Temagami: Wanapetei to Diamond Lake via Lady Evelyn River (8 days / 108 km)
A portage crazed adventure paddling through big lakes and small rivers with beautiful sights to offer the whole way.
Trip Completed: September 2020
Starting Point: Red Squirrel Road Ferguson Bay just past Wanapitei Camp
Ending Point: Red Squirrel Road Ferguson Bay just past Wanapitei Camp
Total Distance: 108 km (82km paddling + 18km portaging + 8km hiking)
Number of days: 8
Difficulty: Intermediate / Advanced
This route takes place in Temagami (South/Central).
Tradition Territory: This route in Temagami is on the traditional territory of the Anishinabewaki, Cree and Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin) (source).
Maps and Resources
Maps: Friends of Temagami Obabika Loop/Maple Mountain Companion Map
Permits: Portions of the route are on crownland and other parts are in Obabika River Provincial Park and Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park. Reservations can be made on the Ontario Parks Reservation Portal under the backcountry registration tab and select Temagami and then Red Squirrel Road for an entry point.
Campsite: First come first serve.
Outfitters and Shuttles: We rented our canoe from Temagami Outfitters and along the way to Red Squirrel Road. They have really lovely service and were able to answer all of our questions.
Day 1: Put-In to Diamond Lake (12 km)
Paddle Distance: 12km
Portage Distance: 1.7km
- Portage 1: 800m Red Squirrel Road Parking to Ferguson Bay Beach
- Portage 2: 800m Ferguson Bay Beach to White Fish Bay
- Portage 3: 100m Sharp Rock Portage (Sharp Rock Inlet to Diamond Lake)
As I arrived home from my night shift Laura pulled up in the car. We packed our bags and started the drive from Toronto to Temagami. I lay in the back seat trying to get a little bit of sleep but I was so excited about our adventure that it was hard to think about sleeping.
We drove through to Temagami Outfitters with a few stops for food and gas along the way. We made it to Temagami Outfitters around 1 pm to pick up our canoe. The staff at Temagami Outfitters were super awesome and helpful. I would definitely recommend them and I have been back for multiple canoe rentals and courses since.
We loaded the canoe onto the car and got back to driving, our final destination was Red Squirrel Road. The drive down Red Squirrel Road was about 45 minutes to where we were going to park the car at Ferguson Bay. Red Squirrel Road is an active logging road so we were on the lookout for trucks as we drove along the bumpy road. We were advised by Temagami Outfitters to not park the car in the parking lot and instead park it at an inlet on the side of the road. The dirt path to the so-called parking lot is riddled with very large potholes that quickly turn to muddy lakes with any slight rain – even trucks get stuck along the road.
We parked the car on the side of the road and loaded up our packs, the canoe and all of our accessories. Parking further back made our portage a few hundred meters longer but we quickly turned out to be very thankful for our parking spot.
The portage from the car to Ferguson Bay beach was 800m. The first 100m of the portage was an easy flat walk along the dirt road with a few very large potholes which were easy enough to walk around. We then arrived at our first of many portage obstacles of the trip. A giant puddle with no obvious way around, to the sides were dense forest and we were less than inclined to start our trip off with soaking wet shoes. We decided to walk carefully along the side and hold onto the trees and swing across them as we balanced the canoe. This method didn’t last long as Laura slipped and fell into the mud puddle soaking her shoes (which were never fully dry the rest of the trip). Once we collected ourselves again we opted for a new technique where we suitcase carried the canoe between giant puddles and then would float and push the canoe across the puddles. It turned out to be a very effective technique!
We loaded the canoe at the beach and we were on the way. The paddling part of the day was quite a blur, I was still half asleep from my night shift so Laura was kind enough to steer the whole way and I could provide the manpower without too much thought.
We started by paddling across Ferguson Bay to the portage by Napoleon Mountain, another 800m portage. The takeout was rocky and steep, then wound through the dense forest along a little path to the end, relatively flat walking the whole way.
We then weaved our way across Whitefish Bay through the inlet narrowing at Deer Island and then continued through the passage past Beaver Island. The next section was a larger open water paddle across Sharp Rock Inlet to the Sharp Rock Portage, the third and final portage of the day. We were very lucky to have clear skies and low winds for our paddle. Sharp Rock Portage to Diamond Lake is an easy portage across an old logging road of about 100m.
