Sturgeon River Loop

Total Distance: 142 km

Duration:  8 days (including one rest/rain day)

No. of Portages: 30 if not running rapids (24 if running everything up to a class 2) 

Total Portage Distance: 8 km if not running rapids (7.2 km if running everything up to a class 2)

**Note: portage distances are based on Hap Wilson's maps, not from the map below 

Level of Difficulty: Not a trip recommended for novice paddlers due to difficult portages on the Sturgeon River; intermediate whitewater and river-running skills are required -- not all rapids have portages. 

Map is courtesy of Jeff's Maps -- our route is marked in blue. 

On July 3, 2023, I was packing and getting ready to tackle northwest Ontario's Steel River Loop with my father -- a canoe route that has been on my bucket list for years. I was excited that I was finally getting the chance to do it, especially at purportedly good water levels, for an early summer run. 

At 11 PM, just before nodding off to sleep and setting my alarm for an early morning departure, I decided to check the Ontario Forest Fire Info Map one last time. I had been checking it every day leading up to my departure date because the spring of 2023 had been absolutely insane for forest fires across the country; it had been declared the worst wildfire season on record thus far. During June, the entire eastern part of the continent had been engulfed in a horrible smoky haze from fires raging across northern Quebec and Ontario. 

Well, wouldn't you know it, but a fire broke out that exact afternoon on the banks of the lower Steel River! It was named NIP030, only one hectare in size, but listed as out of control. I couldn't believe what I was reading; it was horrible and unfortunate. 

I quickly scrambled through my collection of online canoe maps for another route that Dad and I could tackle if the Steel River blaze could not be contained. Dad had never been to the Chinguchi region of Temagami and I had long wanted to run the rapids of the Sturgeon River, so I got out of bed and began printing off and laminating my maps for the Sturgeon River Loop. 

After a short, fitful sleep and an early morning departure, we were just south of Sudbury when I was able to get in contact with the assistant park superintendent of the Steel River area. She said she would look into it and get back to me. She returned my call less than 20 minutes later and said that, indeed, the fire was small but dangerously close to the river and not yet under control. She obviously made the prudent decision in advising us not to proceed with our intended plan to paddle the Steel at that time. 

We had pretty much already decided we weren't going to the Steel unless she would have told us that the blaze was under control and soon to be extinguished. The fire was on the lower part of the Steel near the logjam area and it would have been bad news paddling into that if the fire were to grow and with no option to head back upriver against a current on a remote river to safety, never mind the possibility of excessive smoke inhalation. So...goodbye Steel River (for now), hello Sturgeon River! 

(Note: By the time we finished the Sturgeon River Loop, NIP030 was out. I am guessing the heavy rains that we endured on Day 3 of this trip took care of it. Apparently, most of Ontario got a good soaking that day.)

Day 1 - Dewdney Lake to Chiniguchi Lake (9 km) 

As we were driving up Kukagami Lake Road toward the Matagamasi government boat launch, I had a brain fart. The previous year, I had paddled the Laura Lake Loop and noticed that some vehicles were using the logging road and parking at the portage between Wolf and Dewdney Lakes. I plugged it into Google Maps and downloaded the route to get there. We thought we'd give it a try. It would save us from paddling the southern, cottage-laden section of Matagamasi Lake. After attempting it, I strongly advise others NOT to do this.  Allow me to explain. 

The road was in fine condition up to the Bushy Bay area between Matagamasi and Wanapitei Lakes where there were a number of cottages. After that, the road got steadily worse the farther we went. There were enormous potholes throughout the ride which slowed us to a crawl for the majority of the way. It took about an hour and a half to get to our put-in from the government boat launch, probably more time than it would have taken to paddle the part of Matagamasi that we were trying to avoid. The road had several washouts which were fine for us because it hadn't rained for a while before we went in, but I can imagine those bits would be trouble during or after a heavy rain. We kept proceeding because we had already come that far (you know, the "in for a penny, in for a pound" mentality), but I was discovering that we had made the wrong decision. 

The worst was when we got close to our destination. There was a large ridge that the road traversed  (I believe it might be the @$$-end of the same ridge that forms The Elephant on Chinguchi Lake). The road at that point consisted entirely of rocks (not gravel) ranging in size from a fist to a human head or larger. It was incredibly steep on both sides. In fact, on our return trip to get out a week later, I had to make a couple of attempts at it. The second one, after Dad got out of the vehicle to remove some of the head-sized rocks and for me to reverse down the hill and then hit the gas for a speedier run at it to make it over.  It was all very nerve-wracking and I'd be lying if I said that getting back out on that road unscathed didn't weigh on my mind as we were out on the trip. 

In the end, it simply wasn't worth it in terms of risk versus reward. Had there been a vehicle issue, it would have been very difficult, not to mention exorbitantly expensive to get assistance on that road -- perhaps even impossible.  Again, my advice is to use the government boat launch on Matagamasi Lake or The Sportsman's Lodge on Kukagami Lake.  We got lucky getting in and out, but I surely wouldn't attempt it again, given the choice. Besides, should such a wonderful natural gem as Wolf Lake be so easily accessible? I would argue that it shouldn't, but that is for another blog. 

