Killarney Provincial Park
A complete guide to Johnny Lake:
Once you go on a canoeing backcountry camping trip, you simply cannot go back to car camping. At least that is how we felt at the conclusion of our epic trip to Johnny Lake located in Killarney Provincial Park.
We spent a few days exploring the lake and are stoked to share with you our experiences and dole out advice that can help you on your own adventure.
So what do you need for your first backcountry trip?
You need camping gear and we have a list of things we bring here.
You also need a camping permit (with parking). You can book these here.
You need a canoe to access the sites in the interior of the park. The lake we chose had 6 sites and they were accessible by canoe only. If you are like us and don’t have a canoe, you need to rent one out. Killarney outfitters and Killarney Kanoes are your best bet. We went with Killarney Kanoes and they did not disappoint. You can book the canoe online or over the phone. Once you are at the Killarney Kanoes office, the guys there will take care of you. The canoe will be waiting for you and the check in is quick and professional. Please note, your parking permit is included in the camping permit.
You can enter Johnny Lake from either Bell Lake park office or from Johnny Lake parking lot.
If you book the canoe with Killarney Kanoes and choose to take site 68, you can ask them to deliver the canoe to the parking lot at Johnny Lake entrance. It is a free service. That way you can reach site 68 in roughly an hour. If you choose to take other sites, it is better to start from the office at Bell Lake. It is not an easy option and you should be prepared for challenges involving portaging and angry beavers.
We took the hard way of course.
First you get your canoe and leave the car at the parking.Then you have to carry the canoe 300 meters from the parking lot through the woods to Johnny Lake. Once you are loaded up and start paddling, you will reach a beaver dam. You will have to dismount and carry the canoe for an additional portage of 25 meters around the dam. Watch out for the beavers!
After the seconds portage, the lake is yours to explore and camp!
We had favorable weather and plenty of time to pass by every bay, cul de sac and island. Johnny Lake is simply stunning. The lake is curvy and and each camping site is hidden from one another. This creates a setting that is perfect for seclusion and meditation. La Cloche Mountains loom in the distance, rugged rocky Canadian Shield make this desolate area stunningly mesmerizing. As the sun begins to set, the wind dies down and silence descends upon you. All your senses begin to heighten. Every time the paddle touches the water, it feels like you are cutting jello. Scurrying chipmunk is heard as if it is a trampling bear. Words do not do justice to this picturesque slice of Canada.
So which site should you consider?
Here is our breakdown of them all:
63, 64 – Easiest access from Bell Lake park office. Keep in mind that you have to portage twice to get to these sites. The views are spectacular and the area is known for great pike and bass fishing.
65 – located by the Killarney Mountain Lodge. The site is in the narrow passageway of the lake and it is not the quietest place to stay. The area is also quite shaded.
68 – easiest access from Johnny Lake access road. Our favorite. This site has everything: the views, fishing, large area for tents and central location allows you to visit Ruth Roy lake as well.
69 – located in the Cul de Sac. Lots of black flies and mosquitoes as the area is swampy. Very secluded.
67 – the first site you see if you paddle from Johnny Lake access point. Across the site are cottagers and the traffic can be high with motor boats zooming by. The area is quite windy without La Cloche mountains to shield it. Definitely worth it if you are planning on leaving stuff in your car and do not wish to portage. Roughly 30 min paddle from the parking lot.
So what activities can be done on Johnny Lake?
- Paddle to the small waterfalls on Ruth-Roy Lake and after a 80 meter portage, explore the secluded Ruth-Roy Lake. The lake has two sites available.
- Fishing. Johnny Lake has fantastic pike and bass fishing. Check the regulations regarding open seasons. Trout fishing is not allowed. Nothing beats a freshly caught pike done over the fire.
- Bird watching. From diving loons to hawks and vultures soaring in the sky. At night, you can play the “Who cooks for you?” game with Barred owls.
- Without a doubt, sunrises on Johnny Lake are spectacular. Every morning we woke up to a still lake and deafening silence. As you paddle on, the only sounds you will hear is your beating heart.
- Sunset. If you think the sunrises are spectacular, wait till you see the sunsets. They are even more impressive. In fact, when you are camping, just forget sleep altogether.
- When the sun does go down, sleep is out of question. Sitting by a crackling fire, under a sky full of stars and listening to sorrowful call of the loon in distance, what can possibly be better??
- Forgetting about electronics and civilization. That is self explanatory. Nature trumps it all. You will definitely need lots of coffee for all those sunrises and star gazing.
Cost for a first time back country camper:
Canoe: $36 a day.
Permit to camp (parking included in the fee) $12.50 a day.(Per person)
Gas and Groceries for the trip (rough estimate for GTA traveller) $30 a day. (Per person)
Still cheaper than a dinner for two at your local restaurant but far more rewarding.
A must to have on your first backcountry trip:
Bear bag – You can’t store your food in the car when you are so far from civilization. You can’t keep it in your tent either because you obviously don’t want to be a taco of the bear world.
Food should be kept in a sealed container and hung from a tree some distance from your camp.
Water filter – unless you are planning on bringing gallons of water with you, the lake is your only water source. Boiling the water is great but it will not get rid off all the bacteria in the water. A water filter goes a long way. I remember filling a bottle from the crystal clear water of the lake and watching mosquito larvae wiggle in the water. So yeah…. Get a water filter.
Ours cost $40 from LifeStraw.
You should consider that the more you bring with you, the more you will have to lug on every portage and the harder you will have to paddle to get to your site. So pack wisely and have a blast and let us know how was YOUR adventure!
Don`t forget to watch our video: