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Climbing Ishinca and Tocllaraju in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca

Our Five-Day Climbing Itinerary:

  • Day 1 – vehicle from Huaraz (3052m)  to Collon and walk up to our tent Base Camp (4350m) near the Refugio Ishinca
  • Day 2 – climb Ishinca (5530)/rest in the afternoon
  • Day 3- late start/ climb up to Tocllaraju High Camp (5300m)
  • Day 4 – Tocllaraju summit (6034m) and return to Base Camp
  • Day 5 – walk out to Collon and drive back to Huaraz (3052)

Back in Huaraz after our Santa Cruz trek and climb of Nevado Pisco, we had a day to relax and get ready for the next chapter in our Peruvian Andes adventure!  My climbing partner and I were heading to the Ishinca Valley with a couple of new objectives –

  • Nevado Ishinca (5530) as a warm-up
  • Tocllaraju (6034m.)

top of the Ishinca valley – Tocllaraju and Ishinca peaks

Take a look at the list below for the Top 10 peaks in North America.  Our two Cordillera Blanca peaks would not be out of place!  The amazing thing is that they are only two moderate peaks of the eighty 5000+m  that the Cordillera Blanca has for keen mountaineers. Tocllaraju ranks 17th highest peak in the Cordillera.

The two Cesars – El Guia (y et jefe) Cesar Vargas and Cesar El Cuchinero – were in charge of the trip. They had done an A+ job on our just-finished ten-day Santa Cruz Trek and Pisco climb.  This post has the details –

Santa Cruz Trek & Pisco Climb In the Peruvian Andes

with Cesar Vargas on top of Pisco


Day 1 – Getting To Ishinca  Base Camp:

The Ishinca Valey is a short drive up the highway from Huaraz to Collon and then a rough road up the bottom of the valley for a short section.  This makes it one of the easier to get to climbing destinations in the Cordillera Blanca.  At the end of the road, Cesar, the guide, took care of the National Park sign-in procedures, and we were met by a village donkey team that hauled our supplies up the valley to Base Camp.  Meanwhile, we did the 15-kilometer walk in about four hours.  [Apple Maps has an Ishinca Trek trail indicated in Satellite view.]

As we made our way on the dirt path, the tree cover provided shade for the first couple of hours.  As we neared the top of the valley, the bush was replaced by rock rubble and grass.  Once out of the wooded lower part of the valley, we stopped for a break.  I looked back and got the following shot –

looking down the Ishinca Valley to Collon

Then I looked up the valley – snow on the peaks ahead but no view of Base Camp yet.

same spot – but looking up the valley

By mid-afternoon, we were there.  The shot below (taken two days later from above the valley)  shows the Refugio (the white structure a bit lower than the center of the image) and the nearby tenting area.

the walk  up the Ishinca Valley in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru


Note: since I did this trip, the nearby settlement of Pashpa has become another access point to the Quebrada Ishinca, perhaps the preferred one since the hike is a bit shorter (11 km instead of 14).  In the end, if you are on an organized trip, your agency will decide which one to use – Collon or Pashpa


Refugio Ishinca and The Tenting Area

The Refugio Ishinca

the image is from the Refugio website

The 70-bed dormitory-style Refugio is mostly used by independent travellers and is open from May 1 to September 30.  It also has a cafeteria which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A bed costs 50 sol a night (about $13. US).  See here for the Refugio web page.  While I never went over to the Refugio,  some people made the short walk to use the toilet facilities.

A taxi ride from Huaraz to the trailhead, a bed at the Refugio, and climbs of a few of the moderate peaks nearby are certainly feasible if you have come prepared.

Here is what is on the menu at the top of Quebrada Ishinca:

  • Ranrapalca 6,162
  • Palcaraju 6,272
  • Tocllaraju 6034
  • Ishinca 5530
  • Urus  Oeste 5450
  • Urus Central 5494
  • Urus Este 5420

Climbing Peaks -top of Quebrada Ishinca

Lots of choice for a keen peak bagger – and all are higher than all but four of the North American peaks!

The Tenting Area

Our Peruvian Andes Adventures crew set up the tents – one for each of the two clients, a cook tent, a dining tent, a toilet tent, a tent for the guide, one for the cook, and one for the porter.  I prefer sleeping in a tent, far enough away from the noise and commotion of Refugio Ishinca’s dormitory.

Nearby the tenting area is a concrete basin with a metal water spout, providing tenting parties with clean water from up the hill.

Refugio Ishinca and tenting area at the top of the Quebrada Ishinca

When we got to the tenting area, there were three groups there.  Two were from Canada.  The guide/leader of one team was from Banff, Alberta; the other guide, whom I had climbed with before, was from Golden, B.C.  Even more, I knew a few of the clients, having been on Alpine Club of Canada climbs with them before.

Sitting in the Quebrada Ishinca surrounded mostly by Canadians!  As you can see in the image above, the meadows are pretty much empty of tents.  Our Camp was on the right side of the image.  Apparently, during prime season, there are dozens of parties at one time, and the camping area gets quite messy, thanks to litter and inadequate toilet management.  We were there at the end of May/ the beginning of June, still very early in the season.

my MacPac tent with Tocllaraju in the misty background

A few minutes later, the mist cleared, and Tocllaraju appeared.  I felt again that mix of awe and anticipation (and apprehension!) as I contemplated its west face and wondered just how we would be climbing to the top.

To that point, my highest – and most difficult – climb had been Mt. Assiniboine (3618m) in the Canadian Rockies.  Tocllaraju was 1400 meters higher!

a late afternoon view of Tocllaraju

While Ishinca is rated a PD-, Tocllaraju gets an AD (Assez Difficil/Difficult Enough) or D (Difficult).


Day 2 – Climbing Ishinca:

Ishinca is a great climb for those who do not have much mountaineering experience, or for those looking to get acclimatized before going on to bigger things. It is primarily a snow walk on glacier sloped until the final 100 meters, which steepens enough that you could fall if you are not paying attention. [Johnson, 156 of 1st Ed.]

Many agencies combine the Tocllaraju climb with a climb of Ishinca the day before to give their clients some extra acclimatization time – and probably to see how comfortable they are with glacier walking and low-grade scrambling on rock and ice.  Our previous ten days on the Santa Cruz trek, followed by our Pisco (5752m) climb, meant we were already well acclimatized.  The Ishinca climb is rated a PD- (French grading system); crampons, an ice axe, and a harness are required!

It was still dark when we set off on the second morning for our climb.  An earlier start meant the glacier/snow section would less likely be soft and mushy, and the walking would be easier.  As the above satellite view makes clear, two-thirds of the route is below the toe of the glacier.

break time on Ishnca – time for a few snapshots!

I took very few photos, thanks to the hassle of taking my DSLR out of my backpack every time I wanted to frame an image.  It was usually during a break when I would haul it out and snap a few shots while munching a Clif Bar and sipping some water.

Ranrapalca (6162) is on the right as we move up Ishinca’s slopes to the left.

As we approached the top, there was a sudden change in the weather, and we lost visibility as the mist enveloped us.  So – no panoramas from Ishinca top…just the satisfaction of knowing we had improved our acclimatization level with our 1000-meter ascent.

After a brief rest out of the wind on top, we headed down, following the tracks we had made coming up.  It is about 6 km from Base Camp to the top via the NW route, so we were looking at a 12 km. day by the time we got back to Camp.

a wee break on our way down

We got back in the mid-afternoon from Nevado Ishinca and took it easy for the rest of the day, knowing the next day we would walk up to the biggest challenge of the past two weeks.

This Wikiloc upload – Nevado Ishinca 2016 – has a GPX/KML track from Base Camp to the summit.  They chose to go up the southwest slope instead of the northwest slope we ascended.  Click on the title or the image below to access it.


Days 3 and 4 – To The Top of Tocllaraju:

Tocllaraju is one of the most beautiful mountains in the range. It is a challenging peak yet not too difficult for a first 6000+ peak. Adventurous yet moderate ice climbing and an exposed ridge lead to a perfect summit. [Johnson, 1st Ed.,150]

Tocllaraju’s normal route – the northwest ridge –  gets a  grade of AD to D, thanks mostly to the final stretch up to the fairly steep and icy summit pyramid.

10:00  We left Base Camp, following the route indicated on the satellite image above. Easy initial walking on a trail was followed by scrambling up more vertical sections of boulders.  Some groups make their High Camp just before the toe of the glacier on the exposed rock. The boulders provide shelter in windy conditions.

We kept going and made camp near or slightly above the spot marked on the image. It is about 1000 meters from Base Camp to our High Camp.

When we got there, I looked over to Isihinca and Ranrapalca and got the shot below.

Ishinca (5530m) and Ranrapalca (6162) from Tocllaraju High Camp on the Glacier

See here for the Google Earth satellite view of the above image.

a view of the neighbourhood from Toclla High Camp

14:30   We arrived at the high camp location, and the tents were up soon after.  Another climbing party, whose clients were from Austria, shared the spectacular view with us.

Tocllaraju climbers – Austrians on the left and our two tents on the right

Tocllaraju High Cam[p – social hour

18:00 We had a bit to eat, and then it was time to lay down and get a bit of sleep before our 1:00 a.m. breakfast call and climb to the top.

It started snowing, and the temperature dropped to about -5 degrees C.  I didn’t get much sleep since I was so hyped about our upcoming challenge.

Until we reached the summit, those photos of our tent were the last I took!

The start of the climb had not been without its drama.

2:00 We left Camp with a bitter wind blowing and below freezing temperature.

3:30 Angelica decided that she could not go on anymore- her feet were freezing.  Her three-season La Sportiva Trangos were perhaps not the best boots, given the below-zero conditions when we set off.

4:15 We walked her back down to the tent where Miguel, the porter, took over.

Angelica was okay, but we were left with a decision-

  • head down to base camp or
  • go back up.

I’m glad that Cesar didn’t pull the plug on the summit attempt and indulged me when I said- “I feel good.  Let’s go.” And that’s what we did.

4:20  Cesar and I turned back to the mountain and retraced our path to below the bergshrund where we had been at 3:30. We were followed by the Austrian crew, who had postponed their own start when they saw us coming down the hill at 3:30.

10:30  We were up on the top after some difficult (for me)  slogging and, in the last hour to the summit itself, much counting of steps (thirty at a time!)  and frequent breaks.  A couple of pitches with a 50-60 degree slope made the final section below the summit interesting.

Cesar was very patient.  When the time came for the bit of technical stuff just below the summit, he made sure that I, as well as the climbers in the other party, were safe and secure on our ropes as he scampered up and set up anchors.  A slip there would not end well.

And here – 15 hours later, on the top of Tocllaraju, the first shot after that tent shot above – a shot of mi Guia muy simpatico Casar Vargas.  Without his skill and experience on this mountain, it would not have been possible.

Cesar Vargas – cumbre de Tocllaraju

After a short break, it was the down trip.  As the saying goes, “When you are at the summit, you’re only halfway there!”  Not the time to relax and get careless.   Following the visible trail created by two climbing teams meant we would be avoiding the bergschrunds and the crevasses on our way down.  First up was the rappel down the stretch of 55º icy slope.

13:00 When we got back to High Camp near the bottom of the snow, we saw that the porter and Angelica had already headed back, along with the tents and everything else.  We took a little break, had some water and a snack,  and then continued our descent.

When I saw the Refugio that I framed in the image below, I felt a combination of triumph and relief that I had actually made it.

Ishinca Base Camp and Refugio from the bottom of the glacier

15:30  We were back at base camp.  On the way, I passed through the tent sites where the two Canadian groups were; by then, I was all but delirious.  When I got to my tent, I  immediately crawled into my sleeping bag.  It was the most drained physically that I had ever felt!

17:30 .  Angelica came to get me up for supper.  I told her I would pass but asked her for some water.  She returned with my full Nalgene bottle, and after drinking a cup or two, I went back to sleep

6:30  I crawled out of my tent for breakfast the next morning, feeling much better than I had twelve hours before!  I stood outside my tent and looked back up at where we had been less than twenty-four hours ago.  I had managed to climb a 6000-meter peak!

After a leisurely breakfast, we headed down the Quebrada Ishinca to the vehicle that would take us back to Huaraz.  As with everything else of this Peruvian Andes Adventures– organized trip, the vehicle was waiting.


Back In Huaraz

2:00 p.m. We were soon back in Huaraz, perhaps the #1 mountain town in all of the Andes, thanks to the specialized services its climbing outfitters can provide and the mountains that they have nearby.

The Peruvian Andes crew dropped me off at Olaza’s Guesthouse.  The two weeks just spent in and out of Huaraz were such a high that I knew I’d be coming back to this mountain town for more of the Cordillera Blanca.

Olaza’s Guesthouse rooftop patio

olaza guesthouse wall

While Huaraz looks like a ramshackle town, thanks to the Great Peruvian Earthquake of 1970 which took many lives and destroyed most of the town’s main buildings. What it lacks in charming buildings, it makes up in the welcoming nature of the tourism economy its citizens have created in the past fifty years. It is just a great place to be – and is the starting point of countless incredible mountain treks and climbs.

Two years later- after a trip that brought me to three of Ecuador’s highest peaks- I was back in Huaraz again.  This time I did a fifteen-day HuayHuash Circuit with Peruvian Andes Adventures.

