Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Days 8 & 9 – Across the Delta From East To West

Previous Post: Days 6 & 7 – From Pickerel Bay to Georgian Bay Via Fox Creek

Day 8 – From Fox Bay CS920 To CS723 W of Whitefish Bay

  • distance: 15.4 km
  • time: 8:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 0/0:
  • weather:  a drizzly morning with some sun in the afternoon; a strong wind (20+ km) from the WSW
  • campsite: CS723 – good shelter for 1 x 4-person; possible for 2-3 x 2- person tents; on the cross channel side of the delta; there is room for more, depending on how fussy you are for a ‘flat’ or sheltered spot.
  • NRC topo sheet: Key Harbour 041 H 15
  • our GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
Day 8 - From Fox Bay To W of Whitefish Bay

Day 8 – From Fox Bay To W of Whitefish Bay

The big rainstorm we had been expecting the afternoon and evening before never did happen. Instead, we got more of the low-grade drizzle of Day 7 with one added element – a strong wind blowing from the southwest.  We had planned to spend a couple of days in the Bustard Islands but the whitecaps on the waves that we saw rolling our way made us change our plan.

Cantin Point to the Bustard Islands

The crossing at its shortest (i.e. from Cantin Point to Tarpot Island)  is 1.7 kilometers. There are a number of smaller rocks and shoals that can shorten this distance a bit. Given the 25 km./hr.  wind and the waves, even a half-hour in an open canoe to do the crossing was taking a needless risk.  There certainly wouldn’t be any passers-by to help if things went south!

one last shot of CS920 as we head out on a windy morning

So –  a new goal! Instead of a couple of days out on the Bustards, we’d aim for the westernmost campsite in the Park and make use of the many islands en route to provide us with some shelter from the wind.  As we headed west from CS920 in Fox Bay, we made a point of paddling past the abandoned Georgian Bay Fishing Camp.

Georgian Bay Fishing Camp- – an abandoned look

The Fishing Camp – actually quite the complex consisting of a marina, lodge, restaurant, cabins, a store, boat rentals –  closed in 2016, two years after the death of the owner, Dave Bulger.  Bulger had owned and run the camp since the 1980s.  His son Matt tried to keep it open but was unsuccessful.  It had been in operation since 1928.  With its demise, the closest similar camp is probably Camp McIntosh on the French River’s Main Channel.

docks in front of the main service building of the Georgian Bay Fishing Camp

In September 2017 we had paddled by Dock Island just a half-kilometer NE of the Fishing Camp.  Sitting on the south shore of Dock island was a dock and I made a wrong connection between the two.  A reader of that post did write to let me know that the dock actually belonged to the Fishing Camp and had drifted across.

Georgian Bay Fishing Camp – main service building

Georgian Bay Fishing Camp – main dock area and gas pump

Georgian Bay Fishing Camp – dock and gas pump

Our brief paddle visit along the Fishing Camp shoreline brought home the transient nature of all things. If time itself is not the ultimate destroyer, then a changing culture and different notions of leisure time make casualties of things like fishing camps and, I hate to say it, wilderness canoe tripping and camping!  Other than maybe ten fishing boats we saw no one on our ten-day trip down the French and across the delta! Maybe parks need to provide free wi-fi and more designated selfie viewpoint spots to lure potential users in!

a last look back at the Georgian Bay Fishing Camp buildings.

We would spend the next hour and a half dealing with a strong WSW wind by deking behind a string of islands and making our way along the Georgian Bay coast to the French River’s Main Channel at Bluff Point. The reward: 5.5 km. of forward progress!

French River Delta – Georgian Bay

Crossing the Main Channel to the west side. we took advantage of the protected passage provided by the long narrow islands which run parallel to King’s Island.  Once past Sand Bay, a couple of times we got blown into bays that looked like channels.  By 1 p.m. we were just west of Whitefish Bay and at CS723.

our tent spot at CS723 on Georgian Bay

We have used this site before and like the tucked-in and sheltered nature of the tent site combined with the easy walk to the exposed shore of Georgian Bay.  Thanks to this year’s high water, that walk was much shorter than it was two years ago!  The wind continued to blow hard all afternoon.

The Bustard Rocks Lighhouses – so close!

In my hands, I have a Sony HX80 with a 24-720mm reach!  I had bought at it Henry’s for $160 CDN for a trip I did to Tanzania.  It came in very handy there on the short safari I did after my walks up Meru and Kilimanjaro.  On this French River trip, I left behind all the heavy gear – the Sony A77, even the Sony A6000 — and just took the HX and my Sony RX100.  I kept the RX100 in a Pelican case and the HX 80 inside two medium-sized Ziploc bags. Max had his Canon SX280 with its 25-500 reach, also in a Pelican case.  Maybe like the Fishing Camp my huge DSLR has seen its day!

Unfortunately, the Bustards were not a part of this year’s ramble. However, if you find yourself anywhere near the islands and the wind and waves are agreeable, the time you spend there will be among the highlights of your trip. See the following post for some background on the Bustard Rock lighthouses on the west side of this group of islands.

Canoeing Georgian Bay’s French River Delta:  Day 3 – The Bustards To Eagle Nest Point

It is 3.5 kilometers from where CS723 is to the Bustard Lighthouses. We walked to the east end of the island we were on and were amazed to see something else.  Well, we could barely make anything out of it but here is what popped up on our camera viewfinders when we zoomed in!

We counted about fifty wind turbines (of a total of 87 planned) on the Henvey Inlet First Nation land some twenty kilometers away!  It was the turbine construction crew working on this project in July 2018 that caused the massive fire labelled Parry Sound 33 thanks to their continued blasting in tinder-dry conditions in mid-July.

While in the long run the energy generated by the wind turbines will be a “plus”, for some reason the notion of corporate responsibility for the costs of the fire has never become an issue.  See this CBC report by David Seglins for more background –

Why it’s difficult to make industry pay when it’s accused of starting costly wildfires

Day 9 –  To The West End of French River Prov. Park

  • distance: 17.7 km
  • time: 8:20 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.
  • portages/rapids/linings: 3/1/1: 
    • 22m – empty the canoe, liftover and repack
    • 60m – over the hump around Devil Door Rapids
    • 40m – short 20-meter  La Petite Faucille portage; repack canoe and line for a few meters
    • 40m – high water level meant very fast water, lined short section to by-pass worst of it.
    • 130m – fast water section above the real ride!
    • 230m – all in less than 2 minutes!! looks rough but rides nice, vigilance still required
  • weather: sunny all day
  • campsite: CS822 – last ‘official” campsite at the west end of FRPP; lots of room for multiple 4 person tents; a couple of nicely sheltered spots, the rest are more open.
  • Natural Resources Canada Topo Sheet – Key Harbour 041 H 15; Collins Inlet 041 H 14.
  • our GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Unlostify: West French River covers the river from a few kilometers east of Highway 69 to Georgian Bay. It has all the official park campsites indicated.  Click on the title for access to a free digital download – or buy the $20. waterproof copy.  Note: do not rely just on the Unlostify map – make a paper copy of the relevant bits of the topos above for the detail you will need.

The French River Delta East Cross-Channel:

Just a couple of kilometers in from the Georgian Bay shore is an interior passage that allows you to make progress on days when the full force of the wind and waves are hammering the coast.  It presents few difficulties and some incredible scenery to paddle through.

  • The 4.4 km. East Cross-Channel goes from Whitefish Bay to the bay below Devil’s Door;
  • the 3.2  km. West Cross-Channel stretches from Devil’s Door Rapids to Black Bay.

We had done the entire Cross-channel a couple of years ago from west to east; now we would be doing at least a part of it – the East Cross-Channel in reverse. At Devil’s Door Rapids we would be at the bottom of the French River Delta’s three Western Outlets:

  1. the Bad River Channel
  2. the Old Voyageur Channel
  3. the Voyageur Channel

The plan was to go up the Bad River Channel via Lily Chutes all the way to the beginning of the Old Voyageur Channel.  Then we would come down the Old Voyageur Channel to the end of the West Cross-Channel and paddle down the Voyageur Channel to Batt Bay and our campsite at 822.

And that Plan B  – Plan A had been a visit to the Bustards – is what we ended up doing!

a slice of the East Cross Channel in the French River Delta

The map below shows the East Cross-Channel route from 723 to Devil’s Door Rapids and Portage and then the turn into one of the Bad River Channel’s sub-channels.

East Cross-Channel – French River Delta

Fifteen minutes into the day’s paddle and we just had to stop. We were paddling through a very scenic section of the cross-channel when we spotted what looked to be an excellent campsite somewhat elevated from the surrounding terrain.  A minute later we had assigned a grade of A to the site and agreed that if a quieter interior site was what you wanted instead of our CS723 of the night before with its access to Georgian Bay, then this would be an excellent choice.  [Note: I have since learned that camping at FRPP sites other than official designated ones is illegal and subject to a fine. Proceed with caution!]

the view from a potential East Channel campsite – French River delta

We also paddled over to the other side of the channel from the above ‘campsite’ location and found another pretty decent one.

a view of the above campsite from the other side of the channel

Shortly afterwards we faced our first mini-portage of the day – a 10-meter lift-over which the image below somewhat captures!

a 10-meter lift-over on the East Cross-Channel French River Delta

As we approached the bay below Devil’s Door Rapids, we saw our first bit of graffiti since Gibraltar Point on Lake Nipissing.  We did not go up to take a closer look but some of the letters already seem to be fading.  Hopefully next year it will be all but gone.

some graffiti on the sloping rock near the west end of the East Cross-Channel French River

And then it was a paddle into the bay before Devil’s Door Rapids. As we came to the end of the east cross-channel I noticed a No Camping sign on the NE point, a first anywhere in the park. Perhaps it is aimed at sailboaters or larger watercraft that might park in the bay for shelter? There was a sailboat anchored in the bay as we paddled by but no one seemed to be around.

Devil’s Door Rapids (Falls)

We approached the bottom of Devil’s Door Rapids. There was the 1.5-meter drop we remembered from our last time there.  Then we headed to the north side of the bay for the take-out spot for the 40-meter carry around the rapids.  The higher water level meant that the landing we used last time was under water!

Devil’s Door Rapids – a shot from the east

The portage trail was somewhat overgrown and we spend a few minutes trimming the junipers to make it more obvious.  Typical for the park’s portages, neither end of the trail is indicated by a portage marker.

the turtle on the Devil’s Door portage trail

There is a stupendous viewpoint on the rock overlooking the rapids and we spent some time up there taking in the neighbourhood.  Here is a view looking east to the rapids, the bay, and that anchored sailboat.

Devil’s Door Rapids – a shot from above

We turned around and looked west up the cross-channel; it goes all the way to Black Bay and the south end of the Voyageur Channel.  However, the plan this day was to head north up one of the Bad River Channels – the one with Lily Chutes at the bottom. The map below shows our route.

looking west from the great viewpoint above Devil’s Door Rapids

The Bad River Channel was probably named as such by the voyageurs thanks to the larger number of rapids and chutes they would have had to deal with and explains why they avoided its various options.

We did a lift-over and then lined the canoe up Lily Chutes and then were able to paddle up to the top of the Old Voyageur Channel.  Along the way, we did encounter some stretches of fast water coming our way that required some intense bursts of paddling to make forward progress.  We rounded the corner (see the map below) and began our descent of the Old Voyageur Channel.

The French River’s The Old Voyageur Channel

The Old Voyageur Channel runs 3.2 kilometers from top to bottom with only one portage.  Along with the French River’s Main Channel a bit to the east, it would have been the one most used by the voyageurs of old.

Toni Harting’s The French River: Canoeing The River of the Stick Wavers (1996, Boston Mills Press) is by far the best book out there on the French River. It takes you from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay and covers everything from geology to history and canoe-specific topics. Included are useful maps, as well as some excellent photos, both colour and black and white.

Of the Channel, Harting writes:

…the Old Voyageur Channel was probably only used by the voyageurs at quite high water levels and by the big brigades of fur trade canoes. Smaller fur-trade canoes and specialized big canoes carrying only passengers, mail, and other important cargo would also have used this channel. These express or light canoes had less weight to carry and therefore enjoyed more freeboard to run rapids and shallow parts. [110]

At the top of the channel are some swifts. A bit more than half-way down you come to a set of rapids named La Petite Faucille.  These rapids were until recently mistakenly identified with the set of rapids depicted in a Paul Kane painting titled “French River Rapids”.  Harting writes:

The existence of the Petite Faucille is mentioned a few times in the notes of the old travellers. The artifacts found in the late 1960’s on the river bottom below the drop are another indication that this route was used by the fur traders. In his 1845 painting, French River Rapids, Paul Kane gives a curious artist’s impression of what presumably is the Petite Faucille. [109]

Harding’s use of the word curious is fitting because the location does not really look like the one that Kane painted!

