Related Post: Early Autumn Canoeing In the Heart of Temagami
Temagami and The Lady Evelyn River:
Temagami is a region to the north and west of North Bay in northeastern Ontario. It was the completion of rail tracks from North Bay of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway in 1905 which resulted in the birth of the village of Temagami at the top of the NE arm of Lake Temagami, the largest of the region’s lakes. By 1930 the village was also connected by road from the south. “Temagami” means “deep waters” in the Anishinaabe language of the Algonquin and Ojibwe people whose land it was before the newcomers arrived.
Having grown up in the Abitibi region to the northeast of Temagami, it took a while for my brother and me to see Temagami as a wilderness canoe tripping destination. To us, wild meant downriver to James Bay; Temagami was cottage country! However, a few trips over the past decade have opened our eyes to the area’s reality. This September we headed back for a fifth visit. This time our goal was to paddle the length of the Lady Evelyn River system.
Created by Ontario’s provincial government in 1983, Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park is Algonquin Park’s wilder cousin. If Algonquin is where you introduce someone to canoe tripping and camping, then Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater in Temagami is the next step. It is a bit further from southern Ontario, it is rawer, more rugged, more scenic, with less signage and fewer paddlers.
Don’t let Lady Evelyn P.P’s relative size compared to Algonquin fool you – it is the centerpiece of a hodgepodge of crown land, fifteen other parks, a dozen wilderness zones, and various other designations of public land. This Ottertooth map (here) shows the actual size of Temagami canoe country – and it is larger than Algonquin!
If the park is the heart of the Temagami wilderness area, then the Lady Evelyn River is the spine running right through it from west to east. The River begins on the high plateau between Ishpatina Ridge (Ontario’s highest point) to the SW and Maple Mountain to the NE. Five of the top fifteen highest points in Ontario are within 20 kilometers of the river’s headwaters! (See here for more ON high points info.) By the time it reaches the Montreal River below the Mattawapika Dam, the Lady Evelyn River drops about 120 meters or so in altitude.
- The North Branch has its headwaters just south of Beauty Lake.
- The South Branch begins in Apex Lake, one portage from Smoothwater Lake on the Park’s western edge. A bit further down, Florence, considered one of Temagami’s most beautiful lakes, feeds into this branch as it meanders its way to the Forks and merges with the North Branch.
From The Forks down to Katherine Lake, there are a dozen sets of rapids. The time of year will determine how paddlers deal with them – portage, wade & line, or run. Katherine Lake was once also known as Divide Lake – and for good reason. At the bottom end of the lake, there is a choice to be made:
- The North Channel with the three sets of waterfalls which make up The Staircase empties into Sucker Gut Lake to the north.
- The South Channel, a bit longer and with more waterfalls and challenging portages ends at Willow Island Lake at the bottom of the channel.
Then it is north and east through Obisaga Narrows and across the enlarged expanse of the Lady Evelyn Lake created when the Mattawapika Dam (1925) significantly raised lake water levels. Given the park’s status as a “wilderness” park, Lady Evelyn Lake itself, as Willow Island and Sucker Gut Lakes, are not a part of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Park! The fishing lodges (click on the link to see their locations) and motorized boat traffic put them in different categories – natural environment zone or conservation reserve!
An easy 200-meter portage around Mattawapika Dam brings the paddler to the mouth of the Lady Evelyn River as it merges with the Montreal River, the one that those who accessed the Lady Evelyn from the South Branch paddled up to reach Smoothwater Lake. From the Lady Evelyn River’s Apex Lake headwaters to the mouth there is about a 116- meter drop (387m to 271m).
On the east side of the Montreal River is Mowat Landing, one possible endpoint of the trip.
