Temagami: Temagami Lake to Florence Lake Loop (8 days / 150 km)

Temagami is one of the most beautiful parts of Ontario, and Florence Lake is definitely one of it’s gems. Part of that allure stems from how remote the lake is, meaning it’s generally difficult to find your way out into this pristine part of the park. We found a way there that also takes us through some of the other highlights of the park, and we’re hoping you’ll enjoy this recount of our experience.

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Boatline Bay Marina on Lake Temagami

Ending Point: Boatline Bay Marina on Lake Temagami

Total Distance: 150 km total. 42 portages totalling 19 km.

Elevation Gain: Portaging from Wakimika to Florence is not easy as you’re basically crossing a height of land between these two lakes. The elevation gain from Naismith Creek up to Chapin lake is 120m over a portage of ~1200m giving you nearly a 20% grade. This was by far the hardest portage on the trip since it seemed no one had been through these portages before us that season. 

Duration: 9 – 10 days if you’re being reasonable. We pushed it in 8 with great weather.

Difficulty: Advanced.

Location

This route takes place in Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park and on Crown Land in the Temagami Region. The closest town to the put in is Temagami and the nearest city is Sudbury.

Traditional Territory: This route in Temagami is located on the traditional territory of the Omàmìwininìwag (Algonquin), Cree and Anishinabewaki (source).

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: This route was inspired by Hap Wilson’s publications. The entire route can be found in different sections of Hap Wilson’s guide to paddling Temagami.

Map: Jeff’s Maps and Ottertooth Maps. It’s no longer possible to buy paper copies of Jeff’s Maps, however you can use the ChrisMar Adventure Map Temagami 2 and Temagami 4.

Note: Between the two maps, there are small discrepancies between portage distances. Don’t

Campsite Reservations: None of the sites were individually booked.

Permits: You need permits for every night you plan on spending in the park. For us this was 4 nights in Lady-Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park and 4 nights spent on Lake Temagami or Pinetorch Conservation reserve where permits are not required.

Outfitters & Shuttles

Outfitters: We only needed to rent a canoe. Specific outfitter depends on the direction you’re driving towards the launch point. We’ve used Smoothwater Outfitters in the past and have had a great experience with them. Temagami Outfitters also operates here.

Shuttle: No shuttle is needed, as the route starts and ends at the same place.

Trip Report

Day 1: Put in at Boatline Bay Marina to Obabika Inlet (19km)

Portage Distance: 0 m

Lake Temagami can be a very busy waterway – there are numerous cottages, camps, lodges and cabins on the lake with traffic on the water to match. If you’re travelling in a group make sure you stick together for visibility and to prevent getting cut off by boaters. In general, you should plan to stick closer to shore whenever possible, reducing the chances of obstructing a boat passing by. In general, the Northwest Arm of Lake Temagami is quieter and once you’re through Birch Narrows at Wigwas Point you’ll likely only find a few fishermen. Around the bend and you should have a few sites to choose from. 

Campsite: (47.042615, -80.185042) The island we stayed on had enough room for 3 tents, ample cooking space, and a few ways in and out of the water. With good weather, the sunset was incredible. The island was too small for a privy. There were a couple of good fishing holes off the side of the island, and a few small mouth bass caught at sunset. 

Day 2: Obabika Inlet to Hortense Lake (28 km)

Portage Distance: 3,570 m

Optional detour to Spirit Rock + ~5km, 1230m marked portaging

This was probably our longest day on the trip. We departed by 8 am and didn’t make it to our site until after 7 pm, after making the detour to Spirit Rock. The portage from Obabika Inlet to Lake Obabika (860 m) was reasonable, but at the time felt more challenging given we were still carrying a week’s worth of food.

Lake Obabika feels larger than Lake Temagami, if only because it doesn’t contain nearly as many islands. It’s a good paddle up to the north end, which took us about 2 hours. If the wind is strong you could easily spend the better part of a day battling headwinds up this lake. Fortunately, we found the eastern shore offered enough protection from southbound winds to get ourselves moving at a reasonable pace.