[In 2006 Ken Lister located the actual site some 830 kilometers to the west in northwestern Ontario between Lake Superior and Rainy River. See here for his account.]

The painting a part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s collection.

Here are a couple of shots of La Petite Faucille – the first is the section below the rapids and the second continues the view up to the top.

La Petite Faucille Rapids on the Old Voyageur Channel

Other than the short 20-meter or so portage around La Petite Faucille there is little to deal with.  Above these rapids are some swifts; below the rapids is a 100-meter stretch of fast water known as La Dalle before you reach the West Cross-Channel.  We enjoyed the ride as we zipped down, hitting a top speed of 11 km/hr. for a few seconds according to our GPS track data!

looking east on the French River Delta's West Cross-Channel

looking east on the French River Delta’s West Cross-Channel

We stopped for lunch on the southeast corner of the island at the bottom of the Old Voyageur Channel and then continued our way westward along the southwest end of the channel referred to as the Voyageur Channel.

Not far from our lunch spot we passed by a landmark identified by Harting as The Fort, a supposed ambush site used by Indigenous pirates to rob the voyageurs of their trade goods.  The site is a jumble of rocks that may or may not look like a fort depending on how much you want it to be one!  Again, to quote the best book written about the French River:

On the south shore of the West Cross Channel, close to Black Bay, there is a peculiar collection of tumbled-down rocks where several circular openings seem to have been constructed. This was possibly used as a shelter by Natives lying in ambush for the treasure-filled fur-trade canoes that would pass down the channel, which is quite narrow at this point. This could well be the “Fort” talked about in some old reports and after which the Fort Channel is named. [Harting 32]

The story itself left us skeptical. How often could it have been used as an ambush site before the fur brigades would clue into the fact that there would be trouble up ahead? It is no more amazing an ambush site than a multitude of others that they could have picked.

Just which Indigenous tribe would be doing the hold-up? If it was an Algonquian (i.e. Anishinaabe) people, they would only be ticking off their many fellow tribesmen who worked with the French?  If it was an Iroquois tribe from upper New York State area, it would seem a long way to come to steal goods that could be taken much closer to home. It would also date its use to the 1600s when the Iroquois were still a military power.

Update: By chance, while reading the  Journal of a John Macdonell in a collection titled Five Fur Traders of the Northwest, I came across this entry from June 26, 1793:

Click here for the online text of Macdonell’s Journal – and of the other fur traders in the collection

It puts a different spin on the story than Harting does. For one, it sounds like a one-off ambush and not an oft-used spot; it makes clear who the attackers were – and also how unsuccessful they were!

As for a photo of the jumble of rocks – as we passed by I figured we would get one the next morning on our way back.  The next morning we amazingly missed it!  Lesson: get the shot while you can!  If you have a photo of the site you’d be willing to share, I would love to insert it right here!  Email me at Also another reason/excuse to perhaps revisit the Delta in the future.

Given the still-blowing southwest wind, we made as much use as possible of the numerous island in Batt Bay as we headed to CS822.  Along the way, we passed by another voyageur landmark identified by Harting. It was known as La Prairie. As with the Fort, we did not stop to take any pix. Unlike the Fort, we did spend fifteen minutes at the site the next morning! [See the next post for what we found!]

FRPP CS822 – the furthest west campsite in the park

822 is the westernmost campsite in French River Provincial Park.  It is easy to imagine it as a stopping place for the fur brigades at the beginning or end of the French River part of their journey.  There is ample room for many tents.  Behind the flat rock outcrop are a number of sheltered sites. We were able to peg our tent down, a novelty at a Georgian Bay campsite.

Next Post: Day 10 – Heading Back to the Western Channel From Georgian Bay


Posted in Georgian Bay, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Days 6 & 7 – To Pickerel Bay and Down Fox Creek to Georgian Bay

Previous Post: Day 5 – From E of Cross I.  to Below Recollet Falls (CS522)

Day 6 – The Lower French From CS 522 To Pickerel Bay (CS 633)

  • distance: 12 km
  • time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:40 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 0/1:  Second Rapids – 5 minutes spent lining
  • weather: sunny all day, light wind from NW?
  • campsite: CS633 – another haul up the hill (~100 m) and totally worth it! the stern paddler’s favourite site of the trip; multiple sites 1 fair, semi-sheltered one at top suitable for 4-person tent, one at the bottom in a pinch; more possibilities in the open and on rock – your choice; 2 boats the whole evening, 2 sea-doos earlier and after that it was just us.
  • Natural Resources Canada topos: Delamere 041 I 02; Key Harbour 041 H 15
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Unlostify: West French River covers the river from a few kilometers east of Highway 69 to Georgian Bay. It has all the official park campsites indicated.  Click on the title for access to a free digital download – or get a hard copy you will be using often!

Lower French River – CS522 to Pickerel Bay (CS 633)

The sixth day in a row of sunny warm weather!  We slipped our canoe into the water and could feel the noticeable current as we headed down the Gorge section. There were a number of stretches where the GPS device recorded speeds of 14 and 15 km/hr.

Little Flat Rapids: Then it was through a stretch of fast water our Garmin topo map names “Little Flat Rapids”. Another name may be Second Rapids, the First being just after Recollet Falls.  The Friends of French River indicates a portage of 25 meters here.  We spent less than five minutes lining our canoe through.  The June 1793 entry from John Macdonell’s Journal (the quote is immediately below) refers to a Derraud’s Rapids two leagues or six miles below Recollet Falls. Six miles or ten kilometers is approximately the distance from Recollet Falls to these rapids. Breaking a canoe here would certainly qualify as a freak accident!

pictograph or not? iron oxide stain on the French River rock

the north side of the French River – Gorge Section near Ox Island

From here it is 2.5 kilometers to the railway trestle crossing the French River at the east end of Ox Island.  After his comment about the rapids, Macdonell goes on to discuss the presence of Anishinaabe pictographs (images “painted” with a mixture of iron oxide powder and fish oil) and lichenographs (images carved out of the lichen and moss which cover the rock face):

See here for the entry – pp.84-85. The entire journal makes for interesting reading, as do the others included in Five Fur Traders of the Northwest edited by Charles M. Gates.

Given Macdonell’s observation, Ox Bay would have gotten its name from the animal figure scratched out of the lichen on a prominent rock face nearby. It was likely not an ox!

Ox Bay:/Pickerel Bay area French River

We rounded the point at the east end of Ox Bay and headed into Pickerel Bay and one of our favourite campsites ever, the one numbered 633 on the map above. We had camped there for a night in September 2017 at the end of our one-week ramble up and down and across the FrenchRiver Delta.  Day 6 – To Pickerel Bay (The Elephants)

It was not even noon and we were done for the day – an unusual occurence for us! Adding the 12 km. we had done this morning to the 30 from the day before helped us rationalize it! Being at 633 clinched it. We had thought that the site may already be taken but given that it was a Thursday in mid-June reduced the chances of anyone being there. In fact, the entire area was pretty much devoid of anyone. Over the next day we would  count a couple of motor boats pass by below us as they made their way to or from Pickerel River.

looking east towards the Pickerel River

Those chairs in the image below is where we spent quite a bit of time until past sunset! Every once in a while we would face them in a different direction as we took in the views on a beautiful clear day on Pickerel Bay.  Just behind the chairs was our kitchen/dining area, complete with our overturned canoe as table top. And a bit further behind the trees was our tent, sitting on a patch of earth that we were able to use tent pegs on.

French River Pickerel Bay CS633 – the hilltop view looking east

looking south to the start of the Fox Creek route to Georgian Bay

This following bit of video  gives a 360º panorama of the view from the top of CS633. It starts looking south to the series of bays in the image above and then pans east up the narrow bay you see two images above. Then it is west into the sun – and you’ll notice the image quality degrade in a hurry.

We took quite a few shots of what we were looking at as we sat there sipping on Gatorade, coffee, and later, our single shot each of whisky – here are a few that you can scroll through quickly.The magic was in being there!

Max and his camera facing west as the sun sets

looking west towards Ox Bay

portrait view of the sunset from Pickerel Bay CS633

looking west to Ox Bay French River

sunset view of Pickerel Bay French River

Day 7 – The Fox Creek/Lake/Bay Route to Georgian Bay

  • distance: 12.2 km
  • time: 8:20 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 3/0:
    • 150 m – along the lower ridgeline from the take out spot to a long narrow ‘pond’
    • 230 m – more rugged with  multiple and possibly confusing trails
    • 195 m – likely longer in low water
  • weather: overcast most of the day; some intermittent rain; all added to the gloomy atmosphere paddling through the edge of 2018’s burn area.
  • campsite: CS920 with “thunderbox”! – very sheltered, 1 x 4-person; possible for 2-3 x 2- person tents; with high water (and likely any heavy rainfall) butts up to a swampy area, bugs were not bad though!
  • Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topo sheets: Delamere 041 I 02; Key Harbour 041 H 15
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)

One of the highlights of our French River trip was the half-day we spent going down to Georgian Bay via the Fox Creek route, which starts right across from our favourite Pickerel Bay campsite. While we have paddled up the Pickerel from G’Bay to CS 633, we had never made use of the Fox Bay/Lake/Creek route before.

Henvey Inlet Fire 2018 – and east end of French River Provincial Park

There was an additional pull this year – we wanted to see the impact of Parry Sound 33, the 2018 Henvey Inlet Fire which had blown out of control and spread westward to the Pickerel River and to Fox Creek.

Alternative Routes To Georgian Bay from Ox/Pickerel Bay: 

The Fox Creek route is not the easiest way to get to Georgian Bay.  There are alternatives and all of them are quite scenic

  • the Bass Creek Route – arguably the easiest with just a lift-over and an easy 100-meter portage
  • the Main Channel via the Dalles Rapids portage
  • the Pickerel River with just one 250-meter carry
  • the Old Voyageur Channel with a 20-meter portage at La Petite Faucille and some swifts before and after.

See the Unlostify West French River map for a clear visual image of the options. You can download a digital copy of the map for free.

The Fox route is a bit more work than all of the above but is worth it, getting an A+ for scenic views and enchanting paddling.  The more paddlers who use them, the more clear the portages will become.

Unlostify – the two Fox portages at the top end

My copy of the 2012 Friends of French River Park Map (pink cover) does not have any information on the Fox Creek portages, nor does the more recent 2017 third edition (blue cover).

The overall lack of portage information and on-the-ground signage for paddlers is puzzling, given that FRPP has now existed for thirty years.  The Park needs – but obviously will not be getting – more attention than the commendable volunteer service that the Friends of French River provide in campsite monitoring and maintenance as well as map production.

the take out for the first of the Fox portages on the south side of Pickerel Bay

We paddled across Pickerel Bay to the beginning of the portage that would take us into Fox Creek. The Unlostify map above has the portage indicated as a 140-meter carry. It is an easy one; it could use some trimming and signing.  According to our GPS track we spent less than twenty minutes dealing with this portage and were soon at the top end of the long narrow lake you see in the image above.

One moment of concern –  Max had slipped on a section of sloped rock in his not-very-grippy L.L. Bean boots and went for a tumble, bags and all.  While they provided a bit of a cushion,  for the next couple of days as we paddled to the west end of the park, his hip was a bit sore.

I’m looking south at the take-out spot for the second of the Fox portages

Fox Creek - the small lake between the two portages at teh top of Fox Creek

the lake between the two portages at the top end of Fox Creek in the French River delta

After paddling south down the lake, we scrambled to a hilltop on the southwest end  in hopes of another “wow” view or two but could not get to that one vantage point that would deliver. Here is what I came up with!

a view from SW of the lake between the two Fox Creek portages

And then it was on to the second portage; the poorly maintained 230-meter trail would require more effort thanks to an initial uphill and then the scamper across a rocky ridge to the final downhill to the north end of Fox Creek.  All in all, we put in about forty-five minutes to haul everything up and over.  We also added some orange duct tape and did some bush trimming to help make the trail a bit more obvious.

