The Ishpatina Ridge, set in a remote corner of the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater wilderness park, is a series of worn and rounded bumps spanning approximately 13 km. The Ellis Fire Tower, a lonely sentry and reminder of days of old, sits on the tallest of the bumps and looks out across the vast expanse of Canadian Shield wilderness. At a height of 2275 feet / 693 m, the Ishpatina Ridge is the highest point in Ontario.
Getting ThereTaken with permission from www.ontariohighpoints.com
There are 2 routes to the Ishpatina Ridge:
- The traditional and most common route begins as a multi-day canoe trip up the Montreal River, over a series of lakes and portages between Smoothwater Lake and Scrarecrow Lake and ends with a hike up to the summit via an old fire tower watchman's trail which begins on the northwestern shore of Scarecrow Lake.
- More recently, many hikers have begun to use an overland route accessed via a series of logging roads which are accessed north of Capreol (near Sudbury). Most hikers begin on foot or by bike at a rugged road crossing of the Sturgeon River and follow the road north to a series of overgrown bush trails. Combined with a bushwhack along the north shores of Woods Lake and Scarecrow Lake and the usual fire tower trail hike from the trailhead on Scarecrow Lake, many hikers are able to complete the trip from car to car in a long day hike.
Directions to and via the traditional canoe route is as follows:
From New Liskeard, proceed on 65 west to Elk Lake and upon arrival, continue on to 560 west for 23 km to the intersection with Beauty Lake road. Make a left on this rough gravel road and follow for 12.5 km until a fork. Keep right and continue on for another 11 km until reaching the Montreal River. The parking area and boat launch is on east side of the river, just before the bridge crossing.
Canoe south on the Montreal River through Lady Dufferin Lake, to Smoothwater lake, which despite it’s namesake, can often be rough. 15 km from the road, at the midpoint of the eastern shoreline, is an excellent campsite, often referred to as the Kirsch memorial campsite. It is a fairly easy paddle to this spot and depending on the conditions of Smoothwater would take most parties 3 hours to reach.
Proceed to the south tip of Smoothwater, where there will be a portage and a nearby creek. The portage to Apex Lake is 800 m. On Apex Lake, avoid the portage on the southeastern shore which goes to Whitemud Lake, and find the portage on the southernmost point of the lake. This portage heads south for 1.1 km to a series of 3 small unnamed lakes and over 3 short portages (the longest being 130 m) until reaching McCulloch Lake.
Head south, crossing the 1.7 km length of McCulloch Lake, to another short 100 m portage to Scarecrow Creek which drains into Mihell Lake. The northern end of Mihell Lake is very shallow, but deepens at the southern end. Looking up and to the west, the fire tower on the Ishpatina Ridge can be seen from here. At the southwestern end of the lake, a short portage leads to another small lake. It is a short canoe paddle along the western side of this lake to the final (8th), but longest (1.3 km) portage of the trip, to Scarecrow lake.
A burnt area at (N47.29012 W80.74804) marks the start of the trail to the 4.0 km trek to the summit of the Ishpatina Ridge. The trail is fairly easy to follow, despite the fact that it is not maintained. It stays fairly level for the first half and passes by 2 small lakes and some swampy areas. After the 2nd lake, the trail begins to climb moderately and then crosses a beaver dam at Dick Lake. From here, it is a short distance to the fire tower and 360 degree views on the summit. A possible, but unconfirmed higher point of land may exist 250 m to the northwest of the summit, but GPS measurements have all been inconclusive.
Driving: (From Highway 560 between Elk Lake and Gowganda)
0.0 km - Turn onto Beauty Lake Road from Highway 560
12.5 km - Turn right at the fork in the road
23.5 km - Park at the boat launch beside the Montreal River
Canoeing/Hiking: (From the boat launch beside the Montreal River: 0.0 km)
15.0 km - Kirsch Memorial Campsite on Smoothwater Lake
19.6 km - Portage 1 to Apex Lake(800 m)
21.5 km - Porage 2 to unnamed lake (1.1 km)
23.1 km - Portage 3 (100 m)
23.4 km - Portage 4 (50 m)
24.1 km - Portage 5 to McCulloch Lake (192 m)
25.9 km - Portage 6 to Mihell Lake (150 m)
28.9 km - Portage 7 to unnamed lake (100 m)
29.3 km - Portage 8 to Scarecrow Lake (1.3 km)
31.4 km - Trailhead to the Ishpatina Ridge
35.4 km - Summit of Ishpatina Ridge
A backcountry camping permit may be required. See Camping below.
Beauty Lake Road is used by logging trucks, so when driving, you should be prepared to give them the right of way. The road is probably not plowed in the winter, so would only be accessible once the snow melts and things dry out. There are no other restrictions that I know of.
The Ishpatina Ridge and much of the canoe route to the mountain lies within the Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. Camping within the park boundaries requires a backcountry camping permit. The permit can be bought at one of the many outfitters in the area, such as Wilderness Dreams in New Liskeard, or The Temagami Outfitting Company in the town of Temagami.
Camping on crown land outside the park boundaries is subject to the restrictions:
Residents of Canada may camp free of charge for up to 21 days at any one site, except where posted otherwise.
Non-residents of Canada may require a Crown Land Camping permit.
As mentioned in the canoe route description, there is an excellent campsite on route to Ishpatina on the eastern shore or Smoothwater Lake, at the portage to Marina Lake.
On Scarecrow Lake, there are 2 camping options. There is a small island midway across the lake on near the western shore which might be a good option for a small group. A larger campsite exists on the northwestern shore of the lake, and a nearby burnt area marks the start of the trail to the Ishpatina Ridge.
External LinksIshpatina Ridge directions and trip report
Ottertooth: In-depth: Ishpatina
and Marcus Wandel's
canoe trip to Ishpatina
Deseronto's Ishpatina trip report (canoe route)
Ken Takabe's: pioneer of the overland route to Ishpatina
Andrew Lavigne's detailed day trip to Ishpatina via the overland route
Firla and Matt's adventures on the overland route to Ishpatina
Cachemania: geocache event on Ishpatina
Atlas of Canada - Toporama