Temagami: Mowat’s Landing to Lady Evelyn River via Obabika Lake (8 days / 139 km)

Passing through many ‘bucket list locations’ of the Temagami region, this trip highlights the beauty and uniqueness of North-Western Temagami. This route passed through famed Temagami locations, such as the vast Lady Evelyn Lake, the stunning Obabika old-growth forests, the Conjuring / Spirit Rock site, quintessential interior Temagami lakes such as Obabika and Wakimika, the cascades of the Lady Evelyn River, Hap Wilson’s Ecolodge, and the third highest point in all of Ontario: Maple Mountain.

We did this trip in late May to early June, but is not water level dependent and can be accomplished throughout the year. The route was not the easiest, with steep portaging, some upriver travel and rugged terrain. Winds on the large lakes throughout the route have the potential to halt a trip on a whim. If up for the challenge, the rewards of the route far outweigh the difficult topography. 

Trip Completed: May / June 2020

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Mowat’s Landing (47.471755, -79.978551)

Ending Point: Mowat’s Landing

Total Distance: 139 km

Duration: 8 days (could be done in as little as 7 and as many as 12)

Difficulty: Intermediate 

Location

This takes place in the region of Temagami, specifically within Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Provincial Park, Obabika Provincial Park and Bob Lake Conservation Area.

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

Maps & Resources

Guidebook: Kevin Callan’s Top 50 Canoe Routes of Ontario and Hap Wilson’s Temagami Guide Book 

Map: Jeff’s Maps, and Regional Topographic maps. We did not use Friends of Temagami Maps but they are also available. 

Campsite Reservations: Ontario Parks Online Reservation

Permits: Permits are required for sections of the route, including any campsite in the Lady Evelyn Smoothwater or Obabika Provincial Parks

Outfitters & Shuttles

Outfitter: Smoothwater Outfitters located just off Highway 11 north of North Bay. We only rented a boat, but they also provide other outfitting and shuttle services.

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

Trip Report

Day 1: Mowat’s Landing to Lady Evelyn Lake (24 km)

We took off from Mowat’s Landing around 8:00 am. A group of American fishermen staying at one of Lady Evelyn Lake’s many fishing lodges were also departing.

A short stint on the Montreal River, we quickly portaged onto Lady Evelyn Lake. This portage was short, but there was car traffic (I guess there’s a private road connecting to it), shuttling the fisherman between lakes.

From there, we began our 20 km paddle through Lady Evelyn Lake to our first campsite (Photo 1). Immediately, we could see some mountainous terrain to the west, spotting Maple Mountain in the distance.

Paddling along the north shore of the lake, we realized how difficult this section could be in gusting winds. The lake is very large and with limited options to shelter, which could easily result in a frantic rush to the nearest campsite to wait out the wind.

Thankfully, the winds were gracious to us and we calmly paddled through the narrows section (Photo 2), leading to the southern half of the lake. We made camp at a westward-facing site (coordinates linked), for a view of the sunset and Maple Mountain (Photo 3). 

Campsite: Campsite was spectacular. Beyond the sunset view, the campsite had many tent sites, a large fire pit, a privy, and a nice swimming spot. This is generally a popular site, so keep that in mind for planning your trip!

Campsite Coordinates: 47.350974, -80.179336

Day 2: Lady Evelyn Lake to Diamond Lake (16 km)

Overnight, the gusts of wind picked up, swelling the whitecapping waves to ~3 feet high as early as when we awoke at 7 am. While such weather is no issue for the many motorized fishing boats, the intrepid canoeist isn’t quite so lucky and we ended up windbound until around 3 PM when we made a mad dash during a brief respite from the wind.

Quickly, we paddled south towards Diamond Lake, where we kept shelter from the west wind along the east side of an island chain. Here you begin to get out of fishing lodge territory here and the remoteness starts to set in.

This southern tip of the lake is a beautiful region to paddle to. The portage into Diamond Lake was short and easy to follow, with boat caches on either end. It was getting late in the day, and rain clouds had begun to form, so we took the first of many campsite options on Diamond Lake. 

Campsite: The whole site was very elevated from the lake. Plenty of room for tents and some large white pines to help support a tarp over the fire pit. No sunset view this time. The take-out from the lake was relatively steep, which made hauling gear a little more difficult. There are many island sites further into the lake which would probably be better options.

