Canoeing The Little Missinaibi River: Day 4 – From Mukwa Falls To Little Missinaibi Lake

Previous Post – Day 3: From Just Below Rawhide Lake To Mukwa Falls (Below Woods Lake Road Crossing)

  • distance: 21 km
  • time:  start – 9:20 a.m. ; finish – 5:25 p.m.
  • portages/rapids: -1
    • PR7 RR – 200m – actually only a 1/3 since we did the other part the previous day!
    • Line – a 75m section that we ran/lined – was easy so not numbered
    • LO  – 75m – Long jam just inside park boundary; some fussing over a section; see pics below; about 30 minutes – magic carpet to the rescue!!
  • weather: Some rain early morning before we got up; overcast with some morning rain off and on; sunny over lunch (50k) & then sunny with cloudy periods for rest of the day
  • campsite: designated island site near 55k; room for 2-3 x 2/4 person tents.

It would be a fairly easy-going morning; it took us two and a half hours to get to Lookout Bay. However, we were left a bit confused since the river we experienced did not correspond to the one the Garmin Topo map on our GPS devices indicated! With an elevation of 381 m at the small pool at the bottom of Mukwa Falls and an elevation of 361 meters in Little Missinaibi Lake at Lookout Bay, there should have been much more drama. Not that we minded. We were fine with “easy-going” after the previous day!

We did spend about ten minutes lining and running our way down a set of rapids about two kilometers from our put-in at the bottom of the falls. After that, we got back to our usual  6 to 7 km./hr. cruising speed all the way to the Missinaibi Provincial Park boundary.


It was raining lightly and in the photo below we’ve stopped under some cedars to take a ten-minute break. Just before the stop, we had floated through a set of swifts/Class 1 rapids.

a short break under the cedars on the Little Missinaibi

A comment from a reader of my Little Missinaibi Lake pictograph post did come to mind as we approached the Missinaibi Park boundary! He had written –

Good luck canoeing the Little Missinaibi River with gear to where it enters Little Missinaibi Lake. I would hazard it would be a real physical adventure with a number of pullovers.

Unless he was talking about the entire upper Little Miss, we figured we were at the spot he had in mind when we saw the logjam just inside the park boundary. The two haul-overs we had to do were separated by a pool of water just not quite wide enough for us to manoeuver our canoe from one to the other. It took a half-hour of branch trimming and “magic carpet” sliding to get our groaning canoe over the logs. All the while I had visions in my head of a McGarrigle sisters tune called “Log Driver Waltz” as I worried about the precarious footing.

the last of the upper Little Missinaibi’s blockages



And then into Little Missinaibi Lake…It was shortly before noon (11:40) and we were done with the upper Little Missinaibi!  Of the rest of the trip – about 75 kilometers – only 10 would be on the river; the rest was lake paddle.

And that groan of relief? That was actually the sound of our canoe as we pulled it over the last set of logs blocking our way into Lookout Bay!  Thanks to repeated hauling over logs and beaver dams, it had developed a crack in its belly.  It had been subjected to more abuse than it was meant to take.  (On our way home a few days later we dropped it off at a Swift Canoe outlet so that it could be repaired. The fix? A belly patch for $500.)

We were now paddling in well-documented water and the “What is around the corner?” mystery of the first three and a half days was over!  Lookout Bay was Km. 45 of our route; for the remaining 75 to Missanabie and the train stop we would be doing mostly lake paddle. Only the 12 kilometers or so of the lower Little Missinaibi from Admiral Falls provided a bit of adrenaline-pumping action.

The original plan had been to make camp at a site in Lookout Bay and scramble up to the viewpoint Wilson describes. Given the weather – and the fact we were a bit behind schedule – we decided to keep moving. An island campsite (CS04) down the lake a bit was the day’s new goal.  On our way there we would check out various pictograph sites indicated in Wilson’s guide-book.

We did have something new to focus on. Little Missinaibi Lake has a number of recorded pictograph sites. We were keen to check them out and get some photos of the rock paintings at each one. As well, I had received an email from a reader of our pictograph posts telling me of an unreported site. Since we would be paddling right by, already knowing that there was something there would make it that much more likely that we would see it.

Our first site is numbered #4 in the map above because that is its place in the sequence in which the published reports of Selwyn Dewdney and Hap Wilson place it. Their order goes from north to south; we were entering the lake at the south end.

