Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Route Options, Maps, Shuttles, Permits, And More

Previous Post: Temagami & Lady Evelyn Canoe Trip: Introduction and a Bit of History

Route Options:

The Lady Evelyn from top to bottom – route choices

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;

See here for the full Parks Ontario map, which shows park boundaries as of 2007

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:

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Beauty Lake Road Access

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Trethewey (takes the paddler down below Gamble lake)

See below for possible shuttle arrangements.

The South Branch Option:

Lady Evelyn – South Branch access

Via Smoothwater Lake (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!

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.

Florence Lake to Lady Evelyn River South Branch

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.

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Smoothwater

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.

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Florence

See below for more on maps.

The Forks To Katherine Lake:

The Lady Evelyn – From 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.

Another Ottertooth map and accompanying description cover this stretch of the river:

The Forks-Lady Evelyn River – Macpherson Lake

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.

No matter which one you choose there will be a significant drop – from 333m on Katherine Lake to 282 m in Sucker Gut Lake.  Portage trails are marked in red.

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.

Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

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 refers to the cabin and small garden 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 makes it difficult to figure out the exact location of the cabin – but we plan to look around for any evidence that time or water have not erased.

from Sucker Gut Lake to the mouth of the Lady Evelyn/Montreal River

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.

Day 1 – To The Put-In and Up River To Smoothwater Lake

Day 2 – From Smoothwater  to an “It’ll Do” CS on the South Branch

Day 3 – From Our Makeshift South Branch CS To Florence Lake

Day 4 – On Florence Lake

Day 5 – From Florence Lake To The Forks (And A Bit Beyond)

Day 6 – From Just Below The Forks to Macpherson Lake Island CS

Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake To The South Channel’s Bridal Veil Falls

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.

Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To The Bottom of the South Channel

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.

Day 9 – From The South Channel To The West End of Lady Evelyn Lake

Days 10 & 11 – From The West End of Lady Evelyn lake to Mowat Landing

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 four 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.

2. Temagami Outfitting Co.

Their website has the following information as far as cost is concerned –

 +1 416-835-0963      info@temagamioutfitting.ca

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.

3. Smoothwater Outfitters   

1-705-868-6464.

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!

4. Mowat Landing Cottages:

+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!

Maps:

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:

  1. 041 P 10 Gowganda   
  2. 041 P 07_Smoothwater Lake 
  3. 041 P 02_Pilgrim Creek (south    section of Florence Lake) 
  4. 041 P 01_Obabika Lake (bottom part of Lady Evelyn South Channel) 
  5. 041 P 08_Lady Evelyn Lake  
  6. 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 extract from and apply to the map all sorts of additional information and features.

The Ottertooth Website: 

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.

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Beauty Lake Road Access

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Trethewey (takes the paddler down below Gamble Lake)

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Smoothwater

Temagami’s Canoe Atlas: Florence

Gray’s River (the bottom of the map has the LE Main Channel from the Forks to Macpherson)

Lady Evelyn’s South Channel

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 –

See here for the source.

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.

Fishing Permits:

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:

Fishing Licence – Canadian Residents

Fishing Licence – Non-Canadian Residents

Zone 11 Information – Regulations and Limits

 

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.

Ontario Forest Fire Map

Cellphone Coverage:

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.

cell phone coverage – Temagami Canoe Country

____________________________________

Next Post: Day 1 – To the Put-In And Up The Montreal River To Smoothwater Lake

____________________________________

See also – 

Day 2From Smoothwater Lake To An “It’ll Do” CS  On Lady Evelyn’s South Branch

Day 3 – From Our “It’ll Do” Campsite To Florence Lake

Day 4 – On Florence Lake

Day 5 – From Florence Lake To Just Below The Forks of the Lady Evelyn

Day 6 – From Just Below The Forks to Macpherson Lake Island CS

Day 7 – From Macpherson Lake To The South Channel’s Bridal Veil Falls

Day 8 – From Bridal Veil Falls To The Bottom of the South Channel

Day 9 – From The South Channel To The West End of Lady Evelyn Lake

Days 10 & 11 – From The West End of Lady Evelyn lake to Mowat Landing

 

 

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5 Responses to Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River From Top To Bottom: Route Options, Maps, Shuttles, Permits, And More

  1. Kernie Gilliam says:

    Rambling did you do any fishing? if so what spices and how was the action? Also, did you see many other paddlers, boaters. etc. ?

    • true_north says:

      Kernie, I don’t fish! No doubt a waste of some great fishing spots! I am sure we have paddled through some lakes that would make those into fishing drool.

      I’ve been a vegan since 2000 and a vegetarian since 1985 and even when I was a kid up in the Abitibi region in NW Quebec I never got into it – or into hunting. My bro is good enough to become a vegan when we canoe trip together!

      We saw three canoes on Day 1 going to Smoothwater; we also saw a solo paddler at the Forks. That was it for canoe trippers! Fishing boats are to be expected once you hit Lady Evelyn Lake thanks to the half-dozen fishing lodges. But we only saw or heard maybe a half-dozen boats in our 2 1/2 days in fishing boat territory. All in all, pretty quiet as we expected.

      The best time to do Temagami is June or September; it can be very busy in the prime summer months.

  2. Garry Paget says:

    Good evening Ramblin’ Boy,
    Good to see you’re “back in the paddle” again!!
    While it’s possible my Pagets used/worked on the Liskeard lumber road (only speculation) they (The Huntsville Syndicate) were involved in siting and subdividing the land that was to become the town of New Liskeard.
    Again, a very informative post. TY.
    Garry

    • true_north says:

      Garry, a year of covid and we’re still alive! The “new” post was actually just me taking a verrry long introduction post and cutting it in two. The first part deals with the history stuff which I am sure makes some readers’ eyes glaze over; this part was the one with practical info on route options, who to contact up there for shuttles, and what maps to get.

      BTW have you ever heard of the A.J. Murphy Lumber Company. It sounds like it played a major role in opening the Lady Evelyn Lake area to logging. I found the info in this detail-rich article which I was lucky enough to copy before the website went dead! It has to do with Charlie Mowat of Mowat Landing and his life in the area –

      Click to access mowat-family-history-mowat-landing.pdf

      “Back in the paddle”, eh! I like that and may use it myself!

      • Garry Paget says:

        RB, please feel free to distribute my re-coined saying far and wide!! Kinda like it myself. Hard to believe it’s been a year of being lied to about SARS-Cov-2…”out damned spot!!” lol And survive we did.
        I am one with whom your history lessons ring pleasantly…I have always been a history buff.
        I haven’t heard of the A. J. Murphy Lumber Company, at all, throughout my family research. While my great uncle, George Paget, was involved in the lumber business (3 sawmills) his time, in this area, was spent assembling the land and site subdivision for New Liskeard (1893) and the development/building of the Sturgeon Falls Pulp Mill (1894).
        PG

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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