NOTE: Dr. Hielscher owned a cottage on George Island, across the Channel from Killarney village. He wrote the following story in 1916, after completing a six-day canoe trip with Alfred Proulx.
A Six-Day Circular Canoe Trip
Under present economic conditions, there are thousands of young men and women who enjoy only a two weeks vacation. Many of them harbor the erroneous idea that in the limited space of fourteen to sixteen days, it is impossible for them to enjoy a canoe and camping trip. It is for their benefit that this sketch is written. You certainly can make such a trip, and that in one of the most lovely and picturesque spots of Ontario. A never ending succession of lakes and rivers, mountains and forests, rapids and waterfalls, wild game of every description with fishing par excellent thrown in to make the measure over-flowing.
The place is easily accessible from the Twin Cities, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, and New York. From 24 to 48 hours should bring you to Killarney, Ontario, that jewel set in the azure blue of Georgian Bay. A quaint village of half-breed Indian fishermen, whose imposing “Front Street” is given over to the lowly pig running its young, where the cow and its calf has the right of way, and dark skinned children with numerous dogs, ducks and geese clutter up the water front.
It is best reached from the Twin Cities and Chicago via Sault Ste. Marie, to Cutler, Ontario, and thence by mail boat to Little Current and Killarney. From Chicago, St. Louis and the East, via Toronto and Collingwood and then by steamer Germanic, Caribou or Manitou to destination.
Reaching Killarney you will be surprised that none of the natives have ever made this trip. Ask any of them what lies beyond the mountains, and they will inform you that they do not know. It is a vast unknown, of swamps and mountains, lakes and rivers. For many years I have tried to persuade one of them to make the trip with me, but all had some excuse to offer, until finally I found a venturesome soul who would brave the perils of the unknown – My guide Alfred Proulx. A good canoist, sober and silent. Having completed the trip, Alf proudly struts about the streets of Killarney a hero, recounting the adventures and working his imagination overtime to impress a certain dusky maiden what a big chief he is. Behind the fish house, Alf and I exchange smiles and winks, for the trip has been simplicity itself.
The canoist leaves Killarney early in the morning going east, rounds East Killarney light and paddles leasurly down the coast. In about an hour he lands; to the left is a small log hut used as a chicken house and just beyond and to the right is the home of George Solomon. Pick up your canoe and be prepared to make the longest portage of this trip – one and a half miles. Should you feel so disposed, Mr. Solomon will hitch up his old gray mare to a sand sled and portage you to Georges lake for two dollars. The trail follows a good wagon road.
Reaching Georges lake you pass through it, into Rat lake, follow the river, lifting over 3 dams and by noon you reach the lumber camps at the foot of Kakakees lake. The care taker, Mr. Wilson, will be only too good to “crack” a cup of tea for you, while dilating upon the virtues of his pet cat Susanna. He will urge you to tarry for he seldom sees a human being, but being wise, you push on; up thru Kakakees lake and then the portage. Here you will find some difficulty in finding the trail, but if you look for a large dead cedar tree fallen inland you will know that you are at the right place. It is well cut out and blazed. Be sure to keep to the south side of the grassy meadow and always look for the blazes before proceeding. The portage is easy and soon you stand on the shore of West lake with a shack on the right hand shore; through West Lake, up the narrows and Johnies lake appears. By this time it will be five o’clock and I would suggest spending the night in Pitt’s Hunting Shack just above the dam. Try fishing above and below the dam.
Next morning pass through Johnie’s, Crooked, Brush Camp – Three Mile – Balsam – Fox – and into Harries lake and camp at the narrows. Should you not be in a hurry, try for Silver Bass at Twin lakes or try to climb North Mountain. This climb will repay you, for you can see the surrounding country like a panorama spread out before you. Leaving Harries Lake make your way into Penage and stop at Dan Sheehan’s place for dinner and to replenish your provisions. By night you should be at the outlet of Penage where a good camping site is found at the portage.
The next day should take you thru Walker – Long – Cross – Charlton – Storehouse and into Whitefish bay, camping near Camerons store where meals, lodging and provisions may be had.
The following day should take you to the Indian village McGregor, where you portage into McGregor bay; then paddle east, keeping a large split mountain in the distance as a beacon. All the islands in this bay have numbers painted on the rocks. Follow these numbers as indicated on the map until you come to island 947 which is not an island at all but a small shoal with a surveyor’s stake set up and engraved thereon the number. This shoal lies directly in front of Split Rock Portage. You can slip your canoe through this split and into a small lake, then a lift, then another lake, a lift and you are in Bay Fin Inlet. Paddle south to the mouth of the inlet where on the left hand shore is a sandy beach and good camping grounds.
Spend the night and next morning round Fazer Point, paddle down Frazier bay to the lumber camps, then directly across the bay where you see the islands, portaging over Rat portage and into Killarney bay. In the distance you will see the village you left six days ago.
You can make this trip in six days or in six weeks depending entirely upon your own inclinations and how many side trips you desire to make. Some of the side trips are to Sturgeon lake out of Rat lake, from Johnies lake down the Manzinazing river to Collins Inlet village. To Twin lakes, to Silver and Davids lake, climb North Mountain, and finally Penage, a great body of water where a month or more may be spent. Then down the Whitefish river with its awe inspiring scenery, then McGregor bay with its thousands of islands and winding channels. If you are romantic, lie stretched out on Dreamers Rock and dream of future happiness. Bay Fin that narrow split in the mountains, with its islands and placid waters, large and deep enough to harbor the navies of the world. The next day home, happy, tired and contented.
Addenda -- Provisions may be had at Killarney, Collins Inlet, Dan Sheehan’s and Camerons Store. So don’t overload at the start. Canoes may be rented from Dan McDonald and blankets from Mrs. T.H. Jackman, Killarney, Ontario. Carry a light silk tent and don’t forget at bottle of shellac in case you puncture or damage your canoe. In all cases follow the map. You may be wrong – the map is not.
For up-to-date information on the lakes in this area, visit the Killarney Outfitters website. Dr Hielscher's 1916 map is available below for downloading.