Two Portages – Pickerel Bay To Fox Creek

When we got to the put-in we found a collection of four abandoned boats, seat cushions and fishing gear belonging to Camp Wanikewin Lodge located on the Pickerel River just east of Highway 69.

the put-in at the end of the second Fox portage from Pickerel Bay

With the two portages done by 10:15 or so, we now had six kilometers (one hour) of easy paddling until the third and last portage at the south end of Fox Lake.

Fire damage on upper Fox Creek – French River delta

It would not be long after setting off from the put-in at the top of Fox Creek that we would see evidence of 2018’s fire (named Parry Sound 33 to the consternation of people living in the town itself!).  It had started on the Henvey Inlet First Nation land below Key River, thanks to the wind turbine construction crew who continued blasting in spite of bone dry earth and windy conditions.

[A few days later we would count fifty wind turbine pillars from our campsite just east of Whitefish Bay some twenty kilometers away. See here for one of the images.]

some burn on the west side of Fox Creek as we paddle down

fire damage on Fox Creek -a view from June 2019

Fox Creek -French River delta – June 2019

signs of new growth after the fire on Fox Creek June 2019

Fox Creek green and charcoal

heading for the third (and final) Fox portage

The third and last portage on the Fox Creek route to Georgian Bay took us about thirty minutes.  Given the water levels in June 2019 we were able to paddle a middle section of the portage, which may not be possible at other times of the year or in lower water years

Fox Portage – From Fox Lake to Fox Bay

In the image below, I am stuffing the silnylon tarp back into its bag at the top of the portage trail.  As the above images make clear, the weather had changed from sunny to intermittent drizzle this morning and the tarp had covered the bags and duffels. At the start of the portage is a  boat, perhaps left by a fishing lodge for clients.

the south end of Fox Lake and the start of the portage into Fox Bay

At the end of the initial carry Max is looking at the trickle of Fox Creek and the patch of water we will paddle down to access the final bit of the portage.  The Unlosity map has the entire thing as a 220-meter carry.  With lower water levels you may be walking down that short stretch of water!

the water we paddled across to get to the last bit of the portage into Fox Bay

And that is it for portages on the Fox Creek Route.  Next up – Fox Bay and the hunt for a decent campsite.

heading to Fox Bay after the portage

more dramatic scenery as we head down the narrow channel right after the last of the Fox portages

There are (on paper) quite a few campsite choices.  In reality, some of them are mediocre and will definitely be paddled by. The Unlostify map (see below) provides some info on the condition of some of them.

Fox Bay area in French River Delta on Georgian Bay

Unlostify – campsite locations in Fox Bay/French River Delta/Georgian Bay

We would find our campsite at 920, a well-sheltered spot inside a stand of pines and behind a rock outcrop that rises up to a nice hilltop sitting area. The shoreline to the south is accessible and we went for a walk after setting up camp.

Fox Bay – CS920 NW of Finger Island

our campsite (920)

For the second day in a row, we had stopped somewhat early.  Both our Garmin weather app information and an email from back home were telling us that a heavy downpour and a thunderstorm were expected in our area and we were ready!

the  Campsite 920 – well sheltered

Next Post: Day 8 – From Fox Bay To W of Whitefish Bay CS723


Posted in Anishinaabek World, Georgian Bay, Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Day 5 – CS419 To Below Recollet Falls

Previous Post: Day 4 – The Upper French Five Mile Rapids Section to CS 419

Day 5 – From CS 419 E of Cross I.  to Below Recollet Falls (CS522)

  • distance: 30.5 km
  • time: 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/0: around Recollet Falls (~100 m), then eddy and rock face fun
  • weather: sunny all day, light wind from NW?
  • campsite: CS 522 – a carry up the hill!, 1 ok spot for 4-person; possible multiple 2- person (fair weather) sites; another long veranda to the water, cottages across from site – lawn work was finished by about 7 p.m., the site had a nice bed of chives though!
  • Natural Resources Canada topo: Noelville 041 I 01;  Delamere 041 I 02
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Unlostify: West French River covers the river from a few kilometers east of Highway 69 to Georgian Bay. It has all the official park campsites indicated.  Click on the title for access to a free digital download – or get a hard copy you will be using often!

Day 5 – Upper French River – CS419 to CS522 – the first part

Day 5 – French River – CS 419 to CS 522

We set off planning to stop at a campsite somewhere on the east side of Highway 69; we ended up putting in our biggest travel day, covering 30 kilometers and putting up our tent a few kilometers west of Recollet Falls.

Just across the river from our campsite 419 is 421. We took a look as we passed by and found a sheltered site with room for multiple tents. It would make a better foul weather site than the one we stayed at but it did not have the excellent hilltop view that 419 did.

Not far downriver from our CS419 is Cross island. We saw the white cross as we came to the west tip of the island and pulled in to have a look.

the white cross at the west end of Cross Island: – French River

Attached to the center of the cross was a dedication plaque erected by a local branch of the Roman Catholic service organization The Knights of Columbus. It read –

  • In memory of one of our Canadien missionaries
  • Cross dedicated by the Reverend Father Rondeau
  • The 15 of June, 1982
  • erected by The Knights of Columbus
  • Noelville, Ontario   Council 4435

Unclear is who the missionary was, when and what happened to him, and why he was being honoured on this particular island.  The lack of concrete detail makes for an ideal situation for conflicting stories about the significance of Cross island – and there are a few out there!

Without a doubt, these Roman Catholic missionaries laboured hard in the fields of the Lord to bring new souls to their God and some gave up their lives trying to make it happen.   It was the Recollets who  first journeyed down the French River in 1615 on their way to Huronia; their work was later carried on by the Jesuits, whose meticulous recording of their mission work and observations of Huron and Algonkian life and culture can be found in the multi-volumed Jesuit Relations, a piece of work considered among the first examples of New World ethnography. It covers the period from 1632 to 1773.  Further downriver, we would come to Recollet Falls, named (according to one story)  in memory of a number of missionaries who drowned there.

plaque on the white wooden cross on Cross Island on the upper French River

Across from Cross Island and all the way down through the Gorge section of the river are impressive stretches of rock face, some of which look like spots that would host pictographs or lichenographs.  While the iron oxide-based “paint” of the pictographs can last for hundreds of years, the images carved out of the lichen on the rock face are more transient.

In spite of claims of a multitude of such sites on the French River system, we are only aware of five claimed sites and have seen one (See our Day 3 post).  Thor Conway, who worked in the area as an archaeologist for the Ontario Government in the 1980s, has the number at eight.

rock face just south of Cross Island – no pictographs to be seen

After our scan of this particular rock face, another 30 minutes of paddling and we hopped ashore to check out CS501, a campsite on river left just south of Parisien Island.  The mediocre site had us wondering who picked this spot and why! Maybe we are just overly particular?  A bit further on 503 looked like a better choice but we did not get out to take a closer look.

Checking out CS501 on the French River (just south of Parisien island)

French River CS501 – fire ring and exposed rock

Then it was on down the Main Channel.  Just 1.5 km. from CS501 we passed by the Haystack Islands and decided to see what the neighbourhood looked like from its hilltop viewpoint.

approaching the Haystack Islands from the east – Upper French River Main channel

As we rambled around and up to the top of the rock we did look around for a potential campsite but found nothing note-worthy. [Note: it is apparently illegal to camp at any but  official campsites in French River Provincial Park.]

We did get this west-looking view of the French River as we stood on top. According to our GPS device, we were 17 meters higher than the water level.

a view from the top of the large Haystack Island

On the smaller of the Haystack Islands sits a camp that looks like it has not been visited much lately. At least it blends in nicely with the surroundings, something which cannot be said for other newer and louder cottages we saw on our trip down to Georgian Bay.

camp on the smaller of the Haystack Island on the Upper French River

Yet a bit further down and it was time for a short break to stretch our legs and pass around the water bottle.  We also had a bit of our snack allotment. [Over the past decade, we’ve settled on one Clif Bar and a 3-oz. (90 gm.) Ziploc bag of gorp per person per day.]

looking back at our canoe from our shady rest spot on the upper French River

One more stop to check out a potential pictograph site – it had some of the ingredients of actual sites we have visited:

  • one of the more dramatic rock faces in the vicinity and
  • a noticeable overhang
  • pronounced cracks in the rock face
  • streaks of calcium or quartz

rock face on the upper French River just east of the Power Line

a close up of the rock overhang – but no pictographs

I got excited as we approached and saw the red iron oxide streaks. However, while you could certainly will a pictograph image into existence, I have learned to resist “picto fever” over the past few years. In a pinch, Max is always ready to curb my enthusiasm.  The saying associated with St. Augustine – I believe in order that I may see – doesn’t really cut it as you stare at natural iron oxide stains in the rock!

We paddled under the power lines around 11:30;  a bit further and it was time for lunch. We made use of CS517 as our lunch spot, hauling our chairs to a shady spot that gave us an hour’s relief from another full-out sunny day. There were no cottages in view and room for multiple tents.

French River Prov. Park campsite marker

We stared out at the river; to the west was another channel with the name “Canoe Pass”. We’d be going down it on our way to the Gorge section just west of the Highway 69 bridge. To the south is Lost Child Bend and Lost Child Rock, the locale of some voyageur and Nipissing folklore.  An entry in the diary of John Macdonell from 1793 is the oldest telling of the story I have found.  His June 26 entry read –

[ See here for an online source of Macdonell’s Diary. There is also a cleaned-up version found in a recent series of posts based on John Macdonell’s diary by Nikki Rajala.  See John Macdonell’s Journal: part 4.   Seven years after Macdonell wrote down his account of the story,  the fur trader and diarist Daniel Harmon recorded another one in 1800. (See here.). More recently,  Thor Conway in  Discovering Rock Art (2016) recorded other variations of the folktale still being told in the1980s in the French River area.

The French River – From Lost Child Bend To Below Recollet Falls via Canoe Pass

Lunch over at 1,  we decided it was way too early be stopping for the day.  We figured a couple of hours and we’d be through Canoe Pass and down Dry Pine Bay to the river’s Main Channel where we could finally paddle down the Gorge section of the river.

Once under the rail trestle crossing the river,  we approached the Highway 69 bridge and saw a section of the new one already in place.  In a year or so this stretch of 69 will have been upgraded to a divided highway.

The thought of dropping in at the marina just before Highway 69 to pick up a few cans of beer did cross our minds – but as we passed by the marina on river right we decided to just push on.  We just went with the flow and let the 15 km/hr. current carry us under the bridge – and past another pictograph site!  We should maybe come up in winter and check out the rock face on snowshoes instead of by canoe!

We were now on a stretch of the river we have often looked down on our rides up and down Highway 69 to other northern Ontario canoe trips. Here is a shot from a couple of years ago from the snowmobilers’ bridge just west of the Highway 69 bridge:

a look down the French River from the snowmobilers’  bridge by Highway 69

A more enticing rendition of this majestic stretch of the French is captured by the painter Pierre Sabourin in this work, The Land of the Voyageur, which could easily hang in a collection of Group of Seven paintings –

Pierre Sabourin.Land of the Voyageur

Thanks to this year’s unusually high water level and the current, we zipped down!  The day’s one complication – Recollet Falls – was approaching faster than we wanted.  A couple of years previously we had walked down to the falls on the 1.5 km. trail from the Visitors’ Center and even in September it looked impressive –

a view of Recollet Falls on the French River

From the same page of John Macdonell’s diary quoted above comes this passage –

~ A league below is the Grand Recolet Portage. Here one of the North West Company’s canoes manned by the Majeau brothers was upset and lost half the cargo about 15 days ago. They had made portage and loaded the canoe below the portage but neglected to put a man on shore with a line to stem the strong eddy which carries back to the falls. In consequence it was drawn down by the eddy under the falls and was instantly filled and sunk. The few survivors and the goods that floated were picked up below the rapid by other canoes of the brigade. Seven crosses are erected here, as well as seven others of former casualties.

Just above the Falls on river right is a lone pictograph.  Looking for it given the water conditions was not even a possibility!  We were focussed on the Falls coming up.

The late-season portage take-out is fairly close to the falls on river left; we would pull in some distance above that spot for the high-water portage landing, which I think was indicated with a portage sign.  For the next forty minutes, we hauled the gear over to the put-in and then dealt with the challenging water currents at the bottom of the rapids. The one thing we did not do was take any photos!  In retrospect, a shame because that satellite image above is not the Recollet Falls we had to deal with!