Hap Wilson: Temagami Guidebook and The Cabin
When it comes to canoe tripping in Temagami, Hap Wilson’s Temagami: A Wilderness Paradise is the book – the essential source. It was the first of a number of guidebooks he has written over the past forty years. His guidebooks to the Missinaibi, the Rivers of Manitoba, and the Upper Ottawa Valley all sit on my bookshelf and have served me well. Route suggestions, detailed sketches of rapids and advice on portages and campsites, as well as local history…it is all there and still mostly relevant and useful forty years after the first edition! The book is an investment that will repay itself many times over as you inevitably return for more of Temagami after your first visit.
Temagami was first published in 1979 and has seen a number of reprints and editions. The one pictured is the second edition from 2011. [See here for an Amazon.ca copy of the book for $25. You may also find it at your public library. The Toronto Public Libary has 8 copies of the 2nd ed. See here for the details.]
Another Wilson book that is worth checking out is The Cabin: A Search For Personal Sanctuary (2005). It is really his autobiography. It moves from –
- his childhood obsession with creating an isolated and secret space to which he could retreat from his dysfunctional family
- to his discovery of Temagami and wilderness canoe tripping in the early 1970s,
- to how he came to be the owner of what he has turned into an Eco-Lodge at Cabin Falls on the South Channel of the Lady Evelyn River.
The book could use more maps to illustrate the geography that is at the heart of the book; Wilson will also have you wincing at his over-use of Brobdingnagian synonyms and often not-quite-appropriate words when simpler ones would do just fine. However, there are more than enough Temagami-related nuggets of information and insight to persevere. A digital version of most of the book is also available at the Google Books site. The Preamble: Transformation and Chapter One are both available. [See here.] They are recommended reading before a trip down the Lady Evelyn; both will make you look at things a bit differently than usual.
- The Preamble: Transformation recounts the local version of the Ojibwe Flood Myth with Nanabush (referred to here as Nenebuc) taking on Mishipeshu, the Lynx-like creature of the deep waters and the ensuing flood and recreation of earth. And it all begins on Smoothwater Lake!
- Chapter One is Wilson’s account of his own mythic journey from Smoothwater Lake to Cabin Falls on the South Channel of the Lady Evelyn in the company of a friend or client to whom he is revealing his Paradise at Cabin Falls.
A Bit of Historical Background:
Speck’s 1913 Hunting Grounds Map:
The lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield country we are drawn to were already travelled before the Europeans arrived. With respect to Temagami, the most graphic and detailed reminder that I found of this was a map (see below) drawn up by the American anthropologist F.G. Speck in 1913 during his stay with the Ojibwe families living on Bear Island.
It was the transfer of the Hudson Bay Co. to Bear Island from its initial location at the south end of nearby Temagami Island in 1875 which created an Ojibwe trading post community on Bear Island. In 1913 Speck numbered this community at 95. The image below shows the trading post complex in 1910.
The trading post itself would operate until 1974 when the HBC sold the property to the Zufelt family. By 1981 they in turn had sold it to the Temagami First Nation.
From his conversations with family heads over a two-week period, Speck concluded that an original twelve families had moved into the Temagami area from Lake Huron/Lake Nipissing around the year 1800 in search of new hunting grounds. With the Canadian Government’s purchase of Bear Island from the Ontario Government in 1971, it became Bear Island 1 Reserve or what is now called Temagami First Nation.
The result of Speck’s visit was a brief study for the Canadian Government’s Department of Mines entitled Family Hunting Territories and Social Life of Various Algonkian Bands of the Ottawa Valley, (Click on the title to access the document.) In it, Speck writes –
For two weeks, while at Bear island, I had the heads of the families themselves engaged in marking their territories on the map which is here reproduced. The results are shown upon the map itself. It is believed that the territorial bounds there defined are as correct as it is possible to make them.The Indians themselves realized the importance of the subject, and, probably for the first time in their lives, settled matters in black and white which had formerly been merely entrusted to memory. [Click on the title above to access the document, p.13]
The map below of the Temagami area showing the hunting grounds of the dozen or so Ojibwe families who lived there at the time was the result of those meetings with the various family heads.
Speck gives enough detail that had we been doing a Lady Evelyn canoe trip in 1913, we’d know whose family hunting grounds we were paddling through. Speck also notes this about entering the hunting grounds belonging to other families.
