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PostPosted: November 1st, 2016, 3:32 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
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Location: Milton
Part 1 :thumbup:

Agawa Canyon, and L. S. P. P. October 1 to 11, 2016.

Well for this years trip planning was just a little different.
I had invited a special guests but do to health reasons they had to decline.

After last years 2.5 + hours along the Frater to Canyon road trip I was looking for an easier way to get in.

I also had a second option by taking another logging road into the Upper Agawa up by Wawa. Both plans where hoping to find and pay a shuttle driver to get me in, but sadly no-one could help me out.

I did find out after the fact you can rent a 4 X 4 truck in Wawa.

In the end the I chose the Agawa Cross Over rd which is approx. 35 km east of Wawa along HWY 101 and about 28km down the logging road to a bridge that crosses the Agawa River.

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Because of the heavy rains the week before there were two flooded sections but the road itself was in very good shape and I had no problems with my truck.

I have only paddled the Middle Agawa once in 85 in very high water, and never have paddled the Upper Agawa.

So the only place I could get info on this stretch was from the Historical Logging records online at the Sault Ste. Marie Library. Which was a lot of fun to see what they where up to a few years ago. That led me to hope for semi low water so that I might see a lot more of logging history in the river.

But as it happened the heavy rains brought the river up to a very good level.
For this trip because of the higher water I choose to use my son’s solo white water boat, a H2Pro, 90’s design but great in the bigger water, but it is a wee bit of a barge in the flats.

Since there is no gauge on the Agawa the best we can do is compare it to the ones on the Batchwana and Wawa creek, and the one on Wawa Creek is a little funky.
3.0 on the Batchawana is flood and 2.5 is the most satisfactory and there is big differences in how much water is in the river.

River Gauge

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Since there where no gauges back in 85 I can only estimate what we ran it at compared to other levels once the gauges came online.
I started this year with the levels around 2.7 and can only estimate that in 85 it was at 3.0 or slightly higher.

For most paddlers the Agawa is known mostly for it’s “Lower” section, from Canyon Station to the lake.
I will break the river up into a few more sections based on present access points and hopefully future ones once the passenger train is back in service.

Upper Agawa - Cross over bridge to the falls at Millwood. 17kms.
Middle Agawa - Falls at Millwood to Frater rd. bridge at Eton. 19kms.
Canyon Stretch - bridge at Eton to Canyon Station 9 kms.
Lower Agawa - Canyon Station to HWY 17 and Lake Superior (as named in the LSPP literature.) 29kms.

Well back to the research part, there is a ton of info available, even though it is dated, but incredibly accurate. It is not just available just for the Agawa but also many other watersheds in Algoma, just sifting through them can get a little tedious at times, but very fun when you find a treasure map.

The numbers on this map relate directly to sections I would be running.

http://forestry.ssmpl.ca/library/FDP-Sc ... ame=Agawa+

The numbers are in this document and the sections I would use are # 22 to #45


http://forestry.ssmpl.ca/library/FDP-Sc ... ame=Agawa+

http://forestry.ssmpl.ca/library/FDP-Sc ... ame=Agawa+

Well enough of that, on for the good stuff!
We arrived at the Agawa Bridge just after 10 am and there where some campers still sleeping by the path to the river, undoubtably from their festivities from the night before.
It is very easy to spot some of the changes they made to the river, both upstream and downstream from the put-in. Upstream you can the barrier that was built to direct the logs through the next stretch of fast water.

The wall on the left of the image was made to direct the logs down the river.

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Below the bridge you can see the well placed rocks along the shore to give the river a smoother turn on river left

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The next couple of k’s down there are several C I’s and II’s, but nothing to difficult to run.

I had brought along a copy of the old logging maps and it was very easy to see what they had done, but the river and the forest are slowly reclaiming what was done.

This was a wide shallow stretch where in the logging records they cleared a lot of alder and swamp growth and had a lot of booms, but they were no where to be seen in the high water.

