Canadian Canoe Routes

Magnetawan River Loop May 2017
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Author:  kgd [ May 21st, 2017, 11:02 am ]
Post subject:  Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Finished the Magnetawan River Loop as per Kevin Callan's book description on May 8th to 12th.

We put in and took out at Washwashkesh (I find it so hard to verbalize that one!) and were blessed with low winds on the bigger water at the start and end of our journey.

The upper river was swollen with all the spring rains making portages interesting to say the least. We often couldn't put in at the end of the portage trail and would find ourselves dragging our canoe further downstream through the bush to find some calmer waters to load up.

The 2300 m portage around Canal and Grave rapids was long and muddy but generally conformed as described. We actually poled our canoe through a massive 100 m puddle on the road at one point rather than carry it over. The torrent at Canal rapids over the snowmobile bridge was breathtaking and a great spot for lunch.

The first night we camped, both of us in hammocks, on a small island (normally connected to mainland I think) just upstream of Mountain Chute rapids across the water from the portage trail. Thus, we made our first day to the planned 19 km mark. The 400 m portage around Mountain seemed to go up hill forever. Plus we added another 100 m or so to the port because the normal start of the portage trail was submerged and blocked forcing us to land upstream and bushwack to the trailhead. Fortunately, the going was pretty easy. The trail itself points straight up, reminiscent of Killarney's 'The Pig' to some extent but perhaps more scenic and certainly much smaller in length. After hauling everything over, I couldn't help but back track to the chute itself and watch its rage. Even more impressive at that point then Canyon rapids.

Island Lake was wonderful for its brief respite of high water flows and serene beauty. The sun peaked up as we entered and made some amazing vistas. Three Snye Rapids was simply stunning with all three of its shoots in full rage. As previously, we had to extend our normal 190 m portage another 100 m or so since the put-in at the end of the port will raging well beyond our comfort zone. Folks more skilled at whitewater would have been able to put in there, and while we carried everything in barrels neither of us were all that curious to take a dump in such frigid waters.

Thirty dollar rapids which looks like a nice little stream in the maps was another raging frothy torrent that was fun to watch from the safety of the portage trail. It was the first of our encounter of the train tracks and bridges which were important landmarks, traversing it 3 times, over our journey. The 2400 m portage was as marked and followed an atv-trail/road. The road splits in a couple of spots towards the end warranting some attention to the path you take. Keep to the creekside and you should be okay. We camped just downstream of the Thirty Dollar rapids portage end in a nice little site but fell shy of our trip plan which would of had us making our way to the base of the S. Magnetawan at the finish of American Trail dam. Given the extended ports and a couple extra ports along some of the 'runnable swifts' which were not so runnable in our humbleness, we were just too tired to continue on.

The 1370 m American Trail dam portage wasn't so bad, made easier by high waters in the creek where we must have eliminated about 300 m or so by paddling through the shrubbery. Fiddleheads were making their appearance and several fields of ramps. I harvested about a dozen or so ramps for that nights dinner. On arriving at the end of the portage there is a campsite right there where we had planned to get to the previous day. We were glad we didn't chose to follow our plan. The campsite is planted in line of site of many cottages and while there is a big tent pad there, not many trees to hang our hammocks.

Things became more sanguine as we made our way through the South Magnetawan with much of the flow from the Northern branch directed westward. It was about 2 h or paddling before we hit Timber Wolf Lake. Easy paddling, but largely cottage country and rather well developed. I imagine this stretch will be pretty boat laden in the height of summer. The chain of small lakes (Wolf, Lone Tree to name a few) were a complete different world from the first part of the trip. Small portages (70m) to Wasagami and very steep/uphill 250 m portage to Seesee lakes made for very scenic places in the warmest sunshine we experienced in the trip. Unfortunately the blackflies felt the same way and began emerging and pestering. Finally we hit the '40 m' portage to Lone Tree Lake. Certainly, this path was 150-200 m at the least. The topography of the lake was such that there was only one little valley to put the canoe in, and that was about a 1.5 foot drop from the edge of the rocks which made loading a bit more difficult. We ended camping our 3rd night at the end of Lone Tree Lake at a beautiful little spot with a nice sand beach.

Day 4 had us moving through an unnamed pond. There is a 10 m liftover which we did not need to do given the water levels followed by two portages, a 390 m to Evans Lake, very short little Canoe paddle across Evans and a 450 m to Six Mile/Little Wilson Lake. The trails were pretty straightforward in both cases but we were being prodded on by our blackfly friends and didn't dwell too long on the trails. We did have some issues finding the trailhead for the 450 m portage to Evans. It was marked with a small flag tape on a pine tree that wasn't all that easy to see and we had to scout that end of the lake for a bit before finding it. Little Wilson Lake was not that remarkable compared to the majestic beauty of the small lakes we just finished and tended to be more developed and speckled with cottages. An 825 m portage from Little Wilson took us to a small unnamed pond followed by a 480 m portage to the bottom of Miskokway Lake. We then ran into an issue finding the trail for the 1370 m portage between Miskokway and Bolger. We searched the apparent spot on the map and could not find anything. We finally landed at a large boat stash and made our way to a road via a lodge called 'Trails End' which had a lot of private no-trespassing signs all over. We felt bad for having to ignore their signage here but at this point we were stuck and tried to make our way quickly. The road/atv trail turned into a main road, under a hydroelectric line, and to a well used boat launch on Bolger. This route was 1750 m by my GPS. We then camped at Bolger on the 2nd campsite for the night.