The carry itself was easy. It was the twenty minutes we spent trying to get downriver after we pushed off at the bottom of the rapids that proved to be the challenging part. Thanks to an interesting combination of currents, we were initially spat back to the put-in. It was only on our third attempt when we headed further out into the middle of the main current and then knifed our way between it and the one which was curling back to the falls,  that we made forward progress! Along river left below the Falls is a one-hundred meter stretch of vertical rock. We rode the three-foot waves, skimmed by the rock face and quickly headed downriver.  Goodbye, Recollet!

a view from our campsite CS 522 to the Lower French River

An hour’s paddle down from the Falls are the first campsites – 521 and 522.  We checked out 521 tucked inside a bay; it was a sunless spot. You would have to be desperate to stop here for the night.

Around the corner was a better choice  – 522,  an open hilltop site with decent views of the neighbourhood. Had there not been four cottages on the other side of the river – with two of them in use – it would have been even better.  We got to listen to one cottager cut his lawn for forty-five minutes! It spoiled the illusion of being in the wilderness – or even in a provincial park. Luckily there was not much motorboat traffic.

our tent going up on CS522 on the French – and our canoe set to do table duty for the evening

a chive patch at CS522 on the French River – Max’s flower pic of the day

Thanks to the fast water the 30.5 km. we had paddled this day would stand as our longest single-day total of the trip.  We revisited one more time the jumble of currents and standing waves at Recollet Falls and sipped on our Crown Royal as we watched the sun set downriver. The next day we would reward ourselves with a stay at one of our favourite campsites in French River Provincial Park.

Next  Post: Days 6 & 7 – To Pickerel Bay (CS 633) And Fox Creek To Georgian Bay

Posted in Georgian Bay, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Day 4 – Down The Five Mile Rapids Section of the Upper French River

Previous Post:  Day 3 – From Canoe Pass To below Portage Dam

Day 4 – Along Eighteen Mile Island From CS304 To CS 419

  • distance: 21 km
  • time: 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 2/7 
  • weather: sunny all day, light wind from NW
  • campsite: CS 419;  1 so-so fair-weather spot for a 4-person tent; possible multiple 2- person tents; longish sloped outcrop to water, cottage across from the site, views are good, especially at sunset
  • NRC topo sheet: Noelville 041 I 01
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Garmin Mapshare: French River 2019 (click on view recent tracks on top right)

Day 4 – Upper French River From CS304 to CS419

After we had retired to the tent the night before we were treated to what sounded like a rain shower – it was just the sound of bugs hitting the outside of our tent wall and ceiling. We were expecting more blackfly and mosquito action when we crawled out the next morning – but all was good.  In fact, for most of our 11 days on the river, bugs were not a problem.

We usually bring along two 10′ x 14′ MEC silnylon tarps – one to put over the tent fly for the ultimate peace of mind and the other over our dining and sitting area.  On this trip we left one tarp behind and brought our Eureka No Bug Zone shelter,  We bought it two years ago just for June canoe tripping in Missinaibi country near Chapleau.   However, on this trip, it only got put up twice and never for its intended purpose.  At the start of  Day 2, we had used it for breakfast during a brief rain shower.

As we paddled downriver we stopped at CS306, just 1.5 kilometers from where we had stopped the night before.  We found a better campsite with more shelter for the tent and better water drainage. The photo below is a shot of the site from the water. As with other sites on the Upper French, it looks like it has been co-opted as a lunchtime spot by fishermen from the nearby fishing lodges of Wolseley Bay. We looked around for a “thunderbox” but did not see one.

CS306 – a view as we paddled by

The Five Mile Rapids on the Upper French River:

The Five Mile Rapids Section of the Upper French River

Hooligan nylon pack

Hooligan nylon pack

By ten o’clock we were coming up to the Five Mile Rapids section  of the river. It is an eight-kilometer stretch of the river running along the south side of Eighteen Mile Island that has a few rapids, some of which require scouting and a bit of caution and perhaps a portage around.

Given that we travel alone and since we still have all our gear in two old-fashioned Duluth-style packs (110-liter volume) and  two duffel bags, as opposed to those nifty 60-liter plastic blue barrels, we lean towards the caution side in our approach!

We would spend two hours on this section before stopping for lunch on the island just above the last set of rapids,  Crooked Rapids, which we dealt with after our almost two-hour break.  Mid-June 2019 water levels were about 1.5 meters higher than usual.  Our GPS device recorded speeds of up to 17 km/hr on at a few points along the way!

  1. Little Pine Rapids – took a look and then lined and ran
  2. Big Pine Rapids – 20-minute portage
  3. Double Rapids – went through
  4. 4. The Ladder –  lined – 5-minute job
  5. Big Parisien Rapids – a 20-minute portage
  6. Little Parisien Rapids – paddled down –
  7. Crooked Rapids –  we spent 30 minutes here – no idea what was going on!

Big Pine Rapids: 

After zipping down Little Pine Rapids, the first of the rapids in the Five Mile Rapids section, we came to Big Pine Rapids. Later in the season, we would have run it but, given the unusually high early season water levels,  we figured we would carry around it.

the portage trail at Big Pine Rapids

The easy 100-meter trail on river right makes use of the rock outcrop running alongside the river.  Twenty minutes later we pushed off at the bottom of the rapids, having stopped to take a few photos of this very scenic spot on the French. And who knows – maybe that lone tall pine in the image below is the one which prompted the name of the rapids?

looking up the French River from the top of Big Pine Rapids

sitting by the side of the French River at Big Pine Rapids

Here are a few seconds of video which capture a bit of sitting there and taking in the energy of the spotb –

max’s flower of the day

Big Parisien Rapids: 

After Double Rapids, which we floated down, and The Ladder, which we lined and ran, we came to Big Parisien Rapids.

If “Big’ implies more turbulence and a bigger drop than “Little” then having the rapid’s name correct does matter!   Unfortunately, there is some confusion here.  Our Garmin topo map, for example, labels the rapids we now came to as Little Parisien Rapids!

The French River’s Parisien Rapids – N.B. Big is upriver from Little!

So too does the archived Federal Government’s Natural Resources Canada topo sheet from 1994 [Noelville 041 I 01] –

On the other hand, the Friends of French River map has it correct – it calls it Big Parisien. So too does the more recent one at the Natural Resources Canada Toporama site.  It has Big Parisien upriver from Little Parisien.

French River – Big and Little Parisien Rapids

the French River just above Big Parisien Rapids

Max checking out the top of the Big Parisien Rapids on the French River

our portage route around Big Parisien Rapids

the top of Big Parisien Rapids on the French River – June 2019

We spent about twenty minutes on the portage around Big Parisien Rapids.  Max, going by what he was seeing on his Garmin eTrex – i.e. Little Parisien – later mentioned that he was expecting something much more intense as we approached what he thought was Big Parisien. As it was, we were through the next set of rapids in a half-minute!

Without a doubt, Big Parisien is upriver of Little Parisien!

We stopped soon after at a shady spot on an island just above Crooked Rapids. It was time for lunch, this one an uncharacteristically long one from 12:15 to 2:00! Mostly we wanted to sit out the heat of the day instead of being on the water in full sun. It was that hot!

French River – Crooked Rapids:  

Then it was on to the last of the rapids in the Five Mile Rapids section of the French River’s Main Channel.  I will admit I have only a rough idea of what is going on in the GPS track from Max’s eTrex 20 shown below –

We paddled over to check out the vertical rock face on the off chance that four hundred years of paddlers had somehow missed the rock paintings there! Then we turned back to deal with Crooked Rapids, avoiding the main channel and opting for the narrow channel on the left side of the small island.  I think we did a partial carry and a line job here though the details escape me!  The lesson here –  we need to make more use of our cameras’  video mode and shoot a little movie of the situation, even if just for future reference!

Day 4 CS 419 –  An Elevated View!

From all the images which follow it is fair to say we enjoyed the half-day we spent there.  Admittedly, the initial impression was not positive.  Below is what we paddled towards.  As we approached, we wondered where we’d find a flat spot for our four-person tent.

the view of CS419 from upriver – not too promising!

We paddled around the left-side of the island to find something much more to our liking – a gently sloping rock face that went up to a flat spot sheltered from the north wind by more vertical rock and capped with a great hilltop patio.  While we prefer our sites more sheltered and with more tree cover, this fair-weather site would  do thanks to the weather we were having.

our Day 4 CS on the French River – CS419

CS419 on the French – a excellent fair weather site

Dusk on our hilltop patio – and you can see our Helinox Chairs  and our whisky glasses – repurposed 35mm film canisters which conveniently hold a bit over an ounce. We’re not big drinkers but every once in a while – and sometimes as a reward after an especially rough day – we’ll have an ounce or two as we watch the sun go down and point our cameras in different directions.

looking over French River CS419 from the hilltop patio

a view of the French River CS419 neighbourhood from the hilltop

a spider web that caught Max’s eye

sunset on the upper French River – CS419

sunset on the French River – CS419 – take 2

Next Post: Day 5 – From CS419 To Below Recollet Falls West of Highway 69

Posted in Anishinaabek World, Georgian Bay, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Day 3 – From Canoe Pass To Below The Portage Channel Dam

Previous Post: Day 2 – Lafleche Point to South of Canoe Pass

Day 3 – From Canoe Pass to Below Portage Channel Dam

  • distance: 27 km
  • time: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/0: ~570 m (FoFR says 600m), around the channel cut, easy trail for the most part, especially near to and after the road.
  • weather: sunny all day, light wind from NW
  • campsite: CS304 w/TB up the hill; room for multiple tents however nice spots for a 4-person not so much
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)

Day 3 – Upper French River – Canoe Pass To Portage Channel Dam Portage

Day 3 – Upper French River – From the 580-meter Portage  to CS304

Gibraltar Point: 

We were on the water early and heading to Gibraltar Point and another narrow channel with a warning to boaters to slow down.  Gibraltar’s vertical rock face had us looking for evidence of pictographs. We knew that Selwyn Dewdney had seen something here on a visit in 1960. In Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes he wrote:

The paintings on “Gibraltar”, as it is called locally, are badly weathered, and little can be deciphered but a few canoes. [, p.93]

Other than the four canoes, he also recorded a stick figure, a round smudge, and some horizontal and vertical lines.  More recently there was apparently graffiti on some of the rock face (mentioned by Nick Adams in a mid-1980’s paper – see below) and then, even more recently, whitewash on top of it.  Perhaps we should have spent more time looking for evidence of the ochre canoe images and the covered-over graffiti.

As it is, all we saw in our quick scan was a painted name which someone felt compelled to leave behind. If you visit, you may want to give the rock face a more intensive examination than we did!

The Kennedy Island Pictograph Site:

Just around the corner from Gibraltar Point, we approached the rock face pictured in the image below. Along with the Gibraltar site, Dewdney had examined this site in 1960.

Site #80…is in clear, strong pigment. Only the thunderbird, turned on its side, is somewhat obscured by lichen. The stick figures remind us of those at Diamond Lake and Scotia Lake. Among the others are a canoe, a pig-like bear, and a likely fish. [93-94]

And that is it for his cursory treatment of this site, which hosts the single largest collection of rock paintings on the French River system.

The Kennedy Island Pictograph Site – and location of a plaque honouring Bill Kennedy

As we paddled towards the site, our attention was first drawn to a metal plaque a few feet to the north.  The Island’s name is Kennedy; the massive plaque explains why. We did wonder why they chose to place it so close to the Anishinaabe pictographs.

Kennedy Plaque next to the Anishinaabe Pictographs

To the south and below the plaque is the panel of rock paintings.  It covers a small  .6 sq. meter area.  Also evident below the plaque on the right-hand bottom corner of the white-painted square is what may well be another image, badly faded and indecipherable.

Kennedy Island – plaque and pictographs

As for the main panel, pictured below, it has over the years been seen by many boaters staying at nearby fishing lodges and cottages, as well as the probable descendants of those who painted the images some two or three hundred years ago.

the Kennedy island pictograph site – the entire collection of images

A study by Nick Adams, a field archaeologist in  Ontario’s Ministry of  Culture and Recreation,  published in 1985 provides some analysis.  [See here for a pdf copy.]

Adams contrasts the general condition of this site with the Gibraltar Point site –

…the proximity of the Kurtz  cottage clearly discourages would be vandals from paying any attention to the site. Another nearby pictograph site in a more isolated location [i.e. the Gibraltar Point site] has not been so fortunate and many of the paintings there have been painted over with recent graffiti.

Another more recent source is Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders (2016).  An entire chapter is dedicated to the French River and the Kennedy Island site is given some coverage.  As well,  an explanation offered as to the meaning of the panel and the relationship of the various images to each other.

