Day 6 - Sturgeon River at Lower Goose Falls to Maskinonge Lake 

(39 km) 

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 everything. 

I took one last shot of Lower Goose Falls from the water upon our 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 purposefully 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 very 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.