There were a few small tin boats at the Diamond Lake side of the portage. We made camp at the first small island you come to out of the portage, about 1.5km paddle, which we affectionately called “Sausage Island” after our dinner mishap.
It was getting dark as we pulled up to our campsite so we quickly set up our tent and got started on dinner. We brought sausages to cook. We hiked a little ways away from our tent as not to get the cooking smell on all of our stuff. We got to watch a beautiful sunset and cook by headlight. It was a delicious dinner! We were very hungry from our long day of driving, paddling and portaging. As we were cleaning up our dishes Laura by accident spilled the sausage water all over our cooking stuff. We had a good laugh about it as we spent the next little bit trying to clean up and talked about the bears that were going to come visit Sausage Island in the night. We set up a good bear hang and headed off to bed. We had such a good cozy sleep.
- Coordinates: 47.19349, -80.19918
- Pros: Good tent spot, okay bear hang, thunder box, easy launch/takeout
- Cons: Shallow spots to get water, not a great swimming spot
Day 2: Diamond Lake to Frank Falls (13 km)
Paddle Distance: 13km
Portage Distance: 1km
- Portage 1: 100m Diamond Lake to Lady Evelyn Lake
- Portage 2: 400m Lady Evelyn Lake to Unnamed Lake
- Portage 3: 500m Unnamed Lake to Willow Island Lake
This morning we got an early start just as the sun was rising and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise and mist off of the lake. We ate breakfast and organized all of our belongings for the day and packed everything away. Today was mostly paddling, we were very lucky that the winds weren’t too overwhelming in the open water however, the forecast had said winds were going to pick up.
We started off down Diamond Lake to the Lady Evelyn Lake portage. As we paddled past the islands and approached the narrower section (north arm) of Diamond Lake, in the distance we saw something moving in the water. We picked up our paddle pace to see if we could get a little closer to make out what it was. The animal reached the shore and we were able to make out a moose! We were too far away for it to notice us, we continued paddling and watched it saunter off into the forest.
We then reached the Lady Evelyn Portage, a 100m portage onto the dauntingly windy lake that is Lady Evelyn. The portage was short and easy and we took a quick snack break on the rock before we got back in the canoe.
The next section was a longer paddle to a portage leading into an unnamed lake. The paddle started in a protected calm area which lead into a larger opening and channel into the larger section of the lake. Down this channel, we started to battle some headwinds. We stayed close to shore to try to avoid the brunt of the waves. Thankfully we started to paddle west and were able to hide behind some islands until we reached the portage. Thankfully the islands protected us from the majority of the wind however the battle of the headwind never fully let up.
After an hour to two of paddling, we reached the 400m portage from Lady Evelyn Lake to the unnamed lake. The portage to the unnamed lake was relatively flat, with many muddy sections. We hopped rock to rock and swung off the trees and again had to float our canoe across some of the deeper areas. The mud navigation was slightly tedious and took up some time. Laura’s shoes were still wet from the little mishap the day before so she was wearing my sandals for the portages. We finally reached the unnamed lake and decided to have some lunch on the rocks.
The map we were using actually had a marked campsite on the unnamed lake however when we were paddling through it there were no obvious campsites to be found. The next portage was 500m from the unnamed lake to Willow Island Lake. This portage was similar to the last with a few ups and downs and mud patches to navigate.
Our original plan was to paddle up to hike Maple Mountain, however, after battling the day’s headwinds we opted to stay an extra night along the river as we knew there would be some difficult portages to navigate.
We paddled around the peninsula towards Frank Falls, the first of many waterfalls that we would be travelling around. We paddled right up to the waterfall as there was a marked campsite right at the start of the portage which we thought we would go check out.
The campsite at the start of the portage welcomed us with beautiful step rocks to hop out on and we could walk right up to the waterfall and admire the view getting a little wet along the way. But for tents, this campsite had a very small patch of wet dirt tucked between the rock. You could see the campfire pit others had used staying there.
We opted to paddle back along the short 50m to the other campsite. This campsite has a steep take-out and hike-up to the site; we pulled our canoe all the way to the top to make sure there was no chance of it falling in the water. We found one flatter camping spot tucked close to the bush on a small dirt patch that was slightly wet, but definitely nicer than the one at the waterfall. After setting up camp to our surprise we had a beautiful new thunder box, thanks to the Friends of Temagami group who put it together.
