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

(22 km)

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 all.