Related Post: Smoke Over Wabakimi – Canoeing In A Season Of Fires
2011 Wabakimi Route Overview
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Our 2011 Wabakimi Itinerary:
- July 23 – we left Toronto Union Station at about 10 p.m.
- July 24 – spent all day on the Via Canadian train and got to Flindt Landing around midnight
- July 25 – 25 km – Day One on the water- from Flint Landing cabin to campsite on a bay off Flet Lake
- July 26 – 26 km – from Flet L to campsite on Flindt River by portage on NE end of Big Island
- July 27 – 20 km – from lower Flindt River camp to Wabakimi Lake west end
- July 28 – 23 km – to River Bay South shore after an encounter with a park ranger
- July 29 – 24 km – to the start of Palisade R. after paddle up to turn-off to Slim Lake and back (9 km)
- July 30 – 33 km – to a campsite on Grayson River before Whitewater Lake
- July 31 – 9 km – small island at top of Whitewater just to the west of Porter island
- Aug 01 – 22 km – to a sand fly-infested beach on the south end of Best Island on Whitewater Lake –
- Aug 02 – 22 km – halfway down Lonebreast Bay to Bussey Island campsite (one with memorial)
- Aug 03 – 11 km – to island at the north end of Smooth Rock Lake
- Aug 04 – 25 km – to campsite down near the south end of the west arm of Smoothrock Lake
- Aug 05 – 19 km – to Boiling Sand River campsite across from Mattice Outfitters Lodge
- Aug 06 – 8 km – to Boiling Sand River after Gnome Lake
- Aug 07 – 3 km – to Bath lake just before the portage over the railway tracks
- Aug 08 – 5 km to Collins and VIA train 8:50 a.m. CT
- Aug 09 – the Via train pulled in to Toronto’s Union Station at about 10:00 a.m.
Maps And Related Resources:
Wabakimi Project Maps:
To get a handle on possible routes, campsites, and portages we purchased Volume 3 of the Friends of Wabakimi (formerly Wabakimi Project) Canoe Route Maps series. We already had Volume 1 from the previous summer’s Wabakimi trip and had found those maps quite useful. While the maps I’ve included below will give you the general idea of the route, the $30. for the Wabakimi Project maps is an investment – and not a splurge! It will get you the campsite and portage information you need; it will also help this volunteer organization to pay for the cost of flying in people who give a week or two of their time in the summer to clear and mark the portages, create the campsites, and do the mapping work that makes the route maps possible.
Federal Government 1:50,000 Topographic Maps
Do not set off only with the Wabakimi Project maps! The Federal Government 1:50000 topos will provide you with greater detail and more context of the route to go along with the Wabakimi Project maps. You can find the topos you need at the Federal Government’s Natural Resources Canada website and print them out yourself. Clicking here will take you to the 052 folder where you will find all of the following 1:50000 topos in either the J or the I sub-folders. Each map folder contains three choices; I download the prt.tif file.
The maps below are the ones you’ll need –
Seseganaga Lake 052 J 01
Wilkie Lake 052 J 08
Neverfreeze Lake 052 J 09
Wabakimi Lake 052 I 12
Burntrock Lake 052 I 13
Grayson Lake 052 I 14
Goldsborough Lake 052 I 11
Onamakawash Lake 052 I 05
Armstrong 052 I 06
The Natural Resources Canada mapping division has moved on from the above maps, which have not been updated since at least the 1990s. many go back to the 1970’s. The source of the most up-to-date maps from NRC is the Toporama site. Click here to access.
Google Earth – Satellite View:
The Google Earth satellite view provides revealing views of the route and it is worth spending a bit of time getting the satellite perspective. A web version can now be accessed within the Chrome browser. Click here.
As well, the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests has its own online map service (see here) which provides more up-to-date and detailed maps than the Federal Government’s maps listed above. It is worth looking at them too – and even printing out certain sections. I also find their satellite imagery to be superior to that in Google Earth.
Finally, we had a Garmin GPS unit (an Etrex) along for the ride as back-up and occasional solution to those head-scratching “where-the-heck-are-we?” moments! We also used it to record our daily track and features like potential campsites and outposts and rapids.