Looking Up stream.

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Looking Down stream

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Most of the way down to Millwood there are a lot of slow meanders, but the river is regaining some of the turns it once had and an occasional sweeper provides some heads up paddling.

There is a logging road that follows the south side of the river but it is barely visible along the route and I heard only one ATV and one pickup truck.

Because the plant growth is so young there are very few camp spots along the river but there are a couple of nice spots.

Here is a link to a map of the Middle, Canyon and start of Lower Agawa.
It does not grade the rapids but locations are right on!

http://forestry.ssmpl.ca/library/FDP-Sc ... ame=Agawa+

The falls at Millwood has had a lot of changes for logging, no longer the drop that was described in the archives it has a nice clean little chute on river left, and at this level a C III drop.
Just upstream on river right is a great campsite and is the site of the old rail side track.
I did a short portage to play it safe, which I felt quite silly about later considering the 2nd rapid down was a much tougher technical run.
When the passenger train gets going again this would be the place to put in.

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The west side of the tracks is the east boundary of L.S.P.P.
From the bridge at Millwood to the bridge at Agawa it is just meandering and current.
The bunk house at Agawa Station is where we first put in on our first trip in 85. This is where my love affair with the Agawa began.

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At Agawa Station the river crosses back to the east side of the tracks.
there are some great views along this stretch, something that I really did not see on our first trip because of the rain/sleet and snow.
On this day it was really quite pretty and made for a very relaxing paddle.

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This is where I was surprised by the river. In 85 it was so high that the rapids were washed out. Back then still CIII but an easy run.
Both are several hundred metres long and at this level it was much more technical and the first one was getting pretty boney in the last 100m. In 85 the first rapid was harder than the second.

Looking back upstream.

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The second rapid was the big surprise, even with the big volume WW boat I still took in some good water and the drop in the last quarter of it had some very serious boat wrapping rocks and moves.

It was at this point I realized I left my bailer back in the truck, I had another I could use, but it was buried in the bag and would have to wait till I could find a place to get out, and at this level it was not till just below the next bridge.
(steep muddy/sand banks with thick growth on them.

Several hundred metres downstream the river crosses back in to the park and like the first two rapids the drop at the bridge was much more pronounced at this level. In 85 the Conductor warned me about this bridge and the old wooden bridge supports in the river.
The river left channel seems to be clear of them, river right they are still there.
This image when enlarged from a full size image you can see the pylons in the river right channel.

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The next rapids was completely washed out in 85 (flat water & current) so this was quite fun, and then to put the info from the historical data to it made is that much more interesting.

Looking upstream

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Looking downstream.

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Like the upper section there was not a lot of camping opportunities along the river because of the young thick growth of the recovering river banks, but this stretch had a lot of sandbars and turns. So I found a good spot and called it a day after about 30k’s. I had used the double blade in an effort to go as far as O’conner but I ran out of gas. (the boat is a bit of a pig in flat water :wink: )

The camp site I chose was actually quite nice and there were 3 or more other natural tent pads. Past floods waters placed some very fine sand on the higher part of the bank.

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There was a perfectly sized dead tree on the lower sand bar that made for great fire wood and even if it wasn’t there, there was a log jam across the river.

And the view south was not half bad either.

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As I was hoping for some aurora, this was a great spot because of the unobstructed view to the north and east, so for a natural alarm clock I drank some lemon tea right before bed… that worked fine, as it did the whole trip but sadly no Northern lights, but the night sky was still beautifully dark.

Day Two.
They must of boosted the signal for the weather radio bands because it was coming in very strong. Sad part was the “chance” of showers @ 30% which after looking at the sky quickly became a strong cold rain.
The stretch below the camp site to the next bridge looks like a very natural river but it was channelized for logging.
If you look at this google map pic you can still see the old meanders and ox bows.
Paddling in the rain.

