (second site on point following portage).  A relatively good site became a terrible site when the sand fleas attacked us from all aspects.  

Hogan - Brent

EPIC day of 30.57km with 7.5 km of portaging.  Unless you really fancy a 10 hour day, split this one up.  Portages out of Hogan are all moderate uphills and will require 2-3 hours of work.  Marsh paddle to reconnect with catfish will be challenging in low water conditions.  Catfish lake will add another 1-1.5 hours to reach the portages.  Portages are now leaning downhill, which really helps, particularly on Unicorn Hill!  The finish on Cedar lake can be a straight forward paddle or a monster if the winds are up.  Read the trip report for more in this!

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 


Day 1 - the drive!  From Sydenham, ON, Brent requires an additional driving effort to the usual highway 60 corridor.  There are ample amenities in Pembroke/Petawawa for lunch, coffee etc.  Turning south on to the Brent access Road, we muddled down the gravel road for 40 km, which took almost 1 hour.  I highly recommend stopping at the Brent Crater lookout.  Cool, very cool.  Check it out.  WARNING: it is easy to take the stop sign at the end of the road lightly.  I came to a rolling stop and made the assumption that the stop sign was for the recycle station, as there is no apparent intersection to follow.  That 5 km/h roll through was called a "blast through" when GI Joe warden pulled up behind us at the put in.  I am reminded of Corner Gas in this situation as I am certain that Warden duties at Brent can be relatively stale.  His strategically parked truck was out on duty, watching for stop sign rollers.  I apologised through his arrogance and explained to my onlooking children that Daddy had broken a rule and should have known better. 

With a brand new trailer in tow, I was stressed about leaving it for 5 days in an unknown back woods.  This was one of those unnecessary worries.  The put in at Cedar lake ticks all the boxes.  Dock side/beach front access with onlooking RV campers and a wide open lawn area for the car and trailer to await our return.  

We paddled across Cedar Lake with relatively light winds (a false sense of confidence for the return paddle) and set up on a campite close to the petawawa river.  My daughter cleaned up on small mouth bass, right from the campsite, so bring along a few crank baits and see what you can do.  We got wise this year and brought collapsible rods.  Wow, what a game changer for portaging!

I took advantage of our Garmin in reach mini and sent a preset message to my brother, "In Camp, All Good."  This device was useful throughout our trip.  We purchased the system following a tragic on water rescue on Opeongo last Thanksgiving.  Our group was involved in pulling 8 of 9 inexperienced paddlers out of the water.  One paddler died from exposure as he was in the water for hours.  If we had the in reach, we could have hit that SOS button and perhaps prevented the loss of life and the resulting struggles that all involved have had to face.  Get one for yourself, but plan to use it to help others!

DAY 2 - up the river with a paddle

We headed up the mighty Petawawa for day 2.  The series of portages, including the strangely named "Unicorn Hill" are 90% uphill, with the silver lining of being generally a moderate, but constant grade.  The river presents itself at take out's and put in's as a magificent throw back to the days of logging and voyageurs.  Have the camera handy for some fantastic shots.  The in between paddling sections are scenic and just long enough for the shoulders to recover before the next carry.  This was the day that marked a major milestone in our family tripping.  Our oldest daughter had now become the light at the end of the portage tunnel.  She hammered through, dropped her 85 L pack and ran back to first help her little sister with the barrel, then run again to her Mum's aid.  She grabbed the dry bag, which dwarfed her small frame, and her and Mummy walked the final stretches of the portage together.  I was then greeted by our little one, feet dancing into view under the boat with the motivational "Go Daddy Go" mantra that eases the pain in the shoulders and the fatigue in the legs.  

Catfish Lake is a beauty.  I recommend stopping at the first island to check out the remains of the old Alligator boat that was used to move logs from lake-lake.  There is an intact version of the boat/sled at the logging museum near the east gate of the park on highway 60.  We camped on the island immediately south of that one.  It was a decent site with all the usual ammenities of the park.  Upon observation of the weather patterns, we decided to erect the tarps and not long after, thunderstorms rolled through the area.  It was the first time that the girls had really experienced high winds, lightning and thunder on trip.  They took it like champs.  They built riverways with pine needles, to direct the water flow through the tarp fort, and generally entertained themselves for an hour or so.  It cleared up just enough for us to get dinner going and wet a few lines.  The evening was muggy and overcast, which seemed to bring out those house-fly looking buggers that bite for spite rather than sustenance.  We gave them a few apt names and cursed their very existence.  As a species, they decided to follow us on the water on day 3, elusively nipping at our ankles and calves when we weren't watching.

