toboggan: a Quebec French word from the Anishinaabe (i.e.Algonkian) word topagan meaning “sled”. Along with “toque” and “loonie” and “eh” and “two-four”, the word makes most sense to fellow Canadians!
overview of the Broadview sliding hill – spot the CN Tower!
We’ve had a cold stretch here in Toronto and it doesn’t look like things are warming up any day soon! Here is the Weather Network forecast for the next week – some low nighttime temps coming up, including -19ºC tonight. Also expected – another 5 to 10 cm. of snow!
I grabbed my iPhone as I left the house. Since I was walking past the section of Broadview Avenue popular with sledders and sliders, I figured I’d grab a shot or two of the scene. I had just been exchanging emails with someone in the Serengeti region of Tanzania; I planned on sending him a photo of what things look like here on a sunny -9ºC afternoon. He might get a chuckle at the contrast with what he has!
I walked up our street to Broadview. While the sidewalks are now mostly bare, there are still snow piles of snow on the curb. Early this week we got a month’s worth of snow in a day! It will be a while before the City crew comes by and takes it away.
There were dozens of people -more often than not, the parents – standing at the top of the hill when I got to Broadview. The hardpacked snow surface was giving the tobogganners the thrills they were after.
At the south end of the hill is where the parents with younger children head; the slope is more moderate and it makes for a better introduction to this quintessential Canadian pastime! The activity is not without its risks; last week an Ottawa child died on her first-ever try at tobogganing.
I passed these two guys standing there with their chillin’ Leonberger and my thoughts turned to our own dog, an Icelandic sheepdog named Viggo. We have walked up and down this hill a thousand times over the past 12 years. For the past couple of months, I have not been out doing the daily five or six kilometers that Viggo and I used to – we lost Viggo to liver cancer in November and things just haven’t been the same.
Viggo – one happy Icelandic Sheepdog
What used to be done on wooden toboggans – that is, sleds with curled-up fronts like the one pictured below – when I was a bit younger back in the late 1950s, is now done mostly on plastic!
the classic wooden toboggan from back in the day!
I never did stick around to see if the passenger on this sled was able to hold on to her iPhone all the way down – or whether they ended up tumbling off the sled before they got to the bottom. Let’s hope she was able to post an awesome TikTok video of their epic 20-second slide down Broadview Hill!
Across the street from the slopes sits a local landmark, the Ukrainian Catholic Church – definitely an eye-catching piece of architecture that blends tradition with modernity.
As you walk north along Broadview you soon come to the tennis courts; there are four of them and they are all buried under a meter of snow. It is a good thing that Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are playing down under right now!
Next to the courts is the hockey rink and beside it is an open skating area for folks without hockey sticks.
As I passed by, skaters were lined on the perimeter of the open skating area waiting for the Zamboni machine to finish cleaning the ice.
Even though the thermometer read -8ºC, it felt great to be outside and do a bit of walking!
Just north of the skating rink is the Loblaw’s grocery store where I was headed. All the way up I had stepped aside to keep my distance from other walkers. Now – as we approach Year 3 on the Covid calendar – I slipped on my black N95 mask and headed inside to do a bit of shopping.
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)
Another early get-up to take advantage of the cool of the early morning … As the following video clip shows, we got to paddle a tranquil slice of the boreal forest, definitely an upgrade from the bushwhacking down the river bed of the first two kilometers of the Ogoki.
It was not to last – that jarring sound at the very end of the clip woke us from our dream state!
The nose of the canoe hit a submerged log just not quite deep enough to skim over. Back to reality! And as we rounded the bend in the river, a complication up ahead!
I hopped out to have a look; it did not look good! I scampered along the left shore about 25 meters to see what was coming up – still not good! It was a replay of the situation we had faced for most of the previous day – and one we were not keen on repeating!
Ogoki headwaters blockage
Ogoki headwaters river view
In planning for the trip, I’d checked out my copy of Canoe Atlas of The Little North (2007). It indicates a 1440-meter portage trail that allows paddlers to avoid the kilometer or two of yet more bushwhacking that they would have to do if they choose to stay with the river.
The Wabakimi Project Volume 1 map (my copy dates from 2009) had the same 1440-m portage but also notes the logging road (702) which crosses it at the one-kilometer point before a final section of trail down to the water. Given that its portage distances are identical to those in the Canoe Atlas, it is likely that the Project map has taken its info from the Canoe Atlas.
Wabakimi Project map – portages from Savant Lake To Tew Lake Via Ogoki River
A post-trip visit to the useful canoe tripper’s online resource, Paddle Planner, turned up the following rendition of the portage. At the bottom left-hand corner, a credit is given to the Wabakimi Project map. Given the very precise measure of the portage – 1278 meters – the impression left is that it is based on someone actually having walked it.
We paddled back to the bend in the river where our map indicated the start of the portage. After going back and forth a couple of times and seeing nothing – no flagging tape, no sign of a canoe landing, no sign of human traffic, no blazes – we were left with a choice to make:
go back and deal with what the river had for us or
make our own “trail” through the bush.
Given the eight hours we had spent on Day 2 dealing with the first two kilometers, we had no reason to think the next five would be any easier. Low to no water and no portage trails would mean another full day of slogging. Much better to go overland and skirt all the problems the river was throwing our way – a portage of two or three hours and we would be done with it. That, at least, was the thinking!
While we were at the maximum trip weight – with 23 kg. of food in our packs – even at 9:30, it was hot enough that the mosquitos that could have made it a nasty experience, were nowhere to be seen. Off we set. If there was a portage trail in there, we did not stumble upon it!
satellite view of the terrain from the river bend to the open water
We decided to move across in small 100-meter legs, each of which required three carries so that for every 100 meters forward we were walking 500. We found out soon enough that it would not be easy.
Ironically, in this summer of massive wildfires in the boreal forests of northwest Ontario, this slice of it could really use a good burn! We were walking on a mishmash of lichen, rotten tree trunks and assorted deadfall and blowdown. Most steps were question marks as we moved our gear down the line to the next bit of orange duck tape.
About 1 1/2 hours into the “portage” I did express the thought that maybe we had made the wrong choice. What to do? Spend 1 1/2 hours moving everything back to the river and deal with what we had tried to avoid – or push on with what we started?
Some high school Shakespeare bubbled into my mind and I recalled Macbeth’s words as he surveyed the results of his murderous path so far –
I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.
Change the word blood to bloody boreal and our situation was nicely encapsulated. Like Macbeth, we decided to go o’er!
on our way to that logging road
We didn’t know it at the time but we had embraced probably our most unsettling and forgettable canoe tripping experience ever – and one that we’ll never forget! Over the next 26 hours, we would spend eight of them bushwhacking through the boreal Canadian Shield version of an Amazon jungle.
Max checking his Etrex 20 to make sure we are on track
what looks like a friendly section of our carry
By 2:30 or so we were “bushed”! We had covered a mere 500 meters and the temperature was in the low 30s C. It was feeling even hotter. And we had a water problem; we were running low and would not have enough for the next morning unless we went back to the muddy creek we had crossed a half-hour previously and filled up our three Gravity Works bags.
We decided to stop for the day. Up went the tent; out came the lunch bag. After a bit of a break, we wandered back and scooped up 12 liters of somewhat muddy creek water.
our tent halfway across the “portage”
Later, after supper, when I went for a walk to see what tomorrow morning held in store, I was able to string together a series of rock outcrops with little vegetation on them. While they took us off our direct path, they made progress easier. Before we crawled into our sleeping bags, we made use of this easy section to haul the canoe, the water bags, and the food bags another 140 meters down the line.
some bare spots in the boreal – string enough together in as straight a line as possible and you have a portage trail!
Day 4: Out To the Logging Road and Back To the River
distance: 5 km to campsite
time: 11 hrs.
portages/rapids: 2/0 – 720 m (to the road); 1.72 km on the logging road to the river, then back on the Ogoki for the rest!!
weather: very hot 😦 20 C˚ to 33 ˚C; max. humidex ~40 ˚C; from clear to partly cloudy
campsite: make-do on raised outcrop; ok for 1 x 4 person
We were back at it by 8:30. Shortly after noon, we got to the logging road. Totally focussed on just getting to the road, we had taken zero photos of our traverse!
The logging road goes north and crosses the Ogoki about 1.7 km. from where we came out. First, we walked up and down the gravel road to see if there were any traces of a portage trail or signs of anyone having come out of the bush on our side of the road. Nothing evident. We looked on the other side of the road for signs of a trail or of human traffic that would indicate a portage back to the river. Again, nothing.
Not keen on another session of boreal bushwhacking to get to the water, we picked the other option. We would move our gear up to the logging road to the bridge that crosses the Ogoki River and put in there. We fantasized about an empty logging truck passing by and stopping to give us a lift. A fantasy it remained!
The 32ºC temperature and the complete lack of shade during the hottest part of the day had us break the 1.7 km. road portage into segments of 300 or 400 meters. At the end of each double-load carry, we took a ten-minute break. Two and half hours later, we were at the bridge and keen to get back to a canoe trip that involved water!
the logging road we walked up to access the river
I looked west from the bridge and saw the Ogoki snaking its way through low-level scrub and marshy terrain. As it came up the bridge it was maybe 15 cm deep, maybe just enough to float our canoe.
the Ogoki river headwaters as it snakes towards logging bridge 702
We hauled the canoe and bags down to the river, squeezing by a cached boat to do so. While the initial stretch looked promising we would soon find that the shallow water meant for more than a bit of scraping and hauling the canoe over semi-submerged logs and rocks. From 5 to 6:30 we managed to move down 2.1 km. of the river.
the downriver side of the bridge – our put in
Faced with another portage, we took a quick look before deciding a good night’s rest was in order and that we’d leave it for the next day. When we saw a flat spot on an elevated rock outcrop nearby, we headed over to check it out. It would have to do!
Day 4 CS on the banks of the Ogoki
Our focus on “top to bottom” river trips has provided us with some challenging but, in the end, exhilarating situations. However, in this case, we were not feeling the exhilarated bit! Had we decided to continue our trip down the Ogoki via the portage by-pass route, originally developed because the river itself was probably even more work, we were faced with the likelihood that those portages also no longer existed and that more bushwhacking would be on tap.
That night we made the decision to pull the plug on our exploration of the upper Ogoki – well, at least the rest of the headwaters section to just before Wabakimi Lake.