The Spot Connect:
If you want to see the SPOT Connect waypoints of our trip click here to download the 266k file. You’ll need the Google Earth application installed on your computer to open the file and see the GPS trail that the SPOT recorded.
The first few kilometers from Flindt Landing down through Heathcote Lake are missing. We were still learning how to use the thing! I am really glad we brought it along. It provided the folks at home real-time info on our location and the email messaging option came in handy for sending brief okay or more personalized notes back home at the end of each day (45 characters max). It does this by pairing up with your smartphone (I use my iPod Touch).
If you are interested in the SPOT Connect, check out this website for more info on how it all works. Until we just bring our cell phones along, it’ll do the trick. (Note: the Connect was discontinued in 2015. Used copies are still around! The InReach SE or Explorer or their updated versions would seem to be the way to go these days.)
Update: The Spot Connect was discontinued in 2017. We ended up getting a Garmin in reach Explorer+ in 2018 because of its two-way communication feature. You can receive emails as well as daily weather updates on the inReach, as well as do all the usual tracking and emergency contact stuff.
the view from the outside of the train at Hornepayne
Stuff being uploaded from the baggage car at Armstrong Station- about two hours east of our exit at Flindt Landing.
We got off the train at Flindt Landing around midnight. The lodge owner was up but was not expecting us. A confirmation call by me a day or two before would have been a good idea! Someone cleared the cabin on the island quickly and we had our home for the night. At $80. – or was that $100.? – it was a bit steep for the ten hours we’d be there. However, the alternative – looking for a place to pitch our tent at midnight either near the lodge or on the other side of the lake – was worse, especially since we had no information on actual camp spots that we could use.
Note: In 2011 I still thought that using the 1:50,000 Gov’t topo maps was a copyright violation so I didn’t! Instead, I used the much less satisfactory Google maps you will see in this post. A project for a (very) rainy day will be to replace them with the 1:50,000 topos!
The route from our Flindt Landing cabin down Heathcote Lake to our first campsite on a bay on the west side of Flet lake
our canoe waits while we scout some rapids on the first day out.
my brother Max double-bagging it on the portage trail
rockin’ reflections in the mid-afternoon
the east side of Flet Lake at 8:00 p.m. from our campsite
our route on Day Two from Flet Lake to our campsite on the lower Flindt River a bit before Tew Lake
we got to share our portage trail with this local.
We did a bit of this during the trip- here is Step one! The new L.L. Beans boots passed the test as we lined our canoe.
It is great when there is somewhere to walk on the side of the river!
Almost through – although I need to pay more attention to my rope!
a portage trail that had that Lord of the Rings look about it
our Wanderer 4 tent in the background and our Woods Pack replacement, the Hooligan, in the foreground
our front yard at the end of Day Two on the Flindt River
Day Three- from Flindt River campsite to west end of Wabakimi Lake on the south side
Max reading the ripples while the canoe sits in a cove behind him
our canoe with Wabakimi Lake and the northern shore in the background
our Day Three campsite on the south side of Wabakimi Lake – see map above for exact location!
dusk view of a small bay from our campsite
our Day Four paddle across Wabakimi Lake to a campsite on the south shore of River Bay
break time on the north shore of Wabakimi lake as we paddled through the maze of islands, using them as windscreens!
Max getting a handle on the best route through the tangle of islands on the north side of Wabakimi Lake as we deal with the impact of strong winds
a very scenic stretch of Wabakimi Lake on the north shore
a fishing lodge at the east end of Wabakimi Lake just as you enter Ogoki River Bay- nobody home!
our humble campsite on the south side of River Bay- see the map above for exact location
the woods behind our tent – lots of dead wood set for burning
It is almost 9 p.m. as we gaze westward towards the soon-to-be setting sun.
Day Five from Ogoki River Bay to the Palisade River
9:35 a.m. and the boys are having a Clif Bar and some Gatorade while sitting on a rock on the side of the Ogoki River.
lunchtime – peanut butter on Wasa bread to go along with the Thai noodle soup and a cup of tea – on the Palisade at the spot where we would later camp for the night
paddling alongside the wall-like edge of the Palisade River up towards the source of the smoke near Burntrock Lake…definitely worth the effort to see them
smoke is visible at this point on the Palisade- the next morning we would return to this point and turn east (right) into the channel in the middle of the picture
Our Epic Day from the lower Palisade River campsite to a campsite on the lower Grayson River
The first view of big smoke! We had just put up our tent on the SW corner of Arril Lake. Returning to the shore for the rest of our gear, we saw what you see. See the section titled Smoke Over Wabakimi for all the details!
