Previous Post: Day 8 – From Ogoki Falls To Whiteclay Lake’s NE Arm
This post – Day 9 summary: We went with the wind up the northeast arm of Whiteclay and then turned into it all the way down to the beginning of what we were expecting to be a very easy carry into Two Mile Bay. It turned out to be a bit more complicated!
Day 9 – Whiteclay Lake (NE Arm) to Two-Mile Bay (Ogoki Reservoir)
- distance: 16 km
- time: 8 hr.
- portages/rapids: 2/0 140 m boulder dance back to some water, then 230 m into 2 Mile Bay
- weather: 10 ˚C to 23 ˚C; morning wind from S to afternoon from NW; clear, overcast, short rain shower
- sightings: none …no boats, no people
- campsite: marked site on FoW map at the bottom of Two Mile Bay
- Natural Resources Canada archived 1:50000 topo maps: Whiteclay Lake 052 I 15 (b & w 1970). See Toporama (here) for NCR’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
- Our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)
We left our campsite around 9. Thanks to the wind blowing from the south, progress was easy. An hour later we were rounding the corner and heading south to the portage into Two Mile Bay and the Ogoki Reservoir. This would be our last full day in Wabakimi Provincial Park; we were on its eastern edge.
As we headed south we noticed a couple of things:
- the wind was no longer a tailwind! We made use of the occasional coves to take a break from the gusts blowing up the channel.
- we were unexpectedly paddling down a dramatic gorge-like channel that prompted various versions of the WOW concept.
We had an unconfirmed report of a pictograph site on river right and a vague location. However, not included was an indication of exactly how many images there were or of what. Given the headwind, it was not really prime time to be looking for iron oxide on rock. We did paddle extra close to the rock face a couple of times, pulled in by lichen that looked promising from further away.
We also wondered just who would have come up to this spot to leave a pictograph. It would have been a very long way from any spring/summer band gathering spot like one at the top of Lake Nipigon. So while we can’t say for sure that there is no pictograph site, the vagueness of the report left us skeptical.
Still, the long stretches of vertical rock face reminded us of another Wabakimi lake that is indeed one of the great pictograph sites on the Canadian Shield. That would be Cliff Lake on the Pikitigushi River system. It could be accessed from Windigo Bay on Lake Nipigon in a couple of days by Anishinaabe vision questers or shamans keen on receiving favours or medicines from the maymaygweshiwuk, the spirits who lived in the rock.
It is a four-kilometer paddle from the top of the narrow river channel to the bottom, which is where you have a choice to make. You can enter the Ogoki Reservoir via:
- the portage into Two-Mile Bay
- the portage around Eight-Flume Falls
We had no information about Eight-Flume Falls and of its portage or any idea of what shape it would be in if it even existed. Since more than one person had mentioned the Two Mile Bay route as the obvious way to go, that is what we ended up doing. The thought was – take the easy way and then paddle over to Eight-Flume and check it out the next day.
Into Two Mile Bay From Whiteclay Lake:
From the Natural Resources Canada topo, we figured the following – a 575-meter paddle to the end of the narrow bay and then a quick carry into Two-Mile Bay. Easy peasy! A satellite image from the Ontario Government “Make a Topo” website confirmed our choice of this route instead of what we thought would probably be a more complicated Eight-Flume one.
As we paddled into the narrow bay we saw something else! We were staring at a massive collection of boulders blocking our progress. Evidence of what must once have been an impressive boulder bed of a sub-glacier stream, it was not showing on either the above topo map or the satellite image! We wondered if Ogoki water levels above the Reservoir were really down so much that the boulders were exposed.
We pulled the canoe up on the rocks and hopped out to see what we would have to do to deal with this unexpected problem. It was evident that some work would be required to get around – actually, over – the boulders and back into some water, which we could see in the distance.
When I carried the first load to the other end of the portage, I stopped to take a photo of the 140 meters of rounded boulders I had just walked across. Still to come – the canoe and one more pack.