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit: South America’s Finest High-Altitude Trek

I smiled when I saw Cesar the cook again- and learned that Cesar’s younger brother

Miguel would be our guide for this visit to a mountain range made more famous by Touching the Void, the British climber’s gripping account of his adventure on the slopes of Siula Grande.

mountain views from Olaza’s Guesthouse rooftop


Some Useful Planning Links:

Brad Johnson’s Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca

The Cordillera Blanca is second only to the Himalayas in the number of high-altitude climbing objectives.  More than any other book, Brad Johnson’s is THE book that captures the grandeur of the Peruvian Andes.

With its photographs, maps, detailed route outlines, and text, the book provides the information needed to understand what is involved in climbing the various peaks that make up this fairly compact yet majestic mountain range.

The 1st.  Ed came out in 2003.  It was a finalist (though not one of the ultimate prize winners) at the 2003 Banff Mountain Book Festival.  I bought the book in 2007 in my search for info on a trek or climb that I could add to my visit to Machu Picchu.  The book opened up a world of possibilities that I had not considered before.  In 2009, a updated and revised 2nd Edition was released.

There is one problem: the book is difficult to find and does not exist in digital form.


Summit Post

This website hosts reports by climbers from around the world.  It is an excellent source of inspiration for new climbing destinations.  The Cordillera Blanca is well covered. Of course, Tocllaraju and Ishinca are there.  The site is worth visiting just for the stunning images the climbers have uploaded – but there is much more detailed and helpful information.


Finding A Reliable Outfitter/Guide Agency

Peruvian Andes Adventures is not the only outfitter/guide service in Huaraz that can make your trip happen for you.  In fact, it was inexplicably not even mentioned in the last Lonely Planet Peru guidebook I looked at!

The two adventures they arranged for me:

  1. the Santa Cruz Trek with a climb of Pisco add-on
  2. climbs of Ishinca and Tocllaraju

were both A+.  Excellent logistics and equipment; food was plentiful and well-prepared, and even vegetarian-friendly; the guides were skilled and experienced.  The Morales family owns the company and goes out of its way to make your stay in the Huaraz area memorable and hassle-free.  They even picked me up at the bus station and drove me to the guesthouse I was staying at!

I was so impressed that I used Peruvian Andes for a 16-day Cordillera Huayhuash trek a couple of years later  – and they earned another A+.  Check out their TripAdvisor score to see if I am the only one enthused with their level of service –

TripAdvisor Reviews of Peruvian Andes Adventure


Finding Accommodation In Huaraz

Huaraz has lots of reasonably-priced accommodation for visiting hikers and climbers.  booking.com or TripAdvisor will turn up some great choices.  Read the more recent reviews to see if service has slipped or not.


On my Ishinca trip, I stayed at Olaza’s Bed and Breakfast and was 100% pleased with my stay.  See the TripAdvisor Reviews for what others think.


During my second visit to do the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, I stayed at the Morales Guesthouse.  It also proved to be a convenient base for my three weeks there.  Here is their latest TripAdvisor score  –

Amazingly, the area of town where it is located managed to escape the devastation of the 1970 earthquake- so you get to walk the quaint colonial streets nearby.

The hotels and guesthouses are used to storing your left luggage while you are out on a trek, so no worries there.

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The High Passes of Everest Trek: Namche to Chhukung Days 4 – 7

Previous Post: The High Passes of Everest Trek: Lukla to Namche Days 1 – 3

Namche to Chhukung satellite image – from bottom left to top right

Days 4 – 7 :

  • distance: 24 km
  • elevation (meters):  Namche 3440 to Tengboche 3860 to Dingboche 4410 to Chhukung 4730 to Chhukung Ri 5550 to Chhukung 4730
  • kml file of route: click on the download prompt in the top left-hand corner and open in Google Earth

Day 4: Namche To Tengboche

  • distance: 9 km
  • time: about 4 hours

Namche to Dingboche – Himalayan Maphouse map…hard copies available in Kathmandu

On Day Four we left Namche and headed up the trail on the west side of the Dudh Khola valley. Along the way, we went down to the river and crossed over to the other side before heading to the spiritual heart of the Khumbu, the monastery village of Tengboche. 

(It is also spelled Thyangboche in some guidebooks and reports, and not to be mistaken for Pangboche or Dingboche, settlements further up the trail!)

Mani Wall and our tent site above Namche at dawn

boy in upper Namche at 6:25 a.m.

mani wall and Himalaya peaks above Namche Bazaar

our trekking crew in a meditative mood at breakfast inside the lodge where we tented

the trail from Namche to Tengboche Monastery on the west slope of the Dudh Kosi valley

a view of the trail from Namche to Tengboche and its monastery

The trail from Namche is on the west side of the Dudh Kosi. The images above and below show a small section of it. Eventually, it leads down to the river itself, making a crossing on a suspension bridge. But before we descend, we pass through another small settlement. Tables sit on the side of the trail with souvenirs to tempt the trekkers passing by.

section of trail on the west side of the Dudh Kosi with a bridge on the bottom right

approaching a stupa on the way to Tengboche

souvenir yak bells tempt trekkers returning to Namche from higher up

souvenirs on a table on the trail to Tengboche

Crossing the bridge in the image below, we walked up the switchback trail to Tengboche. Coming up were its famous Gompa or Monastery and our tent spot for the night.

suspension bridge over the Dudh Kosi to Tengboche

trail-side huts with precious firewood stacked high

Tengboche satellite view

We arrived at Tengboche in the early afternoon. Our tents were already set up in front of the café/bakery not far from the settlement’s reason for existing – the Tengboche Monastery (Gompa in Tibetan). The monks there belong to the oldest of the various Himalayan Buddhist sects, the Nyingma.  [Tengboche Monastery’s history – a Wikipedia  entry.]

Construction on the original gompa was finished in 1916. Eighteen years later, it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt. It was not to last very long; in 1989, a fire would badly damage it.  It has been rebuilt again and is a major attraction for trekkers on the trail up to Gokyo or Everest or Imja Tse. A typical ritual involves the head monk bestowing blessings on Everest climbers before continuing their way up to Base Camp at the top of the Khumbu Glacier.

Tengboche Gompa complex (3860m) as you arrive on the trail- the spiritual center of the Khumbu region

looking down from the steps of Tengboche Gompa to the trekking trail beyond the gate

Tengboche Gompa (Monastery) gate from the gompa steps

prayer wheels at Tengboche with  workers behind

workers adjusting a decorative piece on the stupa with the gompa behind

looking out the main entrance of the gompa at Tengboche

our Exodus blue tents at Tengboche-  and the yellow tents from Phakding too!

Inside Tengboche Monastery’s Central Prayer Hall:

At around 4 p.m., we were ushered into the central prayer hall in the monastery and found places to sit around the periphery of the large and highly decorated room while the monks went through their daily chants and meditations. No videos were allowed; photos were okay. My camera struggled with the low light, but the images still helped me recall the feeling of sitting on the wood floor and listening to the bells and rhythmic chanting while the incense floated about the room.

inside the main hall at Tengboche Gompa

trekkers/pilgrims watch the service unfold at Tengboche Gompa

the scene during service at Tengboche Gompa

a moment during the service in the prayer hall at Tengboche Gompa

Tengboche prayer hall scene

Tengboche Gompa meditation ritual

the stupa (chorten) outside Tengboche Gompa- from the gompa darkness to outside light!


Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche

  • distance: 11 km.
  • time;  3 hours
  • altitude gain: 550 m from Tengboche (3860) to Dingboche (4,410)


  • Tengboche to Chhukhung

Tengboche Gompa at 6:00 a.m.

Tengboche wall detail – Buddha figure in dancing Shiva-like pose

yaks still chillin’ at Tengboche at the beginning of a trekking day- and workers are back at the stupa for final touches

sign detailing climbing rules and expectations

bridge over the Imja Khola above Tengboche

a view of Ama Dablam from the trail near Dingboche

passing to the left of all chortens, stupas and mani walls

nearing Dingboche (4410m) on the route from Tengboche (Thyangboche)

Dingboche and the trails up the Khumbu Glacier and Imja Khola valley

Dingboche is the doorway to some of the world’s most iconic – and epic – mountain scenery.  It sits at the junction of two trails:

  • the trail going up the west side of the Khumbu Glacier to Everest Base Camp
  • the path going up the Inja Khola valley to Chhukung and Imja Tse (aka Island Peak)


Day 6: Dingboche to Chhukung

Himalayan Maphouse map…hard copies available in Kathmandu

looking at the trail up ahead on the way to Chhukung

the tpathon the way to Chhukung

a simple bridge across the Imja Khola

the trail along the Imja Khola towards Chhukung, our tent site for the next two nights

Chhukung is made up of many trekkers’ lodges and serves those heading for one of the nearby climbing peaks, Inja Tse (aka Island Peak) being the most popular.  Base camp for that climb is seven kilometres up the valley, and the hike is sometimes made by trekkers.

Chhukung -Imja Khola valley

Chhukung with Island Peak further up the valley

Day 7: A Hike Up Chhukung Ri (5550m)

Like Day 3, Day 6 was an acclimatization day. The idea is to hike to a higher altitude during the day and then return for another night’s sleep at a lower one. The “Climb high, sleep low” mantra for trekkers is often built into itineraries followed by trekking agencies. It makes sense.

Already mentioned was the hike up the valley to Island Peak Base Camp at 5040m. It is located just above Imja Tsho, one of the fastest-growing lakes in the Himalayas, thanks to the melt of the two nearby glaciers.  The likelihood of a glacial lake outburst flood was strong enough that Nepalese Army engineers and local villagers constructed a canal that drained off some of the accumulating water and lowered the water level by some 3.4 meters in 2016.

Since the hike to Imja Tse Base Camp only involves an altitude gain of 310 meters, a better choice for acclimatization is Chhukung Ri, easily accessed from the lodges.

a view of Chhukung (4730m) from the hills above- our blue tents are visible on the bottom left

In the satellite image below, you can even see the well-trodden path up the spine of the hill right to its 5550-meter  summit. A total altitude gain of 770 meters had me occasionally stopping to catch my breath and pulling out my camera! Incredible views in all directions  -to the north the Nuptse ridge, east to Inja Tse, south to  Ama Dablam, west to Dingboche…One big WOW! I really should have done a short video of the scene!

the walk up Chhukung Ri (5550m)

a view of the north face of  Ama Dablam (6856m) from the top of Chhukung Ri (5550m)

Looking east up the Imja Khola valley with Amphu Gyabjen (5630m) on the right and Imja Tse (Island Peak) (6189m) on the left

The view from Chhukung Ri of our previous day’s walk up along the Imja Khola from Dingboche

We returned from our acclimatization hike around noon and spent the afternoon in the dining room of the lodge in whose yard we had tented.  I also took the opportunity to have a basic hot water shower in a small shed at one of the other lodges. At US$3. for a hot bucket of water – and at the cost of the wood that someone had hauled up to Chhukung from down below – it was an extravagance. However, it did feel great to wash off a week’s worth of dust and sweat.


Crossing The First of the High Passes – Kongma La:

The trek continued with our crossing of the first of the three high passes, Kongma La and a walk across the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche.  We walked up to Gorak Shep on our second day there and ascended Kala Pattar. The thin yellow line on the satellite image above shows the route. The following post has the details, maps, and photos.

Next Post: Chhukung to Kala Pathar Via Kongma La – Days 8 – 10

See also:

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A Winter’s Day Walk Along The Banks of Toronto’s Lower Don River

One of the perks of living in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood is the easy access to the Don River Trail.  It runs from Pottery Road almost all the way down to Lake Ontario.  It is the Pottery Road-Riverdale Footbridge section that was for a decade the almost daily” big walk of the day” for our Icelandic Sheepdog Viggo.

Viggo coming down the steps to the Lower Don trail

While he is no longer with us, the lower Don still is and now memories of Viggo add to the experience of walking the age-old river path I re-established and maintained so that we could avoid the bike traffic on the sometimes very-busy paved main trail.  It can have the vibe of a stage in the Tour de France as cyclists come zipping by!

I went down a couple of days ago – it was -10ºC and some 15 cm. of snow overnight had blanketed the neighbourhood.  The  5-km. walk starts with a descent to the trail on those steps you see above. Then it is north along the path and over a small footbridge.

looking south at the bridges spanning Gerrard, Dundas, and Queen Streets over the Don

the abandoned Metrolinx railway bridge.

I approached the flimsy shelter on the banks of the river hoping that there would not be anyone inside. It would be easy enough to fall asleep in the below 0º temp and not wake up. Whew – no one there!

And no one on the main trail either as I walked north!

looking south

looking north to the Prince Edward Viaduct

There is a side trail on the left side of the above photo that takes you down to the river on what I like to think of as a portage trail.  Brief moments out of time – I forget that I am in the middle of an urban collection of 5 million people!

The ducks are floating placidly at Viggo’s beach – certainly more at ease than if he was here with me at this moment.

a shady section of the river path just before it rejoins the main trail

To the north of the Viaduct, a collection of late 1800s architectural pieces used to dress up Victorian-era buildings –

On my return, back on top of the Riverdale footbridge crossing the Don, I stop to check the scene on the Cabbagetown side. It has a great sliding hill and there are some people taking advantage of the snow-covered slope.

