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PostPosted: December 3rd, 2022, 4:56 pm 
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Looking for advice from anyone who has done one, two or all three of these loops.

Each one has been on my bucket list for a few years now, and I will definitely do one of these as a solo loop in 2023 in July or August. Each one would take roughly the same amount of time (11 days solo give or take).

I have detailed topo maps and trip report notes on each already and I know each one has its own distinct pros and cons, but reading online reports doesn't measure up to someone's direct advice after doing it themselves. So, if anyone out there would like to chime in, it would be greatly appreciated!

If you had to do one this summer which one would it be? Best time of the summer (wind, water levels, bugs, etc)? Any new developments on any of the three that a canoeist should know about?

Thanking you in advance!

CD

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PostPosted: December 4th, 2022, 7:25 pm 
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I've done Ranger Lake and Steel River solo, but not the other. These two are very different routes. Ranger Lake, although it's on two rivers, has very little actual "canoe down the river" travel due to the characteristics of rivers, unless perhaps you are there in the spring in high water. Perhaps someone else who experienced it in high water will give more insight, but when I went in July the West Aubinadong didn't have any rapids (that I recall) that could be canoed through, and while the Nushatogaini River may have had some that you could bounce down, I was pulling up it.

The Ranger Lake Loop seemed less-well travelled (particularly up the Nushatogaini), and had a difficult portage in the north end chain of lakes due to the climb. (I think it was between the unnamed lake and Clove Lake, but you can see if you read mine (or perhaps other people's) trip log on this site.) There's also a number of log jams on the Nushatogaini that don't have established portages, but can be gotten around with some work. The other thing to consider about Ranger Lake, if you're putting in at Ranger Lake/Lawrence Lake, is that there's a nearly 3 km portage into Island Lake from Saymo. If you have a vehicle that can get you into Gong Lake you can probably save two days of paddling/portaging, but then spending 11 days on the route would mean you're taking it very slowly, like probably spending almost a week at the north end in Megisan Lake or near there. You'd likely have solitude on the whole trip though, once out of Gong, although you might see some fly-in activity on Prairie Grass Lake. Doing much camping on the rivers (particularly the Nushatogani) wouldn't be super-enjoyable.

There's a lot of information about the Steel River loop here and elsewhere. Depending on where you're coming from (GTA?), Steel River might be a lot further away for you. The Diablo portage is pretty bad, and it doesn't sound like the alternate portages at the north end of Santoy are much better, taken as a whole. But it's definitely more of a paddling route, and more of a river route that you can actually paddle down. To me Steel River was a better trip overall, but that's just my opinion and it doesn't mean that I'll never do the Ranger Lake Loop again, I just might never do it again putting in at Ranger Lake; putting in at Gong would make it a different trip, but a trip that might feel a little slow for 11 days. 11 days on the Steel River route, though, would give time to spend at good campsites on both the lake and river sides of the route.

You asked about wind, water levels & bugs... I can't really comment since wind and water are so variable from year-to-year, and bugs are always better in late August or September, but that's probably not news.

I'd be interested to know what others might say about these two routes, and the other I haven't done.


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PostPosted: December 4th, 2022, 8:51 pm 
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Thanks very much, Brad, for the detailed response. Much appreciated. I read your report on the Ranger Loop with great interest. Thanks for posting that. Would you recommend that loop counter clockwise like you did or the other way to ride down the Nush? How would you compare the getting around the logjams on the Nush to those on the lower part of the Steel? Just as difficult? Thanks again for the tips!

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2022, 7:43 pm 
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I've done the Steel River loop and the Chapleau/Nemegosenda Rivers loop, both a couple decades ago.

I'd have to dig out a trip log if you want.

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PostPosted: December 5th, 2022, 8:28 pm 
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Canoe Daddy wrote:
Thanks very much, Brad, for the detailed response. Much appreciated. I read your report on the Ranger Loop with great interest. Thanks for posting that. Would you recommend that loop counter clockwise like you did or the other way to ride down the Nush? How would you compare the getting around the logjams on the Nush to those on the lower part of the Steel? Just as difficult? Thanks again for the tips!


I don't know what direction is best to go in. I remember thinking that going down Nush, using a boat you don't mind banging around, would make more sense than going down the other side. So if you're in a boat that can scrape and bang, probably going clockwise would be good. The camping on the west side river is also somewhat better than on the east side, so maybe you'd have a shot at getting down the whole east side in a day and not have to find a campsite. In my trip report I noted a location of a possible campsite on the east side that you could probably use, then likely be able to get down the rest of it the following day. (Location is 47.15939,-83.39797, day 4 of the trip report.)