When it was necessary in travelling to pass through another family territory, permission was generally sought at the owner’s headquarters before passing on, and if by necessity game had been killed to sustain life, the pelts were carried to the owners or delivered to them by some friend. This gave the proprietors the right in the future to do the same in the territory of their trespassers. [Speck, 4]
Not only were Ke’kek and Wendaban of the same Rattlesnake clan, but they were also brothers. Their combined hunting grounds were once the possession of their father, who gave Ke’kek the lands encompassed by 27 and 27a and Wendaban 24. From their relative sizes, it may be that Wendaban was the younger son. Apparently, Wendaban married a Nipissing woman and spent many winters (the hunting time) on Lake Nipissing instead of in the Lady Evelyn Lake area. Speck did not speak with or record the presence of anyone from hunting ground #24 during his stay.
To the south of the brothers Ke’Kek and Wendaban was the hunting ground of Misabi, still alive and almost 100 years old when Speck was at Bear Island in 1913. He had come up to Temagami from Georgian Bay – one source says from the Shawanaga area of Georgian Bay – as a young man and, having married one of Ke’kek’s daughters, was given 27a as his hunting ground. That would mean he had arrived around 1840 or so. On a side note, the Nipissing woman mentioned above as Wendaban’s wife – Thor Conway states that Wendaban married Misabi’s sister. If so, he may have spent much of his time in the Shawanaga area and not specifically on Lake Nipissing.
To think that we are talking about a hunting grounds map drawn up only 110 years ago and reflecting the local realities of the late 1800s. Given that my father was born in 1914 and my mother in 1922, and I was born in the Abitibi to the northeast of Temagami in 1951, this is not exactly ancient history!
Knowing some of the backstories of those Anishinaabeg who lived in Temagami a century or two before us makes the journey that much more meaningful.
The Ontario Government’s Exploration Survey Report:
In the summer of 1900, an Ontario Government-sponsored exploration survey party (#3) crisscrossed the Temagami and Matagami regions, paddling up and down rivers in an epic summer of canoeing. Already a railroad was pushing north from North Bay to Temagami; the government needed a better idea of the exploitable resources they would find. The survey party’s report covered lumber, mineral, hydro-electric, and farming potential. Along the way, the survey party also noted features of the waterways they travelled.
Here is what the report said about the crew’s ascent of the Lady Evelyn River from the Lake.
A click on the title will take you to a copy of the report – Report On The Survey and Exploration of Northern Ontario. Survey Party #3’s report begins on p. 83. It makes for interesting reading: among other things, it sometimes uses the earlier Algonkian language names of lakes and rivers. Lady Evelyn is not one of them!
The name Lady Evelyn was first applied just to the lake by Robert Bell in 1888 when he did survey work in the area for the Geological Survey Department of Canada’s Federal Government. [Bell was responsible for naming over 3000 Canadian geographical features; he is also the one who gave nearby Maple Mountain its name.] Only later did someone in the mapping department in Ottawa use the same name for the river coming into the Lake at Willow Island lake and Sucker Gut Lake. Before that the river was known locally as the “Trout Streams”, a translation of the Ojibwa, namegos + zibbins or sippi.
Both headwater branches of the Lady Evelyn can be accessed by vehicle. After a short ride west along Hwy 560 from Elk Lake towards Gowganda, you take the gravel road on the south side of the highway to Beauty Lake. The map below illustrates the basic route and the two options you have once you get to Beauty Lake –
- go left and you will be on the former Liskeard Lumber Road. You can put in at a number of points on the North Branch of the river along the way.
- go right and you will hit the Montreal River and the put-in to access Lady Evelyn’s South Branch;
The North Branch:
From Beauty Lake
The headwaters of Lady Evelyn’s North Branch (LE-NB) is the lake just south of Beauty Lake – Headwater Lake. Some paddlers put in at Beauty and work their way down through a string of small lakes – Island, Paddle, and Carmen – followed by a 1500m portage and then to another possible put-in at the north end of Gooseneck Lake. Weekend Lake, the one after Kaa, is the first lake within the Park’s boundaries.
