- 3 – 4 days
- 43km’s (+/-)
- 6 portages
- Longest Portage: 550m
- Difficulty: Intermediate to Moderate
The Trip Begins
Although the Region of Temagami had been under wet weather conditions for well over a week, it was not going to dampen our enthusiasm to get out on our first real backcountry canoe trip of the season. We have been under Covid 19 lockdown in Ontario for far too long to let a few rain drops stop us.
Myself along with Puppy Mollie a good friend Ingo Hetzer (KIHD Outdoor Products) were prepared to set out on a 4 day, 43km canoe trip in Temagami. After 6.5 hours of highway travel we finally arrived at the little town of Temagami that is situated on Hwy 11 North of North Bay, Ontario. Upon our arrival, Mother Nature had no plans of changing her grouchy mood and she continued to dump buckets of rain upon us. It was a good thing that Ingo had some business to tend to with Eric over at Temagami Outfitters but there was one problem. We arrived a couple of hours before they opened the doors for business that day. No biggie. We would nap in the truck for a bit right?… Nope. Our excitement to get paddling was too strong and we just sat and chatted until Temagami Outfitters was open.
Finally after a couple of hours spent waiting in the truck, then enjoying some fresh hot brew and chit chat with the good peeps at Temagami Outfitters, the rain was finally letting up and we seized our opportunity to make the drive down the Lake Temagami Access Road to the Central Access to depart on our 4 day Adventure. Who know what was in store for us as we drove down that 19km dirt road to a sea of trucks and cars parked at the access.
As we loaded up the canoe with all of our gear, the dark grey sky was threatening the entire time. In fact we would not see blue skies at all until our final 2 or 3 hours of the trip. It was now time to find a parking spot for my very muddy, once burgundy truck and then set off on our trip.
Have you ever experienced that feeling of euphoria while on a canoe trip. Well Ingo and I sure did. We had just pushed off and had not even paddled a stroke yet when we both looked at each other, let out a big sigh of relief and both said at the same time “I needed this!” We were both on the same page.
Heading North from the Central Access, we headed in a Southern direction towards Shiningwood Bay. The air was thick and heavy and there was a stiff breeze that would help us travel east on Shiningwood Bay. Boat traffic was fairly limited. We had a couple of fishermen and a couple of house boats pass by at a distance and that was fine as we both knew that we would not likely see any other boat traffic after our first portage. With the wind mostly at our back, our travel time down the long Shiningwood Bay was drastically reduced and after only about 1.5 hours we were at our first portage of the trip. P1 was a 435m into Olier Lake. This port was well blazed and well used and took us around a small creek like rapid with a few small pretty water falls. Of course my GoPro battery had died and I did not capture any footage for the YouTube Video. However I did manage to find a good size chunk of Chaga on a tree and I responsibly harvested a good baseball size chunk to enjoy along the trip and to bring home.
Olier Lake is a tiny lake and our paddle time was only about 10 – 15 minutes to get to the next portage. Although this lake is a small lake, it sure was a pretty lake dotted with a bunch of small islands along the west shore. Very soon after we were at our second portage of the day. P2 is a 410m jaunt into Denedus Lake. This portage like the last one ran along a small creek and was well blazed and clear. We seen moose tracks all along this portage. I always say that the reward for doing a portage is that first breath taking look at a beautiful scenery that you have never seen before and Denedus lake did not disappoint.
Denedus lake is another body of water that is about double the size of Olier Lake and we paddled the full length Denedus, through some narrows and to the portage located at the South Eastern bay. I must note that all along this trip we did not see many portage signs but all of the portages were very evident.
P3 is a short 130m portage into Wasaksina Lake. The portage starts with a small campsite that has a small stream from Wasaksina running through it. You can see this in my video and it was such a relaxing spot with that hollow sound of a babbling brook. The portage once again was showing signs of moose with multiple tracks and droppings, but no moose in sight to associate with them.
Wasaksina is a lake that is very familiar to me. I have been here a few times to link up other Temagami routes. It also is full of monster bass, and I knew of a perfect campsite for us to make camp. We were soon at our campsite and as we arrived it looked as if Mother Nature was going to open the skies on us. She was kind and did hold off for a while. We quickly assessed the campsite and decided that this was the spot. I thing that the fact that we had driven all night and paddled all this distance was also a deciding factor in choosing this site. There are plenty of campsites on Wasaksina but we were not looking for them.
We quickly set up our tarp for shelter just in case the skies opened up then proceeded to set up our tent and hammock for the evening slumber that would take us into day 2. Ingo and I then proceeded to complete our camp choirs: fire wood collection, fix the fire pit, get the fire rocking and proceed to get our Day 1 Steak dinner on the go. I will say that the firewood situation was a bit of a problem for the entire trip. As I mentioned earlier, it had been raining in Temagami for over a week and there was not a dry stick in sight. This would be a bit of an issue as we did not bring any fuel or stove other than our KIHD Twig stove to cook on. Time to unleash the bushcrafter in me and we did manage to have our camp fires and we were able to cook on our Twig Stove. Want to know how? You will need to watch the Video.
