Day 5 - Ogoki River to Whitewater Lake at Best Island 

(18 km)

Day 5 - Ogoki River to Whitewater Lake at Best Island (18 km)

When we awoke, the weather hadn't improved all that much. We both slept well and stayed in the tents until the rain mercifully stopped. The air was very damp and there was still a chill in the air. Clouds of mist and fog were here and there. 

Once up, we didn't waste a lot of time at the site. We simply fired up some hot water on the stove and got some coffee and hot oatmeal in us. We had to pack everything away wet; our clothes hadn't dried much overnight. 

We got on the water around 10 AM and I turned to take a parting shot of the site. 

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

The Ogoki River was wide at this location and there was a  chilly headwind coming in at us from the north. There were intermittent sprinkles on and off, but the rain held off for the most part. 

My map displayed a 426m portage on the left that we couldn't see or find. We weren't looking that hard, however, because there was only one little swift at that location that we barely noticed as we paddled through it. Again, I assumed the high water levels were making it easy for us. 

Immediately after that, we came to the confluence where the two branches of the Ogoki merged. If we were to continue on the eastern branch, we would have had a 888m portage to contend with. Even though I had read online that some trippers were able to run or line part of that, we would have still had sections that required portaging. In Kevin Callan's report on this route, he opted to take the western branch that had lower water volume, but had a series of CI and CII rapids that could be run or lined. Given the high water levels, we thought we'd give the western branch a shot. 

We were glad we had made that decision upon reaching the first obstacle, which we ran fairly easily after a bit of scouting. However, our progress slowed dramatically after that. In the end, there were 5 sets altogether and we had to line or wade all or parts of the last four. The terrain was rocky and very scenic, but this also made lining the canoe a challenge. At times, we were waist-deep in the chilly water, trying to find our footing.  There were no portages along the channel and I would only recommend the western channel for those who have previous experience on remote river routes and for those who have a boat that can handle all the bumping and scraping. Due to all of the wading and lining, I had to store my camera away and didn't get any photos; we were in the mindset to just get through it.

We slapped our paddles together in celebration upon entering the southwestern edge of Whitewater Lake. 

Unfortunately, our celebration was short-lived. In fact, what followed could have ended badly. 

We rounded the point that you can see in the photo above. It separated the two mouths of the Ogoki, and we found the wind that was whipping in from the northeast had Whitewater Lake foaming and frothing. There was no way that we were going anywhere on Whitewater Lake soon. We saw the lovely beach adjacent to the fly-in fishing lodge, Whitewater Lodge, approximately 500m away across the bay and thought that might be a good place to hunker down until the wind died. Whitewater Lake is massive and we had a long open body of water to cross. We had checked the weather on my satellite device earlier and the wind was supposed to shift directions and subside early in the afternoon.  

We knew that crossing over to the beach would be a little dicey, but we had done worse in the past; we thought we could easily make it. So, we started making a beeline for the beach. What we didn't take into consideration, and what we couldn't really notice from the outset, was that the strong winds were pushing the waves directly against and into the flow of the current from the Ogoki River. The river flow was meeting the waves head-on. This created quite a washing-machine effect. It was far enough away from the mouth of the Ogoki that we didn't think it would be an issue, but we were wrong. When we attempted to paddle through it, still at least 300 meters from shore, the canoe began bobbing and tilting randomly in all directions. Some waves were coming up over the gunnels. At one moment, a particularly large wave started pushing us over, but luckily it was to the side that I was paddling on; I managed a low brace while Dad leaned to the high side in the bow seat. Thankfully, we were able to keep the open end of the canoe facing upward. 

Had we moved further away from the river a couple of hundred meters, we wouldn't have found ourselves in that situation. We made it to the beach no worse for wear, but with a valuable lesson learned. 

We stayed for a moment at the beach, but we were still wet from wading down the Ogoki and the cold wind was strong; we were beginning to get chilled again. We thought of lighting a fire to warm up but didn't think the good people at the lodge would appreciate a couple of canoe trippers sullying their beautiful beach with a bonfire. We could see one person moving about at the lodge, obviously an employee, burning deadfall in a bonfire of his own, but other than that, the lodge appeared to be vacant. There didn't seem to be any guests that we could see, so we thought we'd stroll over and ask if we could warm up by their fire. 

A woman named Debra (Deborah?) opened the door to the lodge and invited us inside. She couldn't have been more welcoming and friendly. At the time, the lodge was closed to guests while they were undergoing some renovations, so we accepted the invitation, knowing we weren't intruding on anyone paying to stay at the lodge. Debra and the young man were the only ones there working on the property. 

