Mississagi River

Day 5 - Mississagi River North of Split Rock Rapids to just west of Abinette River outlet - (27 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 clouds and mist, but the rain seemed to be holding off for the moment. I got in the canoe and fished for a bit at the base of the falls. It was so serene and beautiful.

Without the rain, I snapped a pic of the 6-foot drop at the top of the portage. We were very fortunate to be camping in such a pretty spot without another soul for miles.

We broke camp and got the day started. We knew we had a long day of river obstacles ahead of us. We hoped the rain from the previous day might have raised water levels a little more to work in our favour.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. The first two sets of whitewater had to be portaged. It seemed the safer choice as the river banks provided little in the way of the footing to allow us to line. The water was just too shallow for us to run them in our kevlar composite boat.

The weather was a mix of cloud and sun, but mostly cloudy. We were just grateful it wasn't raining again. We were able to line one of the 60m runs above Split Rock Rapids. 

When we did arrive at Split Rock, we were so used to getting out and portaging by that time that we did so automatically. It was silly. We really should have scouted it first because it was just one little ledge that looked fairly easy to run. It might have saved us a bit of energy that would be needed later in the day. I think because this obstacle was named, we just assumed it was something more formidable. It was a pretty little canyon, though.

Shortly after Split Rock, we arrived at Hellgate Rapids. We were dreading this portage based on descriptions in trip reports, but it wasn't too bad in the end. Sure, it was longer than the others, but it was incredibly scenic. It rose steeply at the take-out to a campsite that sits high on a ridge over the turbulent water. The views from the top were wonderful.

We had noticed some old growth trees along the shoreline in this section of the river and toward the end of the portage, there were some amazing specimens right along the portage trail.

The remainder of the afternoon was portaging over the last three sections of boney whitewater before the marshy sections of the river. We stopped for lunch on some rocks at the top of the first of these after running some small swifts.

At the end of the 450m portage (it seemed more like 600m!), the last of the bunch, there was a campsite, but it was not appealing to us. It was little more than an empty patch of dirt on the river bank. So, we paddled for another 10 minutes until we came to a spot where a logging road connected with the river.

Our map showed that there was a site at that location, but upon arrival, it looked like it was set back from the river just off the road and it looked bushy.

It was about 5 pm and we now had a decision to make. We were exhausted after all of the portaging of the day in high humidity and we knew that we had at least another two hours of paddling to get through The Maze -- a 7km stretch of river that consisted of numerous switchbacks through a massive marsh. In addition, the sky was getting dark and we could feel some nasty weather was most likely on the way. The prudent thing would have been to take the site at the logging road, but we kept paddling as we discussed and debated, and before we knew it, we were already well over a kilometer past the site! We rashly decided to go for it by that point.

Our one saving grace was that there was no wind. We were in the calm before the storm. We had expected to encounter some wildlife in The Maze, but it was silent and still. It was weird.

Map 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.

Shortly after 6 pm, we heard thunder in the distance coming in from the southeast. The sky was dark and the clouds were rolling our way. We made very quick work of The Maze, spurred on by the chance of getting caught in the storm.

By 7 pm, we were through most of the marshy bits. There, the river had high sandy banks. The thunder was right behind us at this point, and we could see lightning flashes in the sky. I'm not comfortable being on the water when lightning is discernible, but Dad wanted to keep going, thinking it was passing us just to the west. We pulled over for about 15 minutes until it seemed like it was passing us by. In the end, he was correct, but I was nervous for while. I don't like the feeling of being on the water with lightning nearby. It freaks me out. The lightning had been a little too close for my comfort level. 

Kevin Callan's report on the Mississagi stated that there was a trapper's cabin along this section of the river just before the bend where the Abinette River flows into the Mississagi, but we couldn't find it. Perhaps, it has since been demolished? We did see a campsite at that approximate location. It was a cleared-out section high on the right river bank. Again, it was a bit bushy with dense forest all around it, so we decided to check out the two sites just past the Abinette confluence. If they didn't pan out, we would return to that bushy one.

We couldn't find the site at the confluence with the Abinette, so we just hoped the one about 600m further downriver would be nice. At first, we didn't see that there was a site, just a massive rock overlooking the bend in the river, but I spotted a fire ring at the top as we got closer. It was starting to spit again and we could still hear thunder in the distance, so we jumped at the chance to finally make camp.

It was nearly 8 pm when we finally hauled our canoe and gear up the near-vertical rock face to access the site. The low river levels made that take-out a little more challenging than it should have been. We had done too much that day and were exhausted. We quickly set up camp and ate our dinners in the bug tent as the night and rain descended.

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Day 6 - Mississagi River west of Abinette River to Rocky Island Lake (22 km)