For the next five hours we would paddle like crazy to put some distance between us and what you see in the picture.
an easy day’s paddle from the lower Grayson River to our island campsite across from Porter Island in Whitewater Lake
the end of day on our sheltered island campsite- time to look for Group of Seven photo ops!
dusk and we walk by a quiet little bay on our circuit of the island
a great day’s paddle from our island refuge on NW Whitewater to the South Beach of Best Island (“the place with the sand flies!”)
water is in short supply as we do that last stretch leading from Secret Lake back into Whitewater Lake
A trail leads from this sandy beach to the Beckwith cabins. Apparently, Beckwith himself died on this beach in 1980.
Near the beach is a fairly large flat area where groups of paddlers have tented. We decided to camp at the south end of the island instead.
The Caribbean-like sand beach goes on for a couple of kilometers on the south end of Best island. (Good luck with the sandflies if you decide to tent there!) BTW it is a bit hazy because of a second fire – Thunder Bay 57 – just west of our campsite.
our two-day paddle from Best island to Bussey island and then to a small island at the top of Smoothwater Lake
a late breakfast on a flat rock in the middle of McKinley Lake- we had left Best Island by 5:45 without having breakfast because of the sandflies – and also because we wanted to get past our new fire concern – the fire to the west of Whitewater Lake!
me getting instant feedback on a shot I’ve taken while sitting under the tarp at the end of the portage – this was the first canoe trip where we were happy every time it started raining!
This is what I was looking at in the above shot! I wasn’t sure if the raindrops would be sharp enough.
our campsite on Bussey Island- nicely tucked away and sheltered from the wind
the breakfast table on the beach- notice the coffee filters for the real coffee we brought along for the first time. From now on, no more instant coffee!
a stretch of beautiful shoreline on Lonebreast Bay as we paddle south
a terrific campsite on a small island at the top of Smoothrock Lake
the same spot- different angle!
the day’s paddle from Smoothrock Lake central to the south end of the west arm of Smoothrock Lake
we sit out an afternoon shower at our campsite on the west arm of Smoothrock Lake.
For a while, the sky got very grey.
looking east from our island campsite on the west arm of Smoothrock Lake
a post-supper cup of tea on the rocks- the afternoon storm has come and gone
sunset on the water
more end-of-day reflections
a day spent paddling up the Boiling Sand River from our campsite on the lower west arm of Smoothrock Lake
With blueberries all around and lots of time to kill, we start picking- and eating.
lunch break on the Boiling Sand River- we had three days to do about twenty kilometers! Easy does it!
fresh coffee being made- in the evenings I’ll admit we used the de-caf beans
the evening view from our Boiling Sand River campsite just north of Tamarack Lake
our last three days were spent covering about 20 kilometres- we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the Monday morning train!
teepee poles on the side of a portage trail
We’re suckers for shoreline reflections.
morning on the Boiling Sand River
a public service announcement on a rock face near the boundary of the park
our second-last campsite
the bit of food we had left was up in the tree and down in the bay were the eight quarts of blueberries. We wanted to keep them cool- we just managed to get them wet!
sunset on the second last night
same sunset a few minutes later!
failed attempt at drying out 15 liters of blueberries- we would later dump them all into Bath Lake! It was a painful experience!
our handiwork on display- all for naught
the rail line runs past Bath Lake from Collins- we would portage over it the next morning. We should have just arranged to meet the train at the portage point instead of paddling to Collins!
the waiting room at the Collins unofficial I.R. VIA rail stop
Check out the other two parts of our account of our 2011 Wabakimi Paddle. There is one post that focuses on the fires we paddled into- and another post that looks at (mostly) the Beckwith Cabins on Best Island and the Ogoki Lodge just to the south of Grage Island on Whitewater Lake.
Wabakimi’s Ogoki Lodge and the Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”
Smoke Over Wabakimi – Canoe Tripping In A Season of Fires
If you have any questions about the logistics of the trip, suggestions on corrections we need to make, or general comments on what you’ve read, please drop me a line at true_north @mac.com