We relaxed at the campsite drinking tequila, cooking dinner and watching some fisherman in their boats hoping to catch some fish near the falls. Soon we were ready for a good sleep and an early wake-up call. We set our alarms for 0630 as the days were shorter we wanted to get out on the water for the first daylight to start tackling whatever portages came our way. We fell asleep listening to the waterfall in the distance.
- Coordinates: 47.30743, -80.30102
- Pros: Great for one tent, nice space to relax on rock, nice view of Frank Falls, slightly quieter from the waterfall, no tiny waterfall bugs, good bear hang
- Con: Very rocky and uneven ground
Day 3: Frank Falls to Bridal Veil Falls (7 km)
Paddle Distance: 7km
Portage Distance: 2.9km
- Portage 1: Frank Falls 200m
- Portage 2: Center Falls 600m
- Portage 3: Rapids 200m
- Portage 4: Hellen Falls 500m
- Portage 5: Rapids 400m
- Portage 6: Rapids 300m
- Portage 7: Rapids 200m
- Portage 8: Rapids 200m
- Portage 9: Cabin Falls 300m
We woke to our alarms at 6:30. I tend to be quick to pack up my stuff and was out of the tent eager to get breakfast going as I’m always hungry when I wake up. Laura and I quickly got into a routine where I was on breakfast duty and food organization for the day while she packed up our tent. As I was cooking breakfast for us on the rock watching the sun just start to rise I heard some words of frustration from the tent. Emerging was a very sad Laura with a broken sleeping mat. We tried to see if there was anything we could do to fix the mat. We had the patching kits with us, however without a new valve we didn’t have much luck. We packed everything up and brainstormed some MacGyver ideas, being this far out there was no way we were getting a new valve.
We started paddling upstream back to the now familiar Frank Falls where a short 200m portage awaited us. The portage had some high steps up rocks out to a flat section and an enjoyable launch on the other side. I helped Laura load the canoe on her head as we precariously balanced on the rocks. She then started down the portage while I started carrying other bags and accessories. I barely had picked up my bag before she was stuck at one of the high steps over the rock. Little did we know how useful our rock climbing skills were going to be although we definitely should have practiced our pistol squats. The Frank Falls portage was beautiful as you walked right beside the waterfall the entire portage. Be careful of slippery rocks as they stay wet from the waterfall spray.
We then paddled a short way up the river through some marshes towards the first of the many famous portages, Center Falls. Center Falls is a 600m portage famous for its incredibly steep cliff-like scramble near the end of the portage. After about 500m in, we had travelled through some ups and downs through the forest and we were beginning to wonder whether this cliff really existed. We finally emerged to the stunning view of Center Falls.
Many trip reports we had looked up recommended staying at the Center Falls campsite. It is right next to the waterfall with a beautiful view and campfire spot. We were happy we had chosen the other location because the tent spot was soaked at Center Falls. It is definitely a must-stay campsite when it hasn’t just rained!
We took a rest to admire the beautiful waterfall and hydrate before the last 100m of the portage. We loaded our gear back up and started down the last little bit of the portage. We stopped dead in our tracks when we reached the bottom of the famously steep cliff. We dropped our canoe at the bottom and scrambled to the top with our packs to scope out our route. With our packs at the top of the scramble, we went down to get our canoe. Navigating the steep rock was a challenge. I portaged the canoe while Laura guided the front so as to not hit anything and stabilize it when I needed both my hands to climb. The steep pitch made it impossible for me to see what lay ahead with my head tucked under the canoe. It was a continual balancing act between us trying not to let the canoe slide off my shoulders back down the cliff. I definitely came close to dropping the canoe a few times. By the end of the portage, our bodies were already starting to condition to the labours of paddling and portaging. We successfully made it to the end of the portage, an accomplishment in itself!
We paddled a short way up the river until we hit a rocky boulder-filled rapid. We paddled across the river to the other side to rock hop up the right-hand side (river left). It was a short 200m portage along boulders with some precarious footing. At this point it was mid-morning so we stopped at the end of the portage for some snacks and water.
