Canoeing The Steel – Day Four – Steel Lake

Previous Post: Canoeing The Steel – Day 3 – From Cairngorm Lake To Steel Lake

  • distance: 27.5 km
  • time: start – 8:00 a.m. ; finish – 2:20 p.m.
  • portages: none – just one long lake
  • weather: sunny and hot; no wind in the morning and a gentle SW wind in the aft
  • campsite: SC04  at start of portage trail at end of lake; room for a couple of two-person tents; site maintenance required before pitching tent (deadfall removal); good access to water; evening work on portage trail

Day4

Steel lake -early morning start for the big paddle

looking south on Steel lake – early morning start for the big paddle

The previous evening the wind had blown strong from the SW and we were hoping for a repeat of that as we got up a bit earlier than usual for our day of Steel Lake paddling. The pic above shows what we found – i.e. an almost ripple free lake.  Shortly after 8 we were off, having postponed breakfast until we put in a few hundred paddle strokes in the early morning coolness.    By 9:15 we were down the lake about seven kilometers sitting in the shade, coffee mugs in hand, enjoying the stillness.

Steel River - paddle to bkft

sunny breakfast spot on Steel Lake

sunny breakfast spot on Steel Lake

There is a bit of a treadmill effect that kicks in when you get to stare at the same horizon for an hour or more.  The island in the pic below was just one of many upcoming points we paddled towards in the course of our twenty-seven kilometres down river to the campsite. Paddling on the east side of the lake across from the island was a nice stretch of vertical rock face that is always a pleasure to glide past.

paddling down Steel Lake

paddling down Steel Lake

a typical Steel Lake vista

a typical Steel Lake vista

While we are not talking Mazinaw Rock here, these stretches of the Steel Lake shoreline are still impressive.  Ever on the look for pictographs (as my brother rolls his eyes), I scanned the rock face for signs of applied ochre and sometimes my will to see something helped create pictographs out of lichen and natural rock stain.
On the other side of the lake, the shoreline look is more rounded with an occasional rock outcrop.  Much less evident were signs of the big burn of the early 2000’s. (See here for a map which shows the area most affected.)
rock face on the east side of Steel Lake

rock face on the east side of Steel Lake

a shady spot on the east side of Steel Lake for a morning break

a shady spot on the east side of Steel Lake for a morning break

driftwood on rock on Steel Lake

driftwood on rock on Steel Lake

picto fever strikes again!

pictograph  fever strikes again!

Shortly after two we approached our campsite at the bottom (i.e.north end) of Steel Lake. We found there a campsite just meters from the take-out spot and after a bit of site rehab put up the tent. We also put up the silnylon tarp as a precaution as it clouded over in the early evening.  Not only does the tarp take the brunt of any rain and keep the tent itself much drier, but it also makes taking down the tent in the rain the next morning that much easier.

campsite at the north end of Steel Lake

campsite at the north end of Steel Lake

campsite slope down to the water - rapids start on bottom right

campsite slope down to the water – rapids start on bottom right

One of the things we discussed that evening was our original plan to paddle up Eaglecrest Lake and even further north (up Evonymus, Kawabatongog, and Grehan)  the next day. The Steel River Provincial Park includes this twenty-kilometre stretch of lakes which make up the Little Steel River system.
In the end, we decided that after the forty-seven kilometers of Cairngorm and Steel, we’d had enough lake paddle!  The thought of another forty had lost its appeal.  We would instead turn south at the confluence of the Steel and Little Steel Rivers (mistakenly named Aster Lake in a number of trip reports) and enjoy a day or two of swifts and CI rapids.
the start of the 22-meter drop from Steel Lake to the confluence of the Steel and Little Steel down below

the start of the 22-meter drop from Steel Lake to the confluence of the Steel and Little Steel down below

a stretch of SP08 portage on the Steel River

a stretch of SP08 portage on the Steel River

Given our early finish, we had time this day to trim back some of the new alder growth on the portage trail.  Something we can’t comment on – but which is clearly a real attraction for some canoe trippers – is the chance to drop a hook into some A+ fishing spots.  It was a point made by more than one of the trip reports I read through.

the bottom of the rapids that SP08 takes you around

the bottom of the rapids that SP08 takes you around

The upper Steel loop portion almost done, we were looking forward to heading south and feeling the pull of the river as we paddled down to Rainbow Falls.

Next Post: Canoeing The Steel River – Day 5 – Heading South On The Steel River

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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