By now, even those Type A paddlers (like me) who insist on completing everything to the nth degree are wondering why they didn’t just spare themselves the probable drudgery of this initial stretch which often involves too-shallow water and the stream running right alongside the gravel road.
From Gamble Lake
The common solution: driving down the Liskeard Lumber Road, marked in green on the map. Note that the section inside the park is not always in the best shape thanks to flooding and maintenance issues. A put-in at Gamble Lake is the start of many a trip down the Lady Evelyn.
If your choice is the North Branch, the two Ottertooth maps below should be in your map case. They are clear, up-to-date (2017), and annotated with useful information. Click on these two titles:
See below for possible shuttle arrangements.
The South Branch
Via Smoothwater Lake (The Montreal River Put-In)
The headwaters of Lady Evelyn’s South Branch (LE-SB) lies to the southwest of Beauty Lake. Instead of taking the left fork at the top of Beauty Lake, follow the right fork until you come to the Montreal River and the bridge. From the put-in here there is a fifteen-kilometer paddle up the Montreal River to Smoothwater Lake, a lake with a renowned beach on the east side
A 650-meter portage into Apex Lake at the south end of the lake (the same portage used by paddlers on their way to Scarecrow Lake and Ishpatina Ridge) and you are in the river’s headwaters.
At the east end of Apex Lake, another carry takes you into Whitemud Lake, which is where some possible difficulties await. We thought of it as the mandatory entry fee as we dealt with the first few kilometers of an often-shallow stretch of river blocked with beaver dams and deadfall that can wear you down with their frequency. This is not really the place to bring your kevlar/carbon fiber 40-lb. canoe!
An Option: Via Lakefield Air to Florence Lake
There is a way of avoiding the potential slogfest of the very top of the SB. In 2020, $800 will get you a bush plane ride from Lakeland Air on the Temagami waterfront to Florence Lake. The lake is about a day’s paddle SE of Whitemud Lake and makes for an easier entry point to a canoe trip down the Lady Evelyn River. Florence is one of Temagami’s most scenic lakes and its relative inaccessibility – either a fly-in or a paddle in from LE-SB or from Solace P.P. – makes it even more attractive. After a night or two on Florence Lake, you paddle down the outlet river to access LE-SB.
There is an excellent map at the Ottertooth site which lays out the details of accessing the LE-SB. It takes you from the put-in on the Montreal River almost down to Florence Lake.
Another Brian Back/Ottertooth map continues where the Smoothwater map ends and goes as far as The Forks, the point where the NB and the SB merge.
See below for more on maps.
The Forks To Katherine Lake:
The Forks is where the two branches of the LE merge and for the next twelve kilometers the LE is one flow – i.e. the main channel. From 358 meters a.s.l. at the Forks, a dozen sets of rapids and falls will take paddlers down to 333 meters on Katherine Lake. There are some great campsites along the way, a chance to spend some time at your very own Shangri-La, and a possible side trip up to Dry Lake. Then it is down another two kilometers to the bottom end of Katherine Lake – once known as Divide lake because it is here that the river splits in two again.
The choice to be made? Either the North Channel or the South Channel and no matter which one you choose there will be a significant drop – from 333m on Katherine Lake to 282 m in Sucker Gut Lake. There will be some portaging, as the red lines on the map below indicate.
Another Ottertooth map and accompanying description cover this stretch of the river:
Katherine Lake To Lady Evelyn Lake:
Katherine Lake – aka Divide Lake – is where another choice has to be made. There are two channels, both characterized by dramatic waterfalls and rough portage trails, that await the paddler. The south channel is a bit longer – perhaps 7.5 km as opposed to 6.5.
