shumka to missanabie

CanadaOntarioLake Superior basin
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Paul Hudson
Trip Date : 
july 2016
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
85 km
Duration: 
5 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
12
Total Portage Distance: 
5000 m
Longest Portage: 
1600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Low
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

old logging road off highway 651, exit at Dalton. 

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Shumka Missanabie Canoe Trip July 2016

 

We did this canoe route during the last week of July in 2016.

There were six participants in three canoes, three of the paddlers were teenagers at the time and the adults were in their 50’s. Five of us have considerable paddling and wilderness tripping experience but our sixth paddler was a novice. We used the Chrismar Missinaibi 1 Adventure map as our main navigation tool for the trip.  I also used the GPS on my watch to measure portage distances.

 

Friday 22nd

 

Drove to Chapleau area and stayed at a friend’s camp just south of town.

 

Saturday 23rd

 

Drove into the town of Chapleau and had a look at the local museum and then got a couple sub sandwiches at the local Subway and started our drive down the highway to Wawa. We exited onto highway 651 up towards Missanabie. We left the highway at Dalton and using a screen shot from google earth we navigated the logging road to Bolkow Lake. The condition of the road deteriorated as we drove but we were able to make it all the way to the lake in our minivans. A truck would have been far better. We camped at the access point where there was enough room for several tents.

 

Sunday 24th

 

We got up early and drove to the village of Missanabie and parked our vehicles at Ernie’s diner and then walked to the railway tracks and waited for the train. It showed up a few minutes past 10 am which is its scheduled time in Missanabie. After a short train ride we got off the train at Mile 340.5. This differs from many descriptions of the route that indicate you should get off at Mile 337 which is the Shumka siding. The logging road is relatively new compared to most route descriptions so the railway crossing has moved a few miles down and the hike to the access point is about 2.2km, not the 1.6km indicated on the map. After walking back to the campsite we packed the canoes and started paddling at approximately 11 am. With a great tailwind we moved up Bolkow rapidly. There are two campsites marked on the map for Bolkow and we had lunch at the more northern site, but the southern site is overgrown and we could not see it.

 

The first portage from Bolkow to Agusada Creek was marked with a small piece of flagging tape and we found it pretty quickly.  There is a bit of space at the portage spot so, in a pinch, you could probably camp there. The portage was 650m long and had numerous blowdowns that make the portaging particularly difficult. This would be the case for all the portages along this section of the route.

 

The paddling up Agusada Creek was easy although finding the turn to the left was a little challenging and we ended up backtracking a little bit. The next portage to a small pond was through a nice white cedar forest and accurately indicated on the map but the distance was 80m not the 20m indicated in the map. Continuing up the creek we did the next portage and it was as described on the map, and the last portage into Ribes Lake was mercifully only about 20m not the 80m indicated on the map. Ribes is a beautiful lake dominated by a large high point. There is a fly-in fishing lodge towards the north end of the lake so we camped in the south section on a small beach area at grid reference 946424.

 

Monday 25th

 

We were a little slow getting started because we were all a little sore after our first day, so we didn’t get on the water until about 10 am. A small power boat came and anchored across the lake as we were leaving the campsite and started fishing for the day. We paddled past the fishing camp which had a few motor boats parked on the shore. The portage from Ribes to the unnamed lake was easy to find and I measured it as 355m long and the portage from the unnamed lake to Acolyte was 350m. Acolyte is a beautiful lake surrounded by nice hills. The landing spot for the portage to Rosary Lake was extremely rough with large boulders that had to be negotiated. And the trail for the height of land portage was extremely overgrown so it was a challenge to push the canoes through the underbrush. There was also a lot of vertical on that portage so it was quite tricky. At 410m it is much shorter than the 1030m indicated on the map but it was still one of the more challenging portages. But we were now in the arctic watershed. Rosary lake was a small swampy lake that we paddled across in a couple of minutes and the takeout for the portage to Abbey was located in some fine northern muskeg. The 400m trip to Abbey was challenging because the trail was a little rough and there were several blowdowns on this portage that necessitated a bit of bushwhacking. In addition, there was some careful maneuvering required near the end were the trail went along a narrow ledge. Lastly, there was also a freshly downed tree that was covering the trail and made it impassable. It took 15 minutes with a machete to get a route through that was passable. We had lunch at the end of the portage and took a well-deserved break.