We parked our car on the side of the road just up from the bridge. There was only one other vehicle, a large RV camper, parked next to the portage, but other than these two spots, there were no other places to park. Another fantastic reason not to launch from there. The decisions people make when plans change on the fly are not always the best ones. 

We completed the short but rocky portage from the "road" to Dewdney Lake. Seeing the crystal clear waters of the Chiniguchi River, the forest of red pine, and the dramatic white quartzite rock certainly helped me eschew the stress of the morning. 

We paddled the south end of Dewdney, marvelling at the scenery of red pine forest.  Even though I had been there less than a year earlier, I still found it awe-inspiring. 

We stopped off at Bob's haunted cabin to take a peek. For more information on this often-visited "landmark" on Dewdney Lake, kindly refer to Day 2 of my Laura Lake Loop trip report from 2022: (https://www.canoedaddy.com/home/trip-reports/temagami-trips/laura-lake-loop)

We paddled to the north end of Dewdney Lake, and even though we had done only one portage and paddled one lake, we were feeling the heat. The day was excruciatingly muggy and hot; there was an extreme heat warning across most of southern and central Ontario. 

We saw the falls at the northwestern part of the lake where the Chiniguchi River dumped into Dewdney, paddled over, and beached our canoe on a rocky point across from the falls. Stripping to our gitch, we happily swam over to the falls and enjoyed having the cool water cascade onto us. It felt amazing. 

This sincerely helped us cool off for the flat but slightly rocky 540-meter portage into Chinguchi Lake, where we got our first taste of early July mosquitos. (Plenty more of that to discuss later!)

Moving north into Southeast Bay of Chinguchi Lake, we got our first glimpse of The Elephant, a 446-meter a.s.l. ridge on the west shore of the lake, in the distance.

We got through the narrows and into the large western bay of the lake and decided to make camp on Blueberry Island in the middle of the bay. It was 4 PM by that time and it had been an eventful day; we were ready to relax. 

The campsite was a gem, but due to the heat, the deer flies were out in force and they were relentless. We enjoyed our time there, nonetheless. Why wouldn't we? We had the entire lake to ourselves! The views were amazing, and so was the swimming to keep us cool. Our usual first-night meal of marinated steak and potatoes was delicious, despite being cooked in a frying pan on the camp stove due to the province-wide fire ban. 

We watched the sun go down behind The Elephant and retired to our tent and hammock when the hordes of mosquitos emerged just before 10 PM, the witching hour. 

Day 2 - Chiniguchi Lake to Stouffer Lake (23 km) 

After a relaxing morning of camp coffee and bacon-and-egg wraps, we broke camp and got on the water shortly before 10 AM. It was another scorcher of a day. 

We paddled into the north end of Chinguchi Lake, got a glimpse of the faded pictographs on the eastern shore (see Laura Lake Loop Trip Report), and moved past the turn-off point to head back into McConnell Bay. From this point, I was in unchartered territory in terms of where I had been before.  

Just before the portage into Sawhorse Lake, we passed Chiniguchi Camp on the right. It was a large collection of buildings that seemed to be under renovation to some degree. It looked to be a nice spot. 

To get to Sawhorse Lake, it was really just a 20-meter liftover rather than the 85-portage listed on my trip notes.

Sawhorse Lake is a small, narrow lake that gets very swampy at its northern end where we found the portage to Adelaide Lake through a barely-open passage of water amidst deadfall, mudflats, and lilypads. 

There was a forgotten single croc sandal at the take-out. Rightfully, an animal showed its displeasure at the discarded item being left there and had decided to defecate on it. 

The 620-meter portage started off a little rough due to some deadfall, but soon connected with an ATV trail and became wide and easy. It met up with an even larger logging road, where we turned right for about 30 meters and then left and down another ATV trail to put in on Adelaide Lake. 

Paddling on Adelaide, we looked for smoke or signs of fire. There was a very small forest fire near a pond just to the east of Adelaide Lake that also began on July 3rd, two days earlier. Its status was listed as "Under Control" however, so we were fairly sure it would be out by the time we got to that location. In fact, on Chiniguchi Lake, the night prior, two helicopters flew overhead in the evening in the direction of Adelaide Lake and we assumed that they were checking to see if the fire had been fully extinguished. Perhaps because of the thick, pine-clad forest and wind direction, we did not smell or see any smoke as we moved up the lake. 

We entered a creek at the northeast end of the lake and then had to do a short 20-meter portage next to a broken-down bridge on an ATV trail to get into Button Lake. We had been on the go for nearly three hours by that point and with the extreme heat, we had plowed through all of our water. We also wanted to get some lunch to replenish some spent calories. 

We investigated the site at the south end of Button Lake. Dad got out to take a look but said that it was fairly trashed with broken beer bottles in addition to being buggy. I had figured as much as it backed onto a logging road. In my experience, sites that can be accessed by ATVs tend to get trashed. Sigh.  

We found a nice mound of rock to the west of the island in the middle of the lake. There, we rehydrated ourselves with water mixed with Gatorade crystals (a lifesaver on this hot and humid trip!) and made some peanut butter and honey wraps which we ate in the shade of a tree. We also took the time to strip down and enjoy cooling off with a swim in the lake. 