The Cabbagetown tobogganing hill

The tobogganing hill on the Cabbagetown side of the Don River valley is a great one but an even better one is on the east side just off the side of Broadview Avenue. Here is a view of the main sliding area from the bottom –

A bit to the south is another open area with a more gradual slope. That’s it in the image below! It is more of a “family with young children” spot to hang out! Parents line the top as they watch their 5-year-olds slide down the hill, no doubt worrying a little about what can happen.

the Riverdale East beginner’s hill at Broadview

See the post below for some pix and action taken  – not from the bottom of the Broadview hill – but from the top.

Related Post:-10ºC and Snow in Toronto – Great For Toboganning!

Today – two days later – on my way back home from a slushy walk down in the valley,  I walked up that same beginners’ slope. Thanks to the +6ºC temperature for the past day, the hill was looking very different! Patches of exposed grass and slush instead of snow.

We’ll just have to wait for the next snowfall!

Related Post: Dashing through The Snow – Viggo Has A Winter’s Blast!

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Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where The Map Says It Is!

Related Post: Temagami’s Lady Evelyn of the Lake – Who Was She?

Smoothwater Lake and Lady Dufferin Lake in the NW corner of Ontario’s Temagami area

I’ve paddled up the east branch of the Montreal River to its headwater lake, Smoothwater,  a couple of times. Before you get to it, you go through another lake named  Lady Dufferin.   Each time, I’ve wondered what the Lady would have thought had she seen the inconsequential, marsh-lined and not terribly scenic widening of the river that someone decided her name should grace.

It is actually not the lake that he had given the name to, as I would find out! The much more significant and scenic lake that he named Lady Dufferin was about twenty kilometres downriver!

Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada:

The someone who did the naming was Robert Bell (1841-1917) of the Geological Survey of Canada, a department of the Canadian Government tasked with mapping the lakes and rivers – and cataloguing the mineral, agricultural, and timber wealth – of the Canadian Shield. He was one of the greatest of Canada’s greatest explorers and is credited with naming over 3000 geographical features in that part of Canada which he helped open up through his reports.

Robert Bell and field crew 1881

The report he submitted on the 1875 season detailed the terrain he and his crew paddled and portaged from Lake Huron to Wanapitei Lake and then up the Sturgeon, down the Montreal’s east branch, over to the Mattagami River, and down to James Bay before heading back to Michipicoten on Lake Superior via the Missinaibi River.  Quite the trip!

In the report, he mentions that he named a lake on the east branch of the Montreal River after Lady Dufferin.

Why Name A Lake After Lady Dufferin?

From 1872 to 1878, the just-created Dominion of Canada’s  Governor-General was Lord Dufferin. Bell had enough status in Ottawa society that he would have met the G-G and his wife at Ottawa gatherings or at their official residence, Rideau Hall. The Wiki bio linked above includes this observation –

Lady Dufferin was one of the most popular of the governor-generals’ wives, and was starting to build up her reputation as “the most effective diplomatic wife of her generation”.

Naming a lake after her may have been based on a personal connection to the G-G and his wife and an honour to be accorded to someone of her status. Here is what Bell had to say a few years before in his 1870 Report on Lake Nipigon:

Even though Bell often stuck with the local – i.e. Anishinaabe –  language names for places, he did on occasion reach into the name bag of Empire! As with Lady Evelyn for another lake in the area that he named after another G-G’s eldest daughter, this was one of those times.

The Bell Quote In The 1875 Report:

But back to my initial point –  was this really the best lake that Bell could choose to put her name on in his summer travels?  I turned to the 1875 Report hoping to find a direct quote about his naming the lake.   What I found was initially confusing;  it did not fit the names found at the headwaters of the east branch of the Montreal River!   Here is what he wrote:

The first bit of confusion was the name White Beaver Lake, which he uses instead of the one we use now – i.e. Smoothwater. The lake, he writes, is reached after traversing a series of ten lakes and ponds from the Sturgeon River. These ten stretch from Hamlow Lake by the Sturgeon River up to Apex Lake just south of Smoothwater.

Smoothwater is the English translation of the Ojibwe Zhooshkwaa (smooth) + agamiing (lake). On some maps it appears as ShusawagamingGiven the role the lake supposedly plays in the local version of Nanabush and the Flood Story, it does seem odd that its mythic significance is not acknowledged in some way in its name.

Bell’s dimensions and description for White Beaver fit exactly with Smoothwater Lake.  His name for the lake was probably the English translation of a name (Wabaamik?) he got from someone local.  It was not the one that eventually ended up on the map for some reason.

He writes that it is “fifteen or sixteen miles, in a straight line” to Lady Dufferin Lake from White Beaver Lake. He is clearly not describing the lake we know as Lady Dufferin Lake less than two kilometres below (i.e. to the north of) Smoothwater Lake!

Fifteen miles from Bell’s White Beaver Lake puts us right in Gowganda Lake. Again,  as with White Beaver (i.e.Smoothwater), the particulars of the lake fit perfectly with Bell’s description.  He notes the portages to enter the lake, and of the outlet, he writes –

The three lakes (Burk, Edith, and Obushkong) and the branch – a bay stretching NW to Kawakanika Lake – are on the map.

Gowganda Lake

Someone in the Mapping Department in Ottawa screwed up and attached Lady Dufferin’s name to the wrong spot on the map.  Instead of that “beautiful-shaped expansion” of the river 25 kilometers north of Smoothwater Lake, it is that non-descript “lake” just 2 kilometres downriver.

Now that I know Bell’s intent, the next time I paddle up to Smoothwater, I won’t be wondering how naming this short section of the river after someone would be considered an honour!


A copy of the Bell Report can be found in this 48.5 Mb pdf file:

Geological Survey of Canada Reports of Exploration and Surveys 1875-1876.pdf 

The Bell Report – pp.294-342 

The reference to Lady Dufferin Lake is on p.299.


If you’d like to paddle up to Smoothwater lake from the Beauty Lake Road put-in, click on the title below to access the map from the Ottertooth website’s Temagami Canoe Atlas Series:

Smoothwater Map

From Smoothwater, you have a few possible route options.  Two include:

  • heading south to Scarecrow Lake and a summit attempt on Ishpatina Ridge, Ontario’s highest point (2275’/693m).
  • turning east from Apex Lake and making your way down the south branch of the Lady Evelyn River.


Related Posts – Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Route Options, Maps, Shuttles, Permits, And More

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Temagami’s Lady Evelyn of the Lake – Who Was She?

Related Post: Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where You Think!

Lady Evelyn – such a genteel name! How did it become the name of a lake in the Temagami area of northern Ontario? Who was she, and whose idea was it to name the lake after her? This post is a record of my attempt to deal with the question marks – abandoned more than once because of seeming dead ends or impossible-for-me-to-accept answers. After a year and a bit of stop and starts, I think I’ve arrived at the right place!

Table of Contents:



By 1901 Geological Survey of Canada crews and surveying teams sent by the Ontario Government had spent a few summers paddling the waterways of the Temagami region and produced fairly detailed maps. Cartographers then labelled local landmarks, most lakes and rivers, and various significant landmarks.

Ontario Govt -issued map from 1901 – see here for the entire map set

  • Sometimes the English phonetic equivalent of a local Anishinaabe name was chosen -Temagami, Matabitchuan, Obabika, Wawiashkashi, Maskinonge, Anima-Nipissing – to name a few.
  • Sometimes the name was the English translation of the local Algonquin or Ojibwe word.
  • Some landmarks received the names of those who had come to the region to exploit its resources – fur, minerals, lumber – or to establish fishing lodges, hotels, or camps or to map it.

However, the names that do not seem to have any direct connection to the region sometimes leave those pouring over the maps wondering just what the story is. While there are more than a few that come to mind, none more so than the Three Ladies, all found at the north end of the Temagami area – Lady Dufferin, Lady Sydney and Lady Evelyn!

It was Lady Evelyn that first piqued my curiosity. The Ottertooth website is an excellent source of Temagami-related information, especially canoe route planning, so I headed there first.


Option #1: Lady Evelyn Campbell

The Ottertooth article Who Was Lady Evelyn? notes that the lake was named by Robert Bell, the renowned Geological Survey of Canada geologist and explorer credited with naming over 3000 Canadian geographical features. A bit of googling led to this passage from a Geological Survey of Canada document published in 1899. Written  by Bell’s assistant, A.E. Barlow, the report confirmed the Bell origin of the name:

See here for Barlow’s entire report. The quote above is from p. 268.

What is noteworthy is that both Bell and Barlow often also mention the Ojibwe name used by the locals. It puts the notion of an “I came, I saw, I renamed” scenario to rest. The actual maps that the names would appear on were years in the future, and sometimes when they finally found their way to paper, they were put in the wrong place! [See my post – Robert Bell’s Lady Dufferin Lake: It’s Not Where the Map Says It Is! for an example.]


The Ottertooth article turns to  Bruce Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson and their book The Temagami Experience for a possible answer to why Bell chose the name.

Bell, note Hodgins and Benidickson, was a prominent explorer in his day and moved in the upper circles of Ottawa. That included being on the guest list at Government House, the Governor General’s residence. The governor general from 1878 to 1883 was Sir John Douglas Campbell (Lord Lorne, 9th Duke of Argyll). His sister was Lady Evelyn Catherine Campbell and while visiting Canada likely met Bell at Government House. Maybe Bell became a little infatuated, as she was single until 1886.

The digital text of  The Temagami Experience is available at the Internet Archive site. [Click here to access it. Log in to borrow the book for an hour at a time.] I did spend an hour with the text. While I could not find the details mentioned in the above account, the one passage I found put a different spin on it. I read this –

Bell then entered Moozkananing, the haunt of the moose,’ which, consistant with imperial custom, he renamed Lady Evelyn Lake in honour of the sister of the former governor-general, the Marquis of Lorne. Traditions of empire thus began to compete with traditions of nature in the Temagami country. [Hodgins, 52]

While Bell uses the name in a summary report of his 1887 or 1888 fieldwork in the Temagami area, he does not explicitly state it was his idea. (See here for the text.)

This was not the first time Bell had named a lake after someone related to a Canadian Governor-General. In 1875 on his first trip through the region, Bell had renamed a lake that Hodgins says had the local name Negigwaning (“the place of the otter heads”) as Lady Dufferin Lake. Her husband was the Governor-General from 1872 to 1878. One might see it as a way of honouring or, if you lean towards the more cynical,  currying favour with an important political figure.

However, there are problems with Hodgins’ choice of Lady Evelyn Campbell as the Lady Evelyn of the Lake. The first is the timing. His Excellency The Marquis of Lorne was the Governor-General of Canada from 1878-1883, having succeeded Lord Dufferin. If the Lady Evelyn after whom the lake was named was the Marquis of Lorne’s sister, then Bell chose to name it after her at least five years after her brother’s return to England.

How often she would have been in Ottawa for Bell to meet is unclear, although, given the nature of travel back then, it couldn’t have been more than two or three times. [Seven to ten days was typical for the London to Quebec City trip in 1880.]

Did she make that much of an impression on a 40-year-old married man with three children? Born in 1855, she would have been between 23 and 28 when Bell would presumably have met her while she was visiting Rideau Hall from London.

Robert Bell –  the lower middle figure with the beard –  with his field crew in 1881

[Bell was born in 1841; he married in 1873 to Agnes Smith in Glasgow. By 1888 they had two daughters. He joined the Geological Survey of Canada on a full-time basis in 1867 and, by 1879, was promoted to the position of Assistant Director. See here for a brief account of Bell’s life.]

The Hodgins’ explanation includes the line – “Maybe Bell became a little infatuated, as she was single until 1886.” Not clear is if this is Hodgins’ view or that of the Ottertooth writer. Given his marital status, It seems unlikely that Bell would so publically try to ingratiate himself to this Lady Evelyn, years after one of her occasional visits to Ottawa and two years after she got married.

If he did so to make a positive impression on her brother, he waited too long! Since the Marquis of Lorne’s appointment ended in 1883, five years before Bell named the lake, it is unlikely that naming it after the ex-G-G or his sister would have earned him any useful credit! Doing so would also have had the current G-G wondering precisely what Bell was implying with his naming gesture!

Update: More time with Hodgins’ book turned up this footnote which states that Evelyn Campbell is the Lady of the Lake without providing any reason why this would be so other than the probability that they might have met in Ottawa while her brother was G-G some five years before she was accorded the honour.


Option #2: Marie Evelyn Moreton/Lady Byng

See here for the image source.

More googling the name “Lady Evelyn” led to another candidate –  Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy, a former Viceregal Consort of Canada.” Lady Evelyn Byng, the wife of one of Canada’s Governors-General, the one who served from 1921 to 1926. [Note: she is the Lady Byng who donated a trophy to the NHL in 1925 to be awarded to the most gentlemanly player each year.]

This Evelyn was born Marie Evelyn Moreton in 1870 and married Lord Byng in 1902. Since Bell named the lake Lady Evelyn as early as 1888 and maps from 1900 already show the name in use, could Bell really have thought of this Evelyn when he made the choice? She was 33 years from coming to Canada as the wife of a Governor-General!

