Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Days 10 and 11 – Across Lady Evelyn Lake To Mowat Landing

Previous Post: Day 9 – From The South Channel To The North End of Lady Evelyn Lake

Day 10 – From West To East Across Lady Evelyn Lake

  • distance: 18.5 km with a  pass by of Garden Island Lodge
  • time: 8:15 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.
  • portages/rapids:  0/0
  • weather: cloudy, overcast, everything from misty to full-on downpour
  • campsite: official signed site on Mattawapika Island; 2-3 2p tents, one good  4-P site near the fire pit.
  • Maps: NRC 1:50,000 –  041 P 08_Lady Evelyn Lake.

 

We woke up to light rain.  The weather forecast called for an overcast morning with a 40% chance of rain which would increase to 80% by 1:00.  Light wind from the SW was also on the menu. We had decided to put in some kilometers before the big rains came; three or four hours would allow us to paddle all the way to the east end of the lake. While a number of the islands are private land – cottages or fishing lodges – there are more than a few campsite choices, as the map below indicates.

The first job – as always –  was to put most of the contents that were inside the tent back into their jars, containers, Ziploc bags, compression sacs, etc – and then put everything inside the Watershed duffle that holds all our must-stay-dry things.

the campsite scene in the morning – tent already down

While Max took down the tent, I retrieved our food bag and got breakfast ready. Since the tarps were already up from the night before, the tent underneath came down dry and we had a dry spot for breakfast.

the front area of our campsite on the point – west end of Lady Evelyn Lake

We took a last look at our campsite; it is on an elevated section of a gravel/sand deposit left by the last retreating glacier some 12,000 years ago.

a last shot of the campsite on the point – Lady Evelyn Lake

Lady Evelyn Before & After The Flooding:

Later when we pushed off from the spit, we took the shot above and wondered if the site was the same as the location referred to as Preacher’s Point on a map at the Garden Island Fishing Lodge website.

We also considered the possibility that the spit we had camped on was the site of the cabin and small garden area belonging to Wendaban, the mid-to-late 1800s Ojibwe owner of the hunting grounds of which Lady Evelyn Lake formed the core. A map drawn by F.G. Speck in 1913 with the input of Ojibwe residents of Bear Island indicates Wendaban’s territory as #24. [See the end of the day’s post for more on the Wendaban story and possible locations of his cabin.]

When it comes to Lady Evelyn Lake, there is one big problem in trying to find shoreline locations like that of Wedaban’s house from 150 years ago – the shoreline has changed dramatically!  Looking at Speck’s map from 1913, it is clear that back then, Lady Evelyn Lake was essentially the section of the lake we think of these days as the south arm.

At the south end was Lady Evelyn Falls, where the water tumbled down from Diamond Lake ( previous Ojibwe name – Nonwakaming Lake). Beyond Obisaga Narrows to the east, Speck’s map shows the Lake narrowing significantly as it flows to Mattawapika Falls and the final plunge down to the Montreal River near James Mowat’s farm, which was established around 1900.

This map below was produced by a 1900 Ontario Gov’t sponsored survey team commissioned to explore/survey this part of northeastern Ontario as the first step of opening up the area to the exploitation of lumber and mineral resources and for colonization. It provides a more detailed view of Lady Evelyn Lake; it also labels the long narrow stretch above the dam as  Mattawapika Lake.

Lady Evelyn Lake – 1900 map

Another map – this one from 1907 – labels things a bit differently. While it only shows the top part of Lady Evelyn Lake, it does show the section from Obisaga Narrows to the Montreal River.

Lady Evelyn Lake – the north end to Montreal River – 1907 map – see here for the source

Even a cursory look at a recent map of Lady Evelyn Lake will make clear the impact of the dam.   It was constructed at Mattawapika Falls – the first in 1915 was followed by a much higher one in 1925 – and is said to have raised the water level of the lake by 5 meters.

What was a fairly narrow river passage from Obisaga Narrows eastward became a man-made lake rivalling the pre-1925 Lady Evelyn Lake on the west side of the Narrows! The south side was especially affected by the higher water level. However, all the way west to Willow Island Lake, old shorelines disappeared and new bays and lakes appeared.

So too did rapids and waterfalls as the higher water level covered them up!

  • Gone, for example,  was Willow Island Falls, a 5′ high falls at the north end of the lake.
  • Also gone at the south end of the lake, where Diamond Lake’s outflow tumbles into Lady Evelyn, was Lady Evelyn Falls. These days there is a one-foot shelf that involves a short carry-over or a paddle down if water conditions allow.
  • Both pre-1925 maps above indicate a Mattawapika Lake. This may be based on a once-set of rapids that made the distinction between the two lakes possible. Those rapids would also have disappeared.

Paddling East on Lady Evelyn Lake:

Garden Island Lodge

We passed the north side of Garden Island and looked over at the Lodge, the furthest west of the fishing lodges on Lady Evelyn Lake.

In spite of our expectation of lots of motorboat traffic as we headed east towards the dam, it turned out to be no more than three or four over the day and a half that we were in motorboat territory. Being mid-week in September after Labour Day probably had something to do with it!

 

There are no signs announcing the fact but as we paddled into Obisaga Narrows we were leaving Obabika River Provincial Park and entering the East Lady Evelyn Lake Conservation Reserve.

a brief moment of the sun over Lady Evelyn Lake – it was not to last!

The sun captured in the image above was so noteworthy – it lasted for seconds and would be all be got this particular day! – that I had to get a shot.  The image also shows a glass-like Lady Evelyn surface – the wind had died down from the afternoon and evening before. It would only pick up again in mid-afternoon.

As we had seen at the south end of Willow Island Lake and in the west bay of Sucker Gut Lake, we now got more charred pine trunks on the north side of Lady Evelyn. You’d think that after 100 years those tree trunks would have rotted or fallen- but apparently not. We have come to think of them as middle finger salutes from the lumber companies responsible.

charred tree trunks in Lady Evelyn – reminders of the Dam Flooding

Our route across the lake after Obisaga Narrows was one that followed the south shore. The mist and light spit of the morning turned into more of drizzle as we were paddling past the long, narrow slivers of sand known as the Obawanga Dunes. Since it was time for a lunch break, we started scanning the tops for a possible place to set up our Helinox chairs. The sign on the tree below – a sign we’d never seen before – drew our attention to the spot.  On the sign are what look like a tarp and a tent – we figured it was an emergency shelter spot indication!  About a minute after our 10’x14′ silnylon tarp was up it started raining heavily – and then it came down even more heavily!  In 45 solid minutes, we got a day’s worth of rain while we were enjoying lunch and coffee underneath our tarp.

emergency campsite – lunch spot in Lady Evelyn Lake’s Obawanga Dunes

Ellen Island Camp – a fishing lodge at the east end of Lady Evelyn Lake

As noted above, there are quite a few campsite options at the east end of Lady Evelyn Lake. We paddled past the Ellen Island Camp, a fishing lodge made up of six cottages and the main lodge.  Then we headed to the south-western tip of Mattawapika Island.  The site we found was of the “it’ll do” grade with the earth wet and muddy thanks to the rain and a messy campsite left by some fishing boat party.  The only relatively flat spot for our 4-P tent was fairly close to the firepit.  Smaller tents will have an easier time of it!

our campsite on lady Evelyn Lake – east end

We had just gotten off the water as the wind started to blow a little harder – now it was coming from the northwest.  Temperatures were expected to drop to freezing overnight; a new weather system was moving in!  One thing that it was forecast to include was much more sunshine than we had seen in days.

Mattawapika Island CS – canoe as windscreen

Looking at the Garmin inReach’s weather forecast we got the summary you see below.   Had that been the forecast two days before we’d have been on Hobart Lake looking up to the  Maple Mountain ridge.  Instead,  thanks to the weather cards we had been dealt, we’d decided to paddle out the next morning.

the weather forecast for Day 11

What’s With All the History Stuff?

Given that I am not into hunting or fishing and prefer butane stove cooking to messy campfires, I still remember the initial hesitation before uploading my first canoe trip report. What could my reports possibly include that would be of use or interest to potential future paddlers?  I’d never be able to include a photo of me proudly thrusting the impressive walleye below in my outstretched arms!  There’d be no images of a campfire fish fry in my report.

apologies to Garden Island Lodge! (image from their website)

Well, over the years I’ve come to realize that what I am holding in my outstretched arms is not a prize fish but something else that I, a lifelong history nerd and 35-year high school teacher of history-related subjects, find personally fulfilling.  Including in my reports what I learn about the history of places paddled or trekked and the stories of the people that live(d) there – that is what I angle for!

While learning about the flooding of the lake definitely helped us make sense of the landscape/waterscape we were seeing, our brief entry into the world of the Ojibwe inhabitants of Temagami provided an added human dimension that enriched our trip down the Lady Evelyn from top to bottom.

It was Wendaban’s story that I found most intriguing. It was finding F.G. Speck’s Report that opened my eyes to the world of the mid-to-late 19th C world of the Temagami Ojibwe. And, as usually happens, in answering a few questions it has brought to light even more that I now need to find answers too!

Speck and Bear Island Ojibwe 1913

 

Click on the title below to access Speck’s report in pdf format:

Family Hunting Territories and Social Life of Various Algonkian Bands of the Ottawa Valley. F.G. Speck. Ottawa: Government Printing Press, 1915. 

Wendaban’s  Story & The Flooding of the Lake:

Wendaban’s Life – Some Background Information:

Thor Conway’s book Secrets of the Temagami Wilderness includes a chapter on Wendaban, who is presented as a legendary and powerful Ojibwe shaman. Writes Conway:

If you envision Wendaban as Merlin the Druid of King Arthur’s tribal world, you would understand the nature of his powers and his unique position within tribal society.

How accurate a portrayal of Wendaban Conway presents is open to question.

It may be that Conway’s  Wendaban is as fictional a character as Merlin was, a handy receptacle for the fantasies of storytellers who made of him what their narratives required. According to Conway, he was born circa 1818 and died in 1894; he was the son of Wabigan and the brother (younger?) of Ke’kek.  From their father they inherited their hunting grounds with Wendaban, as noted above, getting the territory contained in #27 and Ke’Kek receiving the larger 24.

This information comes from the report written by F.G. Speck who spent time on Bear Island in 1913 with the Ojibwe community living around the Hudson Bay Company post there. (There is a link to his report a few lines above.)

In the 1840s an Ojibwe by the name of Misabi came up from Lake Nipissing, perhaps from the Shawanaga area. Given that Misabi married Ke’kek’s daughter and his sister married Wendaban, it may be that it was an arranged marriage that drew them both to Temagami.  Conway tells the story of their meeting this way –

Wendaban met his wife, Old Misabi’s sister, during his travels to Lake Nipissing or Georgian Bay. She belonged to a Beaver Clan family living at Shawanaga…

Not clear is what business he would have that would draw him away from Lady Evelyn Lake to Nipissing “during his travels”.   However, his connection with Nipissing is well attested.  Government records show that from 1856 to 1883 Wendaban collected government money in 22 of them as a member of the Nipissing band. He may have made a home with his wife in her community as opposed to them spending all their time in Temagami. No stated is when his wife died.  Conway does tell the reader this –

Despite his powers over fertility and interaction with the replenishment of life for his tribe, Wendaban and his wife did not have children. So, Wendaban’s line died out.

As I read  “Powers over fertility and interaction with the replenishment of life” I thought – What can this even mean?

The Location of Wendaban’s House: 

Included in Conway’s account of Wendaban’s life is the heart-breaking story of Wendaban being flooded out of his home when the dam raised the water level of the lake. The map from 1907 below indicates a couple of locations that may correspond to that of Wedaban’s house.

the north end of Lady Evelyn Lake

Nastawgan map

If the “Indian House” located on the north shore of the lake is the location, then it was very near to where our campsite was.  Looking at the current map of the area, the campsite seems to fit fairly closely with the location of the “Indian house” although a point just to the east is also possible.

Craig Macdonald’s Nastawgan map  (see here) also locates Wedaban’s home in this approximate location. He labels it A-mik Tigwan Ago-ji-Gonay N. which translates as Place of the Hanging Beaver Skulls. Apparently, Wendaban decorated his property with the dangling bones of various animals, including the amik or beaver.

Another possibility is that his homestead could be the “Indian Cabin” located near the entrance of Obisaga Narrows and close to the Temagami Forest Reserve cabin nearby. (The TFR was created in 1898 so the TFR cabin was likely built after that for use by the fire rangers. It would not have been there in Wendaban’s time.)

The Flooding Of Wendaban’s House:

Conway leaves the reader with one last Wendaban story; it is connected to the flooding of Lady Evelyn Lake caused by the dam at Mattawapika Falls.

Early dams were built to assist logging drives. The flooding waters forced Wendaban from his home on an ancient point of land marked by skulls and mystery. According to Madeleine Katt Theriault, Wendaban returned home to find his log home floating a gradually sinking into the lake. Floodwaters covered his gardens causing a loss of important foods meant for storage into the winter months. The old man was driven from his lifelong home on Lady Evelyn Lake.