We figure that all the portages marked in red on the map above are now only historical in nature. They were probably a part of an HBC fur transit route from Nipigon House on Wabinosh Bay (and after 1830 relocated to near Jackfish Island) on Lake Nipigon. Once the furs arrived at Osnaburgh House they were transported down the Albany to company warehouses on James Bay.
Canoe Atlas of the Little North (2007) indicates all these portages; the Friends of Wabakimi map from two years later reproduces them all. Trails that haven’t existed for a hundred years or more survive on paper. It reminds me of
the historical-only Mink Portage on the Kopka River or
the Big Bend Portage on the Pikitigushi River above the Mud River VIA stop.
They continued to appear on NRC topo maps into the 1990s even though they no longer exist. However, since no one uses them anyway, it doesn’t really matter, at least not until someone plans on walking them!
the string of Ogoki lakes from Tew to the Reservoir
Beyond Tew Lake the Ogoki takes on a totally different character; it becomes a sequence of big lakes joined by narrow channels punctuated with rapids and falls and well-used portage trails. Wabakimi, Kenoji, Whitewater, Whiteclay…all the way to the Ogoki Reservoir and beyond.
In my pre-trip planning, I had calculated that we would be on Whitewater Lake by the end of Day 5. Well, here we were at the end of Day 4 about 5 kilometers as the crow flies from our Endogoki starting point!
With supper done, we made use of our Garmin inReach Explorer+ to send Mattice Lake Outfitters an email about the possibility of a “Beaver shuttle” from the lake we would be on the next morning east to Whitewater Lake. We got a response much faster than expected – “We’ll pick you up mid-afternoon tomorrow. Just send us your exact coordinates.”
[At the end of the trip as we sat on the Mattice Lake Outfitters porch, Don Elliot gave us a souvenir photocopy of the map sheet on which someone had pencilled in “Albinger Lake” on the patch of open water where the pilot would land the next afternoon. They could not remember ever landing a plane on that lake!
a view of the next morning’s first order of business – an unrunnable set of rapids
Day 5: Airlift From Ogoki Headwaters To Whitewater Lake
distance: 3 km; 69 km;
time: 2h + waiting time; 26 min flying time,
portages/rapids: 2/0 – lining 150 m into Nameless Lake
weather: hot (20 C˚ to 33˚ with max. humidex ~40 C˚); clear/partly cloudy
campsite: camper’s choice, multiple 4 person spots on the shore but all exposed
This morning I took another look at the sleep data generated by my Polar Vantage M watch. My usual overnight sleeping heart rate average is 47; after Night 3 it read 65; during Night 4 my sleeping heart rate average had climbed to 75 beats per minute! Yikes!
We looked forward to a few hours of sitting around and waiting for the plane to arrive – but there would be some work to do first.
a view of our tent space – without the tent
With the tent down and the canoe loaded, we set off for the first of the morning’s to-do list. It came up within a couple of minutes. In the image below, the canoe sits in 15 cm of water and I’ve walked ahead to see what we need to do. Shallow water meant that the portage along the left side of the river would be a bit longer.
Twenty minutes later we had hauled everything to the bottom and were ready for what the river had for us next.
at the bottom of a mini portage on the Ogoki headwaters
Surprise! A minute or two down a stretch we could float in –
And then one final bit of hauling to get beyond the boulder garden you see in the image below. We hopped on the rocks on river left to get to the bottom –
looking back at the boulder garden we had just portaged
The nameless lake below the two dry sets of rapids on the Ogoki headwaters took us an hour to get to.
Once on the widened section of the river, we paddled over to the west shore. It was there that the supposed portage trail comes out. We found no evidence of a portage or of human traffic as we scanned the shoreline.
Ultimately, you have to wonder – who would be coming this way- and from where? It would certainly not be locals from Osnaburgh House or the VIA stop at Savant Lake. This route would lead them nowhere that they would want to go. Locals do not even travel by canoe anymore – and the route is certainly not one for a “boat and kicker”!
Our scan of the west shore of the lake done, we paddled over to the other side and set up the tarp to give us a bit of shade. We also took advantage of the sloped rock and the beach to cool off in the lake, had a leisurely lunch, and another cup of coffee.
Around 3:30 p.m. we started listening more carefully for the drone of a De Havilland. The plane finally arrived at 5 and by 6 we were 70 kilometers downriver. With our airlift completed, we paddled to the south shore of Whitewater Lake not far from the Wilderness North outpost at the lake’s west end and set up camp. It felt great to be sitting next to water – we were back to actually being able to paddle!
Whitewater Lake – west end beach campsite
Coming up: two days of canoeing across Whitewater Lake with return visits to the Ogoki Lodge property and the Wendell Beckwith Cabins on Best Island. Things had changed since our previous visit in 2011!
The Ogoki River is a major tributary of the Albany River, which was one of Canada’s most important water highways during the fur trade era. In the early 1940s, the Upper Ogoki’s water flow was diverted with the construction of a dam at Waboose Falls.
The Dam redirected its water (95%+ of it) from the Albany watershed into the Great Lakes basin via what became the Little Jackfish River. A mere trickle passes the Waboose Dam on its way down the Lower Ogoki to Ogoki Lake and onto the Albany River.
Our goal: to paddle the Ogoki from its headwaters in Endogoki Lake to the Dam at the east end of the Ogoki Reservoir. Then we would follow the Upper Ogoki’s water through a channel excavated across the height of land to the South Summit Control Dam, where it merges with the Little Jackfish River for a final run down to Lake Nipigon’s Ombabika Bay.
We had fourteen days to git ‘er dun!
Day One: By Beaver To Endogoki Lake
distance: 2 km plus 105 km Beaver flight from Mattice Lake
time: 45 min flight; 1hr. paddling down the Lake for a campsite
weather: hot! 30ºC+ hot! sunny late afternoon and evening
campsite: room for 1 x 4p tent, possibly 1 or 2 x 2p
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 woke up in Marathon, ON, at the top of Lake Superior around 5:30 a.m., keen to get on the road and finish our long drive up to Wabakimi. The day before, we had already done 1200 km.; still to go were another 600 to Mattice Lake just south of Armstrong. Then we could put away those car keys and switch into canoe trip mode for a couple of weeks. We did hang on to the covid masks for the plane ride!
flight path – Mattice Lake to Endogoki Lake
By 4 p.m., we were airborne. Our pilot was Yves, who had dropped us off at Cliff Lake on our last visit to Wabakimi three years before.
When he asked, “Why Endogoki?” I told him we wanted to do the Ogoki River from the very top, and since it was the headwaters lake, it was the spot we needed to start from. Besides bush plane insertion, there is no easy entry, and there would be no other reason to paddle up into the dead-end Lake. The once-upon-a-time fur trade route into the top of the Ogoki River system bypassed Endogoki Lake and instead involved a 700-meter portage from the northeast arm of Savant Lake. [See below for a map with the 700-meter historical portage indicated.]
De Havilland Beaver at the MLO dock – ready to be loaded
the De Havilland Beaver instrument panel
The Endogoki is a long narrow sliver of a lake, about four kilometers from north to south. Our goal for Day 1 was simple enough: paddle north on the Lake until we found a decent campsite and then celebrate our arrival in Wabakimi for another excellent adventure!
a view of the Endogoki Lake from the south
a view of the south end of Endogoki Lake
At the end of our trip, while sitting on the front porch of the Mattice Lake Outfitters office, Don Elliot remarked that he could not recall anyone ever having been dropped off in Endogoki Lake before. We would soon find out why!
Yves wishing us a nice two-week trip
By late afternoon our tent was up on the east side of the Lake, and we had set up our Helinox chairs. We looked west towards the only possible sources of man-made noise –
traffic on Hwy 599, some 25 km. away and
motors at the two lodges on the west side of Savant Lake 17 km away –
and remarked on the absolute stillness of the neighbourhood. It was quite the contrast to the two days and 1800 kilometres of road hum and the thirty-minute De Havilland Beaver rumble to get to Endogoki.
The next day the adventure would begin. We would finally get to add the Ogoki to the list of “top to bottom” trips along with the Missinaibi, the Coulonge, the Little Missinaibi, the Steel, and the Lady Evelyn.
our Endogoki Campsite late afternoon
In the image above, the top of our tent is in the bush – a flat spot for our four-person MEC Wanderer. Given the weather forecast for the next six days -clear, sunny, and very hot – we did not bother putting the 10’x14′ silnylon tarp over the fly.
looking across Endogoki Lake at dusk – absolute quiet
our Endogoki Lake tent spot
sun setting to the west of Endogoki Lake
Day Two: Welcome to the Ogoki Headwaters!
distance: 6 km
time: 9.5 h
portages/rapids: 2/0: two major shallow/no water areas that took most of the day to navigate around, plus many shallow lift-overs etc.
weather: 18 to 31 ˚C; hot, clear and sunny; humidex 33 ˚C; wind SW 17 kph
campsite: point on an unnamed lake; 1 x 4p and maybe another 2p tent
. 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 were keen to get started and got up at 6:15. [Note: we were in the Central Time Zone but did not bother adjusting the time, so it was actually 5:15.] The cool in the early morning was a treat. It would get much warmer as the day progressed, with temperatures in the low 30ºC range with an additional wallop provided by the humidity.
sunrise on Endogoki Lake – our tent spot
our Endogoki breakfast table
Our goal for the day was a modest 15 km or so. This would take us down the initial narrow outlet section from the Lake to a widening of the river before we paddled NE towards the logging road and then headed south to a campsite on the unnamed Lake. The topo map shows where we expected to be –
our first Day on the Ogoki – the 15 km. goal for the day
What unfolded over the next eight hours was something entirely different! While anticipating some challenges, we had not imagined spending an entire day moving a mere 6 kilometers downriver from our Endogoki Lake campsite!
We were at the north end of the Lake at 8:30; we did not get to the open water until 4:20 in the afternoon! According to the topo data, there is a one-meter drop from Endogoki Lake (402m) to the nameless Lake beyond the initial narrow stretch.
our first day on the Ogoki River’s headwaters stretch
The following three photos are the only ones we have of our memorable first day on the river. All show a river with next to no water to float a canoe in, lots of deadfall and boulders impeding forward progress. It was mid-August in a low-water year – we had no reason to be surprised.
the Ogoki River – initial stretch out of Endogoki Lake
the choices – bushwhack or walk down the river bed
Since it was our first day on the river, we were travelling at maximum weight. The terrain was such that we did multiple carries since we could not stick to our usual double-pack system. The 30º+C temperature didn’t help, and neither did the fact that we hadn’t put in enough time yet to get into trip shape.