However, from the late 1870s, when the Marquis of Lorne was the G-G of Canada, Marie Evelyn Moreton’s father had served as the comptroller at the official residence, Rideau Hall. She would have been between eight and thirteen years old during her father’s tenure in Ottawa. If Option #1 is unlikely, then even more so is that Bell would name the lake after the pre-teen daughter of an employee of the Governor-General five years after her family returned to England from their Canada service.


Option #3: Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Ward (Crichton)

See here for the image source

A third possible Lady Evelyn appeared when I googled my way into “What’s In a Name?” an article by Jennifer McCartney. She had turned to The Encylopedia of Canada for the answer. This particular encyclopedia set dates back to 1935.

Here is what her article has to say –

But there’s intriguing mention of another Lady Evelyn that suggests the lake could be named for a different British aristocrat. This comes via the Encylopaedia of Canada, Volume III that has an entry for Lady Evelyn Lake.

“The lake was so called probably by a tourist or prospector, Member of the Orange Association before 1896 in honour of Evelyn Louisa Salina, daughter of John Henry, 4th Earl of Erne, who was born on 21st July, 1879. The Erne Family has long been associated, as Grand Masters and otherwise with the Orange association. Conjectured date of naming was 1879, shortly after Lady Evelyn’s birth or baptism.”

Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Crichton was born around the right time for this story to make sense. She later married Gerald Ward, who was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. There’s no evidence this Lady Evelyn travelled to Canada in her lifetime—but the Orange Order was well-established in Canada by this time, and perhaps an enthusiastic Protestant was so inspired by her birth that they named a lake after her.

Thirty years before McCartney’s article, the Reid/Grand classic Canoeing Ontario’s Rivers, depending on the same sources, had made the same assertion.  Their chapter on the Lady Evelyn river began like this –

I checked out the biography of John Henry Crichton, 4th Earl of Erne – the Wikipedia article mentions some children. It did not include a Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa! (See here.) She does, however, appear in other genealogical lists, including these two





[See here for the source.]

One problem with this account is that it attributes the naming not to Robert Bell but to a member of the Orange Order (a militant Protestant Christian group formed in Ulster, Ireland, in the late 1700s). Since the name Lady Evelyn was used by the Geological Survey of Canada by 1888, this Lady Evelyn would have been no more than nine when her name was chosen.

Presumably, her father’s status as an Irish Orange Protestant Grand Master or a defender of Protestant Christianity in Ireland was the main factor that led to her name being chosen. However, none of the online information I found indicated a connection to the Orange Order or his staunch defence of a Protestant Ireland.

In the end, it seems far-fetched that this Evelyn is the answer to the question. It is so obscure that no one would even have known that a statement was being made by naming the lake after her. The tourist alone would not have been able to do any map labelling!   Is it possible that Bell, on meeting this Orange Order member who was visiting the Temagami area, decided that his suggestion made sense? More research into Bell’s religious background may explain why Bell, the son of a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman, would feel compelled to honour some Anglo-Irish peer’s nine-year-old daughter by naming a lake after her!

The passage from McCartney above ends with one last observation – “perhaps an enthusiastic Protestant was so inspired by her birth that they named a lake after her.” It leaves you wanting to know what could have been that inspiring about her birth! She was the fourth of a minor Earl’s six children! As with Hodgins’ use of the word “maybe” before he suggests a romantic yearning prompted Bell’s choice, McCartney’s use of the qualifier “perhaps” is a clue that she is definitely over-reaching for an explanation.


Craig Macdonald, the creator of an Ojibwe-language-only map of the Temagami area, has another version of the Robert Bell-John Henry Crichton connection. In an article in Legion: Canada’s Military Magazine (May 2006), the journalist  summarizes what is presumably Macdonald’s explanation like this –

In the 1880s, Robert Bell of the Geological Survey of Canada named it Lady Evelyn Lake after the daughter of an Irish aristocrat of his acquaintance. (source here)

Instead of the Encyclopedia of Canada account of a prospector or tourist suggesting the name (but not indicating to whom),  here Bell himself takes the initiative thanks to a personal relationship with the Earl that he acknowledges by naming a lake after the Earl’s nine-year-old daughter. But why her and not her sister Mabel Florence, born three years later in 1882? Some actual evidence is needed before this Evelyn can be accepted as the answer!


The Ontario Names Board Secretariat Replies

It was around this time, having come up with three less than satisfying candidates,  that I gave up on the question! Months later, on noticing that the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Foresty had an Ontario Names Board Secretariat, I figured I’d send off an email asking about Lady Evelyn and Lady Sydney Lakes. Maybe they had an answer?   I got this prompt reply-

Your request was forwarded to me here at the Ontario Geographic Names Board Secretariat.  I researched our digital historical geographic names records and found the attached official records from our card catalogue of names.

The card states that Lady Evelyn Lake was made official on March 2, 1950 and was “named by a tourist or prospector member of the Orange Assoc., before 1896 after Evelyn Louisa Salina daughter of John Henry 4th Earl of Erne. Presumed date of naming was 1879 shortly after Lady Evelyn’s birth or baptism.” It lists numerous historical map references for this name, as well as some for Evyline Lake and Mattawapika River.

Unfortunately the card for Lady Sydney Lake does not include any origin information.  It was made official on the same day, March 2, 1950.

A shocker for sure! Here is the card from which the above information was taken –  a section that sounds like that Encyclopaedia of Canada article McCartney quotes.

Ontario Names Board card………. [See here for Lady Sydney. N.B. I cleaned it up!)

Given that the name had appeared on Government of Canada topos since the 1890s, you have to wonder why the name only became official in 1950! Perhaps the federal and provincial governments duplicated the work by having separate naming commissions?

The card refers to a Mr. Fullerton, a Surveyor-General of Ontario, as one source of the explanation. A Mr. C. H. Fullerton is identified as the then- Surveyor-General of the Province of Ontario in a 1938 article “A Winter Survey” by F.H. Peters. The Liberals ran the provincial government from 1934 to 1943, so his job as surveyor-general probably coincided with those dates. The reference to him is tagged with a WB/’45 which does confuse the issue. Given that it was wartime and his position was not a political one, it may be that he still held his job in 1945.

The paragraph on the card is all but identical to the section from the Encyclopedia quoted by McCartney. Fullerton and whoever wrote the paragraph on the card got their information from the entry on Lady Evelyn Lake in the Encyclopedia article mentioned above. The Encyclopedia’s entries were written mainly by W.S. Wallace, who also edited the six-volume set.

Where Wallace found his story – who can say!


More on Lady Evelyn Selena! Hodgins, in his The Temagami Experience (1989), considers the likelihood that she is the Evelyn of the Lake and dismisses it here –


A Side Question Pops Up!

I thought back to Robert Bell and his preference for using Indigenous names. How come he had not used Monskananing or Mooskanaw instead of Lady Evelyn?

In regard to geographical names, we endeavored to ascertain all those used by the Indians, both in reference to places on Lake Nipigon itself and in the surrounding country. These we always adopted in preference to any others. For the correct meaning and mode of spelling the Indian names, I am indebted principally to Mr. Henry De La Roiule, of Poplar Lodge. There are, however, many geographical features for which the Indians appear to have no distinctive names. When names of any other origin existed for these, we always adopted them. There still remained many localities for which we could hear of no designation whatever, and it then became necessary, for the convenience of description, to give names to them.

Was Lady Evelyn Lake a geographical feature for which the Indians appear to have no distinctive name? When names of any other origin existed for these, we always adopted them. Clearly, this was not the case; Barlow mentions the very name in the first quote of this post. While it makes you wonder why he did not just choose the local name,  it also shows that there was no reason for him to accept a name proposed by a tourist to the region intent on celebrating the Loyal Orange Order.

Bell was in the Temagami area in 1887 and 1888. A couple of years later, he was down in the Sudbury area, where a mining boom prompted the need for a better understanding of the area’s geology. In the introductory pages of the report published in 1891 – Report on the Sudbury Mining District – Bell wrote –

In some cases the expressive Indian names which had been m use from time immemorial had been replaced by others on the surveyors’ township plans. In such instances, while accepting the latter, we have also restored the aboriginal designations upon our map. But it was found that many features made known by our explorations and surveys to which frequent reference required to be made, had no names whatever, and to these, for convenience of reference, we were obliged to give some distinguishing appellation.

Was Monskananing not expressive enough? Maybe it was too common? Googling Moose Lake at the Natural Resources Canada topo site turned up over fifty variations! Still, this makes it no different than all the lakes with names like Trout, Long, or Cliff that can also be found in multiple locations on a map of Canada.

And what about – In regard to geographical names, we endeavoured to ascertain all those used by the Indians…These we always adopted in preference to any others? Hodgins states “Bell then entered Moozkananing, the haunt of the moose,’ which, consistent with imperial custom, he renamed Lady Evelyn Lake…” Given Bell’s overall record and openness to Anishinaabe names, Hodgins’ statement is overly harsh.

The arrival of the Lady Evelyn card scan from the Ontario Names Board and the puzzle about why Bell did not just go with Mooskananing or Monskanaw or some other variant brought me to an impasse! I put the whole thing aside.

And then, a few days ago and almost a year later, I was mapping this summer’s canoe trip in the Lady Evelyn area. Going through Hap Wilson’s Temagami canoe tripping guidebook, I came across a statement that prompted me to reopen the case of Lady Evelyn of the Lake!


Option #4: Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice/Lady Cavendish (after 1892) the Duchess of Devonshire after 1908

Lady Evelyn Lake lost its Ojibwa title of mons-kaw-naw-ming [sic] or “haunt of the moose” to the wife of the Duke of Devonshire, probably because of the difficulty Whites had in pronouncing Native names. [Temagami, 91]

That glib comment got me wondering. Since Monskananing has no more syllables and is no more difficult to pronounce than Wawiashkashi, TimiskamingBiscotasing, or Matabitchuan,  there had to be a better explanation of how the lake came to be known as Lady Evelyn.   And given that Wilson would have known of Robert Bell and his work with the Geological Survey of Canada, his “probably” prefaces an explanation that he knew was not the case.

The Wilson quote did provide a possible clue – “Duke of Devonshire’. Another British lord! Perhaps finding out who he was might lead to an explanation?


While there is a long list of Dukes of Devonshire, the one with a Canada connection was Victor Cavendish, the ninth in the line. He succeeded his uncle Spenser Compton Cavendish as Duke of Devonshire when he died without an heir in 1908. More to the point, the ninth Duke served as Canada’s Governor-General from 1916 to 1921. However, since his appointment came almost thirty years after Bell named the lake,  this lead did not look too promising!

However, this bit of information provided the possible answer to the question –

He married Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice, eldest daughter of Lord Lansdowne (Canada’s fifth Governor General), on July 30, 1892.  (See here for the source)

Since the name was already in use by 1900, long before Duke #9 became G-G in 1916, if Monskananing lost its place to anyone, it was to Lady Evelyn as the daughter of Lord Landsdowne and not as the wife of the Duke of Devonshire.

Portrait of Lady Evelyn Cavendish, John Singer Sargent (1902)

Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, served as Canada’s Governor-General from 1883 to 1888. His wife, Lady Maud Evelyn Hamilton and their four children accompanied him. His eldest daughter, Evelyn Emily Mary, born in 1870, would thus have spent most of her teen years in  Canada.

In 1892, Evelyn would marry the man who would eventually become the Ninth Duke of Devonshire. As the Duchess of Cavendish, she gave birth to five children, all but the oldest of whom were still alive when she died in 1960.

As noted above, in 1875, Bell had named a nearby Lake Lady Dufferin while her husband served as G-G. Since the name Evelyn was shared by Lord Landsdowne’s wife and daughter – and since they were in the last year of their stay in Ottawa –  naming the lake after one or both of them was probably meant as a final thank-you for their public service to Canada.

Just which of the two did Bell have in mind? Given that his wife was technically Marquessa and Evelyn was only her second name, that leaves his 18-year-old daughter as the most likely person after whom the lake was named!

Unlike Lady Evelyn Campbell, who may have visited Canada a handful of times during her brother’s appointment, this Lady Evelyn spent most of her teen years in Ottawa. She may have been familiar with Bell’s children, though they would have been 10 years younger and closer in age to Evelyn’s younger siblings.

  • Option #1: Lady Evelyn Campbell 
  • Option #2: Marie Evelyn Moreton/Lady Byng
  • Option #3: Lady Evelyn Selina Louisa Ward (Crichton)
  • Option #4:Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice/the Duchess of Devonshire

Of the four options above, it is #4 which best fits the evidence. The 18-year-old daughter of Lord Landsdowne, Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Fitzmaurice,  is whom  Bell named the lake after in 1888, the last year of her father’s term as Governor-General.


Related Post: Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Introduction and a Bit of History

Posted in Anishinaabek World, Temagami, wilderness canoe tripping | Leave a comment

-10ºC and Snow in Toronto – Great For Tobogganning!

toboggan: a Quebec French word from the Anishinaabe (i.e.Algonkian) word topagan meaning “sled”.  Along with “toque” and “loonie” and “eh” and “two-four”, the word makes most sense to fellow Canadians!

overview of the Broadview sliding hill – spot the CN Tower!

We’ve had a cold stretch here in Toronto and it doesn’t look like things are warming up any day soon! Here is the Weather Network forecast for the next week – some low nighttime temps coming up, including -19ºC tonight. Also expected – another 5 to 10 cm. of snow!


