Day 2 - Pine Lake to Mattawa River (Island west of Elm Point) 

(19 Kms)

Day 2 - Pine Lake to Mattawa River (Island west of Elm Point) - (19 Kms)

Map provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have made additional markings to show route information. 

We woke up early and I checked the weather report on my phone. Some winds were forecasted, so we did something that I rarely do. We got up and broke camp without making our breakfast and coffee. The reason was that we wanted to get around St. Laurent Point on Lake Talon before the winds got too nasty to make the journey a problem. In retrospect, it was a smart decision; Lake Talon is a big lake and is known for its winds and waves. 

We were on the water by 7:30 AM. There were still a couple of straggling dark clouds from the day before, but we generally had blue skies. The wind was already blowing, however, and the previous day's rain had taken the humidity out of the air;  it was chilly. I turned to snap a photo of the east side of Baltic Island and our campsite as we paddled toward the portage. 

Within 10 minutes we arrived at our portage: Portage Pin de Musique. 

The portage was a wide and easy carry of about 450 meters. It crossed the road connecting to homes on the north shore of Pine Lake about 100 meters in. Despite the early morning wind, we didn't hear a lot of Singing Pines. We assumed that most of the big trees had been hewn long ago. 

The put-in on Lake Talon was at a nice sandy landing. The wind was definitely up and we worked hard to make it northeast through McCool Bay before taking advantage of that northwesterly wind and moving southeast around St. Laurent Point. 

Happy to have had the early start, it was easy sailing once we had the wind at our backs, but we were hungry and needed our morning coffee. 

We found an excellent little campsite that was vacant at the east end of an island near Sampson Point. We pulled ashore and made bacon and egg wraps with coffee. There was an adjacent cliff overlooking the site with fantastic easterly views over Lake Talon. We climbed up there after breakfast to finish our coffees and to experience the morning sun. 

Moving through Lake Talon, we passed Grasswell Point at the halfway point. It's a sandy point jutting out into the lake from the northern shore and is a well-used campsite. We assumed that on a weekend it would be inundated with campers and/or day trippers, so we did not aim to stay there. Indeed, there was a motorboat pulled ashore on it when we passed. 

Past the point, we were caught in a bit of a crosswind which threw some waves at us until we could get into the southern reaches of the lake. There were a ton of cottages on the southern shore in this section. 

We were glad to finally get away from the cottages and motorboats of Talon Lake and into the pretty narrows that would take us into Boivin Lake. There were some gorgeous rocky cliffs on the northern shore. 

As we approached Talon Lake Dam at the top of Talon Chutes, we saw the portage on river-right. However, our notes suggested that there was a trail on the left that would take us to a lookout spot to get a bird's-eye view of the gorge below the chutes. We found a take-out spot and began hiking on a trail that went due north. 

After a while, we came to a tiny quarry that had discarded bits of machinery remaining from bygone days. 

It was interesting to happen upon this relic from the past that was less than a kilometer from the river. I wondered what the story behind the place was.  We continued for some time on the flagged trail as it scrambled up a steep slope. We were on it for some time and had begun to suspect that we were on the wrong trail. After consulting my GPS, we realized that we were heading away from the river and obviously not on the trail to the lookout. We backtracked to our canoe, and the whole misstep took out about an hour of our day, unfortunately. It wasn't a complete waste, though; it was a nice little sidetrack walk in the woods. 

Back at the boat, we walked up to the edge of the dam before making the crossing to the other side to take portage. From there, we got a great look at the chutes from the dam. 

We paddled across the top of the dam to the portage and thought we had the area to ourselves. Boy, were we wrong! The portage itself was not an easy one. It had some steep ledges to negotiate toward the bottom and was a bit of a workout. It would prove to be the most difficult portage en route. Toward the bottom, overlooking the river and cliffs on the opposite shore, we could see kayakers in the pool below the chutes. 

At the put-in, a large group of canoeists were departing and we could see a number of kayaks coming in from Pimisi Bay. It seemed to be rush hour.