By 4:30, we were paddling towards the point on the east side of a wider but still noticeably shallow section of the river. We found a decent spot for our spacious MEC Wanderer 4 tent; there was no sign of anyone having stopped there before.
our tent on a flat spot on the Ogoki headwaters – Day 2 CS
dusk with smoke on the Ogoki headwaters – Day 2
On another mosquito-free evening in Wabakimi, we leaned back in our decadent Helinox chairs – two kilograms of portage weight! – as we sipped on our consolation shots of Crown Royal. While the chairs would still weigh the same at the end of the trip, at least the Nalgene bottle would have lightened up by 1 kg.!
As we watched that sun sink below the horizon in the haze, we wondered how close we were to the bushfire creating the smoke. Before the day ended, I emailed our outfitter about the wildfire situation. We would learn it was probably from the Quetico Park area, blown 275 kilometers by the southwest winds. Another source was the massive wildfire eating up Woodland Caribou Park to the west.
We hoped the next day would bring a more manageable workload than the one we had just lived through!
From its South Summit Lake headwaters to Ombabika Bay on Lake Nipigon, the Little Jackfish River (LJR) is 45 kilometers long.
The top half is a sequence of four lakes – South Summit, Stork, Moule, and Zigzag – separated by falls or rapids.
The section from the bottom of Zigzag Lake to its mouth is a much narrower river run with a number of rapids and portages.
There are two long sets of continuous rapids in the stretch just south of the Jackfish Road bridge, which crosses the river 6.5 km. below Zigzag Lake. The bridge is a common end-of-trip point. Near the mouth of the LJ, Canadian National rail tracks cross the river. Pre-arranged pick-ups here or at the VIA stop at Ferland are possible. Apparently, Ferland is also accessible by vehicle from the Jackfish Road.
Portages From South Summit Dam to Ombabika Bay:
1 to 5 – South Summit to Zigzag Lake
6 to 10 – Zigzag Lake to the Jackfish Road Bridge
11 to 16 – from below the Bridge to Ombabika Bay
The Little Jackfish Before the early 1940s Dams
A 2011 study of the proposed 75 MW LJR hydroelectric project clarifies the Waboose Dam and the Ogoki River diversion’s impact on what we now know as the Little Jackfish River.
See here for the entire report. I’ve copied and pasted the short segment on the LJR –
The Ogoki Diversion converted what was then known as Jackfish Creek with a flow of 4 m³/sec into the LJF River with an average flow of 122 m³/sec…Major works were undertaken in what is now known as the LJF River. These works included the following:
Construction of a new railway bridge and channel where the Canadian National Railway (CNR) line crosses the LJF River (Photograph 2);
Major channel expansions in the area south of Zigzag Lake (Appendix A: Photographs A-1 and A-2); and,
Construction of Waboose and Summit Control Dams and channel improvements associated with these facilities.
Since 1943, the Long Term Average (LTA) flow in the LJF River has been approximately 122 m³/sec. The diversion works (Summit Control Dam and various channel improvements to the LJF River) were designed for a maximum flow of 283 m³/sec.
The slow 4 m³/sec current of the pre-1940s creek probably explains the Jackfish (i.e. northern pike) name.The dense weed beds along the shallow shoreline would have made excellent spawning habitat for the fish that, in the Ojibwe language, has the name ginoozhe (also transliterated into English as kenoji).
In late August 2021, when we went down, the water flow was in the 80 m³/sec range.
Jackfish Creek – 1930s
construction of the CN railway channel (circa 1943)
Little Jackfish River Maps:
Surficial Geology of the Little Jackfish River Area:
We paddled down the nearby Pikitigushi River a few years ago from Butland Lake to Windigo Bay. To no surprise, the Little Jackfish has a very similar surface geology profile. The big difference between the two is in the meandering that the Pikitigushi does in the 50 kilometers it takes to cover the final 20 kilometers to the Bay.
They share the following surface geological features:
1a silty to sandy till
2c end moraine, interlobate moraine, sand, gravel, boulders
4c sand; silty to sandy till
4a varved massive clay and silt
Perhaps the biggest single environmental impact of turning Jackfish Creek, with a flow of 4 m³/sec into the Little Jackfish River, with its average flow of 122 m³/sec ,is the massive amount of silt and sand that has been carried downriver into Ombabika Bay over the past eighty years.
Going down the Little Jackfish River from Mojikit Lake had crossed my mind years ago. but it was crossed out as soon as my inadequate googling led me to a couple of items. The first was this Youtube video –
I somehow projected the white water in that video to the Little Jackfish in general!
‘Little Jackfish River’ sounded innocent enough, like a creek in someone’s backyard. But it wasn’t a creek. It was a monster, wider and faster than anything we’d paddled before, with rapids that screamed and surged around rocks the size of Suburbans.
“Little Jackfish my ass,” said Erin, our guide. “How about ‘Hell-Roaring River of Death’?”
And that was it for any consideration of the Little Jackfish River for a decade!
While planning our trip down the Ogoki from the headwaters to the Waboose Diversion Dam and the South Summit Control Dam, I returned to the idea. If we were really going to do the upper Ogoki River from top to bottom, then going with Ogoki water down the Little Jackfish River to the logging road and on to Lake Nipigon’s Ombabika Bay would make it complete.
A few days after I posted a brief outline of our proposed trip on the Friends of Wabakimi Trip Reports Forum, I received a detailed trip report from John Holmes via email. He and other Wabakimi Project volunteers had gone down the Little Jackfish in 2014 and mapped and cleared the portages all the way to the Little Jackfish Road. The trip report really helped clarify things and added a lot of detail to the two pages on the Little Jackfish River in Volume 5 of the Wabakimi Project map set.
[The trip report was subsequently made available at the Friends of Wabakimi forum here or go directly to the 3.8 Mb pdf file here.]
From the report, I learned that the dramatic bit of whitewater featured in that video mentioned above is located just south of Jackfish Road. It is/was the proposed location of the Ontario Power Generation’s Little Jackfish hydroelectric project. Holmes’ report noted the various portages around the White Mile section of the river, though his crew did not do any work on the section below the bridge.
The idea of ending our canoe trip with a descent of the Little Jackfish didn’t sound so crazy anymore!
South Summit Dam Outflow Rate:
With info on rapids and portages in hand, there was still one other concern – the outflow volume at the South Summit Dam. When I visited the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) website and found the data for the dam (see here), I realized that the kayakers in the video I had seen all those years ago had probably driven the 60 kilometers from Armstrong on the Little Jackfish Road in June or early July and put in at the bridge for their two-kilometer fun ride down.
Here is the 2021 graph showing the 2020 and 2021 (up to September) outflow rate measured in cubic meters per second:
Summit Control Dam – Outflow rate in m³/sec [1 m³/sec = 35.3 ft³/sec]
This year 220 m³/sec (7769 ft³/sec) was the peak outflow; we would be going down in late August with a probable outflow rate of 75 to 80 m³/sec. An email to an OPG contact in Thunder Bay about our plans for late August this year confirmed that there was no outflow increase planned for late August. [The day after our trip ended, there was massive rainfall in the area; the uptick in outflow rate is the early September result.]
The copy of the FoW trip report and the OPG outflow graph changed my initial and long-held view about going down the Little Jackfish!
Toporama (here) is NCR’s up-to-date interactive coloured mapping website; it’s free to print what you need.
Our Garmin inReach-generated GPS track (here)- (Click on View All Tracks at the top right-hand corner)
Given the 33 km. we had covered the day before, we planned for something much less ambitious this day. Since our tent site was still in the shade, we grabbed our chairs and our full coffee mugs and moved up from the shore into the full sunshine on the edge of the clearing that serves as a helicopter landing area. After the coffee was drained, we finally got on the water. It was 10 a.m.
A half-hour (three kilometers) brought us to the bottom of South Summit and to Stork Falls with its three-meter drop. The portage is on river left. We found the trailhead within five minutes at the top of the waterless bay and, within 30 minutes, were at the Stork Lake end of the 290-meter carry. [On the Wabakimi Canoe Route map, the grassy meadow you see in the image below is a bay you paddle into to access the portage.]
looking for the start of the portage into Stork Lake – grass and boulders instead of water
P260m river left from South Summit Lake To Stork Lake
Before we pushed off, we walked up to the falls with our cameras to get a few shots. The island blocked a full view of the main channel, but here is what we came up with.
max finishing off his sweeping video of the rapids into Stork Lake
Max coming back after his sweeping video of the rapids into Stork Lake from South Summit
As we passed by a point about a half-kilometer south of Stork Falls, we saw campers doing some fishing. It turned out that they were the same Toronto-area YMCA Pine Crest group we had seen a few days before at Eight Flume Falls at the west end of the Ogoki Reservoir. They had a leisurely four days before their shuttle from the logging road that crosses the Little Jackfish about 6 kilometers south of Zigzag Lake. They recounted their easy passage down the Reservoir, thanks to a northwest wind that blew them down! We battled the same wind for part of a morning as we headed west from Waboose Falls!
During the fourteen days we were in Wabakimi, these paddlers and a father/daughter combo above Ogoki Falls were the only canoe trippers we met. We also did not see any fishermen in motorboats on Whitewater or Whiteclay. However, we did see a couple of staff or clients at the Wilderness North Lodge at Striker’s Point and again at the Mojikit Channel Lodge. To complete the list of people sightings, we also chatted with the six-man OPG crew doing maintenance work at Waboose Dam.
Stork Lake Campsite, halfway down the lake
We paddled down Stork lake about halfway until we came to an excellent elevated campsite. It was only noon, but we were done for the day! We hauled everything up the sloped rock face and, given the positive overnight weather forecast, went for a fairly exposed spot. You can see it in the image above. The surrounding trees did give us a bit of a windbreak from the NW wind.
At most campsites, we usually turn our canoe into a tabletop. It is a clean surface that gives us space to organize things and make them readily accessible. The canoe sometimes also acts as a windscreen overnight or for butane stove cooking, though a repurposed baking sheet is our primary wind guard.
On the boil on our two butane stoves is our supper – pasta with Indian-style channa masala. The meal pouches are ready after a three-minute boil. The pouches – one for each of us – are not exactly light at 285 grams (10 oz.), but they certainly make supper a no-fuss affair. The company is Tasty Bite (click here to see the various entréesavailable.) The pouches cost about $3.50 CDN each and are easy to find in Toronto. I have also seen them on Amazonthough sometimes at double or triple the price they should be. Buyer beware!
