Mississagi River

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

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.

It rained most of the night and then began really pouring in the wee hours of the morning. It continued raining extremely hard right up until noon. 

There was no way that we were going to break camp in that nonsense, so we enjoyed a restful morning in the bug shelter. Using my Zoleo device, I got a weather report for the day.  50mm of rain! On the bright side, we would have a drier afternoon with actual sunshine by the early evening. Whew! 

By the time it stopped pouring, we broke camp and departed the site at around 2 pm. High on the cliff overlooking the river ended up being the perfect place to ride out the deluge. All the water drained away. It would have been miserable on a mud-filled forest floor with pools forming everywhere. Our hard work and late arrival to camp were worth it in the end.

Just past the site, the river split into two sections. The southern channel was logjam city, so we lined over the rocky rapids in the north channel. After about a half-hour later, it split again. Once again the northern channel should be taken there. The southern one is navigable but is known as Bulger's Folly and would have added an hour to the trip.

There, I made a silly mistake. I knew we had a lift-over to do at the beginning of the north channel. I spotted a grassy bit with about a 20m walk to avoid a logjam that was blocking the north channel. We did it, taking our gear out of the canoe, of course, only to proceed and realize that this was just a small island and we weren't actually at the split in the river yet! My father was not amused, but, hey it was all a part of the adventure.

When we finally got to the separation in the river, we had to portage about 40m over some slippery rocks. Even with all the rain, the river was too low to line the canoe. It made us wonder how much they were letting out of the dam at Rocky Island Lake.

We paddled into Majestic Marsh which is a provincially significant bird habitat. We didn't notice anything special, but it was an interesting paddle through marshland with high, sandy river banks. There were a few exposed campsites there and we eventually stopped on a sandy bank to have our usual peanut butter and honey wraps.

Coming out of the marsh, the river began to narrow and have a rocky shoreline again. Soon after that, we oddly spotted and heard some whitewater up ahead. On both sets of maps that I had, there wasn't any indication of a portage or rapids at that location. Yet, when we arrived at it, we were a little dismayed to see the obstacle in front of us. We could only guess that river levels were so low that a set of rapids appeared where there should probably just have been an easily navigable set of swifts.

This one was a little tricky to negotiate. I lined the first 100m on the left to a point where there was no more footing close enough to the river to allow me to continue. Then, we had to portage the next 100m up and over the large boulders on the bank until we could put in at a spot to run the last couple of rapids. All of that took some time.

At the end of our first load on the portage, something huge crashed in the woods behind us. We both jumped and turned, expecting a large charging moose! After apprehensively waiting a minute or two, nothing emerged. If you hear a tree fall in the forest next to some rapids, does it mean a moose isn't there?

Below the rapids, we finally seemed to be at the mouth of the river as it emptied into the massive Rocky Island Lake. Large stumps of cut trees dotted the shoreline and water near the shore. We assumed this was done by the hydro company at the time the dam was built.

Nearing Rocky Island Lake we heard the unmistakable sound of sandhill cranes coming from high up on the right bank. I managed to snap a distant shot of them as the pair eventually took to flight.

The call of the sandhill crane is unique. It sounds like something you might hear in the jungles of Borneo rather than northern Ontario, and, boy, was it loud! We heard them from our campsite on Rocky Island the following morning. Click on the youtube video below to get a sample. I bet you can't last the entire three minutes of the video!

We made it out to Rocky Island Lake and actually were scraping along the bottom in a few spots. The water levels on the lake were crazy low! With all of the hot and humid weather we had experienced over the week, we guessed that the demand for powering air conditioners across the province had been large, indeed. No doubt, the turbines at the Rocky Island and Aubrey Lakes dams had been in overdrive mode.

It was about 7 pm when we're out on the big bay and though it was only marginally windy, white caps were forming on this shallow expanse of water. We made a beeline for the campsite on the southern shore. Arriving at the site, we had to hike up a fair distance over the exposed rock to get to the site due to how far the shoreline had receded. In the photo below, taken at 9 pm, you can see the line of driftwood where the shoreline should be and how low the lake was at that moment. We had no idea how much the dam would affect water levels over the night, so we pulled the canoe way up for safe measure.

It took a while to set up camp. We had to cut down a couple of widow makers next to the spots where we were both planning to camp. We had our dinner as the sun retired and enjoyed an extended campfire through the witching hour. The exposed location and light breeze thankfully kept the majority of bugs at bay. It was our first dry night since staying on Bark Lake. We were happy.