Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Killarney Interior - George, Killarney and OSA Lakes

Location: 90 km south of Sudbury
Website: Ontario Parks or My CCR or Specific Campsite Reviews
Map: Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Predominantly Backcountry, with some car camping at George Lake
Grade: A
Stargazing: Not great, Sudbury's orange glow greatly diminishes the Northern sky.
Thoughts: The George Lake access point is clearly Killarney's busiest.  This is attributable to the presence of a car campground there, in addition to it being a southerly access point, allowing for a shorter drive for those of us coming from the south (though not a short as accessing through Bell Lake).  As a result, your first impressions may be that it's crowded and full of amateurs who don't know what to do with a paddle.  But this changes after one portage.  George Lake is in itself a nice lake where you get some good views of the quartzite hills, but you'll really enjoy the serenity once you've made it to Killarney Lake.

Loons on Killarney Lake
The paddle across George can be an excruciating one, as you just want to make it across this lake due to its propensity to get very windy and wavy.  Its oriented W-E, so the winds coming off of Georgian Bay can find their way into this wind tunnel. On a calm day, though, it can be a fun paddle.

Then you find yourself on Freeland Lake after the tiny portage (almost a lift-over, its really short).  Freeland is a swampy, reedy, mud pile of a lake.  One of my wife's flip-flops was sucked into the mud at the take-out to the Killarney Lake portage, never to be found again.  Its as though it was just devoured by the muck. I don't know if there is a solid piece of ground to step out onto. Just take off your shoes before trying to get out.

Doe on Killarney
Killarney Lake itself is very nice.  On our first visit here, we paddled out of the enclosure where the portage is located to find a deer feeding in the shallow water.  It mostly didn't mind us paddling by, just one of those awe-inspiring moments in the backcountry.  From what we could tell, the sites are all pretty good.  We had an expansive site just around the corner from the portage (site 21), which was nice but not a stitch of dry wood was available due to the scattered showers we'd experience the day before.  

A break from the rain on OSA
Crystal clear water on OSA 
The real highlight of this trip is OSA lake. Due to its high acidity, nary a creature, plant or animal, microscopic or macroscopic, seems to be able to live in this lake.  As a result the water is crystal clear and it feels like your swimming in a massive unchlorinated swimming pool.  Its almost worth making a day trip here just to go for a swim.  There are two portages into this lake from Killarney, a 130m and a 450m.  You have to paddle a bit further to get to the 130, and take you canoe over a lift-over (which you can almost do without getting your feet wet). I recommend the this route though, anything for a shorter portage.  For me, a km on water is worth 50 meters carrying a canoe on land, let alone 300 meters.
Quartzite Ridges over OSA Lake

View of Killarney Lake (fore) and
OSA Lake (back) from "The Crack"
Another great hike from Killarney lake is the trip up to "The Crack".  This hike can be rugged in certain sections and very slippery when wet (when you get to upper portions towards the lookout, which are mostly rock surface) but I don't think anybody in our group was disappointed.  In fact, you don't need to portage in to get to this hike, there is direct access from highway 637.  If car camping at George Lake, this is probably the easiest route to take.  It should be noted that the access to "The Crack" from Killarney Lake is horrendous;  I don't think I've waded through deeper mud in my life, let alone tried to dock a canoe in it.  Don't wear any clothes that you'll miss and secure all gear.

This is an amazing section of a beautiful park.  Book early.  You won't be disappointed.

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