The earliest account of a dam built at the outlet of Lady Evelyn Lake – i.e. where the Mattawapika Dam stands today – is 1915.  (See here for more info.) Its impact was not all that large. It was the 1925 construction of a much higher dam that would alter the nature of Lady Evelyn Lake from the dam all the way west to what became Sucker Gut Lake.

The story of the old yet still feared shaman paddling home only to see his cabin floating and gradually sinking into the lake is heart-breaking. The detail about the flooding of the gardens adds to the pathos of the scene.  The story is also false. [To be clear, false as in false memory and not false as in intentional misstatement.]

Conway notes that he got the story from Madeline Theriault (1908-2000).  She was born into an Ojibwe family on Bear Island and is the author of Moose To Mocassins, an account of her life in the Temagami area with an emphasis on how she and her family lived the traditional “off the land” lifestyle until 1940 when her first husband Alex Mathias died. Most details ring true and it is clear that she has lived them.  A few do not, and the Wendaban cabin story is one of them. The problem is that Wendaban died in 1894, long before the first dam was built (1915).  Wendaban did not return home to find his log home floating a gradually sinking into the lake!

What the story told by Theriault does is transfer to the legend of Wendaban the shock and upset that the Temagami Ojibwe obviously felt with the massive flooding of the 1925 Mattawapika Dam.  Theriault would have been 17 at the time. Not once in her memoir does she mention the flooding of either Lady Evelyn Lake or of Diamond Lake.

In 1942, another dam was constructed at the outlet of Diamond Lake where it tumbles into the south end of Lady Evelyn. The result was the flooding of Diamond Lake and probably a cabin or two, as well as the submerging of some pictographs at the site just south of the lake’s outlet.

The flooding was real; it just did not happen in Wendaban’s time.  Without a doubt, her occasional retelling of the Wendaban flood story would have evoked the indignation,  disgust, and sympathy it was meant to.

Day 11 – From Mattawapika Is. CS To The Dam and Down To Mowat Landing

  • distance: 9.4 km
  • time: 8:15 start – 9:25 (at dam) – 9:50 (portage done) – 10:05 (Mowat Landing)
  • portages/rapids:  1/0; around Madawaska Dam
  • weather: cool (1ºC when we got up) but gloriously sunny – the sunniest day so far!
  • Maps: NRC 1:50,000 – 041 P 08_Lady Evelyn Lake; 031 M 05 _ Cobalt

We got up to a beautiful morning at the east end of Lady Evelyn Lake. The sky was blue, mist was rising off the lake, and the temperature was about 4ºC, which didn’t feel so bad thanks to that sun.

dawn mist on lady Evelyn lake

dawn mist – take 2 – on Lady Evelyn Lake

approaching the top of the Mattawapika Dam

We were on our way by 8:15 and by 9:25 had paddled the seven kilometers to the top of the Mattawapika Dam.  One taxi boat passed us but that was about it for traffic. Once at the dam, we were directed from the motorboat launch to the canoers’ take-out spot, which knocked 30 meters or so off our eventual 275-meter portage.

Mattawapika dam – satellite view – canoe portage route

When we got to the landing we met a couple of other canoe parties. Two guys were just setting off for their annual visit to Maple Mountain.  They wanted to know how bad we had found Lady Evelyn, thanks to its reputation as a tough slog when the prevailing winds from the SW or NW kick in. We told them things were looking good.

The other group was, like us, exiting and heading to vehicles parked at Mowat Landing. Unlike us, they had spent the two previous days rain-bound at a campsite on Lady Evelyn Lake.  While they had intended to paddle to Maple Mountain, the rain had convinced them otherwise.  Meanwhile, we had paddled all the way from the South Channel and Willow Island Lake!

It is under two kilometers from the bottom of the dam to the public dock at Mowat Landing.  Along the way, we passed White Pine Lodge on the west side of the Montreal River. The red roofs of the lodge’s cabins are visible in the image below – and in the satellite image that follows.

See the  Lodge website for the image source – here

Mowat Landing is named after the Mowat family. It was James Mowat who established a farm on the west side of the Montreal River in the year 1900. The area indicated on the map below is only a 5-acre piece of the original larger farm. His son Charles Mowat (1886-1966) would spend most of his life living there.

Edward F. Mantle wrote up the Mowat family story after a series of conversations with Charles in the late 1950s and early ’60s; read the account at the website here or download an edited pdf file here.  The website will also give you access to all sorts of interesting biographical info on the early residents and local history of the Latchford/Mowat landing/Elk Lake area.

Mowat Landing area – satellite view of properties

After landing at the public dock, we retrieved our vehicle from Mowat Landing Cottages. As mentioned in the initial post, we had camped on their property after driving up from Toronto; the next morning Lisa drove with us in our vehicle to the put-in off Beauty Lake Road where it crosses the Montreal River and then drove the car back to their Mowat Landing Cottages property. The camp spot by the river ($35.), the shuttle ($250.) and the car parking ($60.) solved all of the logistical problems of a canoe trip that is not a loop.

The initial post has information on two other commercial shuttle possibilities.  Since they start off 70 kilometers south in Temagami Village or just north of it, they are somewhat more expensive.

Click on the header above to access the Mowat Landing Cottages website – or click here.

It was a gloriously sunny day as we made our way down Highway 11 to southern Ontario. North of North Bay there was already some visible turning in the colour of the leaves but the preponderance of spruce and pine made for a less dramatic show.

For eleven days we had not worried about COVID-19. Now as I stared out of the windshield, I noticed the package of masks on the dashboard, ready for use if we stopped anywhere on the way home.

Some Final Thoughts:

My bro usually does all the word-smithing but I have been asked for a stern report! Here it is.

From the back end (literally) the trip seems to have run smoothly. The Sunday drive from Southern Ontario north was relatively stress free. While CoVid-19 was/is still an issue we found that northerners (anything northish of North Bay – our first stop) were for the most part adhering to public health requirements then in-place re; physical distancing and masks. We kept individual contact to a minimum. While our vehicle is not blessed with a large fuel tank or great range, stops were only required a couple of times, more to ensure that we had enough fuel to get there without having to worry and to minimize contact.

We quickly got sorted as to where we were staying after arriving at the Graydon’s Mowat Landing complex at 4 pm. By 5:30 the tent was up and after a little bit of wandering around the site we settled in for the night. The drive up was non-stressful having left Toronto at 10 a.m. Perhaps being a Sunday had something to do with it. Beats the drive to Wabakimi! Arrangements were made for an 08:30 start the next morning which we missed by about 5 minutes.

The drive was again stress free taking about 90 minutes to the put-in at the Montreal River west of Lady Dufferin Lake. We wondered about the weather though because we had periods of rain and hints of sunshine. After pics and good-byes we were off upriver by about 10:30.

Having done this section 9 years before it is interesting to note what one remembers or not. I think with the passage of time most of it felt ‘new’. However coming into Smoothwater Lake and looking along the north eastward shore with its long expanse of sandy beach brought back memories of our previous trip. Weather was off and on sunny and very windy. We could tell from afar that our previous site was occupied and with the wind direction we opted to stay along the south shore aiming for some indicated campsites. While we looked for them we obviously did not do it well enough and our first challenge was crossing Smoothwater against the swells.  We ended up the Miriam Lake portage site which was very breezy even though we were well back on the site. It did have mushrooms though! Do fill in the journal that has been placed there (if, when you go it is still there).

Every trip begins with the desire to start and depending on the trip there is a point where you think to yourself – I wish this were done! That would have been day 2. Low water was a challenge for the upper Lady E river. I think Whitemud Lake suffers as well. One take away which might soften the work is knowing there will be many log overs, the occasional log under, beaver dams and wading. We managed to hit it during a cold spell. Warmer weather would probably be better or is that nicer? Bugs would likely make this section less pleasant because speed is not something you can achieve to out run the pests. Chose your time carefully.

Day to day descriptions are elsewhere in this blog. The trip can be divided into 3 basic sections from above the forks to MacPherson/Katherine Lake, from Katherine down to Willis Island Lake and then from there to Mowat Landing. The first two are the river coming off the height of land. Each section (and day) had its challenges as noted from day 1. Each challenge was a function of section/location – incessant meandering, lifting wading, weather (rain and wetness) and forward progress. I think on day 4 by the end (arriving at Florence Lake by 3 pm) I was suffering from some mild hypothermia as I could just stay warm with the physical activity. This is something solo paddlers would need to be very mindful of. Into the sleeping bag till next morning – no supper!! After a restful afternoon and night I was good to go.

While you can take some short cuts to cut off the lower part of the LE this meandering section is actually quite nice. The current is a help and there were only a few logs/liftovers to impede progress. Be sure you can complete the lower whole section as camping spots to the branch are slim. Below the forks begins the descent section to Willis Island Lake. This had some of the more challenging portages that we have done (age may also be playing a part here) and it provides some of the more spectacular scenery in a series of falls and some rapids. Well worth the price of admission. Once off of the ‘highlands’ onto the 3rd section – it is all lake paddle. The potential for ill winds and weather are always present. We had cold temperatures and with off and on rain almost all the way to Mowat Landing. The last day was however the sunniest of the whole trip – glorious sunshine for the 2 hours it took us to get there! Even though mostly lake there are still some interesting sites to watch out for – sunken tree stands (flooding from the dam), finger islands (again a flood feature or remnant). Having a history buff as a paddling partner does help the journey with some context. Knowing those trees have been standing (flooded) for 100 years, paddling over former rapids and family hunting territories all add to the ‘view’.

So that side of the headwaters of LE River is done – up next the northern branch to change it up? or hop on “The Canadian” for Endogoki Lake? Or will we be 2020’d again?

A Day-By-Day Account of Our Trip:

The following posts cover the entire river from its South Branch headwaters in Apex Lake to its mouth at the Montreal River.

Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Intro, Route Options, Maps, Logistics, And a Bit of History

Day 1 – To The Put-In And Up River To Smoothwater Lake

Day 2From Smoothwater Lake To An “It’ll Do” CS  On Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

Day 3 – From Our “It’ll Do” Campsite To Florence Lake

Day 4 – On Florence Lake

Day 5 – From Florence Lake To Just Below The Forks of the Lady Evelyn

Day 6 – From Just Below The Forks to Macpherson Lake Island CS

Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake To The South Channel’s Bridal Veil Falls

Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To The Bottom of the South Channel

Day 9 – From The South Channel To The West End of Lady Evelyn Lake

 

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Days 9 – From the South Channel to Lady Evelyn Lake’s West End

Previous Post: Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To the Bottom of the South Channel

Day 9 – From South Channel to West End of Lady Evelyn Lake

  • distance: 20.5 km.
  • time: 10:30 – 2:30
  • weather: very wet; passing thunderstorm; some torrential downpours.
  • rapids/portages: none; only flatwater lake paddling
  • campsite: an official signed campsite on a point at the west end of Lady Evelyn Lake complete with “thunderbox”.
  • Hunting Grounds: those of Wendaban (#24 on Speck’s map from 1913) from Willow Island Lake all the way to the Montreal River. Wendaban died in the early 1890s.
  • Maps: NRC 1:50,000 – 041 P 01_Obabika Lake;  041 P 08_Lady Evelyn Lake.

Note: Start with the bottom map!

The evening before we had accessed the weather forecast for the day with our Garmin inReach Explorer+ device.  Some 60 mm. of rain were predicted!

It was raining when we woke up at our customary 6:45 so we ended up sleeping in a bit longer. By 8:30,  the pitter-patter on the tarp over our tent had stopped.  We decided the day would not be a rain day, that we’d move on even if it was only ten or fifteen kilometers north on Willow Island Lake. The first task was to pack away the contents of the tent – i.e. the sleeping bags, Thermarest pads, spare clothing, and all of our other absolutely- cannot-get-wet stuff.  It all goes into the 75-liter Watershed Colorado duffel. It has done the job for the past eight years – never had an issue. One admission – after our first trip, we decided that to prevent possible punctures we would “baby” the bag by putting it inside a rugged MEC ballistic nylon duffel bag. That way we could toss it ashore or drop it on the side of a portage trail without worry. The MEC’ bag’s extra 2.2 lbs are worth the peace of mind!

While Max took down the tent, I went down to the canoe and the tarp we had set up above it and got the breakfast going. First, I retrieved the food bags from where we had put them the night before – about fifty meters away from our tent near the shore. It has been years since we have bothered to hang our food bag, a change we made when paddling Wabakimi in NW Ontario, where black spruce is just not made for the hanging routine.

Back under the tarp and with the canoe as a tabletop,  I  got out the butane canister and screw-on stovetop to boil 1.5  liters of water, which had already been filtered with a Platypus 4-liter Gravity Works filtration system. We also make use of a Steripen Adventurer water purifier which uses UV rays to treat the water. While the water was on the way to boiling,  I got out the packages of oatmeal mix and ground coffee from the food bag; bowls, spoons, and coffee cups, and coffee filters came out of that red bag you see sitting on the canoe. By the time Max had stuffed away all the tent parts into various sacks, breakfast was ready.