Campsite Coordinates: 47.205105, -80.219119

Day 3: Diamond Lake to Wakimika Lake (14 km)

With the wind still howling, we made our way westward along Diamond to reach the portage into Bob Lake. Because fishermen do not go here, the series of 4 portages between Bob Lake and Obabika Lake is far less travelled compared to the previous section of the route, resulting in a much more remote feel, but also more rugged portages.

These portages were slow, even for our experienced group. Rocks and roots were scattered everywhere, making every step a possible ankle-breaker. The first portage into Bob Lake (1,200 m), and the third portage (800 m) were particularly rugged.

We would recommend scheduling extra time in order to take these portages carefully and don’t risk putting yourself in the position of feeling rushed to get through them.

The last lake before Obabika Lake is the location of Spirit Rock / Conjuring Rock. This pillar of free-standing rock with towering cliffs behind is one of the highlights of the route. Getting closer, you can see pictographs located on rocks at the base. A relevant site to the Indigenous Peoples of the area, the natural beauty of spirit rock should not be missed. While canoeists are typically an environmentally conscious bunch, we were advised to be especially respectful and leave no trace of our travels through this part of the region.

Portaging to Obabika Lake takes you through Obabika’s old-growth forest. The portage is easy to follow, but spend some time exploring the trails that branch off. Some of the pine in this area are the oldest in the park and some of these trees are truly awesome to behold. There are even maps of the trails scattered throughout to encourage canoeists to take some time and explore. 

We paddled along the northern reaches of Obabika Lake, stopping at one of the many elevated rock face campsites for lunch. Any of these sites would be phenomenal to stay at. Staring southward to the cliffs and ridges protruding from the lake, Obabika is truly one of the most scenic lakes in the park.

We left Obabika through the northwest corner, travelling up Wakimika Creek. Even in low water levels, this creek is well maintained and everything is passable. Around the middle of the creek, there is a small pond. Finding the creek from the small pond can be difficult, but you’ll find it if you keep going towards the west end of the pond. There are a few false inlets that don’t go anywhere. Even though the entrance to the creek is on the west bank, the mouth faces north and the creek surprisingly runs parallel to the shore. Closer to the end, there is a fork in the river. This is flagged but can be easily missed. Ensure to go right at the forks.

Coming out of Wakimika creek to Wakimika lake, we were greeted with the familiar feeling of headwinds, and we took the first campsite, located on the west side of the lake. 

Campsite: Large kitchen area. Plenty of tent space. A place to take canoes in and out were few and far between, and we ended up having a 50m walk from where the canoes were stored and where we camped. There was a privy and plenty of firewood. There was also a young growth of trees that were dangerously swaying in the high winds. Overall, it worked well.

Campsite Coordinates: 47.145156, -80.339608

Day 4: Wakimika Lake to Fat Man’s Falls, Lady Evelyn River (19 km)

Early morning on Day 4, the wind had died down to a standstill, and we could paddle directly across Wakimika lake. There is an island on the northeast side of the lake with petroglyphs, but we could not locate them.

The absence of wind made the paddle across Wakimika Lake absolutely stunning: another gem of the region. We quickly embarked on the chain of portages between Wakimika and Diamond Lake. There are two possible sets of portages in some locations.

Refer to Jeff’s Maps of Temagami to see the details of the chain of portages. Be cautious when on these portages. Some have alternate trails and it can be easy to get lost. We would recommend taking time through this section, and constantly re-assessing to make sure you’re not off route. The trails were also very rocky, and once again slow-moving. There were lots of limestone outcroppings in this area, making for some pretty travel. 

Coming back into Diamond Lake through the west, we were once again thankful for no wind. These large lakes can really slow you down if you’re moving against high winds.

Portage from Diamond Lake to Trout Stream (2,500 m): We quickly got off Diamond Lake by taking a 2,500 m portage from the north end to the south ‘Trout Stream’ of the Lady Evelyn River. Some trip logs have the portage marked up to 4,000 m long – it all depends on which spot you access to start the portage, as there are several access points along the shore.

In high water, a group could paddle down a marshy section west of the trail. This is what we did. There are multiple options to start the portage earlier on if the water level is lower. This portage was incredibly muddy in the middle sections. There was less elevation gain and loss compared to other longer portages in the region. This portage took around an hour and a half and it was probably the most strenuous of the trip. The end of the portage had a small campsite which we utilized for lunch. 

One could easily skip out on the last two-day section (down Bob Lake, Obabika Lake, Wakimika Lake, and just go directly from Campsite 2 to the long portage. This however cuts out large chunks of the highlights (old growth, Spirit Rock, Obabika Lake). 