As darkness began to settle in we sat and enjoyed our steak dinner with a cold beer. Yes the beer was still cold with no sun to warm it up. The bugs were not bad at all. Just a few mosquitos. I did however face one challenge. That was keeping Mollie dry because she sleeps with me in my hammock and there is nothing worse than a wet smelly dog laying with you… All was good and it was now time for bed… Ahhhh!
It had rained all night but that did not matter. I am always high and dry in my Hennessey Hammock. That is until I need to get up for my old guy pee in the middle of the night… only once this time… Yippee!
I awoke to a very misty drizzle and got out of the hammock to get some quiet video footage as I do every morning on my trips. Ingo was soon to follow and before you knew it we had a hot pot of Backcountry Coffee Co. Alpine Roast in the percolator then into our coffee cups. We were smart and stashed some dry twigs for the Twig Stove the night before to assure we would have a quick fire and breakfast of Oatmeal and Coffee. This looked like it was going to be another long day of possible rain so we proceeded to pack up camp and get paddling to get some kilometers under us and we had a goal of getting to Iceland Lake where we planned on having a full layover day there.
As we set out, we had a very light rain that soon let up and the sky seemed to brighten up but still no blue skies. We paddled east the turned North into a long narrow bay towards the creek into Driftwood Lake. I tried my luck fishing during one of our water breaks and managed to hook into a nice 3 lb northern pike which I released. He put up a good fight and it felt nice to have the first fish of the trip. We then continued our paddle into Driftwood Lake which again is a very pretty lake that I would love to explore but not on this trip as we made a beeline towards the portage at the North Eastern point of the Lake. You can’t miss this portage because there are docks and about 10 tin fishing boats there. This trip is not the most remote so I fully expected to see both man and machine at some point.
At the Landing to P4, a 345m Portage to Iceland Lake is where we find our first actual portage sign. It is one of the small triangle ones that marks the trail on the right. You would think that with all the boats at this landing that the portage would be an easy one. Along the trail there were quite a few blow downs and some really narrow passages between the trees. This lead to another well blazed trail and eventually to the put in on Iceland Lake. As we head back to gather he rest of out gear we discover that the portage trail we took is one of a few and we choose to follow the wider trail which also ends up on the left side of the landing and is a far easier carry for the portage. So if you do tis trip. ignore the portage trail where the sign is and go left… you will thank me later.
Now on Iceland Lake, we are only a short paddle to our day 2 and 3 campsite. This trip could easily be done in 3 days but we chose to throw a layover day into it so we were not in a hurry or incase of bad weather… GOOD CHOICE! Iceland Lake has a few great sites and we settle on the first one on a point on the left coming out of the put in channel. It has a great landing and lots of space for our setup. When we arrive it is drizzling out so we proceed to set up camp and to get our choirs done. Firewood… here we go again. Everything is still wet and once again our bushcrafting skills in finding wood come into play. To add to the wet wood is the fact that these camp sites have been used frequently for years and much like the busy Provincial Parks, good firewood is hard to find because it has all been used and cleared out. We do however manage to find some and we have a bit of a warming fire as we prepare our meals for the evening. Dehydrated rice, beef and veggies is on the menu for me tonight. We even manage to bake some Cinnamon Rolls in the new KIHD Reflector Oven. This was a yummy treat
Today was not an over strenuous day and we had a great chance to just sit and enjoy the rest of the day but silly us, we did not set up our rain tarp and that was a mistake. Just as we had finished cleaning up from dinner the skies started to open up again with a gentile rainfall and we needed to dodge the raindrops. At this point as the rain was dousing out our campfire so we decided to turn in for the evening in hopes that the morning would bring better weather.
DAY 3, WET WET WET
As the header above implies, it was the wettest of our 4 days. Over night the rain fell so hard that I had dreams that my tent was caving in on me and I was being flooded out. This was not the case. Mollie and I were high and dry in my hammock. Man did it rain hard. In the morning we awoke to more rain and yes the theme of the entire day would be rain, rain and more rain.
Good thing we planned this as a layover day. After waking, when I got out of my hammock all dry and I was slouching to get out from under my hammock tarp… Then it happened! Rain that collected on my tarp in a puddle let go all down my back… Mother Nature’s way of saying GOOD MORNING… what a bitch!
Breakfast was a challenge today. We had plans of making Breakfast Skillet (Here is video on how to make it) but it was now raining Lynx and Wolves… get it! Remember now we did not set up our rain tarp as mention previously so we sat out the downpour under the tarp from my hammock. Finally the rain let up a bit and we managed to quickly make breakfast and coffee only to be forced once again under the tarp for protection for the wetness. At least we had a meal and some hot coffee to warm the soul. Because the rain was coming down so hard we just sat and waited for an opportunity to set up the rain tarp which after an hour or 2, we were finaly able to set it up. It was nice to be able to stretch out a bit.