We continued a short paddle upstream to Helen Falls, a 500m portage with some steep ups and downs. You could not see the waterfall from the start of the portage but you could definitely hear it! We started the portage with just our packs, deciding to scope out the route and do a double carry through the portage as the start looked quite steep. I started leading us through the portage following closely to the side of the waterfall as the other portages had, which quickly turned into bushes, trees, rocks and cliffs. Laura was quick to realize I had led us off the trail and we hiked back to the start to see where we went wrong. Many trip reports warn paddlers that Helen Falls can be more difficult to navigate. Despite the wrong turn, we had a beautiful hike along white rocks and a waterfall. Once we got part way back to the canoe we realized a large log that I had walked over clearly trying to block the way and an arrow someone had made out of rocks pointing in the opposite direction. Laura led the rest of the portage. There were many sneaky clues along other portages that we came to have a keen eye for throughout the trip. Rock cairns guided us along the rest of the uphill rocky portage to the end of the Helen Falls portage.
We continued to paddle upstream to our next portage known for its rocky marble pathway. It was definitely feeling like we were carrying the canoe more than we were paddling it today. The 400m portage was around a series of rapids, through the forest leading out to a sprawling marble pathway.
Some of the portages around the rapids would be quite slippery when wet. We continued our upstream travel around a few more small rapids, a 300m and 200m portage respectively. They were relatively easy portages with some battles with the currents on the launch and pullouts. After this, we reached the divergence where the Lady Evelyn River splits into two branches. This was also a very exciting moment because it meant we were going to start travelling downstream through the South Channel. At the end of the 200m portage, we stopped for lunch and to rest our bodies after some strenuous portaging.
After lunch, we were happy to be paddling downstream and after our refuelling we were ready to tackle more portages. The first portage was 200m around a set of rapids. The water level was quite low and cold and at the time we were not as confident in our white water skills so opted to portage all of the rapids. The portages were straightforward with some route finding, smaller hills and boulders. By this time we were quite efficient at our loading and unloading of the canoe. We completed another 200m portage around a set of rapids making that portage #8 of the day. Our next stop was the famous Cabin Falls Portage.
Cabin Falls Portage is a 300m portage, aptly named for the cabin located at the top of the waterfall. This is Hap Wilson’s Cabin Falls Ecolodge, the Cabin Falls portage is through the private property so make sure to be courteous when crossing. I would also recommend reading Hap Wilson’s book: The Cabin, it was very fun to read through the portages we crossed and the history of the Cabin. The portage itself has a few ups and downs through the forest with some more awkward steeper sections near the end. The portage seemed very manageable after what we had already completed. We then hopped back in the canoe and were excited to paddle to our campsite at Bridal Veil Falls.
Bridal Veil Falls is a 200m portage. Since it was shorter we decided to carry our packs across the portage first so we could explore the campsite. The campsite is located near the end of the portage right at the top of the waterfall. We scoped out the campsite which was absolutely amazing!
There were multiple tent sites and a beautiful fire pit with benches and some nicely cut firewood courtesy of the Friends of Temagami who had come through earlier in the week. We opted to set up our tent right at the edge on a nice flat rock near the waterfall. We then headed back to get our canoe. We decided to portage the canoe all the way to the end of the portage so it was easier in the morning to get started. We had read other trip reports where people had let their canoes slide all the way down to the water from the top of the smooth steep cliff at the end of the portage. As we were hoping to continue to use our canoe for the rest of the trip, we opted to be a little more cautious. We tied a rope to one end of the canoe and I would slowly lower it down the steep section to Laura below to catch it. We slowly leap-frogged down a little bit this way and then were able to portage the rest.
At the end of the portage, there is a thoughtfully placed log for a balance beam to cross the otherwise impassible steep cliff. I volunteered for the precarious balance beam walk with the canoe over my head, meditating as I crossed and wishing I had stuck with gymnastics as a little kid. It didn’t help that the mist from the waterfall made the rock face and log slippery. A fall on the beam would mean both the canoe and I would be sliding down the 10-foot steep rock face into the water. Thankfully we made it across safely and were able to find a spot to secure our canoe for the night.