DAY 3 - Catfish to Burntroot

This was a fantastic mixed bag of Algonquin canoe tripping.  Catfish Lake has lots of little inlets, islands and rocky points to enjoy and navigate through.  There is a little "skootch" through at the southern end of the lake that in low water would be brutal for a heavy boat.  We basically poled our way through a la the romantic gondolas of Venice, to be released into a very nice marsh/river type paddle to the first take out.  For this loop, make a note of where you will come back into Catfish Lake via Hogan.  More on that marsh paddle later.  The portages to Perley Lake are fairly straight forward, albeit uphill.  We decided to paddle upstream around the 85 m portage using our recently honed whitewater skills from a 2 day course at Paddler Coop.  It was so much fun, even though the workload was significantly greater than just carrying the kit over the trail.  There is some innate pleasure in 'defeating' the river in it's efforts to make you walk around it.  Give it a go if the water levels are moderate.  

Perley Lake became a real slog for the team.  Our little one was spent and lost all hope as she stared at the hill that I had pointed out as our destination.  I made a mistake in giving such as distant goal to a 10 year old.  Perley was long, constant and sheltered from the refreshing winds that we needed.  When we finally made it to the portage into Burntroot, we were all feeling the need for a sit down.  Unfortunately, we were greeted by white caps hitting us in the bow.  We put to and steered the boats into the waves.  Keira and I were paddling our cedar strip boat for the first time.  At 14 feet, she bobbed up and down and gave us a good rodeo ride as we headed for the leeside of the first island in sight.  Our other boat, a 17' H2O, cruises over the waves and gives a smoother, if less enjoyable ride.  The map that we brought on trip, while full of all sorts of fun reading on the reverse, did not always provide an accurate plot for the campsites.  I will be switching companies before our next trip.  The site on the the island was marked to the right but it was actually on the left as we approached from the north.  I was cheesed off because we had to put to on a wavy shore as I ran up onto the island to search out the site.  I was thankful that no one else was on site and immediately ran back to the boats, hopped in and paddled to what looked like a reasonable take out.  Turns out we were on the opposite side of the island from the orange sign, but we figured it out and planted our flag to claim the spot.  The site was top notch for this end of the park although it did present a new addition to the ranking system that our crew has established for sites.  Now added to the list is 'view of oncoming skies.'  We could not see the south western skies and therefore it became a bit of guesswork as to whether or not storms were heading our way.  Throughout the evening we listened to thunder rolling from the West, but could not eyeball any storm clouds.  For over 2 hours, we perked up every time the sky spoke.  We prepped the site for a storm, erecting the tarps, organizing the gear and tightening up the guy lines.  At around bedtime (which is usually 9:00 on trip), the skies started to light up and the thunder seemed a little more ominous.  My wife enjoys the luxury of sleeping in a solo tent, primarily because the rest of the crew does not want to listen to her snoring.  With a storm that had been building for 2-3 hours approaching, we reluctantly said goodnight to Mummy and retreated to our tent.  This did not sit well with me as I was concerned about the potential of this storm.  With the girls encouragement, I went to get Mummy, we reorganized our sleeping pads, and we all tucked in together for the first time in a few years.  The storm seemed to stay very high in the clouds, not really coming down to our level.  It took about an hour to blow over, by which time we were all easily lulled into sleep.  We awoke on day 4 to a slightly overcast but promising morning.  

DAY 4 - Burntroot to Hogan

The wind was up in the morning so we navigated the eastern shoreline of Burntroot and found our way into Red Pine lake.  I find navigation very simple in the park, which is a good thing as we did forget to bring a compass for the ride.  I do have a suunto watch with compass and the in reach, when synced with my i phone, provides a excellent digital compass.  Neither option was necessary on this trip.

Lake La Muir was a bit of a nemesis on our last trip.  This time, we felt that the natural world was helping us travel the water.  The tail winds were huge as we literally surfed the boats down the 3km lake.  Corrina and I had never travelled that fast, in a canoe, on open water, with little to no effort other than sterning the boat.  It was awesome.  I clocked us as 5.5km/h with my watch.  

We experienced a bizarre 'deja vu' on La Muir.  Two seasons ago, we started the portage with a group of young lads, snazzy full length axes and LL Bean packs aglow with rookie expectations.  Those 4 young men raced a single boat with 2 small girls to an open campsite on Hogan.  They beat us by about 20 metres and one of them, the ring leader, planted a foot on shore from the boat, claiming the site and relegating us to another 1 hour paddle to the next available spot.  I was so angry that I verged on ramming ashore and filling him in, but with my family in tow, discretion became the better part of valour.  Wouldn't you know, 8 young guns were putting to at the portage as we arrived.  These fellas seemed cut from a similar cloth as the others altough I must state that they did have a leader who had spent plenty of time in the back country.  With the gentle waft of weed in the air at the put in, they headed toward Hogan with a 10 minute head start.  We had a campsite in mind, the one that we took on the previous trip, but, once again, it was nipped from us, uncontested.  I ruminated over the previous incident for months when I got home.  This time, I let it go.  We had a massive tail wind to push us another 2 km down the lake to a set of sites that were a little closer to the next day's portage, so we paddled on. Upon landing at the first available site I was unhappy with it's general demeanour so Keira and I paddled on to the next one, just to see.  It was a better spot so we back paddled into the waves, retrieved Corrina and Charlotte, and we all took to land within a few minutes.  

