As the days get a wee bit cooler and the mosquitoes disappear, the time is perfect for a flatwater paddling trip.
The best array of multi-day options can be found in the interconnected maze of lakes east of Lake of the Woods, a recreational paddling region that covers hundreds of square kilometres south of Highway 17 and east of Highway 71, including the entire Experimental Lakes Area.
As of this moment, there's no guidebook to the region. Readers often query me about potential routes.
Here are some of the most popular and most spectacular. Before you head out, make sure to buy or download the topographical maps -- and pack a compass.
Stewart Lake Loop
Access/egress: Pine Road at Lower Stewart Lake
Chain of lakes: Lower Stewart, Geejay, Manomin, Winnange, Upper Stewart and Lower Stewart.
The goods: Two relatively easy portages takes you into Manomin Lake, where there's an excellent rocky campsite in northeast corner, as well as secondary island sites.
Stephen Lake loop
Access/Egress: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake
Chain of lakes: Kakagi, Cedartree, Flint, Stephen, Cameron and Kakagi.
The goods: The pictographs on Stephen Lake, located just to the east of the sole campsite, are worth four portages on the way in. This is also reintroduced-elk country. There's a demon of a portage between Cameron and Kakagi -- and plenty of open water on Kakagi itself-- but the effort is worth it.
THREE OR FOUR NIGHTS
Teggau Lake loop
Access/egress: Pine Road at Lower Stewart Lake.
Chain of lakes: Lower Stewart, Geejay, Manomin, Winnange, Eagle (west arm), Teggau, Eagle (west arm), Crabclaw, Winnange, Upper Stewart and Lower Stewart.
The goods: Teggau Lake, the deepest in the Experimental Lakes area, is the destination on the trip. The spectacular campsite sits at the tip of a peninsula that juts out from the east. Consider spending two nights here. Also camp on Manomin and Crabclaw or Winnange. There are steep portages at Buzzard Falls, which sits between Winnange and Eagle, as well as between Winnange and Upper Stewart Lake.
FOUR OR FIVE NIGHTS
Dryberry Lake loop
Access/egress: Highwind Lake Road
Chain of lakes: Highwind, Hillock, Dryberry, Point, ELA No. 322, ELA No. 313, Teggau, Eagle (west arm), Winnange, Manomin, Geejay, Fish, ELA No. 109, Porcus and Highwind.
The goods: Dryberry Lake, one of the largest in the canoe country east of Lake of the Woods, is a wonder on a calm day and a terror in high winds. Paddle this route counter-clockwise to increase the chance of being aided by prevailing westerlies. Highlights along the route include a spectacular rockfall near the portage north out of Point Lake and Teggau Lake (see above).
Pipestone Lake loop
Access: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake
Egress: Nestor Falls, Ont.
Chain of Lakes: Kakagi, Osipassini, Sandhill, Schistose, Pipestone, Slender, Kishkutena, Wigwam, Pinus and Kakabikitchiwan.
The goods: Although this is a loop, you'll have to shuttle at least one vehicle between the Kakagi Lake public dock and Nestor Falls, which are 12 kilometres from each other. The big attraction is long and secluded Pipestone, separated from Highway 71 by many, many portages. You're going to work for this one.
EIGHT OR NINE NIGHTS
Eagle Lake to Kakagi Lake
Access: Vermilion Bay, Ont.
Egress: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake
Chain of Lakes: Eagle, Piskegomang Brook, Goose, Hawkcliff, Stoat, Fisher, Populus, Atikwa, Waterfall, Rupert, Eliza, Caviar, Flint, Cedartree and Kakagi.
The goods: If you're looking for a long flatwater paddle, this is your trip. Seldom-visited Hawkcliff Lake is a stunner. The waterfall west of Atikwa Lake will demand a two-night stay at the small campsite on the opposite side of Waterfall Lake. A rocky island site on the north side of Kakagi is among the best in the area. Pack light!