image002_gif_t285The secret is out. I just couldn't hold on to this canoe route any longer. Island Lake is a paradise for paddlers looking for an area that seems remote but is actually in close proximately to southern Ontario. It's located between Parry Sound and Sundridge. And if you're a canoeist who's becoming desperate for a quick and easy place to escape to — and free of the crowds — Island Lake and other neighboring lakes are the perfect place for you.

I've known about Island Lake for some years now but kept from writing about it. First, it really didn't receive much protection in the past; that is until the area became part of the Noganosh Provincial Park, formed in 1999 through the Living Legacy program, and is now titled the Island Lake Forests and Barrens Provincial Conservation Reserve. This means, of course, it's a new unmanaged park that's now on the road map but with little information about how to visit it. This brings me to the second point of why I kept from letting out the "secret" route. I was always quite concerned of Island Lake not being big enough to support a good amount of visitors. But a couple of weeks ago I headed out to retrace some older routes linked to Island Lake and the nearby Noganosh Lake system and "rediscovered" some incredible side routes. They were amazing.

I was joined by Mike Kipp, a keen paddler (and incredible paddle maker) from Paris, Ontario. He happened to be part of a hunt club along Farm Creek — a waterway that links Island Lake to the access point on Wahwashkesh Lake. In the cabin, tucked away in a metal cylinder, between a dozen or so mouse traps and some pin-ups from the late 60s, was a Forestry Map dated 1933 showing all the old portages linking neighboring lakes to Island Lake. It was like finding a treasure map.

In the next week or so I'll be posting my journal entries from that trip on my blog, showing where we went (and where we got lost) en route.

But for now, I have put some of the portage info. Mike and I gathered onto a new map system by Map Sherpa.

It was an explore blog reader that informed me about this really cool map making program (my last map I posted on a route was a tad rough, I guess). It's fast and easy to learn how to make and print your own route maps. And there's lots more coming to their site in the near future (i.e. GPS upload / download, map sharing with friends/groups, high resolution satellite / air photo integration).