Total Distance: 42 km (from Ess Narrows to the south end of Noganosh and back to Ess Narrows)
Duration: 3 days (more can be added if visiting Last Lake, Mud Lake, John Lake and the Magnetawan R.)
Number of Portages: 6
Total Portage Distance: 1022 m
Level of Difficulty: Novice (though wind can be an issue on the Pickerel River and the north end of Noganosh)
Map is courtesy of Lost Lakes (Thanks, Jon!) -- my route is marked in dark blue.
On the bright side, the wind was non-existent and the river would have been like glass if it were not for the sporadic showers that kept reappearing. I had expected a lot more activity and boat traffic on this tributary of the Pickerel River that connected to Dollars Lake to the north, but I had the entire river to myself from Highway 522 to Kawigamog Lake. It must have been the crappy weather; even all the cottages that dotted the western shoreline near the lake seemed to be empty on this rainy weekday.
I meandered through the creek for a bit and was enjoying the silence and solitude as I made my way south. I turned around to snap a shot of the landscape.
Eventually, the creek narrowed and came to a very large beaver dam. The short 40m portage to the left of it climbed up a steep bluff and had a rather steep rocky descent back down to the creek. From there, it is another 15-minute paddle to the longer 318m portage into Smoky Lake. Again, I took a photo of the creek behind me from the take-out.
The portage from Smoky Creek to Smoky Lake is easy and wide. After the put-in, the creek headed in an easterly direction for a bit and then veered right to the southwest as it widened and entered Smoky Lake proper. The first things I saw as I entered the lake were the islands and the cabins of the fly-in Tornado fishing lodge.
After a bit of oatmeal, I thought I would see what this back bay had to offer in terms of fish. For the better part of an hour, I paddled the shoreline adjacent to my site. I managed to pull a few bass in, only one of any size, but to be honest, I was not getting as many hits as I had expected. Noganosh is known for its good fishing.
Despite the marginal fishing success, I was thoroughly enjoying being out on the water in the sunshine, especially considering how dire the weather had been the day prior.
The wind was starting to gust a bit, and I knew that if it was starting at this early hour, it would most likely be fairly strong by the afternoon. I decided to break camp and head back up to that sweet site that I had spotted at the southeast end of Smoky. There, I would have better views of the lake, be in a place where the wind can whisk away the mosquitoes, AND I knew that it was vacant.