Woodland Caribou lakeside campsite, starry night

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park: trip-planning

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park‘s network of waterways carve the ancient and weathered Canadian Shield, providing endless route possibilities. The park’s informal motto is: “Where nature still rules.”

Planning a trip? Here’s what you need to know:

How to access the park

Shot out of airplane, Woodland Caribo

Visitors may access the park via the following options:

  • road access points (Lund, Johnson, Onnie, and Leano)
  • remote fly-in (temporary access zones)
  • waterway entries (see map inset).

Access roads

There are no roads within the boundary of Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. There are, however, old forest access roads in areas adjacent to the park that allows relatively easy access to the park at Leano, Onnie, Johnson and Lund Lakes.

Find a map of access roads here.

Small directional signs point you to your destination along the way and a parking area is found at each entry point. As always, we strongly advise the use of vehicles with high clearance if accessing the park via road.

Conditions on these roads can change quickly due to beaver activity and precipitation. Be aware and be prepared. Road condition updates here.

Highway 618

At Red Lake’s one and only set of traffic lights, turn left and travel westerly.

The brick government building on the right-hand side is where you can drop in and visit our park staff at the Ontario Parks Office during regular business hours. We love visitors.

Continue to drive west and you are now on Hwy 618.

Suffel / Iriam Roads

A green sign off Hwy 618 will point you to Suffel Lake Road as you travel down a slight hill. This is the way to access Johnson, Onnie and Leano. The first 18 km of Suffel Road is wide and semi-maintained. It is relatively well traveled and therefore quickly turns into a nasty washboard.

wolf on road

Once past the Black Bear Lodge parking area, the road becomes a one-lane bush road with plenty of turns, hills, and potholes to keep you alert. From here on out, there is no road maintenance. The adventure has begun. A smaller vehicle may be able to reach Johnson, if needed, by driving with care, negotiating the numerous potholes along this 5 km stretch of road.

Somewhere past the Johnson entry point the Suffel / Suffel Road extension crosses an invisible line to become the Iriam Road. You will cross a total of nine low-level crossings before reaching the Mile 51 Road, the turnoff to the Leano entry.

Low-level crossings are where culverts have been pulled out and the road surface designed to permit water to flow freely over the roadbed in high water conditions or after a rain. These work really well and discourage beavers from damming or plugging culverts.

While you do not necessarily require a 4×4 vehicle on this section of the road, you do need generous bottom clearance to negotiate these crossings. Expect to take a little over a half an hour to drive to Johnson and nearly two hours to Leano from Hwy 618.

Leano Road (Mile 51 Road)

This is your last 5 km stretch to the parking area and first portage to Leano Lake.  Leano Road is a narrow one-lane road with grass centre and many potholes to negotiate. It is a slow drive. The thick and encroaching alders that bordered this road was cut back three fall seasons ago; you can expect good clearance for a couple more years now.

Longlegged Road

The approach to Leano from Ear Falls via the Manitou Falls Dam Road (Hwy 804) and Longlegged Road is another option to reach Mile 51 Road to Leano. However, it now receives very low maintenance and is not monitored as closely as we do the northern approach using the Suffel/Iriam Road. Park signage may be missing.

Two or three low-level crossings will be encountered as you near the Mile 51 Road. If choosing this option, expect to travel at least 2.5 hours on a gravel road before reaching Mile 51 and Leano.

South Pakwash Road – For a number of years, those traveling from the west (Manitoba and Kenora) had the option of taking Hwy 658 from Kenora to Reddit then South Pakwash north all the way to Long Legged Road to reach Mile 51 Road and the Leano entry. In recent years, a large washout at Rogers Lake created a roadblock forcing travelers to take a detour east on the Conifer Road. Hunters have attempted to patch up the washout but we hear that it is now impassable.  We do not monitor the conditions of this road system at all.

Nungesser / Pine Ridge / McIntosh Roads – These roads lead you to the Lund Lake entry point in the northeast half of the park, the most direct access to the Bloodvein River. The Nungesser Road is a well-traveled hard-top surface road that begins at Hwy 125 between Balmertown and Cochenour.

At approximately 13 km, turn left onto the Pine Ridge Road. For the next 25 km, the maintained gravel road is wide and generally in good shape but prone to washboard conditions. Drive accordingly.

The last 25 km of the road is not maintained and much narrower with the occasional dips in the road surface.  There has been some roadside brushing work here this winter.

Lund access
Lund Lake entry point

The Pine Ridge Road ends with a turn to the left onto McIntosh Road. At this point, you are 5 km from the Lund entry. There always seem to be wildlife tracks in the sand along the road here. You will be required to cross a low-level crossing with water often running over the road however it is currently dry. The bottom is solid but the water over the road can sometimes be high. Again, a vehicle with generous bottom clearance is required. Expect to drive 1.5 hours from Hwy 125 to the Lund entry.

Portage Trails and Clearing Efforts

WCPP offers nearly 2,000 km of interconnecting canoe routes with many more yet to be established. With only two maintenance crews to cover 1.2 million acres of wilderness parkland, we can only hope to make a dent in one summer’s work.

Note that we rely largely on visitor trip reports to share current information on this thread as well as in prioritizing our work efforts in the park.  Your feedback at the end of your trip is very valuable.

“Snowdown, large landscape fires, Sawyer Beetles, and now Jack Pine Budworm” – a combination of heavy wet snow and a strong north wind in early October of 2012 resulted in considerable damage. Snowdown impact is still visible along the shores and the portage trails. It is a good idea to have a hand saw as part of your standard equipment. An infestation of Sawyer Beetles and Jack Pine Beetles is also very noticeable as these insects settle in to take advantage of a damaged forest canopy.  Just as wild forest fires, snowdown events and insect infestations are natural occurrences to which we need to adapt… another reminder that “nature still rules” here.

