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 Option:
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, it 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 what we now think of as the south arm of Lady Evelyn Lake. It stretches all the way south 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 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) 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 did look around for any evidence that time or water have not erased.
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.
Approximate Kilometer Count:
North Branch Option:
- 110 km from Beauty Lake to Mowat Landing
- 20 km Beauty Lake to Gamble Lake
- 9 km Gamble Lake to the Forks
South Branch Option:
- 130 km from Montreal R put-in to Mowat Landing via S Channel
- 19 km from put-in to the south end of Smoothwater Lake
- 19 km from Apex to the mouth of the Florence River (including portages)
- 21 km from the mouth of the Florence R to The Forks
From The Forks To W End of Lady Evelyn Lake
- 15 km from the Forks to the bottom of Katharine Lake
- 26 km from Katharine Lake to the N end of Sucker Gut Lake
- 20 km from W end of Lady Evelyn Lake to Mattawapika Island
- 10 km from Mattawapika Island to Mowat Landing
Side trips to Florence Lake, Dry Lake above Katharine Lake, and Maple Mountain above Tupper Lake will add to the kilometer count.
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. The price of entry via the SB late in the season is a four-hour slog between Whitemud Lake and the Jerry Creek/LE-SB confluence.
A 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 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.
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.
Mowat Landing 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 Map sheets. 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 extract from and apply to the map all sorts of additional information and features.
The Ottertooth Website Maps:
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.]
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!
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 his version of 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. It points out things that will save you time, aggravation, or worse!
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 needs some detailed maps to illustrate the geography that is at its core. Given that Wilson is clearly obsessed with maps and does an incredible job creating them, the book disappoints with its one map. On it, the Temagami area is the size of a postage stamp with none of the detail that would often help the reader make sense of what is being described and narrated. You end up having to put down the book and access other maps to get the full picture.
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 keep on reading.
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.
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:
Ontario Parks 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!
“Streamlining” Camping Fees by Quadrupling Them For Solo Canoe Trippers!
As for the 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 paying for as many days as they would have under the old fare structure. This would leave solo or party-of-two paddlers with a few days of no coverage. However,
- 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. Apparently, the fine is $125. if you have no permit at all and $75. if your permit does not cover all your nights.
This change.org petition also deals with the issue.
Hugh Carey started the petition. He introduced it this way –
Click here to access the webpage, sign your name to the petition addressed to the Ontario Minister of the Environment Jeff Yurek, and perhaps make a contribution.
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.
Next Post: Day 1 – To the Put-In And Up The Montreal River To Smoothwater Lake