person canoeing on lake

Quetico’s backcountry routes without portages

This post comes from Park Information Specialist Jill Legault of Quetico Provincial Park.

“Portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.” — Bill Mason

Did you know Quetico Provincial Park’s solitary wilderness experience and pristine nature is available without portaging?

woman in canoe

Why try portage-free backcountry camping?

  • it’s a great way to introduce young kids to backcountry camping
  • it’s great for beginners who want to avoid rapids
  • you don’t have to worry about your ability to haul your gear over a long distance
  • you can bring bulkier items like gas stoves, big coolers, and an endless amount of fishing tackle!

All right, you’ve sold me on the portage-free life. Show me the routes!

Entry Station – Lac La Croix

This area is extremely rich in cultural and historical features. You can paddle to the base of the Maligne River, Martin Bay, Dog Point, Moosehide Island and Rice Bay from Lac La Croix Station — all without portaging.

map of Lac La Croix

Be sure to check out the Ojibwe Warrior Hill. It’s said that youth raced to the top of this steep hill to qualify for admittance into the Warrior Society of the Ojibwe.

Pictographs are in the area, as well as historic campsites and portages that would have been used by the Ojibwe, voyageurs, and early explorers alike.

Entry Point – Pickerel Lake

Over 40 km of paddling are accessible to you from the north end of the park, again without portaging.

map of Pickerel Lake

Explore the endless islands and narrows of Batchewaung, French, and Pickerel Lake, for world-class trout and Walleye fishing.

canoes on shore

You also won’t want to miss the famously beautiful Pines Beach and 200+ year old Red Pine stand at the east end of Pickerel Lake.

Entry Point – Agnes/ Basswood Lake Base Camp

Entering the park from the U.S. side at Prairie Portage, you will have to walk a short distance to get your permit and enter Basswood Lake. After that, there’s an endless array of islands and bays accessible.

map of Basswood Lake

For those that wish to relax at a campsite for several nights, many base camp options are available on Basswood Lake, in North Bay, Big and Little Meriam Bays, and Ranger Bay. Be sure to check out the Basswood Falls, and the English Channel!

view of lake with trees

Basswood Lake is also part of the Canadian Heritage River System due to its ecological, cultural, and recreational significance.

King and Canadian Points were used in the fur trade by both the French and Northwest voyageurs, as well as the Hudson’s Bay Company. Canadian Point was later the site of Quetico’s Ranger Cabin 16, and continued to have a trading post until 1955.

Get hooked

All three of our suggested backcountry camping trips have Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Lake Trout and Northern Pike.

You could catch all four species on the same lake in the same day!

Man sitting in canoe holding fish.

With no portaging you can bring all your fishing tackle! Remember, barbless hooks are required at Quetico.


Set up camp close to a portage, and use this location as a home base. Then you can explore beyond the next portage for day trips with only the essential gear.

person under waterfall

For example, you could paddle to Louisa Falls for the day from Basswood Lake and cool off under its flowing water.

Be aware

These larger lakes can often have strong winds.

Be sure to check the local forecast before you depart, know your skill level, and stick to paddling along the shoreline if necessary. Pick up a waterproof Quetico map  for detailed trip planning!

child in canoe

Choosing a route without portages is a great way to introduce someone new to backcountry camping or to reconnect a camper with a past passion.

Enjoy your time in Quetico’s paddling playground, portage-free!

Quetico Provincial Park is part of the Northwest Wilderness Quest.