The detour to Spirit Rock is worthwhile as the 615 m portage is quite clear and well-travelled. Remember that these are traditional grounds of the First Nations and to be respectful of our shared history and grateful for the privilege we have to be able to visit these remote spaces. Spirit Rock itself is hard to describe without spoiling the view (Photo 1), but you’ll know it when you see it. Keep your eyes peeled to the eastern side of the lake which contains a noticeable amount of rockfall and look for rock that hasn’t fallen.

Less ambitious (read: reasonable…) groups may want to camp at the north end of Lake Obabika after doing the detour. It took our group about 3 hours to get through Wakimika River and Wakimika Lake to start our next portage at 4 pm. We knew going into this trip this would be the start of the most challenging portaging we’d have to do, so we affectionately referred to the section from Wakimika Lake to Ames Creek the “slog”. The final portage into Hortense Lake (950 m) has a steep and dangerous descent: approach with caution.

Getting to our intended site on Hortense Lake was a push and we didn’t arrive until around 7:30 pm. Compared to the portage between Obabika Inlet and Lake Obabika, these portages had been relatively untouched.

Campsite: (47.153686, -80.401748) Hortense Campsite was a fairly steep rock face with not much for sitting room. The firepit was well built up and could easily sustain a cooking fire. Besides this, there was little evidence this could be used as a camp. The back of the site had a few sloped cleared areas for tents, but overall it was difficult to get 3 tents up. There was no privy, swimming spot, or fishing hole. The lasting memory we will have of the campsite (which made it all worth it) was the incredible sunset (Photo 2).

Day 3: Hortense Lake to Beaver Lake (11 km)

Portage Distance: 2,735 m

As the crow flies, Hortense to Beaver Lake isn’t very far at all. The key thing to keep in mind when planning a route through this chain of lakes is that this area doesn’t see a lot of travel; the portages might not be well marked or could potentially be overgrown, and you will need to work your way upstream against Nasmith Creek. Additionally, your elevation gain from Hortense Lake to Beaver Lake is a delta of 53 m, so overall you’re climbing but there are also a couple of drops along the way, which implies more climbing than 53 m overall. E.g, the climb from Dorothy Lake up Nasmith Creek and onto Chapin Lake has an elevation gain of ~115 m alone. The elevation then drops incrementally to 369 m by the time you hit Beaver Lake. If you aren’t catching the drift: don’t plan for this to be a long day in terms of distance because this isn’t an easy ground to cover.

The two portages from Hortense Lake through Dorothy Lake (265 m and 265 m, respectively) and onto the creek are not particularly memorable, but they’ll give you a good sense of whether or not you’re the first group through this route. If you find these portages particularly difficult to find or traverse, it’s a good indication the rest of this stretch towards Ames Creek will be more of the same. On Nasmith Creek itself, as Jeff’s Map suggests, you should expect to wade your canoes at least a couple of times while travelling up this creek, depending on water levels.

The 1,265 m portage off Nasmith Creek onto Chapin Lake will likely be the biggest hurdle of the day. This portage climbs about 115 m of elevation up to Chapin Lake but it’s well worth it as you’ll be struck by a sense of isolation here that is special, even for Temagami. The lake itself is a bright acidified blue colour with shores burnt by a recent forest fire, giving a unique personality (Photos 3, 4).  Hopping from Chapin Lake to Beaver Lake took us through some old burned out woodlands, highlighting the natural cycle of renewal. While most of the rest of these portages (215 m, 25 m, 90 m, 175 m and 60 m) towards Beaver Lake are unremarkable, the last 400 m path onto Beaver Lake itself was more challenging than we had anticipated; mostly because of the exertion of getting to this point (compounded by our efforts the previous day) was starting to catch up to us.

Campsite: (47.175508, -80.491238). The site on Beaver Lake was amenable, but as we’d come to expect from the portaging it was clear this site didn’t see much use (or maintenance). The tent sites here were all on flat open rock faces, which wouldn’t have fared well in a storm but worked during our fair weather. The water was easily accessible but slightly marshy, so we had to canoe out to get water. Once again, no privy. Unfortunately, we were not blessed with a sunset view tonight.

Day 4: Beaver Lake to Florence Lake (14 km)

Portage Distance: 2,760 m (difficult portages!)