By the time we went back and retrieved our second load, there were so many kayaks at the put-in that I barely had enough room to put my canoe down. In fact, I had to politely ask someone to move their kayak just to get my canoe in the water. I turned to take this shot of the put-in once we got out on the water.  

Despite the armada of paddle craft, we lingered in the area to take some photos. It really was a beautiful spot, a man-made dam notwithstanding. 

I guess the crowds were to be expected. It was a beautiful Saturday at the end of August and we were at a gorgeous location on the Mattawa River just a short paddle from a launching point off the Trans-Canada Highway at the south end of Pimisi Bay. 

The paddle out into Pimisi Bay was sublime beneath the large cliffs along the shore. 

We paddled across the north end of Pimisi Bay. From that point, we would be heading downstream through a series of five sets of rapids before having to portage around Paresseux Falls. It was an exciting and beautiful part of the river. 

We paddled into the river from Pimisi Bay, ignoring the portage on the right, went through an innocuous swift, and pulled up on shore on river-right to scout the first set of rapids -- Décharge des Perches. It was there that the voyageurs would discard their poles that were used to move upriver while travelling west. For us, it was our lunch spot. We sat on the rocks and enjoyed some wraps of salami and cheese. 

The water was on the low side and the rapids were little more than swifts except for a small ledge at the bottom.  We found our way down the left and moved into the center, only to hang up on the ledge due to the water being too low. A quick push off the rocks got us downriver. 

The next couple of rapids at Portage de la Cave were negotiated with a combination of running and wading. After that, we paddled through a small pool and then took out on the left at Portage de la Prairie which takes canoeists past Petit Parasseux Falls --  a bit of a misnomer since it is just a long rapid. At the landing was a group of guys on a day trip heading downriver. One fellow was portaging his canoe, while the other three were getting ready to run the rapids. 

The rapids looked a bit bony at late-August water levels and our trip notes said that there was a CII ledge at the bottom. Because of this and the nervousness still in place from dumping earlier, we decided to take a load of gear across the 280-meter portage and scout the run from the bottom.  The ledge didn't look too bad, but there was a thin needle that required threading. It was also a bit of trouble scouting the middle part of the run from the portage without a walk off the trail, so we decided to head back and portage the canoe and save the run for another day at higher water levels. After doing so, we put in and got below the rapids just in time to watch the group of fellows run it. They made it through with a bit of bumping and ironically the tandem canoe dumped when they were pulling ashore next to a little swift below the ledge after successfully running the hardest part of the run. They were laughing about it. 

A short 500-meter paddle then took us to the take-out for the 400-meter portage past Paresseux Falls on the right.  I took the following photo of the river above the falls. One would not know that the falls even existed there.  

The portage was downhill most of the way, but well-used and fairly easy, despite being a bit rocky in places. We ventured off the path on the return trip for our second load to check out the view of the falls from above. 

It couldn't compare to the view from the base of the falls, however.

By this point, it was more than apparent to us both why the Mattawa River is a well-travelled route. It truly was a gorgeous spot. 

A five-minute paddle downriver took us to the Porte de L'Enfer -- the Gate to Hell. 

We were neither attacked by a man-eating beast nor sucked through the gate into the underworld. The indigenous people of the region also evaded such horrible fates and used the cave to mine for ochre, the material used for creating pictographs and rock art. 

We contemplated climbing up to take a peak inside the cave, but it was a steep scramble up the slope and it wasn't an ideal spot to get the canoe ashore. In addition, it was already 4 PM and we were looking for the next available spot to camp. We thought we'd better get moving to claim one since we knew there were other canoe parties behind us.

About 15  minutes past the back door to Hell, we came upon an island on the right that had a nice west-facing campsite. Just past that was the much sought-after Elm Point beach site which we could see was already occupied by a large group. We claimed the island site and because it was on the west side of the island behind a steep rock, we could not hear the large group. It was a gorgeous little site, perfect for a couple in a single tent. 

While Dahee was setting up the tent, I crossed the river in the empty boat to collect firewood. We enjoyed a nice fire that evening and the views of the sun going down in the clear sky behind the high walls of the Mattawa River.