Lunch and the swim got us set for the portage into Dougherty Lake, a steep 560-meter climb up and over a ridge. Though, it wasn't a very long portage, the elevation changes in very high temperatures made it a tough one. A weather check on my satellite device showed that the "feels like" temperature was in the 40s! 

We were very happy when we reached Dougherty Lake. A wind had come up which gave us some relief from the heat. As we emerged past the island-dotted narrows from the southern bay and into the main part of the lake, we saw how beautiful the lake was. There were a few islands in the centre of the lake, one of which looked to have a gorgeous west-facing campsite. We were aiming for Stouffer Lake for the evening, however, so we kept on paddling. 

On a point heading into the western narrows of the lake, there was supposed to be the ruins of a fishing lodge; however, the building we saw was anything but in ruins. It was loved and cared for with a new dock and sauna at the lake's edge. Obviously, someone had purchased the property and made a fantastic retreat there. 

Moving west, the skies over the horizon looked ominous. It was apparent we had weather blowing in, which was inevitable with the heat and humidity that we had been experiencing. By the time we reached the take-out to the 160-meter portage to take us into Frederick Lake, steady rain was coming down. 

We unloaded the canoe, put on our rain gear, and made the first trip of the short but rocky portage. By the time we returned for our second load, it had become a full-on thunderstorm and the rain had become a downpour. Thankfully, it only lasted about twenty minutes and we were able to complete the portage and put in again without much delay. 

As we paddled the southern back bay of Frederick Lake, I turned to take a shot of the pretty hills behind us with wisps of mist floating amongst them. 

The narrows between that back bay and the lake displayed the remains of an old logging road bridge that once spanned the water there. It was on full display in the crystal clear water. 

There was also supposed to be a sunken boat near there, but we couldn't locate it. As we moved north, just past the bridge on the right, there was an island with freaky streaks of white quartzite zipping through the granite. Unfortunately, my photo of it didn't turn out.  

By the time we made it into Frederick Lake, we were tired and spent. Again, we had gone through all of our water and needed more. The lake was beautiful and we contemplated setting up camp there instead of moving on to Stouffer Lake. We investigated the one site on Frederick but it was bushy at the back and didn't really have a suitable place for me to hang my hammock, so we moved on. We got out on a small island in the narrow northern bay of the lake so we could filter more water and have some snacks to energize us for our last portage of the day. 

We found the 165-meter portage (this one was actually signed!) to the left of a creek that ran from Frederick into Stouffer. It was a straightforward and easy carry. 

After putting in on Stouffer, we paddled up the east shore of the lake to check out the pictographs there. These were more discernible than the ones on Chinguchi Lake. 

From there, we paddled to the northwest corner of the lake where we were very happy to find a wonderful campsite on a long, esker-like point with water all around it. It overlooked the entire northern bay of beautiful Stouffer Lake. 

At the tip of the point there was an odd carving in the rock with an inexplicable message. I'm not sure why someone would carve something in order to be forgotten. Doesn't a carving etched in stone do the opposite? 

The sky was threatening, so we immediately set up camp, this time erecting our NoBugZone shelter, which became a bit of a lifesaver for the rest of the trip in terms of both keeping us dry and safe from the very many biting critters on this trip. 

Day 3 - Stouffer Lake (0 km) 

Around 4 AM, it started raining. By 5 AM it was hammering down and continued to do so for most of the morning. A weather check on my satellite device revealed that that we were in for it all day and right up into the evening. We knew that the Sturgeon had some steep and rocky portages that we certainly would have liked to avoid in wet conditions, so we decided to stay put for the day. Besides, it simply isn't fun canoe tripping in a heavy downpour, nor is setting up and breaking camp when everything is wet. 

It was a lazy day of reading, eating meals in the bug tent, and watching 4 loons continuously circling our point and performing dances of epic proportions. It was quite something to see. At the time, we assumed it might be some kind of mating dance, but we found it odd for them to be mating at that time of year. After doing a little subsequent googling on the subject, I discovered this site: https://loon.org/about-the-common-loon/loon-behavior/#:~:text=If%20a%20boat%2C%20predator%2C%20or,and%20rapidly%20paddling%20its%20feet.

Apparently, they were threatened by our presence on the site! I now feel bad knowing that we were stressing out the poor creatures. 

Dad and I each napped for a good 2 or 3 hours in the late afternoon which was glorious. By 7:30 PM, the sun finally broke through the sky on the western horizon. It was a welcome sign after 24 hours of solid gloom. 

We hung out in the bug tent at dusk due to mosquitos, chatted, and enjoyed a couple of libations before hitting the sack.

Day 4 - Stouffer Lake to Sturgeon River at Pilgrim Triangle (13 km) 

We broke camp and got on the water by 9:30 AM, but not before enjoying some pancakes mixed with a mug of blueberries that I picked right on the site. The "bloobs" were just starting to ripen. Yum.  

I turned to take a photo of our Stouffer Lake accommodations as we made our way northeast to take the 860-meter portage to the Sturgeon River. 

