- distance: 17.0 km
- time: start – 09:10 a.m. . ; finish – 12:30
- portages: three – we only did the last
- SP11 – 150m (river left per Haslam’s waypoints check whether RR or RL – C1)
SP12 – 140m (river right per Haslam’s waypoints – C1)
SP13 – 500m river right to the campsite (then veer left for ~100m to the river put in)
- weather: sunny and hot
- campsite: SC06 – Rainbow falls; ¾ down the portage trail on a bluff above a creek; poor water access; room for multiple 2 or 4 person tents; fairly open and away from main falls area; great scenery; very good rest day site.
We left the campsite about 9 and revisited the other campsite on our way down for another look at that creek from the previous evening. We were curious about what the morning sun from the east would do to the creekbed.
Not far from the previous night’s campsite – about 3 km. – at the bottom of McKernan Lake – we came to the set of rapids that Haslam’s notes describe this way –
The rapid at the bottom of the map can be problematic. (They are incorrectly labeled C2) It is difficult to run, unless the water is very high, and there is no port. Best approach is to line down RR until you can hop in and shoot the haystacks at the end.
We took a quick look and lined the initial drop on river right and then, as Haslam suggests, hopped back in for the ride down. When we turned around to take a look at the rapids from down below, we saw John Mark and Adam up near the top making their way down.
Big grins all around! Not too shabby for a couple of rock wall climbers from Detroit on their first wilderness canoe trip!
For us, this would not be a long day on the water! We continued on down, enjoying one set of swifts after another and a set of CI rapids or two. And sometimes we’d hit quiet stretches of the river like the ones illustrated in the pix above and below.
While our goal for the day was the campsite at Rainbow Falls, we did check out the site about 4.5 kilometers above the falls on river right. You can see the red campsite sign on the tree in the middle of the pic below. A quick visit revealed a large and pretty flat area with room for a number of tents. It would serve canoe trippers well in a pinch although given how close you are to Rainbow Falls, an extra 30 minutes would get you to the Falls campsite and access to some stunning views.
About 500 meters above Rainbow Falls we saw the warning sign on river right. We wondered if it was put there as a result of someone having gone over the Falls. As we got to the take out spot on river right, the American guys caught up to us. We got our canoe and gear out of the way so they could land. Then we proceeded to haul our gear to the large (100′ x 30′) rectangular clearing about two-thirds of the way down the portage trail and actually some distance from the falls themselves. In short order, the tent was up.
Meanwhile, they had lunch up by the falls and took in the spray and energy. Eventually, they would come trucking by the campsite area. The portage trail actually takes a hard turn to the left just as you come onto the campsite area and then goes down somewhat steeply to the river alongside a creek. They were going to paddle down the river a bit more before calling it a day.
Our plan was much less ambitious!
Not even one and we were done for the day. After lunch, we walked back on the portage trail to the top of the falls where we spent a good chunk of the afternoon. Rainbow Falls became part spa and part photo opportunity as we set up our camp chairs just below the top of the falls and to the side of the first two drops.
Our first real wash-up in three days, catching a few rays as we lounged in our chairs and felt the mist of the tumbling water…taking in the scene in front of us. For us perhaps the highlight of our Steel loop was the time we spent at this twenty-meter drop in the river. Eventually, we got out the camera gear and framed some shots – you can see some of the results below. We would return to the falls closer to the dusk to catch the scene in a different light.
Meanwhile, as I would learn later, our fellow paddlers continued on their way down the river. They eventually stopped paddling at 11 that night! By then they were deep into the meandering stretch of the Steel and may well have gotten to a sandbar campsite close to the end! They found out just how difficult it is to find even a barely adequate place to pitch a couple of tents in the final stretch from Rainbow Falls to Santoy Lake.
We would get our own taste of the Steel below Rainbow Falls the next day. As if to make up for the meagre distance we had covered on this day (17 km), we’d paddle and portage almost triple that the next day. Check the next post for the details!