The most vivid images are captured in the photo below.  These may

  • be newer than the other images or
  • have been painted with a better formulation of the iron oxide powder/fish oil “paint” or
  • have weathered better than the images closer to the water surface.

close up of the right side of Kennedy Island pictograph site

Using Adams’ paper to identify the images, here is what we see –

So – what does it all mean?  

My guess is that various “painters” over an extended period of time visited the site and left their particular image(s) for shamanistic or vision-quest reasons. While the animal figures on the top right are vivid and deeply coloured, the dog or wolf image on the bottom left is badly faded. So too is what looks like another Y-shaped figure below the bear and to the right of the beaver (skin).  Even more, remnants of other faded images have been painted over.  Some flaking has occurred – see the thunderbird’s triangular body for a section that has flaked off.

I will admit that it does seem odd that they would choose a site so close to major summer tribal sites at Frank’s Bay and  Campbell Bay, no more than seven kilometers away.   Other sites we have visited – the Cliff Lake and Artery Lake sites come to mind – are isolated and require some effort to get to. However, the channel between Eliot Island and Kennedy Island is somewhat tucked away from the main passage to the Lake Nipissing outlet at Chaudiere Falls and would have seen little traffic.

Kennedy Island Pictograph site – entire panel and surrounding rock face

While I resisted the temptation to create a narrative for the collection of images drawn over a period of many years by various people from their common mythological image bank,  there is a more satisfying alternative!

Indeed, the human impulse is to find (and even impose) meaning on random events, objects, or marks placed close to each other.  Think of what we have done with stars or Tarot cards or severe weather events!  We love explanations in the form of stories and coming up with one for this collection of images is certainly possible.  While neither Dewdney or Adams recounts a story that they heard from the distant descendants of those who painted the images, Thor Conway includes several in his chapter on the French River.

One story connects the pictographs to the supposed massacre of a 300-to-400-strong Iroquois raiding party during the great Algonkian-Iroquois War of the mid-1600s. The stick figures represent the headless Iroquois warriors, while the Thunderbird leads the Nipissing warriors, represented by their clan totem animals.  Even the possible canine image is incorporated in the story; it is connected to a white dog sacrifice ritual practised by the Nipissings.

The Lake Nipissing Outlet Dams:

The Three Lake Nipissing Outlet Dams

After our brief stop at Kennedy Island, we switched into “git ‘er dun” paddle mode and covered the 14 kilometers to the top of the portage around the Portage Channel Dam!  There was a bit of wind blowing our way and we made use of the string of islands to avoid the boat traffic on the main channel.  Our cameras did not come out for a couple of hours as nothing really caught our eye.

Perhaps another time we’ll slow down and visit the Dokis First Nation museum on Okikendawt Island.  Another thing we could do is visit the Big Chaudière Dam, largest of the three dams which control the water level of Lake Nipissing:

  1. Big Chaudière Dam – the original opened in 1916; replaced by the current dam in 2016. It is made up of north and south channel gates.
  2. Little Chaudière Dam – the original opened in 1916; current dam opened in 1996.
  3. Portage Channel Dam – first opened in 1951; replaced by the second one in 1992; replaced by the current one, which also serves as a 10 MW hydroelectric facility,  in 2015. The Dokis band invested in its construction.

Note: the satellite image has South at the top and north at the bottom –

The Portage Channel was created to provide a third major outlet for Lake Nipissing water. The deep channel was blasted through of the rock outcrop. Work started in 1946 and the dam opened in 1951.  Of the three dams, only this one has been upgraded to makes use of the water flow to generate hydro-electricity.  We would have to portage around it.

The map below – taken from the essential book on the French River by Toni Harting – shows both the original pre-Channel Dam portage trail and the one which the dam and the man-made channel made necessary.

We paddled to the end of the bay and the beginning of the 570-meter portage trail, indicated by a portage sign and a visible landing, even given the high water.  Looking back from the landing the safety boom is visible, as are other dam-related buildings.

Portage Channel Dam

The Portage Channel Dam portage trail

the Portage Channel Dam take-out spot across from the dam

The trail was in good shape and we were at the put-in about forty minutes after setting off from the take-out point pictured above.  It would have been faster had I not somehow gotten disoriented on my way back to the canoe, after having dropped off my share of the bag carry at the halfway point!  The photo below shows the put-in below the dam.   By the time I arrived the Helinox chairs were set up, water was being filtered and lunch was being organized. A 30-minute post-lunch snooze helped to beat the heat of the mid-day.

lunch break at the bottom end of the Portage Channel Dam portage

the French River below the Channel Dam Portage

Max finds another flower on The Channel Portage

After our break, we pushed on to Cradle Rapids. Higher than usual water levels made it a bit more work but a combination of carry, line and run got us through this section in about 45 minutes.  Perhaps becasue we were among the first of the season to go down, there was little evidence of a portage trail and we felt like we weere improvising one as we pushed ahead.  One thing we did not do wasstop to  look for the solitary pictograph at Cradle Rapids.  We didn’t even take any pix, so focussed as we were on just getting the thing dealt with.  Too bad! Here is our GPS track of our passing through the Cradle Rapids area –

Cradle Rapids – French Rive – portage, line, and run

We did not know it at the time but afteer the trip on looking more closely at the maps in the Toni Harting book on French River, an alternative popped up.  Harting labels it Leonard Portage.  If you know anything about this possible alternative portage around Cradle Rapids, pelase make a comment or email me at  The Leonard looks like aless complicated and faster way around!

Cradle Rapids and Leonard Portage

Done with Cradle Rapids, it was on to the number of official campsites further down, beginning with the one on Boom Island.

Passing by CS 301 at the south end of Boom Island, we took a quick look and figured we could do better. Off to the next one – CS304.

CS 304

CS 301 Boom Island

The scale of the Friends of French River map is such that sometimes the exact location of the campsite is not clear.  We paddled south along the island you see in the image above and then realized that CS304 might be on the other side!  When we got there we found a site a half-grade better the one that we had just left.  It was 4:15 – and we had done 27 kilometers.  We decided to make do with mediocre instead of pushing on to the next one.

The next morning we paddled by and checked out CS306 about 1.5 km. downriver.  It would have been a much better choice!  None of the campsites looked like they had been used yet this year and, given the proximity to the fishing lodges down at Wolseley Bay, are probably more used by fishing parties for shore lunches than by canoe trippers.

Day 3 – French River CS 304

checking out CS304 – we decided to call it a day

Some of the upper French campsites are outfitted with tables and, at 304, with a left-behind cooler! Also typical of these sites are three or four fire pits where one would do.  304 was one instance where we spent some time eliminating a couple of fire pits from the site.

CS304 on French River – “it’ll do”

Next Post: Day 4 – Down The French River’s Five Mile Rapids Section 

Posted in Anishinaabek World, Georgian Bay, Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Day 2 – From Lafleche Point to Canoe Pass

Previous Post: Day 1 – From Sucker Creek Landing To Lafleche Point

Day 2 – From Lafleche Point to Canoe Pass

  • distance: 25 km
  • time: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 0/0: another nice easy paddle!
  • weather: sunny most of the day, light wind from NW?
  • campsite: CS105 room for multiple tents, nice veranda, better than CS 104 which we checked out, some sites along the south shore of West Bay
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topos: Noelville 041 I 01; Nipissing 031 I 04
  • Garmin Mapshare page

Lake Nipissing From Lafleche Point (West Bay) to Canoe Pass below Sandy island

Day 2 – and our first full day on the water.  Our goal for the day was to paddle east on Lake Nipissing to Canoe Pass and then head south to the first decent campsite we found.  Conditions were ideal – almost no wind and mostly sunny all day as we paddled along the south shore of West Bay and then east past a string of islands until we came to the single largest island in the lake, Sandy Island.

Lake Nipissing – Lafleche Point to Canoe Pass – Day 2

As noted in the Day 1 post, less than a kilometer from our Day 1 CS we found a much better one at Lafleche Point itself. About an hour later we would check out another site as we were paddling through Hay Narrows, the entrance of West Bay.

West Bay Lake Nipissing – the shoreline of an abandoned camp property

Initially curious about an iron post embedded in the sloping rock face, we walked up to see the concrete foundation of what was once a camp.  Other than the post and that foundation, the site was remarkably clean, with little of the usual debris you often see at abandoned sites.  It would make a good campsite for multiple tents.

the concrete foundation of a camp on West Bay Lake Nipissing

Max gets in his flower shot of the day!

site reconnaissance over – Max on his way back to the canoe

Ten minutes after passing by Jennings Island (top left on the map below), we pulled up on a point and set up our Helinox chairs in the shade of some pines. Out came the butane stovetop and butane canister – it was time for our usual Thai soup and peanut butter on Wasa bread lunch!

An hour later, we were back on the water and, once we passed by Wigwam Point, paddling along the south side of Sandy Island.  While we were struck by the number of camps/cottages, few of them seemed to be in use. One motorboat did come ripping by and was the object of a curse or two as he seemed oblivious to the impact of the wake he was leaving for us to deal with. We also saw our first paddler – a kayaker from one of the camps out for an afternoon paddle.

[We would not see any other canoes or kayaks until Day 11 when we approached the Hartley Bay dock! As for motorboats – we saw perhaps a dozen over the following ten days. It was pretty quiet on the French, just the way we like it.]

Sandy Island Lake Nipissing

In his study of Ontario pictograph sites, Discovering Rock Art, Thor Conway recounts a story he heard from an elder named John Fisher from the Garden Village reserve in the early 1980s.  It involved an ambush by his Nipissing ancestors of a group of invading Iroquois during the Iroquois-Algonkian War of the mid-1600s. Supposedly, three to four hundred Iroquois were killed in the surprise attack while they slept. It is not clear on which exact island the ambush and ensuing massacre took place; however,  it was in the vicinity of the Sandy Island we were paddling by.  Fisher says he visited the site with his father when he was quite young and said he saw bones and skulls laying on the ground.

While Frank’s Bay at the east side of the entrance to the French River system is known to have been the site of a pre-1600s Nipissing summer tribal gathering site and has seen archaeological excavation, none of the literature makes reference to this incident.

I guess it comes down to how reliable a historian our storyteller was about an incident that happened 330 years before he recounted it.  As he is quoted –

And they [the Nipissing warriors] got their clubs. And they’re [the Iroquois raiders] all sleeping, the others.

And they clubbed them. Oh, yeah.

They killed them all. And then….I didn’t know anything about that very much because they used to talk about it. But I never paid attention, you know. When you’re young, you don’t bother to listen or anything like that. [Conway 117]

The next day we would visit the single largest pictograph site on the French River and it too would be connected to a story about Iroquois raiders.

the west end of Sandy Island

Canoe Pass is a narrow 600-meter channel along the west side of Burnt Island.  To us it represented the end of Lake Nipissing paddle and the start of our trip down the French River system to Georgian Bay.   At both ends of Canoe Pass are signs telling motor boats to reduce their speed. Given that it was a Thursday afternoon in mid-June we were not expecting much traffic!

the south end of Canoe Pass at the top of the French River system

At the south end of the channel we stopped to examine more closely the vertical rock face on the west end of Burnt Island.  While the hope is always that we will find a pictograph or two, the fact is that they are actually fairly scarce on the French and, in any case, the entire surface of this particular rock face was covered with moss and lichen.  So – nothing to see; move along!

the rock face at the south end of Canoe Pass – French River

It was only 2:30 when we came through Canoe Pass. Since we wanted to keep our visit to the Kennedy island pictograph site until the next morning, we switched into campsite hunting mode. The Friends of French River map has all of the French River Provincial Park campsites indicated; we were close to a couple of them – 104 and 105.

First we checked out campsite 105; it looked fine. But just to make sure we didn’t pass up on an even better one, we did paddle over to CS104 to see what it was like.  A quick look and it was back 500 meters to the first one!

CS 104 just south of Canoe Pass –  Lake Nipissing /French River

CS 104 and 105 French River Park

By 3:30 we had both our tent and the bug tent up and we were chillin’ on the rock outcrop ont the water’s edge with our freshly brewed cups of coffee.

our Day 2 Campsite – French River Park CS105

Day 2 had been an easy day with no drama; we were looking forward to the next morning’s visit to the Kennedy island pictograph site and then the 15-km. paddle down to the Portage Channel hydro-electric dam.  It would be there that we would face the trip’s single longest portage, the 600-meter carry around the dam.