She made us a pot of hot coffee and a fresh salad. Yep, you read that correctly -- a fresh salad on Day 5 of a canoe trip! We warmed up considerably and started to feel a lot better. It turned out that Debra's brother is the owner of both Whitewater Lodge and Ogoki Lodge, and Debra was acting as the caretaker at Whitewater. We chatted for a while and talked a lot about the lake, Wabakimi, and Wendell Beckwith. We learned a number of interesting things about the area and its recent history from her. 

The wind blew away the nasty clouds and the sun finally emerged. Debra let us spread out some of our wet gear on the deck to dry up while we were waiting for the wind to abate. Our spirits and mood improved dramatically. Debra, if you are reading this trip report, please know that your act of kindness comforted a couple of wet and cold canoe trippers substantially. Thank you. If any readers are thinking of booking a lodge in the area, I can say that Whitewater Lodge was clean, maintained, and in a beautiful location; Debra, the caretaker, was kind and generous. 

By 2 PM the wind was relenting. There was still the odd whitecap out in the centre of the bay, but the headwind we would be up against looked manageable. We thanked Debra profusely and paddled northeast out onto Whitewater Lake. 

We remained relatively close to the eastern shore and ducked in behind headlands and islands when we could. After about an hour, the wind pretty much died down, and by 3:30, it was all but gone. The sun was strong and we had ploughed through all of our water working hard against the wind. We stopped at an island to filter some more. It bewildered us somewhat to think that just a few hours earlier we had been cold and needed a hot drink to warm up. Now, we were hot, taking off layers, and couldn't get hydrated -- that's Wabakimi for you, four seasons in a day! 

Continuing east on Whitewater Lake, we were enjoying the better conditions and beauty of the lake. The water was incredibly clear and the many islands and rocky outcrops along the shore made for beautiful scenery. It truly is among the most beautiful lakes that I have had the pleasure of paddling.

We continued paddling east until we came to the bay  just north of the channel leading southward to Ogoki Lodge. Our original plan was to paddle the length of Whitewater Lake to the north and back down to Best Island through the islands and channels, but after speaking with Debra, we were intrigued about Ogoki Lodge and wanted to check it out.  As we rounded the point and began turning south, we spotted a black bear on the southern tip of an island just east of us. It was too far to get a clear photo. 

The lodge was built sometime in the late 70s according to some very limited Internet research done on my part. Apparently, Wendell Beckwith (see Day 6 of this trip report) had some input or inspiration in the lodge's design; it was built in the likeness of a teepee, however, an architect from Toronto seemed to be the principal designer. Most likely due to a lack of funds to sustain proper maintenance, or perhaps due to a lack of attending guests, the lodge fell into a degree of disrepair and was all but abandoned by the early 2010s. 

As Dad and I paddled the channel toward it, we spotted the top of it from a distance away. It appeared as a tower rising above the trees in a wild and natural landscape. It was quite a sight in such a remote location. 

As we approached closer, we noticed the large warning signs telling people that access to the area was prohibited. Because of that, Dad and I paddled to the beach to take a couple of photos only and moved on. The mosquitos were horrendous there, anyway. It really is an interesting architectural achievement, and hopefully, it will be restored and returned to its former glory. 

The humidity of the day was building. We were learning the hard way how dynamic Wabakimi's weather is. One really gets four seasons in a day there. We had just had 24 hours of rentless cold rain and chilly north winds, only to be replaced immediately with humid and heavy air coming from the southwest. This seemed to bring out the mosquitoes in droves, so we pressed on in search of a site on a nice breezy point or island. 

Continuing moving south of the lodge on the channel, the route came to an impasse in a swampy narrows. There, we found the 111m portage into a back bay of the lake. The trail seemed less used than the others we had used thus far, but was still easy to find and follow despite being unmarked. We made quick work of it in an effort not to lose much blood from the swarming hordes of buzzing pests. 

Back on the water,  we needed to head east through a rugged, but pretty, channel to enter the large eastern section of Whitewater Lake. Our goal was to find a site near Best Island to see the Beckwith cabins the following day. The channel got very shallow and narrow in a couple of spots and we had to lift the canoe and gear over a rocky ledge as we entered the lake again. 

It threatened to rain again around 6 PM. We were discovering that rain was nearly a daily occurrence in Wabakimi between 4 and 7 o'clock each evening. Luckily, it held off. 

It took the better part of two hours to get from Okogi Lodge to the bay next to Best Island. We marvelled at both the wide expanses of water looking east across Whitewater Lake and the plethora of gorgeous, rocky islands and points along the western shore. We passed a red canoe beached on an island where a couple of canoeists were setting up camp, the first fellow travellers we had seen since paddling up Smoothrock Lake three days earlier. We waved as we paddled past. We found a little-used site on a tiny island in the bay next to Best Island, just a short paddle from Beckwith's beach, and made camp around 7:30 PM. 

We set up our tents, rebuilt the fire pit, and enjoyed our rehydrated pasta dish as the sun went down. We didn't linger too long that night as the mosquitoes were active and ready to play.