Matabitchuan River Loop - Temagami

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
July 2020
Additional Route Information
50 km
1 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1945 m
Longest Portage: 
750 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

This was day trip from our camp on Rabbit Lake.  Other access points include:

- Cassels Lake Access (9, 9a on Jeff's Map) 

- South Rabbit Lake Access (#6 on Jeff's Map)

- Ross L Access (#15b on Jeff's Map)


Technical Guide: 

- Paddle Rabbit L to hydrodam 

- 340m portage around dam

- 90m portage around Rabbit Chute 

- run/line 3 rapids on Matabitchuan R

- 330m portage from Four Bass to Cooper L 

- 750m on road to Mcdonald Creek (turn left on road then right to access creek)

- 25m liftover around old logging camp

- liftover beaver dam after bridge on Glasford L 

- 180m portage around creek 

- 190m portage into Maxam 

- wade/line creek into Burwash L

- 40m liftover around Sand Dam 

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Matabitchuan River Loop Day Trip

Ken and Kate - July 2020 


 I’ve been wanting to do this loop for years since we’re lucky enough to have a cottage on Rabbit Lake within paddling distance of the Matabitchuan River.  We packed all our canoe tripping gear/food with the plan of camping 1 night on Fourbass Lake, but once we had the idea we might be able to do it all as day trip, I could tell both of us were up for the challenge. 

  • We were in the canoe by 9am. It felt great to start a trip from the cottage, and a short paddle down Rabbit brought us to 340m portage around the hydro dam.  It’s a fairly straightforward portage, with big signs indicating where the trail goes down around the dam.  There’s a couple of muddy spots, and make sure not to turn left onto the ATV trail to the left of the dam.  

  • It’s a nice paddle between the dam and Rabbit Chute.  Make sure to keep to the right as you approach the chute, the falls come up fast and there's a strong current. Don’t turn right on the road on the 90m portage.  The trail goes straight across the road, through an old bushy campsite, and ends below the rapid.  

  • We were surprised to see a big orange zodiac boat fishing below the rapids, and they looked at us like we were crazy as we approached the first rapid on the Matabitchuan proper.  I assume they had come in by ATV and were staying at the lodge above the chute.  

  • After hearing reports of these rapids being nothing more than a trickle, I was somewhat surprised to see the water was raging on the river.  There are 3 big sets of rapids on the river.  All of them could be run at these water levels with careful scouting, but all 3 are fairly technical with big boulders, a few drops, and some would require some tight manouverinng.  Considering neither of us have a ton of whitewater experience and we were in a light weight kevlar canoe we decided to line all 3 rapids.

  • We lined down the first two rapids on the left side without too much trouble and paddled through a short swift shortly after that may need to be waded in low water.  The middle section has a couple of scarcely used campsites, but they wouldn’t be a bad spot for a stay over.  This section of the river is beautiful.  

  • We did not see any sign of the 270m portage marked on Jeff’s Maps, so we also lined the third rapid on the left.  Shortly after there is a very visible moose pictograph on the left and another small swift.  From here the river narrows into a scenic canyon and we took our time to fish along the steep walls.  The bass fishing at the mouth of the river was incredible.  

  • The river now widens into Fourbass Lake which is surprisingly scenic.  High cliffs line the narrow entrance to the lake and we stopped for lunch at the island site at the southern end.  It’s a very nice west-facing island site (8/10) with a good fire pit, easy canoe access and nice swimming rocks.  It only loses points for its bathroom situation, which looks like nothing more than a toilet seat over a bucket.  

  • Originally we had planned to stay the night here, but since it was only 1pm we decided we would try to do the whole loop in a day.  Ambitious? Yes, it meant for a very long day, but it’s amazing how your mindset changes when you know you have a place full of cold beer and a comfortable bed waiting for you.  