I grabbed my iPhone as I left the house. Since I was walking past the section of Broadview Avenue popular with sledders and sliders, I figured I’d grab a shot or two of the scene. I had just been exchanging emails with someone in the Serengeti region of Tanzania; I planned on sending him a photo of what things look like here on a sunny -9ºC afternoon.  He might get a chuckle at the contrast with what he has!

I walked up our street to Broadview. While the sidewalks are now mostly bare, there are still snow piles of snow on the curb.  Early this week we got a month’s worth of snow in a day! It will be a while before the City crew comes by and takes it away.

There were dozens of people -more often than not, the parents – standing at the top of the hill when I got to Broadview.  The hardpacked snow surface was giving the tobogganners the thrills they were after.

At the south end of the hill is where the parents with younger children head; the slope is more moderate and it makes for a better introduction to this quintessential Canadian pastime! The activity is not without its risks; last week an Ottawa child died on her first-ever try at tobogganing.

I passed these two guys standing there with their chillin’ Leonberger and my thoughts turned to our own dog, an Icelandic sheepdog named Viggo.  We have walked up and down this hill a thousand times over the past 12 years.  For the past couple of months, I have not been out doing the daily five or six kilometers that Viggo and I used to – we lost Viggo to liver cancer in November and things just haven’t been the same.

Viggo – one happy Icelandic Sheepdog

What used to be done on wooden toboggans – that is, sleds with curled-up fronts like the one pictured below  –  when I was a bit younger back in the late 1950s,  is now done mostly on plastic!

the classic wooden toboggan from back in the day!

I never did stick around to see if the passenger on this sled was able to hold on to her iPhone all the way down – or whether they ended up tumbling off the sled before they got to the bottom.  Let’s hope she was able to post an awesome TikTok video of their epic 20-second slide down Broadview Hill!

Across the street from the slopes sits a local landmark, the Ukrainian Catholic Church – definitely an eye-catching piece of architecture that blends tradition with modernity.

As you walk north along Broadview you soon come to the tennis courts; there are four of them and they are all buried under a meter of snow.  It is a good thing that Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are playing down under right now!

Next to the courts is the hockey rink and beside it is an open skating area for folks without hockey sticks.

As I passed by, skaters were lined on the perimeter of the open skating area waiting for the Zamboni machine to finish cleaning the ice.

Even though the thermometer read -8ºC, it felt great to be outside and do a bit of walking!

Just north of the skating rink is the Loblaw’s grocery store where I was headed.  All the way up I had stepped aside to keep my distance from other walkers.  Now – as we approach Year 3 on the Covid calendar – I slipped on my black N95 mask and headed inside to do a bit of shopping.


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Bushwhacking the Ogoki Headwaters: Days 3, 4, and 5

Previous Post: Paddling The Ogoki Headwaters – Days 1 and 2

Day Three: When You’ve Got Two Bad Choices!

Ogoki headwaters – Day 3 – some trouble spots circled

  • distance: 2.5 km total, about 510 m of boreal bushwhacking
  • time: 8 h
  • portages/rapids: an all-day extravaganza, read on!
  • weather: hot, very hot (  17˚ to 31 ˚C; max. humidex ~36˚); mostly clear
  • campsite: nice thick, fluffy, bouncy boreal moss, everywhere 🙂
  • 052 J 09 Neverfreeze Lake – Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50,000 topo map
  • See Toporama (here) for NCR’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
  • our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)

Another early get-up to take advantage of the cool of the early morning … As the following video clip shows, we got to paddle a  tranquil slice of the boreal forest, definitely an upgrade from the bushwhacking down the river bed of the first two kilometers of the Ogoki.

It was not to last –  that jarring sound at the very end of the clip woke us from our dream state!

The nose of the canoe hit a submerged log just not quite deep enough to skim over.  Back to reality!  And as we rounded the bend in the river,  a complication up ahead!

I hopped out to have a look; it did not look good! I scampered along the left shore about 25 meters to see what was coming up – still not good! It was a replay of the situation we had faced for most of the previous day – and one we were not keen on repeating!

Ogoki headwaters blockage

Ogoki headwaters river view

In planning for the trip, I’d checked out my copy of Canoe Atlas of The Little North (2007). It indicates a 1440-meter portage trail that allows paddlers to avoid the kilometer or two of yet more bushwhacking that they would have to do if they choose to stay with the river.

The Wabakimi Project Volume 1 map (my copy dates from 2009) had the same 1440-m portage but also notes the logging road (702) which crosses it at the one-kilometer point before a final section of trail down to the water. Given that its portage distances are identical to those in the Canoe Atlas, it is likely that the Project map has taken its info from the Canoe Atlas.

Wabakimi Project map – portages from Savant Lake To Tew Lake Via Ogoki River

A post-trip visit to the useful canoe tripper’s online resource,  Paddle Planner,   turned up the following rendition of the portage.  At the bottom left-hand corner, a credit is given to the Wabakimi Project map.  Given the very precise measure of the portage  – 1278 meters –  the impression left is that it is based on someone actually having walked it.

We paddled back to the bend in the river where our map indicated the start of the portage. After going back and forth a couple of times and seeing nothing – no flagging tape, no sign of a canoe landing, no sign of human traffic, no blazes – we were left with a choice to make:

  • go back and deal with what the river had for us or
  • make our own “trail” through the bush.

Given the eight hours we had spent on Day 2 dealing with the first two kilometers, we had no reason to think the next five would be any easier. Low to no water and no portage trails would mean another full day of slogging.  Much better to go overland and skirt all the problems the river was throwing our way – a portage of two or three hours and we would be done with it.  That, at least, was the thinking!

While we were at the maximum trip weight – with 23 kg. of food in our packs – even at 9:30,  it was hot enough that the mosquitos that could have made it a nasty experience, were nowhere to be seen. Off we set. If there was a portage trail in there, we did not stumble upon it!

satellite view of the terrain from the river bend to the open water

We decided to move across in small 100-meter legs, each of which required three carries so that for every 100 meters forward we were walking 500. We found out soon enough that it would not be easy.

Ironically, in this summer of massive wildfires in the boreal forests of northwest Ontario, this slice of it could really use a good burn!  We were walking on a mishmash of lichen, rotten tree trunks and assorted deadfall and blowdown. Most steps were question marks as we moved our gear down the line to the next bit of orange duck tape.

About 1 1/2 hours into the “portage” I did express the thought that maybe we had made the wrong choice.  What to do?  Spend 1 1/2 hours moving everything back to the river and deal with what we had tried to avoid – or push on with what we started?

Some high school Shakespeare bubbled into my mind and I recalled Macbeth’s words as he surveyed the results of his murderous path so far –

I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.

Change the word blood to bloody boreal and our situation was nicely encapsulated. Like Macbeth, we decided to go o’er!

on our way to that logging road

We didn’t know it at the time but we had embraced probably our most unsettling and forgettable canoe tripping experience ever – and one that we’ll never forget! Over the next 26 hours, we would spend eight of them bushwhacking through the boreal Canadian Shield version of an Amazon jungle.

Max checking his Etrex 20 to make sure we are on track

what looks like a friendly section of our carry

By 2:30 or so we were “bushed”! We had covered a mere 500 meters and the temperature was in the low 30s C. It was feeling even hotter. And we had a water problem; we were running low and would not have enough for the next morning unless we went back to the muddy creek we had crossed a half-hour previously and filled up our three Gravity Works bags.

We decided to stop for the day. Up went the tent; out came the lunch bag.  After a bit of a break, we wandered back and scooped up 12 liters of somewhat muddy creek water.

our tent halfway across the “portage”

Later, after supper, when I went for a walk to see what tomorrow morning held in store, I was able to string together a series of rock outcrops with little vegetation on them.  While they took us off our direct path, they made progress easier. Before we crawled into our sleeping bags, we made use of this easy section to haul the canoe, the water bags, and the food bags another 140 meters down the line.

some bare spots in the boreal – string enough together in as straight a line as possible and you have a portage trail!

Day 4: Out To the Logging Road and Back To the River

  • distance: 5 km to campsite
  • time: 11 hrs.
  • portages/rapids: 2/0 – 720 m (to the road); 1.72 km on the logging road to the river, then back on the Ogoki for the rest!!
  • weather: very hot 😦  20 C˚ to 33 ˚C;  max. humidex ~40 ˚C; from clear to partly cloudy
  • campsite: make-do on raised outcrop; ok for 1 x 4 person

We were back at it by 8:30. Shortly after noon, we got to the logging road. Totally focussed on just getting to the road, we had taken zero photos of our traverse!

The logging road goes north and crosses the Ogoki about 1.7 km. from where we came out. First, we walked up and down the gravel road to see if there were any traces of a portage trail or signs of anyone having come out of the bush on our side of the road. Nothing evident. We looked on the other side of the road for signs of a trail or of human traffic that would indicate a portage back to the river. Again, nothing.

Not keen on another session of boreal bushwhacking to get to the water, we picked the other option. We would move our gear up to the logging road to the bridge that crosses the Ogoki River and put in there. We fantasized about an empty logging truck passing by and stopping to give us a lift. A fantasy it remained!

The 32ºC  temperature and the complete lack of shade during the hottest part of the day had us break the 1.7 km. road portage into segments of 300 or 400 meters. At the end of each double-load carry, we took a ten-minute break. Two and half hours later, we were at the bridge and keen to get back to a canoe trip that involved water!

the logging road we walked up to access the river

I looked west from the bridge and saw the Ogoki snaking its way through low-level scrub and marshy terrain. As it came up the bridge it was maybe 15 cm deep, maybe just enough to float our canoe.

the Ogoki river headwaters as it snakes towards logging bridge 702

We hauled the canoe and bags down to the river, squeezing by a cached boat to do so. While the initial stretch looked promising we would soon find that the shallow water meant for more than a bit of scraping and hauling the canoe over semi-submerged logs and rocks.  From 5 to 6:30 we managed to move down 2.1 km. of the river.

the downriver side of the bridge – our put in

Faced with another portage, we took a quick look before deciding a good night’s rest was in order and that we’d leave it for the next day.  When we saw a flat spot on an elevated rock outcrop nearby, we headed over to check it out.  It would have to do!

Day 4 CS on the banks of the Ogoki

Our focus on “top to bottom” river trips has provided us with some challenging but, in the end, exhilarating situations.  However, in this case, we were not feeling the exhilarated bit! Had we decided to continue our trip down the Ogoki via the portage by-pass route, originally developed because the river itself was probably even more work, we were faced with the likelihood that those portages also no longer existed and that more bushwhacking would be on tap.

That night we made the decision to pull the plug on our exploration of the upper Ogoki – well, at least the rest of the headwaters section to just before Wabakimi Lake.

We figure that all the portages marked in red on the map above are now only historical in nature. They were probably a part of an HBC fur transit route from Nipigon House on Wabinosh Bay (and after 1830 relocated to near Jackfish Island) on Lake Nipigon. Once the furs arrived at Osnaburgh House they were transported down the Albany to company warehouses on James Bay.

Canoe Atlas of the Little North (2007) indicates all these portages; the Friends of Wabakimi map from two years later reproduces them all. Trails that haven’t existed for a hundred years or more survive on paper. It reminds me of

  • the historical-only Mink Portage on the Kopka River or
  • the Big Bend Portage on the Pikitigushi River above the Mud River VIA stop.

They continued to appear on NRC topo maps into the 1990s even though they no longer exist. However, since no one uses them anyway, it doesn’t really matter, at least not until someone plans on walking them!

the string of Ogoki lakes from Tew to the Reservoir

Beyond Tew Lake the Ogoki takes on a totally different character; it becomes a sequence of big lakes joined by narrow channels punctuated with rapids and falls and well-used portage trails. Wabakimi, Kenoji, Whitewater, Whiteclay…all the way to the Ogoki Reservoir and beyond.

In my pre-trip planning, I had calculated that we would be on Whitewater Lake by the end of Day 5. Well, here we were at the end of Day 4 about 5 kilometers as the crow flies from our Endogoki starting point!

With supper done, we made use of our Garmin inReach Explorer+ to send Mattice Lake Outfitters an email about the possibility of a “Beaver shuttle” from the lake we would be on the next morning east to Whitewater Lake. We got a response much faster than expected – “We’ll pick you up mid-afternoon tomorrow. Just send us your exact coordinates.”

[At the end of the trip as we sat on the Mattice Lake Outfitters porch, Don Elliot gave us a souvenir photocopy of the map sheet on which someone had pencilled in “Albinger Lake” on the patch of open water where the pilot would land the next afternoon. They could not remember ever landing a plane on that lake!

a view of the next morning’s first order of business – an unrunnable set of rapids

Day 5: Airlift From Ogoki Headwaters To Whitewater Lake

  • distance: 3 km; 69 km;
  • time: 2h + waiting time; 26 min flying time,
  • portages/rapids: 2/0 – lining 150 m into Nameless Lake
  • weather: hot (20 C˚ to 33˚ with max. humidex ~40 C˚); clear/partly cloudy
  • campsite: camper’s choice, multiple 4 person spots on the shore but all exposed

This morning  I took another look at the sleep data generated by my Polar Vantage M watch.  My usual overnight sleeping heart rate average is 47;  after Night 3 it read 65; during Night 4 my sleeping heart rate average had climbed to 75 beats per minute! Yikes!