This was a day of highs and lows, both literally and metaphorically. From a literal elevation perspective, our route towards Florence Lake via Lewbert had us climb another 50 m over a total of about 930 m of portaging onto Lewbert Lake and into Crown Land. What Jeff’s Maps don’t tell you is that the portage onto Ames Creek from Lewbert (555m + 225m) actually goes up before it comes back down. And boy, it’s not an easy climb. 

There was some suspicion that the trail might not actually exist: after all, it comes off Crown Land and back into Pinetorch Conservation Reserve and that most reasonable people passing through this area would likely either be headed south from Beaver Lake via Pinetorch Creek instead of doing what we were doing. Furthermore, most reasonable people travelling on the other side of this portage would most likely continue on their way down Ames Creek. What this meant for us was that this portage appeared to have been untouched for at least a season or two. Making our way uphill to then descend into the Ames Creek Walley, while also literally cutting away through some of the overgrown brush, made this portage a big challenge. 

We ended up sacrificing time to “two trip” the portage because it just wasn’t safe to be climbing over deadfall with 2 packs strapped to you or with a canoe overhead. The good news is that it’s actually a reasonably enjoyable walk going down into the Ames Creek Valley; the bad news is that the distance actually triples making this a ~2.25km portage and two-tripping entails climbing back up that same valley floor to gain elevation towards Lewbert Lake to start your second trip.

Regardless, once you’ve made it to the other end and launched off from that 100 m portage towards Skooztagan Lake, pat yourself on the back for making it through what we affectionately called “The Slog”. From here, you’re back on better travelled paths including two clearer portages towards Florence Lake (400 m and 425 m).

Getting out onto Florence, we found ourselves confronted with a headwind, so we opted for the eastern approach through the narrower option of the northbound routes. While this deprived us of a bit of the view, we felt it was more sheltered and offered an opportunity to observe some natural caves on the northern end of the large unnamed island in the middle of Florence Lake. 

There’s a 25 m portage on Jeff’s maps that marks an old abandoned ranger station. We’d highly encourage you to take a break here to enjoy the southern view as you get a straight shot a few kilometers down to the bottom of the lake (Photo 5). The cabin, or rather what remains of it (Photo 6), is extremely dilapidated and the roof had started to shift off the structure and recede; making it unsafe to enter or otherwise explore. There was also shattered glass in the doorway and nothing of interest inherent to the structure itself. We were blessed with some sun and enjoyed the beach after a hard day’s work.

Onwards another kilometer or so we settled on the eastern site on the point overlooking the northern section of the lake.

Campsite: (47.262115, -80.558005) I must say, this has to be one of the most enjoyable campsites I’ve ever stayed at on any trip I’ve ever done. The site itself is elevated and tucked away from most of the wind by a small clearing between trees. The elevation gives its visitors a stunning panoramic view of the water. Due to the remote nature of this lake, we had the place to ourselves and I couldn’t have imagined a more enjoyable afternoon for the middle of a trip. There was a privy at this site, plenty of tent space and a large firepit. Scraggly Jackpine gives character to the large open rock face and gave a rugged northern Ontario feel (Photo 7). 

Day 5: Florence to MacPherson (32 km)

Portage Distance: 2,640 m

Waking up and leaving our campsite at Florence Lake was bittersweet; the sky was clear, the sun was shining and the view from the top of the site was hard to beat. We made our way up the Florence River to where it merges with the Lady Evelyn River and then headed east and downstream. This stretch of the trip has pros and cons: for the most part, you’re sheltered from the wind and sun, but depending on the season you could get eaten alive by bugs during this stretch. The upper part of this stretch of river has massive hills strewn with rocky outcroppings, and provides some unique found-only-in-Temagami scenery (Photo 8). 

Eventually, the river will reach a crossroads: either a pair of portages north through Dees Lake (400 m and 1000 m) or a longer, more winding route on the South Lady Evelyn River. We took the winding route of the South Lady-Evelyn River. To be clear, we felt no current and there were no real rapids in this section.

As the river approaches north, there is a “shortcut” with two portages through a small unnamed lake to reach the North Lady Evelyn River. We were weaving between patches of lily pads and arrived at the first portage (175 m), but stayed on the South Lady Evelyn River until it met North Laady Evelyn River.