There I sit with my coffee mug to my side;  I am looking at David Crawshay’s Topo Canada app on my iPhone to get a sense of how far we might get this day, hoping to paddle in between heavy downpours and through light sprinkles of rain.

sitting under the tarp on a cool wet morning on the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

Everything we have – except for our life jackets and paddles – goes into four bags – our two 115-liter portage packs and two large size duffels. Before we put them in the canoe, we slipped each one into a construction-grade XL garbage bag we bring along for wet days like this.

some of the vertical rock at the south end of Willow Island Lake

As you paddle down the narrow channel from South Channel to Willow Island Lake there is some eye-catching vertical rock.  Our eyes were especially drawn to a detached vertical slab at the right end of the rock you see in the image above. It reminded us of the so-called Conjurer’s Rock at the east end of Chee-skon Lake, said to be a sacred site to the traditional Temagami Ojibwe because the shape reminded them of the shaking tent. The “tent” is an enclosed cylindrical structure about 2 meters high with an open top and was used by their shamans to connect with the spirit world and receive guidance and medicine.

Lately, I’ve become somewhat skeptical of this Chee-skon stone “pillar” as “shaking tent” interpretation and think it may just be the result of some overly-enthusiastic non-Indigenous person intending to bolster Temagami First Nation land claim arguments by creating “sacred” spots around the Lake Temagami area. Of course, I may be wrong and am always open to evidence to the contrary.

a rock slab broken off from the rest of the rock

As the map of the Temagami area drawn up in 1913 by the American anthropologist F.G. Speck shows, we were now paddling in the mid-to-late 1880s hunting grounds connected with Wendaban.  Around 1840 or 1850 his father had split his hunting grounds into two –

  • 27 for one son – Ke’kek- and
  • 24 for his other son, Wendaban.

Then, when a fellow Ojibwe named Misabi came up to Temagami, apparently from the Lake Nipissing area, and married Ke’kek’s daughter, Ke’kek gave the southern part of his hunting grounds to Misabi –  i.e. 27a.  Since Florence Lake, we had been paddling in the hunting grounds associated with Misabi. For the rest of our trip, we’d be in Wendaban’s mid-to-late 1880s territory. (Wendaban died in 1894.)

Wendaban kept a cabin and a small garden at the north end of what is now the south arm of  Lady Evelyn Lake. With our 1905 pre-flooding map as a guide, we hoped – maybe even on this day – to locate a site that would fit in with the description of his homestead.

See here for the entire Temagami hunting ground map, now used by the Temagami First nation as the map of their claimed homeland, Ndaki Menan

The Boundaries of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park:

Now that we had slipped into Willow Island Lake,  we were no longer in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park!  We were also in a space not categorized as “wilderness” so we could expect fishermen in motorboats from here on all the way across Lady Evelyn.

This is not to say that motorized boats are prohibited within the park:

  • At the west end of the park, motorboat traffic is allowed all the way up to and including Smoothwater Lake from the Beauty Lake Road put-in.
  • In the South Channel,  motorboats are allowed all the way up to the first set of rapids.

The evening before we had seen some fishermen in a boat just a bit east of our campsite and wondered what they were doing there.  It turns out they had every right to be there! A wilderness park with motorboat privileges!

Willow Island Lake, Sucker Gut Lake, and the once-main section (but now just the south arm) of Lady Evelyn Lake all belong to Obabika River Waterway Provincial Park, created in 1989 and enlarged a few years later.

As we headed north on Willow Island Lake, we passed by a group of six canoe trippers.  They came out of the woods and to the edge of their elevated campsite and we exchanged some comments about the weather and their decision to stay off the water this day. We all agreed that stay or go, the Temagami we were experiencing made for an excellent character-building exercise. While it wasn’t raining as we had our brief chat,  within two or three kilometers of our encounter, we had to get off the water.  We had heard the sound of approaching thunder and pulled ashore and hunkered down for about 30 minutes while the storm passed through.

The Way Things Used To Be:

It is about 15 kilometers from the south end of Willow Island Lake to the point where Sucker Gut Lake becomes Lady Evelyn Lake.  In spite of our half-hour stop, we made good time as it never really rained hard and the wind, such as it was, was blowing from the south.  By 2 we were around the corner and heading east on Lady Evelyn Lake and by 3 our tent was up.

Sucker Gut lake and the clear view of Maple Mountain Ridge

Along the way, we got to see again the charred trunks of the pines standing like mute sentinels in the section of Sucker Gut Lake that stretches westward towards Maple Mountain Ridge. The arrow on the map above shows the spot where we looked west towards the Maple Mountain Ridge; had it not been for the cloud cover and rain we would have seen again the view in the photo below.

view of Maple Mountain ridge from Sucker Gut Lake – blue sky image is from a previous trip

On two other occasions, we have paddled that bay to access Hobart Lake and one of our all-time favourite campsites. However,  the weather had soured us on a visit to Maple Mountain this time. We looked west towards the ridge –  but paddled past!

On our first visit, we had no idea that the area had been flooded with the completion in 1925 of a dam at Mattawapika Falls, which was where the Lady Evelyn tumbled into the Montreal River. The falls are no more and the dam raised water levels on the enlarged lake behind it by 5 meters. It replaced a smaller dam that had been constructed in 1915,

The 1907 map below – drawn 8 years before the first Mattawapika Dam was completed – shows just how much the flooding has altered the landscape – and waterscape – of the area we were paddling on this day. The next day’s route would show an even more extensive change to the pre-flooding terrain.

Access the entire map here

  • Thanks to the flooding, it looks like a new lake – Sucker Gut Lake – was created in the area south of Emily (now Hobart) Lake and north of Chris Willis Lake.
  • The flooding also completely covered up Willow Island Falls (5’/1.5m) at the bottom (i.e.north) end of the Willow Island Lake.
  • I wonder if anyone has made use of that 3/4 mile (1200 m) portage into Hobart Lake in the past 100 years!

the northwest end of Lady Evelyn Lake

We did not take many photos this wet day.  We were intent on just moving forward and putting in some kilometers before the predicted big(ger) rains came in mid-afternoon.  We almost succeeded. The rain picked again just as we pulled into a signed campsite on the north side of Lady Evelyn Lake.

The satellite image above shows the spot. [ It also indicates the private property of cottages (one to the NW of our site and two across from our campsite)  and of the Garden Island Lodge to the east.]

a view from the water  of our campsite on the point – Lady Evelyn Lake

The site is located on the flat top of a  sandy spit that juts out into the lake. We found signs of use by fishing groups staying at one of the fishing lodges or private cottages/camps on the lake. Three plywood fish-gutting tables, beer cans, and an assortment of other garbage. This site, and the one we stayed at the next night, were the two messiest of the 10 we stayed at.  Often we just paddle on when we come to a messy site like this.

This time we stayed. We think the site may be that of the Indian House indicated on the 1907 map above.  The next post has all the details.

a view of the front of the campsite on the point

After the wind convinced us that putting up a tarp close to the end of the point was not a good idea, we headed in a bit and found a more sheltered spot. With the tarp up in the rain, the tent was next. Meanwhile, the various packs and duffels were underneath our second tarp.  A half-hour later that tarp was also up and we were working on having a lunch that we had let slip by in our bid to beat the big rain to a campsite.

While we waited for the water to boil we snacked on Pringle’s remnants and sipped on Gatorade. It was a wet afternoon that stretched into the evening but we had managed that delicate canoe tripper’s balance – moving forward while staying dry!

Pringles pieces looking a lot like corn flakes – pre-supper snack

Next Post: The Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Days 10 and 11 – From the West End of Lady Evelyn Lake To Mowat Landing

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To The Bottom of The South Channel

Previous Post: Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake To the South Channel’s Bridal Veil Falls

Day 8  –  Lady Evelyn’s South Channel from Bridal Veil Falls To The Bottom

  • distance: 9.7 km.
  • time: 9:15 to 1:15
  • portages/rapids: finished the Bridal Veil portage – challenging; lined and ran the three sets of rapids described by Wilson as Rapid #15; portaged river left around Fatman’s Falls; three sets of CI rapids below Fatman’s easily dealt with
  • weather: cool and sunny
  • campsite: river left (north) side of the South Channel – a sheltered spot at the top of a spacious  gently sloped stretch of a rock outcrop

There had been a bit of rain overnight but things were clear when we got up this morning.  Thanks to our campsite close to the smaller side falls,  we had used the earplugs to deaden the sound of the falls somewhat. As invigorating as it is to sit by a dramatic waterfall and take in the energy, a point is reached where it begins to sound like a toilet on permanent flush!

The first part of the portage – from the take out spot to the campsite – had mostly been on a flat woodland trail.  From the campsite to the put-in at the bottom, the trail becomes more difficult. Wet moss and lichen on the sloped rockface do not make for a solid footing!  A couple of slips while carrying a pack and duffel and then the canoe down to the end resulted in a left quad strain and my right knee not just bashed but gashed.

Bridal Veil Falls from the put-in below

Once down at the bottom we got some great views of the entire falls – the main falls to the left and the side falls next to which the campsite is located.

Lady Evelyn South Channel – below Bridal Veil Falls

Just below the put-in, we paddled past the gravel deposit as the river bends to the south, the deposit a reminder of the not-too-distant glacier past of 10,000  to 12,000 years ago. It would take thousands of years more before enough soil was formed to support the vegetation which would draw the animals which would draw the mid-to-late-Archaic Period (8000 B.C.E. – 1000 B.C.E.) hunter/gatherers up to what must have been until then barren grounds. Still in the future was the arrival of a Woodlands culture like the Algonquin or the Ojibwe, two Indigenous peoples belonging to the Anishinaabe language family.

Bridal Veil Falls and the gravel banks below on the Lady Evelyn’s south channel

We look at our canoe trips in a number of different ways. The overriding one focusses on the sheer good fortune we have to be able to be out there – fit enough, rich enough, commitment-free enough, skilled (just) enough to be able to make our way down and across beautiful slices of the Canadian Shield that few get to experience. Every day is a “wow” as we paddle into new vistas. To some,  it may all seem like the same photo but to us, it is always special.

gravel banks below Bridal Veil Falls on the Lady Evelyn

On the opposite end of the scale,  there is another view we take, a more practical one. We see each day on the water as a series of problems we need to solve.  They range from easy to difficult and we know that we have probably faced something very similar on a previous trip and were able to figure it out.

The biggest problems usually involve rapids or portages, though sometimes the weather – temperature, wind, rain, and thunder  – create problems too. With respect to “problems”, we try to gather as much info as possible before the trip so that we have a better idea of what it is we will face. Drawing on information and advice from reliable sources only makes the eventual response that much more likely to be correct.

Wilson’s Temptation Alley – Rapids #15 on the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

Coming up soon after the eye-catching gravel banks lining the shore was a one-kilometer stretch of river which Hap Wilson labels as  Rapid #15 (rated CII to CIII). The various sets of rapids that make up #15 are given the nickname “Temptation Alley” in his Temagami guidebook, an essential source for anyone paddling Temagami’s lakes and rivers. He describes it as “a classic boulder bash with three separate runs”. We focussed on the comment that “all can be lined in the summer”.

So – we had the two following solutions to our “problem”:

  • a 900-meter good portage on river left  or
  • a line & run job down three sets of rapids in shallow late-season water

Anything to save time and energy, eh? An hour and a half later of non-stop hopping from rock to rock and hauling our less-than-willing canoe downriver, we were at the bottom of “Temptation Alley”.  The Lord’s Prayer says “Lead us not into Temptation…”  We had made the wrong choice!  In our case,  “can be lined” did not equal “bros, go ahead and line it”, especially in mid- September! Live and learn…and remember the next time!

Pics of our pretty intense workout are scarce! Once or twice,  one of us observed that we maybe were getting too old for this! (Note: we have since reconsidered this rash assessment made under duress!)

Here is the only pic we took: it was taken from the bottom of a rough section between the first two wider and round river sections you see on the bottom of the above satellite image. It took us a head-shaking half-hour to move the less-than-100-meters between the two!

the bottom of a boulder garden stretch of too-shallow Lady Evelyn

We did eventually get to the end, rueing our decision to stay with the river instead of doing the portage, which would have taken less than an hour and been much less stressful.  Apparently, the trail is a good one so it would not have been a repeat of the portage above Bridal Veil or the last section of the Bridal Veil trail itself.

And then – boom! the next “problem”! – Fatman’s Falls. Well,  no choice here – we pulled in at the top of the falls and got ready to carry gear and canoe to the other end of the trail, parts of which were actually walkable.  It is only a 100-meter carry so how bad can it be!

Fatman’s Falls on the Lady Evelyn

looking down the Lady Evelyn below Fatman’s Falls

It is the last stretch of the portage trail, the section that takes you down quite steeply to the shore and the put-in, that we will not forget. However, in hauling the packs I somehow missed the new and somewhat more gentle path down to the water and ended up going down via the legendary Fatman’s Squeeze.

coming through Fatman’s Squeeze on the Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

I stood there at the end of the Squeeze and looked down the 45º slope to the put-in and inhaled deeply. While coming through the Squeeze with a canoe and then walking it down to the shore was never on my non-existent bucket list,  I figured the photo op was too good to pass up.

The rest of the video is down below!

portage trail from Fatman’s Squeeze to the water –

In the image above the last bit of the trail goes down a pile of jagged rock rubble diagonally from the Squeeze on the middle right to the water. Click on the image to access the white arrow pointing to the exact location of the gap you come through before doing the descent.

