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Day 6 – To Macpherson Lake
- distance: 9.1 km
- time: 9:30 a.m to 3:50 p.m.
- portages/rapids: 6/6 – lined 3?
- Note: Rapid #s taken from Wilson’s essential Temagami guidebook – see here
- weather: some sunny moments but mostly cloudy and overcast, cool
- campsite: island, reasonably sheltered, room for a 2-3 x 2/3p tent plus perhaps 1 or 2 x 4p tents.
We left our campsite on the point by the falls around 9:20. After we put in on the other side of the 40-meter portage, we figured that this day would be spent dealing with ten sets of rapids/portages.
Our goal was not very ambitious; the Shangri-La campsite just above Katherine Lake sounded like a nice spot to spend some time. If we felt really keen the next morning the thought was to portage up into Dry Lake and paddle to the viewpoint on the SW corner of the lake. But all that was in the future – first up, the set of rapids around the corner from our campsite!
We had decided to line and run this one (option 3), thus avoiding the portage, which would have required paddling over to river left and then taking the side trail (2) to join the main one.
After our put-in at the bottom of the falls, it took us about 25 minutes to get to the bottom of the next set of rapids (labeled Rapid #3 on the Wilson map below and given the nickname CII Subway). Slipping into some swifts we were soon down to the stretch of the river to the top of Rapids #3 where it closes in for about 70 meters. This time the line/run option turned out to be the right one.
Next, we were faced with a dry bouldery river bed on both sides of a river with not enough water to line the canoe. The panorama and satellite images below give you an idea of the scene.
In the sat image below – taken when the water level was somewhat higher – you can see the boulder-lined shore above the rapids labeled #4 in Wilson’s Temagami guidebook. We ended up carrying gear and canoe for about 100 meters over the bouldery shore on river right to get around the worst of it. Wilson describes Rapid #4 as a Technical CII and gives it the name Out of Sight.
Once below Rapids #4, we were in the water pictured in the image below. On river left just below the end of it is a campsite. It was an easy float down to the next set of rapids – #5 in the Wilson count. He rated it a CI – top only! and gave it the name Noway!
We lined our way down the rapids on river right though there is also a 125-meter portage trail on the same side that we did not see. The image below is a look back up those rapids as we paddled away.
Coming right up – Rapid #6. Wilson includes the note “Technical C1 Curveball”. We were three sets of rapids from Macpherson Lake.
We were happy to float right through this one in less than a minute, thus eliminating the effort that lining or the portage on river right (a 125-meter carry) would have required. No retrospective photo of the bottom ledge that we had scraped over!
“Two to go – let’s git ‘er dun!” We figured we’d stop for lunch on Macpherson before pushing on to Shangri-La.
We were a bit fuzzy on the next one, not really having given the trip notes enough of a read beforehand. We were moving along nicely and passed through some swifts as we rounded the slight bend. That’s when we saw – coming up too soon! – a narrowing boulder-strewn channel with a visible drop! From our middle-of-the-river position, we made a clumsy move to river right, grazing a boulder in a bad attempt to slip into what looked like a floatable bit of water down. Given how bouldery the whole thing was we were kidding ourselves.
Note: there is a 150-meter portage trail on river right! We should have gotten out and taken a look before proceeding.
Seconds later we were standing in waist-high water below the falls, our canoe having tipped and taken on water, and the dislodged packs floating down on river left. Whoa! An invigorating cold shower that forces you to take stock and think fast! We had paid the price for our sloppy approach and decision to just float down without first scouting.
With the canoe emptied of water and floating again, we had an immediate problem. No paddles! I snapped part of a skinny pine trunk into a 1-meter paddle; Max eyed another one and set about sawing it off.
Now armed with a couple of “paddles” we set off downriver to collect our packs and duffels. The photo above has them floating on river left. Within ten minutes we had amazingly recouped them all. While the two Hooligan packs (essentially the Made In China version of the Ostrom Wabakimi packs) had taken on water, the inside liner bags had done their job. Given their 18 to 20 kilogram weight we were just glad they had not sunk! The two duffels were also retrieved – and so was one paddle that we found floating nearby. Things were definitely looking up.
I took the following shot as we paddled back up the rapids in search of a paddle or two! After we had gotten all the bags back in the canoe, we paddled up the shore on river right. When we couldn’t go any further, I hopped out and walked up closer to the falls looking for our two missing paddles. A gleam on a short straight piece of something yellow/brown in the pool below the falls on the other side of the river had me thinking it was one of our paddles sticking out.
We were now on our way back to get it!
It turns out that it hadn’t been the paddle after all, just the sun catching a barkless tree branch. You can see it just below Max’s boots. However, right there not far from what had drawn my eye was a paddle. And stuck in the middle of the falls up top was the other one!
Now that we had two paddles again, we continued downriver, thankful to have escaped mostly unscathed, even if a bit wet, from our dumb lapse in judgment. Except for our third paddle – which we perhaps should have made an effort to retrieve – we hadn’t lost anything. Even the map case, its yellow top peeking 6 cm. out of the water was spotted and scooped up.
It is funny how, in spite of paddling a few thousand kilometers, it is the capsizes you remember most vividly! Our last major dunk had been on the Bloodvein River some six years before. It was almost forty years ago but I can still hear Cyril’s laugh as we tanked that 17′ Grumman going down Graveyard Rapids on the Spanish River.
No more pix this day after we left our dunking scene!
The Jennings Run the DO NOT RUN Chutes!
Not long after this report got uploaded, I came across the Jennings’ Explore The Backcountry video of their short loop trip on the upper Lady Evelyn and into Makobe Lake. Titled Paddling The Burnt Lands: Temagami’s Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Sufferfest, the pro-quality video included some footage of them running various rapids from Gamble lake on down to Macpherson Lake.
Here is what popped up on the screen at the 11:24 mark!
While it is the same set of falls, there are some differences to be noted!
- they scouted the falls before they went down (always a good idea!)
- they portaged their gear first before running it with an empty canoe
- they had late-June water volume instead of our mid-September
- the hour-plus that we spent retrieving the gear they spent scouting, portaging, and setting up the on-shore cameras to get additional dramatic footage to go along with the canoe’s Gopro!
The videos that these two put together of their canoe trips are always top-notch: well-edited with on-point narrative as well as clips that clearly take some time to set up. The occasional use of drone footage adds an extra dimension. Check out their Youtube channel for some great trip ideas. Meanwhile, I still forget that cameras these days – unlike my 1980s Nikon F3HP – can shoot video!
We did the river right Macpherson Chutes portage and then kept on paddling. Macpherson is a long narrow lake, a little under four kilometers from top to bottom. Now we were in campsite search mode; we wanted to take advantage of the mid-afternoon wind and let our stuff dry out a bit.
After scanning the river left shore for something, we referred to the Chrismar map and turned back to the island CS indicated. We found there an okay site that even had a thunderbox. As with all the other official sites we had so far used, this was was very tidy. Props to those who stayed there before us and the Park crew who may have come through on a clean-up run!