Anyone who says they like
portaging is either a liar or crazy
This page provides an interactive map and some interesting botanical
side notes about the trip to Mantario and the day hike that is often taken.
The day hike is usually done on the Wednesday of the summer program
and follows part of the Mantario trail.
The information provided here is supporting material for the
'Botanical' week run as part of the Mantario summer program.
More complete information
about the summer program and the trip to Mantario should be obtained
from Nature Manitoba.
Start the trip to Mantario from the dock at the south
campground, Big Whiteshell. While paddling across this lake take note
of the amount of algae in the lake then try to count the cabins. If
you come with your own canoes you can start further along your route
from the boat launch at Block 9.
Carefully check out the colony of
Brittle Prickly-pear cacti the island
just south of Post Island. Please do not disturb or take portions of this
plant off of the island. This patch was mentioned in an
article by Ernie
Boyd for the Ottawa Valley Rock Garden and Horticultural
Society, there was some concern that this colony would suffer
from the campers and other day-time users of the island back in
2003. Although back in 2010 it looked like the patch was suffering in
in 2012 it was doing very well..
There is a significant amount of poison ivy
at the start of the primary
portage from Big Whiteshell into Crowduck. Stay out of the bush until
the top of the portage, where it crosses the Mantario trail. This route has
not been used in a number of years now, the alternative portage also has
poison ivy but less and it is more off the trail.
The end of the primary portage has some interesting plants, along with
more poison ivy.
Look for wild ginger in the low wet area beside where the boardwalk
There is also plenty of jewel weed found along the boardwalk.
This is convenient since it can be used as a remedy for poison ivy rash.
Right on the shore, growing in a crack in the rocks, there has been a
giant hyssop plant growing for a number of years. This licorice smelling
plant makes a very pleasant tea.
After several years of decay and dis-repair the boardwalk
on the Crowduck side of the portage was removed early in the summer of
2004 and had not been replaced by 2010 (I now think this might never
happen). This made the original path almost impassable. Typical of
many wet portages, and the people that use them, the trail was made
wider by every passage because the users did not want to get their
feet wet or muddy. In 2005 multiple new trails were cut out of the
bush, each of these becoming muddy and treacherous very quickly.
Unfortunately this has caused a significant amount of damage to this
beautiful moist/wet forest. Many logs have been dropped erratically along this trail
apparently to walk on but I find them more likely to be ankle breakers
In 2010, after several years of the primary portage
getting worse, a new canoe (and Kayak?) only route was made
that is dryer, and not as steep (at the start) or as high - but it is
longer. There is still some poison ivy on the Big Whiteshell end of the
portage so don't stray too far.
To provide an idea of the portage I made a video in 2016.
When you cross the 600meter portage from Crowduck into Ritchie lake
you are entering the Mantario Wilderness area. This area is restricted
to non-moterized traffic. Hunting, resource extraction (e.g. logging),
and development are all highly restricted.
This video provides an idea of the portage condition into Ritchie Lake (2016).
This portage for many years was very deep sticky mud but over the
last couple of years the cut made by the portage has drained the water
from the start of the portage so it is much drier (usually).
There is an alternative, but longer, portage from
Big Whiteshell into Ritchie Lake. Unfortunately the Big Whiteshell
side of this portage is often ankle deep in water, humus, and
mud. If possible remember to keep to the trail!
In 2016 I made this video to provide an idea of the portage conditions.
Lunch time on Ritchie! Time for a swim and a break. While you are
wandering around check out the pin cherries. This is one of the
common camp sites between between the Mantario canoeing and hiking
trial. Look for the bear box for food and the big green 'throne' in
The next portage, after lunch, into One Lake is the shortest of the whole lot.
River Otters and a walk in the marsh. River Otters
have been spotted on Lake One near where it narrows to the
south. During the trip out in August 2006 a number of otters popped up
to snort at us as if to say 'what are you doing here?' when we paddled
by. The portage was on the east side of the marsh when I first
starting leading trips to Mantario. It is a little longer now and on
the west but at least it is no longer hip deep in the marsh mush.