We hopped our way back up to our campsite to set up camp for the night. We had an early start to the day so we had time to relax at camp. I had a nice little camp shower in the river above the waterfall, it was nice to be cozy and camp clean. Our feet were happy to soak in the cold water after our day of carrying the canoe around. For dinner, we made pasta and laid out all of our boots and clothes by the campfire to dry out. As we were rotating our clothes to dry Laura picked up her shoes and melted the heel of her shoe in the fire! We had a good laugh and thankfully they were still usable. For bed, we had attempted to use duct tape and repair tape to fix Laura’s sleeping pad, which would hold air for 30mins before deflating. We decided to get the lifejackets and foam seats from the canoe to makeshift a sleeping matt which seemed like a better option than just sleeping straight on the rock.
- Coordinates: 47.27603, -80.33951
- Pros: Beautiful campsite STUNNING view right on the edge of the waterfall, great campfire pit, and pretty good bear hang
- Cons: Just off of the trail, loud waterfall, tiny waterfall bugs (didn’t bit but were everywhere)
Day 4: Bridal Veil Falls to Wakimika Lake (17 km)
Paddle Distance: 11km
Portage Distance: 5.9km
- Portage 1: 200m Bridal Veil Portage
- Portage 2: 900m Rapids Portage
- Portage 3: 200m Fat Man’s Falls Portage
- Portage 4: 300m Rapids Portage
- Portage 5: 100m Rapids Portage
- Portage 6: 200m Rapids Portage
- Portage 7: 3200m Two Miler Portage (Lady Evelyn River to Diamond Lake)
- Portage 8: 400m Diamond Lake to Lain Lake
- Portage 9: 400m Lain Lake to Pencil Lake/Wakimika Lake
This morning we woke up nice and early feeling a little stiff from the previous day (Laura’s sleep on the lifejackets) and sat on the edge of the cliff making breakfast overlooking the Bridal Veil Waterfall. With the waterfall and morning fog it truly felt like a dream! We watched the mist slowly rise as we went on packing up our campsite. We loaded our packs and made our way down the rest of the portage to our canoe.
We had a beautiful morning paddle down the river to the next portage of the day. Feeling refreshed in the sun we were ready to tackle whatever was thrown our way. The portage was a 900 m portage around a series of rapids, a warm up to what the day held ahead of us. The portage was straightforward through the forest, with many ups and downs and boulders to navigate with glimpses of the rapids through the trees. The water was low and the strewn boulders made it so we could not run the rapids. We made it to the end of the portage and were excited to see the famous Fat Man’s Falls, another iconic portage.
As we approached Fat Man’s Falls we quickly realized we needed some careful navigation to the start of the portage. The start of the portage was located just to the left of the top of the ragging waterfall, definitely closer than our mothers’ would have liked. The take out was very easy and we took our time exploring and admiring the waterfall.
Fat Man’s Portage is a technical 100m portage, through “Fat Man’s Squeeze” and a steep boulder cliff. We carried our packs through the portage first to scope out how we were going to get the canoe through. This portage was definitely going to take some careful navigation with the canoe. We made our way to the Fat Man’s Squeeze with ease and opted to double carry the canoe through this part. The canoe is too wide to fit through the squeeze so as we started to make our way through we sumo lifted the canoe above our heads so it could clear the top of the rocks without getting scratched. We then tackled the steep cliff-like boulder section, wondering whether we should have brought our climbing gear. Through perseverance, good communication and solid teamwork we got the canoe down to the water, earning a much deserved morning snack. Fat Man’s Waterfall is truly spectacular from the bottom. Definitely looked a lot more menacing than it did from the top.
We then continued for a beautiful paddle down the river through a few more easy portages around a couple rapids: 300m, 100m and 200m respectively. We encountered a few swifts along the way that we enjoyed canoeing down. After enjoying our downstream journey, we mentally prepared for what would be the longest portage of our life (so far): The Two Miler.
After some navigation we made it to the start of the 3200m, Two Miler Portage. The start of the portage is a large sandy campsite where we set up our stove to make hot soup for lunch. The portage started off nice and easy, a nicely marked path through the woods on a flat trail. We crushed the first km with little issues.
The ground soon started to become very muddy and swampy with tight trees to navigate. One of us would walk ahead helping the other navigate as we attempted to swing off of the trees. We hopped on whatever looked the driest along the path, tiny patch of leaves, a stick, broken log, inevitably both of our feet were quickly soaked and muddy. We navigated the swamp for what felt like forever.