We looked forward to a few hours of sitting around and waiting for the plane to arrive – but there would be some work to do first.

a view of our tent space – without the tent

With the tent down and the canoe loaded, we set off for the first of the morning’s to-do list. It came up within a couple of minutes.  In the image below, the canoe sits in 15 cm of water and I’ve walked ahead to see what we need to do. Shallow water meant that the portage along the left side of the river would be a bit longer.

Twenty minutes later we had hauled everything to the bottom and were ready for what the river had for us next.

at the bottom of a mini portage on the Ogoki headwaters

Surprise! A minute or two down a stretch we could float in –

And then one final bit of hauling to get beyond the boulder garden you see in the image below. We hopped on the rocks on river left to get to the bottom –

looking back at the boulder garden we had just portaged

The nameless lake below the two dry sets of rapids on the Ogoki headwaters took us an hour to get to.

Once on the widened section of the river,  we paddled over to the west shore.  It was there that the supposed portage trail comes out.  We found no evidence of a portage or of human traffic as we scanned the shoreline.

Ultimately, you have to wonder – who would be coming this way-  and from where? It would certainly not be locals from Osnaburgh House or the VIA stop at Savant Lake.  This route would lead them nowhere that they would want to go.  Locals do not even travel by canoe anymore – and the route is certainly not one for a “boat and kicker”!

Our scan of the west shore of the lake done, we paddled over to the other side and set up the tarp to give us a bit of shade.  We also took advantage of the sloped rock and the beach to cool off in the lake, had a leisurely lunch,  and another cup of coffee.

Around 3:30 p.m. we started listening more carefully for the drone of a De Havilland. The plane finally arrived at 5 and by 6 we were 70 kilometers  downriver.  With our airlift completed, we paddled to the south shore of Whitewater Lake not far from the Wilderness North outpost at the lake’s west end and set up camp. It felt great to be sitting next to water  – we were back to actually being able to paddle!

Whitewater Lake – west end beach campsite

Coming up: two days of canoeing across Whitewater Lake with return visits to the Ogoki Lodge property and the Wendell Beckwith Cabins on Best Island. Things had changed since our previous visit in 2011!

The following post has all the details and pix!

Next Post: A Two-Day Paddle Across The Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake From West To East

Posted in Wabakimi, wilderness canoe tripping | 2 Comments

Bushwhacking The Ogoki Headwaters: Days 1 and 2

Previous Post: The Ogoki From Top To Bottom: Intro and Basic Route

The Ogoki River is a major tributary of the Albany River, which was one of Canada’s most important water highways during the fur trade era. In the early 1940s, the Upper Ogoki’s water flow was diverted with the construction of a dam at Waboose Falls.

The dam redirected its water (95%+ of it) from the Albany watershed into the Great Lakes basin via what became the Little Jackfish River. A mere trickle passes the Waboose Dam on its way down the Lower Ogoki to Ogoki Lake and on to the Albany River.

Our goal: to paddle the Ogoki from its headwaters in Endogoki Lake to the dam at the east end of the Ogoki Reservoir. Then we would follow the Upper Ogoki’s water through a channel excavated across the height of land to the South Summit Control Dam, where it merges with the Little Jackfish River for a final run down to Lake Nipigon’s  Ombabika Bay.

We had fourteen days to git ‘er dun!

Day One: By Beaver To Endogoki Lake

  • distance: 2 km plus 105 km Beaver flight from Mattice Lake
  • time: 45 min flight; 1hr. paddling down the Lake for a campsite
  • portages/rapids: 0/0
  • weather: hot! 30ºC+ hot! sunny late afternoon and evening
  • sightings: none
  • campsite: room for 1 x 4p tent, possibly 1 or 2 x 2p
  • Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50000 topo maps: Neverfreeze Lake 052 J 09  b&w 1970).
  • See Toporama (here) for NCR’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
  • our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)

We woke up in Marathon, ON, at the top of Lake Superior around 5:30 a.m., keen to get on the road and finish our long drive up to Wabakimi. The day before, we had already done 1200 km.; still to go were another 600 to Mattice Lake just south of Armstrong. Then we could put away those car keys and switch into canoe trip mode for a couple of weeks. We did hang on to the covid masks for the plane ride!

flight path – Mattice Lake to Endogoki Lake

By 4 p.m., we were airborne. Our pilot was Yves, the guy who had dropped us off at Cliff Lake on our last visit to Wabakimi three years before.

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

When he asked, “Why Endogoki?” I told him we wanted to do the Ogoki River from the very top, and since it was the headwaters lake, it was the spot we needed to start from. Other than bush plane insertion, there is no easy entry, and there would be no other reason to paddle up into the dead-end Lake. The once-upon-a-time fur trade route into the top of the Ogoki River system bypassed Endogoki Lake and instead involved a 700-meter portage from the northeast arm of Savant Lake. [See below for a map with the 700-meter historical portage indicated.]

De Havilland Beaver at the MLO dock – ready to be loaded

the De Havilland Beaver instrument panel

The Endogoki is a long narrow sliver of a lake, about four kilometers from north to south. Our goal for Day 1 was simple enough: paddle north on the Lake until we found a decent campsite and then celebrate our arrival in Wabakimi for another excellent adventure!

a view of the Endogoki Lake from the south

a view of the south end of Endogoki Lake

At the end of our trip, while sitting on the front porch of the Mattice Lake Outfitters office, Don Elliot remarked that he could not recall anyone ever having been dropped off in Endogoki Lake before. We would soon find out why!

Yves wishing us a nice two-week paddle

By late afternoon our tent was up on the east side of the Lake, and we had set up our Helinox chairs. We looked west towards the only possible sources of man-made noise –

  • traffic on Hwy 599 some 25 km. away and
  • motors at the two lodges on the west side of Savant Lake  17 km away –

and remarked on the absolute stillness of the neighbourhood. It was quite the contrast to the two days and 1800 kilometres of road hum and the thirty-minute De Havilland Beaver rumble to get to Endogoki.

The next day the adventure would begin. We would finally get to add the Ogoki to the list of  “top to bottom” trips along with the Missinaibi, the Coulonge, the Little Missinaibi, the Steel, and the Lady Evelyn.

our Endogoki Campsite late afternoon

In the image above, the top of our tent is in the bush – a flat spot for our four-person MEC Wanderer. Given the weather forecast for the next six days -clear, sunny, and very hot – we did not bother putting the 10’x14′ silnylon tarp over the fly.

looking across Endogoki Lake at dusk – absolute quiet

our Endogoki Lake tent spot

sun setting to the west of Endogoki Lake

Day Two: Welcome to the Ogoki Headwaters! 

  • distance: 6 km
  • time: 9.5 h
  • portages/rapids: 2/0: two major shallow/no water areas that took most of the day to navigate around, plus many shallow lift-overs etc.
  • weather: 18 to 31 ˚C; hot, clear and sunny; humidex 33 ˚C; wind SW 17 kph
  • sightings:
  • campsite: point on an  unnamed lake; 1 x 4p and maybe another 2p tent
  • Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50000 topo maps: Neverfreeze Lake 052 J 09  b&w 1970).
  • . See Toporama (here) for NCR’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
  • our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)


We were keen to get started and got up at 6:15. [Note: we were in the Central Time Zone but did not bother adjusting the time, so it was actually 5:15.] The cool in the early morning was a treat. It would get much warmer as the day progressed, with temperatures in the low 30ºC range with an additional wallop provided by the humidity.

sunrise on Endogoki Lake – our tent spot

our Endogoki breakfast table

Our goal for the day was a modest 15 km or so. This would take us down the initial narrow outlet section from the Lake to a widening of the river before we paddled NE towards the logging road and then headed south to a campsite on the unnamed Lake. The topo map shows where we expected to be –

our first Day on the Ogoki – the 15 km. goal for the day

What unfolded over the next eight hours was something entirely different! While anticipating some challenges, we had not imagined spending an entire day moving a mere 6 kilometers downriver from our Endogoki Lake campsite!

We were at the north end of the Lake at 8:30; we did not get to the open water until 4:20 in the afternoon! According to the topo data, there is a one-meter drop from Endogoki Lake (402m) to the nameless Lake beyond the initial narrow stretch.

We had never spent a day putting so much time and effort into moving forward so little, about two kilometers over seven hours. Looking back at the experience, it still seems difficult to believe! It was worse than our all-day tussle with Petawa Creek; it was many times worse than the four hours we spent on the initial few kilometers of the Lady Evelyn’s South Branch.

our first day on the Ogoki River’s headwaters stretch

The following three photos are the only ones we have of our memorable first day on the river. All show a river with next to no water to float a canoe in, lots of deadfall and boulders impeding forward progress. It was mid-August in a low-water year – we had no reason to be surprised.

the Ogoki River – initial stretch out of Endogoki Lake

the choices – bushwhack or walk down the river bed

Since it was our first day on the river, we were travelling at maximum weight. The terrain was such that we did multiple carries since we could not stick to our usual double-pack system. The 30º+C temperature didn’t help, and neither did the fact that we hadn’t put in enough time yet to get into trip shape.

By 4:30, we were paddling towards the point on the east side of a wider but still noticeably shallow section of the river. We found a decent spot for our spacious MEC Wanderer 4 tent; there was no sign of anyone having stopped there before.

our tent on a flat spot on the Ogoki headwaters – Day 2 CS

dusk with smoke on the Ogoki headwaters – Day 2

On another mosquito-free evening in Wabakimi, we leaned back in our decadent Helinox chairs – two kilograms of portage weight! – as we sipped on our consolation shots of Crown Royal. While the chairs would still weigh the same at the end of the trip, at least the Nalgene bottle would have lightened up by 1 kg.!

As we watched that sun sink below the horizon in the haze,  we wondered how close we were to the bush fire creating the smoke. Before the day ended, I emailed our outfitter about the wildfire situation. We would learn that it was coming from the Quetico Park area, blown 275 kilometers by the southwest winds.

We hoped the next day would bring a more manageable workload than the one we had just lived through!

dusk on the Ogoki – Day 2

Next Post: Bushwhacking the Ogoki Headwaters – Days 3 and 4.

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Paddling Down The Little Jackfish River To Lake Nipigon

Previous Post: Paddling The Ogoki Reservoir From Waboose Dam To South Summit Control Dam


Table of Contents:


The Upper and Lower Little Jackfish River:

From its South Summit Lake headwaters to Ombabika Bay on Lake Nipigon, the Little Jackfish River (LJR) is 45 kilometers long.

  • The top half is a sequence of four lakes – South Summit, Stork, Moule, and Zigzag – separated by falls or rapids.
  • The section from the bottom of Zigzag Lake to its mouth is a much narrower river run with a number of rapids and portages.

There are two long sets of continuous rapids in the stretch just south of the Jackfish Road bridge which crosses the river 6.5 km. below Zigzag Lake.  The bridge is a common end-of-trip point. Near the mouth of the LJ,  Canadian National rail tracks cross the river. Pre-arranged pick-ups here or at the VIA stop at Ferland are possible. Apparently, Ferland is also accessible by vehicle from the Jackfish Road.

Portages From South Summit Dam to Ombabika Bay:

  • 1 to 5 – South Summit to Zigzag Lake
  • 6 to 10 – Zigzag Lake to the Jackfish Road Bridge
  • 11 to 16 – from below the Bridge to Ombabika Bay

The Little Jackfish Before the early 1940s Dams 

A 2011 study of the proposed 75 MW LJR hydroelectric project makes clear the impact that the Waboose Dam and the Ogoki River diversion had on what we now know as the Little Jackfish River.

See here for the entire report. I’ve copied and pasted the short segment on the LJR –

The Ogoki Diversion converted what was then known as Jackfish Creek with a flow of 4 m³/sec into the LJF River with an average flow of 122 m³/sec…Major works were undertaken in what is now known as the LJF River. These works included the following:

  • Construction of a new railway bridge and channel where the Canadian National Railway (CNR) line crosses the LJF River (Photograph 2);
  • Major channel expansions in the area south of Zigzag Lake (Appendix A: Photographs A-1 and A-2); and,
  • Construction of Waboose and Summit Control Dams and channel improvements associated with these facilities.

Since 1943, the Long Term Average (LTA) flow in the LJF River has been approximately 122 m³/sec. The diversion works (Summit Control Dam and various channel improvements to the LJF River) were designed for a maximum flow of 283 m³/sec.

The slow 4 m³/sec current of the pre-1940s creek probably explains the Jackfish (i.e. northern pike) name.  The dense weed beds along the shallow shoreline would have made excellent spawning habitat for the fish that in the Ojibwe language has the name ginoozhe (also transliterated into English as kenoji).

In late August 2021 when we went down, the water flow was in the 80 m³/sec range.

Jackfish Creek – 1930s

construction of the CN railway channel (circa 1943)

Little Jackfish River Maps:


Surficial Geology of the Little Jackfish River Area:

A few years ago we paddled down the nearby Pikitigushi River from Butland Lake to Windigo Bay.  To no surprise, the Little Jackfish has a very similar surface geology profile. The big difference between the two is in the meandering that the Pikitigushi does in the 50 kilometers it takes to cover the final 20 kilometers to the Bay.