Once on the North Lady Evelyn River, the first portage was 315 m. Instead of the following 315 m portage, however, we were able to drag through a creek just further east of the portage by about 20 m.

From this point, there were 8 short portages between us and our destination (for a total of 1240 m of portaging); the longest of which was 345 m. See the map above for specific distances. All told, most of these were in reasonably good condition: a benefit of being back on a more travelled section of the park. There are a pair of sites on Macpherson Lake; both of which were serviceable. It had turned into a long day, so we took the first site. Macpherson has the benefit of being a nexus for both the Lady Evelyn and Mokobe rivers, and we have it on good authority that the fishing on this lake is consistently good.

Campsite: (47.332634, -80.397214) We stayed on the small island at the far end of Macpherson Lake. It was the smallest site on the trip, but had a reasonable fire pit, a great sunset view, and room for our tents. There were even some absolutely massive beautiful white pines towering above. I wouldn’t recommend this site for a larger group, however, it was a great place to celebrate the evening of Canada day (Photo 9). No privy.

Day 6: MacPherson to “Two Miler” Portage (15 km)

Portage Distance: 2,655 m

Having been on this part of the river before, we were excited about what we could expect on this day of the trip. The Lady Evelyn river features 3 fantastic waterfalls between Macpherson and the lake preceding the so-called “Two Miler” portage to Diamond Lake.

A few portages (145 m, 195 m and 730 m) will get you to Katherine Lake. Depending on water levels and your comfortability with white water, you might be able to safely shoot these sets. Of course, scout them first and take the portage if you have any doubts. For our group, if I recall correctly, we found one of these sets navigable and the other not, and that was in late June 2020.

Once we reached the branch off for the Trout Streams (aptly named, again the fishing here is reliably good) we got ready for a lot of portaging. The year before we had come upstream this very stretch of the Lady Evelyn River and some of these portages are no joke, specifically each of the three routes around waterfalls.

First up is Cabin Falls portage (150 m), named after the off-grid eco-lodge built by the legendary Hap Wilson (Photo 9). Cabin Falls is private property so please be respectful and keep your distance. The portage is on the east side of the river, and features a twisting path downhill. I’d advise you to take your time here, and even consider scouting the path first as a downed tree or a missed turn can be awkward to recover from if you’ve got a canoe or a couple of packs on you. Once you’re done the portage around Cabin Falls, enjoy a break and take some photos. It’s a stunning spot. 

The very next portage is around Bridal Veil Falls (220 m) (Photo 10). The portage itself is rather straightforward, but there are two landings on the downstream end and they’re both notable. The first one (closer to the falls) is a downright dangerous descent down a steep slope, with the remnants of a rope guide affixed to one of the only trees stubborn enough to grow among the rocks. Further complicating this landing is the spray from the waterfall, making it potentially slippery and potentially highly risky. A slip here puts you in the water, nearly guaranteed. The alternative option is comparatively much safer, even if it seems daunting at first. Someone has been courteous enough to install a simple wooden beam that you can cross to access a smoother descent to a safer landing. When you can see the first landing, take a look across the rock face to your left and you should find the beam and a safer path back down to the water. Again, take a look behind you and snap a few photos of another great scene.

As a side note, when we came up river the year before, we didn’t see the landing for the safer route and had to get all our gear up that steep slope, in wet conditions. This 220 m portage took us nearly 2 hours to handle safely. 

The next stretch is a long portage (670 m) around multiple sets of rapids. You’ll want to defer to the portage and not waste your time trying to scout a route through the sets. There’s normally a lot of running water here, and no visibly safe way through these sets.

Once you’re past this portage, you get to the last notable water feature: Fat Man’s Falls (Photo 11). Fortunately, the portage (85 m) itself is fairly easy-going downstream. The interesting part is looking back at it from the end: it’s an absolutely gnarly water feature. One of those times that left us feeling glad we could follow in others’ footsteps around this wild thing.

After Fat Man’s, there are a few short portages (245 m, 75 m and 140 m) down to the “2 Miler”. At this point in our day, we were tired of portaging and weren’t excited by the prospect of another “2 Miles” of it, so we made camp relatively early and rested up. 

