Day 4 - Stouffer Lake to Sturgeon River at Pilgrim Triangle 

(13 km) 

Map 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. 

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 on the Sturgeon, 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 fun

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 heading down a dramatic drop at the southeast corner of the widening. To the right was a portage and a group of camp kids was on it 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 which was immediately following the one we had just finished, so we spent some time fishing between the rapids. We came up short in the fishing  department 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. Whoo hoo! In my euphoria, I forgot to turn and 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 a CI 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 hung us up 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. I entertained the thought of possibly shortening the carry by putting back in halfway through. The river had very runnable rapids in the middle section, but upon nearing the end of the portage, I then saw that the river dropped through a C4 chute, so the whole portage had to be done. 

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.