Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site is a little known paddling mecca. The tradition of navigating the waterways in this area spans millennia, beginning with the Mi’kmaq people and their bark canoes. Some of the portage trails used within the park follow the carries originally established by the Mi’kmaq- which is certainly interesting to ponder while shouldering your load between waterways.
While arguably Keji’s most popular canoe route, the Frozen Ocean Loop is by no means busy. Often times you’ll complete the entire 26km loop and only be reminded you’re not alone by a rare and fleeting glimpse of another canoe off in the distance. The portage trails are flat and well maintained and the lakes are for the most part, quite small and protected from the wind. Sections of Still Brook and Little River, if caught in the right season and the right light, will offer passageways- a combination of sounds scape and landscape so striking so to leave one with an anchor point, a gravitational pull back towards Keji for years to come.
The Route Logistics
Trip Start: Big Dam Parking Lot
Trip End: Jake’s Landing
Total Trip Distance 26km
Total Portages: 6
Total Portage Distance: 2500m
Recommend Duration: 3 Days
We recommend tackling the route in a counterclockwise fashion, starting at the Big Dam parking lot and finishing at Jake’s Landing. If you don’t have a second vehicle to leave at the Jake’s Landing parking lot, we recommend you reserve a shuttle with us at the top of your trip, which is to say we shuttle you and your equipment up to Big Dam, and you leave your vehicle in our parking lot, hopefully with a bag of potato chips stashed in the trunk so you can finish at your car with something to look forward to.
The Frozen Ocean Loop begins with a quick 400m portage from the Big Dam parking lot to Big Dam Lake. Make sure you follow the left side of the fork (marked Q) for the quickest route to the lake; no one should portage any longer than necessary. If you’re starting your trip late in the day it may be prudent to choose a campsite on Big Dam Lake which could be any of sites 1 through 4. If the winds are up, you can usually sneak down one side of the lake hugging the shoreline for some protection.
About mid-way you’ll hit the narrows, a passageway through boulders cleared for log drives a century ago, where the clear spring-fed waters give way to the dark tannic water characteristic of the park. A little further down and with a dog-leg to the left you’ll find portage R, the home of campsite 4 and the longest of this route (800m), which will eventually bring you to Still Brook, a roughly 4km section of gorgeous still water which terminates just prior to dumping into Frozen Ocean Lake.
We recommend taking portage S (160m), river right, to make your way into the lake. Here you’ll find some of the finest sites of this loop, campsites 5 through 8 and both 45 and 46. Campsite 7 is suitable for larger parties, while campsite 8 has a roofed shelter ideal for inclement weather and campsite 46 is closest to the firewood cache. Technically you can access campsite 44 from Frozen Ocean Lake, but it’s a little way up a small creek, which is not navigable with your canoe. On our guided trips, we typically try to get a site on Frozen Ocean Lake for the first night.
Exiting the Frozen Ocean Lake is via portage T (130m) in the southeast corner, which plops you out on a small still water only a few hundred meters above portage U (330m) which skirts a rather stony and rough section of what is the top of Little River. Please note a large section of this portage is a board walk which is flanked on either side by luscious groves of poison ivy. Awesome. You’ll then reconnect with Little River on a section known as the Channel Lake Stillwater, which after about 3km will bring you into Channel Lake.
Campsite 17 is on Channel Lake, but we won’t recommend that site- currently there are no campfires permitted here, and rumours suggest the bugs can be bad. At the southern tip of Channel Lake you’ll find campsite 9 (on an elevated plot providing a great view of the lake) and the start of portage V (700m). Campsite 9 is the beginning of a range of sites folks usually opt to spend their second night at.
Portage V is one of my favourites- about midway near the rest stop is a space that endured some sort of disturbance years ago, so there’s a lot of sun and therefore in August, a good spot to get wild blueberries. The end of this portage is so picturesque you almost forget the suffering you just endured carrying your entire kit 700m over a woods trail. There’s a canoe rest and a bench and a small clay and pebble beach which makes launching really easy. As a matter of fact, it also makes lunching really easy too- I often steal off to the side and whip up a bite to eat before launching back on to the last section of Little River.
Just below is a really shallow section, which may require you to walk your canoe down, wading in ankle deep water which is usually quite warm. Not long after you’ll find campsite 10, which is arguably the most popular 2nd night campsite for this loop. It’s riverside and totally tranquil. Take your time for the final stretch of this river which flows slowly for about 2km before meeting up with Keji Lake; here you’ll find the section I alluded to at the beginning of this article. Put your paddle away for a minute, kick back and soak it in.
If the west wind is blowing, we recommend taking portage W, nipping off Indian Point, so you can travel up the southern side of Jeremy’s Bay. If the wind is really blowing, you can terminate your trip at Meadows Beach and take the Slapfoot Trail back to Jake’s Landing to pick up your vehicle, but if the wind is agreeable, you can enjoy the last few kilometres of your trip as you round Jim Charles Point and up the mouth of the Mersey River to Jake’s Landing.
Although this loop can be completed in one night/two days, we recommend a two-night trip so to allow for more enjoyment and relaxation. Also, if you intend to use a portage cart (canoe trolly), the only portage which is not appropriate is portage T. And finally, we recommend using a lightweight boat for this trip (50-65lbs).