Campsite: (47.237235, -80.294646) The site at the beginning of the “2 Miler” itself is actually surprisingly nice; a shallow beach with enough tent spots both on site and slightly further into the woods. Just be cognizant not to block the path others might need if they come through the portage. There was a privy and a firepit, but no sunset view. 

Day 7: “Two Miler” Portage to Upper Kokoko Bay, Lake Temagami (30 km)

Portage Distance: 2,430 m

Waking up at the start of a long portage (2225 m) is like standing at the edge of the dock about to jump into cold water… the only way about it is to get it over with. While the “2 Miler” lives up to its name, it really depends on what you choose to do when you get to the other end. Depending on water levels, you might be able to save yourself up to 500 m if levels are high. The two times we’ve come through here we’ve seen and used vastly different landings on the Diamond Lake side, of which there are several.

Like so many other things in Temagami, Diamond Lake is aptly named because it can be absolutely picturesque. It’s also one of the most popular destinations for paddlers in the park. We had incredible weather on Diamond Lake, and stopped more than once for a swim and some fishing. The few times we’ve come through Diamond Lake it has also had far fewer motor boats on it, making it the last lake where we felt any sense of isolation. We also started to see other paddlers on Diamond Lake; a welcome sight after nearly 5 days without running into anyone else along our Florence Loop.

We made our way to the east end of the lake and took the quick 115 m portage onto Lake Temagami. The best thing about this portage is that it was our last for this trip, putting us back on the lake where it all started. We still had half a day ahead of us, and figured we could make it pretty close to our pull out. The tricky thing about Lake Temagami is that windy weather can trap you in any one of its many bays, or make crossing the lake much more difficult than it otherwise ought to be. There are numerous campsites you can choose from here, but we aimed for a collection of sites near Upper Kokoko Bay so that we could make use of our free time and climb the Devil’s Mountain Trail (Photo 12).

Getting up that trail to catch the sunset was another key highlight of our trip. It was actually a more challenging climb than we were expecting, but much easier given we weren’t portaging canoes or carrying packs up to the top.

Campsite: (47.092843, -80.079759) The campsite was similar to what you’d expect in Algonquin. Trails running to the privy, beautiful firepit, lots of sitting space, easy boat access etc. The downside is there are a few other campsites along the same stretch and you definitely lose some privacy (maybe that was accentuated in our circumstance because of the absence of people on our trip).

Day 8: Kokoko Bay to Boatline Bay Marina and pull out (18 km)

Portage Distance: 0 km

Our last day on the water started early in anticipation of poor weather and busy boaters. We wanted to make our way to Boatline Bay Marina in good time. On the way, we passed by a number of established summer camps around the Lake, reminding all of us of how we got started chasing these experiences. We were off the water before noon, feeling accomplished for the route we had followed and incredible experience we had along the way.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed our write-up. Of course, if you have any particular questions feel free to reach out to us on our social media profiles. We hope you enjoy your time in Temagami, or in any of our great parks the next time you’re out there. All the best – MadForMaple.

Reflections

We knew that this route would allow us to see many beautiful regions of Temagami. It would come at the cost of pushing ourselves and moving during most of the day. It was a good balance but an additional day during the ‘slog’ section of portages would have been beneficial. We found it rewarding to challenge ourselves and see more of the highlights in Temagami. We were planning for the worst-case scenario of a windy last day on Lake Temagami and wanted to plan accordingly. 

There is a hike on Florence Lake for a view of the area located in the southwest corner of the Lake that we did not take advantage of but would recommend other groups to check out. 

Gallery

Author Bio

Trip Report Written by Matt from Mad for Maple

Mad for Maple is a social platform used to share the Canadian wilderness adventures of three friends: Matthew, Matt and Cam. We hope sharing our adventures in this setting will provide entertainment and inspiration for others, promote sustainable outdoor etiquette, and showcase Canada’s natural beauty. 

Our adventures are exclusively self-propelled and range from weekend excursions to multi-week treks. With our trips ranging in difficulty, we hope to have content available for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts.

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