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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: April 25th, 2022, 6:28 pm 
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Joined: March 28th, 2016, 8:19 pm
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Thanks a lot Doug & Brian. I prefer no park infrastructure really, but I'm still leaning toward the Puk coast.

I hadn't heard of Tip Top Mtn but that's intriguing. Looks like a huge mission but pretty special. Would be an amazing to try to get up the North Swallow R into the vicinity, but that's a trip in itself.

I briefly worked for the Ontario Roads Network in Ptbo and I can tell you knowledge of forestry roads is not their forte lol (just not their priority). Maybe I'll ask White River Forest Products about it....I usually feel like a bother doing that, but forest management companies have always been quite helpful with these things.

On the other hand, one day of hardship sounds good :)

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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: April 25th, 2022, 7:46 pm 
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Joined: September 28th, 2001, 7:00 pm
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I was on the river last in 2020, accessed via the Domtar 600 Rd off of Paint Lake Rd. It's maybe an hour down the road off the highway, past the put-in for the Dog. In 2020 they were just starting the east-west hydro project in the area and the road was fine for a pick up truck, I'm sure it's even better now. Apparently this road goes all the way to the town of White River (or somewhere thereabouts).

2020 was my third time on the river and the portages were as bad as ever. I don't think the river sees much use and even less maintenance from Parks Canada. The first day is particularly difficult: The river is very narrow and creeky and really fast-moving, essentially a bunch of portaging/bushwacking. You need to be careful through here if the water is high (as it will be this spring) and there's a lot of wood. In low water it's an easier bump and grind. Things get better when you hit the power lines. I've never had much luck fishing on the Pukaskwa but it's never a priority.

I've paddled Ringham's once in low water. We were worked up but it was easier than expected...some gorge stuff and rock carries around several falls, one to start and several at the end. I wouldn't go near it in high water. Ringham's portage is fine, just long with a few extended wet parts you're best to paddle across.

Since you're in Marathon I think you're best heading north, there's no better stretch of shoreline on the Great Lakes. The paddle back to Wawa is nice too. Can't go wrong either way.


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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: April 25th, 2022, 9:43 pm 
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Much appreciated Conor. Yeah it's descriptions like that that make me want to avoid the upper section lol. "No better stretch" is what I suspected (though the Silver Islet to Rossport paddle sets the bar high). 600 does indeed go all the way up to just west of White River and I'm sure you're right about its condition with the hydro project.

Pretty certain I'll opt to bypass the gorge on foot. Sounds like a "I should have just used the port" waiting to happen

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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: April 26th, 2022, 8:41 am 
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Joined: April 21st, 2004, 10:52 am
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Location: Near Ottawa ON
Greenlander wrote:
I've paddled Ringham's once in low water. We were worked up but it was easier than expected...some gorge stuff and rock carries around several falls, one to start and several at the end. I wouldn't go near it in high water.
Agreed. Friends did it in high water and it took a full day including having to haul canoes up a rock face with ropes multiple times and spending an uncomfortable night on a rock ledge in the gorge. We did it at medium levels in 4 hrs including stopping for lunch. Lots of in-and-out of the boat, many short technical R2-ish rapids with must-make moves. Lots of lining, wading and scrambling over boulders, lift-overs and short carries. It's not easy.
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I've never had much luck fishing on the Pukaskwa but it's never a priority
The Puk (and the Sand) are full of specks. In low water they'll be concentrated in the deeper, darker water, not necessarily where one traditionally thinks of with specks like the run-out of a set of rapids. A slower, deeper retrieve with a soft bait can work if they're not "turned off" like specks can often be in those conditions.
The Puk is a bigger river and in my experience has correspondingly bigger fish - a big one would be maybe 2 lbs, on the Sand more like 1. Not so much in the lower sections of both rivers, possibly because of accessibility by hiking trails, but IIRC we did get a little rainbow on the lower Puk.


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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: May 2nd, 2022, 4:10 pm 
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Joined: December 18th, 2019, 1:51 pm
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There are some forestry roads that come within a pretty short bushwhack of the Puk near the hydro lines (probably 9 km downstream from the "normal" put-in). Not sure how passable they are now. Below are a few links that might be helpful. Also, attached is an image of page 15 of Drought's guide, with Dan Durston's notes and additional drawings.

