Lake Shumarinai Canoeing


Posted on Nov 26, 2019
85 0

Posted on Nov 26, 2019

85 0


1 day(s)





Water clarity




Best season

Lake Shumarinai (朱鞠内湖) is a large artificial lake in northern Hokkaido, known for its world-class fishing, great camping, and good canoeing. The surrounding land is relatively low-lying, giving it somewhat of a Canada-esque, boreal feel to it. There are a number of isolated islands within the canoeing-allowed zone, the number of which will change depending on the water level at the time. With no roads around the perimeter of this multi-coved lake, pretty much anywhere you land along the shore will give paddlers a real sense of isolation and away-from-it-all. The lake-shore campground is very well appointed.

We visited this route on Sep 28, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Lake Details

This route is on Lake Shumarinai (朱鞠内湖).The lake is a dam lake, about 6km wide and 8.5km long. It has a shoreline of 40km and a maximum depth of 40m. The lake is at 282m above sea level and water visibility is 1.8m.


Lake Shumarinai is in the far north of Hokkaido (location), just below Nayoro City. On the expressway, it’s a 3.5hr drive from Sapporo. The put in for this route is either from within the Lake Shumarinai campground (if staying or using the campground) or from the public boat launching area just down from the information center.

General notes

As far as canoeing goes, Lake Shumarinai will likely split paddlers down the middle in terms of love it or lump it. I personally loved the sense of isolation and exploration afforded by the numerous islands and inlets – it doesn’t take much paddling to make you feel like you’re the only one on the lake. Haidee right pointed out, however, that the artificial lake’s low water level left the lake shore muddy and unappealing. She wasn’t a fan of the depressing decapitated tree stumps, their woeful fate exposed to the world. It’s not very often the lake is full, so paddlers will always be contending with some level of low-water at times.

That said, we both really enjoyed the campground on the lake-front. It was very well appointed, and similar to the lake itself, it had plenty of nooks and crannies where campers could set up tents in their own little corner of paradise.

Important to note for canoeists is that the lake is only partly available for paddling. There’s an imaginary line running northwest/southeast from Kitao Island (北大島), about 2.5km northeast from the campground, beyond which private watercraft are not allowed. As mentioned in the Safety Notes below, the lake authorities like to keep close tabs on lake users, and we assume this is part of the plan to stop people paddling too far and then not making it back before nightfall. Check the GeoPDF/printed version of this route guide for the border line.

Route description

We chose to make an anti-clockwise circuit around the southern section of the lake. There was a relatively stiff breeze blowing, so we spent time island-hopping, trying to keep in the lee of the islands to avoid the wind. The only major note that we’d include here is that the islands are not always islands. When we were there, Kitao Island (北大島) was still connected by a long spit, and Uki Island (浮島) was almost connected too. This threw a spanner in the works, as we had to back-track along the shoreline to find a water-covered spot to cross. We would have portaged across the 20m spit, but the low water levels meant the shoreline was covered in thick, silty, sticky mud.

Route Timing
Trip time: 4hrs 0min

This route on Lake Shumarinai is a relatively ‘quick’ blat around the circumference of the canoeing-allowed area at the southern end of the lake. All told, it’s about 15km in total distance, which will take most paddlers in calm conditions about 3-4 hours to complete. Add in an hour or so for a very leisurely lunch along the way, and you’re realistically looking at around 5 hours. We had a stiff headwind on the paddle back to the campground, which also slowed progress dramatically. Make sure to leave plenty of time before the 5pm cut-off time – lake rules stipulate all watercraft must be off the water by 5pm.


Public transport:

The main information center and campground at Lake Shumarinai is accessible by local bus from Fukagawa JR Train Station (深川駅). Google has the timetable and directions listed here. The trip one way will take 2.5hrs and cost 1,990yen.

By car: 

There is ample parking just down towards the lake from the information center, here. Campground users can park their car next to their campsite.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Shumarinai (朱鞠内) – map no. NL-54-12-15-1
Official Topo Map 2: Shumarinaiko-hokubu (朱鞠内湖北部) – map no. NL-54-12-14-2

NOTE: The official 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

Lake Shumarinai is a deceptively large and confusing lake. There are multiple islands and long inlets that could easily make a paddler disoriented, particularly if visibility is low. Make sure to carry a navigation device of some sort (such as your smartphone with the route and/or GeoPDF pre-loaded). The lake authorities like to keep tabs on lake users, so make sure to sign in and out of the logbook at the information center before and after your trip. Note that the area allowed for canoeing is limited – see the GeoPDF/printed version of this route guide for details. The normal precautions also apply – always wear a PFD on the water, and make sure to have a communications device.