Our other mainstay supper options are the entrées from Harvest Foodworks, an eastern-Ontario based family operation. See here for the range of meals they provide. Each pouch serves two and is ready in under twenty minutes. They do require a bit more attention than the boil-a-bag Tasty Bite option! Mountain Equipment Co-Op used to stock its products, but it has inexplicably stopped doing so. I did send them an email asking why but received an answer that completely dodged my query. I have since just ordered directly from Harvest Foodworks.
supper on the boil – Stork lake CS
The Garmin inReach Explorer+ on my stomach in the image below provides fairly accurate hyperlocal forecasts courtesy of a weather app called Dark Sky, which was acquired in 2020 by Apple. The forecast: clear the next day as we paddled down to Zigzag Lake, but massive rain on Sunday, the day we had arranged to be picked up on Zigzag.
bedtime reading in our spacious 4-person tent
The thought of sitting through a rainstorm on Zigzag Lake and then being picked up by a plane landing in a downpour when we could fly out a day early had me mulling over an early exit.
We set off around 9 for Moule Lake (the locals pronounce it Moo-lee), about 4 kilometers from our Stork Lake campsite. But first, there would be a short portage to deal with. We didn’t find it immediately, having gone a bit too far down. I walked back along the shore and found it after pushing aside some new alder growth that had covered the trailhead. We cut away the bush and put up some orange string to spare the next crew coming through the initial search. [The Toronto YMCA Pine Crest group was behind us by half a day.] The portage itself took twenty minutes.
Portage #3 – from Stork to Moule
We played tourist for a while and checked out the rapids, walking some way up to get different views.
side-channel below the rapids from Stork into Moule
Stork to Moule rapids on the Little Jackfish River – final ledge
looking back at the canoe and a bit of the set of rapids between Stork and Moule
It is about 5 kilometers down Moule Lake to the next set of portages – in this case, two carries that take you into Zigzag Lake. The first portage trail took a couple of minutes to find. We were initially drawn to some prospectors’ tape visible twenty to thirty meters in. The “trail” looked very rough. I remembered John Holmes’ comment about coming across a bad trail in this spot –
After spotting some flagging tape and cut logs on river right, in a bay just above the moving water at the south end of the lake, we followed an appallingly bad trail over a steep ridge and down to the other side.
We paddled down a few meters and were soon looking at the portage trail that Holmes and his Wabakimi Project crew had cut in 2014. It looked better than the first one, whose flagging tape might lure people into it! We gave the entrance a bit of a trim and put some orange string on at the start of the trail, and got to work. The trail had a Lord of the Rings vibe to it, thanks to the moss!
a section of the first portage trail from Moule to Zigzag
Moule to Zigzag portage – another view
the canoe at the start of the portage – the last thing to go
We got the 250-m portage #4 done in a half-hour and then stopped on the beach at the bottom end of the portage for lunch. We also decided that as soon as we were on Zigzag Lake, we would email our outfitter (Don Elliot at Mattice Lake Outfitters) and see if he could arrange a pick-up for later this very afternoon.
Then, after spending some time checking out the rapids around the corner from us, we paddled over to the small island before moving on to the last of the portages of the trip. The island would make an okay campsite but not much more. Setting up camp where we just had lunch or in a spot closer to the falls would be a better option.
the first set of rapids coming into Zigzag from Stork
the rapids coming into Zigzag from Stork Lake
Apparently, the fishing in the rapids pictured above is very good! In his LJR trip report, Holmes writes this –
The fishing below the upper set of rapids was phenomenal. I expect the large drop off prevents the walleye from getting upstream. We caught and released several over 23 inches and kept smaller ones for our dinner. Out of fish breading already, so we used crushed crackers!
From the island, we paddled over to the start of our last portage. The trail was in the best shape of any we had done in the past two weeks! It is likely that the Wilderness North outpost further down on Zigzag Lake maintains it for the use of its clients.
This sign at the bottom end of the trail lets people know they are in the right place!
the Portage sign at the start of the trail going up from Zig Zag to Moule Lake
We sat there at the top of Zigzag Lake. It was 2 p.m., and I took a couple of minutes to send off that email to Don Elliot.
This is where the Garmin inReach comes in very handy. The inReach includes
an SOS function,
a weather forecast app, and
the ability to send a GPS coordinate location every ten minutes to a website that the folks back home can access and whose track they can follow along.
It also includes two-way email communication.
Off went the email to Mattice Lake Outfitters. Within ten minutes, as we sat there at the top of Zigzag, we got a response! “The plane will be there around 3.” I answered back – “Fantastic! We’ll be paddling down the east side towards the WN outpost.”
We started paddling down Zigzag, sticking to the east side to cut down the wind now coming from the SE. We were getting close to the outpost when we heard the drone of a plane. However, the bright orange Wilderness North colour and the fact that it was a De Havilland Otter, and not a Beaver, confused us. We initially thought it was headed to the WN outpost.
But no – we were the reason it landed. Now we were concerned! The reason? – An Otter shuttle costs about twice as much as one in the smaller Beaver. By 3:30, the canoe was strapped to one of the pontoons, our gear was inside, and we were seated in the much roomier Otter. This would be our first ride in the plane dubbed “King Beaver” during its design stage!
De Havilland Beaver instrument panel
De Havilland Otter instrument panel
The pilot was Cam, the same guy who had airlifted us out of our Ogoki headwaters misadventure and dropped us off at the west end of Whitewater Lake nine days before. As for the cost – we were charged the Beaver rate (i.e. $800.)!
The seventy kilometers from Zigzag Lake back to Mattice Lake took about twenty-five minutes. Waiting there for us was our vehicle – and the bill for our De Havilland air shuttles:
the Beaver ride to Endogoki Lake
the De Havilland Beaver shuttle to the west end of Whitewater Lake from some nameless lake just a few kilometers east of Endogoki.
the Otter flight from Zigzag Lake to Mattice Lake.
As we get older and the number of future possible canoe trips gets closer to zero, it is becoming easier to rationalize a bush plane ride or two or, in this case, three!
While we ended our trip on Zigzag Lake, another option is to stay with the river down to where the Jackfish Road crosses the river. You can be picked up there by a pre-arranged shuttle vehicle from Armstrong. It is approximately a 70-kilometer ride.
The following map locates the five sets of rapids in the 6.5-kilometer stretch from the bottom of Zigzag to the bridge:
See this Friends of Wabakimi/John Holmes’ Little Jackfish trip report for details on each of the sets of rapids and the portages noted below. A Wabakimi Project crew went down the river in 2014, clearing or creating portages and recording locations, as well as campsites and other useful information.
The archived Natural Resources Canada topo Little Jackfish River 052 I 08(colour 1976) does not have the logging road from Armstrong indicated. Neither does the Garmin Topo Canada 4.0 map installed on our Etrex 20 and Oregon 450. Check out the NRC up-to-date Toporama website (here) for more current mapping and print what you need. You’ll also find that the Toporama map site provides access to many additional layers of useful information.
Satellite Images of the Rapids:
Note:This section would benefit from some detail from someone who has actually gone down recently! If you have, let me know what needs to be added. Any portage info you see has been taken from Canoe Atlas of the Little North (p.44), the Paddle Planner Wabakimi map, Vol. 5 (2017 ed.) of the Friends of Wabakimi Canoe Routes, or the Friends of Wabakimi trip report.
There are five probable portages before you get from Zigzag to the road. The following overview shows the first 4; there is one more just before you get to the bridge. All portages are on river left.
Little Jackfish River rapids from Zigzag to the Jackfish Road. – just missing #10
#6- The First Set of Rapids Out of Zigzag Lake: The 530-meter portage is on river left.
#6 – the rapids coming out of Zigzag Lake
#7 – The Second Set of Rapids Below Zigzag Lake – One 630-meter carry on river left gets you around these two sets of rapids.
#7 – 2nd set of rapids below Zigzag
#8 – Third Set of Rapids Below Zigzag Lake
#8 – 3rd set of rapids below Zigzag
#9 – The 4th Set of Rapids Below Zigzag: Again, the portage is on river left and is 400 meters long with a campsite at the top end.
#10 – The Portage Up To The Jackfish Road. The Holmes’ trip report notes this about the river below #9 Rapids/Portage:
The character of the river is quite different in this section, with an earthen bank instead of the uniform boulders that make up the shoreline further upstream. The portage [up to the road] is on river left (east side) and starts before the bridge comes into view. It is 253m to the road.
Portage #10 on river left takes the paddler up to the Jackfish Road and the bridge for a possible shuttle connection some 65 kilometers back to Armstrong Station. Another option is to continue downriver. In that case, after crossing the bridge, the portage continues on River right. It is apparently another 600 meters from where you first reach the road.
If you choose to go down the final 15 kilometers of the river right to Lake Nipigon, you could
end there with a floatplane extraction in Ombabika Bay,
carry up to Ferland and catch the train or a vehicle shuttle to Armstrong or
continue your adventure on Lake Nipigon.
Rapids #11 – P 700m RR
Rapids #11 – the first set of rapids below the Jackfish bridge
Of the six sets of rapids to deal with, the most challenging ones are the first two below the bridge (#11 and #12 in my numbering scheme). This “White Mile” section of the river is where the proposed hydroelectric project was to be built. These two sets of rapids are the longest of those remaining – and so are their portages. See the embedded YouTube video at the start of this post for a look at this section of the river early in the season.
[I have no idea what shape these portages are in – or if they even still exist. My red line arches do not indicate their exact locations! If you have been down this stretch, any detail you can provide would be appreciated – and included in this write-up for the use of future canoe trippers.]
rapids #11 and #12 – the last two major sets of rapids
Volume 5 of the Wabakimi Project map set also has a page on the rapids/portages from Zigzag Lake down to Ombabika Bay. It has Portage #11 as 700 meters and #12 as 500. The figures are identical to those in Canoe Atlas of The Little North, their likely source for the information.
The stretch of river near the bridge is where Ontario Power Generation plans/planned to build a 75 MW hydroelectric station. A pdf file of the detailed OPG analysis of the proposed development can be accessed here. It was released in 2011 – over a decade ago. Or – click on the cover page image to access the document –
The location of the Powerhouse on the map above corresponds to the end of the portage trail around Rapids #12. The dam and dyke would flood some land north of the current Jackfish Road, as well as a section of the road itself. The map below shows the extent of the head pond which would be created.
