Quetico (Atikokan Entrance)

Routes of the Quetico

The Quetico Provincial Park is the finest and most famous canoe area in the world. It is a two million acre protected wilderness with minimal human impact and traffic. Paddlers travel from all over North America (and beyond) to paddle its calm waters and to enjoy the isolation it offers.

In contrast to the southern section of the Quetico which is filled with small lakes and frequent portages, the northern Quetico features very long lakes with (slightly) fewer portages in between. The northern Quetico also tends to be more isolated as the majority of visitors coming into the park arrive from the South. Because of the size and orientation of the lakes, Quetico routes are easy to combine and adapt. Some guides I know argue that there is really just one major northern Quetico loop—albeit a loop that has a few dozen significant variations on it. Consequently, it is very easy to find a route that specifically meets the desires and strengths of each crew.

Northern access points for the Quetico can be found at:

  • Lerome Lake
  • Nym Lake
  • French Lake
  • Beaverhouse Lake

The "Bathtub" at Louisa Falls

Buckshot Loop

Lakes: Nym, Batchewaung, Pickerel Narrows, Pine Portage, Dore, Twin Lakes, Olifaunt, Sturgeon, Russell, Sturgeon, Jean Creek, Rouge, Burntside, Jean, Quetico, Kasokokwog, McApline, Batchewaung Bay, Nym

  • Drop-Off: Nym
  • Pick-Up: Nym
  • Number of Portages: 19
  • Length of Longest Portage: .4 miles
  • Trip Length (miles): 75 miles
  • Recommended Trip Length (days): 6-9
  • Trip Difficulty: Moderate

Description: Voyageurs of old would scope their muskets by pinning a map to a tree and firing buck shot it at three hundred paces. The Buckshot route was created by staying a night at each hole in the map. By accident, these Voyageurs happened across one of the most stunningly beautiful routes across the Quetico, filled with waterfalls, Indian pictographs, small creeks that trickle through reedy lowlands and big lakes that flow through craggy highlands.

Poet Falls

Lakes: Nym, Batchewaung, Pickerel Narrows, Maria, Jesse, Elizabeth, Walter, Sturgeon, Heron, Fred, Nan, Camel, Cutty Creek, Eag, Cub, Baird, Metacryst, Heronshaw, Kashahpiwi Creek, Shelley, Keats, Chatterton, Russell, Sturgeon, Twin Lakes, Dore, Pine Portage Bay, Pickerel, French.

  • Drop-Off: Nym
  • Pick-Up: French
  • Number of Portages: 26
  • Longest Portage: .5 miles
  • Trip Length (miles): 90 miles
  • Recommended Trip Length (days): 7-9
  • Trip Difficulty: Difficult

Description: Follow the spirits of the famed poets Russell, Shelley, and Keats, and see if the Quetico can inspire such poetry in you! This route starts at Nym Lake and takes a straight shot south to the middle of the Quetico Park, arguably the most picturesque canoe country south of the Atikokan base. On your return to base you will follow the traditional Voyageur trading route back from the far North and West of Canada, before portaging around a series of waterfalls on the way back to French Lake. This trip is ideal for crews looking for a wide variety of paddling conditions, semi-strenuous portaging, and an almost unlimited quantity of side-trips.

A sampling of the Northwoods fauna

A sampling of the Northwoods fauna

Paddling Loop

Lakes: French, Pickerel, Batchewaung, McAlpine, Kasokokwog, Quetico, Beaverhouse, Quetico Oriana, Jesse, Maria, Pickerel, French

  • Drop-Off: French
  • Pick-Up: French
  • Number of Portages: 10
  • Longest Portage: .4 miles
  • Trip Length (miles): 85 miles
  • Recommended Trip Length (days): 7-9 days
  • Trip Difficulty: Moderate

Description: The paddling loop covers almost all of the Big Lakes of the Quetico, meaning that crews will get to spend more time in the canoe and less time on the portage trail. Make sure to see the famed Objibwe pictographs on Quetico Lake as well as the sunken barge in Pickerel narrows. The length of this trip makes it a good challenge for an adventurous crew as well as insuring that the crew will see a majority of the Northern Quetico’s most famous sites.

The Walleye Wander

Lakes: Nym, Batchewaung, Batchewaung Bay, Pickerel Narrow, Maria, Jesse, Elizabeth, Walter, Lonely, Sturgeon, Twin, Dore, Pine Portage Bay, Pickerel, French

  • Drop-Off: Nym
  • Pick-Up: French
  • Number of Portages: 11
  • Longest Portage: .5 mile
  • Trip Length (miles): 50 miles
  • Recommended Trip Length (days): 6
  • Trip Difficulty: Easy

Description: Fish for the tasty denizens of the Northwoods waterways: the fierce Northern Pike, the bountiful Smallmouth Bass, the enormous Lake Trout, and, of course, the delicious Walleye. This trip is on the shorter side—but less time paddling means more time to explore, fish, or just simply relax. There are plenty of beautiful campsites to choose from and, lest the trip seem too peaceful, enough portages to give your crew a good challenge.

I Dream of Jean

Lakes: Lerome, Bewag, Narrow, Cole, Cirrus, Kaskokwog, McAlpine, Quetico, Jean, Burntside, Rouge, Jean Creek, Sturgeon, Russell, Sturgeon Narrows, Twin Lakes, Dore, Pine, Pickerel, French

  • Drop-Off: Lerome
  • Pick-Up: French
  • Number of Portages: 13
  • Longest Portage: .5 miles
  • Length of Trip (miles): 85 miles
  • Recommended Trip Length (days): 7-9
  • Trip Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Description: This route offers all the amenities of the Canadian canoe country: beautiful lakes to paddle, portages you can tell stories about when you return home, wild scenery to spark the imagination, and, as always, great fishing. This route takes crews through much of the Northern Quetico—passing by Ojibwe pictographs, waterfalls, pristine wilderness lakes, and intimate trickling streams along the way. Russell is renowned as one of the most beautiful and remote lakes in the Quetico. From the south end of this route, crews can take day trips to the famed “Falls Chain,” usually accessible only from the South.


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