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I got to the bridge at O’connor and it was still raining pretty hard.
There several camps here and the only access now is the very long drive in from Frater on the logging roads. Only the one camp was occupied this weekend and I let them know I was walking to to see the falls. I had seen pictures of these falls on some hiking sites (middle 2000’s) as there is/was and old logging trail that followed Black Spruce creek.
My interest was two fold, to see if any of the old logging infrastructure was still there and a possible JEH MacDonald location.
The old trail is still very usable up to the second falls, and it is very beautiful.

Upper 2nd falls

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2nd falls

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I was on my way back down the trail to go to the first falls when I slipped and fell a fair bit, at this point I decided that the wet conditions where too sketchy to be climbing to get pics.
And for the folklore ….”Does a Canadian apologize if they fall in the woods?”
The Answer to that was errr no, but my profanity spooked a moose and calf to run out of the woods which the camp people caught a glimpse of as they went by their cabin. I only saw the fresh tracks in the mud.
I stopped on my way back out to let them know I was heading out, but I must admit, they really do have a nice view here.

Looking up the Agawa from the O’connor bridge.

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Even though there is logging in the area you don’t really notice it from the river. I stopped where we had our second camp in 85 across from Eton. Back then we camped out at a washed out section of logging road by a small falls.
Well the forest has reclaimed that road and the bush is just a “little” thick now and the falls is barely visible from the river inlet.

Image

_________________
Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


Last edited by jedi jeffi on November 1st, 2016, 4:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: November 1st, 2016, 3:33 pm 
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Location: Milton
Part 2 8)

So here is some comparison pics to show you some water level differences at the bridge where we started last year at Eton.

This year 2.6

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Last year (just a link)
https://goo.gl/photos/bqdPGhoQBUsQ2nTw6


With the rain now stopped and the sky breaking as I approached Eleven Mile Creek and I was offered some photographic opportunities.

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Falls at Eleven Mile Creek, the cave we went into last year was full of water this year, and at this level it is such eye candy.

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To portage around the “Goudge” (or Prince’s rapids, short for Prince of Wales) I would personally like to know the First Nations name for this) you had to take out about 200m before the start of the rapids, there is no place to get out at this level and it drops right into a Class V.

So happy to have a nice supply of dry firewood that I left from last year. Everything that was on the ground was too wet from the heavy rain.
Because this is basically a rain forest along the east coast of Superior, anything cut or laying on the ground rots quite quickly, so leaving it in lengths and in teepee shape help keeps it dry.

This is for the next camper.

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Day 3
I have always felt relaxed here at this site, it does not matter where you sit, there is a view that will captivate you. It is a great spot to have a “rest” day,

Pool at campsite looking up stream.

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I was hoping to get some confirmation of a AY Jackson/friend prodigy M. Haycock but the water was way to high.

This is were we get back to the falling in the woods thing again, I don’t wear loose clothes everything is tucked in…. and down I go! with dense undergrowth and no heavy frost to kill it off a lot of places you are gingerly placing your feet. In this instance a stick managed to go through both boot lace loops and down I went trying to protect my camera and lenses as I hit the ground, at least it was a semi soft landing.

When you are standing in some of the G7 locations in the Canyon you really have to wonder what else of their work is out there. Even though the paintings are famous some of the landscapes around them are incredible.

This is looking upstream from one G7 location.

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The Lawren Harris location from the same point.

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Water levels make a huge difference. This one at this level looks much more like the painting. In lower levels it is just rocks, in higher levels it is washed out.

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Link to Painting.

http://66.media.tumblr.com/3764b02957f3 ... 1_1280.jpg

I also took advantage to scout the 2nd rapid down from the camp to see if anything new dropped in.
It is only about 100m long, class III but very pushy, but with un-natural blasted rock it is best to play it safe, especially so since I was solo.
The water level was low enough to walk along the shore even though there is no trail.
I lined down river right to the notch at the bottom of the pic here and did a short portage/lift over around a large boulder. There is some metal rail debris here and the large boulder in the river is blasted so it does not produce any natural cushion as some of the water goes underneath.