Also included in the project are upgrades to the South Summit Dam as well as an access road to connect it with the lower site.
Is the project dead?
Has it been temporarily shelved?
Does it need more study of the project’s environmental impact?
Does it require more consultation with nearby First Nations representatives?
According to the above study of the project
“There are six First Nations situated around Lake Nipigon that consider the Lake and its surrounding lands their traditional territory. All six First Nations are Ojibway, located within the Robinson-Superior Treaty area. These First Nations include:
Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (AZA), or Lake Nipigon Ojibway;
Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (BNA) or Sand Point;
Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) or Rocky Bay;
The province’s Long Term Energy Plan released in December 2013 has indicated that the energy that would be generated by the Little Jackfish River Hydroelectric Project is not needed in the near-term. Therefore, all Project activities are being put on hold.
This video (uploaded in February 2015) gives you some idea of what the development might look like if it proceeded. It seems to be OPG-approved or sponsored.
The Rapids Below the Proposed Hydro Power Station:
Once at the bottom of portage #12, things become much more manageable. The final Rapids/Portages are indicated below.
The satellite images provided by the Ontario Government’s Make a Topographic Map website are useful in getting a close-up sense of the river. [To access the sat view, go into the “I want to… window and choose Change visible map layers. Uncheck topographic and check imagery.]
Rapids #13 – P50m either RR or RL
Rapids #13 Little Jackfish River
Rapids #14 – P50m RR
Rapids #14 – Little Jackfish River
Rapids #15 – P50m RR …or line
Some confusion here – Canoe Atlas indicates a much longer 200m P!
Rapids #15 – portage, line or run
Rapids #16 – P200m RL
Rapids #16 – the CN tracks
From the CN tracks down to Ombabika Bay is another 4 kilometers and a possible floatplane extraction back to one of the outfitters located on Mattice Lake.
The LJR Rapids/Portages From Top To Bottom
[map image from Canoe Atlas of the Little North]
Canoe Atlas of the Little North (Jonathan Berger and Thomas Terry) is the ultimate tripper’s wintertime dream book. Published in 2007 by Erin, Ontario-based Boston Mills Press, the book is essentially a set of 48 13″x11″ maps (1:400,000 scale) and very informative accompanying text. Click on the title above or the book cover below to access the Amazon website.
The oversized-format book covers a good chunk of the Canadian Shield from Hudson Bay To Lake Winnipeg. And since it only comes in hard copy, if it is found anywhere, it will be on an avid canoe tripper’s version of a coffee table! At $95. it isn’t cheap, but you’ll see why it costs what it costs when you get your copy.
Pp. 44-45, Armstrong 52I, deal with the top of lake Nipigon and the Wabakimi area to the west. One caveat – the authors themselves point out that the book is meant as a reference book to be turned to at the beginning of the route planning process but that “the Atlas maps are not suitable for navigation.” From our experience at the very beginning of this canoe trip (see below!), I can attest that some of the portages indicated on the maps no longer exist.
The Historical Portage From Ombabika Bay To North Bay
Thinking we might paddle over to the northwest corner of Lake Nipigon’s Windigo Bay, during our planning last winter, the location of Portage Island – and its very name- had us looking for the historical portage into North Bay across the narrowest point of the peninsula. No portage is indicated in the Canoe Atlas book, but this Geological Survey of Canada Map from 1912 does!
Zoom in on the map below to see the faint dotted line indicating the portage.
The portage from Ombabika Bay To North Bay of Lake Nipigon – see here for the full map.
With a spare day at the end of our Ogoki route, we considered an exploratory hike up to the small pond and then down the stream to the North Bay side. There is a 40-meter elevation gain from Ombabika Bay to the top!
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the archaeologistK.C.A. Dawson of Lakehead University located the sites of a number of fur trading posts on the shores of Lake Nipigon.In his Supplementary Report on Lake Nipigon Fur Trading Posts (p. 13), he notes that his team examined the portage between North Bay and Ombabika Bay but found no artifacts related to their focus.
If you are ever in the neighbourhood and keen on stretching your legs on a short hike, let us know what you found! I’ll insert the info right here!
The Ogoki From Top To Bottom: Final Trip Thoughts
My goal to do the Ogoki from “top to bottom” needed more time – maybe five or six days more – than the fourteen days we had to “git ‘er dun.” My brother’s initial skepticism – “Are you sure we have enough time? We’d need to do about 25 km every day!” – was the correct assessment of my ambitious schedule.
Given the three and a half days we spent on the first fifteen kilometers, another three days would have been enough to paddle and bushwhack the rest of the way to Wabakimi Lake. In my planning, I had allocated three days for the entire stretch from Endogoki Lake to Wabakimi Lake!
Any historical portage trails that were used 150 years ago by the Hudson Bay Company to transfer furs from Nipigon House to Osnaburgh House have long ago disappeared. While maps – the Canoe Atlas of the Little North, the Wabakimi Project map set, and the online paddler planner website – show portage trails from Savant Lake into the Ogoki River system and then others leading into Tew Lake, the fact is that the Ogoki headwater portages no longer exist.
Wabakimi Project map – portages from Savant Lake To Tew Lake Via Ogoki River
It does seem a shame that the headwaters of the river that defines Wabakimi is not a part of the Park or do-able by recreational paddlers. The reasons for this are varied:
the fact that it flows through crown Land just outside the Park boundaries being harvested by logging companies
the disappearance of the necessary portages and
the lack of convenient access points that do not involve an expensive bush plane insertion.
At the other end of the trip, we needed a couple extra days to stretch from Zigzag Lake down to Ombabika Bay. So – no top and no bottom – just 200 kilometers of pretty amazing in-between!
On our way home, we considered the possibility of returning next summer. With more time and a better understanding of the situation, we would complete the headwaters stretch from Endogoki to just before Wabakimi Lake. We’ll see if that seed of a trip grows any over the winter – or if it is abandoned for
a return to the French River delta or
Temagami’s Lady Evelyn River’s North Branch and Channel or
a trip down Savant Lake and River into the Albany.
The map below shows our incomplete headwaters section in red just east of Savant Lake. It also shows the other bits of the Ogoki – red for what we paddled for the first time this August and black for sections done before. The other tracks – in blue – are other Wabakimi-area rivers and lakes we’ve paddled on previous canoe trips.
We were thrilled to have paddled bits of the Ogoki that we had not done before, and our time on the eastern reaches of Wabakimi Park and the Ogoki Reservoir gave us a deeper appreciation of the river and what has been done to it with the construction of the Waboose Dam.
An Overview: Wabakimi Water We’ve Paddled
Wabakimi Rivers we’ve paddled – red is this summer’s Ogoki trip
Now our post on Wabakimi’s Top Six – our attempt a few years ago to list our favourite Wabakimi spots – needs updating or enlarging so that it would include
Eight Flume Falls and
the gorge-like stretch of the Whiteclay before you get to the Two Mile Bay portages!
. See Toporama (here) for NCR’s up-to-date interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
Day 12 – From Waboose Dam To South Summit Dam
We set off from our Waboose Dam campsite at 8:30, keen on getting some kilometers in before possible winds picked up. Our reward – ripple-free water for the first 1 1/2 hours as we paddled along the north shore of the Reservoir back to the Mojikit Channel. It was only when we crossed over to the south side that wind from the northwest made things a bit more challenging but within an hour we had rounded the corner and were soon paddling by the two Ogoki Frontier outposts on the west side of the channel and being pushed along by the NW wind.
As we approached the Wilderness North’s Mojikit Channel Lodge a bit further south, we watched as an orange De Havilland Otter glided over the water and taxied up to the lodge dock. By the time we got there, the pilot was hauling out supplies and someone was walking down to the dock to meet him.
the Wilderness North dock on the Mojikit Channel – supplies being delivered
It turned out that he was flying in supplies – including bottled water! – for the OPG crew that we had met at the Waboose dam the afternoon before. The Lodge was their base camp while they made the 17-kilometer commute to the dam job site each morning.
We chatted for a few minutes with the pilot and the camp manager. She is one of the younger Cheesemans involved in running the various Lodges and outposts in the Wabakimi area which the family owns and operates. Months previously when initially planning the trip I had spoken to Krista Cheeseman, the co-owner of the WN along with her husband Alan, about a plane insert. However, their fleet of planes did not include the smaller Beaver and the Otter ride would have been twice as expensive.
The image below includes the dock where the Otter was parked while we chatted. It also makes clear how large an operation the Mojikit Channel Lodge is!
See here for the image source – the WN image gallery
Declining the kind offer of fresh food – salad and veggies! – we said our goodbyes and continued on down into Mojikit Lake. Since it was nearing 1 p.m., we looked for a lunch spot along the east shore. As on the Reservoir, the low water meant meters of exposed lake bottom to walk across from the beached canoe to a shady and sheltered spot.
the shore in front of our Mojikit Lake lunch stop
Our Wabakimi Project map – the 2009 edition of Volume 1 – had a campsite indicated not far from our lunch spot. If it was half-decent, we figured we’d call it a day. So with lunch done, we paddled on. When we got there, we noticed a wood pathway leading into the bush from the receded shore.
wooden pathway leading to the hidden cabin on Mojikit Lake
The pathway led up to a small camp and a side building which turned out to be a sauna. The one thing that we did not find was a tent site. It turns out that our map had put a tent site icon instead of the correct outpost icon which we noted on a 2017 WP map.
pathway leading to a cabin on Mojikit Lake
fifty-year-old jugs by the Mojikit cabin
a cabin on Mojikit Lake – sauna behind
Our goal when we set off in the morning was to set up camp somewhere on Mojikit Lake. As we paddled south we checked out a couple of other spots but neither was quite right. As the two following images show, there was more exposed lake bottom thanks to low water conditions –
beached canoe while we check out a potential campsite
low water levels meant lots of exposed sandy Mojikit Lake bottom
Not having any luck with our campsite search, we decided just to press on to the South Summit Dam. There would have to be a spot to put up our tent there – and we could check out the dam and the surroundings after we put it up.
Getting Around The South Summit Control Dam:
aerial view of the South Summit Dam and the – pre-2017 location of the safety boom…internet-sourced image
So there we were – paddling towards the South Summit Control Dam. As we approached, we noticed the portage sign on river left; a bit further down, we came to the orange safety boom strung across the channel. Our Wabakimi Project map indicated a short portage on the left-hand side.
