Mississagi River

Day 7 - Rocky Island Lake to Aubrey Falls (30km)

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 a wonderfully calm and sunny day. Not wanting to tempt fate, we got up and out to get through the big waters of Rocky Island before any wind came up. I snapped a quick photo of the site before leaving. It seemed the water levels were even lower!

We got across the big bay and as we approached the islands on the far shore, I began to get worried. We followed the route on our map but ran out of water! Water levels were so low, this whole section of the lake had disappeared! For a minute, we were thinking that we would have many kilometers of portaging across a muddy lake bed. It was a moment of panic. Could they really have let this much water out of the dams!?! I was so temporarily flummoxed that I didn't think to snap a picture, so I can't display it here. 

I left Dad at the canoe and walked past the island we were near. Yes! I could see shining blue water behind the island in the direction we were heading! If we backtracked and went south of the island, it looked like we would have a passage into Stimpy Channel. Crisis averted.

As we paddled through the channel, we were able to relax again and appreciate the scenery. The shoreline contained several cliff faces and amazing rock formations, thus probably giving the lake its name. We couldn't help but wonder what kind of environmental impact was being caused by the incredible fluctuation of water levels, though. With the water that low, it seemed so unnatural.

Once through the channel, we entered the second of the large bays of Rocky Island Lake. We passed an island where we saw some nesting bald eagles in their treetop eyrie. About halfway across the bay, a motorboat passed us. It was surreal. It was the first motorboat we had seen since our first night of the trip! But, that is what we had come there for.

As we were approaching Seismic Narrows, we stopped at the island campsite to have a swim, lunch, and filter more water. The day was hot and the sun was unrelenting.

And what a site it was! It appeared that there had once been a cabin of some sort on the island and there were several etchings on the cabin's remains, which had been stacked in a pile.  Some of these carvings were posted and others were strewn about the site. Some dated back 40 years or so.

As amusing as that was, it wouldn't have been my choice of site to camp on. It seemed a bit trashy for a wilderness experience for my liking.

In Seismic Narrows we marveled at the massive cliffs on the north shore. Judging by the name, we must have been paddling through an old fault line of some sort.

Past the narrows, we encountered a couple of more fishing boats on our way to Rocky Island Dam. There, we portaged from outside of the buoy line which seemed like it might have added a couple of hundred meters to the carry. It was along a road for the entire length and easy despite its length. We returned for our second load along the river rather than back up the road to get a good look at the dam.

Water levels on Aubrey Lake seemed normal compared to Rocky Island Lake. The forest was denser. It seemed like we had entered an entirely different area. What a difference a portage can make!

We planned to stay on one of the two sites on Carter Island for the night, investigate Aubrey Falls the following day, and drive home. However, when we arrived at Carter Island we weren't very impressed with the campsite on the west side of the island. It was overgrown and there wasn't a spot for Dad to put up his tent. 

It was about 6 pm and we ran through our options. We could paddle back to the other sites on the lake that we had passed, but that would be nearly an hour of backtracking, or we could paddle the 45 minutes or so to our vehicle and finish the trip. We had already paddled a good 25km that day and wanted to get off the water, so in the end, we decided to finish the trip.

We did investigate Aubrey Falls and managed to hike down the portage to the top it, however, since it was quite late by the time we got there, we didn't have the time to get all the way around to the bridge and vantage point to get a great shot of it. No matter, it gave me a great excuse to get back to the area for another peek at that magnificent waterfall!

Overall, we had an unforgettable trip, though looking back, we felt that we should have probably had a couple of shorter days. It wasn't our intention to push each day to the limit, it just sort of happened that way with where we were on the river when we were looking to camp. It seemed that on several days we were pushing it an extra hour or two just to get to a decent campsite. In reality, we did the entire 140km in 6 days of paddling since the first day was only a 30-minute paddle to our campsite for the night. It was a lot in low water conditions. In retrospect, better planning on where we would stay each night might have solved this issue, but on a relatively rarely traveled route with dynamic water level conditions, that is easier said than done.

Despite the challenge, I feel so rewarded and fortunate to have experienced this historical and gorgeous river route and to have shared that with my father.