Here's Dan Durston's account of his 2013 Pack-raft trip. They paddled the Puk from the normal put-in, then paddled up the coast a bit, then bushwhacked their way to the Coastal Trail's terminus at N. Swallow. Then they hiked the trail back to Hattie Cove. Not exactly in the "last couple of years" but might be helpful in case you missed it.
https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/78225/

Here's the area covered by the attachment as shown on Google maps. That road Dan drew looks wide open in this image... but Google Earth dates that image to 2005.
https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.2651968,-85.5173198,1369m/data=!3m1!1e3

The same area at about same magnification on Caltopo. I don't have a date for this image, but that road looks a lot less passable.
https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=48.26498,-85.51475&z=16&b=imagery


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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: May 4th, 2022, 3:50 pm 
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Many thanks for your insights guys. Since I'm not terribly far from the access (135km), I'm hoping to do a little pre-trip scout and get some camping in. Will report back if this pans out this season.

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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: May 17th, 2022, 3:53 pm 
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Went scouting and there is no reasonable alternate access to avoid the first stretch of the Pukaskwa.

The forestry roads north and south are bermed (I think they have special stipulations in the FMP to limit road access to the park boundary, though ATVs and snowmobiles could get through), and the roads around the hydro line are very rough.

Afterward, I camped for two nights at the top of the portage for the first falls, downstream from the 600 Road access. Drought's map shows a portage leading to a put-in beneath the first falls, only to take out again a minute later for a ledge. I connected the two into one trail (370m).

The trail around the falls was in much better shape than I imagined but I still took a full day of work (I had a chainsaw too) to get it tip top. I suspect the Long Rapids and others downstream will be nasty but at least the route starts off easy, for now.

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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: May 18th, 2022, 6:15 am 
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Location: Cambridge, Ontario
Hi Jonathan,
I'm headed up Sunday. Is the 600 road access straight forward to locate? Are any intersections signed?


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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: May 18th, 2022, 3:41 pm 
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Yeah I don't think you'll have any trouble Doug. It's pretty well maintained with signs at major intersections but don't go too fast as there are some beaver pond overflows.

If you're directly from the south, you'll come over from Paint Lake Road and up and I came down from White River so I didn't drive that stretch but I would bet it's no different. If you skim over the route on google maps it'll stay in your cache after your go offline...never a bad idea. And/or offline topo maps on a free app like Avenza.

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 Post subject: Re: Pukaskwa River
PostPosted: June 4th, 2022, 6:46 am 
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Location: Marathon/Superior
Spring 2022 report/notes:

Portages on the river were in reasonable shape and better now that some groups have been through. Brook trout fishing was great (didn't catch any other species in the river).

The trout are earned though. The river to the hydro line was a slog as advertised and shouldn't be rushed or taken lightly...mistakes were made but we got through. Not sure I could will myself to do it again any time soon. By the end of the river we were beat up.

I had a 16' Nova Craft Pal in TuffStuff. I wouldn't recommend taking a boat like that on this route...need something that can take some bumps without frequent gel coat chips. I prefer CII and under so that meant extra portaging with lots of advanced rapids on this route, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend the river to anyone who doesn't want to run CIII. There are more suitable rivers out there.

Fun Falls is a pretty easy run and a lot of...fun.

Two Pants Portage around Ringham's Gorge was marked as 2.5km but the only trail we found was fully 3km and took us past the put-in marked on our maps, all the way to a small tributary. Would have been better to bushwhack to the river at the 2.5km mark, after the marked ledge. But the 3km trail to the tributary was oddly well defined and we took it. The portage isn't horrible, just long.

Coincidentally we started the route on the same day as two other parties. Unfortunately some had poor backcountry etiquette, namely leaving human waste uncovered in at least a couple spots. An outdoor rec class from Lakehead U was supposed to start the day after us. The park said that some years no one runs it at all (or no one registers at least) so that was something.

Coming up the coast, Superior was fairly moody and we were wave-bound at an emergency camp for two straight days (bringing our trip duration up to 13 days) but got a good show with 6ft waves and the scenery was terrific.

Swallow Falls is worth the detour on the Puk coast...may be the nicest falls on the route, even above Cascade Falls.

We were pretty unimpressed with most of the designated park campsites up the coast and for that reason I would paddle to Michipicoten next time where we could camp freely.

Northern lights, bear, moose, lots of highlights. Tough route and also very rewarding.

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