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La Vase Portages

Canoe Trail Hiking Trail Snowshoe Trail

Location North Bay
Ownership Crown Land and Private Property
Management North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority and Friends of La Vase
Length 14 km / 8.7 mi
Difficulty moderate
Activities canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing
Amenities washrooms, telephone in main building

Topo Maps 1:50,000 scale

  • 31 L/07 – Mattawa
  • 31 L/06 – North Bay
  • 31 L/03 – Powassan


The La Vase Portages is a 14 km (8.7 mile) section of the historic Voyageur canoe route, which connects Trout Lake and Lake Nipissing. The Route was used thousands of years ago by First Nations in Ontario at the time of European contact. Europeans, including Etienne Brule and Samuel de Champlain learned of the route from First Nations guides and it was soon established as a major artery into the interior of North America.

The following details were provided by the Friends of La Vase Portages website at

Winter Trails

Starting from the Brandy Lake parking area, a short looping trail (about 4 km) and longer linear trail (about 5 km/3.1 mi one way) can be found running from the North Bay Mattawa Conservation area to Telford’s Landing and Cooper’s Lake. Generally these trails are fine for hiking and snowshoeing.

Upper Portage

The Upper Portage links Brandy Lake to the middle of the Cooper’s Lake section. Friends of La Vase Portages do not recommend using this section of the portage without consent of the property owner. The owner has been very supportive of using this route during the annual Canoe Day, although talks are still ongoing regarding public usage of this area. It is advised that those interested in trekking this route should contact the Friends who will in turn contact the property owner for permission.

Middle Portage

This second Portage has several variations.

The easiest route, when water levels are reasonable, is via a channel that runs from the beaver dam at the south end of Cooper Lake. The user is able to paddle most of the way along this long channel, which runs from north to south, lifting once and a while over a beaver dam. The route will eventually lead to active train tracks. Once users encounter the tracks, they should stick to the trail on the west embankment, and follow the tracks until the trail picks up again 200 yards down, returning to the La Vase River. Once back in the river, follow the watercourse west towards Lake Nipissing. About 30 minutes of paddling downstream will lead users to the Lower Portage.

Another option is to paddle along from the north to about mid way through where users will encounter Birches Road. It is easiest to walk around this road on the east side. Current property owners are supportive of the Friends of La Vase Portages and have allowed their property to remain flagged and brushed along the west bank of the swamp area, which starts just above the beaver pond. This route continues to the rail tracks at the south end. Following the active tracks, users will encounter La Vase River. Once back in the river, follow the watercourse west towards Lake Nipissing. About 30 minutes of paddling downstream will lead users to the Lower Portage.

** Users are strongly advised not to enter the River before the trail marker for safety reasons.

Lower Portage

The shallow water and numerous rocks throughout this section will require lining and wading in several locations.

For contemporary paddlers, the preferred route is along the current waterway. This route may not be manageable for others, however, where the option would be carrying through a subdivision, across Lakeshore Drive, and through a driving range in order to reach the river again.

The river turns sharply from east/west to north/south starting at the north end of the trailhead. This section runs over sharp and shallow rocks just below an old mill site. Wading or lining with good footwear is appropriate. The rocks come and go as users work towards the backside of a golf course. Shortly after, paddlers will reach the deeper water, and a half an hour’s further paddling will bring visitors to Lake Nipissing.

Directions: From the HWY 11/17 junction near Seymour Street, head east on HWY 17 towards Ottawa. After about 3 km (1.9 mi), follow the La Vase Portage signage until you reach a small parking lot.

Annual Event

Each year, the Friends of La Vase host a Heritage Canoe Day on the third Saturday in July. If you like bugs, mud and french fries then this is the canoe day for you! Revered by the Voyageurs as a morass of mosquitoes and waist deep mud, these days we leisurely paddle and portage the route with little more than a sun hat and a water bottle (but don’t forget to bring your canoe and paddles as well).

Voyageur Cycling Route

Upcoming Trail Events

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