In mid-September we drove to Blue River, then followed the Murtle Lake Forest Service Road to the end of the road. We loaded our gear into portage packs and into the kayaks and fastened the boats to kayak carts, then portaged 2.5 km to the Murtle Lagoon. At the launch, we reloaded the hatches and paddled west. The original plan was to turn north and paddle 8.5 km up to the Strait Creek Campground. On Day 2 we would hike to Wavy Crest Peak. On Days 2 – 5 we would paddle down the west arm and back. Smoke was forecast to arrive on Day 2, so we abandoned the hike and paddled west first.
With a 3 hour drive followed by loading the boats and packs, then a 1.5 hour portage, we got a later start and paddled through the lagoon out to Murtle Lake. At the mouth of the lagoon are two campsites, each on a beach. We had a 10 km headwind and some cloudy-smoky skies.
With windy conditions and some in the paddling group struggling with a longer paddle, it took 3 hours to get to the area near Leo Island. We knew the lake well from having paddled it several times. We had planned to camp in one of the 5 campgrounds in the area. Some were full so we picked one that had lots of space. We landed at Birch Beach and set up camp.
On the second day, we paddled to the west and explored the lake (another post to come). The smoke continued to worsen by the end of the second day so we decided to paddle out on the third day. The sun could be seen through the smoke in the morning.
The paddle back to the Lagoon only took 2 hours in calm conditions. We left Ladyslipper Island and paddled across two wide bays to the lagoon.
Getting the loading done right, balancing of the boat on the cart, the ties done properly, and using a good portage pack can make the portage much easier. We passed a number of people struggling with too much weight in the boat, ties coming loose, and the challenging pull. We had been in to Murtle Lake quite a few times so we have established some practices that help us (article).
It was unfortunate that the smoke came in, but we had enjoyable paddling on the lake and so we will return again.