The portage was the longest of the trip but not difficult. It was a slow downhill descent to the river but was quite wet in spots from all of the rain the previous day. The put-in was muddy, as well. 

At that location, there was a gentle current and we were happy to notice that water levels on the river seemed high. This pleased us greatly as it would make our river run that much easier and more enjoyable. 

Almost immediately after putting in, we ran two C1 rapids as the river narrowed around a bend. We were well above the rocks and the runs seemed like swifts at those levels. It was fantastic. 

Those swifts took us into Revival Lake where there was a large cliff on the western shore. We were so busy admiring the rock face that we didn't notice the river sneaking off to the west as we continued into the southern part of the lake. We backtracked, found our exit, and paddled for a couple of kilometers while moving to the right of a swampy island. The river widened after that but we could see it narrowing and head down a dramatic drop at the southeast corner of the widening. To the right was a portage with a group of camp kids taking their last load across -- the first of only two groups of canoe campers that we would see on the entire trip.  

We had arrived at The Canyon and the two required portages to get through it were steep and rocky. The first one had a very slick 8' drop off a rock to descend back down to the river that required me to tie a rope to the canoe and lower it down the portage in the wet conditions. I didn't feel safe carrying the nearly 70 lb weight of the canoe with the rock so slick. 

At the put-in, we could see the group of kids still at the take-out at the next portage, so we spent some time fishing between the rapids. We came up short except for a large rock bass that Dad pulled in. From below the rapids, I snapped a shot of the rocky rapids coming out of the chute. 

The camp kids finally got off the second portage take-out. The portage was 85 meters, continuing through the last half of The Canyon; we made our way across the rocky trail. The river moved fast through the narrows there and over a dramatic ledge. 

After The Canyon, the river took us into Poker Lake, nothing more than a widening of the river. There was a campsite on its eastern shore, and we could see the camp group there dragging their 4 canoes far up the slopes. It was only around noon, so we guessed that they were ending their trip there. Our map displayed a logging road behind the campsite, so we assumed they were getting picked up. Why else would they be taking all of their canoes way up on the shore? We wouldn't see them again. 

At the bottom of Poker Lake, there was a C2 drop over a ledge with a 180-meter portage on river-left. It looked a little bony at the top and the ledge dropped into a hole at the end. Dad, still getting his whitewater "sea-legs" did not want to give the run a try. Spotting a sneaky line down the right side and a channel through the hole at the bottom of the ledge, I decided I would give it a go in an empty boat. 

We carried our gear across and I came back to give it a run. I ferried across to the far right of the river, waded over a couple of rocks at the start of the run, and ran smoothly down the right over some standing waves. The river veered left to the ledge where I had to pivot to the right immediately to avoid a rock and the hole. With the boat empty and only with one paddler, I was able to turn on a dime, and the run turned out just as I had planned and hoped it would. I whooped in delight! In my euphoria, I forgot to take a photo of the run! 

After that run, we developed more confidence and ran a couple of C1s and a C2 in fairly quick succession. The water levels were high enough that we could scout from the boat, though we did sideswipe a rock at the bottom of the C2 that we probably could have avoided had we exited the boat and properly scouted from shore first. We didn't see any portages for these runs. 

Next on the route was The Gorge, a straightforward C2 run that Hap Wilson denotes as a "good play spot". We beached our canoe at the take-out for the 105-meter portage on river-left, walked down to a suitable spot, and scouted the run. The river was very narrow there and the water was moving fast! There was a series of three large standing waves toward the centre of the run at the bottom, but it was clear of rocks and very doable. I told Dad I wanted to run it, and with a gulp, he said he was in. 

We retreated up the portage to our canoe, hopped in, ferried upstream for a bit, and entered the rapids very close to a large boulder on the left of the river. From there, we picked up speed and moved slightly center into those standing waves that we hit dead on. What a roller coaster ride! We took in quite a bit of water over the sides of the gunnels, and most of that hit me in the stern. We shouted and high-fived with our paddles (Paddle Slap!). We were having a blast.

I managed to turn and snap a blurry photo of the run as we retreated from the rapid, but in no way does the picture do the rapids justice. We moved to the side of the river to bail out the boat.  

After the Gorge, the river turned east at a 90-degree angle and we came upon a Class 2. Haps notes said that it was a rock garden and could be run by moving left to right. The line was clear and fairly straightforward in the high water conditions, and we didn't have any issues.

After that, we pulled up to a rock on river-left above the next set of rapids and got out to filter more water and make a couple of peanut butter and honey wraps for lunch. It was so much fun running this section of the river and we were feeling elated.  

After lunch, we entered the C1 and easily ran it as it was little more than a swift in the high water. 

Next, we came to a CII with a 50-meter portage on river-left. Hap's notes stated that it was technical and required "quick moves". We got out on the portage and scouted. It seemed a little more bony than the others, but definitely doable. We found our line and put in to run them. It went well until we got about half down and we both missed seeing a rock just below the surface that we hung up on for just a second on the right of the river, but it was enough to turn the boat sideways. We quickly pushed off and were able to recover our line, fortunately. Hap was right; I guess our moves weren't quick enough! 