 

Abbey is another beautiful lake and with a beneficial tailwind we paddled it quickly with some light showers that provided some needed relief from the heat. There is a fishing lodge building on the lake that was in need of some roof repair and was clearly unoccupied, although there was one boat on the shore. The portage from Abbey lake to Abbey creek is further south than indicated on the map. There is a small beaver dam at the end of the lake and it was a 60m carry to the launch point in the creek. Abbey Creek was surprisingly navigable with lots of water for a northern creek, we easily paddled into the unnamed lake. It would be very slow and swampy but it is likely possible that you could paddle the creek all the way to Missinaibi Lake.

 

The portage to Elbow Lake was long and rough. The landing spot was a gorgeous small beach in some moose pasture and we could see that a moose had just vacated the area because there were some very fresh tracks. After the moose pasture there was some nice open forest but the trail then became  hard to find in some spots and in one cutline it was extremely difficult to find the trail and even more challenging to push the canoes through the alder that grew over the trail. We suspected that it might have been the park boundary. There were several hazards to be negotiated including some small swampy areas and some rocky descents that had blowdowns. The map indicates a distance of 1000m but it was at least 1600m. We did the portage in two sections depositing all the gear midway before heading back for the second load. It was 6pm before we got ourselves and all our gear to Elbow Lake and we camped at the site just by the end of the portage. It was a nice site with just enough room for three tents and a nice piece of granite for swimming and relaxing.  We could tell that there had been someone at the site a few days before us, but we did not see any paddlers in this part of our trip.

 

Tuesday 26th

 

We were a little more organized in the morning and started paddling at 9am. Elbow Lake is fascinating and the eastern end of the lake is very shallow. There was another campsite indicated on our map but it was clearly overgrown and we could see no sign of it. The creek from Elbow Lake to Little Missinaibi Lake was very small and we just had enough water to float our canoes. The paddling is so interesting in those small creeks though because there is some  interesting wildlife. The north end of Little Missinaibi was swampy but it was nice to be in some open water. We saw the campsite at the north end of the lake and it was small but looked like it had enough room.

 

Approaching Admiral Falls we saw our first portage sign of the trip and did the short but rough portage around a beautiful waterfall. We stopped to have a snack there and some of us swam before we launched off down the river. That upper section of the river before the Trump Lake portage has lots of rapids. They were mostly Class I and II at the water levels that we experienced in late July. In fact, I could wade right across the river in most spots and the water was warm so there were no serious hazards. The current was not particularly strong so by backpaddling the rapids we had a lot of control and could make progress upstream when required. There was a log across the river at the first rapid and we just managed to fit under it but the second canoe in our party tipped and we had to do a bit of a rescue. We walked the and lined the last canoe down past the log and then that pair paddled the remainder of the way. We ran through the next several drops and had no difficulty but did bump a few rocks here and there. Our map showed an 80m portage on river left it was actually on the right. There is a ledge in that set of rapids so we lined the canoes down that and then paddled or waded them down the rest of the way. This also made for a beautiful lunch spot and everyone swam in the fast flowing water. The long set of rapids between that drop and the Trump Lake portage was easily run. We saw the signs for the campsite and the Trump Lake portage on that section of the river and we wanted to go further so we kept paddling.

 

The next set of rapids was in a steep sided canyon so it was a must portage situation. The rapids were at least Class III and with more water would have been Class IV. The steep walls of the canyon made lining impossible. The map indicates the portage is 60m long but it was 350m long with a lot of up and down. There was also a campsite marked for the south end of the portage and it actually at the north end of the portage and it would not be a camp location that I would recommend. The site was extremely small and there was very little flat ground. It was almost as if they just put up a campsite sign for the sake of saying that there is a campsite there. The next obstacle was a small rapid that was supposed to have a portage on river right and a campsite but we saw neither. We just ran the small swift and kept going. We had hoped to spend a night on the river so we could stop at a decent hour but the two campsites we were hoping for either didn’t exist or were not suitable. It was getting late but we had to keep paddling. The next rapid showed a 400m portage on river left and it was a Class II rapid. The portage was closer to 200m and we lined the canoes down the first part and then paddled the last stretch easily. The last rapid was indicated with a portage on river left and 170m long. That was a simple Class I drop and we ran that quickly before paddling in a strong headwind to the 1000m portage to Whitefish Falls. This portage was relatively well maintained with only a few blowdowns. We completed the portage and then walked along the beach with our gear to the campsite by the falls. It was a beautiful spot, although there was only flat space for two tents so one of our canoeists camped on some slightly rougher ground in the forest. We didn’t finish the portage until 6pm so it was a long day, lots of fun, but still a long day.

