Canoeing The Steel – Day Seven – Meandering Our Way To Santoy

Previous Post: Canoeing The Steel – Day Six –  Rainbow Falls

  • distance: 44 km
  • time: start – 07:40 a.m. . ; finish – 6:30 p.m.
  • portages: four log jams
  • SP14 190m river left (steep bank take out and a steep bank put in) (40 min);
    SP15 400m river right  (steep bank take out and a steep bank put in (45 min);
    SP16 120m river left (steep bank take out and a steep bank put in)  and
    SP17 360m river right (steep bank take out relatively easy put in; flat and roomy) (30 min)
  • weather: sunny and very warm
  • campsite: SC07 Santoy Lake beach frontage with various possible 2-person sites plus some 4-person sites set back in trees/brush providing some wind/rain shelter.

map scale: approx. 1:30,000


We had spent a relaxing afternoon at the Rainbow Falls Spa & Resort but it was time to move on.  Ahead of us was a meandering stretch of the river defined not by Canadian Shield rock outcrop but by the massive glacial sand deposits that the river has carved its way through.

The change in terrain explains the source of all that deadwood that has accumulated at four major logjam points on this stretch of the Steel.  Due to the erosion of the sand banks, which in parts can rise 40 meters or more from the river,  the trees rooted in the shallow earth topple into the river over time and join the deadwood already there.

steep sandy banks The Steel River below Rainbow Falls

some of the steep sandy banks of the Steel River below Rainbow Falls

Steel River banks between Rainbow Falls and Deadhorse Bridge

Steel River banks between Rainbow Falls and Dead Horse Bridge

We got on the water early this day – 7:40.  We were expecting it to be a long one.  Given the scarcity of campsites between Rainbow Falls – the Haslam maps only mention a couple of emergency sandbar sites – we decided to make the beach on the north end of Santoy Lake our goal.  It would mean paddling and portaging about 45 kilometers.

Deadhorse Bridge below Rainbow Falls on the Steel River

Dead Horse Creek Road bridge below Rainbow Falls on the Steel River

By nine we were approaching the bridge which crosses the Steel River about 11 kilometres down from Rainbow Falls. (The road is named after Dead Horse Creek, which it follows up from Highway 17.)   We paddled another five minutes before stopping at a spot on the riverbank for breakfast.  Some stretches of the river after the Falls still have swifts and we enjoyed the feeling of being moved along with little effort on our part.

The easiest stretch of the day done – and breakfast over – it was time to deal with the first couple of the day’s challenges, the two logjam portages which are about 2.7 kilometers as the crow flies from the bridge.  As a hint of what paddling on the meandering Steel for the rest of the day would be like, in actual paddling distance it came out to 5.5 kilometers!

the top of the first of the Steel River logjams

the top of the first of the Steel River logjams

Our picture file for this very hot day is rather thin!  No doubt we were living our mantra of “gittin’ ‘er dun” and intent on efficiently knocking off the portages as they came up.  During the course of the day, we would deal with the four logjams which Haslam mentions in his map set.


The Four Logjams:

We had also reread the Callan description of this section of the Steel the previous evening but were to find out that it did not reflect what was on the river on our 2014 trip. On top of the four major logjams, his map has another four indicated. Since his report dated back to 2001, these additional four he mentions may have broken up over the past decade. We would not see them. A more recent look at the satellite images of the stretch of the Steel from the Dead Horse Road bridge to Santoy revealed a new logjam forming between our #2 and #3!  If you’re going down this section, do not be surprised if things don’t correspond exactly with the info on your map!

our gear at the end of the third Steel logjam portage

our gear at the end of the third Steel logjam portage

The portage entry and exit points were easy to find and a couple even had portage markers. We left marking tape on the other two.  Thanks to the steep sand banks they were also, to no surprise, usually awkward.  One of us would haul the bags out of the canoe and the other person would grab them from the top of the bank and dump them in a nearby staging area.  Then it just came down to moving everything along what were mostly good portage trails. Perhaps our trail grading standards had slipped a bit after our Diablo/Cairngorm experience on the upper Steel!


Logjam #1:

Lower Steel River Logjam #1 and start of #2

The first two portages are located close to each other and then there is an hour and a half of heading in every cardinal point on the compass as you make your way down the river.


Logjam #2:

Logjam #2 on the Lower Steel River – P400m RR

The third logjam portage was the shortest (120 meters) and the easiest. The trail was in excellent condition. Do note that we paddled about fifty meters further down from the portage marker. This fits in with what Haslam wrote about the entire logjam moving down river a bit.  It was shortly after 2 when we got to the end of this portage. We set up our camp chairs in the shade and had a one-hour lunch break. It was one hot day out in the sun.


Our Logjam #3 (and a new one forming above it)


collapsing sand banks and the Steel River logjams

collapsing sand banks and the Steel River logjams

Logjam #3

close-up of Logjam #3

After our break we were back on the river, cheered by the fact that it was only 8.5 kilometers (as the crow flies!) to Santoy Lake but knowing that we were looking at about three hours of paddling.


Logjam #4

Some two and half hours later we were at SP17, the fourth and last logjam portage. We found a boat shell at the take-out spot and a trail that is in pretty good shape with just a bit of deadfall to deal with.  We got it done in a relatively quick and easy half-hour.

the top of the Steel River's final logjam

the top of the Steel River’s final logjam

the final logjam on the lower Steel river – Santoy Lake coming up!

SP17 - final logjam before Santoy Lake -360 meter portage

A 1.5 kilometer paddle from the put-in after the last logjam, past a private cottage that sits on the west side of the river as it enters Santoy,  and we were finished for the day.


Santoy’s North Shore Beach

With a strong wind from the SW to deal with, we turned east towards the beach area and found a decent campsite SC07 tucked inside the bush.  It came complete with a grass floor!  In either direction from our camp spot were a number of others, some with fire pits and some not. The area has definitely seen some campers over the years.

start of Santoy Lake beach on north shore

start of Santoy Lake beach on the north shore

Santoy Lake north shore beach and camping area

Santoy Lake north shore beach and camping area

With the tent up, we sank into our camp chairs and looked south to the other end of Santoy Lake.  On tap the following morning –  a final paddle down the ten-kilometre lake,  passing the take-out for the Diablo Portage on the way to our vehicle sitting near the public dock.

The wind from the southwest was worrisome but there was a half-day for it to blow itself out.  We hoped for calm waters and a clear sky the next morning!

looking down Santoy Lake from the north beach

looking down Santoy Lake from the north beach

Santoy in the evening


Next Post: Canoeing The Steel – Day 8 – Down Santoy Lake

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