Even though it is often a little wet and muddy on the Lake One side
this is really a nice portage with some neat plants to see. In July I
usually find a few dewberries along the trail - it is hard to hide the
fact I am picking berries with 16 (17) feet of canoe and a pack of
plant identification guides.
Photo Credit: Helen Leeds
RUN!! Carnivorous Plants!! Two of Manitoba's
carnivorous plants are found in the small bog at the end of the
portage between One Lake and Two Lake. Look for the small round leaf sundew and the pitcherplant. Over the
last several years this bog has seen a slow change in the flora - less
bog like and more fen/marsh like. The most noticeable change is the
decline in the number of pitcher plants. Another very common aquatic
carnivorous plant (Utricularia
vulgaris or Common bladderwort) can be easily seen in mid-July
around the marshy sections throughout the whole region. The trees in
the bog are mostly tamarack - the only Manitoba
coniferous tree that looses its leaves. The needles fall after
turning a beautiful gold every autumn.
The up-and-over. This
portage goes over a height of land that is quite steep at both ends
and reasonably level across the top. Just over half way across the
portage into Lake Three there is a canoe rest setup. Take advantage
of the pole between two trees to hold the canoe, take break and look
around. During the summer of 2003 a much safer cut-off was made near
the middle of the steep section at the south end of the portage - it
is now the route that everyone (pretty much) takes. This portage, in
my opinion, should be renamed to 'onion' portage because of the
abundance of onions on the south facing section
overlooking Three Lake. On the steep section look for wild onions and
I didn't video this portage in 2016 so I returned in 2017 to complete the
set. There is no running commentary this time, but you should have
an idea of the nature of the portage. Unfortunately the camera doesn't do the climb (up
or down) justice.
The longest, and usually wettest portage. The portage
has moved several times over the last few years because of beaver dam
flooding. Look at the changes in the shrubs and trees where the
portage has been in the past. Over the summers of 2005/6 beavers had
enlarged a dam at the Mantario end of the portage making even the high
trails wet. There was actually benefit to this 'beaver work' since
the winter trail could be paddled.
I took this video in 2016 to provide an idea of the portage - but you
really can't count on what you are going to find. Every year it is
a new adventure.
During the trip in 2017 the water was too low to paddle, or even wade/drag so it was back
to walking the hight path.
At last the Nature Manitoba Cabin.
Enjoy a nice hot sauna and swim. On the last leg across the lake
look at the level of algae in this lake, count the cabins.
Think back to Big Whiteshell and the impact that we have had.
Note: This figure is based on the Active Track of a
Garmin GPS60. There are errors and variation associated with
elevations due to the inherent limitations of a GPSr to determine
Day Trip and Local Points of Interest:
The full length of the day hike is over just over 10km. Since I very rarely
hike the whole circuit I have only listed items normally seen (by me).
The map above shows the day hike with a purple line with a red line where
at the cut off between Spider and Moosehead.
Across the beaver dam and up the hill. Look at the changes the
beaver has made. In this area you will find Joe Pie Weed, Jewel Weed,
Cattails. While climbing the hill note the change from moist lowland
Mountain Maples to upland rock outcrops and Jack Pine. Look at and enjoy
the wide variety of lichens and mosses,
special interests of mine, throughout the area.
Near spider lake you are walking in Ontario - at the border
marker there are a number of species that are more typical of the
prairies, not the boreal forest. Look for Big Bluestem and Cut-leaved
Anemone. In the pine stand just before the marker there is a lot of
checker berry. Try some for a refreshing wintergreen taste.
Spider lake is a nice stop for a rest and a swim.
This location marks the typical cut off (short cut) that is usually
taken during the botanical week. On the hill near here and on the
trees look at the wide variety of lichens. In the bottom of the
ravines near spider lake, around the feet of the aspens, look for
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora
L.) and Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata) in June and early
Moosehead Lake is great for a quick dip. Just down from
the swimming hole there is a small marsh. Look for stinging nettles
and sour dock. While walking the Mantario trail near Moosehead look
at the [trail] rush growing
along the trail. This rush is often abundant on moderately used
trails. There is also an abundance of wild strawberries along this
section of trail.