 

Wednesday 27th

 

At this point we were ahead of schedule because we had planned to camp on the river section but with the long days we put in we decided to take a rest day on Missinaibi Lake. We all slept in a bit and then had a lazy breakfast with blueberry pancakes with freshly picked blueberries. Some of group paddled to the see the pictographs near Reva Island. The lake was calm and we made pretty good time there and back but it was still a long paddle. Later in the afternoon we swam at the falls and did a short hike along the river to the top of the falls. The weather was gorgeous so it was a great day and we all got to bed early.

 

 

Thursday 28th

 

We arose early because we had the paddle across Missinaibi Lake and we wanted to be on the water before any wind could come up. We were very lucky and with a 9 am start paddled in near perfect calm conditions with a spectacular blue sky. This lake is huge and it could be potentially very dangerous with any wind. The water is also quite cold, much colder in the larger lake than it was in the bay near Whitefish Falls. We stopped to see the pictographs at Fairy Point and then continued on to the Missinaibi portage. This portage was also in good condition and it was a pretty straightforward carry on a well-maintained trail. A few groups from a camp had signed their names on sign at the start of the portage so we knew we weren’t the first group through there in July. At the far end of the portage there is a large wooden crib that presumably would have been a dock when this route was a critical transportation route for the area.

 

Paddling Crooked Lake was nice and we were fortunate enough to have a tailwind once again and were thankful that we had crossed Missinaibi Lake early in the day. There was a campsite that was still within the park boundary on Crooked Lake and we saw the location but it was unsigned and did not look like too nice a spot. We continued down past Crooked Narrows and saw the spot where there must have been a logging camp in years past. There was still a tremendous amount of cable and other remnants of that time. It looked like a nice potential campsite and seemed to be getting some use. We kept paddling and ended up meeting a pair of women that were doing geological survey and they told us about the potential campsites on the lake. Eventually we camped on a small island near grid 843542. It was a nice spot but again it was a little tight for three tents.

 

Friday 29th

 

The last day of a canoe trip is always good. The packs are light and people are ready to paddle. We were on the water by 9 am and at the height of land portage by 10 am. This was another well-traveled portage that made for easy walking. And of course there are the remains of old crib docks at either end of the portage. Our map indicated that the portage started before the waterway narrowed but we found we had to paddle all the way to the end of the waterway and disembark in some classic northern muskeg before doing our final portage. At the end of the portage we were back in the Atlantic watershed. Paddling along Dog Lake we saw more and more signs of humanity and ended up paddling past cottages and seeing fisherman coming and going in their power boats. We had a bit of a headwind for parts of the paddle but everyone just put their heads down and kept going. We didn’t stop for lunch but kept going until we reached Missanabie at 2pm. As soon as we arrived we got some ice cream bars from the local bait shop before heading to Ernie’s diner for a late lunch with some beer and fries.

 

We packed the canoes and gear into our vans that were waiting just outside Ernie’s diner and drove south to Chapleau to stay with our friend at his camp, where we enjoyed a well-earned sauna and swim.

 

Overall Comments

 

We had a good trip but it was a challenging route. The portages before Elbow Lake are not maintained so the going was pretty tough. Some of the portages had so many blowdowns it was like doing the hurdles with packs and canoes. We had excellent weather and I am not sure that morale could have been maintained with cool and rainy conditions. The Little Missinaibi River section was a lot of fun and very interesting. The water was low and warm so the rapids did not slow us down that much. Once we were in the park and then headed to Missanabie the going got easier.  Our map was OK but it had some inaccuracies that forced into different decisions than we would have otherwise made. Five shorter paddling days would have been preferable to the four longer days we had. The information that I got from the provincial park indicates that this is a Novice to Intermediate route but in reality it is at least an Intermediate to Advanced route.  Anybody attempting this route must be well prepared. 

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Chrismar Adventure Map Missinaibi I