About 1600m into the portage we reached an impasse. The nice swamp we were hopping through became very deep with bushes and rocks strewn about. On the other side of the swamp there was a 5ft steep rock face that you needed to hop out of at the other side to dryer ground. Walking through the swamp was out of the question and it definitely wasn’t anything we could paddle. I came up with the solution of using our canoe as a plank we could walk across. The width of the deep swamp was roughly the length of the canoe so we laid the canoe across slowly and I put on my pack and slowly walked across the canoe stepping carefully over the seats so not to fall in. On the other side we could jump to a few rocks and avoid the steep rock face. The solution worked seamlessly and the two of us made it across in no time!
The next part of the portage was filled with steeper, longer, undulating hills. We kept our head down and feet moving to make it through the seemingly endless portage. But at last we reached the end! The forested path ended right at the bog. We scoured the path for any other possible direction or sign of a path and found none. There was no yellow portage sign as there had been at the beginning of the portage however not all of our portages had been signed so we didn’t think much of it.
Our next obstacle was to cross part of the bog to get the canoe to deep enough water we could load it. We decided that one of us would hop along the 15feet of floating bog while the other stayed on dry land just in case someone got stuck, the other could perform a rescue. After some precarious footing we finally had our canoe loaded. 3200m later with wet feet, sore shoulders, and a little delirious, we were back paddling and had never been happier.
We had to use our paddles along the bottom of the bog pushing off the ground to get our canoe out of the shallow water. As we pushed ourselves about 50m towards the open water we saw the portage sign! We had somehow missed it by 50m and put our canoe in early. The portage sign was met with even more sketchy bog to cross so it was for the best that we were able to get in when we did. We made our way through the bay of muck and out to the open water of Diamond Lake.
At Diamond Lake we were met with strong headwinds and waves, something we didn’t have to think too much about during our river section. We slogged our way across Diamond Lake down the arm towards Wakimika Lake. The narrower section of the arm gave us a slight reprieve from the wind and waves. We then made it to our next portage, a 400m portage from Diamond Lake to Lain Lake. The take out was extremely muddy and the portage itself was filled with large awkward boulders to maneuver around. It definitely ended up being one of our least favorite portages of the trip.
We made it to Lain Lake and took a moment to dry out our feet and rest them from our soaked boots. Lain Lake is an adorable small rocky lake. With small rocky campsites at either portage on the lake. The next portage was 400m to Pencil Lake. This was a beautiful portage with some flat forest sections and an old logging road to follow. Someone had nicely laid out stones in an arrow pointing the correct direction along the logging road.
We swiftly paddled through Pencil Lake and made it to the very small narrow section which leads out into the vast Wakimika Lake. The winds had gotten progressively worse so we stayed on Pencil Lake and beached our canoe from there to go explore the campsite. There are many campsites at this area and it was our first time seeing people for the whole trip! There was one other group camping near us.
Our campsite ended up being tucked away in the forest a little. It was nice flat ground and all of the campsites are a short walk to the beach. The Wakimika Lake beach was absolutely beautiful. We quickly set up camp as it was getting dark when we arrived and made it out to the beach to soak our feet in the water and make dinner as the sun was setting. We sauntered back to our tent and got ready for bed. In the tent we were looking up the weather on the Garmin in-Reach and saw that the next two days were supposed to be very windy. Our original plan was to paddle a loop through Wakimika and Obabika Lake. We spent our time devising a backup plan as it didn’t seem possible we would make it out with the winds. We decided we would try to make it back through Diamond Lake to Ferguson Bay the way we had entered.
- Coordinates: 47.17157, -80.33917
- Pros: Close to the beach, flat camping spot, easy bear hang
- Cons: Close to other campsites so can hear other campers
Day 5: Wakimika Lake to Diamond Lake (13 km)
Paddle Distance: 13km
Portage Distance: 800m
- Portage 1: 400m Pencil Lake to Lain Lake
- Portage 2: 400m Lain Lake to Diamond Lake
The next morning we got an early start trying to beat the high winds of the day. We packed up our things and had breakfast on the beach as the sun was rising, watching the waves roll in, happy we weren’t about to cross Wakimika Lake.