The large blasted boulder and debris site is out of the lower right hand side of picture. (river right)

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Morning Day 4 brought some cool temps a low ceiling and a chance of showers. This was much more typical of weather in the fall here except there was little wind. But what does happen, especially if you are trying to get a photograph is you take your camera out of your water proof container and it instantly fogs over, not just the lens but your seniors mirrors and anything else.

Fogged over camera, but sort of a neat shot in B & W.

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This is something that even happened to me even when using film back in the “olden” days… there is just some weird phenomena that happens in the canyon and you just have to be ready for it. So generally as soon was I am done with the rapids I open everything up and hope it defogs itself by the time you want to shoot, and then with off and on showers and more moisture in the air makes it tough.
But the conditions did make for some good B&W conversions at the one JEH site.

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It is alway a nice paddle down past Canyon Station, the tour train is not in yet and the sound from Black Beaver falls and Bridal veil falls fills the air.

Black Beaver falls South

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Bridal veil falls (in front)

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And you always have to be ready for a break in the conditions, as short as they may be. This is only a couple of hundred metres down stream from in front of Bridal Veil falls, so it wasn’t a lot of time between the shots.
I have several good shots of this A.Y. location but this one I feel really captured the essence of the Canyon.

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Wide angle.

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So that break was very short lived so I was off to check out the ice climbing base camp at Mile 112 so I could report the condition back to Shaun Parent of http://www.superior-exploration.ca


Even though the forecast had called for warming temps from the south west, it was not until the river and I turned west towards the lake did a feel it. That is normal for that stretch of the canyon, it seems to catch and hold the cold, which has made for some awesome photographs in the past.
I pulled over to the south side of the river where the hydro transmission line and ATV/snowmobile trail cross the river.

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Beside some fall colour shots I also wanted a confirmation shot of a F. Johnston location, “The Mouth of the Canyon.”

Link
https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/CANYO ... F9C4E20161

Lets just say that I have a “few” shots of this cliff face from a large variety of angles (they are all impressive views!) just not from that particular angle.

Colour

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B & W

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I met a group of ATV’ers here and they were unable to cross the river do to it being to high, we had a nice chat then it was back to the river to head on down.
From Canyon Station down at this level the river is such a nice float and the scenery never disappoints!

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Once you get to the site of Logging dam # 6 I got out on the island to scout the rapids. One thing stood out immediately is the floods of the last couple of years have exposed much more of the old dam.

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And the view upstream is not so bad either.

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The rapid was a nice and clean with few standing waves, enough to get the inside of the boat a little wet. I camped at the camp site half way down the rapids before the falls and it was at this point I found I had not sealed my ditch kit dry bag properly, which for everything besides my wallet and man purse wasn’t a problem. At least it most of the paper items were not not too wet and there was very little wind so a spread it out on a rock to dry.

After hanging out the tent to dry I walked back to the sand bar and found this aluminum plate just in the water on the edge. The recent high water must have washed it down and I will send it to the park. (I wanted to get better pics of if with my macro lens in better light conditions.)
So this years treasure, shows some good wear and raises some questions on it’s history.
The plate was manufactured by the Canadian Aluminum Company which was formed in 1920. These plates would have been well sought after for their less weight and durability at the time.
Logging ?
Surplus plate from a tripper…..
So who ate from this plate?
There are a lot of markings on it, that is why I need the macro lens to get up close and personal with it.

Image

One thing is for sure, the river will slowly relinquish lost and historic items as floods dig new channels for the river.

_________________
Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


Last edited by jedi jeffi on November 1st, 2016, 9:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: November 1st, 2016, 3:33 pm 
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Part 3 8) :clap:

This is a great spot to show how fast the river can come up and down.
The sand reveals just how fast this happens, in a short period of time (less than 12 hours) the river had risen more than a metre, then you can tell how fast the water went down by the debris lines left behind.
The red Tape is the high water mark. (about 3’ or close to 1m in height difference. red tape is in the little bay opening, middle of image, left side)

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You never get tired of this.