Max played videographer!  He was using my camera, one he was not familiar with – and my suggestion to use the viewfinder just confused him since he has always just used the LCD screen.  However, he did recover and shoot the rest of the descent – a less-than-graceful carry in which both ends of the canoe took a few bumps as I made my way down the steep and uneven slope.

The image below, taken a few minutes later, shows the same bit of trail from the bottom up.

Max sitting at the bottom of the last few meters of the Fatman Falls portage

Fatman’s Falls panorama

The Falls on the left and the final section of the portage trail to the right – our last look at Fatman’s before we continued our way down the Lady Evelyn.

one last view of Fatman Falls and the steep trail down to the water

Below Fatman’s Falls is another short set of rapids – #16 in the Wilson Guidebook. We lined the ledge at the top and then did a mix of lining and running the rest in shallow water. [The Chrismar map indicates a 290-meter portage on river left.]

Two more sets of rapids – both CI and easily run with some water.  We spent a couple of minutes at each examining the boulder arrangement and looking for the best channel to go down.

From Down River To Flat Water Paddling!

And with that, the down part of our Lady Evelyn River experience was over!  From now on we would be on flat water (about 289 meters a.s.l.) all the way to Mattawapika Dam some 40 kilometers to the east! Apex lake, the river’s headwaters, sits at 389 m a.s.l. – so from top to bottom, the river makes a 100-meter drop.

at the bottom of Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

Of that, 50% of the drop happens from Katherine Lake (341 m)  down either of the two channels to Willow Island or Sucker Gut Lakes, whose water level is the same as Lady Evelyn Lake thanks to the impact of the Mattawapika Dam.

We would start to see reminders of that impact.  In years past we had seen similar dead tree trunks in Sucker Gut Lake on our way to Maple Mountain. At the time,  we didn’t even know how they had come to be like that!  Here we were at the end of the South Channel where it soon becomes Willow Island Lake and we were seeing the same thing.

reminders of the great flooding caused by the Mattawapika Dam in 1925

We paddled almost to the end of the South Channel before stopping at a spacious south-facing campsite around 1:00 p.m. Before we did anything else, we had lunch. Then we strung a line between a couple of trees and put out our gear to catch the wind and occasional rays of sun; the previous day had been a wet one.

designated campsite near the end of Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

the front yard of our Lady Evelyn South Channel campsite

I also had some time to continue my quest for the blue mushroom, the Lactarius indigo. Thanks to the day’s slips and falls I found I could not even bend down completely to frame my macro shots the way I wanted. Luckily the camera’s LCD screen is hinged so I was able to compensate.

the mushroom quest continued – Day 8 and still no blue mushroom!

By 8:00 it was all but dark but for a while before that, we enjoyed the sun’s fading presence as it slipped down in the western sky.

a Temagami sunset on the Lady Evelyn River (South Channel)

Along with my leg aches and pains, I had somehow come down with whatever had ailed Max five days previously – some sort of digestive upset that had me leaving the tent four or five times during the night for a visit to the box you see below.

I considered Giardiasis or “beaver fever” as the cause of the symptoms I was experiencing but the fact that the next day I was feeling much better – just as Max had the day after his bout of whatever – seems to eliminate that as an explanation.

the thunderbox behind our tent on Lady Evelyn south channel campsite

Our weather app and the emails from home were telling us that tomorrow would be a very wet day in Temagami. We had a new “problem”: did we stay put the next day as the incoming weather system did its thing – or did we keep on going?

Next Post: Day 9 – From The Lady Evelyn River’s South Channel to the West End of Lady Evelyn Lake

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn river From Top To Bottom: Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake Island Camp To Bridal Veil Falls

Previous Post: Day 6 – From Just Below The Forks To Macpherson Lake

Day 7 – Down The South Channel To Bridal Veil Falls

  • Distance: 10.7 km.
  • Time: 9:30 to 3:50
  • Portages/Rapids: portaged all except the second set coming into Stonehenge Lake and first set on the South Channel
  • Weather: same old same old: coolish; overcast; massive 45-min. downpour on south channel portage; hints of sun in the evening.
  • Campsite: Bridal Veil Falls – very scenic and, thanks to the Falls, somewhat noisy! Perhaps room for 2 or 3  2-P tents, 1 good 4-P tent spot; portage trail goes through the campsite. no toilet box located.

A late start this day with a change of plans. Given the weather – overcast with probable rain coming our way – the idea of portaging up into Dry Lake and checking out the viewpoint at the SW corner of the lake was scrapped, as was making use of the one campsite on the lake. Instead, we figured we’d start our descent of the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel instead.

a view of our “good enough” Macpherson island campsite

At the bottom of Macpherson Lake is a short 70-meter boney set of rapids, and a late-season boulder garden impossible to float down.  [In the Wilson guidebook it seems to be his Rapid #7 – a CII whose “character varies greatly with flow”. He gives it the name “Twist & Shout”.]

set of rapids leaving Macpherson Lake

We stuck to river left and spent ten minutes lining down to a spot where we could hop back in. Here is a shot looking back up at those rapids;  it has Max is getting his Etrex 20 set for the next waypoint.

looking back at the set of rapids at the bottom of Macpherson Lake

Below Macpherson Lake is Stonehenge Lake – and leading into Stonehenge are a couple of rapids, the first of which we lined on river right; they are followed by a middle section which we floated down. We then just continued floating down the bottom set.  It was a bumpy ride!   See the satellite image below for a better idea of the situation.

rapids above Stonehenge Lake on the Lady Evelyn River

According to our GPS track, we spent about fifteen minutes getting down and into Stonehenge.  [In the Wilson guidebook these two rapids are #8 (CI-T) and #9 (CI line or run).]   The 2020 mid-September water level was not optimal!

looking back at the first set of rapids coming into Stonehenge Lake – we lined on river right – i.e. the left side of the image

The area between Stonehenge Lake and Katherine Lake apparently features some pretty nice campsites and – on a sunny July day – sounds like a nice spot to ramble up and down the river with a camera.  Rapids, swifts, waterfalls – a veritable Shangri La! However, a Shangri La campsite would have to be shelved for another possible trip – one coming down the North Branch from Gamble Lake.

We had already caught a few raindrops and more were definitely on the way.  So this time we embraced the 800-meter carry that would take us from Stonehenge into Katherine and a campsite not far down the South Channel. There are two portages indicated; one stays with the river while the other one – the one we were on – veers away from the river.  

Stonehenge to Katherine portage

from Stonehenge to Katherine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first twenty or thirty meters of the trail goes through a wetlands area and was somewhat mushy on our trip through thanks to the rain of the past few days. From there it changes into a series of connected gently sloped rock outcrops. Patches of slippery moss made things interesting.

After crossing a  dry boulder river bed, the last half is a beautiful woodland trail and our pace picked up noticeably!.  Also noticeable was the sun which came out for a half-hour as we were nearing the end of the portage.   We absorbed some sun rays as we sipped on Gatorade and munched an energy bar at the end of it – an hour and a quarter workout.  It was 11:30 and instead of stopping for lunch in the next hour, we decided to paddle until we came to a decent campsite on the South Channel. 

It is a 2.5-kilometer paddle from the portage put-in at the top of Katherine Lake down to the bottom. That is where the lake – once with the more appropriate name of Divide Lake– has two outlets: the North Channel and the South Channel. Both have three dramatic waterfalls and some rough portages.

  • North Channel: Helen Falls; Center Falls; Frank’s Falls
  • South Channel: Cabin Falls; Bridal Veil Falls; Fatman’s Falls

We headed down the South Channel from Katherine Lake.  First up is a set of CI-T rapids (Rapids #13 in the Wilson guidebook) down which we zig-zagged our way. The other option is to line on river right.

Below Katherine Lake – first two sets of rapids

Next up was an unavoidable  240-meter portage on river left about 700 meters below the rapids. Just as we pulled in to the top of the portage, we heard thunder and got off the river quickly. We slipped the packs and duffels into their XL-size construction-grade garbage bags, grabbed the tarp, and headed into the bush just off the bouldery shore. It rained gently at first and then –  just after we had gotten the tarp up and made ourselves comfortable – we listened to a torrential downpour come down on our tarp.  

Forty-five minutes later the thunder had moved on and the rain had stopped. We now got to do the carry on a very wet and slippery trail. 

the view from the take-out spot first portage on the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

We approached Cabin Falls within ten minutes of putting in and were faced with another carry on river left – 300 meters.  We did see the canoes on the other side of the river at the top end of a portage trail that passes through the private property indicated by the faint white line on the satellite image below.  The property belongs to Hap Wilson and is the site of his Ecolodge, a complex consisting of the main lodge and a couple of guest cabins. 

The portage is pretty rough in parts and the just-ended rain did not help matters. The rock slope you see in the image below was the top of the final stretch down to the put-in below the 9-meter-high falls.  

the put-in at the end of the Cabin Falls portage on river left

our canoe loaded and ready to go at the bottom of Cabin Falls

looking back at the put-in of the  Cabin Falls portage

Once back in the canoe we looked back at the falls.  Invisible in the trees on top of the falls is the cabin, originally built in 1931. Wilson’s The Cabin is his 2009 autobiographical look at his life-long obsession with building a personal refuge and how he came to be the owner of what must be the only piece of legal private property in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park. 

The red dot just below and to the right of center in the image below is the Canadian flag flying in front of it. We never did get a real good shot of THE cabin or any of the other buildings that have since gone up as Wilson created his Ecolodge.

Cabin falls Lady Evelyn River South Channel

panorama of Cabin Falls

Less than two kilometers below Cabin Falls is the next scenic highlight of the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel – Bridal Veil Falls. It would also be where we stopped this day. We made use of the campsite on the side of the portage trail twenty meters from where a side stream begins a series of tumbles down to the bottom.

From Cabin Falls to Bridal Veil Falls

The portage trail from the take-out spot to the campsite is actually quite walkable, with only one section of sloped rock outcrop just before the campsite which was a bit slippery thanks to the rain. One thing we did not find at this site was a thunderbox. 

Bridal Veil Falls -a view from the  campsite at the top

Expecting more rain, we put up both tarps, one over the tent and the other across the portage trail where we set up our eating/sitting area.  In the late afternoon, the sun peeked out for a while. As we looked across at the main falls, we could see how the multiple drops would lead someone to name them the Bridal Veil. Closer to us was a side falls,  whose water tumbled over a couple of ledges before rejoining the main stream in the pool below. The next morning as we paddled out from the put-in we’d get another memorable perspective. 

Next Post: Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To the Bottom of the South Channel

 

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 6 – From Below the Forks to Macpherson Lake

Previous Post: Day 5 – From Florence Lake To The Forks (And A Bit Beyond)

Day 6 – To Macpherson Lake

The Lady Evelyn River – From the Forks To Macpherson Lake

  • distance: 9.1 km
  • time: 9:30 a.m to 3:50 p.m.
  • portages/rapids:  6/6 – lined 3?
  • weather: some sunny peaks but mostly cloudy and overcast, cool
  • campsite: island, reasonably sheltered, room for a 2-3  x 2/3p tent plus perhaps 1 or 2 x 4p tents.

We left our P2/R2 campsite around 9:20 knowing that after we put in on the other side of the portage, we’d still have ten sets of rapids/portages to deal with this day.  Our goal was not very ambitious; the Shangri-La campsite just above Katherine Lake sounded like a nice spot to spend some time. If we felt really keen the next morning the thought was to portage up into Dry Lake and paddle to the viewpoint on the SW corner of the lake. But all that was in the future – first up, the rest of this set of rapids.

a view of the bottom of the chute that the river right 40-m portage goes around

We had decided to line and run this one (option 3.), thus avoiding the portage on river left.

Rapids #2 below the Forks

the view from below the falls at R2

It took us about 25 minutes to do the remainder of R2 after our put-in at the bottom of the falls. Half of that was spent dealing with the narrow section just before the river widens out a bit again. This time the line/run option turned out to be the right one.

We were soon faced with R3/P3, the next problem –  a dry bouldery river bed on both sides of a river with not enough water to line the canoe.  The panorama below gives you an idea of the scene.  We ended up carrying gear and canoe for about 100 meters over the bouldery shore on river right to get around the worst of it.

an iPhone SE panorama of P3 – a Lady Evelyn bouldery set of rapids

Once below we were in the water pictured in the image below.  On river left just below the end of it is a possible campsite.

looking back at the field of dry river bed section from the small lake below

At R4 (the 4th set of rapids from The Forks) we spent most of our time lining the rapids at the top and bottom and were able to float down the middle section, even if it was a bit of a boulder garden.  While we sometimes stay with the river because we think it will be easier and faster, the 100-meter portage on river right might have been easier than the half-hour we spent dancing on wet rocks with our canoe as a partner!

10 24 – at the bottom of P4 on the Lady Evelyn below the Forks

Coming right up – another set of rapids/falls- R5 …the first of three before we got to Macpherson Lake.  We were amazed to float right through this one in less than a minute, puffed by the nice job we’d done. “Two to go – let’s git ‘er dun!” We figured we’d stop for lunch on Macpherson before pushing on to Shangri-La.