The only problem was that the safety boom blocked our access to the portage trail! (I put in the red solid line to indicate the current boom location.) I walked over the point for a quick look on the other side of the boom; it looked quite safe to paddle down to the take-out spot indicated on the map above. Had I walked down further, it would have become even more clear that a quick lift over the boom was the thing to do.
sitting in front of the 2021 South Summit Dam safety boom
After the trip, I took another look at a satellite image from the Ontario Government’s Make a Topographic Map website. Here is what I saw – the safety boom – the thin red line – was located near the beginning of the portage indicated on the map above.
satellite image of South Summit Dam showing the old safety boom across the channel
Not only had OPG moved the boom further away from the control dam, but they had also created a new signed and longer portage trail that is further from the dam! The broken white line on the sat image below shows the new 320-meter portage.
South Summit Dam and safety booms – 2014 and 2021
There is no human presence at the dam. Since the height of the seven gates needs to be adjusted manually, an OPG work crew helicopters in to do the job when necessary. Each gate has seven 14’L x 2’H steel beams that can be lowered by a hoist sitting on a rail track that runs the length of the dam. The water level was so low in late August of 2021 that all 8 gates were completely open.
In retrospect, we should have done a quick carry over the safety boom, paddled down to where the safety boom used to be or even a bit further, and done a shorter carry to the camping space below the dam. Instead, we did the OPG portage!
NRC topo view of the South Summit Dam portage
We paddled back to the portage sign by the small bay up from the safety boom. The “bay” was mostly devoid of water; we walked into the bay over an initial 30 meters of boulders to get to the bush behind it. The cached boat and another portage sign obscured by recent bush growth told us we were in the right place.
Stay clear, stay safe! is the OPG mantra and this portage is yet another fine example of its application.
approaching the top end of the South Summit Dam’s OPG portage
South Summit Dam – OPG Portage top of the small bay – note the boat shell
Within thirty minutes we were at the other side, and keen to get back to the dam and a place to put up our tent.
The OPG portage might make a bit of sense if paddlers just planned to push on down the river and had no intention of checking out the South Summit Dam. However, if you plan on seeing the dam and maybe ending your day there, the new OPG boom and portage will mean doing an unnecessary longer portage and then doubling back once you get to the south end of the bay. We did the 1.2 km loop back to the bottom of the dam and looked for a flat spot to put our tent.
Note: The usual canoe trippers’ caution is still advised! Conditions will vary with the time of the year you are coming down. Our late August conditions will not be the same as those you’d expect in mid-June! Give it the respect of an unknown set of rapids and check things out before you do anything!
See here for a couple of our posts that include less than positive reviews of a couple of OPG-recommended portages on the Ottawa River that we ignored:
official OPG instructions on how to get around Chats Falls
The portage around the Chenaux Generating Station– We avoided their stated 3.8 km portage (the distances actually add up to 2.8) and did a 750-meter one which was much safer and did not involve walking on the side of a secondary highway. The OPG route is dangerous.
We are also disappointed with the lack of portage information on the OPG website. I cannot even find the above information that I accessed about six years ago. OPG needs to devote some space on its website to the concerns of canoe trippers. My email about the lack of easily accessible portage info got this response from the OPG Web Team –
Hello Peter, thank you for your message. We are currently working on a project to have all portage routes placed online, however, this will take some time to develop. Is there anywhere specific that you would like more information about? If you could identify a specific area we can try to put you in contact with a local resource.
The Web Team seems to be unaware of the portage information that OPG used to host on its website. If it is all as useful as the two routes outlined above, this is actually not a bad thing.
Our Tent Site Below The South Summit Dam:
The before and after pics below show what we turned into a tent site for the night. Before we turned in for the night, we also put up the tarp as insurance after we noticed that the seam sealer tape of our fly was starting to peel off.
the tenting area below the South Summit Dam
our tent spot at the bottom of the South Summit Dam
our tent at the bottom of South Summit Dam
The South Summit Control Dam:
Built at the same time as the Waboose Diversion Dam and connected to Mojikit Lake by a 400-meter channel that was excavated across the Height of Land, the Summit Dam controls the flow of water going down to Lake Nipigon’s Ombabika Bay via the Little Jackfish River. For every 2 cubic meters per second (71ft³/sec) going down the Waboose Dam, there are on average 100 to 200 cubic meters per second (3530ft³/sec to 7060ft³/sec)passing through the control dam. [See the previous post for recent graphs and historical charts showing water flow rates.]
South Summit Control Dam – a side view from below
The dam is about 120 meters long (400′) and 4 meters (13′) high. On the platform covering the eight gates is a manually operated rectangular hoist structure sitting on rails which allows it to move from one end of the platform to the other.
the walkway to the top of the dam
South Summit Control Dam – a side view from the top
The operator inside is able to lift or lower one or more of the metal beams down into each gate. When we were there the gates were completely open and all seven of the beams for each of the gates were sitting on the platform. We could actually have paddled right through one of the gates after lifting over the safety boom.
the hoist on rails with the 7 beams for each of the gates in front of it
a view of the South Summit Control Dam from upriver
looking up the channel from the dam to the safety boom
South Summit Control dam channel and safety boom from below
We had not set out to paddle 33 km. and do the portage around the Summit Dam when we left the Waboose Dam at 8:30 that morning. However, the lack of decent camp spots along the east shore of Mojikit Lake provided us with the motivation to push on just a bit further. It would turn out to be our single biggest distance day of the trip.
We were now back in river mode – and in fact still on the Ogoki River given that the water we would be floating on would mostly be Ogoki water. Of course, its name below the dam would change to the Little Jackfish. Our goal was to paddle down this “new” river system as far as our time remaining permitted. The next post has the details, maps, and pics…
See NRC’s Toporama (here) for its current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
Day 11 – 23,5 km east on the Ogoki Reservoir from “Moose Crossing.”
We set off around 10 – a late start for us. The goal was a simple one – get to the dam! As we paddled along, we were struck by the sand dunes and the vast expanses of exposed sandy reservoir bottom as we had been the previous afternoon. After lunch, when we crossed to the north side, there were more sand dunes and terminal moraine deposits.
post-glacial Lake Agassiz
A bit of post-trip googling had me reading about the Laurentian Icesheet and the subsequent glacial mega-Lake Agassiz, glacial Lake Nakina, and different types of moraines. It was a mini-excursion into a world I know little about! It also made clear to me yet again that literacy takes many forms. No less than the ability to understand printed text, it also includes being able to read the natural world in any one of its many aspects.
The snippet of a surface geology map (see below) provides a visual record of the Ogoki Reservoir shoreline. The broken red line is our route through this glacial/post-glacial geological history slice.
our canoe route down the Reservoir[See here for a pdf copy of the entire map and the essential explanatory text.]
Just after we passed the entrance to the Mojikit Channel, we started looking for a lunch spot on the south shore. We figured the clump of trees in the image below would provide some shade and shelter from the SW wind. However, we had a 40-meter walk to do, given the low water! Here is what it looks like on the NRC Toporama map –
lunch island on the Ogoki Reservoir
In higher water years, we wouldn’t have had to walk 50 meters to what would be an island instead of a cluster of trees surrounded by sand in all directions.
miles of sand on both sides of the Ogoki River as we head for Waboose Dam
After lunch, we headed over to the north shore of the Reservoir, and in a couple of hours, we were approaching the east end of the artificial lake.
Waboose Dam/Falls Portage [Waboose is Ojibwe for “rabbit”; the Cree word is wâposo.]
As we paddled towards the dam, we noticed the tin shacks on top of the collapsing sand ridge on the point, fronted by a wide sandy beach. Except for the Waboose Dam complex itself, the fishing lodge on the island near Eight Flume Falls, and the outpost on the bay a few kilometers west of Moose Crossing, these are the only buildings on the Ogoki Reservoir. [As you go down the Mojikit Channel, there are a couple of outposts and a Wilderness North lodge.]
tin shack and nearby storage shed near Waboose Dam
The closeness of those structures to the edge of the sand ridge is definitely a sign of significant erosion since they were erected in the 1940s or 50s. On our visit, we had to walk about thirty meters across the sand bottom of the Reservoir to get to them.
Ogoki Reservoir tin shack on top of an eroding sand foundation
the main cabin – near the Waboose Dam
storage shed next to the tin shack
From the tin shack, we headed to the right-hand side of the boom stretching across the river. There, the portage trail around the dam begins; it is also where we would put up our tent.
approaching the Waboose Dam
Waboose Dam area – camping area at the top and portage trail to the bottom
The Waboose Dam Portage
We beached our canoe just above the safety boom on the east side of the dam. The spot where Max is standing in the image below is where the tent eventually went up. But first, we figured we’d stretch our legs and walk the portage trail to the bottom. The trail is maintained by an Ontario Power Generation crew and was, all in all, in fair shape. The trees blocking the path have probably fallen since they went through in May or June. The alders and other low-level bush also need a haircut.
our tent site at Waboose Dam
the start of the Waboose Dam portage trail
The initial section of the trail soon crosses a clearing which serves as a helicopter landing area. Visible in the image below is also a white storage shed. The door was open as we walked by. Inside six OPG workers were taking a break from their maintenance work on a concrete section of the dam.
In my best stern teacher’s voice, I said, “Guys, we just dropped by to see if you were getting the job done.” We had definitely startled them. We were bombarded with questions: “What are you guys doing here? How did you get here? . Soon, they were offering us coffee, cake, and snacks! While most lived in Thunder Bay, we learned that they were up here for a week and staying at the Wilderness North Lodge in the Mojikit Channel.
They did the 18-kilometer commute to the dam by motorboat each morning. I noted the contrast with the daily commute on the 16-lanes of traffic on the 401 across Toronto, and a few of them who had worked in the GTA said they were happy to be back home in northwest Ontario!
We crossed the clearing and followed the seldom-used trail back into the bush. Along the way, there are a few notices warning the trail users not to leave the trail for the river. When we got to the bottom, we realized that this made sense since there is really no water to float your canoe on until the end of the trail.
a short stretch of the Waboose Dam Portage below the dam
At the bottom end of the Waboose Dam, portage is a sign for those canoe trippers coming upriver from Ogoki Lake. It is about 40 meters from the actual shore of what is left of the Ogoki River water below the dam – i.e. not much!
the bottom of the Waboose Dam portage
a view of the Lower Ogoki from the end of the portage trail
The Waboose Dam and Waboose Falls
The massive concrete dam at Waboose Falls and a few secondary earthen dams were constructed to block the flow of the Ogoki River northeastward to merge with the Albany as it tumbles off the Canadian Shield and down to James Bay. The dam is over 500 meters across and 15 meters high. Construction began in December of 1940 and was finished three years later. From the headquarters on the CN rail line at Ferland, supplies and an 820-man crew were flown to the Waboose Falls area.