So – it was around noon as we headed to the Grave Bay site reported by Hap Wilson. The bay is a narrow one that slants to the south-west. The location given is at the entrance of the bay on the west side. We paddled down the west side of the bay for about 400 meters and past three separate rock faces – see the image below – but could not find anything.

looking out of Grave Bay on Little Missinaibi Lake at the supposed pictograph site location

There was a significant amount of lichen covering the three rock faces. It effectively hid whatever images drawn with hematite were underneath. So – no luck.

lichen covered vertical rock face at Grave Bay entrance

As we paddled north-east back out the bay into the lake we did stop at a small island for lunch. The sun had also come out after a morning of rain and drizzle and we used the ample horizontal rock face to spread out our wet clothes and gear.

lunch stop – and drying out session – on Grave Bay island with convenient rock spread

Buzzing around our lunch spot were dragonflies feasting on bugs who had hoped to feast on us. We couldn’t help but think of SAR helicopters as we saw them go about their work – hovering and darting about.

a visitor drops in – I have a vision of SAR helicopters

Lunch done,  it was on to Picto Site #3 on the SW tip of an island which the Chrismar map Missinaibi 1  identifies as Eagle Island. Thanks to a reader we had the location of an unrecorded site which we would pass along the way, so we made sure to stay on the west side of the lake as it goes north toward Eagle Island.

The image below shows what we eventually paddled by – a panel of seven or eight images, a couple of which were hidden under the branches of the cedar. A moose, a couple of canoes, maybe a human figure with outstretched arms, and a few other difficult-to-interpret ochre marks –  after our 45 minutes spent looking in vain for the Grave Bay pictographs, this was a lot more gratifying!

an unreported pictograph site on Little Missinaibi Lake

close-up of pictographs on unreported Little Lake Missinaibi site

close-up of Little Miss pictographs just south of Picto Site #3

And then it was on down the lake and around the corner to Picto Site #3 on the map above. We found a number of images there. Some were almost faded into non-existence; others were still “readable”.

Little Missinaibi Lake – Picto Site #3 – one of the many panels

Picto Site #3 has a number of panels separated by a bit of distance; we paddled close to the vertical rock lining the island and were thankful for the relatively calm water and the sunshine as we framed our photos with our cameras.

Max had his Canon SX280 at work; I had both a Fuji X20 compact and the camera we refer to as “the big honker”, the Sony A77 DSLR. Given the 10 lb./4.2 kg weight of the Sony with its various lenses in a Pelican 1400 case, I had seriously considered leaving it at home and just using the Fuji X20 with its more-than-decent 12 mp raw images. But then – what do I have the A77 for if not to take along?

paddling across Little Missinaibi Lake to get to Picto Site #2

North of Picto Site #3 we would easily find #2. In the above photo the vertical rock face is visible on the other side of the lake.

Little Missinaibi Picto Site #2 – the most well-known panel

Picto Site #2 would be the most impressive of the ones we checked out this day. There are a number of panels to see over a forty-meter distance. We would leave Site #1, the most well-known and discussed of the sites, until the next morning.

one last look from the north end of Little Missinaibi Lake’s Picto Site #2

We’ve created a separate post with many more photos of what we found at the various sites on Little Missinaibi Lake. If you are interested in more info – and more pix and discussion and GPS co-ordinates  – click on the post title below. 

The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake

Our day would end with a short paddle west to our island campsite. As we got near we saw our first reminder that we were now in a managed park as opposed to the Crown Land of the Game Preserve. Nailed to a tree was the iconic campsite marker, something we had definitely not seen in our first three days of travel on the Little Missinaibi River from Healey Bay on Lake Windermere.

We had reserved by telephone four nights of tenting in the Park from Julie Gervais at the Park office in Chapleau. Our permit arrived shortly later by email! (Our four nights would also include Admiral Falls, Whitefish Falls, and Red Granite Point campsites.) For the second year in a row, I got to pay the “senior” rate!  Max will have to wait until 2019 to join the club.

the scene on our Little Missinaibi Lake island campsite an hour later

The excellent campsite includes a picnic table and room for multiple tents. We used the extra space to put up our Eureka NoBugZone for the second time. I had bought the bug shelter after reading one too many horror story about black flies in mid-June. We actually found them not to be an issue!

our most successful setting up of our bug/tarp shelter

Still, we were lugging the 5.5 lb. shelter (about 9′ x 9′ of space) so we figured it may as well go up. The integrated tarp also turns it into a handy rain shelter as well as a refuge from the bugs if they do get really bad. It is a well-thought-out design with no-see-um meshing and a white nylon tarp. By the end of the trip we had finally figured out the most effective way to set it up!

It was about 700 meters from our island campsite over to Picto Site #2. After supper, we wandered over to the south-east side of the island and took one last look at the pictograph site. The A77 and the telephoto zoomed to 300 mm. (35 mm equivalent) brought the site into view nicely.

Little Missinaibi Lake Picto Site #2 from our island campsite to the west

Day 4 had begun on at our tent site on the rocky right shoulder of Mukwa Falls. We were now on an island about two-thirds of the way down Little Missinaibi Lake. Compared to the work involved on days 2 and 3, it had been an easy one, made all the more enjoyable by the shift from dealing with various complications on the river to sitting in front of pictograph sites and snapping photos.

Our next day promised more of the same since we only intended to paddle to Admiral Falls at the north end of the lake. We just hoped that the decent weather would hold.

Next Post: Day 5 – From Island Campsite Across From Picto Site #2 To Admiral Falls


This entry was posted in Pictographs of the Canadian Shield, wilderness canoe tripping. Bookmark the permalink.

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