If I recall correctly, the log jams on the Steel were way bigger than on the Nush, but there were portages around them, so it was easier on Steel. In terms of take-outs/put-in, they are difficult on both rivers due to the high muddy banks near the log jams.

Remember, I was through a few years ago. It's possible that someone has gone through and made the path up (or down) the Nush a little easier.

I'd still be interested if anyone else who has been through more recently would comment.


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PostPosted: December 5th, 2022, 10:04 pm 
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Someone's been flipping through Ontario's Lost Canoe Routes :)

Similar experience to Brad, though I went up the West Aub and back down it, trying to go north from Megisan as well. Also haven't done the Chapleau-Nemegosenda loop because every time I start investigating it, I feel like there are better options. So based on that research and my experience with the other two, C-N wouldn't be my recommendation.

The Steel route is still probably my favourite loop in the province and the Steel is still probably my favourite river. In terms of a mix of lakes and rivers, scenery, wildlife, fishing, whitewater (if desired) and being a loop the Steel is virtually a perfect route to me.

Meanwhile, West Aub probably wouldn't make my top 20 or 30 rivers in Ontario, and I don't think the Nush could compete either, so I'm heavily biased to suggest the Steel loop. However I still loved the Ranger Lake trip. Accessing from Gong would make it a much better route (doing the lollipop handle of the route from Ranger both ways kinda stinks), so if you're going in summer you may be able to do that just fine.

Also tons of getting in and out of the canoe on the West Aub vs tons of swifts on the Steel (and Rainbow Falls). The Steel has some tough take-outs and put-ins around logjams (steep slippery banks), but you'll be up those banks in no time and remember them with a chuckle later.

For me it's no contest, but of course others will feel differently and it depends on what criteria one values most.

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2022, 5:25 pm 
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PP. Thanks for responding, but I think I've made up my mind based on subsequent responses. I still want to try the whitewater on the Chapleau in the future, though.

Brad, thanks for the reply. Two nights ago, I discovered a Youtube channel, Beauty of the Backcountry, and they had a series of posts on their trip on the Ranger Lake Loop last May. Like you said, it looked like the Nush was pretty much a bushwhack still at that time. Conversely, the Steel seems to be getting more traffic these days, so I think you are right about the ports around the logjams.

Jontario, lol, yep, pretty much memorized Callan's book. Just wish I had more time to do them all. Between that book and your channel's posts, I keep adding to my already lengthy bucket list. The Pic and Little Pic is up there on the list, too, but the shuttles are problematic for a guy from Peterborough going solo. So for this year, I will be trying the loop trips. The Marshall Lake Loop and the extended area east of it that you did is also intriguing...

Jonathan Kelly wrote:

The Steel route is still probably my favourite loop in the province and the Steel is still probably my favourite river. In terms of a mix of lakes and rivers, scenery, wildlife, fishing, whitewater (if desired) and being a loop the Steel is virtually a perfect route to me.



High praise from a guy who has pretty much paddled most of Ontario! I think I'm sold. The Steel it is!

Final question...Diablo or the three ports to the north through Pike and Little Diablo? (Xander seemed to make short work of Diablo!) Part of me wants to try Diablo, oddly enough. It seems to be a right of passage to do Diablo on the Steel, (you know, earn your stripes kinda thing) but the rocky, fern-covered bit at the end is daunting for an old fart in his fifties travelling solo. Also, I'm thinking of starting the loop from the north if the roads in to Eaglecrest are construction free. This would help me avoid the likely possibility of the horrible winds on Santoy and make the three northern ports more accessible when emerging from the river at the beach campsite.

Thanks for chiming in, Jon. I've watched your series on each trip and was hoping you'd give a final assessment. Frankly, I was surprised that you rated the Algoma Headwaters so low given all of your incredible fishing success there, but then again, you have done some pretty amazing trips since you were there.

CD

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Last edited by Canoe Daddy on December 7th, 2022, 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: December 6th, 2022, 9:14 pm 
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Diablo--better with a solo than a tandem canoe.

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PostPosted: December 7th, 2022, 4:52 pm 
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Thanks PP. Have you tried both ways into Diablo Lake? I don't mind a bit of extra distance if it's safer.

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PostPosted: December 7th, 2022, 6:30 pm 
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Only Diablo Portage, with a heavy ABS tandem canoe. Generally speaking, a solo canoe would be lighter than a tandem canoe and thus, a bit easier to portage. Likewise, generally speaking, a solo canoe would be shorter than a tandem canoe and thus, a bit easier to manoeuvre through a portage.