After a long break, we started paddling up the river. The current was paddle-able at this point. However, in the high water, we eventually got to sections which we had to track our canoes upriver. All whitewater could be bypassed with marked portages, but it was the swift-moving water that had to be lined.

There is a possibility this would not be the case in lower water, and these sections could just be paddled instead. We portaged twice before reaching a notable cascade. One was barely more than a liftover on our left, and another was a 315 m portage on our right.

Almost immediately after, we paddled into the canyon below Fat Man’s Falls (Photo 4). The beginning of the portage was treacherous, and one must take their time on this section. There are rocks the size of microwaves scattered along the trail. Hopping from one to the next at an approximate 45 degree angle is dangerous. We accomplished this portage slowly, and made camp at the end. 

Campsite: Next to the waterfall, so absolutely stunning. However, tent space was limited and the fire pit had seen better days. Brand new privy. A rock face next to the site allowed for leisure space, but otherwise, it was fairly cramped. However, from my understanding, this section of the river does not have many good sites. 

Day 5: Fat Man’s Falls to Katherine Lake (7 km)

Taking off the next morning, you could really start to see the character of the river. The river dropped pretty significantly in this section, and with each cascade came large pools, high canyon walls and a difficult portage to climb up.

In case it wasn’t clear from the description going up the portage around Fat Man’s Falls; portaging up this river is tricky; very steep and treacherous. Proper fitting hiking boots are essential to safely navigate the rocky terrain and slopes, especially in wet conditions. Without proper footwear, portaging any significant weight of gear through some parts of these portages is risky; and we started “double tripping” our portages to make things safer.

There are five marked portages on the section between Katherine Lake and Fat Man’s Falls on the river. The first portage was a 900 m steep climb with a boulder garden at both the beginning and the end.

The second, around Bridal Veil Falls (450 m portage), is the most dangerous portage on this part of the river. There are two access points depending on water levels. In high water, the only place to take out was a steep rock face with a ~ 20 ft. rope hanging down from a tree above to help haul yourself and your gear up the slope. In lower water, there is a landing spot a little further downriver which makes unloading your canoe easier – but you’ll eventually need to portage across a wooden beam to traverse a particularly sheer rock face to get on the trail.

In high water, the mist off of the waterfall drenches the steep rock climb in a thin sheet of water, making falling backwards and down into the river a serious risk. In lower water, this may not be the case. If a member of your group lacks adequate footwear, we strongly suggest getting them up the slope and on the trail and then unload your canoes without their help as the risks of falling down this slope are that significant.

Cabin Falls is next with the public portage on the right side of the river (going upstream). Do not take the portage on the left side, it is private property (Photo 5).

We stopped at a campsite mid portage for lunch and spotted a bald eagle up soaring ahead. An extended break with some coffee and snacks made this heavy portaging day a little easier. Next, there was a shorter portage (350 m) which was also littered with boulders. Do not assume these portages are easy because of the distance. A 1500m portage in Algonquin would be easier than these short portages around the waterfalls.

The final portage (220 m) we could line our canoes up the swift-moving water from shore, effectively skipping it. The trail did appear to be in good condition. 

Katherine Lake is where the Lady Evelyn River Diverges into the “Trout Streams”. Coming up the southern branch, we planned on going down the northern branch the next day. We checked a few campsites at the bottom of Katherine Lake but were not impressed by them. We paddled about a kilometre further up the lake to a more open rock face campsite which was roomier and more hospitable.

Campsite: The campsite had great swimming, room for a handful of tents, a gorgeous fire pit and plenty of trees for a tarp if necessary. However, the privy was in barely usable condition.

Campsite Coordinates: 47.297654, -80.357749

Day 6: Katherine Lake to Hobart Lake (19 km)

Today we woke up with a spring in our step because we were finally going to get to do some downstream travel. Similar to the southern branch, the northern ‘Trout Stream’ of the Lady Evelyn River has multiple cascades.

We made our way back to the divergence and started one of many portages down the river. There was a portage we skipped with some careful navigating of the boulder-strewn swifts. Otherwise, everything else is certainly a portage situation.

The major cascades are Helen Falls, Center Falls (Photo 6) and Frank Falls. The Helen Falls portage was difficult to follow at times, and we managed to get off the trail during the last hundred meters or so. Center Falls portage goes through a campsite and there are a few false trails throughout that area. We took a lunch break at the end of the Frank Falls portage. On a hot day, you can even go swimming in the current below the falls. The portaging was a lot quicker going downstream. All cascades were spectacular and were easier to enjoy after the portage instead of before. 