In his must-read book on water management of the Great Lakes, Peter Annin provides this explanation in his The Great Lakes Water Wars in a chapter devoted to the Ogoki and the nearby Long Lac Diversions. He writes:
See here for Peter Annin’s very readable account of the construction of the Waboose and Kenogami Dams and their impact on the environment and local communities. Amazingly, few people, even those who live in the areas affected, know anything about this. The 2018 revised edition of Annin’s book is available on Amazon. Click here to access or check your public library for a copy. The Toronto Public Library system has 9 copies of the revised., 7 of the 1st, and an eBook accessible online. (See here.)
Note that another dam – the South Summit Dam – was built to control the water flow as it now passed through a channel blasted across the Height of Land to connect Mojikit Lake to the headwaters of the Little jackfish River. 95%+ of the upper Ogoki’s water now flows into Lake Nipigon and the Great Lakes water system!
The Outflow Rate Graphs:
1. The Waboose Diversion Dam
When I first looked at the graph below showing the outflow at the Waboose Diversion Dam in cubic meters/sec, I remember thinking the graph was missing the lines to show the outflow rate. Then I realized that both the 2020 and 2021 lines were there! The outflow rates vary from 0 to 4 cubic meters per second! Clearly, a graph with a more appropriate outflow range would be in order!
See here for historical data from 1941 to 1994. In only five months in 53 years, the outflow surpassed 400 cubic m/sec. The most common monthly outflow value entered on the chart is 0.00.
Waboose Dam outflow rate in cubic meters per second
Update: In March of 2022, I took another look at the outflow graph at the OPG site and was pleasantly surprised to see that they have posted a new graph with a much more realistic scale. Here is what it looks like –
Waboose Dam Outflow rate – Jan 2021 to March 2022
From a 0 to 650 cubic meters per second scale to one with a 0.0 to 10 range – quite the change, eh!
2. The South Summit Control Dam
The Ogoki River Diversion changed Jackfish Creek into the Little Jackfish River. It went from a creek with a 4 m3/second flow to the one we know today. A study of the proposed LJR Hydroelectric Project had these stats on the Little Jackfish –
Since 1943, the Long Term Average (LTA) flow in the LJF River has been approximately 122 m3/s. The diversion works (Summit Control Dam and various channel improvements to the LJF River) were designed for a maximum flow of 283 m3/s. (See here for source)
The South Summit Control Dam outflow rate graph has a much more appropriate lefthand scale than the first Waboose Dam graph above. It looks like this:
Summit Control Dam outflow in cubic meters per second
See here for the OPG webpage with access to the above data.
When we were at the Waboose Dam in late August this year, for every 2 cubic meters per second going down to James Bay, about 80 cubic meters/sec were headed south to Lake Nipigon via the Mojikit Channel and the Summit Control dam.
We got to take a closer look at the dam as we headed back from the bottom of the portage trail.
a view of the backside of the Waboose Dam
looking down at today’s Ogoki River by the Waboose Dam
another view of the Ogoki River below Waboose Dam
With our quick look at the not-very-accessible dam done, we walked back to the canoe. Out came the packs. The first to be emptied contained all the tent parts, and it was soon up. Given the weather forecast, we were okay with the exposed nature of the site, but we did put up the tarp just in case.
our tent up at the top end of the Waboose Dam portage
It had taken us two days to paddle from Eight Flume Falls at the west end of the Reservoir to the Waboose Dam at the east end. Before we had set off, we thought the wind might be a problem. The only way we could have been luckier with the wind is if it had blown steady from the northwest as we headed southeast down the 50- kilometer-long artificial lake.
The next morning we would head back to the entrance of the Mojikit Channel and paddle down to the South Summit Control Dam. We would catch a bit of that NW wind! The maps and pics and details can be found in the
We spent 3 days on the Ogoki Reservoir, first paddling from Two Mile Bay to Eight Flume Falls and then the almost 50 km. to the east end of the reservoir at Waboose Falls (and Dam) before heading to the South Summit Dam south of Mojikit Lake.
Day 10: From Eight Flume Falls To “Moose Crossing”
distance: 28 km
time: 7.5 h
weather: overcast, cloudy with little wind for most of the day.
campsite: ~60m from shore, possible multi 1 x 2p sites plus a couple 1 x 4p
See Toporama (here) for NRC’s current interactive coloured mapping and print what you need.
Day 10 of our trip – and the first full day on the reservoir
We left our Two Mile Bay campsite (the only one we did not take a photo of and one that neither of us can even describe!) and headed west to check out Eight Flume Falls. On our way, we would paddle past more reminders of the impact of the Waboose Dam some fifty kilometers downriver. As we have seen at the top of Two Mile Bay, there were more remnant stumps on the land that had been flooded in the early 1940s.
taking in the 80-year-old stumps in the Ogoki Reservoir at the bottom of Two Mile Bay
Eight Flume Falls
We had come down the Two Mile Bay route because of what seems to be the general view that it is an easier – and safer – entry into the Reservoir. The previous post describes the Two Mile Bay route; while it is also quite scenic and perhaps “safer” since there is no whitewater to deal with, I am not so sure about the “easier” part.
Eight Flume Falls and Two Mile Bay Portages
As we paddled towards the bottom of Eight Flume Island, we saw a couple of beached canoes. Fellow canoe trippers – a Toronto-area YMCA Pine Crest group of eight mid-teenagers with a couple of leaders in their early to mid-20s! They had come down the northeast arm of Whiteclay Lake from the Witchwood River the day before and then took the Eight Flume route while we were doing the two portages into Two Mile Bay!
They were all veterans of previous Pince Crest canoe trips and were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Other than the father/daughter combo fishing at the bottom of the first set of rapids out of Whitewater Lake, they were the only paddlers we saw in our 14 days out.
YMCA Pine Crest canoe at the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls campsite
It is always great to see a new generation of wilderness trippers doing what we love to do! This day was one they had made into a rest day, a great choice since they got to enjoy a very scenic slice of Wabakimi. Some of them had plans to run the bottom rapids later on in the day.
[A few days later we would meet the Pine Crest crew again on Stork Lake below the South Summit Dam!]
a satellite image of Eight Flume – high water conditions / red line indicates portage trail
We walked through the edge of their campsite and up the portage trail as far as we could. The closer we got to the top the worse the shape of the trail, perhaps due to the fact that
it is really a high-water portage trail and
is used by very few paddlers in any given year.
Here we were in late August of a low-water year and descent via the right channel looked to be pretty straightforward – certainly not the “hazardous” that may apply with early-season high-water conditions. Given that Eight Flume Falls is within the Wabakimi Park boundaries, perhaps an occasional visit by a Park portage trail maintenance crew would be in order!
the right and left channels on the east side of Eight Flume Island
To give you an idea of what it looked like, I’ve arranged the images below starting from near the top (the north end) of the right channel down to the bottom and finally over to the bottom of the left channel.
as far as we went up the Ogoki Eight Flume Falls portage trail
a chute at the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls
panorama of the bottom stretch of Eight Flume Falls’ right channel
Eight Flume Falls area – beached canoes on the right channel
the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls – the final drop on the right channel
The Natural Resources Canada Toporama website provides a.s.l. (above sea level) figures. While Whiteclay Lake is at 329 meters, the Ogoki Reservoir a.s.l. is given as 327 meters. If the figures are accurate, there is a mere 2-meter drop at Eight Flume Falls. Contrast that with
the 6-meter drop from Whitewater Lake to Whiteclay Lake or
the 8-meter drop from Wabakimi Lake to Kenoji Lake!
Admittedly the 2-meter drop at Eight Flume comes in a more compressed space – and we did get the sense that the 2-meter NRC figure is a bit of an underestimate. By chance, I was looking at a surface geology map superimposed on a topo (Map 23 “Thunder Bay”) put out by the Ontario Dept of Lands and Forests in 1963. It has the following figures: Whiteclay at 1094′ and the Ogoki Reservoir 1079″ for a difference of 15′ or 4.6 meters.
the campsite a the bottom of the right channel of the Ogoki’s eight flume falls and the end of the channel coming in from the left
In any case, coming down the Ogoki to Eight Flume Falls would put you exactly where you would want to be – a great campsite at the bottom of the Falls and an entry point to The Ogoki Reservoir that would probably require less effort than the Two Mile Bay route. If we are ever back this way, it will be the route we choose.
In the meanwhile, if you have been down via Eight Flume, any comments you care to share would be appreciated and make more clear what is involved. I will note that we were seeing it at the end of August in a low-water year. Coming down in early July some other year might present paddlers with a different-looking stretch of whitewater, rapids, and falls.
the bottom of the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls right channel and the left channel in the distance
two Toronto-area YMCA Pine Crest canoes at the bottom of the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls
Hello, Ogoki Reservoir – the bottom of Eight Flume Falls
With our quick tour of the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls right channel and the portage trail done, we said goodbye to the Pine Crest crew and headed over to the bottom of the left channel for a different perspective.
Checking Out the Left Channel at Eight Flume Falls
This aerial image from the north shows the left and right channels as they come down to the Reservoir. On our late-August visit, the water was low enough for us to be standing on the rock outcrop ledge at the bottom of the left channel. In the image below it is under water!
Looking at the left channel in the aerial photo above, it looks like an even easier entry route to the Reservoir than going down the right channel. Again, water levels and current would be key. On our visit, it was quite doable, given a combination of float, line, and lift over.
the bottom of the Ogoki’s left channel at Eight Flume Falls
the bottom of the Ogoki’s left channel and the bottom of the right channel in the background
the Ogoki’s Eight Flume Falls – left channel and right channel merging at the bottom
The Area Flooded by The Waboose Dam:
If the name “Eight Flume” is older than the Ogoki Reservoir, it is possible that some of those flumes – another word for “channels” – may have been submerged with the rising water blocked by the dam. However, given the following map with the grey areas showing what was flooded, it would seem that the area around Eight Flume Falls and Two Mile Bay were less affected. [Then again, see here for some of what we saw at the top of Two Mile Bay the previous day.]
