My Favourite: Backcountry camping at Tom Thomson Lake, Algonquin
By Ethan Brandt.
I am not an experienced backpacker, canoeist, or hiker by any stretch or the imagination. I do, however, love to get outdoors, and I believe that I found quite the little gem of a campsite to spend a few days to get away – one that even the least experienced self-proclaimed outdoorsman can get to: Site 17 on Tom Thomson Lake. My girlfriend and I knew we had wanted to go on a trip through Algonquin park, an interior canoe trip, but weren’t sure where to start, where to go, or really what we were getting ourselves into. As I do with most of my planning, I looked at the map, found the lake with the best name, and said “hey, let’s go there”. Tom Thomson has always been one of my favourite artists, and I saw it only fitting to camp on the lake that bore his name.
The route was relatively simple. We would start at the Canoe Lake, paddling towards the north end and up the ~250m portage into Joe Lake. We would travel northbound through the western gap on Joe Lake up into Teepee Lake, continuing further northbound. Teepee Lake narrows and turns into Fawn Lake – more of a stagnant swamp than a lake, at least in July when we were on the trip – and finally from there let’s into Littledoe Lake. From here a turn onto the first western inlet (and a bit of a shimmy over a beaver dam) granted us access into the HUGE Tom Thomson Lake. I did not measure the distance but if I had to guess I’d say it was about a 12.5km paddle from the Canoe Lake beach to site 17 on Tom Thomson Lake.
The campsite is on the southeastern side of the lake, and it was very secluded, with a great view of the few islands that dot the middle of the lake surrounded by the burnt orange skies of the sunset. We stayed two nights, and the first night was magical. A calm breeze kept us cool, we cooked pancakes for dinner over the fire and relaxed in the hammock. It’s worth noting that there is an ample number of trees to hang your food pack, as well as a thunder box around 100m downwind of the site, well hidden along a small trail.
The second day we relaxed and went out for a paddle around the lake, taking in the beautiful views. A storm blew in suddenly and powerfully after dinner, as they usually do in the Algonquin interior. We hung our pack quickly and cleaned up and hunkered down in the tent, but the storm raged all night. All said and done the tent was sitting in about 4” of water and we had a large jack pine fall uncomfortably close to us. The next morning at the crack of dawn we assessed the situation, cleaned up our gear, got our canoe packed and excitedly hit the lake to paddle our way back to civilization, seeing a wolf and a moose on the way! All in all the site was magnificent, we didn’t have any nosy or noisy neighbours, had no issues with wildlife, and the views were just absolutely spectacular! I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.
Ethan Brandt, canoeing and outdoors enthusiast living in Thunder Bay.