We then started our paddle back through Pencil Lake 400m logging road portage into Lain Lake and then through Lain Lake to our second 400m muddy rock portage into Diamond Lake. We then started down Diamond Lake.
It started off narrow and we were slightly protected from the land so the waves weren’t as large but we still had to battle the winds. We made slow progress and finally made it to the main section of Diamond Lake. The waves were now quite large and a strong headwind. We zig zagged our way to one of the closer islands near the 2-mile portage, where we further battled the wind to light our stove for lunch.
After a nice relaxing break, the wind did not improve, however we wanted to attempt to get further down Diamond Lake. We aimed for a large island (close to day 1 campsite) so we were closer to the portage for the morning. We summoned all our strength and headed out in to the very windy lake. We zig zagged our way through the waves making slow progress until we finally reached the large Island where we set up camp.
We reached the island early afternoon and were thankful to have lots of time to relax. We set up our campsite, hammock, explored the island, did some laundry, read our books, gathered firewood and relaxed in the sun. The island was huge! There were many great camp spots, good bear hangs and nice fire pit. We were able to move to the side of the island away from the wind and protect ourselves. In the evening we had a wonderful fire and dinner enjoying our tequila and whiskey. It was nice to have a relaxing day to reflect on all of the crazy portaging we had done. `
- Coordinates: 47.20201, -80.21365
- Pros: Nice flat spots for tent, good bear hang, thunder box, multiple tent sites easily, easy to take canoe in and out
- Cons: Very exposed to elements, would be hard to get a tarp up.
Day 6: Diamond Lake to White Fish Bay Lake Temagami (15 km)
Paddle Distance: 15km
Portage Distance: 100m
- Portage 1: 100m Sharp Rock Portage (Diamond Lake to Sharp Rock Inlet)
Another early start today to try and beat the winds, a relentless battle it has been. We continued on our plan B route paddling back through Diamond Lake to the Sharp Rock Portage. We had small waves and little trouble navigating back to the portage and admired the sunrise on route.
The portage from Diamond Lake to Sharp Rock Inlet was a short 100m on relatively flat terrain crossing an old logging road. As we paddled our way down the narrows to the main section of Sharp Rock Inlet lake section, the winds and waves progressively worsened. We stuck close to shore and zig zagged our way across the open sections, seeking refuge behind tiny islands. We were so tired and finally battled our way to Beaver Island, landing there at 1045am.
We decided to wait out the winds here and set up a small area to relax in the sun, enjoying hot chocolate with whiskey, snacks and a nap. We left Beaver Island early afternoon and paddled our way to our home for the night. We decided to camp at the memorial campsite near Whitefish Bay just before the Napoleon Mountain Portage. After setting up camp and collecting firewood we decided to go for a swim in Lake Temagami. It was freezing! The water felt nice after not showering for 6 days.
The wind continued to die down throughout the afternoon and a short paddle away on Deer Island our map had marked Pictographs. Having never seen any I was very excited! So we hopped in the canoe and did a short paddle across the bay to find the pictographs. These ones were very hard to make out and were quite faded, still very cool to see! We paddled back to camp and had a wonderful campfire and dinner before jumping into our tent. Laura was somehow still sleeping on a combination of our life jackets and foam seats since her sleeping pad broke days ago.
- Coordinates: 47.16363, -80.1205
- Pros: good tent spot, good bear hang, thunder box, easy to take canoe in and out, nice swimming spot, nice sunsets
- Cons: smaller site, slightly sloped
Day 7: White Fish Bay to Ferguson Bay Lake Temagami
Paddle Distance: 7km
Portage Distance: 800m
- Portage 1: 800m White Fish Bay to Ferguson Bay
We knew we had a shorter day ahead of us so we could take our time this morning. We woke up to a perfectly calm lake and clear skies. The lake was a perfect mirror reflection. We did a very short paddle to our one and only portage for the day. An 800m portage from White Fish Bay to Ferguson Bay, the familiar easy winding portage through the forest.