We were a bit fuzzy on the next one, not really having given the trip notes enough of a read. We were moving along nicely until we rounded the bend and saw – way too close – a ledge coming up. From our middle-of-the-river position, we made a clumsy move to river right, grazing a boulder in a bad attempt to slip into what looked like a way down.

Rapids/Falls #6 below the Forks – one up from the Machpeerson Chutes

Seconds later we were standing in waist-high water below the falls, our canoe had taken on water, and the packs were floating down on river left. Whoa! An invigorating cold shower that forces you to take stock and think fast! The water itself was maybe waist-deep.

With the canoe emptied of water and floating again, we had an immediate problem. No paddles! I snapped part of a skinny pine trunk into a 1-meter paddle; Max eyed another one and set about sawing it off.

Now armed with a couple of “paddles” we set off downriver to collect our packs and duffels. The photo above has them floating on river left. Within ten minutes we had amazingly recouped them all. While the two Hooligan packs (essentially the Made In China version of the Ostrom Wabakimi packs) had taken on water, the inside liner bags had done their job. Given their 18 to 20 kilogram weight we were just glad they had not sunk! The two duffels were also retrieved – and so was one paddle that we found floating nearby.  Things were definitely looking up.

I took the following shot as we paddled back up the rapids in search of a paddle or two!  After we had gotten all the bags back in the canoe, we paddled up the shore on river right. When we couldn’t go any further, I hopped out and walked up closer to the falls looking for our two missing paddles. A gleam on a short straight piece of something yellow/brown in the pool below the falls on the other side of the river had me thinking it was one of our paddles sticking out.

We were now on our way back to get it!

a view from below the rapids:mini-falls we capsized in

It turns out that it hadn’t been the paddle after all, just the sun catching a barkless tree branch. You can see it just below Max’s boots. However, right there not far from what had drawn my eye was a paddle. And stuck in the middle of the falls up top was the other one!

our paddles in the rapids above Macpherson Lake

Now that we had two paddles again, we continued downriver, thankful to have escaped mostly unscathed, even if a bit wet, from our dumb lapse in judgment. Except for our third paddle – which we perhaps should have made an effort to retrieve – we hadn’t lost anything. Even the map case, its yellow top peeking 6 cm. out of the water was spotted and scooped up.

It is funny how, in spite of paddling a few thousand kilometers, it is the capsizes you remember most vividly! Our last major dunk had been on the Bloodvein River some six years before.  It was almost forty years ago but I can still hear Cyril’s laugh as we tanked that 17′ Grumman going down Graveyard Rapids on the Spanish River.

No more pix this day after we left our dunking scene!

We did the river right Macpherson Chutes portage and then kept on paddling.  Macpherson is a long narrow lake, a little under four km from top to bottom. Now we were in campsite search mode; we wanted to take advantage of the mid-afternoon wind and let our stuff dry out a bit.

After scanning the river left shore for something, we referred to the Chrismar map and turned back to the island CS indicated. We found there an okay site that even had a thunderbox. As with all the other official sites we had so far used, this was was very tidy. Props to those who stayed there before us and the Park crew who may have come through on a clean-up run!

Next Post: Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake To Bridal Veil Falls

 

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 5 – From Florence Lake To The Forks

Previous Post: Day 4 – On Florence Lake

Day 5 – From Florence Lake to The Forks and a Bit Beyond

  • distance: 32.2 km
  • time: 8:55 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • hunting grounds:  those of Misabi in the mid-to-late1800s thanks to his marriage to Ke’kek’s daughter. 
  • portages/rapids: 1/1 – 320m  – a few logs and at least 3 beaver dams
  • weather: cool but mostly sun with a bit of cloud;  our nicest day so far
  • campsite: just off the trail on the short 30 m carry across P2 on the LE main branch (see the map at the end of the post for more detail)
  • maps: Ottertooth Florence Lake; NRC 1:50.000 topo 041 P 07  Smoothwater Lake; 041 P 02  Pilgrim Creek; 041 P 08 Lady Evelyn Lake.


We were up early and ready to shift back into paddling mode after a rest day where the only thing we did was climb up the viewpoint 80 meters above the lake on the sloped rock outcrop to the south of our campsite.  An early morning mist hung over the lake as we looked east at the sun which was just beginning to emerge.

looking southeast from our Florence Lake campsite at dawn

A better day weather-wise day seemed to be in the cards – a nice change from the mostly overcast and cool conditions we had up to then.  The goal for the day was The Forks, the point where the two branches of the Lady Evelyn meet. It would mean about 30 kilometers of paddling.

west side Florence Lake campsite looking NE to Table Rock campsite

We looked over to the other side and a campsite with the name Table Rock. The Ottertooth map in map case noted that on the campsite we’d find –

“a dolmen sitting on several small rocks. Possible ancient sacred site with mystery around how or why positioned.”   

Sounded promising!  A dolmen –  defined as a megalithic tomb with a large flat stone laid on upright ones, found chiefly in Britain and France.  I had seen some dolmen structures in Ireland and had them in my mind as we left our campsite, intrigued that something similarly impressive might be seen on this very lake! 

“Table Rock” campsite on Florence Lake

Once at the campsite – a decent fair-weather site that is quite exposed to the wind and without a really flat spot to pitch a 4-P tent – we weren’t seeing anything that looked like a dolmen. The mystery continued for a minute or so – and then we realized that the 1.5m rectangular rock with a small rock underneath was what we were looking for! To describe it as a humble example of a dolmen would be a massive overstatement! 

A more probable explanation – a party of four bored campers or maybe a group from one of Lake Temagami’s summer camps had one afternoon pried the rectangular rock chunk up and shoved a couple of smaller stones underneath to level its top and create a flatter area for their cooking utensils or plates – hence “Table Rock”. 

Table Rock – Florence Lake – see here for a view of the stones placed underneath

No offence to the few pre-European contact Anishinaabe-speaking hunters who may have passed by this spot,  but you have to wonder what fantasy-prone individual  (almost certainly not Indigenous) was able to create a bogus “ancient sacred site” out of this rock and then postulate about why it was pointed in the direction it was!  The Ottertooth map note just perpetuates the silliness. 

From Table Rock we looked west towards our campsite of the two previous nights; it had been a good one but we were happy to be on the move again. Max was feeling much better than he had been a couple of days before.  

looking back at our Florence Lake west side CS from Table Rock CS

As we paddled north to the lake’s outlet – the Florence River – we came again to the collapsed cabin and got a few more shots. This time the photos had blue sky in them! [See Day 3 post for more cabin pix!]

the derelict cabin -“Good Tent” – on Florence Lake

The cabin was built in the mid-1950s (says the note on the Ottertooth map); 65 years on it was in a state of terminal decline. No doubt it served as a good tent during its prime.

Florence Lake cabin nameplate -Good Tent

Down the Florence River we went (no current), past the mediocre campsite at the north end of the lake, and not quite close enough to the one and only moose we saw during our ten-days out –  and then back on the Lady Evelyn’s south branch. Water was fairly shallow here – maybe 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep. Half-paddle is all we can do!

As noted already, lilies up the mouth of the river and above and below the confluence all the way down to Duff Lake.  Progress this day came easy once we got beyond the lily pond. We stuck with the South Branch right to the Forks.

the south branch Lady Evelyn near Florence River junction lily pond

Two kilometers north of Duff Lake – about halfway down Jack’s Lake – is a campsite marked on both the Ottertooth and Chrismar maps.

It is on river right on the flat top of a sloped rock outcrop and there multiple tent site possibilities, some nicely sheltered. A fire pit and – in the bush behind the site – a toilet box complete the site.  The views from the elevated spot are great – definitely a decent place to stop. And yet again,  no litter, no mess to be found!

The one set of rapids on the south branch below the Florence Lake outlet is at White Rock Rapids (named Cedar Rapids in the Wilson guidebook), a short 40-meter Class 1 stretch that is easily run; it can also be lined or walked down.  

White Rock Rapids Lady Evelyn South Branch with swifts above

approaching White Rock rapids on the Lady Evelyn’s south branch

 Just below this set of rapids is another campsite. We found room for multiple tents, and while no spot was especially flat,  it would still make a good spot to stop for the night.  The usual fire pit, a toilet box at the end of a signed trail,  a very nice view of the fall colours to the south … maybe a B grade for this one!

There are a couple of “short cuts” or “bypasses” that you can take to eliminate some Lady Evelyn south branch paddling – 

  1. Just below White Rock rapids – and to the left of the campsite indicated above –  is a 420-meter portage into Dees Lake and then at its north end, a longer 1000-meter carry that gets you to the north branch of the river a kilometer and a bit up from the Forks. This option only makes sense for someone coming down the North Branch from Gamble Lake who is headed to Florence Lake or the Sturgeon River.
  2. About 3 kilometers upriver from the Forks, there is a 175-meter portage that takes you from the south branch into a puddle of a lake (Shortcut Lake!) at the north end of which another 55-meter carry gets you into the Lady Evelyn’s Main channel. You would not only be below the Forks; you would also avoid a 320-meter portage.  

See the Ottertooth Florence Lake map to get a better idea of these two options. 

a touch of fall colour on the lower stretch of the Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

Having started off on the south branch’s headwaters on Apex or Whitemud Lake, there was no way we would abandon it three kilometers before The Forks! While we did find two or three beaver dams and some deadfall stretched across the river in the final stretch after White Rock rapids, they were easily dealt with. A bonus on the last 5 km. was a just noticeable current that added a 1km/hr. zip to our speed! We enjoyed our trip on the lower half of the south branch – scenic, small river stress-free paddling…a nice way to spend a day!

My mind creates expectations as I plan my trip route down a never-before-seen river. The Forks was a spot that took on special significance since it was the end of the South Branch as well as where it merged with the North Branch coming from near Beauty Lake.  With past river junctions in mind – maybe the dramatic Bloodvein-Gammon, I pictured

  1. cliffs,
  2. some sloped rock outcrop, and
  3. a decent campsite on one of its corners.

As the video below indicates, I struck out! Still, it was great to be at The Forks of the Lady Evelyn! 

Lady Evelyn River’s Main Channel – the stretch from The Forks to Katherine Lake, where it divides again

We were now on the Main Channel – i.e. the stretch from the Forks to the bottom of Katherine Lake.  As we rounded the corner we encountered the first person we had met since the paddlers on Smoothwater Lake.  Under the impression that there was a roomy campsite on river right just below the Forks I stepped ashore for a quick look, finding his tent and little room for anything else. [The site I was actually thinking of was one mentioned by Wilson and on the other side of the river. It has room for multiple tents.]

Back on the river a few meters down from the campsite we came to a log crossing the river with just enough room underneath for each of us to step over, push down our end of the canoe to squeeze it under and then hop back in.  ______________________________________________________________

Note: A bit of confusion here.  The Chrismar map indicates a 320-meter portage starting at the campsite we had just taken a look at. Then it has an identical 320-meter portage correctly placed 1 km. downriver. 

It looks like the same portage has been put in two places! Neither the Hap Wilson guidebook (see here for a version) nor an Ottertooth map has a portage just below the Forks where the Chrismar map has placed one. ______________________________________________________________

After our log step-over (see here for a pic of Max in action on another occasion), we headed down one kilometer to the first set of rapids – a Class 2 – and the 320-meter-or-so portage around them on river right, which took us 45 minutes to get done.

a view of the top of the first set of Rapids below the Forks of the Lady Evelyn

By now it was 4:45 and we were looking to end the day; both the Chrismar and Hap Wilson maps show a campsite 1.5 km. down from the P1 put-in on river right on the short portage over the point. That was going to be it.

CS05 on the map above is where Day 5 ended, 32 kilometers downriver from our Florence Lake CS that we had left eight hours before.  It had been a nice easy day on the river – but we knew the next day would be more work as we dealt with close to a dozen sets of rapids and portages. 

Our campsite sat right off the 40-meter portage trail but we weren’t expecting any traffic at the end of the day and figured that we’d be gone the next morning before anyone wearing a canoe came by.  While we were happy to find it given the time (almost 5 p.m.) the site is rather nondescript but serviceable; it has a toilet box nearby and there is room for a couple of tents. Earplugs will block some of the noise from the falls just below the site.  Giving it a C might be a stretch but it does the job.  

Lady Evelyn CS below the Forks – Day 5

We had a decision to make that night – would we paddle across the river to the left bank and finish off the portage or would we avoid the portage completely and line and float down the river? 

Rapids #2 – Options

Next Post: Day 6 – On the Lady Evelyn To Macpherson Lake

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 4 – On Florence Lake

Previous Post: Day 3- From Our “It’ll Have To Do’  Lady Evelyn South Branch CS To Florence Lake

We spent a couple of nights at our Florence Lake campsite.  Max had come down with some ailment the previous day, the day with the portages on the stretch of the south branch of the Lady Evelyn above the Florence River confluence.  The 24-hour flu (if that is what it was)  had left him weakened and chilled. He ate little and slept a lot as he stayed warm inside the tent and his sleeping bag.

Meanwhile, I rambled around the almost-island taking macro pix of mushrooms and other fungi, hoping to fill my viewfinder with that blue mushroom- the lactarius indigo – my wife had asked me to look for.