They share the following surface geological features:

  • 1a silty to sandy till
  • 2c end moraine, interlobate moraine, sand, gravel, boulders
  • 4c sand; silty to sandy till
  • 4a varved massive clay and silt

Perhaps the biggest single environmental impact of turning Jackfish Creek with a flow of 4 m³/sec into the Little Jackfish River with its average flow of 122 m³/sec is the massive amount of silt and sand that has been carried downriver into Ombabika Bay over the past eighty years. This report – Erosion: Environmental Fact Sheet– looks specifically at the impact of the increased water flow.

See here for the map source and the full explanatory legend.

back to the top


The LJR’s “White Mile” Stretch Below the Bridge

Going down the Little Jackfish River from Mojikit Lake had crossed my mind years ago.  but it was crossed out as soon as my inadequate googling led me to a couple of items.  The first was this Youtube video –

I somehow projected the white water in that video to the Little Jackfish in general!

I then confirmed the impression left by the video by googling my way to a trip report titled Wabakimi’s ” Little” Jackfish River on the SuperiorTrails.com website. Here is how the piece started:

‘Little Jackfish River’ sounded innocent enough, like a creek in someone’s backyard. But it wasn’t a creek. It was a monster, wider and faster than anything we’d paddled before, with rapids that screamed and surged around rocks the size of Suburbans.

“Little Jackfish my ass,” said Erin, our guide. “How about ‘Hell-Roaring River of Death’?”

Anf that was it for any consideration of the Little Jackfish River for a decade!

While planning our trip down the Ogoki from the headwaters to the Waboose Diversion Dam and the South Summit Control Dam,  I returned to the idea.  If we were really going to do the upper Ogoki River from top to bottom, then going with Ogoki water down the Little Jackfish River to the logging road and on to Lake Nipigon’s Ombabika Bay would make it complete.


A few days after I posted a brief outline of our proposed trip on the Friends of Wabakimi Trip Reports Forum, I received via email a detailed trip report from John Holmes.  He and other Wabakimi Project volunteers had gone down the Little Jackfish in 2014 and mapped and cleared the portages all the way to the Little Jackfish Road. The trip report really helped clarify things and added a lot of detail to the two pages on the Little Jackfish River in Volume 5 of the Wabakimi Project map set.

[The trip report was subsequently made available at the Friends of Wabakimi forum here or go directly to the 3.8 Mb pdf file here.]

From the report, I learned that the dramatic bit of whitewater featured in that video mentioned above is located just south of Jackfish Road. It is/was the proposed location of the Ontario Power Generation’s Little Jackfish hydroelectric project. Holmes’ report did note the various portages around the White Mile section of the river, though his crew did not do any work on the section of the river below the bridge.

The idea of ending our canoe trip with a descent of the Little Jackfish didn’t sound so crazy anymore!


South Summit Dam Outflow Rate:

With info on rapids and portages in hand, there was still one other concern – that is, the outflow volume at the South Summit Dam. When I visited the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) website and found the data for the dam (see here),  I realized that the kayakers in the video I had seen all those years ago had probably driven the 60 kilometers from Armstrong on the Little Jackfish Road in June or early July and put in at the bridge for their two-kilometer fun ride down.

Here is the 2021 graph showing the 2020 and 2021 (up to September)  outflow rate measured in cubic meters per second:

Summit Control Dam – Outflow rate in m³/sec    [1 m³/sec = 35.3 ft³/sec]

This year 220 m³/sec (7769 ft³/sec) was the peak outflow; we would be going down in late August with a probable outflow rate of 75 to 80 m³/sec.  An email to an OPG contact in Thunder Bay about our plans for late August this year confirmed that there was no outflow increase planned for late August. [The day after our trip ended, there was massive rainfall in the area; the uptick in outflow rate is the early September result.]

The copy of the FoW trip report and the OPG outflow graph changed my initial and long-held view about going down the Little Jackfish!

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Day 13: From South Summit Dam To Stork Lake

  • distance: 6 km
  • time: 2h: started at 10 and done by noon – we took our time!
  • portages/rapids: 1/1 290 m portage + 40m up to campsite
  • weather: 6 to 20 ˚C; sunny during the day, E/SE 10 -15 kph
  • sightings: the Pine Crest group on a river right point just below the rapids
  • campsite: top of a bluff, room for multiple tents, nice spot! Max’s favourite of the trip thanks to its elevated view.
  • Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50,000 topo maps: Mojikit Lake 052 I 09  (b&w 1970)
  •  Toporama (here) is NCR’s up-to-date interactive coloured mapping website; it’s free to print what you need.
  • our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)

Given the 33 km. we had covered the day before, we planned for something much less ambitious this day.  Since our tent site was still in the shade, we grabbed our chairs and our full coffee mugs and moved up from the shore into the full sunshine on the edge of the clearing that serves as a helicopter landing area.  After the coffee was drained, we finally got on the water. It was 10 a.m.

A half-hour (three kilometers) brought us to the bottom of South Summit and to Stork Falls with its three-meter drop. The portage is on river left.  We found the trailhead within five minutes at the top of the waterless bay and within 30 minutes were at the Stork Lake end of the 290-meter carry. [On the Wabakimi Canoe Route map, the grassy meadow you see in the image below is a bay you paddle into to access the portage.]

looking for the start of the portage into Stork Lake – grass and boulders instead of water

P260m river left from South Summit Lake To Stork Lake

Before we pushed off, we walked up to the falls with our cameras to get a few shots. The island blocked a full view of the main channel but here is what we came up with.

max finishing off his sweeping video of the rapids into Stork Lake

Max coming back after his sweeping video of the rapids into Stork Lake from South Summit

As we passed by a point about a half-kilometer south of Stork Falls, we saw campers doing some fishing.  It turned out that they were the same Toronto-area YMCA Pine Crest group we had seen a few days before at Eight Flume Falls at the west end of the Ogoki Reservoir.  They had a leisurely four days before their shuttle from the logging road that crosses the Little Jackfish about 6 kilometers south of Zigzag Lake. They recounted their easy passage down the Reservoir, thanks to a northwest wind that blew them down! It was the same wind that we battled for part of a morning as we headed southwest from Waboose Falls!

During the fourteen days we were in Wabakimi, these paddlers and a father/daughter combo above Ogoki Falls were the only canoe trippers we met. We also did not see any fishermen in motorboats on Whitewater or Whiteclay, though we did see a couple of staff or clients at the Wilderness North Lodge at Striker’s Point and again at the Mojikit Channel Lodge. To complete the list of people sightings, we had also chatted with the six-man OPG crew doing maintenance work at Waboose Dam.

Stork Lake Campsite halfway down the lake

We paddled down Stork lake about halfway until we came to an excellent elevated campsite. It was only noon but we were done for the day! We hauled everything up the sloped rock face and, given the positive overnight weather forecast, went for a fairly exposed spot. You can see it in the image above. The surrounding trees did give us a bit of a windbreak from the NW wind.

At most campsites, we usually turn our canoe into a tabletop. It is a clean surface that gives us space to organize things and make them readily accessible. The canoe sometimes also acts as a windscreen overnight or for butane stove cooking, though a repurposed baking sheet is our primary wind guard.

On the boil on our two butane stoves is our supper – pasta with Indian-style channa masala. The meal pouches are ready after a three-minute boil.  The pouches – one for each of us – are not exactly light at 285 grams (10 oz.) but they certainly make supper a no-fuss affair. The company is Tasty Bite (click here to see the various entrées it has available.) The pouches cost about $3.50 CDN each and are easy to find in Toronto. I have also seen them on Amazon though sometimes at double or triple the price they should be. Buyer beware!

Our other mainstay supper option are the entrées from Harvest Foodworks, an eastern-Ontario based family operation. See here for the range of meals they provide. Each pouch serves two and is ready in under twenty minutes.  They do require a bit more attention than the boil-a-bag Tasty Bite option! Mountain Equipment Co-Op used to stock their products but it has inexplicably stopped doing so. I did send them an email asking why but received an answer that completely dodged my query.  I have since just ordered directly from Harvest Foodworks.

supper on the boil – Stork lake CS

The Garmin inReach Explorer+ on my stomach in the image below provides fairly accurate hyperlocal forecasts courtesy of a weather app called Dark Sky, which was acquired in 2020 by Apple. The forecast: clear the next day as we paddled down to Zigzag Lake but massive rain on Sunday, the day we had arranged to be picked up on Zigzag.

bedtime reading in our spacious 4-person tent

The thought of sitting through a rainstorm on Zigzag Lake and then being picked up by a plane landing in a downpour when we could fly out a day early had me mulling over an early exit.

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Day 14: Stork Lake To Zig Zag Lake

  • distance: 15 km
  • time: 6h: 9 a.m. -3 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: 3/3 1) 80 m relatively flat; 2) 230m relatively steep! 3) 290 m
  • weather: overcast
  • sightings: none
  • campsite: Hwy 17 Nipigon motel
  • Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50,000 topo maps: Mojikit Lake 052 I 09  (b&w 1970); Little Jackfish River 052 I 08 (colour 1976).  See the Toporama website (here) for more up-to-date mapping.

We set off around 9  for Moule Lake (the locals pronounce it Moo-lee) about 4 kilometers from our Stork Lake campsite.  But first, there would be a short portage to deal with.  We didn’t find it right away, having gone a bit too far down. I walked back along the shore and found it after pushing aside some new alder growth that had covered over the trailhead. We cut away the bush and put up some orange string to spare the next crew coming through the initial search. [The Toronto YMCA Pine Crest group was just behind us by a half-day.] The portage itself took twenty minutes.

Portage #3 –  from Stork to Moule

We played tourist for a while and check out the rapids, walking some way up to get some different views.

side-channel below the rapids from Stork into Moule

Stork to Moule rapids on the Little Jackfish River – final ledge

looking back at the canoe and a bit of the set of rapids between Stork and Moule

It is about 5 kilometers down Moule Lake to the next set of portages – in this case, two carries that take you into Zigzag Lake. The first portage trail took a couple of minutes to find. We were initially drawn to some prospectors tape visible twenty to thirty meters in. The “trail” looked very rough. I remembered John Holmes’ comment about coming across a bad trail in this spot –

After spotting some flagging tape and cut logs on river right, in a bay just above the moving water at the south end of the lake, we followed an appallingly bad trail over a steep ridge and down to the other side.

We paddled down a few meters and were soon looking at the portage trail that Holmes and his Wabakimi Project crew had cut in 2014.  It was definitely looking better than the first one whose flagging tape might lure people into it!  We gave the entrance a bit of a trim and put some orange string on at the start of the trail and got to work. The trail had a Lord of the Rings vibe to it, thanks to the moss!

a section of the first portage trail from Moule to Zigzag

Moule to Zigzag portage – another view

the canoe at the start of the portage – the last thing to go

We got the 250-m portage #4 done in a half-hour and then stopped on the beach at the bottom end of the portage for lunch.  We also decided that as soon as we were on Zigzag Lake we would email our outfitter (Don Elliot at Mattice Lake Outfitters) and see if he could arrange a pick up for later this very afternoon.

Then, after spending some time checking out the rapids around the corner from us, we paddled over to the small island before moving on to the last of the portages of the trip. The island would make an okay campsite but not much more.  Setting up camp where we just had lunch or in a spot closer to the falls would be a better option.

the first set of rapids coming into Zigzag from Stork

the rapids coming into Zigzag from Stork Lake

Apparently, the fishing in the rapids pictured above is very good! In his LJR trip report, Holmes writes this –

The fishing below the upper set of rapids was phenomenal. I expect the large drop off prevents the walleye from getting upstream. We caught and released several over 23 inches and kept smaller ones for our dinner. Out of fish breading already, so we used crushed crackers!

From the island, we paddled over to the start of our last portage.  The trail was in the best shape of any we had done in the past two weeks!  It is likely that the Wilderness North outpost further down on Zigzag Lake maintains it for the use of its clients.

At the bottom end of the trail is this sign letting people know they are in the right place!

the Portage sign at the start of the trail going up from Zig Zag to Moule Lake

We sat there at the top of Zigzag Lake. It was 2 p.m. and I took a couple of minutes to send off that email to  Don Elliot.


inReach Explorer+

This is where the Garmin inReach comes in very handy. The inReach includes

  • an SOS function,
  • a weather forecast app, and
  • the ability to send a GPS coordinate location every ten minutes to a website that the folks back home can access and whose track they can follow along.
  • It also includes two-way email communication.

Off went the email to Mattice Lake Outfitters. Within ten minutes as we sat there at the top of Zigzag, we got a response!  “The plane will be there around 3.”   I answered back – “Fantastic! We’ll be paddling down the east side  towards the WN outpost.”


We started paddling down Zigzag, sticking to the east side to cut down the wind now coming from the SE. We were getting close to the outpost when we heard the drone of a plane. However, the bright orange Wilderness North colour and the fact that it was a De Havilland Otter, and not a Beaver, had us confused. We initially thought it was headed to the WN outpost.

But no – we were the reason it landed.   Now we were concerned!  The reason? –  An Otter shuttle costs about twice as much as one in the smaller Beaver. By 3:30 the canoe was strapped to one of the pontoons, our gear was inside, and we were seated in the much roomier Otter. This would be our first ride in the plane dubbed “King Beaver” during its design stage!

