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PostPosted: August 14th, 2018, 11:00 pm 
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Great to see a 2018 update! My wife and I are planing to do the loop in early September. What should we expect for river conditions and water levels? Greatly appreciate all of the information!


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PostPosted: August 15th, 2018, 6:21 am 
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Water will probably be quite low by Sept. There will be fast water, but probably not much in the way of rapids. You may have to drag through shallow water a few times, but it should still be doable. Thanks to Biigtigong First Nations, you will have a nice time on the ports!


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PostPosted: May 29th, 2019, 9:26 pm 
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I'm looking to do this route around June 10th. Just looking for an idea from those that are in the area about the water levels on the river portion. I'm guessing they will be very high??? I've done the route before in late August when the levels are low. Are the water levels going to be a concern? And thanks to all of you that have posted videos and maps. They were a great tool on my last go around... Thanks!


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PostPosted: May 30th, 2019, 7:46 am 
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Water is high right now, not abnormally though. I might take a trip down next week if i have time and have a look, if I do, I'll get back to you.


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PostPosted: May 30th, 2019, 8:59 am 
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I will be going through in July so any Intel on current condition would be much appreciated as well. THX !!


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PostPosted: August 25th, 2019, 4:07 pm 
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My daughter and I descended the Steel River from Evonymus Lake to the Santoy Lake take-out from August 4th to the August 9th 2019. Last year my son and I did the entire loop and I want to start our report here by comparing water levels between the 2 trips. The water levels recited here are from the Government of Canada, Real-Time Hydrometric Data website, where the gauging station is located below Santoy Lake. Historical water level data may be retrieved from this website for any date range desired.

In 2018 our trip ran from August 2nd through the 8th and the water level dropped during this period of time from 7.15 to 7.07 meters (3.1” drop). Our 2019 trip ran from August 4th through the 9th and water level dropped during this period of time from 6.97 to 6.93 meters (1.6” drop). But the important fact here is that the average 2018 river level was 8” higher than the river level on the 2019 trip, that made a significant difference in navigating the shallower river sections in the upper half of the trip. This year it was much scratchier than last and we’d have demolished the Kevlar canoe we employed on the 2018 trip if we used it this year. Fortunately for us we chose a Discovery 174 (x-linked polyethylene with foam core) that was very slippery and took the abuse well.

We started our trip by accessing Evonymus Lake via the Terrace Bay Mill Rd/Catlonite Rd ~ 26 mi south of Longlac. Here we saw a cluster of flagging tape in the bush on the E side of the road and upon further inspection found an ATV trail down to the lake with a couple boats at the bottom-end. It was a decent grade all the way down to the lake such that we loaded the canoe at the roadside, coaxed it toward the grade and fairly effortlessly slid down the hill and were at the lake in no time at all with essentially no dragging involved (it had just rained so everything on the trail was lubricated nicely). I wish I could pinpoint more accurately where we started but did not get a location from the inReach. The image below is my best guess given the topography and the time it took us to reach the waist in the lake below us.

Attachment:
Evonymus Access.jpg

The creek connecting Evonymus Lake to Eaglecrest Lake was navigable, but had barely enough water to float on. We got off to a late start due to weather so it was appropriate to take the campsite about 0.5 mi down Eaglecrest lake on the E side, listed at the link below as SC1, which fully lived up to its billing as “one of the nicest sites in Northern Ontario”.

https://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=108&t=42739

Attachment:
SC1 on Eaglecrest Lake.JPG

On Day 2 we dawdled (fished and paddled leisurely) down to SC3, which is also a very nice camp site across from a scenic rock bluff. However, when we departed the next day we swung in to SC4 (less than ½ mi further downstream) for an inspection, and this would be my preference since it too is generous in size but much flatter than SC3. But…. there was another reward for us at SC4, and that was a couple fresh cans of Coors Banquet beer and a bag of fresh potatoes. We decided the beverages would be good later on so took them along, but left one beer and the potatoes for the next needy party that swings in. We had another leisurely day of fishing and canoeing and stopped at SC5 for the evening. A nice high site with a built-in 8 ft long lumber counter span about 4 feet high situated between 2 large conifers. We found the counter very convenient for food prep, etc.

