Point Grondine Park in four days: Mahzenaging, Lyle Lake and Collins Inlet

This year for our annual mother-daughter backcountry camping trip, we wanted to venture farther north. We tried Killarney, but had difficulty booking the backcountry route we wanted for our timeframe. I’ve had an eye on Pointe Grondine Park and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out.  

Pointe Grondine Park is run by the first nations and is on the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve. The park currently offers day hiking, a backcountry hiking loop and backcountry canoes roots. I don’t know of any other parks like this, so we were really looking forward to checking it out!

Reservations can be made by calling the band office on the website or booking online. The office had some great information and tips. Bookings are made by the campsite and not the lake unlike many provincial parks.

A week before our trip the office called to get out approx. ETA, so that a Trail Guardian could meet us.

Day One

As Point Grondine does not yet have an office in the park, the Trail Guardian met us at the parking lot. Our Trail Guardian was really friendly and even taught us a bit about the history of the area and the first nations. As luck would have it, they currently offer to shuttle canoe trippers to the lake instead of doing the 1200m portage – our trip started out easier, although we would have to do that portage on the way back! They have permission to use a boat launch belonging to people living on the lake. 

We started out on Mahzenaging Lake to clear blue skies and a gentle breeze. This lake has a few cabins and backpacking campsites on it. Before long we reached the 110m portage. There is a dam and small cabin here, but we never saw anyone in the area. The portage was relatively easy and we had lunch listening to the waterfall before continuing down the river.

The Mahzenaging River, after the portage, is beautiful with rocky shores and trees towering above. A few areas narrow with what we thought was wild rice, before opening up again. The river was easy to paddle although longer then expected with two beaver dams to carry over.  One more short 50m portage and we were on Lyle Lake. The portage was pretty and we spent some time on it before continuing on.

We stayed on campsite C3, which was one of the best on the lake, second only to the group campsite across from the portage opening – that one is BEAUTIFUL. The only downside to C3 is there are few places to put a tent and not much shelter from the elements. We passed the C2 site, which was really unremarkable and I wouldn’t stay on that one unless we had to or needed shelter. We set up camp and took a dip in the lake before turning in early – no late night fires that night!

Day Two

We decided to basecamp for this trip, so day two was an exploration to the Collins Inlet and the channel around Phillip Edward Island. We woke in the morning to cloudy skies and the sounds of rain hitting the tent. Between the bad weather and setting up a tarp, our morning started late.

Despite a late start, we headed out down the narrows towards Lyle Lake. Lyle lake was beautiful with small cliffs and trees towered above us. The C4 campsite is currently closed, but you can see where it might be. C5 was unremarkable and C6 was a nice long campsite sitting up above the water – you could get a lot of tents on this site. C7 was a cute little site on a small island, although a bit brushy.

We spent some time trying to find the pictograph on the Unlostify Map, but couldn’t locate it. The lake that Lyle Lake and the Mahzenaging river open into was very pretty, although according to the map not actually part of Point Grondine.

The 360m portage into the north channel of Georgian Bay is well maintained and an easy enough walk across. We emerged to a boggy shoreline, lots of mosquitos and brief cell phone reception. The mosquitoes chased us onto the water fast. We explored the Collins Inlet Village logging remains for the late 1800/early 1900s, and the more recent remains of the Mahzenaging Lodge. Through the mouth of the Mahzenaging river you will find the remains of this lodge, which are crumbling. I have a fascination for abandoned places, so I wanted to explore it. We snapped a few photos, but decided to move along with the amount of no trespassing signs up. The property is apparently for sale.

We paddled a bit further down the channel and stopped for lunch on a small outcropping. This spot was hard to access with the steep rocks, but better then any of the surrounding shorelines. We also may have taken a bit of a swim here because of the steep rocks! We had a rainy lunch, before returning to our campsite in Point Grondine. Looking at some maps later, we realized we were actually on one of the few old crown land camping site in the area. I couldn’t imagine staying on this one, it was so small!

On the way back we saw a bald eagle – my first in the wild! The clouds also blew out and we enjoyed a swim and relaxing evening before turning in for the night.

Day Three

This day was just to explore the lake, so we took our time in the morning! Later in the morning, we explored the back bay behind our camping spot. This bay is more of a marsh with not much to see other then some ducks. We paddled around a bit and enjoyed the relaxation of a still lake with no one around – one benefit of Point Grondine is that it is relatively quiet.

We headed toward the narrows to Cedar Lake, which were beautiful with still water reflecting the vast cliffs above. I was happy to see more of the Canadian Shield this area is so famous for. We checked out the two campsites on this lake, which were nice enough and paddle past the hiking campsite. We headed back to the CG2 group site and decided to have lunch there.

This well used campsite is just BEAUTIFUL! Huge rocks emerge from the water, which leads back into a large stand of trees. It looks like the park may use this spot for some of their culture paddling adventures. We relaxed on the campsite for a few hours before paddling back to ours for the night.

Day Four

This was our travel day and because we wanted to get into Killarney for the famous fish and chips, we packed up fast and were on the lake by 9:15am. The winds stayed low and we made decent time back onto Mahzenaging Lake.

Unlike the way in, we had to actually do the 1200m portage from the lake back to the parking lot. The trail guardian said there were some canoe carts/wheels, but the first portion is straight up hill and has many rocks. We fussed around with the cart before deciding it would just be easier to portage. I think the longest I have ever portage a canoe myself is about 675m, so this was interesting! I’ve done longer portages, but only carried packs. Luckily after the hill, the portage was pretty flat and the last half was gravel. I still had to stop about 3-4 times and laid on the picnic table at the parking lot for a while after – it was victory though!

This was another fantastic mother-daughter camping trip for the books and I was so glad to see an new area for backcountry camping. There is something magical about unplugging in nature to reset and relax.


Tips:

  • Book through: https://grondinepark.com/
  • We rented a canoe and had it delivered through: http://www.killarneyoutfitters.com/
  • Out go-to maps is Jeff’s Map and now Unlostify: https://www.unlostify.com/
  • The Killarney Unlostify map shows Point Grondine Park
  • You can purchase Point Grondine Maps through the website
  • Point Grondine Park also offers really neat cultural hiking and guided canoe trips – we just were not around for any of them!

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