De Havilland Beaver instrument panel

De Havilland Otter instrument  panel

The pilot was Cam, the same guy who had airlifted us out of our Ogoki headwaters misadventure and dropped us off at the west end of Whitewater Lake nine days before.  As for the cost – we were charged the Beaver rate (i.e. $800.)!

The seventy kilometers from Zigzag Lake back to Mattice Lake took about twenty-five minutes. Waiting there for us was our vehicle – and the bill for our De Havilland air shuttles:

  • the Beaver ride to Endogoki Lake
  • the De Havilland Beaver shuttle to the west end of Whitewater Lake from some nameless lake just a few kilometers east of Endogoki.
  • the Otter flight from Zigzag Lake to Mattice Lake.

As we get older and the number of future possible canoe trips gets closer to zero, it is becoming easier to rationalize a bush plane ride or two or, in this case, three!

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The LJR From Zigzag To the Jackfish Road

While we ended our trip on Zigzag Lake, another option is to stay with the river down to where the Jackfish Road crosses the river. You can be picked up there by a pre-arranged shuttle vehicle from Armstrong. It is approximately a 70-kilometer ride.

The following map locates the five sets of rapids in the 6.5-kilometer stretch from the bottom of Zigzag to the bridge:

See this Friends of Wabakimi/John Holmes’ Little Jackfish trip report for details on each of sets of rapids and the portages noted below. A Wabakimi Project crew went down the river in 2014, clearing or creating portages and recording locations as well as campsites and other useful information.

The archived Natural Resources Canada’ topo Little Jackfish River 052 I 08 (colour 1976) does not have the logging road from Armstrong indicated.  Neither does the Garmin’s Topo Canada 4.0 map installed on our Etrex 20 and Oregon 450.  Check out the NRC up-to-date Toporama website (here) for more current mapping and print what you need. You’ll also find that the Toporama map site provides access to many additional layers of useful information.


Satellite Images of the Rapids:

Note: This section would benefit from some detail by someone who has actually gone down recently!  If you have, let me know what needs to be added. Any portage info you see has been taken from Canoe Atlas of the Little North (p.44), the Paddle Planner Wabakimi map, Vol. 5 (2017 ed.) of the Friends of Wabakimi Canoe Routes, or the Friends of Wabakimi trip report.

There are five probable portages before you get from Zigzag to the road. The following overview shows the first 4; there is one more just before you get to the bridge.  All portages are on river left.

Little Jackfish River rapids from Zigzag to the Jackfish Road. – just missing #10


#6-  the First Set of Rapids Out of Zigzag Lake:  The 530-meter portage is on river left.

#6 – the rapids coming out of Zigzag Lake


#7 – The Second Set of Rapids Below Zigzag Lake – One 630-meter carry on river left gets you around these two sets of rapids.

#7 – 2nd set of rapids below Zigzag

#8 –  Third Sets of Rapids Below Zigzag Lake

#8 –  3rd set of rapids below Zigzag


#9 – The 4th Set of Rapids Below Zigzag: Again, the portage is on river left and is 400 meters long with a campsite at the top end.


#10 – The Portage Up To The Jackfish Road. The Holmes’ trip report notes this about the river below  #9 Rapids/Portage:

The character of the river is quite different in this section, with an earthen bank instead of the uniform boulders that make up the shoreline further upstream. The portage [up to the road] is on river left (east side) and starts before the bridge comes into view. It is 253m to the road.

Portage #10 on river left takes the paddler up to the Jackfish Road and the bridge for a possible shuttle connection some 65 kilometers back to Armstrong Station. Another option is to continue downriver. In that case, after crossing the bridge, the portage continues on River right. It is apparently another 600 meters from where you first reach the road.

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The Little Jackfish Below The Bridge:

If you choose to go down the final 15 kilometers of the river right to Lake Nipigon,  you could

  • end there with a floatplane extraction in Ombabika Bay,
  • carry up to Ferland and catch the train or a vehicle shuttle to Armstrong  or
  • continue your adventure on Lake Nipigon.

Rapids #11 – P 700m RR

Rapids #11 – the first set of rapids below the Jackfish bridge

Of the six sets of rapids to deal with, the most challenging ones are the first two below the bridge (#11 and #12 in my numbering scheme).  This “White Mile” section of the river is where the proposed hydroelectric project was to be built.  These two sets of rapids are the longest of those remaining – and so are their portages. See the embedded YouTube video at the start of this post for a look at this section of the river early in the season.

[I have no idea what shape these portages are in – or if they even still exist. My red line arches do not indicate their exact locations! If you have been down this stretch, any detail you can provide would be appreciated – and included in this write-up for the use of future canoe trippers.]

rapids #11 and #12 – the last two major sets of rapids

Volume 5 of the Wabakimi Project map set also has a page on the rapids/portages from Zigzag Lake down to Ombabika Bay. It has Portage #11 as 700 meters and #12 as 500. The figures are identical to those in Canoe Atlas of The Little North, their likely source for the information.


Rapids #12 – P 500m RR

Rapids #12


The Proposed Little Jackfish Generating Station

See here for a brief project description

The stretch of river near the bridge is where Ontario Power Generation plans/planned to build a 75 MW hydroelectric station.  A detailed OPG analysis of the proposed development can be accessed here. It was released in 2011 – over a decade ago. Click on the cover page image to access –

The location of the Powerhouse on the map above corresponds to the end of the portage trail around Rapids #12. The dam and dyke would flood some land north of the current Jackfish Road, as well as a section of the road itself. The map below shows the extent of the headpond which would be created.

Also included in the project are upgrades to the South Summit Dam as well as an access road to connect it with the lower site.

  • Is the project dead?
  • has it been temporarily shelved?
  • does it need more study of the project’s environmental impact?
  • does it require more consultation with nearby First Nations representatives?

According to the above  study of the project

“There are six First Nations situated around Lake Nipigon that consider the Lake and its surrounding lands their traditional territory. All six First Nations are Ojibway, located within the Robinson-Superior Treaty area. These First Nations include:

  • Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (AZA), or Lake Nipigon Ojibway;
  • Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (BNA) or Sand Point;
  • Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) or Rocky Bay;
  • Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA) or Gull Bay;
  • Red Rock Indian Band (RRIB); and
  •  Whitesand (WSFN).”

The Ontario Rivers Alliance webpage on the Little Jackfish River has this explanation:

The province’s Long Term Energy Plan released in December 2013 has indicated that the energy that would be generated by the Little Jackfish River Hydroelectric Project is not needed in the near-term. Therefore, all Project activities are being put on hold.

This video (uploaded in February 2015)  gives you some idea of what the development might look like if it proceeded. It seems to be OPG-approved or sponsored.


The Rapids Below the Proposed Hydro Power Station:

Once at the bottom of portage #12,  things become much more manageable. The final Rapids/Portages are indicated below.

The satellite images provided by the Ontario Government’s Make a Topographic Map website are useful in getting a close-up sense of the river. [To access the sat view, go into the “I want to… window and choose Change visible map layers. Uncheck topographic and check imagery.]


Rapids #13 – P50m either RR or RL

Rapids #13 Little Jackfish River


Rapids #14 – P50m RR

Rapids #14 – Little Jackfish River


Rapids #15 – P50m RR …or line

Some confusion here – Canoe Atlas indicates a much longer 200m P!

Rapids #15 – portage, line or run


Rapids #16 – P200m RL 

Rapids #16 – the CN tracks

From the CN tracks down to Ombabika Bay is another 4 kilometers and a possible floatplane extraction back to one of the outfitters located on Mattice Lake.


The LJR Rapids/Portages From Top To Bottom

[map image from Canoe Atlas of the Little North]

Canoe Atlas of the Little North (Jonathan Berger and Thomas Terry) is the ultimate tripper’s wintertime dream book. Published in 2007 by Erin, Ontario-based Boston Mills Press, the book is essentially a set of 48 13″x11″ maps (1:400,000 scale) and very informative accompanying text. Click on the title above or the book cover below to access the Amazon website.

The oversize-format book covers a good chunk of the Canadian Shield from Hudson Bay To Lake Winnipeg.  And since it only comes in hard copy, if it is found anywhere it will be on an avid canoe tripper’s version of a coffee table! At $95. it ain’t cheap but you’ll see why it costs what it costs when you get your copy.

Pp. 44-45, Armstrong 52I,  deal with the top of lake Nipigon and the Wabakimi area to the west. One caveat – the authors themselves point out that the book is meant as a reference book to be turned to at the beginning of the route planning process but that “the Atlas maps are not suitable for navigation.”  From our experience at the very beginning of this canoe trip (see below!), I can attest that some of the portages indicated on the maps no longer exist.


Thinking we might paddle over to the northwest corner of Lake Nipigon’s Windigo Bay, during our planning last winter, the location of Portage Island – and its very name-  had us looking for the possible portage into North Bay across the narrowest point of the peninsula. No portage is indicated in the Canoe Atlas book!

We thought – if we had a spare day at the end of our Ogoki route – we might do an exploratory hike up to the small pond and then down the stream to the North Bay side. A closer look at the topography had us cancel the thought – there is a 40-meter elevation gain from Ombabika Bay to the top!

portage-island-in-ombabika-bay 2

See here for a more detailed look at a possible “trail” from Ombabika Bay to North Bay.

If you are ever in the neighbourhood and keen on stretching your legs on a short hike, let us know if an up-and-over portage in that spot would have been possible!


The Ogoki From Top To Bottom: Final Trip Thoughts

My goal to do the Ogoki from “top to bottom” needed more time – maybe five or six days more – than the fourteen days we had to “git ‘er dun”.  My brother’s initial skepticism – “Are you sure we have enough time? We’d need to do about 25 km every day!” – turned out to be the correct assessment of my ambitious schedule.

Given the three and a half days we spent on the first fifteen kilometers, another three days would have been enough to paddle and bushwhack the rest of the way to Wabakimi Lake. In my planning, I had allocated three days for the entire stretch from Endogoki Lake to Wabakimi Lake!

Any historical portage trails that were used 150 years ago by the Hudson Bay Company to transfer furs from Nipigon House to Osnaburgh House have long ago disappeared.  While maps – the Canoe Atlas of the Little North, the Wabakimi Project map set, and the online paddler planner website – show portage trails from Savant Lake into the Ogoki River system and then others leading into Tew Lake, the fact is that these Ogoki headwater portages no longer exist.

Wabakimi Project map – portages from Savant Lake To Tew Lake Via Ogoki River

It does seem a shame that the headwaters of the river that defines Wabakimi is not a part of the Park or do-able by recreational paddlers. The reasons for this are varied:

  • the fact that it flows through crown Land just outside the Park boundaries being harvested by logging companies
  •  the disappearance of the necessary portages and
  • the lack of convenient access points that do not involve an expensive bush plane insertion.

At the other end of the trip, we needed a couple of extra days to do the stretch from Zigzag Lake down to Ombabika Bay. So – no top and no bottom – just 200 kilometers of pretty amazing in-between!

On our way home we considered the possibility of returning next summer. With more time and a better understanding of the situation,  we would complete the headwaters stretch from Endogoki to just before Wabakimi Lake. We’ll see if that seed of a trip grows any over the winter – or if it is abandoned for

  • a return to the French River delta or
  • Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River’s North Branch and Channel or
  • a trip down Savant Lake and River into the Albany.

The map below shows our incomplete headwaters section in red just east of Savant Lake. It also shows the other bits of the Ogoki  – red for what we paddled for the first time this August and black for sections done before. The other tracks – in blue – are other Wabakimi-area rivers and lakes we’ve paddled on previous canoe trips.

We were thrilled to have paddled bits of the Ogoki that we had not done before and our time on the eastern reaches of Wabakimi Park and the Ogoki Reservoir gave us a deeper appreciation of the river and what has been done to it with the construction of the Waboose Dam.


An Overview: Wabakimi Water We’ve Paddled

Wabakimi Rivers we’ve paddled – red is this summer’s Ogoki trip

Now our post on Wabakimi’s Top Six – our attempt a few years ago to list our favourite Wabakimi spots – needs updating or enlarging so that it would include

  • Eight Flume Falls and
  • the gorge-like stretch of the Whiteclay before you get to the Two Mile Bay portages!

A Paddler’s List Of Wabakimi’s Top Six

We will definitely be back for some more of what Wabakimi has to offer!


Related Posts

The Ogoki River From Top To Bottom

Bushwhacking The Ogoki Headwaters: Endogoki Lake Days 1 and 2

Bushwhacking The Ogoki Headwaters: Days 3, 4, and 5

A Two-Day Paddle Across the Ogoki’s Whitewater Lake

Down The Ogoki – From Above Ogoki Falls To Whiteclay Lake’s NE Arm

Down The Ogoki – From Whiteclay Lake (NE Arm) To The Ogoki Reservoir (Two Mile Bay)

Canoeing The Ogoki Reservoir: From Eight Flume Falls to “Moose Crossing”

Canoeing The Ogoki Reservoir – From “Moose Crossing” To The Waboose Dam

Paddling The Ogoki Reservoir From Waboose Dam To South Summit Dam

Paddling Down The Little Jackfish River From The Summit Dam To Zigzag Lake

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