We did one more easy CI before we had to pull up on river-right to take a 420-meter "must take" portage. This portage was very rocky but generally not too steep. It followed close to the river and as I was on it, I felt that I could possibly shorten the carry by putting back in halfway through; the river had very runnable rapids in that section. Nearing the end, I then realized that the river dropped through a C4/5 chute. 

It felt like we paddled for about a minute before we were taking out again on the right at another "must take" 270-meter portage. This one was a bugger. Again, the trail was just a few feet from the river's edge for the most part.  In one nasty section, the trail disappeared into a minefield of boulders where the footing was very tenuous. At the end was an 8-foot drop to the river's edge that required one of us to pass the gear and canoe down to the other. 

The river section that the portage bypassed was, indeed, raging. 

We had one more obstacle to overcome before reaching Choker Lake, a bony C2 run with a 150-meter portage on the left. Hap's notes here said, "rocky boulders at the end". Only the top of the run could be seen from above, so we got out at the portage and I walked the portage to scout the bottom. 

That trail was also not an easy one. There were considerable ledges to hop up and over -- a lot of undulating terrain. The real kicker was that the put-in at the bottom was to the left around a point and the bush was thick, so I wasn't able to scout the river from the bottom. I had to walk back up the trail and bushwhack to the river in the middle to scout the run. I was able to see a line down the right but it was technical and required a bit of maneuvering. 

I retreated to Dad and the boat at the take-out and we ferried upstream to get a centre run at the top of the rapids. We ran it absolutely perfectly, not even touching a single rock, that is until below the rapids. We were whooping it up and paddle-slapping each other in congratulations when the boat ran aground on a submerged boulder just inches under the moving water surface well below the rapids. We laughed at our foolishness and learned a lesson -- don't celebrate until the run is completely done. 

Choker Lake was very pretty and sported some lovely cliffs on its eastern shore to the right of the river. 

We re-entered the river at the east end of Choker Lake and took out at the steep landing area for a 255-meter portage to the left of a waterfall. From the take-out, I took the wrong trail! There was one trail heading up the hill to the north and another that I didn't see close to the river's edge. So, for our first trip of the portage, we carried up a steep hill that met up with a logging road that went east and then joined up with another logging road where we turned right to get to the put-in below the falls. We ended up walking about 500 meters and it was insanely buggy. Only at the put-in did I see the real portage trail which was a little rocky but much shorter, so we followed that one back and used it for our second load.  

We were now in the Pilgrim Triangle and it was very pretty. The Sturgeon dramatically dropped into it. 

And Pilgrim's Creek cascaded into it like a thin veil laid out over rocks. 

We fished for a short time in the vicinity to no avail. It was 5:30 PM by this time and we had had a very eventful and wonderful day on the river. It was time to make camp, so we paddled over to the site about 400 meters south of the Pilgrim Creek outlet and set up on the site there in a grove of cedars. 

The site looked to be recently cleaned up (I'm guessing by the Friends of Temagami) and the cleaners had left a rather large stack of deadwood waiting to be burnt once the fire band lifted. 

We set up camp and washed off the grime of the day with an enjoyable swim in the river that was nice and deep just off the front of the site. 

We had a very pleasant evening, safe from critters in our bug shelter. We only emerged a few times to get a better look at the sun setting over the Pilgrim Triangle and the Sturgeon River. The best part was that we had it all to ourselves. 

Day 5 - Sturgeon River at Pilgrim Triangle  to Sturgeon River at Lower Goose Falls (22 km) 

We had a bit of a slow start to the day and didn't get out on the water until after 10 AM. I think we were feeling the portages of the previous day. We weren't in much of a hurry anyway as our goal for the day was Lower Goose Falls with only one portage around Upper Goose Falls, and possibly one other if we couldn't run the rapids en route. We would have liked to get further downriver, but below Lower Goose Falls was 33 kilometers of winding river with only a couple of bushy campsites.

I took my customary photo of our campsite as we departed. 

For the first hour of the day, the river was absolutely incredible. It was a seemingly endless succession of C1s and swifts that we whipped through. We were able to scout from the boat for all the runs along there. We came upon the spot where there was supposed to be a 285-meter portage on the right but we couldn't find it. The C2 didn't seem that bad from above but, indeed, got a little frothy at the end with some standing waves and we took on a little water that we had to bail out shortly after. With the water levels the way they were, all of the runs were straightforward, however. 

Within the first hour, we reached the area known as The Gate, a section of the river between two very high cliffs on either side of the river. It was incredibly scenic. 

After that, the river widened somewhat and though there were the odd spots of swifts and bubbling water, the topography seemed to flatten. The banks contained more alder and become more sandy and silty rather than the rocky topography that we had been experiencing thus far. 

Near the portage into Halleck Creek, we passed an overturned boat submerged in the river, probably a casualty of high spring run-off. 

By 1 PM, we were nearing Upper Goose Falls; we could hear them from quite a distance away and knew they would be dramatic. 

The take-out to the portage to the right of the falls was very tricky. It was just a few meters from the lip of the falls next to a large rock in deep moving water. We had a bit of a panicky moment for a second as we had neither a foot on shore nor good balance in the boat as it was inching toward the falls; we nearly tipped the canoe. It was a momentary lack of communication between paddlers, but we simply re-gathered our balance and strongly backpaddled to a safer position -- another lesson learned! 