Once we had portaged the canoe and packs to the other side we decided to find the trail to hike up Napoleon Mountain. It took some route-finding skills but we eventually found a flagged route which veers off the main portage path about half way through the portage. You start by going up a steep hill and then up and around to the lookout at the top of Napoleon Mountain. Once you start your way up the steeper part of the mountain the trail becomes more obvious. From Napoleon Mountain you overlook Ferguson Bay, with clear skies we could see forever and admired the fall colours just starting to come out. The total hike was about 2km and we were at an elevation of 357m.
We then made our way back to the portage and paddled across Ferguson Bay to check out the campsites on the other side. We were mesmerized by the beautiful reflection of the clouds and trees in the perfectly glass water. Our canoe was the only thing making small ripple of waves through the bay. We checked out a few campsites and settled on the campsite at the start of the Ferguson Trail Hike. We had lunch on the flat rocky outcrop and lay in the sun enjoying the weather.
We then decided to hike a section of the Ferguson Trail. We could hike to the trail head from our campsite and then started along the trail into the forest. The hike started off relatively straight forward however quickly became difficult as the forest got dense. The trail had been marked with flagging tape however the overgrowth of trees it was hard to see the next one. In these sections of dense forest Laura would be hiking first, find a tree with flagging tape and wait at that spot while I passed her to find the next tree with flagging tape. Once I found it, she would come up to find the next one and the leap frog would continue. The path was full of hills and steep sections.
Near one of the higher sections there were remains of an old fire tower. The path was much easier once we were at the top and were walking along the ridge. We got to admire great views looking back on Ferguson Bay towards Napoleon Mountain. We decided not to do the whole loop as it was starting to get late and we weren’t sure what route-finding skills would be needed. We made sure to get back to camp before dark. The total hike was 6km and was slightly higher then Napoleon Mountain. Once we got back to camp we started a fire and made dinner with an absolutely perfect sunset over the calm lake to end the day. We reminisced about the whole trip, slightly sad to head back to civilization tomorrow.
- Coordinates: 47.14267, -80.07558
- Pros: awesome campfire, beautiful sunsets, good spots to hang tarp, easy to take canoe in and out
- Cons: smaller tent site, ok tent spots, difficult bear hang, no thunder box
Day 8: Ferguson Bay to Red Squirrel Road (4 km)
Paddle Distance: 4km
Portage Distance: 1km
- Portage 1: 800m Ferguson Bay Beach to Red Squirrel Road Parking
This morning we woke up to a very cold, breezy and cloudy day. We bundled up, made breakfast and packed up camp with our hat and mittens on. We headed out for our final battle with the waves, paddling into the wind to Ferguson Bay Beach. We got slightly splashed by the waves as we paddled to the beach listening to music along the way, enjoying our final few kilometers. We did the final 800m portage from the beach to the car parked on Red Squirrel Road. This time the portage was much drier and we thankfully did not have to navigate the giant puddles as we had on the way in. We were happy to see our car was still safe and sound at the side of the road and not squished by any logging trucks. We loaded up the car and started our long journey home.
This trip was quite a memorable experience! This was my first taste of Temagami wilderness and needless to say it has remained one of my favourite places to visit. This trip definitely tested some of our limits and it’s important that you and your partner know what those are. Whether it was deciding to battle some waves or a crazy portage, we made sure to have constant communication making sure we both felt comfortable with the plan.
That being said, always have a plan B! While it is definitely fun to push your limits it’s just as important to have fun. We shortened a few days here and there and made sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to navigate the windy days. Larger lakes can leave you wind bound for a day or two until they let up so we were lucky to have been able to make a little progress each day.
We also were very cautious with our canoe along the portages. The hard portages made for ample opportunity for our canoe to be damaged if we weren’t careful. Next time we would definitely want to bring a small canoe repair kit especially since there was only one canoe with the two of us. Lastly, never take dry shoes for granted! You never know how long it will last.
By: Stephanie Rider
I grew up on an island in Muskoka, spending days canoeing, hiking, swimming and exploring. I have enjoyed canoe tripping my whole life and am an avid outdoor enthusiast. My passion for the environment leaves me with the motto to not only follow leave no trace principles but to also leave nature a little bit cleaner than when I found it. Through my trips, I hope to highlight this point and help educate others on sustainable outdoor etiquette. I love writing about my adventures and hope to provide insights, inspire and encourage others to explore nature!
Trip Blog: Tripping and Tequila: https://trippingandtequila.wordpress.com/