Visited and cleared this season here.

Cleared in 2018

  • The Knox Lake portage reroute is complete.  Enjoy the new boardwalk
  • The Bloodvein River from Artery to Murdock is done
  • Leano to Kilburn to Upper Kilburn to Paull to South Aegean to Aegean was cleared
  • Johnson and Onnie Access to Onnie Lk have been cleared
  • Eagle to Irregular except for the last portage
  • Rostoul thru Cyclops, Adventure, Adventure Creek to Donald
  • Upper Chukuni River to Olive Lake and down to Linge and to Knox Lake was  cleared
  • The Dutch River from Thicketwood to Burntwood Lake – anticipate a return in the spring of 2019

Known Problem areas

  • Mex.Hat to Nutria stream is a “drag” now until such time as the resident beaver repairs the mega dam. Water is escaping leaving the upstream segment of the stream a tad difficult to float your boat
  • 1,500 m Knox Trail has just been rerouted to bypass the 300 m stretch of muck at its SE end – the reroute extends from original trail straight south to the shore of the Unnamed Lake and avoids the muck, the creek, the beaver dam. The new trail segment is well marked, has already received traffic, relatively flat terrain but a footpath still a bit rough
  • Knox Creek from Young to Knox has a resident beaver that constructed a dam across the creek, leaving very little water to float a boat downstream – not an advisable route option at this time
  • Indian House Creek to Murdock has several trees across following the 2011 fire which needs clearing
  • Routes from Murdock to Irvine is reported to require clearing “again” – choked up with fast-growing shrubs and fallen trees post fire
  • Welkin to Wrist (300 m): – goat trail, watch your footing, portage with great caution
  • Cyclops Creek from Rostoul: water very low, may require walking the creek bank, trails all need clearing
  • Boomerang to Dragon: still a challenge, needs a fix
  • Still some issues reported along the MinJim route. The Nile passage is confusing
    Upper Gammon to Prairie Lake route is dry in some areas due to very low water levels

NOTE: We love hearing from your experiences in the park. We rely on your trip reports to share this information with our viewers. Your feedback is valuable to us and to those who are yet to follow your route. Please keep them coming.

RipRap – The placement of “rip-rap” or corduroy in a wetter section of trails helps minimize the impact of visitors walking around a wet or muddy obstacle as well as prevents boots from being sucked in completely. You must still step carefully, for, despite our efforts, these crude boardwalks fall out of place, rot, or float away. Trails are rugged and challenging. Exercise diligence in every step you take.

Canoe Route Map – This map is a “must” for planning out your trip.  It is a product of Chrismar Mapping Services and compliments the popular “The Adventure Map” series – waterproof, colored, and very detailed. Lots of great planning information at your fingertips. You may purchase a copy online, via your canoe outfitter or by phoning the park office at (807) 727-1329.

Backcountry campsites — what to expect

The best practice when choosing a campsite in Woodland Caribou is to select from the park’s campsite inventory map.

starry night at Woodland Caribou PP

In this way, we can limit our impact on sensitive values — values not always visible or known to our visitors.

In Woodland Caribou, campsites are discreetly marked by a small fire ring and tent pad areas. Please do not create new campsites.

Resources and Services

Woodland Caribou has a number of canoe outfitters, outpost camps, mainbase lodges and local service providers that can help make your trip to the park unforgettable.

Park-specific regulations

Aircraft

campers boarding floatplane

If you plan to land an aircraft (private or commercial) within the park, you require an aircraft landing authority. This authority is free of charge and does not constitute a permit. You still require a camping or day-use permit.

Boat caches

A written agreement is required to leave boats cached unattended within the park. A park permit (day-use or camping) is also required to operate these boats.

Camping party size

Nine people is the maximum party size allowed on a campsite.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

This regulation lessens the impact that large groups may have on the fragile park land. Larger parties are required to split up into smaller camping groups and each group must have an interior camping permit.

Glass ban

A glass bottle ban, which includes jars and flasks, is in effect at Woodland Caribou. This is in keeping with the principles of low-impact camping. Glass bottles are prone to breakage, are non-degradable, and create a safety hazard when left behind.

Structures

Structures of any kind (i.e., lean-to, fish cleaning tables, benches) are not allowed at campsites or elsewhere in the park interior.

Avoid the use of nails and please remove fire grills, strings, and unburnables as you move on.

Campfires

Fires must be built on bare rock or bare mineral soil and kept away from all flammable materials. Drown your fire thoroughly, stir the ashes, and drown it again to ensure that it is dead out.

Nighttime campfire in the backcountry

The use of portable camp stoves is highly recommended at all times and is mandatory in a Restricted Fire Zone (RFZ) where open fires are prohibited.

Please call the office prior to your trip to find out if a RFZ is in place.

Removing vegetation

All plants (including trees) are protected in a provincial park. It is unlawful to remove, cut or damage any vegetation.

Culturally sensitive sites

Woodland Caribou has a number of culturally sensitive sites. You may not remove, damage or deface any relic, artifact or natural object or any site of archaeological or historical interest. Likewise, you may not disturb any of these sites, excavate, or conduct research.

Weaver Lake Poplar River Traditional Area. Photo: Pimachiowin Aki Corporation

We cannot stress enough that you respect the spiritual and historical significance of these sites. Enjoy with your eyes only.

Got more questions?

Give the park a call at 807-727-1329.