See here for the image source. Also, see here for a Wikipedia article on this colourful denizen of the forest floor.

The thought did enter my mind that the mushroom was a Photoshop creation and that my wife,  figuring I needed something other than pictographs to obsess about,  had come up with the quest for a not-yet-revealed-to-mere-mortals blue mushroom!

Florence Lake scenic viewpoint – map to access

On our second afternoon on the lake, we followed the shore for one kilometer south of our campsite on the point, looking for signs to the start of a possible bushwhack trail that would take us to a scenic lookout above the lake.  We figured we might see a strip of prospector’s tape or other sign of human presence to indicate a route up.  However, we were not expecting to see this –

the trail marker at the start of the Florence Lake scenic viewpoint

A blue trail marker told us we were in the right place!  We pulled the canoe ashore and up into the bush and looked up to what was clearly a trail – somewhat rough but still much more than a bushwhack!

the Florence Lake trail – the first thirty meters

Whoever made the path did not attempt to create a switchback trail – after all,  this is not a local Peruvian or Nepalese pathway used by yaks and donkeys to move food and supplies over difficult terrain. This rough path goes straight up!

One great thing about a signed path is that it keeps the impact of people tromping up and down the hillside to a narrow corridor instead of having everyone ad-libbing their own way.

the Florence Lake scenic lookout trail – straight up!

The reward for a bit of huffing and puffing?  The view! Mind you, at about 440 m a.s.l. you’re not at the very top and if you were the view might well be zero given the dense pine forest you’d be standing in!

The viewpoint is about  100 meters lower than the actual top and 80 meters above the lake itself. This is what we saw on an overcast day punctuated with the occasional bit of drizzle. Adobe Lightroom’s “photomerge” feature stitched together three images I snapped to create a panorama of the south end of Florence Lake as we looked east from our vantage point –

a panoramic view from the Florence Lake viewpoint

We looked around for yet another blue trail indicator leading further up but did not see anything. We assumed that we had reached the viewpoint – and indeed it was a nice spot to be. Had the weather been better and the sloped rock and the lichen not been wet and very slippery and unstable, we may have stayed up a bit longer. We scampered across a short stretch of the sloped rock outcrop and then headed back to where we thought we had come up out of the trees.

another image of the view from Florence Lake lookout

a view of our campsite on the almost-island on Florence Lake

Forty-five minutes later we were back down at the canoe, having gotten lost on the initial stretch on the way down.

Tips:

  • put a visible marker on the last tree you come to on the bottom edge of the rock face so that you can easily find it – and the trail! – on your way down!
  • Max skinned three fingertips while we scampered across the wet sloped rock face. It bothered him for days afterwards.  A pair of gloves would have been nice! No need for climbing rope!

As we paddled back to our campsite, we looked back for a view of the rock face viewpoint.  This is what we saw –

a view of the rock face of the scenic lookout on Florence lake

The arrow points at the trailhead on the shore; if the sign should for some reason be gone, there is still that flat rock sitting there to serve as a sign! Almost straight above is the rockface that serves as the open lookout point.

a view of our tucked-in tent site on Florence Lake – the point is to the right

We took it easy for the rest of the day; Max was starting to feel better and we had supper under the tarp.  In the early evening, something amazing happened – the sun came out! We were seeing the lake in a new light and it looked incredible. Blue everywhere!

blue sky on Florence Lake after days of overcast and dreary weather

Okay, so it wasn’t the blue mushroom I was looking for – but what a sight! We hoped for more clear skies and sunshine the next day!

blue sky over Florence Lake

In early September it is all but dark by 8:00 p.m. so we made sure we walked our food bags a fair distance away (50 m or so) from our tent before dark came.  Nighttime temperatures were usually below 10ºC during our week and a half out; this meant we were often in the tent shortly after 8!  With overcast skies most days there was usually nothing to look up to.

Possible Confusion About the Florence Lake Lookout Trail – There is more than one!

Florence Lake scenic viewpoint – different trails

Older sources of information provide paddlers with a few ways of getting to a Florence lake viewpoint.  None of them is the signed trail that we did in September of 2020.

Wilson’s Florence Lake viewpoint trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hap Wilson Temagami guidebook – my 2011 copy is a reprint of the 2004 edition – shows a trail to the north of the campsite on the point. It is headed in the direction of a hilltop at about 540 in altitude.

Ottertooth Map – 2017

Chrismar 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chrismar Temagami 4 map (I have the 2011 edition) indicates a trail just south of the creek that comes into the lake to the southwest of the campsite on the point. A note on the map says “trail not maintained”. It seems to end up in the same spot – i.e. the exposed rockface – that the signed trail took us to.

The Ottertooth Florence Lake map (2017) also indicates a trail to a viewpoint. Its starting point is about the same as the signed one we found; however, it is much more angled to the south than the signed trail we followed.  The line on the Ottertooth map ends at 530m which I assume is the very top of the hill.

This satellite image of the area reveals the two sloped rock outcrops that the Chrismar map “trail”, our signed trail, and the Ottertooth map “trail” aim for. Of the three, the Ottertooth bushwhack is the longest and the signed trail route is the shortest and easiest.

If you’ve been up the “trail” sketched in the Wilson book, the Chrismar map,  or the Ottertooth map, I’d be interested in your observations.  Feel free to comment below – fellow canoe trippers will benefit from your viewpoint -and your approach to it! – and perhaps be spared some grief. Also, if you have any information about who put in the signed trail – and when – please let me know. It would be nice to give them some acknowledgement!


Florence Lake and F.G. Speck’s Hunting Grounds Map:


According to the map [see here] drawn by F.G. Speck in 1913 at Bear Island In Lake Temagami with the input of community members living around the Hudson Bay Co. post there, the Florence River and Florence Lake were the western borders of Misabi’s hunting grounds in the mid-to-late 1800s.  Only when we paddled north on Willow Island Lake a few days later would we leave his hunting grounds.

 

[Click on the cover above or the following title to access Speck’s 1915 report.

 Family Hunting Territories and Social Life of Various Algonkian Bands of the Ottawa Valley]

As I mentioned in the introductory post, in 1913 Misabi was still alive and almost 100 years old when Speck visited.  He had come up to Temagami from Georgian Bay – one source says from the Shawanaga area of Georgian Bay – as a young man and, after marrying one of Ke’kek’s daughters, was given 27a as his hunting ground. A generation before this- i.e. around 1800- 1820 – hunting grounds 27a, 27, and 24 were all one hunting ground and belonged to the father of Ke’Kek and Wendaban.

While Ke’kek inherited the lands encompassed by 27 and 27a, Wendaban got the Lady Evelyn Lake area 24.  From their relative sizes, it may be that Wendaban was the younger son.  Apparently, Wendaban married a Nipissing woman and spent many winters (the hunting time) on Lake Nipissing instead of in the Lady Evelyn Lake area. The couple did not have any children.  Speck did not speak with or record the presence of anyone from Wendaban’s hunting ground #24 during his stay.  As for Misabi, he had a cabin at the outlet of Obabika Lake at the top of the Obabika River. Speck recorded five people as living in Misabi’s territory in 1913.

In his Temagami guidebook,  Hap Wilson notes that Florence Lake

“is surrounded by beautiful hills and towering pine – no wonder the Tema Augama preferred this lake as a sanctuary.”

While he is certainly right about the natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings, left unstated is any evidence for the claim that the lake served as a sanctuary. What may have started as an easily understandable personal view of the lake thanks to its relative isolation and the effort to get there has perhaps been projected backwards in time to become someone else’s special place.  Also left to the reader’s imagination is exactly what kind of “place of refuge or safety” it was? A hiding place from Iroquois invaders?  A spiritual retreat center for shamans and vision questers?

Madeline Katt Theriault was born in Temagami in 1908 and grew up learning to live off the land in the traditional pre-European-contact way.  Her memoir Moose To Mocassins mentions Florence Lake five times but only in the context of a hunting/fishing spot where she notes her husband shot dead a bear and they easily caught a massive amount of lake trout.  If the lake held some special significance as anything else, she does not mention it.

As for the designation “Teme Augama” sometimes with “Anishinabay” (or some other variation in spelling)  added,  it is not a name that existed in Misabi’s time, having been created in the 1970s during a time of rising Indigenous nationalism.  It refers to non-status as well as status people, Ojibwe or Algonquin, and Metis who currently live in the area. How Misabi would have felt about this broadly-inclusive group making use of Florence Lake – and living off his food sources while there – is an open question.

In the end, it is unlikely that anyone other than Misabi or his immediate relatives would be coming up here. There would be more productive food-gathering places to be in the summer months when a visit to the lake could be made – and it is not as if the journey to the lake from Obabika Lake or Bear Island on Lake Temagami was an easy one.


Perhaps it was proof that Max was back to normal – or that the upper stretch of the south branch was about as bad as it was going to get – in any case, the next day we did over thirty kilometres of easy and enjoyable paddling with very little drama as we got to the Forks and started heading down the Lady Evelyn to Katherine Lake.

Next Post: Day 5 – From Florence Lake To Just Below The Forks of the Lady Evelyn

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Day 3 – From Our “It’ll Do” Campsite To Florence Lake

Previous Post: Day 2 – The Upper Stretch of the South Branch – Some Work Required!

Day 3 – From Our “It’ll Do” CS To Florence Lake

            • distance: 15.8 km
            • hunting ground – still that of Djakwunigan (of the Kingfisher clan) until the mouth of the Florence River [see map here]. Florence Lake was considered Misabi’s hunting grounds.
            • time: 9:45 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.
            • portages/rapids:  3/4  …  more than a few submerged logs, deadfall, beaver dams as lift-overs … but not as bad as the previous day!
              • P1 –  60m – lined and log under (see pic)
              • P2 –  80m RL
              • P3 –  60m RL
              • P4 – 650m RR
            • weather: cool, overcast and cloudy all day, some rain towards evening
            • campsite: Florence Lake – a point on the west side of the lake
            •  1:50000 NRC Topo Map: 041 P 07_Smoothwater Lake

There had been some rain overnight.  In the morning we took down the tent underneath the tarp we had set up the night before and had breakfast. We set off; for a couple of hundred meters the meandering river becomes quite narrow and the alders on the banks occasionally met in the middle as we paddled our way through the bush!

And then a rare (for the South branch) sloped rock face as we rounded the bend not far from our start point. The day before as it approached 6 p.m. we had stopped for the night and created a makeshift campsite on river right.  Now – 260 meters downriver – we paddled toward a much better spot!

LE-SB “It’ll Do” CS and a definite upgrade 260 meters downriver!

panorama of upper Lady Evelyn south branch from the campsite

Once back home after the trip, I was rereading Hap Wilson’s Temagami canoe tripping guide book and realized that he describes the very site that we came to –

checking out the elevated campsite on the upper stretch of the Lady Evelyn’s south branch

heading back to the canoe after checking out the Lady Evelyn south branch campsite

looking east down the Lady Evelyn’s south branch towards Florence Lake

Back to the canoe, we headed for what would turn out to be the last short meandering stretch of the river; the progress was slow – less than half our usual cruising speed – but it was easy and going down the middle we were able to touch either side of the river with our paddles.

The circle on the map above highlights the last major meander on the upper South Branch;  after that, the river straightens and within a couple of kilometers takes you to some actual rapids and portages.

approaching the last bit of the meandering section before Florence Lake

4 Potential Portages on LE-SB  above the Florence Lake Outlet

The Chrismar map indicates 3 and the Ottertooth map shows 4  portages on the section of the south branch above the Florence River outlet.  I’ve marked the four of them on the NRC Toporama map below.  It is 1.6 km. from the top of P1 to the bottom of P4; we spent less than two hours dealing with all four; the first two we lined and ran; the last two we carried.

LE-SB above Florence River confluence

P1 is meant to avoid a short stretch with a small ledge at the top and then a large log stretching right across the river about .75 m/2.5′ above the water.  We lined down the initial stretch and paddled down to the log and were able to push the canoe under the log while stepping over it. We did not see any evidence of a portage trail at the top and we were happy to have dealt with it so quickly. Higher water in the spring would probably mean that our canoe would not have been able to be squeezed underneath that log.

dealing with potential  P#1 on the upper South Branch of the Lady Evelyn

Not far from this possible portage, the Ottertooth map indicates a campsite on river left.  We did not notice it as we paddled by. Granted,  we were not looking that hard. In planning the route, this campsite had actually been one of the possible endpoints for Day 2.  Our actual progress on Day 2 clearly came short by a couple of hours!

gliding over a beaver dam at the top of P2 on the upper stretch of the Lady Evelyn’s south branch

We spent a little under ten minutes lining and floating down the next 100-meter stretch of river indicated by P2. Max was starting to feel a bit weak – the onset of the 24-hour flu? – so we were glad to have been spared the carry.  As the day progressed his energy level dropped to such an extent that when we got to Florence Lake and got the tent up, he just crawled into his sleeping bag and had a long sleep until the next morning.

the four potential LE – SB portages before Florence Lake

There he is at the start of P3, five minutes down from the end of P2. It would the first of the two portages we actually did this day.  I can’t say why it took us almost a half-hour to do! We may have stopped for a gorp and water break!  Max has a micro tape recorder to make little oral notes of what we are experiencing that we refer to later – but on this day the recorder was tucked away and his focus was just on moving forward!

at the start of P3 on the upper south branch of the Lady Evelyn

According to our GPS track, we spent about 30 minutes dealing with P3 before moving on the last – and the longest at about 600 meters – of the upper south branch’s marked portages.

looking down the Lady Evelyn from the P3 put-in on the upper south branch – P4 comin’ up!