Near the end of the trail down to Mantario look for
large tooth aspen. This tree looks similar to regular
but it has very large leaves with large distinct teeth on the leaves.
Through out the under-story bunchberry and twinflower (Linnaea
borealis) can be seen.
Vier lake is a great place to see
wild rice at the
end of the summer. Getting into the lake can be tricky if you cross
near the creek over the floating mat of vegetation. A better
alternative is to land on the narrow sandy beach just west of the
creek and walk in over a height of land - there is no trail but in
2007 it was quite open. While not uncommon I remember seeing Arnica
lonchophylla (Spear-Leaved Arnica) in abundance near the creek.
Over the summer of 2003 the water levels were quite low and everywhere
mud flats were exposed this plant came up in profusion.
Look for blue berries on the island
near the end of the portage from Hop Lake. There are not very many,
just enough for a pie, but even in dry years they are quite plump and
juicy. There are blueberries everywhere along the day hike so you
don't have to count on a trip into Hop Lake.
Near the portage into Spider lake there is a large
marsh/bog area. You can, with some work, follow the creek into Skull
lake. This is a neat area to paddle and observe the aquatic and
emergent vegetation. Mid summer there are a number of small white and
yellow flowers that grow out of the water along with the water lilies
and other aquatic flowers. These two aquatic plants (Ranunculus aquatilis
L. (Water Buttercup) and Bidens beckii Torr.
(water beggar's-ticks)) are uncommon in Manitoba. Durning mid-July in
2005 the Water Buttercup created a blanket of flowers across the west
side of Skull lake. Bidens beckii is also known as
Megalondonta beckii or water marigold. Another aquatic
carnivorous plant can also be found with yellow snapdragon looking
flowers (Utricularia vulgaris
Sunset hill is a great place to climb in the evening
and watch the sunset over the lakes. Look for small patches of peat
moss growing on the way up. This is also the first place I remember
seeing Aralia hispida Vent. This is a close relative of
Aralia nudicaulis or Wild Sarsaparilla. Canoe to a point
before the narrows (south east of the point) and look for a wide rock
slope. Follow the markers across the the top of the hill. Although it
is best to canoe to the point it is possible to walk. If you are
walking follow the Mantario trail to a clearing about 200m short of
Hop Lake (15U 0343901N 5540922E) and then cross a small valley and up
the hill (toward 15U 0344022N 5541111E) going almost directly north.
Some Thoughts from 2016 Participants
...the knowledge we gained was that there are so many strange and interesting things growing,
not only in the hidden nooks and crannies of the wilderness, but right under our feet!
...the trip out was a little too intense for us as beginners. If we had known how long and difficult it was,
we would have thought twice about going, but then we might have missed this unforgettable experience!
Getting to see the Trumpeter Swans on Mantario Lake was a highlight.
I was hoping that we might have discovered a new un-named plant species that we could have named ourselves;
I was thinking something like Burchillia vulnera or Charlesis febrifugalis.
...my shoes now have a nice Lysol overlay to the "eau de bog" aroma.
Top 10 in 2005:
Heather Cullen sent me the following top 10 list of things I did
that made a HUGE difference to her on the 2005 trip. I have copied
them out here because they reflect some of the things that happened on
the trip and the atmosphere of the Mantario experience.
The padding primer on Big Whiteshell in the driving wind + rain (thank you, thank you).
Expressing the need for duffers on the trip
Timing botanical observations perfectly to keep participants motivated + engaged + positive (vs. focused on the mud!)
Providing the books for keying + discussion (carrying them in + out)
Getting us yummy stuff to eat
Demonstrating canoe rescue and paddling techniques + GPS info
Not snoring + accepting wood ticks
Picking dewberries w/canoe on head
Demonstrating the bog bunny hop with near sacrifice of important body parts (as I helpfully laughed?!)
Threatening to toss me in the lake (giving me a swimming opportunity)