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PostPosted: December 7th, 2022, 6:55 pm 
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Paddle Power wrote:
Only Diablo Portage, with a heavy ABS tandem canoe. Generally speaking, a solo canoe would be lighter than a tandem canoe and thus, a bit easier to portage. Likewise, generally speaking, a solo canoe would be shorter than a tandem canoe and thus, a bit easier to manoeuvre through a portage.


The biggest thing about having a solo on that particular portage, for me, was the ability to move the detachable yoke forward a tiny bit so that the bow of the canoe pointed towards the sky for the first part of the portage. If you're with a canoe with a yoke that's in the middle and it's balanced, it would be far more difficult going up the hill because you'd have to physically push the bow of the boat up or be constantly hitting it against the hillside or unseen trees.

I've only done the Diablo (not the northern portages), but I'd probably be inclined to take it again if I was going again (from the south and on Santoy Lake anyway). It's not a fun portage, but if you've portaged more than a few times you'll probably be okay, assuming you're going with the mindset that it's going to take a while, and you'll probably need more carries than you will on the other portages (like 2 instead of 1, or 3 instead of 2), at least up the first part of it. And maybe even plan for a legitimate rest period after the first long climb before the ferns. (Take out your bug net, have a seat, drink some water...)

And probably don't plan to be getting any further than Diablo Lake on the day you do the Diablo portage... the portage OUT of Diablo is fairly difficult too. I'm sure there's people that do both in the same day, and maybe when you get there you will be inclined to do so... but it would probably be smart to plan as if you'll be staying on Diablo Lake one night.


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PostPosted: December 7th, 2022, 7:12 pm 
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I was just about to say, if you're desperate for a brutal, uphill, boulder-climbing portage, the one from Diablo Lake to Cairngorm will more than suffice!

I did the Steel in August 2020, and I will gladly confess that I didn't do the Diablo portage, I didn't even paddle over to the base of it - Santoy winds were brutal during the rest day I spent on it - but even from our camp, the ascent looked very intimidating. We opted for the three ports in the north, and documented them for future travelers. None of them were nearly as bad as the Diablo-Cairngorm portage, and even the first and longest one of the three wasn't all that bad compared to the rest of the ports along the route. They do bring you out to the northeast arm of Diablo Lake, which is closer to the Cairngorm portage, but it's not that big a lake so it won't save you a ton of time.

That said, you have more days available than we did, and a solo canoe will certainly be lighter than the heavy 17' NC that I carried throughout the trip. But as Brad said above, if you're planning to do the Diablo portage, don't plan to do anything else that day; it's grueling enough as it is.

Link to my reposted TR, if you haven't read it already (post #31):
https://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewto ... 9&start=30


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PostPosted: December 7th, 2022, 8:11 pm 
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Excellent. It's great to hear descriptions of each route into Diablo compared. I had read that the portage into Cairngorm was challenging, but didn't realize it was that rough. Type 2 fun stuff by the sounds of it.

Yep, either way, I was planning on staying on Diablo to break up those nasty parts of the route. I'll be carrying a 15' Esquif that clocks in at 65 lbs with no adjustable yoke, so it'll be challenging, indeed. Thanks Brad, PP and PG. Your input is valuable. Now I have 7 months to mentally prepare for it! :)

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PostPosted: December 8th, 2022, 6:25 pm 
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Brad Thomas wrote:
The biggest thing about having a solo on that particular portage, for me, was the ability to move the detachable yoke forward a tiny bit so that the bow of the canoe pointed towards the sky for the first part of the portage. If you're with a canoe with a yoke that's in the middle and it's balanced, it would be far more difficult going up the hill because you'd have to physically push the bow of the boat up or be constantly hitting it against the hillside or unseen trees.

Just a side note: If a yoke is perfectly balanced, attaching a paddle to the stern during the portage will do the trick. As a matter of fact I do it on all portages, so the stern tends to drop and I control the bow with a rope.

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PostPosted: December 8th, 2022, 9:11 pm 
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No prob CD, and I should clarify that Algoma Headwaters is very dear to my heart, but objectively the Steel loop is superior to me in every way. The trout fishing was great there, but there are still trout lakes on the Steel loop plus terrific walleye fishing.

Being able to start at either end is another big point for Steel. The ability to make the call a day before your trip knowing the wind forecast makes a big difference. If you start at Eaglecrest, Santoy is a stunning lake so give it a little time if you're able to.

There's a trail from here (and campsite if needed) along the Golden Staircase waterfall. Well worth the visit.
https://goo.gl/maps/xJ4fjtEo7hnHxtKs9

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