Canadian Canoe Routes

Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video
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Author:  mtphoto [ January 7th, 2021, 11:47 am ]
Post subject:  Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video


Here is my trip report for a solo trip this August to Donald Lake in the Chiniguchi Region. This is a amazingly beautiful area and it was a great trip.
Here is a link to a youtube video showing some of the highlights!

Day 1

4:30am the alarm goes and despite wanted to hit the snooze at least once I muster up the energy to get out of bed. The dog is excited and thinks its time for a walk and breakfast. She checks the backyard for raccoon and squirrel invaders while I grab a bagel and some coffee. I am pulling out of the driveway as the clock turns over to 5am. I thank my past self for not procrastinating the final packing until morning.

Traffic is light, and I get on the familiar 400 northbound with no issues. Cruise control set, I enjoy watching the views go from farmland to more rugged Canadian shield country. I arrive at the Matagamsi Lake put in and am pleased to see there are parking spots available. One of the benefits of starting before the weekend! I unload the canoe and manage a prime parking spot due to having a small car (VW Golf) that I tuck out of the way.


As I started my way down the large Matagamasi lake, there was a steady headwind from the north for about the first 15 minutes before it died out to variable winds that would remain for the rest of the day and, along with the cool temperatures around 13 degrees, would provide pleasant paddling conditions.
One thing I always do when heading out from the launch is make sure to look back at least a couple times in the first kilometer or two and try and remember some landmarks to make returning easier if I can have a good fix to head to.

Matagamasi is a popular access lake as many canoeists use it to access the popular Wolf Lake. Looking up this way is quite scenic with both pink and white rock shorelines and high hills in the distance. I saw couple young boys and their dad paddling up the North Arm. Made me look forward to paddling with my little girl in the future!


The north-east arm is long and narrow more resembling a river than a lake. The terrain is more rugged here than even slightly further south where it seems as there are more smooth granite shores with white pine dominating versus more crumbly, cracking, sharp rock and boulders with jack pine/red pine on the shoreline.
A highlight along this arm is the red ochre pictographs. I spotted these along the north shoreline where the lake narrows not too long after entering the North-east arm. That these are still visible today is amazing and it is such a reminder how these routes were travelled for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. This is the traditional area of the Wahnipitae People. When I look, I see the top one as figure with horns? A devil like imp? For the middle a large mammal, maybe a moose? And the bottom appears to be a human figure with arms out in ceremony or welcoming? Very cool.


As I move along the arm Clouds move in behind me as I try to keep up with the blue sky. There are a few campsites along the way and some are camped with fishing boats pulled up on shore. Although I have entered Chiniguchi River Waterway Provicial Park where motorboats are prohibited, Matagamasi Lake is exempt.
I move into McCarthy Bay and the wind dies out to complete stillness. The Lake becomes mirror-like, and it seems to disturb the surface, even with paddling quietly would be an affront to the lake. I took a few minutes to just listen to the nothingness before paddling onwards towards the portage. It was easily found in the bay thanks to some bright flagging tape. I was careful getting out here as the landing is mostly just boulders. The 300m trail is uphill from the start but in great condition and I was able to put into a small boulder choked bay to save portaging to the marked end which save a few hundred feet of portage for a new scratch or two on the canoe. A fair trade.


Now on Gold Lake, it is a short paddle to the next portage. This portage is marked in the wrong bay on Jeff’s Temagami Map, the Ottertooth maps however are correct and I found the proper portage. (I have heard afterwards that people have cut a portage where Jeff’s map had it incorrectly marked, and it is a much harder trail so don’t use it!)
The portage is about 150m and again in great shape and well cleared and market with a portage sign on both ends! Colin Scott Lake is a beautiful lake, with amazingly clear turquoise water. This small lake has no campsites on it and is also a fish sanctuary. 2 strokes and I was across Colin Scott Lake at the final portage.


If having a favourite portage is actually a thing, this would be mine so far. After a short climb you emerge onto a steep hill of rock descending to Donald Lake. The view is perfect! Blue water with high cliffs and talus great you as you make your way down. It is actually a trap to distract you from your footing as you make your way down the smooth, and slippery when wet, rock hill so don’t get distracted and fall. At the put in there is a nice rock bench that it looks like everyone has carved their name in as they arrive at this lake. I didn’t bother as one more signature doesn’t matter and something feels icky to me about defacing rock here even if others have. I wouldn’t do it anywhere else and I didn’t feel right doing it here either.
As I paddled on along the cliffs and south on Donald Lake, I saw a couple of the sites had tents on it and thought I should claim my spot as this was mid august and prime canoeing season I didn’t want to miss out. I paddled around a point and back into a bay and got a nice site on a peninsula.
I quickly set up camp and got settled, ate dinner and set up my tent and made a tarp porch. There were a few sprinkles of rain throughout the evening as I gathered firewood, but it didn’t start in earnest until I was safe in my tent for the evening. From about 10pm onwards there was quite a downpour, but I placed my tent on a higher area with a slight angle that would provide drainage, so I stayed nice and dry.