Next Post: Day 3 – From Canoe Pass To Below The Portage Channel Dam

Posted in Georgian Bay, Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Day 1 – Lake Nipissing’s West Bay

Previous Post: Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Intro, Maps, and Logistics

Day 1 – Lake Nipissing From Shuswap Camp to Lafleche Point

We had left downtown Toronto at 6:40 a.m. and by 11  we were at the reception desk at Hartley Bay Marina.  Another hour and we’d be unloading our canoe and gear at the dock at the Shuswap Camp in Sucker Creek Landing, ready to slide our canoe into the water of Lake Nipissing’s West Bay.

Compare that to the prevous year’s Cliff Lake/Lake Nipigon  trip which had started with a 1600-kilometer drive over two days capped off with a thirty-minute bush plane ride to get to the put-in point.

Canoeing From The Pikitigushi’s Cliff Lake To Echo Rock on Lake Nipigon

This year we’d also be spared the two-day return journey to southern Ontario!  Instead of last year’s four solid travel days, this year there would only be two half-days.  Nice!

Hartley Bay to Shuswap Camp

It is a one-hour drive from Hartley Bay to the Shuswap Camp at Sucker Creek landing. Our shuttle driver Mike – an old guy, maybe 70  or so (i.e. even older than our 65 and 68!) – hopped in our car and off we went.

It became clear that our passenger was quite knowledgeable about the French River area and he certainly had some stories to tell.  I asked him if he did odd jobs for the Marina, thinking that it was a good way for him to make some extra cash in his retirement years. He admitted that he did and then added this kicker in a matter-of-fact way  – “Actually I’m the owner.”   Mike Palmer!

Hartley Bay Marina header

The Palmer family has been running the Marina since 1952. According to their website its original version was actually a restaurant and welcome center for rail passengers arriving from down south.  The Palmers had started their business  a bit more than a decade after Mike’s father first came to the Hartley Bay area in 1939.  The rail track that comes through  brought in camp owners and other visitors from southern Ontario at a time when the road did not yet exist. These days Mike’s son James carries on the family business – but the restaurant is no longer a part of it. Now they’ve got five cottages for rent and provide a full marina service for boaters. Canoe rental and route advice is also available for those planning a canoe trip.

the Shushwap Lodge dock – ready to go!

Mike dropped us off at the water’s edge by the Shuswap lodge and then drove off back down to Hartley Bay.  After we loaded the canoe, we headed up to the restaurant for some lunch.  Bad timing meant that there would be a bit of a wait as the cook tried to catch up to an order from a group of 12 seniors whose ATVs we had noticed parked outside. There were also – to no surprise – no vegan options on the menu so while Max munched on some toast I had a cup of coffee with the last of the soy creamer I had brought up from T.O. We ended up  having  lunch after a half-hour of paddling when we came to a shady spot to set up our Helinox chairs.

an overview of the Shuswap Camp

Day One: West Bay Lake Nipissing – Shuswap Camp To E of Lafleche Point

  • distance: 11 km
  • time: 12:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 1/0: ~20 m – nice easy start to the trip, from car to water
  • weather: sunny, cool overnight overcast some rain the next morning,
  • campsite: room for a 4-person and/or multiple 2-persons, sheltered from wind in most directions, ok veranda
  • GPS tracks – 2019 French River (3.2Mb Dropbox file)
  • Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topoNoelville 041 I 01

Lake Nipissing (West Bay) – Day 1 Sucker Creek to Lafleche Point

a look back at Shuswap Camp

the mandatory trip photo of Max, the stern paddler!

Just east of Shuswap is another lodge – Saenchiur Flechey.  While the first one uses the “up North” word “Camp” to describe itself, the latter bills itself as a “Resort”.

Saenchiur Flechey Resort – east of Shuswap West Bay Lake Nipissing

It was a sunny and windless afternoon and, as the overview map above shows,  we paddled by one little island after another on our way to the day’s target, Lafleche Point. I had made use of the Google Earth satellite view to get an advance look at the area and it looked promising. I focussed on the area at the west end with the exposed rock outcrop and figured we’d find something there.

After checking it out, we ended up paddling back around the point to the Lake side and setting up our tent in a nicely sheltered spot surrounded by some tall pines – and one that had been blown over in the past year or so.  It make for a “good enough” campsite at the end of an easy first day start.  The next morning we would find out that we had stopped 400 meters too early and that Lafleche Point had far nicer views and tent sites.  That’s how it goes sometimes!

Day 01 CS Lafleche Point campsites

Day 1 Campsite just east of Lafleche Point

Max phoning home from Day 1 CS Lake Nipissing

nearing dusk on Lake Nipissing – our campsite

end of the day on Lake Nipissing – CS 01

Day 1 was in the books – from 7:00 a.m. driving up the DVP near Eglinton to 4:00 p.m. putting up our tent on Lake Nipissing.  Quite the transition!  No paddlers sighted but a couple of motor boats on West Bay.

Next Post:  Day 2 – Lake Nipissing From Lafleche Point To Canoe Pass

Posted in Georgian Bay, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom: Intro., Logistics, Planning and Maps

Related Post: Kayaking The Georgian Bay Coast From Killarney to Snug Harbour – Maps, Logistics, and Days 1 & 2

Canoeing The French River From Top To Bottom:

A Bit of History:

In 1989 the Ontario government created French River Provincial Park to protect and promote a river which was once an integral part of a water highway that stretched from Montreal to the Canadian Rockies.  Flowing downstream 110 kilometers from the south side of Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay, it was a short but crucial section of a transcontinental trade route used by Indigenous Peoples and then, after 1615, by French and Canadien explorers, coureurs de bois, and Roman Catholic missionaries.

Frances Hopkins - shooting the rapids

a painting by Frances Anne Hopkins from 1879, long after the demise of the transcontinental fur trade route

With the British take-over of Canada in 1763 and the establishment of the North West Company in Montreal,  the interior route to the fur riches of the west continued to flourish.  Down the French River each spring came the twelve-meter-long canots du Maître with their 4 tonnes of cargo and crew.  They were on their way to Fort William at the west end of Lake Superior where they dropped off the trade goods and collected the furs for the return journey.  Some Canadien crews did the descent of the French River section in as little as a day!

the online source of the map: here

The river system’s integral connection with Canada’s early history meant that when the newly formed federal government program The Canadian Heritage Rivers System named its first river in 1986, it was the French River that was chosen.

Canadian Heritage Rivers plaque – French River Visitors’ Center off Highway 69

This June my brother and I made a return visit the French.  A couple of years ago we had spent a memorable week in mid-September paddling the French River delta from our put-in at Hartley Bay Marina.

Canoeing Georgian Bay’s French River Delta: Logistics, Maps, & Day 1

In the mid-1980s I had also paddled the upper French River a couple of times  – once with my wife Laila and another with my bud Cyril.  On both occasions, we started off in Restoule Provincial Park and paddled down the Restoule River to where it meets the French.

Restoule Lake and River

Both times we also headed south just before Highway 69 to Cantin Lake and the  Pickerel River system, which we paddled up to a take-out at Port Loring.

The difference this time?  We wanted to include the Upper French above the mouth of the Restoule River and see for ourselves the following landmarks –

  • Canoe Pass,
  • Gibraltar Point,
  • the Kennedy Island Pictograph site,
  • the Chaudiere and Portage Channel dams,
  • the Keso Point pictograph site.

the French River from the bridge

We also wanted to do the Gorge stretch from Highway 69 down to Ox Bay.

Every time we’ve  crossed the bridge on the way up North to another canoe trip and again on the way back, we’d look down that dramatic corridor and say – “Someday we’re going down that!”

Pierre Sabourin (click on his name to access his website) captures the feel of that stretch just south of the bridge in a Group of Seven kind of way:

Pierre Sabourin. Land of the Voyageur

Where To Start?

The original plan was to start at Champlain Park in North Bay.  The Park is located on the shore of Lake Nipissing at the mouth of the La Vase River.  It is at the end of the portage route which Etienne Brule in 1610, Champlain in 1615, and everyone who followed made use of to get to the shore of Lake Nipissing from the Mattawa River and Trout Lake.  If we were going to retrace the route taken by those voyageurs this was the place to start!

La Vase Portage Plaque


The plan was this: we would get  Hartley Bay Marina to provide a shuttle driver,  whom we would pick up and then drive over to North Bay. He would drive the vehicle back to Hartley Bay while we set off on our little adventure.

However, a closer look at the map had me reconsidering the point of driving to the east end of the lake just to paddle southwest across a very exposed section to get to the Upper French.

Lake Nipissing from Sucker Creek Landing to North Bay

The conversation in my head went something like this –

  • It’s the route those voyageurs took on their epic journeys. That’s the route we gotta take!”
  • “Aren’t we getting a bit obsessive about all of this? They did it because they had to. We don’t have to!”
  • “It would only take us a day and a half to cover the 40 kilometers from Champlain Park to the top of the French.”
  • “But look how exposed we’d be to winds from the northwest or southwest.  That is some pretty open water there.  Surely we could find an alternative that would be less stressful!”

Sucker Creek Landing (Shuswap Camp):

At the west end of Lake Nipissing is Sucker Creek Landing.  It is a one-hour ride from Hartley Bay Marina to Shuswap Camp just off Highway 64 at the west end of West Bay,  a long narrow bay with a string of islands along its south shore. Compared to the open water from North Bay to the top of the French, it is more sheltered and we’d be paddling east,  a more favourable direction given the prevailing winds.

Hartley Bay Marina header

A phone call to James Palmer at Hartley Bay Marina established a $140. shuttle cost, a reasonable expense which eliminated the #1 logistical problem of most canoe trips.  Our vehicle would be waiting for us in the Hartley Bay Marina parking lot (a $10. a day fee) and we’d be able to get our French River Park camping permits at the Marina main desk when we picked up our shuttle driver. [You can also get your backcountry camping permits online here.]

Hartley Bay to Shuswap Camp

I also phoned Shuswap Camp to see if we could put in at their dock. Their response: no problem!  I figured we’d have lunch at their restaurant to even things out.

So – Sucker Creek it was.

Planning The Route:

For the most part a trip down the French River system – from top to bottom – is pretty straight forward: just stick to the main channel and you will cover the 110 km. to Georgian Bay in four or five days.

The three sections where you have some choice are these:

  1. the top of Okikendawt Island. You could go down the Little French River channel on the north side of the island and then rejoin the main channel after portaging Five Finger Rapids.

2. Eighteen Mile island. You could choose to paddle the North Channel instead of going down the main channel on the south side.

  • Once you get to Ox Bay at the top of the Delta section of the river, you have five main channels or outlets to take you down to Georgian Bay.  If you choose the Western Channel you have another three possible options –  a. the Bad River Channel;  b. the Old Voyageur Channel;  and c. the Voyageur Channel. Within these sub-channels, there are yet more possible routes!

We made the following choices as we planned our route:

  1. We went down the main channel on the south side of Okikendawt Island after doing the 580-meter Portage Channel portage and the Cradle Rapids portage. I planned on checking out the pictograph at Cradle Rapids.
  2. We went down the south side of Eighteen Mile Island so we could experience the half-dozen sets of rapids in the Five Mile Rapids section.  Also, the North Channel has quite a few more cottages along its shore and when paddling, fewer cottages is always better.
  3. We chose the Fox Creek route to Georgian Bay since it was one we hadn’t done yet. The 2018 Henvey Inlet Fire had apparently reached as far as Fox Creek and we wanted to see how things looked a year later.  Once we got to Georgian Bay and spent a couple of days out on the Bustard Islands, we planned to head back to Hartley Bay and our vehicle via Bass Creek and the Eastern Outlet.  We had already checked out the Bass Creek portages in 2017 and figured this would make for an easy return route with one easy portage and one lift-over.

Henvey Inlet Fire 2018 – and east end of French River Provincial Park

What We Ended Up Paddling:

A GPX file of our route can be downloaded here: French River June 2019

Click here to see the 220-km route as it appears on Garmin’s mapshare page.  On the Garmin map, I’ve indicated the ten campsites we stayed at, as well as the five pictograph sites that we had intended to check out.  Other than the Kennedy Island site, this aspect of the trip was not a great success!

Useful Sources of Information:

Tired of waiting in line for the one copy in the Toronto Library system of Toni Harting’s French River: Canoeing The River of the Stick Wavers (1996), I turned instead to Amazon and found a used copy.  $20. (shipping included) and a week later I had my own copy of the best single source of information on the French River.