Lady Evelyn’s North Channel:
Of the two channels, the six-kilometer stretch of the North Channel (NC) is the more popular, perhaps because the portaging is easier or because of better campsite possibilities. As the map above shows, there are three major falls to deal with, as well as a couple of portages as you leave Katherine Lake. Once below Frank Falls, you are in Sucker Gut Lake and close to a side trip to Maple Mountain or east to Obisaga Narrows and the paddle across Lady Evelyn Lake to Mowat Landing.
Lady Evelyn’s South Channel:
The longer South Channel (SC) also involves three major waterfalls and a few portages. While the Natural Resources Canada topo has the NC falls named, this is not the case for the SC’s, perhaps an indication that it has historically been less travelled than the NC. The channel widens into Willow Island Lake, at the north end of which there used to be a waterfall before the 1925 Mattawapika dam raised the water level of Lady Evelyn Lake by an estimated five meters. See this Ottertooth page for some background on the SC.
Detailed descriptions of the various portages and things to watch out for can be found here.
For those planning to continue to Diamond Lake, the bottom of the SC puts them at the start of the “two-miler” portage into Diamond Lake and a possible exit at Ferguson Bay or the end of the Temagami Access Road further down on Lake Temagami.
Across Lady Evelyn Lake:
As you paddle down the north end of Sucker Gut Lake, you enter the south arm of Lady Evelyn Lake, the one that stretches all the way down to Diamond Lake. At the west end of the lake is a site marked on a 1905 map as “Indian House”. It may refer to the property of Wendaban, whose hunting ground the Lady Evelyn Lake area was until his death in 1894. The 20-feet (5-meter) rise in the water level of the lake caused by the completion of the Mattawapika Dam in 1925 may make it difficult to figure out the location of the cabin – but we plan to look around.
Crossing the Lady Evelyn from west to east should not present the paddler with the same difficulties that those heading west often face – i.e. prevailing winds from the NW or SW. It took us a day to paddle from one end of the lake to the east end; we spent two hours the next morning going down the final narrow stretch of the river to the Mattawapika Dam and then the short paddle across the Montreal River to Mowat Landing and our vehicle.
Our Route Choices:
We decided to come down the river’s South Branch. It allows a vehicle shuttle to the put-in on the Montreal River and we got to paddle up Smoothwater Lake again.
We had briefly considered a Lakeland Air insertion on Florence Lake but for us, there is something about doing the whole river that made it a second choice. Another bonus of a South Branch entry is that it allows for an easy side trip to Florence Lake.
We spent a couple of nights there. A scramble up to the viewpoint on the southwest corner of Florence Lake was a trip highlight.
After negotiating a dozen sets of rapids from The Forks to Katherine Lake, The South Channel was our choice of descent to Willow Island Lake, leaving the North Channel for another possible visit.
The paddle across Lady Evelyn Lake proved to be uneventful. Given the prevailing winds, it is usually those paddlers crossing the lake from east to west that have problems.
The trip ended with an easy portage around Mattawapika Dam; from there we paddled across the Montreal River to our vehicle parked at the Mowat Landing Cottages property.
Shuttles: Four of the Options
A put-in for either the north or south branch of the river will mean some shuttle arrangements.
1. Self-shuttle with two vehicles:
If you have two vehicles, you can do it yourself, leaving one at the put-in and one at the take-out at Mowat Landing. It would be free but there is a cost – i.e. about six hours spent jockeying cars back and forth. We did notice a few vehicles on the side of the road in a small parking area off Beauty Lake Road at the put-in on the Montreal River.
At Mowat Landing, on Labour Day weekend the small parking area was full and vehicles lined the side of the gravel road for 100 meters. Many of them belong to people who have gone up to the fishing lodges on Lady Evelyn Lake and those people do not require permits to leave their vehicles there. Your vehicle would not stand out if it did not have a permit. We went with the worry-free option and left our vehicle on the Mowat Landing Cottages property; there is a $40. a week charge for the service.