  • The 330m from Fourbass to Cooper was the hardest, least maintained portage of the loop.  It’s a narrow take-out to the left of a creek.  After 100 metres it looks like you can re-enter the creek, but you won’t get far until you’d have to climb up a waterfall.  The portage keeps going to the left of the creek, but it was full of blowdowns and hard to follow.  It ended with me doing a lot of dragging and ducking under fallen trees, and there's a boulder garden at the end 

  • Cooper Lake looks nice from what we could see, and we were surprised to see a big group hanging out on a small beach on the north shore.  I’d like to explore this lake, but our route sticks to the west and follows McDonald Creek.  The 750m portage is a bit confusing.  The landing has a pile of aluminum boats, and shockingly cars were parked down a very bumpy ATV road.  You have two options here.  You can drag the canoe up the creek (which looks littered with liftovers) or you can turn left on the road, follow it for about 700m and turn right where a trail veers off to meet the creek.  We took the road.  I think it’s the better option, but it was a bit uneasy following it not knowing if it would eventually lead to the creek.  It’s a confusing network of ATV trails in this area, and I haven’t seen any maps that clearly indicate where the portage goes.  

  • The paddle down the rest of Mcdonald Creek is quite nice, and we were greeted by a group of 6 otters, sticking their heads out of the water and crawling inside a beaver dam to growl at us

  • There’s a short, but irritating liftover around an old logging camp, which is nothing more than a pile of logs.  

  • Glasford is a narrow lake that passes under Rabbit Lake Rd and a very undesirable ATV site (we could hear ATVs all through this area).  There’s an unmarked beaver dam liftover just below the bridge

  • The 180m portage skirts a creek and looks like it’s been recently cleared.  Considering the amount of huge blowdowns we were very grateful for that. 

  • Paddle a small section of the creek until another short 190m where the creek veers off to the left into Maxam L 

  • Maxam is nothing special in terms of scenery, but has a couple of decent looking campsites if you wanted easy access to a night in the backcountry 

  • The narrow creek leading into Burwash requires some wading/lifting over, but has a really interesting copper coloured bottom.  The north end of Burwash gets shallow where it goes under the bridge and may require a bit of mud pushing to skim over some of the logs

  • From here it’s a short paddle through Ross L, past an ok looking campsite to portage up and over the sand dam.  It was quite the party here, with at least 10 different trailers all using this parking area to access Rabbit Lake.  We must have made quite the scene portaging through the trailer park. One trailer blasting heavy metal music kindly offered us a hot dog, which we politely declined since we were in the home stretch.  It was now 7:00pm.

  • We had been dreading the long paddle on Rabbit back to the cottage and of course were blasted with a heavy headwind the whole way back.  If you were to camp along this section I would recommend the farthest east site on a long rocky point.  It’s a solid 8/10 with a beautiful sunset view.  Note* there are no thunderboxes on any of the sites in this whole area.  

  • We finally made it back to the cottage at 8pm and enjoyed a swim, cold beer and mac and cheese.  It was a solid 50km, 11 hour day but felt so nice to start and end a trip at the cottage. 


The east side of Temagami is far less popular than the provincial parks to the west but there are sections that are just scenic.  The Matabitchuan into Fourbass alone is wild and beautiful and full of history.  Before the railroad was built it was the only way to access Lake Temagami and the town itself from the Ottawa River.  


My suggestion for a full loop from town/Cassels Lake (access #9 on Jeff’s Map) would be to go through Obashkong and Lorrain into Rabbit, down the Matabitchuan looping back to Rabbit, paddling Rabbit into Sunrise, then spending your last night on Blueberry Lake before heading back to town.  This way you avoid paddling whole the length of Rabbit twice, and you also see some scenic cascades south of Lorrain and have time to hike some of the old growth trails on Blueberry, which is one of Temagami’s gems.  Plus the fishing is excellent in the small lakes south of Lorrain (I believe the locals call them Upper, Middle and Lower Bear Lakes). The toughest part of this trip is the slog through Friday creek into Lorrain.  We did this in 2015 where there was not enough water to paddle through, and ended up having to drag through the marsh before finding the 995m portage into Lorrain completely clogged with blowdowns.  That being said I’ve heard that it was recently cleared.  


Sample itinerary: 

Day 1 - Cassels to Lorrain.  Camp on the south end of Lorrain. 

Day 2 - Lorrain to Rabbit.  Camp on Rabbit, or north of Hydro Dam/Rabbit Chute

Day 3 - Matabitchuan River.  Camp on Fourbass 

Day 4 - Cooper-Maxam back to Rabbit.  Camp on Rabbit. 

Day 5 - Rabbit to Sunrise/Blueberry.  Camp on Sunrise or Blueberry 

Day 6 - Return to town 

Maps Required
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