Day 5 had us leaving Bolger under a spectacular sunrise with wonderful cloud patterns mirrored in the waters. We navigated the stream to Kashegaba Lake without issue and then took the 937 m portage into Bear Lake. This portage was well marked with huge painted lettering 'Portage" painted on the rock face near a boat stash. However, the first part of the portage ends at a marsh and the side trail to Bear Lake is easily missed which required us to backtrack a bit with our barrels on our back. Part of our confusion though was a transcription error I made from Calan's route description. He had it as 937 m but I wrote it as 337 m in my map set, so when we hit the marsh we were convinced this is where the canoe put in should be. We kept on being perplexed as my GPS logged a little over 1 km in walking before we finally hit Bear. Bear Lake transitions into Maple Lake which is also a very beautiful lake and would be a great place to camp. There is a 177 m portage listed to another unnamed pond but water levels were high enough that we were able to paddle through it. The last 230 m turned out to be only about 100 m as we put in just beyond a bridge and felt no need to walk to the end of the trail for putting in along the shoreline. The rest of the paddle back to our carpark was uneventful. Again, blessed with no winds it was an easy hour or so paddle back.

Overall, this was a really excellent trip. You can shorten it by a day easily by circumventing 30 Dollar Rapids and the American Dam Trail and removing about 4.5 km of portaging in the process. But that would mean missing out on Mountain Chute/Snye Rapids and 30 Dollar which are quite spectacular and I think well worth the effort. Also, the juxtaposition between rivers/chutes in the upper part of the trip and small lakes/ponds in the second half make this route incredibly diverse in scenery and landscapes. The only downsides I can see are the potential for it being rather heavy for boat traffic in late summer/fall given the intensity of cottages and easy road access of many portions of water on the route. However, this is a truly exceptional place with a wonderful history. I will definately return on this route and enjoyed it considerably more than Noganosh route just to the North (personal observation only).

Our video (apologies for its length - 31 min) is linked below. I was rather surprised at how few youtube videos of this route there actually are on the net. Hope you enjoy.


Author:  Darl-h [ May 22nd, 2017, 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Thank you for writing/videoing the trip report.

Author:  pinecones [ May 22nd, 2017, 6:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Nice

You boys had some high water on this trip. Better than low water I guess.

Nice area to paddle - there's some spots on the way where it's worth spending a few days.

Great report and video, and you saved a turtle's life too.

Author:  Brad Thomas [ May 22nd, 2017, 6:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Thanks for the report. Others may be interested in avoiding some of the long portages along the Magnetawan on that route by putting in at Blue Heron Trail and paddling east to the Miskokway Lake portage, then anticlockwise through the loop. Avoid big water and lots of boats on Wahwashkesh (and the long portages on the Magnetawan) by going north through Kashegaba, then Whites, then down into the Magnetawan. It's a decent three-night loop.

Author:  AndrewMc [ May 24th, 2017, 7:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Thanks for the report, Ken! I started watching your video over breakfast this morning, then had to leave for work. Will finish watching later.

I love this area and frequent it often. In fact, a couple years ago I combined this area with Noganosh - and even Island Lake. I expanded the trip last year and included more of the Mag loop - through Bolger, Miskokway, up to the South Branch and hooked up with the North Branch. Just past Stovepipe rapids, we turned north through Portage and Sunny lakes, then hiked a logging road and entered Noganosh at the south end via a short bushwhack. Paddled to John Lake, then hiked through to Kelsie and on to Island Lake, down Farm Creek and back to the launch at WahWashKesh.

Brad's suggestion above is great to avoid paddling WahWashKesh - and the nasty ATV trail from Deep Bay. Get into Kashegaba (ie: Portage Bay) which you came through on your trip, then head north on Kashegaba, around the dam and into Whites Creek. You will enter the Mag at the falls at the 5:00 mark of your video.

Anyway, looking forward to completing the video!

Author:  kgd [ May 24th, 2017, 3:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Thanks for the suggestions Brad and Andrew!

Andrew, my last trip to Noganosh, I toyed with finding my way into the Magnetewan...but, then you know how it find that great camp site and decide to stick around another day and do some fishing instead of exploring...ha ha, I'll have brace my explorer tendencies a little more I think :) Thanks for your comments

Author:  AndrewMc [ May 24th, 2017, 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

kgd wrote:
Thanks for the suggestions Brad and Andrew!

Andrew, my last trip to Noganosh, I toyed with finding my way into the Magnetewan...but, then you know how it find that great camp site and decide to stick around another day and do some fishing instead of exploring...ha ha, I'll have brace my explorer tendencies a little more I think :) Thanks for your comments

Magnetawan to Noganosh is fairly straightforward, and there are trails the whole way other than from the logging road to the south end of Noganosh - slight bushwhack beside a swamp. Granted, if you keep walking north along the logging road, you'd end up right at one of the hunt camps on Noganosh. Would add about another km of portaging.

Getting from Noganosh to Island Lake is not for the faint of heart, however.

Author:  DanglierRaccoon [ December 17th, 2019, 4:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Great post, what map(s) did you use for this trip?

Author:  Jonathan Kelly [ December 18th, 2019, 7:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Magnetawan River Loop May 2017

Here's a paddling map for the area: ... AVnEa?dl=0

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