Their website has the following information as far as cost is concerned –
If you decided to end the trip at Mowat Landing, you would also have to make an arrangement for the outfitters to leave your vehicle there. If doing the entire river was not that important to you, the alternative is to paddle back to your vehicle in Temagami village via Diamond Lake and Lake Temagami once you got to the bottom of the North or South Channels.
Smoothwater Outfitters is located 15 kilometers north of Temagami Village just off the west side of Hwy 11 on Smoothwater Road. I sent an email regarding shuttle options and got this detailed response –
The best drive-in access for the Lady Evelyn River is Gamble Lake. The alternate route from Smoothwater Lake (using the Montreal River access point) adds distance and involves significantly more effort, as there are a few long portages between Smoothwater Lake and Gamble Lake. So, I’m suggesting that you will want to start at Gamble Lake, but that’s your choice to make. The shuttle cost to the Montreal River access point is $395. The shuttle cost to Gamble Lake is $450.
While on the way to either access, we can drive into Mowat Landing to leave your vehicle there for an additional $100.
Lots of good advice along with the cost of the various options. Interestingly, going down the south branch from Apex Lake is not considered but the brutal series of portages from Smoothwater to Gamble is!
+1 705 647 2550 https://www.mowatlandingcottages.ca
Mowat Landing – and the Cottages property – is located 70 kilometers north of Temagami with the final 20 km. stretch on Hwy 558 from Hwy. 11. The long-time owners are Trevor and Lisa Graydon.
This ended up being our shuttle choice. For $250 + HST we got a shuttle to the Montreal River put-in; another $60 paid for leaving our vehicle on their property for 11 days instead of on the side of Hwy. 558 near the public boat ramp; we also spent another $35 to camp on one of their tent sites by the river the night before the shuttle so that we could get going fairly early – 8:30 – the next morning.
By 10:45 a.m. we were already paddling up the Montreal to Smoothwater Lake!
Fed. Gov’t. `:50,000 Topographical Maps:
The Federal Government’s Natural Resources Canada 1:50.000 Topographical Maps. The first five maps were produced in 2010 and include the following note:
- 041 P 10 Gowganda
- 041 P 07_Smoothwater Lake
- 041 P 02_Pilgrim Creek (south section of Florence Lake)
- 041 P 01_Obabika Lake (bottom part of Lady Evelyn South Channel)
- 041 P 08_Lady Evelyn Lake
- 031 M 05__Cobalt 1996
The above jpg files are 5 Mb in size and on my WordPress server. You can access the original tif or pdf files at the Natural Resources Canada website here by using the map sheet i.d. above to access the correct folders and sub-folders. The size of the NRC tif files is in the 20 Mb range.
David Crawshay’s Topo Canada iOS App for iPhone enables you to download all of the above to your iPhone. While leaving the iPhone on all day to use as your primary GPS device would eat up battery power like crazy, it is very useful to make a quick confirmation that you are indeed where you think you are! Download Crawshay’s app here.
Toporama Canada Online Map:
Toporama is NRC’s modern version of the archived topo sheets. It is essentially a seamless map of the entire country and allows you to access and apply to the map all sorts of additional information
The Brian Back/ Ottertooth maps are the most up-to-date and informative maps available for a good chunk of a trip down the Lady Evelyn. They take right to the bottom of the North and South Channels of the river below Katherine Lake.
Gray’s River (the bottom of the map has the LE Main Channel from the Forks to Macpherson)
Chrismar Temagami Maps:
Two maps in Chrismar Mapping’s Adventure Series cover the Lady Evelyn River from top to bottom. [See here for coverage.]
They are Temagami 4 (2011 vintage) and Temagami 1. (Mine is from 2008 but there has been a refresh since, mostly with updated contact info.)
The 1:80,000 scale maps show campsite locations, (all) rapids and falls; portages are marked and calculated to the nearest ten meters. The backside is covered with related information and could serve as all the bedtime reading you’ll need!
In conjunction with the 1:50,000 NRC topos and the Ottertooth maps (both free downloads), and the essential Wilson maps mentioned below, you’d be more than all set!