We would see some of the lingering evidence of that flooding over the next two days as we paddled down the reservoir to the Waboose Dam.
At about 10 a.m. we paddled away from Eight Flume and embraced what we knew would be a long slog down a narrow and shallow Ogoki Reservoir. A half-hour later we stopped for a Clif Bar/Gatorade break just to the east of the Mattice Lake Outfitters island lodge.
We were now no longer in Wabakimi Provincial Park; until we got to the bottom of the South Channel Dam we would be in Mojikit Lake Conservation Reserve, a protected area set up in 2003.
the Mattice Lake Outfitters island lodge not far from Eight Flume Falls
The water was remarkably calm. Over the next six hours, we made easy progress 25 km. down the reservoir, stopping occasionally to stretch our legs and – at the 14 km. count for the day – for a 1 1/4 hr. lunch break in the shade. Here is the beach area where we set up our Helinox chairs and sipped on coffee. Listen to my rain pants as I shuffle along the beach trying to keep the iPhone steady!
A few days later we would meet the Pine Crest campers below the South Summit Dam. They came down the Reservoir on the following day and thanks to the wind and their sails, they said that they did the 34 kilometers to Mojikit Channel in an easy day. Given that winds are usually from the NW or SW, the Reservoir west-east orientation makes it an ideal place to harness that wind!
Near the end of our day’s paddle, we passed through a narrow section of the reservoir where the north and south shores almost meet. As we scanned the shoreline for a potential campsite, we saw the Moose Crossing sign that someone had erected.
Day 10 CS – halfway down the Ogoki Reservoir
The sign is perhaps whimsical but it could be the legit local name for the spot! That moose would make use of the almost-touching opposite shores to cross is not hard to believe. Earlier we had paddled past a bay with a Wilderness North outpost called Moose Crossing perhaps because it is fairly close (7 km) to this narrowing of the reservoir.
Then again, moose are strong swimmers and given how shallow much of the reservoir is (or was in late August 2021) they could cross anywhere. In any case, the sign caught our eyes in a fairly desolate landscape. For some reason, the line “The land that God gave to Cain” streamed through my mind a number of times this day and the next as we paddled our way to Waboose Falls!
Moose Crossing sign on the south side of the Ogoki Reservoir
While we noted a fire pit near the sign, we moved on, figuring something better – i.e. more sheltered – would come up. Less than a kilometer later, we approached a set of massive boulders on the south shore. Behind them was a wooded area that looked promising. In the image below you can see what we came up with – there is a bit of apple green tarp visible in the bush about 60 meters in from the shore.
Moose Crossing campsite – the Three Boulders On the Shore
We hopped out and checked it out. Within 45 minutes the tent was up and the canoe was set up to serve as a windscreen for our butane stoves.
our Day 10 CS on the Ogoki Reservoir’s south shore near “Moose Crossing”
our campsite just one kilometer east from “Moose Crossing”
The Three Boulders – where we stopped for the night
dead tree stumps along the south shore of the Ogoki Reservoir near our campsite
We were happy with the way the day had turned out: we had visited Eight Flume Falls and then paddled halfway down the Ogoki Reservoir. That meant that we would be camping at the Waboose Dam the next day! The next post has the pics and maps, including our walk to the bottom of the portage trail around the totally neutered Waboose Falls.
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)
from Whiteclay Lake (NE Arm) to Two-Mile Bay (Ogoki Reservoir)
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.
break time on the Ogoki after we rounded the corner from Whiteclay’s NE arm
Max’s flower pic of the trip – the Ogoki shore as it bends south from Whiteclay’s NE arm
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.
a small stretch of the dramatic vertical rock on the Ogoki as it runs down to Eight Flume
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.
lichen which looked like a caribou pictograph from a distance
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.
more dramatic vertical rock on the Ogoki at the top of the narrow channel
vertical rock wall on both sides of the Ogoki as it heads down to Eight Flume Falls
the Ogoki river as it heads to Eight Flume Falls and the Reservoir
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.
The Two Mile Bay/ Eight Flume Falls Area
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.
two route choices to access Ogoki Reservoir
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.
approaching the first portage into Two-Mile Bay from the north
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.
the stretch of boulders on the way to the portage into Two-Mile Bay
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.
looking back at the canoe and pack from the boulder portage put-in
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.
the put-in at the south end of the boulder portage on Whiteclay Lake
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.
a view of the take-out spot for the portage into Two-Mile Bay from the north
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!
looking for a portage trail into Two Mile Bay from the north
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.
the initial hoist of the canoe up to the top of the plateau
canoe and gear up on top of the Two Mile Bay portage – now time for a wee break
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.
the put-in at the Top of Two Mile Bay on the Ogoki Reservoir
looking down Two-Mile Bay – Max waiting while I get just the right perspective!
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…
a last look back at the top of Two Mile Bay and our portage put-in
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 several 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.
the impact of the Waboose Dam on the low-lying area on the Ogoki
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.
The flooded low-lying area of the Ogoki River 50 km. above Wabosse Dam
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!
This post – Day 8 summary: We left our okay exposed beach campsite not too far below the first set of rapids out of Whitewater Lake. After a bit more narrow river paddling and some time spent at Ogoki Falls, we would move down Whiteclay Lake to a campsite on the northeast arm of the lake.
Whiteclay Lake is the third in a sequence of large lakes in the Ogoki River system. My curiosity about the name was piqued even more when I found this map of Northwest Ontario from 1900. It shows how incomplete the understanding of the terrain was 120 years ago. Interestingly, Wabakimi Lake is named White Earth Lake. Since waaba is Ojibwe for white and aki means earth, it makes sense!
The Ogoki River from Wabakimi Lake to Ogoki Lake …from a 1901 Ontario Govt Map
distance: 30 km
time: 8.5 h
portages/rapids: 1/0 Ogoki Falls; ~280 m
weather: cool! 10˚ to 23 ˚C; clear all day
sightings: no one around – no boat traffic on Whiteclay
campsite: slim pickings, flattish rock slab; yay! sleeping pads
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)
From above Ogoki Falls to the NE arm of Whiteclay Lake
The eighth day since our start at Endogoki Lake, the river’s headwaters, and our biggest one so far – at 31 kilometers quite the change from the three days we had spent boreal bushwhacking while moving less than 15 km. downriver.
In the image above, the packs have been retrieved from their overnight storage spot at the bottom left (about 50 meters from our tent). The tent is packed away, and our coffee mugs sit on the overturned canoe. As he returned to his cup of coffee, Max noticed this faded bear footprint in the sand. It is the closest we came to a bear sighting on the trip; we also did not see any moose in our 14 days in the Park.
Bear paw print on the Ogoki beach
We did find the water to be pretty low and occasionally had to backtrack in our search for enough water to float the canoe down the narrow section of the river to Whiteclay. A half-hour into the day, we came to a tin shack with a smaller side building. It sits on river right about 1 kilometer above our one portage of the day, the carry around Ogoki Falls.
Post-trip googling revealed that it is a federal government-run hydrometric station, the only one in the Wabakimi area. See here for more info.
tin shack on the Ogoki above the Falls
An Ogoki Frontier boat and fuel can sit at the top of the portage. Ogoki Frontier owns a couple of outposts at the west end of Whiteclay Lake. This boat may be intended for those clients who come up to the bottom of Ogoki Falls, leave their boat there, and then continue up to the other rapids on this one.
Ogoki Frontier boat at the top of the Ogoki Falls portage
The 280-meter trail is in good shape, and within fifteen minutes, we were at the put-in at the bottom of the falls.
A section of the decent Ogoki Falls portage trail
After a Clif Bar/Gatorade break, we grabbed our cameras and headed to the bottom of the falls. Walking up the falls to the top took little effort, and we worked on a few different perspectives of an impressive gush of water. Along with Granite Falls and Brennan Falls on the Allanwater River, it is one of the most impressive waterfalls we’ve seen in Wabakimi Park. Here are a few of the shots we came away with –
, one of Wabakimi’s most impressive waterfalls
Ogoki Falls panorama – late August in a low-water year
looking over at river left of Ogoki Falls
a sizeable drop on river right at Ogoki Falls
We spent a half-hour taking in the view and inhaling the negative ions that the cascading water produces. It is like the canoe tripper’s version of a meditation center. No need to assume the Buddha pose, but inhale those negative ions and feel the positive energy that being here gives you!
With our session with the Falls done, we continued on. The rest of the day would be flatwater paddling as we made our way east on Whiteclay. Looking back at the Falls, we could see the put-in at the lefthand side of the image below.
Ogoki Falls from the bottom – portage trail on river right
We did not face any headwinds this day, not a big surprise since it usually comes from the NW or SW. It was 6 km. (an hour’s paddle) down to where the lake opens up and then another 6 km. to our lunch spot. We chose it because, on the Wabakimi Project map, it is indicated as a campsite. When we got there, we found the picnic tables, which we figured were put there by the various lodges for their clients to use for lunch fish fries.
our beached canoe at our south shore lunch stop on Whiteclay Lake
three generations of picnic tables at our south shore lunch stop
From our lunch spot on the south shore, we looked northeast, where our map told us there was an outpost. Max’s Sony HX80, with its 720mm reach, came in handy. He got the following image which – given that it was handheld and we were 6.2 km. away – is pretty impressive.
Ogoki Frontier Whiteclay west outposts
During our afternoon on Whiteclay Lake, we did not see or hear any boat traffic. Like Whitewater Lake the previous two days, it was very quiet.
We crossed over to the north shore before we came to the mouth of the Raymond River. A few years ago, we had come down the NE arm of Whiteclay Lake from the north. We had been up on the Albany River and were headed up the Raymond River to get to the height of land and then down the Pikitigushi River towards Lake Nipigon.
Just beyond the mouth of the Raymond River is another outpost. Once a Mattice Lake Outfitters property, this one now belongs to Boreal Forest Outfitters.
We turned into the lake’s northeast arm and looked for a campsite. After checking out a couple of lackluster spots, we paddled by the spot in the image below. At first glance, it looks pretty mediocre too! However, we cleared away the dead tree, moved the rocks aside, and – voilá…our home for the night.
Our Whiteclay tent spot – the before pic!
As noted about our Whitewater campsite, which was also on a flat rock, an inflated Thermarest pad makes almost anywhere an acceptable place to bed down for the night!
tent up on Whiteclay Lake NE Arm
adult moose and calf footprints on our Whiteclay NE arm beach campsite
panorama of our camp on the NE Arm of Whiteclay Lake