We were hungry and thirsty at that point, so I carried the canoe down the steep, 75-meter portage to the put-in. We brought our other gear to the campsite along the portage, and we went out to the point above the falls to filter water and eat some wraps and snacks. The scenery of the area and the force of the falls was amazing. 

Back at the campsite next to our gear, I was filtering one more round of water for our bottles when I felt a sting or two on my hands. I looked down and saw that I had about 50 very aggressive black ants crawling about on me and that I was standing on an ant nest of some sort. I had only been standing there for a few seconds! I then noticed that ant nests were all over the ground in various places. I began swiping them off and Dad began patting down my back which was covered in them. They were all over our gear, as well. We quickly filled our water bottles and "got out of Dodge"! Take note, those planning to camp on the site at Upper Goose Falls will be sharing their accommodations with aggressive, biting ants. 

The put-in was in fast-moving water. We ferried to the left side of the river and ran a C2 rapid under the cover of a massive sand embankment on the river bend. It reminded me a lot of the Big Bend on the Big East River at Arrowhead Provincial Park. 

Between Upper and Lower Goose Falls, the river got twisty, and these massive sand banks were pretty much on every turn. What made it even more dramatic was that nearly all of them had large, freshly fallen trees at their base. We assumed the heavy rain that we experienced on Day 3 eroded the sand and the trees at the edges simply slipped away. 

The river got swifty only in one spot between the two falls and that was where the Obabika River dumped into the Sturgeon. I was curious about what was up that river and would like to travel down it some day from Lake Obabika. 

Just after 3 PM, we spotted the bridge of the logging road over Lower Goose Falls up ahead. 

It took a minute or two but we found the portage on the right up a very steep muddy embankment. We tied off the boat so it wouldn't float away and precariously got our gear up and over the sliding mud to a flatter spot. We had to haul the canoe up using the rope. 

The portage was much longer than the 75 meters denoted in my trip notes. It followed a narrow trail up to the logging road where we turned right for about 50 meters and then left for another 150 meters down an ATV trail to the large, sandy area below the falls on the right. The following is a shot of the area from the logging bridge. 

A family was hanging out and swimming below the falls. They had come in on the logging road in a pick-up truck and a side-by-side. They were packing up to leave when we arrived. 

We portaged across the sand (tough walking!) and decided to make camp on the sand amongst the trees below the falls. It was a decision that we would regret by the following morning. There was a site next to the ATV trail above the falls that was on rockier ground, but it was a steep hike down to the water from there, so we chose to be on the sand next to the river. 

We did have a good look at the falls from our site despite the natural splendor being spoiled somewhat by the bridge and the graffiti on it. 

We went for a swim, made dinner in the shelter, and enjoyed the evening until about 8:30 PM when some very nasty clouds appeared on the western horizon. At around 9:30 PM, it was raining so hard that we were waiting for it to slow so we could get to our tents without getting soaked. Just after 10 PM, we decided to make a mad dash for it. Somehow, amongst all that water falling, clouds...and I mean CLOUDS...of mosquitos had materialized. In the time it took me to climb into my hammock and close the zipper; at least 30 of those buggers got in there with me. Dad thought I was applauding him when I was clapping my hands so much to kill them. 

Day 6 - Sturgeon River at Lower Goose Falls to Maskinonge Lake (39 km) 

We awoke to sunnier conditions but everything was mucky. Staying on a beach during a heavy rainstorm is not ideal. Mucky sand gets everywhere and on everything. It took twice as long to break camp because we were wiping, washing, and emptying out everything. 

I took one last shot of Lower Goose Falls from the water upon departure. 

It was shortly after 9 AM when we started our long, meandering journey through the lower Sturgeon River. We were planning to get off the river by the end of the day, and we had about 33km of paddling just to get to the portages. Thankfully, the higher water levels gave us a bit of a current to help us along the way. 

There isn't much to describe along the route there as each bend in the river begins to resemble the previous. We frightened a barred owl that was perched on a treetop above us; we watched it spread its huge wings and fly downriver. We were paddling quietly in the hope of seeing a moose, but none materialized despite all of the fresh moose tracks that we spotted on the sandy banks. 

All in all, it wasn't too bad and we made good time. The hours seemed to go by quickly. With a stop about halfway along to have a snack and filter more water, we were able to paddle the 33km in just under 5 hours. The current definitely gave us some assistance with that.  

We stopped to make some wraps for lunch on the last sandy bank before the Kelly portage just after 2 PM. The inlet to the portage is off to the right in the photo below. 

In order to make our way west to Maskinonge Lake, we had two options. We could get the trip done in one fell swoop with the 3500m Kelly Portage, or take a series of smaller portages through smaller lakes and creeks. With water levels seemingly high for July, we opted for the latter; after 33km of paddling in the hot sun, a 3500-meter portage over a steep ridge did not seem appealing. 

