Brightsand - Kashishibog - Kopka Rivers

Total Distance: 209 kilometers from Allanwater Bridge to Bukemiga Lake 

Duration:11 days (more might be required -- we had cooperative wind and weather)

Number of Portages: 39 (many can be avoided if running/lining/wading rapids)

Total Port. Distance: 8.9 km

Level of Difficulty: Advanced due to remote location, unpredictable weather, difficult river conditions, and challenging portages

*** Note: Unless otherwise stated, all maps shown on this page are provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have made additional markings to show route information.*** 

In 2022, my father and I completed a 10-day trip through the Wabakimi wilderness and we were smitten. Despite the temperamental weather we had experienced, we had a fantastic trip and told ourselves we would return to the area. 

Following the trip, winter descended upon us and my thoughts often returned to Wabakimi. Why not head up to the area again in 2023? Who says I can't go back two years in a row? I began some trip planning. 

We had fun running a few rapids on the Lookout and Berg Rivers in 2022 and this time we wanted to see more of the area's rivers because the falls and rapids were simply breathtaking; Wabakimi is an Ojibway translation meaning “Whitewater”, after all. 

So, after some research, we planned an ambitious route consisting of putting in at the Allanwater Bridge, heading north and having fun running the rapids of the Allanwater River to Brennan Lake, turning south through Granite Lake, hopefully making use of a long, little-used portage to get into Van Ness Lake, up the Lookout River system, crossing the tracks again to the south, and following the Aldridge Lake link to the Kopka. From there, we would run rapids down to the scenic climax of the route at the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. What could go wrong?

Well, Mother Nature and climate change had something to say about our plans. The spring of 2023 was abnormally hot and dry. The lack of moisture in the forest and vegetation basically allowed the Canadian wilderness to turn into a giant tinderbox from coast to coast. Smoke enveloped the entire eastern seaboard of the continent. To put it in perspective, the following graph taken from ( demonstrates how 2023 has far surpassed any previous year on record for forest fires. Incredibly, the record-smashing data for 2023 is based on the first half of the year only! At the time of writing this in August of 2023, the jury is still out as to the extent of the final devastation from the 2023 forest fire season. 

One of those fires was on our planned route on the upper stretches of the Allanwater River and into Brennan Lake. SLK033 started on June 11th and as of August was still classified as "Not Under Control". The following image from the Ontario Forest Fire Info Map shows that over 62,000 hectares of the western part of Wabakimi Provincial Park had been burnt as of mid-August 2023. That is roughly the size of all of metropolitan Chicago, or approximately 155,000 football fields. Yikes. 


Needless to say, we had to change our planned route. 

We decided to save the Allanwater River for another less-fiery time and travel up the Brightsand River, up the Kashishibog River, and cross over the height-of-land portage into Redsand Lake, which is at the headwaters of the Kopka River system. Heading upstream on the first two rivers is not nearly as fun as heading downstream, but taking this route would still allow us to see the Kopka and its incredible Seven Sisters Waterfalls, and have some whitewater fun when we got to the downstream part of the Kopka (...or so we thought! Incredibly low water levels had something to say about river running...but more on that on Day 7!) Besides, we already had our train tickets booked from Armstrong to the Allanwater Bridge, only we would be heading south from the bridge rather than north. 

Well, after a long drive north from Peterborough, with an overnight stopover to visit family in Sudbury, we arrived in Armstrong in the evening. Our train was booked to leave Armstrong at 9:17 AM the following morning, and when we checked its progress online, it was actually running on time -- a rare occurrence, indeed!

(Image taken from Google Maps)