The site itself was fine and had a gem of a walk out beach for swimming.  The decision to add 10 minutes to an already lengthy day seemed worth it.  We settled in, got gear drying and went about setting up camp.  The girls set up the tents to perfection, which has been a decade long learning  curve.  They take pride in the seams lining up with the poles and the sleeping pads, pillows and bags being perfectly presented for the showing to follow.  It's an awesome feeling to watch your kids work in the back country.  

This evening marked a major experiment in the Wilson expedition world.  I had purchased 4 dried meals for our trip.  I was hesitant to do this as I did not want to insult Corrina's immense expertise in back country cooking.  Her skills are phenomenal on our dragonfly stove.  However, as we extend the distances covered on trip, we need to look to lighter alternatives for kit.  This was our chance to give it a go.  In summary, we boiled water and filled 4 bags.  Happy yak beef stew was awesome.  At 600 calories per $14.99 bag, we would need 2 bags for me and 1 each for the kids and Corrina, so we're looking at restaurant level cost for one dinner.  Happy yak chicken risotto was OK.  We could not eat the Mountain Chilli and we tolerated the chicken alfredo.  All meals were gluten free as I am the weak link in the family digestion department.  All in all, in a pinch, we could manage, but since we dehydrate most of our own food anyway, we will stick with Corrina's meal plan.  To give perspective on our efforts to save weight, we didn't even bring wine on this trip!!  usually we pack 4, 750ml vacuum bags with red wine, but we didn't miss it at all and it won't be coming on future long haul trips.  

The site took a serious nose dive after dinner.  Sand fleas (as we call them) started nipping at us through socks and deet.  We retreated to our tents at around 9:00, the girls and I going through the obligatory headlamp trapping of flies and resultant 'smushing' on the walls of the tent.  With Corrina tucked in to the solo tent, we played some Uno and fell asleep quite quickly afterwards.  I can not avoid the night time pee, so at 4:40 am I unfolded myself from the tent and took a quick leak.  The sand fleas ravaged me while I stood there, defenseless.  I quickly hopped back into the tent, turned on my lamp and killed a few keen fleas that had travelled in with me.  I continued to feel the nips of the fleas for about 10-15 minutes after, and then Keira poked me on the shoulder "Daddy, something is stinging me".  Charlotte followed up with a similar set of symptoms.  I assumed that a few fleas had folllowed me into the tent and were currently relishing the bounty of my night time pee break.  We turned on the lamps and went about slapping them to death. Keira soon noticed why this was happening.  I had left a 6 inch gap in the zipper.  Our defenses had been let down and the enemy were flowing into our camp.  Frig!  What a bonehead move.  That was it for our night.  5:00 am start to what was about to be our longest day on trip, ever!

On day 2, we portaged past what was to be our day 5 campsite at Stacks Rapids.  It was terrible.  The campfire was literally on the portage trail, the site was secluded in the woods and there were very poor tent pads.  We decided to take out a day early instead of setting up shop there. Knowing that most lakes on the route were fullly booked, it was an easy decision to forgo the temptation to take a site on Catfish that we had not booked.  I do not want to be that person who prevents another group from getting their site at the end of a long day.  It is always in the back of my anxious mind that we might not find a site on our lake.  I could not make that a reality for someone else.  So, as a result, we had a team meeting on the morning of day 5, to discuss the upcoming adventure.  

DAY 5 - the epic - Hogan to Brent

Corrina fuelled us up with oatmeal and grillled cheese for brekkie.  The only other time that I have wanted to leave a site this quickly was when a bear invited himself to join us for an early morning visit.  We hustled off that site perhaps slightly faster that this one.  The sand fleas were utterly relentless.  Deet didn't stop them, long sleeves and pants invited them in for shelter, it was brutal.  We put in at 8:00 am, which was a record for the team but seemed forever since we had been up since 5:00 am.  