We spent about 45 minutes hauling everything over the rocks and back to the water. After an initial carry on the left side of the ancient boulder riverbed, we just ended up carrying the rest of the gear and canoe straight down the middle, stepping carefully from boulder to boulder.
With our canoe loaded and floating again, within five minutes we had paddled down the stretch of water you see in the image above. Now we were looking at another collection of boulders with bush behind it and, on the right, a vertical rock wall sloping up to a plateau on top. The image below was later shot from that plateau above the boulder landing.
We were soon in portage-finding mode. Remembering our pathetic attempt to find the portage into Secret Lake from the Ogoki Lodge, we were going to do a better job this time. Given the low water conditions, we’d surely find the trail twenty or thirty meters further into the bush at the top of the bay. Ten minutes later we gave up on that idea – no trail to be found!
We looked over to the plateau above the vertical rock wall and Max went to take a look. The cairn he found was a positive sign and moments later the piece of blue prospector’s tape lying on the ground a few meters further on confirmed that this was what we were looking for!
I walked the trail to the end and took a look at Two Mile Bay at the other end. As I started the return walk – it was about 230 meters – I pulled out my iPhone for a rare (for me) video of the lightly used yet visible trail. Covering the lens with the tip of my index finger meant I had to edit the initial bit out – but here is at least some of the portage trail from Two-Mile Bay back to the Ogoki. The trail mostly makes use of the gently sloped rock outcrop; a steep initial section – see the pic below – is followed by a relatively flat middle section and then a gradual incline down to the water.
After all the packs, duffels, and paddles were up on top, we were left with the canoe. Max stayed at the bottom while I went up top. With his push and my pull, the canoe soon joined the rest of the gear and the most awkward part of the portage was done.
With everything at the other end – i.e. the top of Two Mile Bay – it was time for lunch, which coincided with an hour’s worth of light drizzle. We set up the tarp, got out the Helinox chairs and the lunch bag, and celebrated the fact that the portage was done. We did wonder if the people who had recommended this entry into the Ogoki Reservoir over the Eight Flume Falls option, had done this portage in the past decade or if they had even done it at all.
After we finished lunch, we walked the trail and put up some new orange marking tape to make things a bit more obvious for the next crew coming through. Then it was time to move on…
As we paddled down Two Mile Bay to a campsite noted on our Wabakimi Project map, we had a sense of deja vu. On Willow Island Lake and Sucker Gut Lake in Temagami, we’ve canoed through a flooded area with a number of tree stumps still sticking out of the water. It was the 1925 construction of the Mattawapika dam at the outlet of the Lady Evelyn River system that raised water levels by an estimated 4 meters and caused the flooding.
Now, as we went down Two Mile Bay, we saw the first of the dead tree trunks, standing like mute witnesses to the early 1940s flooding which had created the Ogoki Reservoir.
A massive dam at Waboose Falls was constructed to block the natural flow of the Ogoki River northeastward to merge with the Albany as it tumbles off the Canadian Shield and into James Bay. Another dam – the South Channel Dam – was built to control the water flow as it now passed through a channel blasted to connect Mojikit Lake across the Height of Land to join the Little jackfish River. The result – 95+% of the Upper Ogoki’s water now flows into Lake Nipigon and the Great Lakes water system!
See here for Peter Annin’s very readable account of the rationale behind the creation of the Ogoki Reservoir and its impact on the environment and local communities. The chapter also deals with the Long Lac diversion. Amazingly, few people, even those who live in the areas affected, know anything about this. The second edition of Annin’s book is available on Amazon. See here for the details.
In less than a half-hour, we had paddled the 2.3 km down to the campsite. It was the only day of our trip when we did not take a shot of our home for the night.
The next morning we paddled over to Eight Flume Falls. The following post has some pix of one of Wabakimi Provincial Park’s most scenic spots, one you could spend a couple of days at. Given all the negative ions you’d inhale during that time, it’s the canoe tripper’s version of a natural high!