Mississagi River

Day 3 - Kashbogama Lake to Bark Lake (23 km)

Maps provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have marked my route in blue and portages in red.

We woke up to another beautiful, sunny morning. As an early riser, I was up before Dad and went out to do some fishing. The bay was shallow so I was aiming for bass and pike. Despite fish breaching the surface around me, I didn't have any luck. They simply weren't biting what I had to offer.

The previous night we finished off the steak that we didn't fully eat from Night 1. The frozen hamburger patties, which we had planned for our 2nd night and were room temperature in our cooler bag at that point, had to get eaten. So, we had hamburgers and coffee for breakfast. Why not?! Who says you can't have hamburgers for breakfast on a camping trip?

We had a very short paddle to our portage into Shanguish Lake. There, we had two options. We could either take the longer 300m portage that bypassed the entire set of swifts and rapids between the lakes, or run/line the first set and then take a shorter 90m portage. Against my dad's better judgment, we went for the latter.

The river level was too low to attempt to run anything, so we lined the first set. Here is a shot of the rapids from the bottom. It was a boulder-fest.

After that, we had quite some trouble locating the portage to get past the chute that followed. We knew it was on river-left, but we could not spot it for the life of us, even after a few attempts of getting out and peering through the thick bush onshore. There was no safe way to line the chutes as the banks had steep mini cliffs of rock on either side and a huge sweeper was blocking the entire passage. We finally paddled right up to the edge of the chute and just past some initial bush at the shoreline, I was able to spot a faint and overgrown trail up the bank. From there, it was only about a 20m walk/bushwack to the main trail. It appeared that the shorter portage had not been used in quite some time. With all the time it took lining and searching, we ended up spending at least twice as much time than simply doing the easy 300m port. Sheesh! Again, another reminder that there are no shortcuts in canoe tripping!

We made quick work of Shanguish Lake, a pretty lake that had some nice campsites. At the far end of the 30m portage, we fished for a while at the base of the small falls there (pictured below). We tapped into several pikes. I pulled in a perfect eating-sized pike on my first cast, but with the earlier setback, we didn't take the time to fillet it. It was still a bit early for lunch and we were hoping to make the Bubble Bay island campsite on Bark Lake that evening. 

Paddling through a marshy bit on the approach to Limit Lake, we came across a bridge. It wasn't just any ol' logging road bridge; it appeared to be well-built and newly renovated. Our map did show a logging road that ended just a few kilometers to the west of it, but no doubt the map was outdated. Perhaps the road is now much longer and this was the road that went north and to the west of Bardney and Spanish, where we heard vehicles from that direction earlier?

Limit Lake was another nice lake. We probably should have spent more time fishing these waters. After all, people spend good money to fly into these lakes for the fishing. But we had already spent 30 minutes or so fishing at the take-out and had wasted an extra 45-minutes looking for the portage into Shanguish earlier. The sites we saw on Limit didn't seem that special anyway.

A long canoe trip is a funny thing. Though we were in no hurry, we wanted to spend our evenings on nice campsites that we learned about in our research, so we had goals for our days. Also, when you get into the motion of paddling and moving, it seems to break the momentum to stop and fish too often. It's always a trade-off. I love the fishing, but I also love exploring.

By the time we arrived at the 60m portage into Kettle Lake, it was mid-afternoon and we were getting a little hungry. After portaging our gear to the end, we walked back up to have a nice lunch on the moss-covered rocks next to the rapids. It was another scorcher of a day and it was nice to splash water on our heads and sit in the shade for a bit

Kettle Lake was gorgeous. It is dominated by a massive island in the middle of the lake. That created a dramatic effect of narrow channels of steep rocks and cliffs on the shoreline. Paddling south out the northern narrows, we saw a flagpole and a cabin on the eastern shore. As we approached closer, we could make out the form of a human onshore in the distance! Oddly, this individual seemed to be at the shoreline watching us as we paddled the entire north section of the lake and then as we veered right to the north of the central island -- no doubt, with a set of binoculars in hand. It was a little unsettling to have someone watch you for that length of time, but I'm guessing if he/she were up there alone, it might have been the highlight of the week to see a canoe go by!

 Afterward, I tried to research online what that cabin might be. A fly-in fishing lodge? A provincial park ranger station? A privately-owned cabin or cottage? I was unable to find anything out. We didn't see a bush plane and were too far away to see what kind of watercraft was there. (Just out of curiosity, if anyone reading this knows what that structure is, kindly shoot me a message at the bottom of this page. Thanks!)

Heading south, east of the large central island, we watched a pair of otters poke their heads out of the water and scamper up onto the shore. Boy, did they move quickly!

At the southwestern end of Kettle Lake, we re-entered the Mississagi once again. Shortly after, we had to complete two short 60m portages in quick succession. The first was quite interesting as it followed a high ridge to the right of the white water below. I suspect it was quite a bit longer than 60m. Conversely, the second was much shorter and was more of a 15-20m lift over a bluff rather than the listed 60m that was on my map. I snapped a quick pic above one of the sets of boney rapids

As we moved around the bend on Arrowhead Lake and up through the narrows into the top end of Upper Bark Lake, the sky began to cloud over somewhat. The air was heavy with humidity and there was only the lightest of breezes. It felt like rain was on the horizon. Little did we know what we were in for the following day.

We passed the campsite on the point at the north end of Upper Bark. It was a large lake that was dotted with several beautiful tree-clad islands. Despite the sweltering heat, we were happy to be crossing it with almost no wind

At the south end of that large northern bay, we veered left and ran a fun little swift that took us through some narrows and out into another large bay of Bark Lake. There, paddlers of the route have the choice of either paddling east around to Middle Bark Lake, a jaunt that takes about three-quarters of a day to do, or head directly south, liftover a beaver dam, and paddle a couple of smaller lakes and take two portages into the same area. We chose the latter as it would be much quicker; however, that was on the agenda for the following morning. At that point, it was 5:30 pm and we were getting tired and hungry. The famous Bubble Bay island site was calling to us. 

We headed west and saw a cabin on the north shore of the bay. We guessed it might be a northern outpost of Glassy Bay Outfitters, the fishing lodge located next to Grey Owl's cabin on Middle Bark Lake to the south. It appeared to be vacant on that particular day. It looked like a nice little cabin and a great spot to stay.

We made it to our destination island in Bubble Bay and had a very nice night. It's a lonely little island in the middle of a large bay. The island is small and doesn't have a lot of flat tent pads, but is extremely scenic. I wouldn't recommend larger groups stay there. It simply can't support many people. For the two of us, it was fine. In fact, we enjoyed the nicest sunset of the trip there.