P4 is on river right and takes you around two different sets of rapids with a long stretch of flatwater in between. Earlier in the season, there may be an easy line and run option; we did not check it out.

a small stretch of P4 portage trail on the upper south branch of the Lady Evelyn River

We were at the top of P4 at 11:30; an hour and a quarter later we were paddling downriver towards the mouth of the Florence River and the start of our side trip into Florence Lake. After P4 we were paddling in the widest and deepest bit of water since Apex Lake!

looking upriver the put-in at the end of P4 on the upper south branch

From the P4 put-in, I did walk upriver a bit to see if the boulder garden continued. That is exactly what I found. We had probably saved energy by just doing the portage instead of trying to do a line/float down a rock-strewn and very shallow stretch of water.

looking upriver from the P4 put-in on the upper South Branch of the LE

looking back at a rare stretch of rock face j1.5 km. just below P4 on river left

As we approached the mouth of the Florence River,  we paddled through a massive lily pond that stretches above and below the mouth of the river and even upriver towards Florence Lake.

CS at the start of the Florence River

A half-hour paddle up the Florence River (no noticeable current!) and we were entering Florence Lake itself.  We did note the campsite on the point on our left as we passed by.

A couple of mornings later on our way out we checked it out more closely and decided that given the other camping options on the lake this one would rank near the bottom. The sites at the south end of the lake put you in the more scenic half of the lake.

Here are the campsite options on Florence Lake.

Florence Lake Campsites

Next up was a campsite half-way up (i.e. towards the south end) the lake on the sand dam. It has a collapsed cabin on it built in the 1950s.

the collapsed cabin on the Florence lake sand spit

The cabin –  it has a nameplate with “Good Tent” nailed above the door – was, according to a note on the Florence Lake Ottertooth map, “built by recreationalists c. 1956”. There is room on this 30-meter wide sand dam to put up a number of tents. The cabin itself is probably beyond repair and uninhabitable. We wondered if it was the only cabin in the park other than the one at Cabin Falls now owned by Hap Wilson.

The Florence lake cabin – a view from the southeast

the Florence Lake cabin – the inside corner to the right of the door

the Florence Lake cabin – the rear of the cabin with the roof broken open

the Florence Lake cabin – a view of the roof from the south

We would do the short carry to the other side of the sand dam and continue on towards the south end of the lake for a campsite on the point pictured in the satellite image below.

Florence Lake campsite – highly recommended by Canoe trip advisor!

It has many of the features we look for in a good campsite – a sheltered spot to put up our 7’x8′ four-person tent, nicely spaced trees to easily set a tarp or two, an open rocky outcrop – flat or sloped – as a lounging area/patio and place to catch some wind on a buggy evening, space around the tent site to ramble around and explore. This site, like most of the other ones we stayed at,  also had a toilet box in the backwoods.

We also found this site – and all of the ones we stayed at until the one on our last night on Lady Evelyn Lake itself – to be spotless. No litter, no garbage, no mess!  Thank you, fellow canoe trippers and park staff!

our tent spot on Florence Lake – nicely sheltered.

eating area closer to the water on Florence lake

a view of our Florence Lake campsite from the viewpoint to the south

The Continuing Quest For the Blue Mushroom:

While Max slept off whatever was ailing him, I prepared a Backpacker’s Pantry (the Pad Thai is one of my favourites) for supper and went for a walk with my Sony RX100 set in macro mode. I was on a quest to find the Blue Mushroom!  While I didn’t find it, I did see all sorts of other mushrooms and fungi that I am usually in too much of a hurry to notice. It was a most enjoyable way to zen in and enter an almost meditative state.

a mushroom in the wet bush behind our Florence Lake campsite

what looks like bear poop on a birch log – Florence lake bush

The next morning Max would be feeling better. We had another day to spend on Florence and we would be taking it easy. The only thing planned was a hike up to the Florence Mountain look-out for an elevated view of the lake and surroundings.  The next post has the pix!

Next Post; Day 4 – On Florence Lake

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 2 – From Smoothwater Lake To An “It’ll Do” CS  On Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

Previous Post: Day 1 – To The Put-In And Up the Montreal River To  Smoothwater Lake

Day 2From Smoothwater Lake To An “It’ll Do” CS  On Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

  • distance: 19.5 km
  • hunting ground: that of Djakwunigan (of the Kingfisher clan) see map here
  • time: 8:45 a.m. to 6:50 p.m.
  • portages/rapids:   2/ 0 rapids run;
  • P1 – 770 m (50 min) [listed as 700m]
  • P2 – – 800 m (1h:30m including lunch) [listed as 700 m];  also many submerged logs, deadfall, beaver dams as liftovers between Whitemud Lake and Jerry Creek outlet
  • weather: cool; overcast
  • campsite: makeshift site on the upper stretch of L.E.’s south branch; a much nicer one was a mere 260 meters downriver (as we found out the next morning!)
  •  1:50000 NRC Topo Map: 041 P 07_Smoothwater Lake

Looking for Mishipeshu’s Cave:

The Nanabush/Mishipeshu story was told in communities across the Anishinaabe world – from the Algonquins along the Ottawa to the Chippewa in Minnesota. To no surprise, the story reflected locations familiar to the listeners. Instead of Smoothwater Lake, the Ojibwe of Bawating heard of Gitchi Kumi (Lake Superior). Instead of a cave on the west side of Smoothwater, the Ojibwe of Manitoulin Island believed that Mishipeshu’s cavern den was accessed by a hole on the bottom of the lake near the dock at Manitowaning.

Mishipeshu image at Agawa Rock pictograph site on Lake Superior

We started our day with a paddle over to the west side of the lake. The Ottertooth map of the lake (see here) indicated a “small cave (possible site of Temagami First Nation creation story)”.  We wanted to see what sort of a cavity someone had found that (s)he was then able to connect to the Flood caused by the underwater beings in response to Nanabush’s killing of the Great Lynx Mishipeshu.

As the account given to Speck made clear, the cave figures very prominently.  [See the end of the previous post for the story’s beginning.] We read this from the written report Speck published by the Department of Mines in 1915:

As he went along the shore [of Smoothwater Lake], the next morning, he heard someone singing and shaking a rattle. Nenebuc (i.e. Nanabush) stood there wondering and waiting, and pretty soon he saw an old woman making the song. So he went across to see her, and when they met, he asked her, “What are you doing?” “I’m a doctor,” she answered.  “The queen of the Lions has been shot by Nenebuc and I am going to cure her.”

She didn’t know that it was Nenebuc to whom she was talking, for she was too old. So Nenebuc told her, “Let me hear you singing. Is that what you are going to do to cure her?” “Yes,I will sing and then pull out that arrow.”  The Lions had sent for her at the foot of the lake to cure the queen. Nenebuc pulled out a club and killed her,  saying, “You are no doctor (mackrki-‘winini’k’we ‘medicine-person woman’) at all.”

Then he discovered that she was no person at all, but a big toad(oma’kak’iS). So he skinned her and put on the skin. The skin had a hole in the groin, and as he had no needle to sew it up with, his scrotum hung out when he put it on himself. This did not worry Nenebuc, for he thought, “It will be all right unless they notice me too closely.” So he walked past the cave in which the Lions lived and kept singing and rattling all the time.

When the young lions heard him, they said, “There’s the old medicine woman coming.” They were very glad to think that their mother would be cured. So they opened the door in the rock and Nenebuc went in, and one of the daughters came to meet him and siad, “Come in,  old woman.” They were very much pleased. Nenebuc said, “Don’t shut the doors. Leave them open, as the queen needs plenty of fresh air!”  Then he said, “I’ve had a long walk and I’m tired.” Then they gave him a good meal first. While he was eating, he sat with open legs and the children cried out, “Look at the old woman with testicles hanging out!” But the older ones told them to be silent, as they thought some old women had testicles.

When he had finished eating, Nenebuc said, “Don’t watch me. I’m going to pull out the arrow point. You will hear her suffering and me singing, but don’t look until you hear her stop suffering. Then she will be cured, and the arrow point will be out. So don’t look, for I am going to cure her.” Then he began rattling and singing, and, as he did so, he shoved the arrow point farther into the wound of the queen in order to kill her. When she yelled, her people thought that the hurt was caused in pulling it out. At last one of the little lion children peeped and saw Nenebuc pushing the arrow farther in. He told his sister, “That’s Nenebuc himself inside!” Then Nenebuc ran outside and the Queen Lion was dying. Nenebuc had difficulty to clear himself. He pulled off the toad skin and tried to climb up the rock.

(g) The Giant Lynx Causes the World Flood and Gathers the Animals on a Raft; Muskrat Dives for Earth, which Nenebuc Transforms into a New World.

As soon as the queen died, a giant stream poured out of the cave and the lake “That is to flood the world began rising. going and be the end,” said Nenebuc. So he cut trees and made a kind of raft.  [See Speck’s report  here (pp.35-36) for the Ojibwe Flood story, the outcome of Nanabush’s killing of the Great Lynx in the cave.]

  • Smoothwater Lake – west side cave search

    As the map above shows, we paddled over to the west side of the lake and then along the shore across from our Day 1 campsite, looking for anything that could pass as the mythic cave of the Nanabush/Mishipeshu story. We saw no sign of previous paddlers on the same quest, no strip of prospector’s tape as evidence we were close; it was mostly low-grade rock rubble along the shore.

the west side of Smoothwater Lake in the vicinity of the supposed cave of Mishipeshu

I was left wondering who the fantasy-prone individual was,  who after accepting the literal truth of the myth, was able to find a “cave”.  It would not be the first time on our trip down the river that this happened.  A few days later on Florence Lake, I looked at “Table Rock” and had to laugh at the explanatory note found on the Ottertooth map.

rounding the corner after our search for a cave on Smoothwater Lake’s west side

As we came to the top (i.e. the south) end of the lake,  I hopped out to do a quick check of a potential campsite just up from the sand beach.  It was okay – but not as nice as ours from the night before or the other one further north on the east side beach.

Max waits while I check out a potential campsite at the south end of Smoothwater Lake

Then it was on to our first portage of the day, the 770-meter haul from Smoothwater to Apex.   The way our portages usually work is like this – Max takes one 110-liter Hooligan pack (50 lbs.) and a duffel (25 lbs.) and bundled paddles the full distance while I carry the other Hooligan (45 lbs.) and duffel (30 lbs.) halfway. I drop it off and head back for the canoe (60 lbs.) and my camera bag (7 -10  lbs.) and, if we have figured out halfway correctly, Max is just arriving to pick up the bags I have left as I am approaching with the canoe.

the start of the portage from Smoothwater to Apex – and possible in a pinch campsite

A rare splash of red in a Temagami landscape that is overwhelmingly green – I had to stop and get a shot before moving on with the pack/duffel carry.  Temagami in the fall is definitely not as colourful as Algonquin!

a rare splash of red off the portage trail to Apex

The trail to Apex from Smoothwater is a good one with a bit of up and down to deal with but no real mushy spots.  We were able to ‘git ‘er dun’  in 45 minutes and were soon paddling across a glassy calm lake.  I am not sure how rare this is but Apex Lake seems to be the headwaters of both the Montreal River system and of the Lady Evelyn’s south branch.

looking west across Apex Lake from the start of the portage trail to Whitemud Lake

The Wilson guidebook has a rare slip-up on portage directions. The portage trail into Whitemud definitely starts at the east end of Apex, one bay up from the portage down to Scarecrow Lake and the Sturgeon River.

When we got there, got we decided to revisit the take-out spot for the first of a series of carries that takes you into Scarecrow and the Ishpatina Ridge trail.  We had done it back in 2009 on our trip down the Sturgeon before paddling up the Obabika River to access Wawiagama Lake.

a short section of boulders on the portage trail to Whitemud from Apex Lake

The second portage to Whitemud from Apex is flatter but a bit rougher than the one from Smoothwater to Apex; it starts nice and smooth, but is then followed by a short section of boulders (none of which had a flat surface for totally secure footing!), and then finished with a mix of rock and earth.

the glacial river bed connecting Apex to Whitemud

Running alongside the portage trail on your righthand side is the impressive bouldered river bed, visible evidence of a glacial stream that flowed down from Apex to Whitemud thousands of years ago.

Yet when I went to the Toporama website (the Natural Resources Canada online map source meant to replace the archived 1:50,000 topos from the 1970s and 80s), here is what I found –

  1. no water flow between Apex and Whitemud;
  2. Whitemud as the headwaters of the south branch of the Lady Evelyn.

the headwaters of the south branch of the Lady Evelyn – Apex or Whitemud?

When we got to the far end, we took some time for lunch before paddling down the length of Whitemud Lake and moving on to the afternoon’s challenge – the first few kilometers of the south branch.

