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5/04/2021 11:22 am  #1


Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

I'm taking some buddies on a trip in mid September and we're looking at two possible routes. The first is out of Cedar and would take us through Radiant, Philips, Hogan, Catfish and in. The second is out of Opeongo and would take us through Big Crow, Lavielle, Dickson and back to Opeongo. I've got two questions as there are stretches on both of these routes I've never done:

1) For those who have done both, which is harder, the Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill? I've done Unicorn Hill and I'm not going to pretend I loved it. I know BD is twice as long, but is it relatively flat/easy or is it pretty tough in its own right?

2) How are water levels likely to be on the Madawaska and Crow Rivers? Is one better than the other later in the season? I've never paddled either.

actually, bonus question 3) If we do the Cedar loop, any problems going upstream on the Madawaska? I'd like to save Unicorn Hill  for the last day if possible (plus, making those two portages coming out of Cedar onto the downhill instead of uphill is pretty appealing).

Thanks,

Drew

 

5/04/2021 12:51 pm  #2


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Never done the Dickson - Bonfield portage, but have done unicorn hill several times both ways. Travelling into Cedar will not be very difficult at all compared to heading up the Pet. So I would assume the Dickson-Bonfield would be much harder in comparison.
I have been on the Crow multiple times now, in August both times, and have not had issues. It does have some stretches where it might be faster to just walk the sandy bottom for a bit, but these spots are not show stoppers by any means. The crow is up there as one of my favourite paddles in the Park.

Either way, both of those trip ideas look awesome. Good luck!

 

5/04/2021 2:34 pm  #3


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Unicorn Hill was horrible when I did it. It was 30 degrees and crazy humid. It's not the length but the constant incline that gets you.

Didn't do the Bonfield-DIckson per se but last summer portaged the cart trail with a broken cart so yeah, that was much worse.

Don't recall water levels on the Mad being an issue.

 

5/04/2021 2:43 pm  #4


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Having done both of those portages multiple times in both directions I can say that both are “hard”. Hard enough to ruin a trip....not even close. Both easily manageable. Having read your trip reports you’ll be fine.

Water levels “shouldn’t” be a problem, but they always could be. I’ve paddled both and nothing sticks in my memory as a disaster. Water levels on those trips will be less about seasonal water flow and more about how dry this summer is.

Personally I’d go to Brent. Mostly because I’ve been there fewer times than Ope. Campsites are nicer on that route too.

 

5/04/2021 4:24 pm  #5


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Seperating the trip from the ports. There's lots of reason to choose a trip besides the ports. But if we are just talking ports. Go up Unicorn Hill.

If water is low the bottom of the little Mad where it enters Radiant can be a pain (all signs point to a low water year). In fact, going up that section of the Little Mad is pretty much always a pain. After you have done that there is 4600+m of portaging and a bunch of upstream switchback paddling and an 75m elevation gain before you even get to Philip.

I would also rather go up Unicorn Hill than do Dickson Bonfield. 5 1/2 k portages suck.

Last edited by MartinG (5/04/2021 4:29 pm)

 

5/04/2021 6:33 pm  #6


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

AlgonquinLakes wrote:

I'm taking some buddies on a trip in mid September and we're looking at two possible routes. The first is out of Cedar and would take us through Radiant, Philips, Hogan, Catfish and in.

Well, since Catfish to Cedar is downstream travel, you'll be hiking the Unicorn downhill. But even in the opposite direction - it's just a kilometer or one and a half, just take it easy. Excelent advice from Martin: separate the trip from portages.
 


"Experience breeds competence only if you do things right." - Cliff Jacobson
 

5/05/2021 4:49 am  #7


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

You'll be fine either way. I took two family members over the Dickson-Bonfield on their first ever camping trip and they managed it no problem. It's long, but it's flat with good footing throughout. Unicorn Hill will be over faster, but it'll be less fun while you're doing it. 

The Crow near Big Crow will have some stretches you'll be dragging, but everything after the 1220m will be fine. 

 

5/05/2021 8:20 am  #8


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

DB is long but flat ... did it in Early June so lots of fresh water from streams along the way but in September bring extra to drink if its a hot day.  The crow was fine in spring but september could be different .. in spots its not a big river.  If you are looking for fishing that route will not disappoint.  

 

5/06/2021 8:13 am  #9


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Neither is easy but the shorter length/duration of Unicorn Hill makes me lean towards that being a lower overall energy requirement. 

I would not call the Dickson-Bonfield "flat" - it has a 44 meter elevation gain from Dickson Lake and is undulating along the way with various smaller climbs and drops - I would wager that the cumulative elevation gain is nearly as much as the 70 meter elevation gain of Unicorn Hill.  

The concept of doing the bigger portages later in the trip is a wise choice regardless of which loop you choose!

 

5/06/2021 4:53 pm  #10


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

Unicorn Hill was not as bad as I was expecting. Dickson-Bonfield was rough, bugs were brutal that day. The worst part about that route is having to cross Cedar Lake. 

 

5/10/2021 12:39 pm  #11


Re: Bonfield-Dickson or Unicorn Hill?

I've done a lot of long portages and on trails not nearly as well maintained as Dickson-Bonfield ...trust me a 44 Meter elevation gain over 5Km's is not even noticeable ... 

 

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