Once set up under the tarp we proceeded to try and get the Twig Stove going to make some more coffee and perhaps some hot soup and noodles. We did this using fatwood harvested from old rotting pine tree stumps. An old trick I learned many years ago. Once again the details are in the YouTube video for this trip. It is amazing how even a tiny fire like we had under the tarp in our twig stove could warm the area and bring comfort. The day passed on with rain shower after rain shower and eventually took us into the evening where it finally let up enough for about an hour which allowed us to have a small campfire. That was short lived so we chose to turn in for the evening.
DAY 4… Departure Day
Just like the past couple of day, we awoke to grey dismal skies, drizzle and cool temperatures. Today we would make our way back to Lake Temagami and eventually the Central Access point. We start our day with a quick Breakfast and coffee. We pack all of our gear and we are on the water for perhaps our longest paddle of the trip but not before I finally get a small break in the weather to use my drone to capture some great footage of Iceland Lake. I Personally think Iceland Lake was the prettiest lake on this trip.
We now paddle north west into a narrow creek or river that eventually ends at a culvert on Lake Temagami Access Road. This river is beautiful with many fallen trees lining the passage, lily pads in full floral bloom and even the sighting of a small family of River Otters.
Because P5 crosses Lake Temagami Access Road. I urge you to take caution here. Especially if you have a dog with you as vehicles travelling this road can sneak up on you in a second. Please be safe here and leash your dog. This portage is about 550m along a lane way where you will discover a hunt camp with an only trappers tent. Be respectful, look but do not touch. This portage is very easy with no obstacles and the put in is at a small lake on the Tetapaga River. When you put in go immediately left as the opening to the Tetapaga River is only about 100 meters away. We were greeted by a small log jam which we were able to open a pathway for the canoe to get through and then a short gravel bed where we needed to get out and pull the canoe over… easy peasy!
We then paddled along a short distance to our next portage which is unmarked and on River Right. P6 is a 515m very tricky portage. First thing as we carried our gear over we were greeted by a fallen and rotting dead white pine that must have been a real beauty as she stood tall over the landscape. Now she lies rotting and feeding the undergrowth and blocking easy access on the portage. To make things worse there was another fallen pine tree that completely blocked the portage… No going around this one. Ingo and I take turns sawing away at this tree and eventually clear the trail for us and future travelers. Onwards!
Just when we thing it is going to be smooth sailing, nope! we are now greeted by a rock garden of smooth, slippery, slimy rocks covered by undergrowth that made it difficult to find foot placement and then again to make it worse a shallow crossing of the Tetapaga River through the water at mid calf then onward to the end of the portage. Oh yes I forgot to mention that the Mosquitos have finally found us. With most of the gear over we now, we need to go and get the canoe and a few other items so we get to do it all over again, not once but twice.
I choose to carry the canoe solo in this one and Ingo carries the rest of the small stuff.. My canoe for this trip is a 16ft Nova Craft Prospector made of Royalite and she only weighs 56lbs(+/-). She is named C.A.Chasey (Canoehound Adventures Chasey). Chasey was my Yellow Lab who was one of my best paddling partners… I miss her every day. I name all my canoes after my dogs.
I am not sure how well this portage is going to go with C.A.Chasey on my head so I concentrate on each step and not on the obstacles, one foot in front of the other, slow and steady over the old pine, slower and more steady through the rock garden and patiently through the river and finally on to the end. I did not stop and rest or put down the canoe. I just wanted to crush this portage. At the end I was soaked with sweat from head to toe and out of breath, after all I am 56 years old. THIS OLDISH GUY STILL HAS IT!
We take a small break before we continue on the Tetapaga River to the North East Arm of Lake Temagami It was clearly evident that this particular portage has not been used this season yet. There were no recent signs of passage, foot prints or other.
Now back on the water and entering Lake Temagami we are greeted by Big Sky… all be it Big Grey Sky. In all of my years of paddling the Temagami Area, this was my first time on this arm of the lake. It is long and wide, has cottages and lodges along it’s shores, passing boats and house boats and yet the only thing you see is the water and the Big Sky. We continued our long paddle only stopping at a marked campsite for a shore lunch and a leg stretch, then back on the water for the final push back to the Central Access Landing. It was during this last little stretch that were finally rewarded with some blue patches of sky. Just a little bit to prove once again that Mother Nature can also have a funny bone.
All in all this was a great 4 day Canoe trip spent with some great company. Thanks Ingo for not complaining about having a Camera in your face for 4 days or for hearing the constant command “GoPro, Start Recording”.
So, if you’re looking to try this route in the future, I’d say it’s a great trip for newer paddlers and experienced paddlers alike. It is very enjoyable, and if you are fortunate enough to have better weather than we had, then you’ll definitely be able to experience the great swimming and fishing opportunities; and the scenery is second to none.
for more information on this trip. here is the link to it on the MYCCR website… Wasaksina, Driftwood Loop