Just as occurred last year, we were again treated to the startlingly beautiful blue walleyes. We caught the same looking fish as last year with the deep blue backs and the deep yellow belly coloration, but this year also got some of what I’ll refer to as the “silver-phase” fish, where the belly is snow white and they almost look like a salt water species. At any rate there were spectacular looking and afforded a nice fish fry last night.

Attachment:
Blue Eyes.JPG

Day 3 started out wet, so we slept-in, had a late breakfast and didn’t get on the water until noon. We paddled to Rainbow falls, rested at the overlook, dried our socks and boots and took in the beauty of the locale. We finished the portage around Rainbow about 4 PM and I assumed we’d set up camp at the end of the portage. But my daughter had other ideas and suggested she had not yet had enough fun for the day and wanted to press on. I cautioned that the Deadhorse Bridge was 2 hours away, that the 1st log jam was another hour beyond that, and that I had no recollection from last year of a suitable campsite in that area. I explained that we might have to hack a campsite out of nothing and that it could be mosquito heaven. She maintained her resolve insisting it was a beautiful day and that she wanted to see this section today since the weather was optimum. This entire affair may have been of my own doing, since I had been extolling the beauty of the river between Rainbow Falls and the Deadhorse bridge sine we stated the trip.

At any rate we loaded up and were back on the water ~ 4:30 PM heading downstream to some unknown camping experience. As we enjoyed this special section of river under clear skies, our bluebird day was interrupted by a small cloud that came out of the west, and before long the heavens let loose and we were paddling in heavy rain. The rain didn’t last but 30-40 minutes and thereafter the sun returned briefly before falling behind the steep canyon walls in the area. We rolled into the 1st log jam portage ~ 7:30 PM and much to our delight there was in fact a very suitable campsite here in a cedar grove. I took a brief walk upstream on a moose trail and about 50 yd away was another significant clearing in a cedar grove that could be suitable. The smoother of the sites would definitely be the one downstream. So if you are ever on this trip and either your timing or preference does not allow an overnight at Rainbow Falls, there is a very nice camping option at the 1st log jam. Another consideration in your trip planning, regarding canoeing/carrying the entire log jam section, is that by camping at the 1st jam, you have knocked 3 hours off the usually challenging full day trip from Rainbow to Santoy.

Attachment:
jam 1 downstream campsite.JPG

Attachment:
Jam 1 upstream camp site.JPG

Day 4 – We were up early, had a quick cold breakfast and were on to the portage. We noticed last evening when arriving at the 1st log jam (SP5) that the Pic River Band had a fresh shingle out announcing they were maintaining the portages on this section. And we can report they have done an excellent job.

Attachment:
DSCN7425.JPG

Last year this particular portage was redirected away from the river, poorly defined, and due to some blowdowns, was an absolute bitch to carry a canoe through. That has all been rectified now, the port is straightened out, stays near the river and it has been extended a bit further downstream to allow an easier descent to the river. The shore is still all quicksand, so you’ll have to decide whether you prefer the old descent where gear has to be let down a steep drop or whether the more gentle walk-down slope is your preference.

The ports at the remaining 3 log jams were all in good shape and passage was OK. There is however always the issue of the river bank eroding over time and removing some of the portage trail which results in the trail being a “little thin” as you pass by some of the larger trees in close proximity to the trail, especially when carrying the canoe!

We arrived at Santoy ~ 4:30 PM and as yesterday my daughter did not want to camp this early as she was enthralled with Santoy and wanted to see more of it. There was a modest wind out of the NW so we headed to the west side of the lake and then south to the river outlet where we planned to camp. Once upon a time the campsite at the outlet was OK, but at this juncture appears nobody has been staying there and the flora has been encroaching. Regardless of the condition this was our site for the night and we made the best of it. By comparison, the camp site at the 1st log jam is dramatically nicer than this one.

