Previous Post: Day 6 – From Just Below The Forks To Macpherson Lake
Table of Contents
- Day 7 Map Overview
- From Macpherson Lake To Stonehenge Lake
- From Stonehenge Lake To Katherine Lake
- From Katherine Lake down the South Channel
- Down To Cabin Falls
- From Cabin Falls To Bridal Veil Falls
Day 7 Map Overview
- Distance: 10.7 km.
- Time: 9:30 to 3:50
- Portages/Rapids: portaged all except the second set coming into Stonehenge Lake and the first set on the South Channel.
- Weather: same old same old: coolish; overcast; massive 45-min. downpour on south channel portage; hints of the sun in the evening.
- Campsite: Bridal Veil Falls – very scenic and, thanks to the Falls, somewhat noisy! Perhaps room for 2 or 3 2-P tents, 1 good 4-P tent spot; portage trail goes through the campsite. No toilet box located.
A late start this day with a change of plans. Given the weather – overcast with definite rain coming our way – the idea of portaging up into Dry Lake and checking out the viewpoint at the SW corner of the lake was scrapped, as was making use of the one campsite on the lake. Instead, we figured we’d start our descent of the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel.
From Macpherson Lake To Stonehenge Lake
At the bottom of Macpherson Lake is a short 70-meter boney set of rapids and a late-season boulder garden impossible to float down. [In the Wilson guidebook, it is his Rapid #7 – a CII whose “character varies greatly with flow”. He gives it the name “Twist & Shout.”]
We stuck to river left and spent ten minutes lining down to a spot where we could hop back in. Here is a shot looking back up at those rapids. Max is getting comfortable after setting the next waypoint on his Etrex 20!
Below Macpherson Lake is Stonehenge Lake – and leading into Stonehenge are a couple of rapids, the first of which we lined on river right; they are followed by a middle section which we floated down. We then just continued floating down the bottom set. It was a bumpy ride! See the satellite image below for a better idea of the situation.
According to our GPS track, we spent about fifteen minutes getting down and into Stonehenge. [In the Wilson guidebook, these two rapids are #8 (CI-T) and #9 (CI line or run).] The 2020 mid-September water level was not optimal!
From Stonehenge Lake To Katherine Lake
The area between Stonehenge Lake and Katherine Lake apparently features some pretty nice campsites and – on a sunny July day – sounds like a nice spot to ramble up and down the river with a camera. Rapids, swifts, waterfalls – a veritable Shangri La! However, a Shangri La campsite would have to be shelved for another possible trip – one coming down the North Branch from Gamble Lake.
We had already caught a few raindrops, and more were definitely on the way. As we approached the bottom of Stonehenge, there were two portages indicated.
- the river left 530-meter portage stays with the river and gets you around a set of rapids at the top and Shangrila Falls at the bottom
- the other one – the 800-meter one we chose – veers away from the river and puts you right into Katherine Lake after an easy overland hike.
[A post-trip look at the dimensions of Katherine Lake at the Ontario Govt topo site (see here) had the lake go right up to the bottom of the Falls! It must mean that the “rapids” indicated on the map below are mild to non-existent! In retrospect, staying with the river would probably have been the easier – and more scenic – option. Let me know in the comments section below if you’ve gone down this way and what paddlers can expect!]
The first thirty meters of the 800-meter portage goes through a wetlands area. It was somewhat mushy on our trip through, thanks to the rain of the past few days. It changes into a series of connected, gently sloped rock outcrops. Patches of slippery moss made things interesting.
After crossing a dry boulder river bed, the last half is a beautiful woodland trail, and our pace picked up noticeably! Also noticeable was the sun, which came out for a half-hour as we were nearing the end of the portage. We absorbed some sun rays as we sipped on Gatorade and munched an energy bar at the end of it – an hour and a quarter workout. It was 11:30, and instead of stopping for lunch in the next hour, we decided to paddle until we came to a decent campsite on the South Channel.
From Katherine Lake down the South Channel
It is 2.5 kilometers from the portage put-in at the top of Katherine Lake down to the bottom. That is where the lake – once with the more appropriate name of Divide Lake– has two outlets: the North Channel and the South Channel. Both have three dramatic waterfalls and some rough portages.
