It’s been about 20 years since my last canoe trip through the Temagami area, on a 10-day trip with the Taylor Statten Camps. I can’t remember much of that trip, but three highlights have always stuck with me: Paradise Lagoon, McConnell Bay and the Outpost on Maskinonge Lake (that cheesecake!). On this trip, we’d be able to visit the first two gems of Ontario, and explore more of the Chiniguchi Waterway. An easy drive up Hwy 11 from Gravenhurst and quick stop at the Kukagami General Store before heading into the access road.
Hot Tip: The entire trip takes place on crown land or provincial parks where reservations are not required, so no permits necessary. That does mean you are rolling the dice and may not be able to find a site on the lake you are hoping for, but fortunately we did not run into this on our trip. Even though there is no permit required, we made a donation to the Friends of Temagami for the hard work they put in maintaining campsites and portages.
Map graphic courtesy of Jeff’s Map – the best there is for Temagami. Available at: thetemagamimap.com
The photos start in the afternoon on our visit to Paradise Lagoon. There wasn’t much time available in the morning for photos while battling serious headwinds up Matigamasi, and an eventual downpour as we reached the North Arm. With temperatures hovering around 16 degrees, and the rains continuing on and off, we elected to skip the swim, but continue on to our campsite for the night on Wolf Lake.
A calm morning as we wake up on Wolf Lake. A faint bit of blue can be seen behind those silver clouds. As we load the canoes and prepare to leave camp, the sun peaks out and lights up the crystal clear blue water. A quick swim and we’re on our way to the first portage. Great little waterfall beside it. We opt to take the portage through Musko Bay on our way to McConnell Bay as it’s more direct and hope to avoid any afternoon headwinds that may crop up. This portage is barely marked and the trail is quite overgrown, but the forest is magical. Huge stands of birch and red pine. As we arrive at McConnell Bay, we meet another family, the Johnson’s, and make camp beside them for the night. We go for a swim and enjoy the white sand as far as the eye can see with a few glasses of wine in the sun. As we prepare dinner, we meet our campsite neighbours, the Johnson’s. They’ve taken the ATV trail into McConnell Bay with trailers and are well supplied, so they invite us over for dinner and share their incredible steak and fresh caught bass from earlier that day with us. I really need to improve my fishing skills. That night, we get a glorious sunset over McConnell Bay and enjoy sharing stories around the campfire with our new friends.
Our longest day on the trip. We cooked breakfast, said goodbye to the Johnson’s (who offered us more fresh fish. Extremely grateful, but we just couldn’t portage more food all day), and pushed off destined for the ‘Very Muddy’ Laura Lake portage. This portage truly live up to it’s label on Jeff’s Map. The first 500m are relatively easy, with a few rolling hills. Eventually you descend a hill and meet the swamp. With a pack on my back, a canoe on my head, and a paddle in hand, I was able to pole my way for logs hiding just below the surface. Progress was slow, but I was staying upright. Near the halfway point, I stepped to a sunken log, only for my foot to go between two logs. I quickly sunk to my waist, canoe still over head. Complete turtle. After some cursing and careful heaving, I managed to free my leg, fortunately still with shoe. A lunch time swim was a welcome relief to clean off some of the caked on mud. We eventually arrived at our campsite on Wessel Lake, nothing to write home about, but I was thankful for that glass of wine.
We were awoken by the dog needing to puke up something that didn’t agree with him around 4am. Britt went out of the tent with him to find the lake covered in a thick layer of mist and a cow moose with two calves standing just down the shore line from our site under a full moon. There was no chance for a photo in the dark, but sometimes, that’s not the point. Standing out there in my boxers and Birks, taking in the scene, and simply enjoying the sight until they wandered off into the woods. By the time we got up in the morning, there was still some mist along the lake, burning off under the rising sun. We completed a few portages down the historic logging chutes until we arrived on Matagamasi Lake. Hopeful for a tailwind after the intense battle heading north on Day 1, we were met with a strong southern wind, three more hours of paddling and dashed hopes of an easy tarp sail back to the access point.
Canoe loaded onto the car just in time to avoid an epic summer thunderstorm as it rolled into Sudbury and we were on our way south.