There is an interesting creek between Loucks Lake and Cox Lake in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. This creek is always changing under the watchful eye of some very busy beavers. Water levels up, water levels down….
In my opinion, this creek is one of the prettiest paddles in the Kawartha Highlands; short, but so much fun.
Of course this creek can be full of adventure as well; rocks, lift-overs of various sizes and a blanket of lillypads. Of course you also need to trust that your paddling partner will not leave you stranded.
Breaking in a Canoe
Many years ago we were paddling through this very creek with our new canoe – a shiny new Swift Kipawa. At the time we had a dog who was afraid of water. We got to the first beaver dam and she wouldn’t jump out. We knew if we left her in the canoe while we did the lift-over she would likely panic and who knows what would happen. Lifting her out and setting her on the beaver dam seemed like a good idea. But she panicked anyway and we had 70 lbs of flailing dog, scratching our shiny new wood gunnels and knocking all of us into the water. It’s funny now.
Shortly after that episode, we were paddling along in Cox Lake, out from shore a fair distance. We were in the process of seeing just how fast our new canoe could go when BAM, we hit a rock. We were right on top of a rock that was sitting about 1/2 inch below the surface. The canoe was officially broken in thanks to a weekend trip to Cox Lake.
The rock just beneath the surface of the water, in the middle of the lake, brought back memories of my first trip to the lake in 1978. My friend and I decided to go for an evening paddle, even though we had been paddling and portaging all day – oh to have the energy I did at 16. We asked if we could try another friends canoe – it was a canvas covered cedar strip that we were dying to try. The same thing happened, we hit a rock in the middle of the lake. That canoe was actually patched with pine gum.
Starting out on Long Lake
The paddle down Long Lake is always nice – and of course … long. I can also guarantee that you will be paddling into the wind regardless of the direction you’re travelling. How does that happen? There is motor boat traffic but it is never a problem, the cottagers are very familiar with paddlers and very respectful.
Loucks Lake is a pretty lake with cottages on one side and Crown Land on the other. In the far South West corner of Loucks Lake you will find two portages, one into the creek that leads to Cox Lake and one leading into Compass Lake.
Take the 130 metre portage (which seems like it’s about 65 meters up and then 65 down) that will lead you toward Cox Lake. You will find the best dock in the world on the other side. For years it was just a few treacherous boards, so the new plastic dock is heaven.
As mentioned, you may want to watch for rocks as you make your way up the creek and over the beaver dams.
When you arrive at the portage into Cox Lake be careful where you put your packs, there is poison ivy all along the portage.
This portage is now longer than the 24 metres marked on the map. The portage was extended to accommodate the lower water levels in Cox Lake.
It is a pretty easy portage, with only a slight grade. If it’s busy, watch where you get off the trail when you move out of the way of other campers – again you don’t want to find yourself standing in poison ivy.
The put-in at Cox Lake is a big area but it’s rocky.
In the old days we camped on the only island on the lake. It was a very pretty little spot. I remember camping there in a few big storms. High winds, trees down, flooded tents and crazed mice. However, because the island is small and delicate it has been closed for camping for a while now.
Now we like site 523 because it’s nice and open, the swimming is good and it has a nice walkable rock shoreline. It is across the bay from the portage into Triangle Lake. It isn’t a busy portage, likely because it is 1276 metres.
In the old days the portage into Triangle Lake started on the other side of the peninsula. I remember it well because of the biting red ants.
A few years ago we were camped with friends and their 10 year old son. On the portage we met a group of 6 young men staying on site 524. When the 10 year old found out their site had a jumping rock, he tried to negotiate a “site switch”. He actually tried to use his parents box of wine in the negotiations. Pretty smart!
At first, we thought perhaps the group on site 524 would be partying. However, on the first evening we knew things would be OK when we heard them out for an evening paddle singing “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling“. We decided it was likely “an intervention weekend”. Don’t judge a book… these guys were great neighbours.
On this same weekend a plane landed and took off several times. It was fun to watch – well the first time anyway. There are a couple cottages/camps on the lake and the plane seems to belong to the people near the portage into Cold Lake.
In the picture of the plane you can see the jumping rock site on the right. Next time we go with a young person, we will definitely book that site.
You can see those sites down the lake are fairly close together. I am pretty sure we had the most private site on the lake.
Sparkler Lake and Agate Lake
On our second day we decided to do some exploring into Sparkler Lake and Agate Lakes. These are newly opened lakes since the area became Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.
We packed a lunch and headed out on a day-trip.
If you’re on Cox Lake, I highly recommend taking the time to walk the 300 metre portage into Sparkler Lake, it’s just so pretty. You will find the portage just behind the island. The huge trees make this an amazing walk. If you want to explore further, take along your canoe.
Sparkler Lake would be a nice private place to camp because there is only one site on the lake. It’s a very tiny lake, but I would like to try it for a night or two. We passed a group of young men camped at Site 500. They had one of those tents you suspend above the ground between trees and climb in with a rope ladder. Very cool, however not an option with a dog. Someone in our group called it a “bear piñata”.
The 447 metre portage into Agate Lake is a whole other story. It is not flat at all. In fact, we ran into a couple resting before they attempted the last hill down to the lake. They looked exhausted. We were glad to just have our canoes, a day pack and our lunch.
Even though the portage is steep, and the put-in is small, the trip into Agate Lake was worth the effort. It is a very pretty little lake. My favorite part was the beautiful swampy area at the far end. Tons of flowers – but we liked the little pink ones the best. No idea what they are called.
There are two sites on Agate Lake, Site 501 looks dark, but Site 502 looks nice. It’s on a cliff and looks like it would have a great view. The couple we met on the portage arrived at Site 502, across the lake from where we stopped to have lunch and a swim. Just after they arrived the woman started screaming. We thought for sure it was a bear and we all jumped up. However, we soon realized we didn’t need to worry, she was screaming because their cooler was floating away. They went out in the canoe and rescued the cooler. Crisis averted. I never know how people camp with coolers and avoid problems with animals; I assume they only have “beverages” stored in the cooler. Portaging a cooler must be so unpleasant.
The trip back to Cox Lake wasn’t as nice because it was later in the day and the mosquitoes were hungry. While swatting flies, our friend lost her sunglasses at the put-in at Sparkler Lake. The glasses were gone forever in the muck. However, even the mosquitoes didn’t cause us to regret our decision to explore these two lakes.
The next day we decided to explore Cox Lake. There is a “little lake” the beavers have made above Cox Lake. If you are paddling toward the portage to Loucks, it is on your left. This is a fun area to explore. It has been there for years. I remember fishing in there about 20 years ago – no fish but it was a peaceful little area to float around in. Take some time to explore all the interesting plants.
On our trip we had one afternoon of thunder and black clouds but we were lucky it only rained a short time. Later in the day we met some people coming through the portage from Triangle Lake with very young kids. They had been delayed by the storm and hadn’t anticipated the effort and time it takes to do a long portage. They arrived to Cox Lake at dinnertime, however the site they had booked was on Cold Lake another two portages away – a 1310 metre and a 448 metre. That was way out of reach. They ended up camped in front of the vacant hunt-camp on the point. Stormy weather can definitely affect your plans.
The day we left Cox Lake to paddle out was a sad day, we all wanted to stay at least one more day.
Rating: It can be a 2 day trip but we stayed 3. The trip into Cox Lake is pretty easy with only two short portages. It is a long paddle down Long Lake and a bit of work on the creek – depending on the beaver activity.
Lakes: Long Lake to Loucks Lake to Cox Lake and back – with a day trip into Sparkler and Agate Lakes
Map: Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/kawarthahighlands/map