Weather forecast weather forecast for Lake Shumarinai


Shumarinaikohan Campground (朱鞠内湖畔キャンプ場)
Lake Shumarinai campground is a very well appointed, large campground on the shore of Lake Shumarinai in northern Hokkaido. It is a perfect base for canoeing and fishing. Campers can drive their cars to their tent sites, and there is electricity available from the covered kitchen areas – bring a long extension cord (200yen per night to use the electricity). Location: 44.30597 N / 142.18016 E | 600 yen per person | Open: May-Nov | Staff hours: 8:00am till 5:00pm.
Closest Onsen: None
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the campground is Seiwa Onsen Ruonto (せいわ温泉ルオント, location). But it’s not exactly close – 26km south of the lake to be exact. It’s open from 10am till 9pm, and costs 500yen per person. Closed on Wednesdays.

Extra Resources

Hokkaido Canoe Touring Book by Tamata (1993), p. 42-45 (in Japanese).

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

It’s a long story, but this trip was, partly, an extended test drive of the 2019 Nissan Leaf electric car – story about all that here. We’ll let you read about how we got to the lake in that post.

Suffice it to say that we arrived very late on the Friday night after driving from Sapporo City after work. By the time we’d got the tent set up in the dark, it was almost midnight by the time we snuggled into our sleeping bags.

The day broke calm and beautiful. It appeared that we were the only campers with a canoe. We scoffed down some breakfast, loaded up the barrel with picnic gear, and headed off.

We’d woken up late though, and by the time we got on the water at around 10:30am, there was already a stiff breeze blowing. Nothing strong enough to whip up waves, but strong enough that we headed straight for Benten Island to start some sheltered island-hopping. With a number of islands to check out, this kept things interesting. Here and there, we’d see old tortured tree stumps from when this vast low-lying valley system was flooded. According to the information office, this water level was a little lower than normal, but ‘fairly normal for this time of year’.

The relatively low-lying white-birch forests on the lake-front were quite picturesque.

After about three hours of pottering about the islands, we stopped in on a beach on the spit south of Kitao Island (also marked as Hokudai Island). With not a soul around, I tried flying the drone for some bigger-picture photos of the area. It was my first time flying the drone, so it took a bit of figuring out.

After lunch we pushed on to return to the campground. The original plan was to paddle around the northern end of Kitao Island, but when we got there, it was very much still attached by a low, narrow spit. With silty mud on the lakeshore, we decided to paddle south around the island, rather than pulling the canoe across.

The final southward push back to the campground was a long and hard slog. The afternoon wind had picked up. We spent about 1 hour paddling hard against a headwind. We were very happy to see the sheltered cove of the campground.

I sent the drone up for another round of photos. This time, we launched the drone from the canoe, and paddled around in circles for a bit.

Then, “return to home initiated,” declared my drone’s flight controller app. The sudden loss in battery had been unexpected, as I was just about to reach out and pluck it out of the air. Instead, the little red drone careened skywards, before flying to above the spot we’d launched it from: about 15m out from the shore, on Lake Shumarinai. We hastily started paddling the 100m to where the drone was executing a slow, controlled descent for its landing – into the water.

It was a race against time.

I had more or less given up hope. “Well say your goodbyes, Haidee, that drone is going for a swim,” I said between straining against my paddle.

Haidee had never even touched the drone before this moment, let alone caught it in mid-air. So ideally I was wanting to get in position so I could somehow catch it at the end of its emergency landing.

As we approached the drone, now only 30cm above the water still descending, it was Haidee who was in prime position to save it from a watery grave. There was no time for us to maneuver the canoe for me to make the catch.

The drone was now only 15cm above the water. Water was starting to splash up, caught in the rotor’s fierce windy backwash.

As if she’d been doing it for a life time, Haidee did the heroic deed. She reached out, deftly sweeping her hand under the spinning rotors, and executed a perfect underhand two-finger pinch of the underside of the drone.

“What do I do now?!” she exclaimed, still grasping the buzzing beast. I suggested she flip the drone upside down, as I’d seen people on Youtube doing. This did the trick. The drone shut off, and disaster was averted.

Today was the first time I’d flown the drone. I’d bought it a couple of months ago to capture some bigger-picture photos of us canoeing, but till today never got round to spending the time to get used to using it somewhere without other people around.

Definitely a trial by fire! (Or almost water).

With the excitement and adrenaline still flowing, we returned to our campsite, had showers, and settled in for another peaceful night at the campground.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Lake Shumarinai, or other waterways nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Lake Shumarinai Canoeing Difficulty Rating





Vertical Gain



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GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.