Day 2

Day 2 was spend exploring the site and getting rained on all day. I zoned out by the fire and read most of the day. I went and explored a dilapidated log-cabin further back on the peninsula. I enjoyed this area as the clearing was covered in lovely moss and there was a nice cliff with a firepit looking out over the bay. I looked after my trip and couldn’t find any information about the cabin online and it’s not marked on Jeff’s Map or the Ottertooth maps. I have been impressed by the cleanliness of the sites this year especially considering all the new campers coming out with COVID impacting the main campgrounds. Maybe because my trips were all on crown land or non-operating parks, I missed the majority of new campers who booked sights at the popular places like Algonquin.



Day 3
A much nicer morning today. Cool with a slight-breeze and some breaks in the clouds. I travel to the northern end of the Lake and pass by a waterfall coming off the high rock banks on the East of the lake. I am not sure if this waterfall is always here or just after a heavy rain but it adds to my love for the beauty of this lake.
A little further up is a nice campsite where I talk to a gentleman (and briefly his wife) for a while about the Lake and canoeing and solo travel.

I bid them farewell and head to the Cliffs at the north end. I paddle around this area looking at how the cliffs overhang and the amazing pile of talus. Fallen boulders the size of cars.
I got out on the north side of the cliff and tried to climb up but the rocks were slippery, and I didn’t want to erode the dirt as it was loose after the rain so I returned to the canoe. I looked on the Ottertooth map after arriving home and found it would be better to scale the hill from the south. Will try it next time I am here.


With the breaking through the clouds, I was able to see the bottom of the lake through the clear water and it was quite amazing to paddle over the shallow rock reefs. It felt like floating in air in certain conditions when there were no ripples. As morning turned into afternoon I went for a swim. The water was cool and refreshing.
I just realized I haven’t mentioned bugs on this report yet and that is because there really hasn’t been any. A couple around the portages and maybe heading back into the woods. But at the site and on the water it has been lovely. Haven’t used the bug dope or bugshirt at all!
In the evening stratus cloud layers begin filling in from the west signalling the rain is again on the way. Once more overnight the rain starts.


Day 4
I wake early well before the sun hoping to head out with lots of time in case the weather slows my travel. It is just pouring rain, so I doze and wait until it lets up just a little bit more. Eventually the rain slows, and I drag my sorry carcass out into the drizzly grey morning. I pack down camp, eat a quick breakfast and hit the water. The rain and wind is not bad. I decide to pack the camera away and absentmindedly pack the deep in the pack as well.
I spoke to soon. When I arrive at the portage out of Donald it is coming down quite hard. This makes the smooth rock hill treacherous to climb so I slowly work the gear to the top of the hill before continuing along the trail with a proper carry.
Halfway across Colin Scott and the sky opens even more and I am hit by a deluge that soaks everything. The portage is essential a creek coming down and its oddly fun to climb. The footing here didn’t seem that slippery. I am thankful for my wool socks. Carrying the packs first and focusing on my foot placement forget to make noise and come upon a juvenile black bear about my size (6’1”) on the portage. We startle each other at about 12 feet apart, so social distancing was maintained, and he bolts into the bush and up a tree and watches me for a few seconds. I tell him to come back afterwards I as I have to bring the canoe back and once, I am by he can continue doing bear things. He is a good bear and listens. I cannot help but be reminded of the billy goats gruff and I hope when he returns there isn’t another canoeist coming along the portage and I just passed the buck.
Another wet portage and I am into Matagamasi Lake once more with a 15 km or so paddle ahead of me to the take out. The rain and wind become quite gusty which is never fun as a solo paddler. I luck out about a third of the way down as the wind seems to shift or just be funneled down the narrow arm of the lake and I get a tailwind! This also kicks up some larger whitecaps in places but by staying closer to the northern shore I manage to make fairly good time. Coming out on the main lake and there is a meeting of the wind that was funneled down each arm and is driving large waves to the south. I surf these to the takeout and feel sorry for people fighting the wind heading up towards Wolf Lake. They seem shocked when I say I was solo camping.
As I drive home the weather clears and its becomes very windy from the west and I am thankful I did not have to fight this on the water as it blows the canoe on the roof hard and wiggles the car on some bridges.

Thanks for reading! If you want to see more, check out my youtube video:

Author:  martin2007 [ January 7th, 2021, 6:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video

I enjoyed your report and the video. I really like those lakes and your report reminded me why.
Thanks for sharing.

Author:  Robin [ January 8th, 2021, 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video

Nice report and the video was very good, Thanks

Author:  Canoe Daddy [ January 8th, 2021, 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video

If you were on the site I thought you my absolute favs in all of Ontario.

Great shots and views! Makes me want to go back. Get any fishing in?

Author:  mtphoto [ January 10th, 2021, 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Donald Lake Solo - Trip Report and Video

Thanks Robin and Martin!

Canoe Daddy: This one was in the bay around the point from the portage. There is a nice looking site in the north end near the portage as well. Beautiful Lake!

I don't have much experience going for trout in the deeper lakes so didn't try this time. If I am back I will try for sure!

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