Madawaska Highlands: Big Gull Lake

For Canada Day 2003, Fiona and I stayed close to home and paddled the 90 km loop of the Mississippi River route known alternatively as the Big Gull, Kashwakamak or Crotch Lake Loop.

The sunset view westward toward the Narrows on Crotch Lake. Check out more photos here. Over four days and three nights, we looped around six lakes and eight portages through the Canadian Shield scenery – and weather – of Eastern Ontario.

I mention weather because for my first time, a thunder and lightning deluge forced us to take shelter in a cove just an hour into our trip. When it slowed to a drizzle a half hour later, we pushed on and made it halfway down Big Gull Lake before settling for the night just past Long Island and scant minutes before another rainstorm. Thankfully we experienced no more rain the rest of the trip.

Big Gull Lake is known for its gusty winds and we were glad to leave it for the takeout to Shoepack Joe Lake and our longest portage of the trip at 1250 meters. After pond-hopping through Shoepack Joe, we found the right cottage road to Kashwakamak Lake with a little help from some local cottagers. With the wind at our backs finally, we made good time heading eastward before settling on pretty little island near the Kashwakamak Lake Dam.

Canada Day Tuesday found us trekking through four shorter portages along Farm and Mud Lakes before we emerged again at the north end of Crotch Lake. Easily the most picturesque of the chain of lakes, we meandered about before settling on an island campsite east of Narrows Point.

It’s a campsite worth recommending with gorgeous views of both the rising and setting sun, a spot for cliff diving, a privvy and decent campfire.

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