We continued along Suckergut Lake, eventually turning north on our way to Tupper Lake. This region is connected via open water to Lady Evelyn Lake, and we started seeing fishermen in motorboats again. There is no portage between Tupper and Suckergut lakes, and we quickly made our way to the nicest campsite on Hobart Lake around 3 PM. 

Campsite: Probably the best of the trip. The whole site was elevated, with a large open rock face, facing west, with a full view of Maple Mountain, and the fire tower that stands upon it. The back of the site had lots of tent pads with plenty of trees and shade. Brand new privy. Large fire pit right between the foliage section and the rock face. 

Day 7: Hobart Lake to Lady Evelyn Lake + Maple Mountain (16 km)

Waking up early, we set off north to the narrows connecting Hobart Lake and Tupper Lake, the location of the Maple Mountain Trail Head. Tupper Lake is a glorified mud puddle. We would not recommend spending any extra time on this lake unless you’re trying to see wildlife in this particular biome (we did see a moose).

Pulling up to the trailhead, we geared up with bug spray and long-sleeved clothing. Whereas overnight temperatures were previously dropping to near 0, spring had officially sprung on us and the bugs had started to come out with a vengeance.

The majority of the trail was a steady incline through wooded areas. Bring lots of water (and a method of purifying it). If absolutely needed there is a small lake about two-thirds the way up to re-fill water bottles, but it isn’t clear if this water drains anywhere or just sits, making it less than an ideal source for drinking water.

Eventually, the trail leads to a few class II scrambles up open rock faces. While hiking this trail, ensure to wear proper footwear. A misstep during the steep rock sections could be disastrous. 

The fire tower at the top of Maple Mountain was really interesting (Photos 7, 8). The lower section of the ladder was long removed, and rumour has it the door at the top is locked, as the tower is no longer safe for ascent. The views were spectacular (Photos 9, 10), but the bugs limited our time at the summit. Definitely one of the highlights of the whole route!

Back at the canoes, we made our way back to our camp from the night before. Here, we packed up the remainder of our gear and took off to make some distance. Going from Hobart to Suckergut, and then once again across the vast Lady Evelyn Lake. We found a nice island site around 7:00 pm, just before the first big Lady Evelyn Lake crossing. 

Campsite: Lots of open space, but not many tent sites to choose from; lots of sloping rock. A small but workable fire pit. There was no privy at this site, but on the other end of the island, there is another site with a privy. Gorgeous sunset and sunrise views from either side of the island.

Campsite Coordinates: 47.357237, -80.218671

Day 8: Lady Evelyn Lake to Mowat’s Landing (24 km)

We had an early start to the day to try and avoid any sweeping winds across the large lake. At this point, we were double backing on the first day of the trip. The waters were as calm as you could imagine, and we felt comfortable crossing the lake directly instead of hugging the shore to save time. Whereas our first trip across this lake featured high winds and resulting white caps, the water on our way back was calm as glass and provided an absolutely stunning view of the lake.

The day was a hot one, and the bugs made it hard to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Now to our backs, the mountains were barely visible because of the humidity. Continuing to paddle hard, we portaged back onto the Montreal River and finished the route around 3:00 pm. 

Reflections

The route overall was a success. Crossing off multiple quintessential locations of the region, this trip is a must-do for the avid Ontario or Quebec canoeist. Highlights included Spirit Rock, the stunning Lady Evelyn River cascades, and of course Maple Mountain.

As enjoyable as this trip was, there are multiple things that must be taken into account to do the route safely. As mentioned, the portaging on this route is strenuous, and going up the Lady Evelyn River features legitimately dangerous access points. Trails are generally easy to follow, but are often rough, scattered with loose rock and roots. Elevation gains and losses in the river section are treacherous and should be approached with caution. Do not underestimate the portages because of the short lengths! A 100 m could take hours depending on the conditions.

Next, with the amount of large open lakes, We would suggest planning an extra day just in case winds pick up and trap your group ashore for an entire day. Plan for early mornings which normally come with calmer winds to help mitigate this risk.

Overall, this route was incredibly rewarding, reaching some remote regions of the park: well worth the strenuous paddling and portaging.

Gallery


Author Bio

Trip Report Written by Cam 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. 

Instagram: @madformaple 

YouTube: MadforMaple

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