The first goal was to put down the 3 portages from Hogan to Sunfish.  They were not easy.  It was essentially an up and over, with a lot more up, than over.  It took 2.5 hours.  Our life jackets were packed with snacks so we set to the water and rafted up for a 15 minutes break.  We were avoiding any additional contact with mozzies or fleas as both girls looked like they had chicken pox from days worth of bites.  The marsh paddle that reconnected us with Catfish Lake was a bit much.  We wound our way through a wonderfully spectacular lilly pad world, but our minds were on the long term goal.  As I led the way I reflected on the mistake that I had made on Perley Lake in giving distant goals to Charlotte, so I waited for their boat to catch up and pointed to the short term goal of a tree line that marked the end of the marsh.  This slight change in approach was a good call.  We poked through to Catfish and regrouped for the next goal.  At this point I was filtering a few more litres of water with the MSR.  We had screwed up the Katadyn gravity filter by failing to insert the pre-screen paper on the filter.  It gunked up within a couple of days so we reverted to the back up system, which really does not merit complaint.  Bottles were filled, lemonade crystals were added, and we paddled up Catfish with a following wind.  

Embarking on a 30+ km day with 10 and 12 year old children is quite something.  I had to swallow my fatigue and negative mind set at times.  The girls do not have perspective on what a day like this means.  Granted, we set expectations for them, letting them know that fuel, hydration and a positive spirit were going to be the foundation of a good day, but they still didn't really know what to expect.  I had expected some energy challenges as we started the portages to Cedar Lake.  Instead, Charlotte insisted on trying her first portage.  That little wonder gave her a go and carried a 17' boat the requisite 80 m to the put in.  What a moment!  She unwittingly changed the atmosphere of the day with her determination and pride.  We rafted up for a current driven lunch at 1:20pm.  The river lazily steered us in the right direction while we ate PB and J sandwiches, smarties and beef jerky.  

I pushed the GO button within about 20 minutes as I knew that time was of the essence for a reasonable arrival time at Brent (keeping in mind that we have a 6 hour drive ahead of us).  The next challenge was the return trip over Unicorn Hill.  As we took out, a tripper approached from the portage with a couple of energetic dogs.  We had a quick chin-wag and exchange of beta.  I shared the fishing strategies of the guys on La Muir.  They had bagged 18 lake trout between them, one measuring 36 inches.  I was sure to ask about depth and to sneak a peak at their lures, so I shared it with this hopeful young lad.  We also discussed the lack of space for 4 tents at Stacks Rapids, to which he had a great problem solving attitude.  I listened to his leadership as he addressed the other fellas in the group and knew that they would figure something out.  His only tidbit of shared information was a quick mention of the high winds on Cedar.  Perhaps he had looked at the girls and worried that it may be a lot to ask of them.  I would do the same and I respected his advice.  It did plant a seed of worry as I shouldered the boat and started the 2345m march.  I did not see the girls again until they came padding up the portage after they dropped their kit.  They went the entire length of the track without stopping.  Amazing.  Charlotte walked me back with frequent 'you're almost there' encouragement, which I did start to question after hearing it for about 10 minutes!  Keira went to her Mum.  She once again shouldered the dry bag and carried it in for the win.  Upon offer, Corrina did not give me the boat when I went back.  I could see the emotion on her face as she determined herself to shore to shore the canoe and show her girls what a super mum she really is.  Big portage done.  2 more to go.  

We knocked off another 300m and 700 m portage to put us on the shores of Cedar lake at 5:15pm.  We had been on the go for 9 hours and 15 minutes. Charlotte and Keira had been the glue that held the day together.  They had made relentless forward progress based on two instrinic goals.  Charlotte wanted to fish the rapids and Keira wanted to walk them.  I figured another 30 minutes would do no harm so the girls took to the river and spent some well deserved time achieving the goals that had driven them this far.  For Corrina and I, the trip was far from over.  I had a monkey on my back with the thought of the waves that were crashing ashore on Cedar.  We had almost made it through the Park unscathed.  I was pushing thoughts of Opeongo out of my mind, not allowing the what-if's to undermine my confidence on the water.  We gathered up the team, took our last luke warm sips from the Nalgenes and pointed left of the target as we hit the waves.  The first 5-10 minutes of this type of crossing can be a bit sketchy.  You have to get the feel of the water, the boat, your partner.  Once Keira and I settled in, we started to enjoy the rodeo.  Once in a while a wave would break the bow and Keira would giggle with laughter and joy.  I was constantly watching Corrina's boat, more for formality that actual worry as I know she is a more competent paddler than I'll ever be.  We ferried across Cedar in about 40 minutes, eddying out behind a point and cruising to the take out.  30.57 km in 9 hours, 53 minutes.  Epic.  

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Algonquin Park Canoe routes map - variety of options to cover Cedar lake area
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Algonquin Park Canoe routes map - variety of options to cover Cedar lake area


Post date: Sun, 08/15/2021 - 11:03


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