- North Channel: Helen Falls; Center Falls; Frank’s Falls
- South Channel: Cabin Falls; Bridal Veil Falls; Fatman’s Falls
We headed down the South Channel from Katherine Lake. [See Brian Back and Hap Wilson’s Ottertooth South Channel map for what you’ll face from top to bottom.]
First up is a set of CI-T rapids (Rapids #13 in the Wilson guidebook), down which we zig-zagged our way. The other option is to line on river right.
Next up was an unavoidable 240-meter portage on river left not far below the rapids. Just as we pulled in to the top of the portage, we heard thunder and got off the river quickly. We slipped the packs and duffels into their XL-size construction-grade garbage bags, grabbed the tarp, and headed into the bush just off the bouldery shore. It rained gently at first and then – just after we had gotten the tarp up and made ourselves comfortable – we listened to a torrential downpour come down on our tarp.
Forty-five minutes later the thunder had moved on and the rain had stopped. We now got to do the carry on a very wet and slippery trail.
Cabin Falls Portage
We approached Cabin Falls within ten minutes of putting in and were faced with another carry on river left – 300 meters. We did see the canoes on the other side of the river at the top end of a portage trail that passes through the private property indicated by the faint white line on the satellite image below. The property belongs to Hap Wilson and is the site of his Ecolodge, a complex consisting of the main lodge and a couple of guest cabins.
The portage is rough in parts and the just-ended rain did not help. The rock slope you see in the image below was the top of the final stretch down to the put-in below the 9-meter-high falls.
From Cabin Falls To Bridal Veil Falls
Once back in the canoe we looked back at the falls. Invisible in the trees on top of the falls is the cabin, originally built in 1931. Wilson’s The Cabin is his 2009 autobiographical look at his life-long obsession with building a personal refuge and how he came to be the owner of what must be the only piece of legal private property in Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park.
The red dot in the center of the image below is the Canadian flag flying in front of it. We never did get a real good shot of THE cabin or any of the other buildings that have since gone up as Wilson created his Ecolodge.
Less than two kilometers below Cabin Falls is the next scenic highlight of the Lady Evelyn’s South Channel – Bridal Veil Falls. It would also be where we stopped this day. We made use of the campsite on the side of the portage trail twenty meters from where a side stream begins a series of tumbles down to the bottom.
The portage trail from the take-out spot to the campsite is actually quite walkable, with only one section of sloped rock outcrop just before the campsite which was a bit slippery thanks to the rain. One thing we did not find at this site was a thunderbox.
Expecting more rain, we put up both tarps, one over the tent and the other across the portage trail where we set up our eating/sitting area. In the late afternoon, the sun peeked out for a while. As we looked across at the main falls, we could see how the multiple drops would lead someone to name them the Bridal Veil. Closer to us was a side falls, whose water tumbled over a couple of ledges before rejoining the main stream in the pool below. The next morning as we paddled out from the put-in we’d get another memorable perspective.
Next Post: Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To the Bottom of the South Channel
We did not have the apparent leisure of the masthead photo on your ‘about’ page on Ramblin Boy when our co-ed party of about 8 hustled out of the baggage car circa 4:30 AM summer day mid-1970s. We disembarked at a derelict stop on the CN from Petawawa through Algonquin Park and made a mad dash with canoes and gear to the water before all blood was drained by local mosquitos.
If my skills for putting in the relevant pics, maps, etc were up to yours I could show our route and highlights but it will have to suffice that the trip was from Radiant or Odenback onto Radiant Lake down the Petawawa to Schooner Rapids. And highlights there were!
Best regards and safe travels to you
Robbie Viets Carleton Place
Robbie, pix were few and far between back in the 70s! Our manual focus Nikon did not come out of the bag most of the day for fear of getting it wet. Maybe four rolls of slide film for the whole trip. Your 4:30 a.m. in the dark unloading may also explain the lack of photo evidence! I am not at all familiar with the Petawawa but a quick look just now tells me your crew had a blast with all those rapids. I should put it on my list of rivers to run!
That masthead shot was taken in 1980; we were in Moosonee at dawn and boarding the Polar Bear Express for a ride back to Cochrane. That train is still in operation. We also use VIA to get dropped off along the tracks in NW Ontario between Armstrong Station and Sioux Lookout on occasion. Since it was not running this COVID summer, we drove up to Temagami instead.