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[img]http://i682.photobucket.com/albums/vv187/Jeff_McColl/Agawa%20and%20Lake%20Superior%20PP%20Oct%202016/DSC_6834_zpstlutgxxr.jpg
[/img]

I could not cheat and do the Readers Digest version of the portage around the last two drops since where I usually put in was part of the rapid so the night before I took the boat down to make the trip easier.

The second portage sign 100m above Agawa falls was obscured by some Alders so I cleared the view so it could be seen. At least this year there was no new dead fall on the portage.

The falls was a great level.

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The “newer” channel river left 500m downstream from the portage put-in has some new sweepers all the way across at the start but the old channel had enough water to float down even though it was a little shallow.

Did I say I never get tired of the views?

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I hiked up the little creek that I always go up hoping for a little more water, but it was already down. The good news was the tree debris and dead fall that had forced you to go wide into the bush was gone and you could follow the boulders up all the way to the first falls.

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When I got to the camp site I changed my mind about staying there. the original plan was to stay there an extra day and do some hiking but the weather forecast called for strong winds slowly switching to the south west and then getting stronger the next day and rain. Since there where no eagles and fish in the river and the winds had not gotten really strong, I decided to paddle down in the nice warm weather.

If I had either of my two boats, my Discovery or Yellowstone solo I would not have tried to cross the lake to the Agawa Bay Campground.
The surf was not too bad going out and the waves over half a metre high where well spaced and the big boat rode them well using a double blade.
I kept reasonably close to shore most of the time less than 100m out and the water was still warm.
Half way there the forecast winds showed up causing a cross wave pattern with the smaller waves hitting me almost head on.
It was a good workout
Very little water came in and that was mostly from the wind blowing the spray.
When I got to our site I just timed the waves and came in with no surf at all.

Since I was a day early on the 6th day I went with my wife and hike the Nokomis trail at Old Women bay. The rain never showed up, but the wind did and it was a wonderful warm day to enjoy the hike up there. Which is a hike I have never done, but well worth the view and colours.

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When we got back down the bay the wind was howling pretty good and there were great waves coming in.

We where supposed to start heading home on Friday, hooked up the trailer, did the circle check, got back in to leave and …. well the cable that connects from the gear changer on the steering wheel to the transmission….broke!
No Gears For YOU!
The good news is there is a car rental in Wawa.
The bad news is their funky hours and trying to get a tow there.
So before calling CAA we started to search to see who could see us the fastest.
Wawa is closer than the Sault so we started phoning there.
The Ford dealership said they would not look at it for 2.5 weeks…….
(so much for their commercial…..)
But Canadian tire could, but not till the end of the day and like Ford had no idea how long it would take to get parts…..

I can not say enough on how considerate the Parks staff was for this.

So the tow call was made and we dropped off Anne at the car rental/bus terminal/community centre just in time.
The good news was there was a part, put could not do it till Tuesday because of the long weekend, stuck but not stuck so to speak.
Friday was a washout anyway because of the winds and rains.

So here we are sorta stuck on the 8th at Agawa Bay. The weather was not promising to go hiking anywhere, but the strong winds and squalls going through set up for some great photo opportunities and with only a few people left in the park it was pretty amazing.
The waves and storm surge had washed away all signs of foot prints up into the beach grasses.

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What was really neat was that if you are familiar with the Agawa bay beach is that it is mostly a pebble beach, but during the height of the waves it was a sand beach and as the waves diminished the pebble beach re-appeared.
All very cool!

No pebble beach. B & W

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What was really exciting to watch was the waves exploding on at the south end of the campground.

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Then there was the constant threat of squalls and a few good ones did hit.
Then sun beams breaking through.

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With the rapidly changing light conditions it was a photographic smorgasbord!

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Which made for great B & W conversions

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Sunday the 9th brought us some clear cool skies so we decided to hike up to Sidney’s Falls. This also happens to be a F. Johnston location and the site of the old railway station before Frater was made.