The take-out to get to either portage from the Sturgeon was the first obstacle. It was a 12' high muddy embankment that we had to get our canoe and gear up. It required some heaving and pulling the canoe up with a rope. The following photo doesn't really demonstrate the steepness of the bank, but it was a bit of a chore. 

At the top of the embankment was supposed to be a campsite, but it was simply a clearing in the grass with a little fire ring in the center of it. It wouldn't be a great place to stay in my opinion. 

Next, we had to find the start of the 465-meter portage to get us into Kelly Lake. We were at the site of the former Kelly Farm and the whole area was one gigantic overgrown field. It was very grassy and bushy, and with all of the raspberry bushes around, I'm guessing it would be a bear haven. We made a lot of noise as we made our way through. About 50 meters from the take-out, we spotted a barely discernible fork in the grass where we had to turn left to complete the portage into Kelly Lake. The following photo displays the matted-down grass barely showing the way. 

The only remnant of the old Kelly farm was an old stove. We couldn't see a sign of any structural ruins, but then again, we weren't really exploring the area. We just wanted to get to Kelly Lake. 

The portage was quite overgrown, but not too bad. At least, it was flat. We cleared some downfall a bit on the return for our second load which made getting the canoe through easier. Getting to the put-in on Kelly Lake, however, required tramping through 20 meters of knee-deep loonsh!t. I snapped a picture of the put-in from the lake. One wouldn't even know that a portage was there! 

It didn't take long to get to the southwest reaches of Kelly Lake where there was a large marshland. We spotted a moose on the northern shore among the weeds and reeds. As we paddled closer to it to get to the creek out of Kelly, it didn't seem to notice us. We called out to it loudly to let it know of our presence, but it didn't even look at us. It just moved slightly further into the weeds and continued eating. Either it was a moose with a hearing and olfactory impairment or the most chilled-out moose in all of Temagami. Perhaps, it was simply accustomed to people?

The creek to get us from Kelly Lake to Stringer Lake was choked with lily pads. We got through, but by August I would say this creek would be impassable. We had to lift over a large embankment of mud and grass about halfway along. 

We had to get out at a shallow spot just before Stringer Lake, which is really just a pond, and then once more between Stringer and Gamagowong Lakes.

The portage between Gamagowong and Gagnon Lakes was on a couple of ATV trails. At the west end of Gamagowong we noticed an overturned fishing boat on the rocks to our left. From there, we had to make our way over some muck to get to the trail to take us to the ATV trail. After 50 meters, we turned right onto another ATV trail which led us up over a rocky bluff and down to a sphagnum moss float off of which we could put in on Gagnon. 

From Gagnon it is a 30-second paddle to a shallow take-out that could be reached after lifting over some deadfall. The following is a shot of the take-out on Gagnon, looking back over the pond to the put-in from Gamagowong. 

The 300-meter portage to Gawasi Lake ascends up a steep hill before descending back down to the lake.

Gawasi is a pretty lake. By that time, it was nearly 6 PM and we were out of water, so we stopped at the campsite on Gawasi to filter more. Unfortunately, some idiots had decided to go hog wild with bush crafting on this site. About 30 young trees were cut down to make some inane tent-like construction out of them at the back of the site. It was disgusting, wasteful, and quite frankly, criminal -- as far as I know,  cutting down live trees is illegal.  

At the northwest end of Gawasi Lake, we lifted over a beaver dam and paddled through the beautiful wetlands seamlessly into the big waters of Maskinonge Lake. 

By 6:30 PM, we were unloading our boat on a fantastic island campsite just north of the creek. It overlooked the huge ridge on the west shore of the lake and had a wonderful viewing rock to watch the sunset. 

The wind came up very strong as we were making camp and didn't slow down until close to sunset. The swim to wash off the grime of the day was glorious. 

We had paddled and portaged for 9.5 hours that day to cover 39 kilometers and were just so happy to have that wonderful site and view in the evening as the sun went down. Another good aspect of the site was that there was no sand! 

When the bugs got bad after that, we had a couple of gentle sniffs of whiskey in the bug shelter to celebrate the day we had accomplished.

Day 7- Maskinonge Lake  to  McCarthy Bay on Matagamasi Lake  (16 km) 

By 8 AM the following morning, the wind was already coming up. 

As usual, I took my shot of our island home upon departing at around 10 AM. 

Luckily for us, the wind was at our backs as we made the crossing across the large waters of Maskinonge Lake on our way north. 

I had last been through the area in 2019. At that time, the large camp at the north end of Maskinonge was an outpost of the Taylor Statten Camp of Algonquin fame. It was vacant and not being used when we passed by in 2019. 

As we now approached the camp 4 years later, we saw people moving about onshore and the camp looked very much in use. It was in fantastic condition! 

As we got closer, we saw a woman walking on shore and she waved to us. We paddled over and had a quick chat with her; she was very friendly. We discovered that the camp had been purchased and is now in use once more. She informed us that just that morning they had sent out a group on a 30+ day canoe trip! The camp is now called Temagami Outpost (https://www.temagamioutpost.ca/). I am glad to report that this fantastic location is back up and running, and helping people enjoy the wilderness once again. 