It has everything from geology to history to topography and canoe-specific information. While a few things have changed in the past quarter-century since it was written, it has aged well.  Any time spent on the French can only be enriched by reading this well-researched book; Harting points out all sorts of things that you will paddle by that you’d never know otherwise.  (Example: the Voyageur Channel is misnamed.  It was not used by the voyageurs as a way to get to Georgian Bay!)

We also got a copy of the third and latest edition of the 1:50000 scale  Friends of French FOFR Map 2017River map, which was published in 2017. The waterproof map is not only a good investment; it provides the Friends with a bit of money to keep on doing their work.

It replaced our older one from 2011 though we didn’t really notice all that much new on the map.  The one thing it is useful for is indicating campsite locations.  However, their exact locations are sometimes difficult to figure out given the map scale.

Once in the park,  we camped at eight different official campsites.  Some were truly memorable; too many, especially in the Upper French section north of Highway 69, were mediocre. We just kept on paddling after a quick look at a number of sites and wondered who it was who decided to put the campsites where they are.

For the record, our favourites were the following:

633 – on the north side of Pickerel Bay across from the beginning of the Fox Creek route. Incredible elevated views in all directions and a good spot to put our four-person tent.

419 – a campsite after the Five Mile Rapids section of the Upper French

822 – the westernmost campsite in the Park, though 816 on Eagle Nest Point across the bay has better views of Georgian Bay and Green Island Bay

The campsites are available on a “first come” basis with no need to pre-book as you do with other parks like Killarney.

a view of the French River CS419 neighbourhood from the hilltop

 Trip Conditions: 

the Kennedy island pictograph site – the entire collection of images

Water Levels:  This June water levels on Lake Nipissing and on the French River itself were quite high – a meter to 1.5 meters higher than usual.  Portage take-out spots like the one at Recollet Falls were under water; a stronger than usual current made paddling up some channels HIIT work-outs.  Without a doubt, a September trip would eliminate some of the issues we faced.  All in all, however, the French is a pretty mild river.

  • 196 m asl – Lake Nipissing
  • 185 m – below the Chaudiere Dam and the Portage Channel Hydro Dam
  • 180 m – below Five Mile Rapids
  • 180 m – Dry Pine Bay
  • 177 m – Ox Bay
  • 175 m – Georgian Bay

There is only a 21-meter drop in water level from Lake Nipissing to Georgian Bay; half of that happens at the first portage, the one around the Portage Channel hydro-electric dam.

Wind:  Our planned paddle out to and back from the Bustard Islands did not happen thanks to the fairly strong 20-km.+ wind and drizzle coming from the southwest. Instead, we spent a couple of days paddling inland from the Bay across the sheltered Cross Channel and going up and down some of the channels at the west end of the Park below Robinson Bay.  

Bugs: Given that it was June, we were expecting much worse!  Our Eureka Bug tent did get put up twice in ten days, mostly so we could refresh our memories on the best way to put it up!  We sat inside the tent just once and that was to escape a shower which coincided with our first breakfast at Lafleche Point on Lake Nipissing!

Other Maps:

Along with our copy of the Friends of French River map, we also had Max’s Garmin Etrex 20 GPS device with the Garmin Topo Canada 4.0 map set installed.  There are times when the paper map just does not provide enough topo detail and the Etrex helped.

I also brought along my iPhone 6 with David Crawshay’s Topo Canada app and the required topos installed. On a few occasions, especially as we paddled through a maze of channels and islands, I fired it up to see where we were.

The iPhone screen is certainly much larger than the eTrex ’20’s and that makes it more useful in getting some more context as to your location.  I did not, however, leave my iPhone on all day; it would eat up battery like crazy compared to the Garmin device!

Federal Government Topo Maps:

Natural Resources Canada

If you want to download and make your own paper copies of the relevant bits from the Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topos,  just click on the following map titles.  The links will take you to a tif file at the Government of Canada’s geogratis site –

Note: the Federal Government provides the maps for “free” but is no longer in the map printing business.  Some entrepreneurs have stepped in and set up businesses to print the maps.  Most are using a plastic material (Dupont’s Tyvek?) instead of paper and individual sheets cost $20. CDN or so.


unlostifyAnother useful map is the Unlostify French River map, also available for $20. in a waterproof plastic material here  –  and downloadable for free here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the legalese and click ACCEPT!)    Just print the parts of the map that you need and slide into a clear ziplock bag – or invest in the hard copy for multiple use!  Here is a sliver of the map to give you an idea of the look –

French River - G'Bay Coast

a slice of the Unlostify Map of West French River

If the overall style of the map looks familiar, the reason is the involvement of Jeff McMurtie, who used to be with Jeff’s Maps!  It has dozens of campsites indicated (probably taken from the Friends of French River map) and also provides some historical and geological background on notable spots.  One caution – the 1:50000 NRC maps provide more accurate mapping of narrow channels and passages between islands. I wouldn’t rely just on the Unlostify map, as useful as it is.

Cell Phone Coverage:

Along for the ride was our inReach Explorer+ with its two-way email communication and a once-every-ten minute track uploaded to the Garmin website so the folks at home could follow along.   We’ve come a long way since the unforgettable summer of 1981 when we said we’d be back in six or seven weeks and paddled from Pickle Lake to Attawapiskat without any contact.  Now that was off the grid!

Click on the following link to see what the Garmin web page I mentioned above looks like; it will show our  2019 French River route.

However, you don’t need an inReach for a French River trip.  Your cellphone will allow you to connect with the folks back home from most locations.

We should have kept a record of the campsites where we were able to make phone calls!  We were able to  make a commecton about 2/3rds. of the time. The Bell coverage map below shows a large area – the Dokis Reserve to the west of the French River delta – without coverage.  It also shows coverage along the French River’s Main Channel right down to Ox Bay/Pickerel Bay.

Calls that we were able to make include:

  • campsite on Lafleche Point on the south shore of Lake Nipissing’s West Bay
  • CS 419: on the Main Channel of the Upper French below the Five Miles Rapids section

Bell Cellphone Coverage – French River Delta

  • CS633: on Pickerel Bay not far from Ox Bay
  • CS920 on Finger Island at the bottom of Fox Bay
  • CS723 to the east of Whitefish Bay on the Georgian Bay Coast.
  • CS822 at the west end of the park.

Access Bell’s coverage map here

Check out the Whistlestop website for more info, as well as a comparison of Bell and Rogers coverage.  Scroll down to Ontario Network Coverage Maps and choose your cell provider from the scroll-down window.

For all the details of a short yet multi-faceted canoe trip we are glad we made, the following post will get you started!

Next Post: Day 1 – Lake Nipissing (West Bay) From Sucker Creek Landing To Lafleche Point

Posted in Georgian Bay, wilderness canoe tripping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Kilimanjaro Via The Lemosho Route: Day 8 – High Camp To Mweka Gate

Previous Post: Day 7 – From Barafu To Uhuru Peak And Down To High Camp

High Camp (3827 m) was apparently established in 1999 when an emergency trail for those suffering from altitude sickness passed through here from Karanga (4034 m) on the way down to Mweka Gate. Exactly how a campsite only 200 meters lower than the one they were abandoning would help them deal with altitude sickness is not clear!

Team Popote at High Camp on Day 8 morning

We set off shortly before 8:00.  There would be some more altitude to lose!

  • High Camp: 3827 m/12,556 ft.
  • Mweka Camp: 3106m/10,190 ft.
  • Mweka Gate: 1633m/5358 ft.
  • Moshi: 880m/2890 ft.

By midafternoon we would be back in Moshi, some 3000 meters lower than our dining tent at High Camp on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro. The distance is about 11.5 km. I didn’t even bother putting my Polar M430 GPS tracker on for the walk so no distance, elevation, or heart rate data for this last day.

a satellite view of the terrain from High camp to Mweka Gate – mostly forest after Mweka Camp

Over the next four hours, we would walk out of the moorland and into the montane forest. On the way, we’d deal with a variety of terrain, beginning with a descent of what looked like a seasonal stream bed.

The trail from High Camp To Mweka Camp

a half hour into the walk from High Camp to Mweka Camp

It took us an hour and a quarter to get to Mweka Camp from High Camp. With that, we were out of the moorland/heath terrain and into the cloud forest.  The tree cover provided some cool shade as we made our way down the steps that the Park staff have installed over the past few years. While some find them an annoying feature, it may be that they reduce erosion when water courses down the trail as a result of torrential downpours.

Mweka Camp signpost

the steps on the upper part of the trail from Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate

“The Old Man And The Tree” on the trail to Mweka Gate

Unlike our Day 1 walk to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) Camp, we did not see any wildlife on the side of the trail on our descent to Mweka Gate. About a half-hour from the end, we reached the road that comes up from the Rangers’ huts at Mweka Gate. Keen on getting to the end, I recall speeding up my pace a bit at this point.  The eventual reward – the sign below!

In the parking lot, there were a few buses jeeps waiting for their people to arrive. Our Popote bus was there too. Already on board were all the porters and camping gear and our duffels. The crew was undoubtedly just as keen on getting back to Moshi as we were! If we were thinking about showers and the next legs of our Africa adventure, they had more immediate concerns that a week’s salary and additional tip money would help them deal with.

The 40-minute drive back to Moshi took much less time than our drive to Londorossi Gate and the backtrack to Lemosho Glades at the start of our Kilimanjaro trek.  First, we drove to the Popote office where we waited a bit while our certificates were laminated.  I had already learned from my Mount Meru climb, that the Parks office hands out certificates with official stamps and signatures for those who make it to the top.  For Kilimanjaro, they have one for Uhuru Peak, one for Stella Point, and perhaps one for Gillman Point too.

We got back to the Parkview Inn by 3:00 p.m. and everyone headed for their rooms and showers.  The two oldsters – Mark and I – would relax at the Inn that evening while the youngsters were the star guests at a dance party somewhere nearby.  We learned the next morning that even they had called it a fairly early night (9:30!)!

By the next afternoon, only Mark and I remained at the Parkview, the others headed to either Mombasa and Kampala.  Mark would begin a five-day deluxe safari the next morning.  And that left me – by 9:30, I was on my way to the big town in the Kilimanjaro district, Arusha. I had planned to arrange a climb of Ol Donyoi Lengai with a travel agency there.  See what happened in the following post!

Next Post: On Safari In Tanzania: An Afternoon In Tarangire National Park

Some 40,000 – 50,000 people set off to “climb” Kilimanjaro each year.  I am working on a post which will deal with the question of how difficult it is to do – and perhaps the question of why do it at all!  I am still collecting my thoughts!

Coming soon: Climbing Kilimanjaro – Is It Difficult To Do?

Posted in Africa, hiking/trekking | Leave a comment

Kilimanjaro Via The Lemosho Route: Day 7 – To Uhuru Peak

Previous Post: Day 6 – Karanga To Barafu

  • distance to the summit from Barafu Camp: 5.1 km.
  • time: 6 hrs. 15 minutes to the summit; 2 hr. 35 min. back to Barafu Camp
  • altitude gain: 1225m/4019ft.

It was the climax of the trek – the walk uphill to Kibo’s rim at Stella Point and then along the rim a bit more to Uhuru Peak – but until after Stella Point all I got were the GPS track and the heart rate reading generated by my Polar M430 and one single image – the shot below which I took at 2:45 a.m.!!

Kilimanjaro summit morning 2:45 a.m.

Wake-up had been at 11 p.m. I had slept a little and when I wasn’t I was listening to the wind blowing hard and hoping it would not be doing that for the duration of our climb up the exposed slope of the mountain. I had packed everything that was coming along for the walk to the summit earlier that evening to avoid any last-minute panic.

My spare camera batteries were already in the chest pocket of my wool base layer. Before exiting my tent, I packed everything I would not be needing into the duffel and locked up the zipper. Our tents would remain standing for our estimated 9:00 to 10:00  a.m. return when we would crawl in for a brief rest.

Out of the tent into the dark and over to the dining tent for a cup of tea and some cookies – I think – and then we waited for the signal to start our midnight adventure.  Bottles and bladders were filled with hot water.  Going up with the five of us would be the three guides and – to provide extra emergency support – two of the lead porters, Fella and George.

the trail from Barafu to Stella Point and Uhuru Peak

We started off shortly after midnight.  Already visible on the slopes was a string of headlamps bobbing up and down.  Every once in a while I would glance up and see a something much brighter – a star above Kibo.  Mostly I focussed on the legs of the person walking ahead of me and walked into the zone of light created by my headlamp.