Wilson’s Maps from the book:
We are obsessed enough about the weight that we leave guidebooks behind, only scanning and printing what we need. Wilson’s notes and maps on the Lady Evelyn route are scattered throughout his book [p.58; 92-93; 112-115].
First, we scan the relevant information and then rearrange it in trip order; we also enlarge some of the maps to make them easier to read while we’re on the move. In this case, the result was a printed 13-page pdf file that went inside our map case, along with a Chrismar map [Temagami 4 or 1] and one day’s worth of 1:50,000 NRC topo map.
Backcountry Camping Permits:
Parks Ontario backcountry fees structure for parks in the Temagami area –
For some reason, the Temagami-area parks have gone to a per campsite fee instead of a per camper fee. In Algonquin, it would cost my brother and me – both seniors – $10 each per night or $20 combined. In Lady Evelyn P.P. we get to spend an extra $10. a day per campsite, thanks to the fact that there are only two of us. The larger the group, the more of a deal it becomes – and the more stress to that campsite!
As for a solo canoe tripper who is not yet a senior – $37 per campsite! This is absurd to the point of encouraging paddlers to skip the fees altogether and hope for the best – or perhaps contributing by paying for a day or two. Given how few park officials there are to check camping permits, given the isolation of the top stretch from Florence or Beauty Lake to the bottoms of the two channels below Katherine Lake, it may be worth the gamble. Unstated, of course, is what the actual fine would be if you were caught without any or enough campsite fee coverage.
While I have never enjoyed fishing, for some it is an essential part of a canoe trip. The following links should provide those canoe trippers who are also avid fishermen/women with what they need to know before they set off:
I had no idea it was so complicated – and expensive! – for non-residents! Any comments on the Lady Evelyn as a fishing mecca will be appreciated by some readers keen to know the whereabouts of any great fishing spots. Leave your tips in the Comments section below!
Deforestation In the Temagami Area:
In July of 2018, there was a huge wildfire in the area to the northeast of Lady Evelyn Lake. The map below shows its extent, with the red representing the most recent forest loss. [Note that another reason for some of the other areas of forest loss may be logging activity and not fire.]
Check out this website (here) if you want to take a closer look at the Temagami area (or any other!) as you plan your route. It provides an extra layer of context to the journey!
Current Fire Situation:
We paddled down the river during the last two weeks of summer. No fires to report! In late August there had been one small fire reported in the Trethewey Lake area. One thing we can expect is that if there was a fire, officials will be doing all possible to put it out.
This would contrast with our experience during a Wabakimi canoe trip. We kept expecting to see water bombers appear to put out the flames that we could see from a few kilometers away. We were informed by the park official who got out of the park helicopter and beckoned us across the river that sometimes parks management will happily let a fire burn decades of accumulated deadfall while still trying to protect outposts and lodges.
In short – we were not expecting any except on the last day as we paddle down to the Mattawapika Dam. The various lodges at the east end of the lake seem to have cellphone coverage. Other than that, you are basically off the grid. [Update: no cell coverage for us even at the east end of LE.]
We brought along our Garmin inReach Explorer+; it can send an emergency notice, as well as send and receive emails. The real-time tracking feature which lets the folks at home know where we are is a bonus, as is the weather forecast feature, with info supplied to Garmin by Dark Sky, recently acquired by Apple and slated to become its de facto weather app.
Some Of Our Other Temagami Trips:
Since my brother and I grew up in the Abitibi region of northwestern Quebec it took us a long time to realize that there was some great paddling country that did not slope down to James Bay on the Quebec or Ontario side!
It has really just been the last decade that Temagami has become an option for an almost-wilderness canoe trip. The fact that we can put our canoe in the water six hours after leaving Toronto is definitely a factor, but the main draw is Temagami itself – rugged, scenic, with layers of history to contemplate, and some great campsites to discover. While we have not returned to Algonquin since the late 1970s, as we get older Temagami may well become our go-to canoe tripping slice of the Canadian Shield.
Here are a few trip reports of Temagami visits over the past decade –