Old Rail yard.

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Sidney is the Grandson of the Surveyor who marked the way through the canyon for the ACR, who was also a good artist. Sidney spent some time there with his Grandfather when he was a young teenager in the 1930’s. ( I met Sidney there on Frater road when he was a spry 82, and he gave me a ride up to get my car at Frater Station after my run down the river)
A few years ago the Waddingtons had shown me a copy of the painting from a private collection to see if I knew where it was. I had a good guess but Sidney identified the location immediately and this year it was nice to have a little bit of colour and water.

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Not only is the trail from Frater rd. good but the old road that goes down to meet the Towab trail is still very viable and looks well used and that is pretty neat too because it is the original path from the lake to the old station site.

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The Fall is great, because of less undergrowth I was able to see the foundation of an old log structure of about 15 x 30 ft. Lots of trees growing in it now and I have asked Sidney if he can remember what was there at that end of the old yard.

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Bottom log of the structure.

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There is a tremendous view of the lake, just a little bit further up the road.

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The evening of the 10th gave us our last great sunset at Agawa Bay.

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Monday Thanksgiving took us to Pancake Bay to hike the Lookout trail.
It is a nice hike and the view is great but it was a little breezy up on the lookout.

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Last sunset at Agawa Bay.

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So Tuesday brought some cool windy weather again and we would have to wait to see if the truck would be ready.
They did not know when we phoned but we headed up to Wawa anyhow because we would have to have the rental back before they closed.

So by the time we got our truck it was 5pm so we headed back to the park to pack up so we were ready to leave the next morning.

Even though the park was now closed the staff let us stay until we could get our vehicle. It is pretty eerie for such a busy place to be there alone and with all the footsteps on the beach all gone and a sort of dull grey night it looked more like an old B&W photograph from the past than a busy park.

So except for two fairly long delays for construction on the way back it was happily uneventful.

All in all a great week and a half up in Algoma!
And as all the trips before, more reasons to go back and explore some more.

Jeff

Link to Album.

http://s682.photobucket.com/user/Jeff_M ... Oct%202016

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2016, 1:23 am 
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Great report,need to do that route sometime. The old notes and maps are interesting.

FYI - you can see the 1985 Batchwana levels here:

http://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/report/repo ... &scale=log

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2016, 8:14 am 
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Thanks for that recped!
(!@#@ auto correct!)
Jeff

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


Last edited by jedi jeffi on November 2nd, 2016, 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2016, 8:59 am 
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Beautiful country! Thanks for posting.


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2016, 6:33 pm 
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Outstanding.

Great report--text, tales, history, imagery etc.

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http://www.JohnstonPursuits.ca

 


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2016, 7:27 pm 
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Love seeing your annual report with all the beautiful photos of the spectacular Agawa area!!


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PostPosted: January 5th, 2017, 9:02 pm 
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Really beautiful pictures! Great time of year to go. The Agawa is on my list for sure!


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PostPosted: January 10th, 2017, 10:05 am 
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Great read man, the area looks absolutely gorgeous. How many people did you see during your paddles?


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PostPosted: January 10th, 2017, 11:43 am 
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I only saw one guy at the start on the cross over rd (there was two in his group)
I never saw the other group there but they were sleeping off a night of .... "activity" 8)
A husband and wife at the Camp at Spruce Creek and that was it.
The tour train was not in yet when I passed by Canyon Station, but even when it is in, they are confined to that one area.
I usually see a couple of people along the Towab trail, but none this year, and considering there was colour and it was warm, it was surprising.
There was a small parks crew working on the trail at Burnt Rock pool but that was it.
Jeff

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Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho


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PostPosted: January 10th, 2017, 2:14 pm 
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Joined: February 10th, 2005, 2:36 pm
Posts: 215
Location: Southwest Michigan
Love the Agawa River! Thanks for another report and great pictures!


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