We made our way up through the narrows against a mild swift and into Rice Lake. Getting into Lower Matagamasi Lake through another mild swift, we came up behind a young family in a canoe; they said that they were guests of the camp and out on a day trip. 

At the take-out to the 165-meter portage into Edna Lake were a very old canoe and a canoe cart that had seen better days. We did not employ its usefulness. 

Edna Lake took minutes to cross before we were taking out again to get around a set of rapids on the Chiniguchi River.

Another short paddle across Karl Lake (Edna's husband?) took us to another short portage around yet another rocky drop in the Chiniguchi. 

At the west end of Karl Lake was a slightly longer, but very scenic, portage to the right of the river this time. The trail led us up over some rocky terrain and ended at a campsite overlooking a pretty set of small double falls. 

Someone had gotten very happy with an axe at one of the fire pits there. No trouble with firewood in the near future at this one. 

Above the falls in high water conditions, it was a bit of a struggle getting upstream to the base of the dam; we had to wade a bit. 

The short portage around the dam took us into very windy conditions on McCarthy Bay. Another change that I noticed since my last time there was the dam had been removed for the most part. It was basically converted back to a small chute now, though the warning buoys still remained above it. 

McCarthy Bay, as typical, was a struggle against a strong headwind until we were able to reach the lee of the large island to the west. 

We made it to the second island site heading west by 3:30 PM and decided to make camp there for the day. The wind was getting stronger and we didn't feel like battling it just to get a little further up the bay. Besides, I had stayed at that site in 2019 and knew it to be a good one. It had a long rocky point on its southern tip and sported a lovely grove of pines to block enough of the wind to make it comfortable, but allowed enough through to whisk away the bugs. 

After setting up, we enjoyed a wash-off swim at the point, made a meal, and watched the sun slide over the treelined ridge to the west before retiring to the bug tent just before the witching hour. 

Day 8- Matagamasi Lake (McCarthy Bay ) to Wolf Lake  (20 km) 

I woke up at dawn with the sun beaming in from the east with an incredible red glow. 

We wanted to get on the water early to get across McCarthy Bay before those prevailing west winds whipped up again. We were on the water by 8 AM and I took a couple of shots of our island site as we departed it. 

There was a large group of both kids and adults camped on one of the sites on the southern shore as we paddled through McCarthy Bay. We made short work of the long stretch and were pleased with our decision to make camp early the day prior. There was little wind to impede us on a normally windy stretch of water. Within an hour, we were gawking beneath the cliff faces at the narrows leading into the main bay of Matagamasi to spot the pictographs there. 

By 10:30, we had made our way through the north arm and were nearing the portage to take us further up the Chiniguchi River. The sky began to get overcast and it looked like the red skies at dawn were proving the old adage correct. 

It didn't take long to get us across the 300-meter portage where the put-in at the far end was very pretty with its crystal clear water and rocky shoreline. 

From there, the paddle to the steep 330-meter Toenail portage took just minutes, and we were soon taking out again. It appeared that no one was at the portage at all. We took our time on the return trip and took a number of shots of the Chiniguchi River cascading down the rocks next to the trail. 

Before heading back for the second load, we made the side trip to Paradise Lagoon, which somehow we miraculously had all to ourselves. We could not resist taking a quick swim in the inviting waters. It was just as well because the humidity was high and we were sweating. 

Finishing the Toenail portage, we put in and re-entered the  world's largest old growth red pine forest just as the nasty black clouds blew away and it became sunny again. 

We made our way through Silvester Lake and paddled hard up the swifts into the southern reaches of Wolf Lake. No one was around, it seemed. How rare to have this extremely popular part of the Chiniguchi wilderness to ourselves. We admired the large white cliffs on the southwestern shore of Wolf Lake. 

We paddled over to the eastern part of the lake to check out the campsite there. It was high on a cliff above the water and the views of the lake from there were pretty incredible. What an absolute shame it would be if this pristine slice of nature were to be destroyed by a full-scale mining operation. It breaks my heart just to think about it. 

We spent a bit of time exploring behind the site and admiring some of the larger trees.  As much as we would have loved to spend more time on Wolf Lake, we regretfully made our way up the lake to the portage back to our car. It was nearing 2 PM and we had nearly a seven-hour drive ahead of us, factoring in the time it would take us to get out on that horrible road. I couldn't resist turning around and taking one more shot of the top end of Wolf Lake as we carried our canoe and gear up to our car. 

Our vehicle seemed to be in good order and had thankfully not been disturbed. Again, as mentioned at the outset of this report, it was some white-knuckling getting out on that road, But we luckily made it out without any vehicle issues.

Driving back to Peterborough, we commented on how this route had a little bit of everything a canoeist could want on a canoe trip -- large lakes with incredible island campsites, swampy wetlands where we were able to spot moose and other wildlife, terrific natural scenery consisting of quartzite rock and old growth forest, gorgeous cascading waterfalls, ancient pictographs, rapids in high water that were incredibly fun to run, winding river scenery with 100-foot sandbanks, etc, etc, etc. Come to think of it, I would say the Sturgeon River Loop is a "must" trip for any avid canoeist. 

Sure, we didn't get to paddle the Steel River this time, but we had such a great trip, maybe things work out just the way they should in the end.