The wind was still blowing hard from the SE and we would feel its full force every time the switchback trail turned in its direction.  The temperature was a bit below freezing; I had on multiple layers to keep in my body heat!

On the bottom, I had on my warmest fleece long johns, my nylon trekking pants, and my Goretex rain pants.  On top, the four layers included a fleece base layer, a wool layer, a synthetic insulation layer, and my goose down jacket.  My head was covered with a balaclava, a wool hat, and the two hoods of my top jackets.  I would detach the goose down hood and give it to Fella soon into the walk.

the trail from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak – just 150 meters of altitude more!

We took a few breaks on our way up.  Amazingly, we eventually walked past all but one of those strings of light that we had seen on our departure. In retrospect, we made really good time even if we didn’t feel it at the time!  During one break I did something I have never done before on a summit hike – I accessed my workout playlist on my iPhone and started listening to some music.  It really seemed to help and gave me something else to focus on.

At about 5:30 we got to Stella Point, the point on the crater rim where the trail comes up to.  It was still dark so I did not bother to take any photos; I figured I’d get some on the way back.  And then a bit of confusion  – one of us had flopped down on the ground thinking that this was Uhuru Peak!  We rested for a few minutes and moved on.

Thirty-five minutes later we were there – at what all the travel brochures call the Roof of Africa!  There was one other party there already. We watched as they went through a bunch of different variations of photos – of trekkers only, of guides only, of trekkers and guides, of everybody with banners, solo shots… In the meanwhile, we took in the view from the spot that we had been looking at for the past week.

Shortly after we arrived at Uhuru Peak the sun came up and the camera came out!  The sky was brightening with the just-rising sun.  I looked towards Mawenzi, Kilimanjaro’s other peak and got the image below.  It was 6:21 a.m.

sunrise to the east of Kibo on Mount Kilimanjaro

Then I turned west to look at the distant profile of Mount Meru,  a trek to whose summit I had used as a warm-up for this walk to Uhuru Peak.

looking west from Uhuru Peak – a sunrise panorama

Behind us, other trekkers were approaching Uhuru Peak and the signboard that marks the spot.  They would soon be waiting for us while we did a photo session not unlike the one we were watching unfold!

trekkers approaching Uhuru Peak from Stella Point

a satellite view of the top of Kibo with Mawenzi in the background to the east

And shortly after 6:30  – photo time for our Canadian/American summit team!

the Popote Team group photo at Uhuru Peak – 6:31

We were up by the signboard for about 15 minutes in all and by 6:35 had already begun our return to Stella Point.  Everyone had made it and if anyone wasn’t feeling 100% it was not evident.  Our Popote crew had taken good care of us on the way up, setting a pole pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili) pace and taking on extra stuff in their packs so that ours would be a bit lighter.

If we were feeling a sense of elation at having “conquered” Kilimanjaro – such a military metaphor that harkens back to another age – then the Popote guys were relieved not to have faced any complications and satisfied that they had helped us reach our goal.

group photo – Popote team on Kibo top – from Mary Ella’s files

From our vantage point next to the Uhuru Peak signboard, I turned towards that chunk of ice to the west,  a remnant of the Southern Icefield.  In the photo below it is being lit up by the rising sun.

a glacial remnant to the west of Uhuru Peak

And beyond the glacier remnant, there was Meru again.

a sunrise view of Mount Meru from Uhuru Peak

our three guides waiting for the signal to go back down to Stella Point – 6:32

A Little About That Uhuru Peak Sign!

The iconic sign at the top of Kibo on Mount Kilimanjaro figures in thousands of photos that celebrate good luck, personal achievement, and the will to see something through to the very top! The signboard itself has gone through some changes over time.  A few minutes with the Google image search function and I came up with these –

  1. The Original Signboard

    or, at least, the one that was there before January 2012, is pictured below.  It had four somewhat off-kilter horizontal boards and a registration box at its foot with a registry in it where trekkers would leave their names. Other images have a larger registry box elevated from the ground and stretching across the entire width of the sign’s support posts.

the original Uhuru Peak signboard with registry box

  1. Here is another image of the same sign but with the various boards much more horizontal.  It may actually be the original one and eventually came to look like the one in the first image.

Uhuru Peak sign with four horizontal boards

  1. By 2011 the sign had lost the bottom board; also, the box at the foot of the sign had disappeared. While someone looking for a unique souvenir may be responsible, it is much more likely that they got blown away in a severe windstorm.

Draping the bottom of the sign in this image is a set of Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags, always a nice touch on mountaintop shrines the world over!

See my post: Blowin’ In The Wind: An Appreciation of Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Flags

4. The New Yellow/Green Sign (2012-2014)

In late 2011/early 2012, the Park officials replaced the iconic sign with the new one pictured below.  It was not embraced with enthusiasm by the trekkers who made it to the top!  They did not want bland and neat – they wanted the classic and iconic sign that was there before!

the short-lived Green Uhuru Peak signboard

5. The New Old Sign!

By mid-2014 the feedback had been negative enough that the green/yellow sign was removed and replaced with one which looked a lot like the first one above, right down to the askew third horizontal board. There is no registry box at the foot of the sign but someone has been good enough to fasten a set of prayer flags to the bottom of the posts.

So Where Are the Glaciers?

There is a bit of ice and snow at the top of Kilimanjaro’s Kibo but not as much as I was expecting.  An estimated 85% of the glacial covering has disappeared in the past 100 years.  Amazing to think that most of the glacial ice just turns into vapour and not the streams I pictured pouring down the slopes of the mountain!

Here are three images of the glacier cover on top of Kibo. The first shows what it looked like in the early 1970s; the other two are satellite images from 2002 and 2019.

1. Early 1970’s:

Kilimanjaro – Kibo glacier coverage map – early 1970’s

2. December 30, 2002

Kilimanjaro Kibo top glacier cover 12/30/2002

3. February 19, 2019

Kibo/Kilimanjaro glacier cover as of February 2019

Feb. 2019 – another angle

the Snows of Kilimanjaro - gone within my lifetime - i.e.2035

the Snows of Kilimanjaro – gone within my lifetime – i.e.2035

The satellite images show the ever-shrinking Northern, Southern, and Eastern Icefields as well as the disappearing Furtwangler Glacier not far from Crater Camp.

The image below is of the ice patch immediately to the SW of the Uhuru Peak signboard. I had also taken a photo of it when we first arrived – see a few images above for the shot.

another view of a remnant of the Southern Icefield to the SW of Uhuru Peak

Fifty years ago there were glaciers on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro with names like Diamond, Balletto, Heim, Kersten, and Decken.  And now? Not much more than the glacial patch you see in the image above.

looking back to Uhuru Peak – our main guide Dixon coming down – 6:50 a.m.

When we neared Stella Point on our descent from Uhuru Peak, I did turn back to the north and get the following shot.  It shows some recent snowfall as well as what is left of the Furtwangler Glacier on the middle left side of the image. I wish I had done a better job of documenting what is still up there.

Here is an internet-sourced image of the section inside the box. It was taken in 2014 and the perspective is a bit different but it does capture the Furtwangler Glacier nicely. It looks like the Northern Icefield has receded somewhat over the past five years.  As for the Furtwangler, it is losing some of its current 15-meter (50 ft)  thickness each year.

2014 image of the Furtwangler

When I first considered the various routes up to the top of Kilimanjaro, I was attracted to one that included a night at Crater Camp, located not far from the Furtwangler Glacier. In the end, a trip report which highlighted the absolute mess of that Crater Camp has become thanks to lack of sewage disposal turned me off the idea. Also, if an ascent of Kilimanjaro is already fairly rapid by most acclimatization protocols, then a night at Crater Camp at 5700 meters was just compounding the potential problems.

The image below – internet-sourced – with the person standing in the middle of the interior of the Furtwangler Glacier gets across the thickness of the glacier – perhaps 15 meters. I am not sure when the photo was taken;  we can expect it to shrink another meter or so each year.  By 2035 it should be gone!

inside the Furtwangler glacier

We were soon back down at Stella Point and walking past a group of just-arrived trekkers who were celebrating the success of this stage of their journey.  I spoke there with an American trekker who had spent the night at Crater Camp with his wife. For the past few hours, she had exhibited worsening altitude sickness symptoms, so they were making their descent to Barafu Camp. Their guides were carrying their packs.  Unfortunately, they had left their walk up to Uhuru Peak for this morning; now they were on their way down without having done it.  So close…

Stella Point signboard – time 7:00 a.m.

Like the signboard up at Uhuru Peak, this new copy of the old one has also replaced the unpopular yellow/green version that only lasted a couple of years.

The Return To Barafu Camp:

And then the descent.  If walking uphill on scree is awkward, it is even more so on the way down.  We would lose 1200 meters in 2 1/2 hours and eat a lot of dust being kicked up in the process. You have two choices – either get in front of the line so there is no one kicking up dust ahead of you or take a break every once in a while to put some distance between you and those ahead of you.  I found the first option to be the better one!

The photo below was taken perhaps fifteen minutes into our descent from Stella Point.  Already visible in the image is Barafu Camp, with its tents just to the right of the flat hilltop in the middle of the image.  You can even see the summit trail as it crosses that stretch of flatness.

the return from Uhuru Peak to Barafu Camp – 7:04 a,m.

On the way down I peeled off successive layers of clothing, top and bottom.  It was a beautiful sunny morning on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, a lot different from the cold and windy early morning that we had spent on our way up to the crater rim.

looking up the trail towards the crater rim and Stella Point

By 9:00 we were all back in camp, receiving congrats and a cup of juice from one of the porters who had remained in camp.  The juice went down easy and it also reminded me that I had not had hardly anything to drink for the past nine hours!  Before we left camp at midnight I had filled both my one-liter Nalgene bottle and my two-liter bladder with hot water. One liter of water weighs 1 kg. or 2.2 lbs. I had carried 3 kg./6.6 lbs. of water up the hill. Of that, I drank 1/2 liter!  Yikes!

Bartafu Camp coming up – the return from Uhuru Peak

We spent a leisurely morning at our campsite, relaxing in our tents or basking in the sunshine.  My boots and my base layers were draped on some flat rocks to dry out in the sun. My water intake had also increased to make up for the past nine hours!

The trail to the ranger’s hut and the registration book passed right by the Popote campsite. I watched as a large group of maybe twenty trekkers filed by.  They were going to sign in at the hut and would be going up at midnight.

As I scanned their faces, I was sure I saw one or two trekkers who looked at least a year or two older than Mark and I!

From Barafu Camp To High Camp:

from Barafu (4660 meters) to High Camp (3827 meters)

We left Barafu Camp shortly after noon. The usual post-summit itinerary for groups who have done the Lemosho, the Machame, or the Umbwe routes is to descend via the Mweka route to Mweka Gate.  It is a 16-km/10-m walk to the end and, given the morning’s massive energy expenditure,  the distance is divided into two days.  Trekking groups will either stop for the night at

  • High Camp (aka Millennium or Rescue Camp) at 3827m/12,556 ft. – about 4.2 km
  • Mweka Camp at 3106m/10,190 ft.  –  about 6.5 km from Barafu

and then finish the trek the next morning.

Our target was High Camp, increasingly the site chosen by trekking groups thanks to an accessible water source. It doesn’t hurt that it is also an hour or so less far than Mweka Camp.  At 6:30 a.m. we were at 5895 m; by mid-afternoon, we’d be at 3827m!

Everyone was in high spirits as we set off.  Someone commented – “Just think how we’d be feeling right now going down if we hadn’t made it to the top!” and all agreed it would hurt to have invested so much time and energy and money and not quite – for whatever reason –  getting to the top.

About twenty minutes into our afternoon walk, I looked back and got a shot of Barafu camp and then I seem to have put away my camera and just focussed on the steady downward path.

I had burned up almost 5000 calories getting to the summit and then returning to Barafu in the morning.

The afternoon would prove to be much less stressful – though that 519 kcal figure seems much too low.  Then again, it was a very easy walk!

the High Camp signboard – the elevation figures I use come from the Stedman guidebook

In any case, by 3:00 we were at High Camp and – as always – found the Popote camp all set up on our arrival.  The majority of the crew who did not make the ascent had enjoyed a few hours of off-time at Barafu while their guests set off at midnight for Uhuru Peak.  Now they had one more morning of hauling and their job would be done.

Next Post: Day 8 – High (Millennium) Camp to Mweka Gate

Posted in Africa, hiking/trekking | Leave a comment