As we sat there on the top end of Whitemud Lake, we glanced over and saw a trickle of water coming into the lake. Proof that Apex Lake was feeding Whitemud? Just a small unrelated water source?

the top end of Whitemud – a small stream trickles in from Apex

Then it was on to the afternoon’s challenge – maps of the river warn paddlers of complications they can expect on the initial stretch of the South Branch. The Ottertooth map (see here) notes this – Spring Travel Only – numerous obstacles, including mud shallows, deadfalls.

Well, it was early September so we were definitely out of season!  How bad could it be?

the Whitemud end of looking down Whitemud Lake from the end of the portage trail from Apex

Into Whitemud Lake we went, spared the hopping from one cluster of grass to the other that some trip reports describe.  There was just enough water – i.e. about six inches – that we were able to pull our way down the lake with half-paddle-blade strokes.

Our GPS track indicates speeds of up to 1.5 km./hr.!  I think it was here that Max pushed his paddle down into the mucky bottom – and it all but disappeared!  We were left wondering what would happen if someone fell in and did not have something to grab on to!

An Afternoon of Obstacles

1:00 p.m. – leaving Whitemud Lake for the initial river section

It took us roughly 4 hours to do the initial five-kilometer stretch of the LE’s upper South Branch. Max’s and my combined age is getting close to 140; a younger crew may get it done faster.  The water conditions at the time will also factor in, as will how rough you are willing to be with your canoe bottom as you haul it over yet another obstacle.

The map below will give you some idea of our slow progress as we made our way to the Jerry Creek outlet.  We didn’t know it at the time but after we reached that point we were through the worst of it.

1:08 p.m. – the remains of a log bridge on the LE’s south branch near Whitemud

approaching the end of a fairly easy stretch of the upper South Branch of LE

1:45 p.m. – low water and a boulder garden on the upper Lady Evelyn South Branch

We took no pix for three hours as we dealt with all the usual obstacles of going down the headwaters stretch of a small river.  You have to accept that your feet will get wet as you haul your canoe over yet one more log. There is a psychological fatigue that sets in alongside the physical one as you look ahead and see more trouble coming!

Doing this on a sunny summer day is obviously preferable – but one good thing about our choice of early September was the absence of bugs.

4:40  –  upper lady Evelyn south branch – approaching Jerry Creek outlet

After Jerry Creek,  progress came more easily; it took only 30 minutes to do a 3.3 km. stretch from the Jerry Creek outlet to the view in the image below.  It was also getting a bit late and we started scanning the shore for a potential campsite.

5:30 and 3.3 km. down from Jerry Creek

It was getting close to 6 p.m. and we were flagging after the afternoon workout.  When we came up to a clearing on river right seen in the pic below, I hopped out of the canoe and took a quick look. Max hopped out too and scanned the area. Our decision – “it’ll do”.

upper Lady Evelyn south branch – campsite search

After a bit of site clearing,  up went the tent and the tarp; out came the Helinox chairs and the food bag. By 7 we were having supper and celebrating our passage down the south branch’s upper section.  Hearing some rain shortly after dark, we did crawl out of the tent and put our second tarp over the tent, partly to keep the tent and fly as dry as possible and also to make tent take-down the next morning easier if it was still raining.

tent up at the end of a day on the upper south branch of the Lady Evelyn River

a tarp over our eating area – CS02 on the Lady Evelyn

Had We Only Known!

The next morning – minutes into the day’s paddle to Florence lake – we would round the corner and see on river left a rare piece of rock outcrop and on the flat top of the slope a fire pit and a ready-made tent spot that was somewhat sheltered from the wind and yet provided great views of the river from its elevated vantage point.  We had missed it by 260 meters!

On rereading the Hap Wilson guidebook after the trip, I realized that the site he describes below is the one that we came so close to at the end of Day 2! He writes:

LE-SB Makeshift CS and an A+ one 260 meters downriver!

If you are planning a trip down the LE’s south branch from Smootwater, then this campsite described by Wilson makes an excellent reward for a couple of 700+meter portages and a half-day of slogging down the first few kilometers of the river.   See the next post for some pix of the site and compare it to the one we stayed at!

Next Post: Day 3 – From Our “It’ll Do’ Campsite to Florence Lake

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top to Bottom: Day 1 – To The Put-In And Up River To Smoothwater Lake

Previous Post: The Lady Evelyn From Top to Bottom – Intro, Route Options, Maps, Logistics, And a Bit of History

A. Getting To The Put-In:

Picking Up Our Shuttle Driver

We drove up from Toronto the day before the put-in and camped on the east shore of the Montreal River as it passes by Mowat Landing, which is where our shuttle would begin and where our trip ended eleven days later.  After the 3.5-hour ride from Toronto to North Bay on Hwy 11, we had less than two to go –

  • 1 hour to Temagami,
  • then 20 minutes to Latchford,
  • and another 30 minutes to Mowat Landing.

Mowat Landing is about 40 kilometers from Latchford. After you leave Hwy 11,  the first half is paved and the gravel half that follows is in decent shape. This is not the often-terrible Red Squirrel access Road down by Temagami!

Trevor and Lisa Graydon are long-time owners of the Mowat Landing Cottages; Lisa would come along to the put-in with us the next morning and then drive our vehicle back to their property.

the Mowat Landing Cottages property – a view from their dock

As mentioned in the previous post, the shuttle cost was $250. + HST;  we also paid $60. for leaving our vehicle on their property and $35. for our camp spot.   We could have parked the vehicle for free on the side of the road leading to the public boat ramp; we saw dozens of vehicles there at both ends of our trip. The Graydons did say that our vehicle would be safe if left on the side of the road.

camping at Mowat Landing Cottages

Those who have backcountry camping permits are requested to leave a copy on the dashboard. It indicates the dates for which you are covered.  However, not everyone will have a backcountry camping permit displayed since many are making use of fishing lodges on Lady Evelyn Lake itself and in that case backcountry permits are not required. Any park official checking permits would not know the difference.

In the end, letting everyone know exactly how long you are going to be out is perhaps not the wisest thing. “Forgetting” to put a copy of your park permit on the dashboard – or leaving the vehicle on Mowat Landing Cottages property – seem like better options.

The Road To the Put-In:

the Montreal River put-in off the Beauty Lake Road

We left Mowat Landing around 8:45 and two hours later we were already paddling up the Montreal River to its headwaters.  We had made use of the Bartle Lake Access Road to get to Hwy 65 which took us to Elk Lake. Then it was west on Hwy 560 and a left hand turn onto the Beauty Lake Road after we reached Longpoint Lake.

Day 1-From Montreal River Put-In to Smoothwater Lake

  • distance: 16.6 km (as the canoe paddled)
  • paddling through the late 1800’s  hunting grounds of Djakwunigan (of the Kingfisher clan)
  • time: 10:40 a.m to 2:30 p.m. – a half-day paddle!
  • portages/rapids: 0 
  • weather: sunny at first, then overcast; then sunny again towards late afternoon; very windy with 1-2 foot swells/whitecaps on Smoothwater Lake (SW wind) and in stretches where the wind was channelled through
  • campsite: at the Marina Lake portage; lots of room for pitching – we found the one ‘good’ spot for a 4-person tent. Could easily accommodate 5 or 6 or more 1-2 P tents; the surrounding area was a veritable mushroom emporium!
  •  1:50000 NRC Topo Map: 041 P 07_Smoothwater Lake

at the put-in on the Montreal River

2009 put-in point – the Hooligan and the MEC duffel are still in service!

We had been at the put-in before!  Back in 2009, we did a trip down to the Sturgeon River via Scarecrow Lake and then paddled up the Obabika River to Wawiagama Lake and on up to Maple Mountain before returning to our vehicle at the end of the Central Access Road. We put together our first canoe post after that trip – you can see the somewhat disorganized results here!

Temagami Canoe Country: Paddling From Ishpatina To Maple Mountain To Bear Island

Our first day on the water was an easy one, only complicated by a strong wind from the southwest and some whitecaps.  It was overcast and coolish weather for the most part with intermittent sunshine.

Looking back at the Montreal River bridge and put-in

When we got to Smoothwater Lake, we first headed to a campsite on the west side of the lake. Unimpressed, we looked for the other one nearby but not finding it (it was one bay further south than we thought!), we decided to paddle over to the beach area on the east side of the lake. Campers were already at the site we had stayed at a decade ago so we landed a bit further south and looked for a possible site. Not finding anything suitable, we paddled south along the shore to the start of the portage to Marina Lake.

central Smoothwater Lake Campsite Options

We found there an acceptable spot for our four-person tent.  A rustic log table to put our stuff on, a canoe tripper’s sign-in book to peruse, and a wide trail to walk to Marina Lake, as well as a forest floor that was covered with more varieties of mushrooms than we had ever noticed before.  It is always nice to have a site where you can ramble around a bit! We were home for the night.

Smoothwater east side beach near Marina Lake portage

 

Marina Lake from the portage trail from Smoothwater Lake

The Garmin inReach Comes In Handy:

After an early supper, we walked north along the shore to where the other campers were.  It turned out that they were friends of the two paddlers we had met downriver from Smoothwater Lake earlier that afternoon.  They were on their way to their vehicle by the take-out at the bridge. They had asked us to relay a message of “all good” if we passed by their three friends who were a bit behind.

Meanwhile, the waves on Smoothwater had been bad enough that their friends had capsized. The three of them had decided to stop, dry out, and wait for better weather the next morning.  I made use of our inReach Explorer to send their two buddies an email to let them know what had happened and that their friends would join them the next day.

Smoothwater Lake looking west from the east side beach

Smoothwater Lake looking west from the east side beach

Nanabush and Mishipeshu On Smoothwater Lake!

As we stood on the shore of Smoothwater and looked west at the awe-inducing light show my thoughts turned to the Anishinaabe trickster/culture hero Nanabush (aka Nanabozho, Nenebuc, etc.).

According to a story told to the American anthropologist, F.G. Speck, in 1913 during his two-week stay with the Ojibwe locals living on Bear Island around the Hudson Bay Co. post, this beach was the setting of epic events. Here is what Speck recorded –

He (Nanabush) had his bow and arrow with him, and as he went along he saw a great snake.He shot it with his arrow. He came to a big lake with a nice, sandy shore, where he saw Lions (mici”bi- zi’w “giant lynx”). He couldn’t shoot them with his arrow as they were too far away, nor was there any place where he could hide himself until they came to sun themselves by the shore when they felt too cold in the water. Finally, he hit upon a plan. He took some birch bark from a rotten stump, rolled it into a hollow cylinder, and placed it, like a wigwam, near the shore. He got inside and made a little hole in the bark through which to shoot and kill the Lions.

This big snake referred to in the first sentence would become a part of the high rocky Ishpatina ridge on the portage to the south of Smoothwater Lake. The “nice, sandy shore” was the one we were standing on!

Mazinaw Rock at Bon Echo Park – Mishipeshu and the Canoes panel

As for the Lions – a better translation would be Great Lynx, known in Anishinaabe mythology as the underwater being Mishipeshu (click on his name to read a bit more about him!). In this account there seem to be a number of lynxes. A flight of fantasy had me thinking that maybe the fire pit was where Nanabush’s hollow cylinder had stood!  The story continues –

When the Lions saw the thing on the beach, they grew curious to find out what this strange thing was on the beach that was not there the day before. So they sent a big snake to twist around it and to try to upset it, but the snake did not succeed in doing this, for Nenebuc (i.e. Nanabush) stood too firm. So the Lions came ashore upon the sand and Nenebuc shot one of them with his arrow a she-lion, the wife of the Lion chief. He did not kill her, but wounded her badly in the side, and the flint arrow point stayed in the wound. She was very badly wounded and went back to a hole which led to a cave in a big rock where she lived. Nenebuc was sorry that he had not killed the Lion queen.

That cave was, according to Speck’s footnote, “in a high bluff on the west shore of Smoothwater Lake”.  The image above includes that western shore.   We would begin Day Two with a search for a rock feature that might be associated with that cave.

Click on the cover above – or the title below –  to download the entire Speck booklet. Pp. 34-36 have the Nanabush-Mishipeshu Smoothwater story.

Myths and Folk-lore of the Timiskaming Algonquin and Timagami Ojibwa by F.G. Speck 1915

The Nanabush story is perhaps the essential Ojibwe myth and was told from one end of the Ojibwe world to the other, from southern Ontario and Temagami to Minnesota. Needless to say, there were many variations of the myth to fit particular local settings and individual storytellers or audiences. Christopher Vecsey has summarized the basic story, highlighting eight key episodes that most versions share.  You can read his useful account here –

The Myth of Nanabush – The Eight Key Episodes Of His Life (C. Vecsey)

 

Day 2 would also involve a couple of 700-meter + portages to get into the narrow and shallow beginnings of the Lady Evelyn River.  It would end with a makeshift campsite on the south branch of the Lady Evelyn River after a half-day of dealing with beaver dams, submerged logs, deadfall and deep mud. We can’t say we didn’t know what was coming! It is the late-season entry fee for a trip down an epic little river!

The next post has the details!

Next Post: Day 2 – From Smoothwater Lake to An “It’ll Do” Campsite on the Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

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