We chose to come to the outlet because we were entertaining thoughts of continuing down to Hwy 17 if the portage trail were deemed to be in decent shape. But to our disappointment that was not to be the case. The trail was decent to start with, but as we moved long it became more and more choked with brush and we stopped near the 2nd major pitch of the falls, where the trail heads toward the river and descended into thicker stuff. Even if the trail were in great shape it would be one long portage.

Day 5 – Up early, on the water to get ahead of the predicted wind, about an hour long paddle on this crystal clear morning and we were back at the take-out to meet our shuttle. During the trip we did not encounter much rain, but what we did encounter was untimely, i.e., just at the moment we were drying out our rig, it would pour. Consequently we were a bit on the soggy side. Once we reached the take-out we pulled all the gear out of the canoes, laid it out on the dock, got some cold cereal and milk out, and heated up some water for cocoa-mocha. As we were enjoying our breakfast and cup of hot sustenance, I commented that “given our fortune with rain on this trip, wouldn’t it be fitting if the little cloud just coming over the horizon from the west gave us one last shot of rain to add insult to injury”, to which my daughter replied, “Dad, don’t tempt fate by saying such things”. Well, the words had no more than left her lips when I saw rain drops on the water, it started raining steady, and as we hurried to cover and stow it all away once again, our shuttle arrived.


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PostPosted: August 26th, 2019, 7:15 am 
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Great TR Speckling. It's funny how that campsite at the first log jam always seems to get forgotten. When I passed it last month, I don't even recall there being a firepit there.

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PostPosted: July 12th, 2020, 8:02 pm 
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Hi everyone! First time posting on this forum... Thank you to all the contributers who have added so much info, and shared so much knowledge! Special thanks to Jonathan Kelly, your YouTube videos on the Steel River last year were what clinched our decision for us. :)

Two of us are doing this loop from August 8-16, it's our first backcountry trip in this part of Ontario. We did 5 days last year in Northern Algonquin, Cedar to Radiant and back, so we feel ready to tackle something a bit longer and more difficult. A few questions:

- What can we expect the water levels to be like? We chose mid-August because we figure it's better for bugs, but we hope the Steel River won't be too low to enjoy.
- Does anyone know what shape the ports are in this year? Looks like the Diablo is a scary one, so we were relieved that last year's visitors had a much easier time. Has anyone been through there this season?
- What's the latest time of day on August 8th that you'd suggest we put in, in order to get to Diablo Lake by nightfall? We're driving a long way to get there, but if we can clear that obstacle on the first day, that would be ideal.

Thanks in advance for your replies! We'll be sure to post pics & vids, along with a recap when it's all done. :)


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PostPosted: July 13th, 2020, 6:46 am 
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Paddling Gal, ports should still be good, but not perfect, as it has been a year or two since they were last cleared. You don't have to do Diablo anymore, Biigtigong First Nation put the traditional three ports in at the north end of Santoy that will take you up to Diablo Lake. However, if you are keen on doing Diablo, give yourself some time, you don't want to be rushing it. If you arrive late, there is a suitable place to camp after the first very steep section of Diablo, I have done that before. There is also a nice clear stream there with water.

Water levels at that time of year will be approaching low, especially if this heat wave continues that we are having. I'm hoping to do it solo around the middle of August, but we start from the North end and run the river first.

I might also refer you to a facebook page I maintain, people will post there about the loop as they do it. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2430359543862050/


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PostPosted: July 13th, 2020, 6:08 pm 
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Appreciate that Paddling Gal, glad to hear it! Though I gotta note that people like Rob (previous poster) and Biigtigong deserve all the credit for keeping up the route. They're the unsung heroes who don't go flaunting it all on YouTube :P Rob does an immense amount for paddling in the north elsewhere as well.

If you have 7 days to do it (assuming that you lose most of Aug 8 and 16 to driving), you might be fine, but you might have your work cut out for you especially it being your first time in this part of the province...I grew up in the south and it's a lot more rugged. Absolutely doable, someone told me they did it in 5 last year and I believe Rob has done that too (as a veteran paddler keep in mind), but it's highly wind dependent. Santoy is prone to kicking up, and that risk exists for Steel and Cairngorm too. When I did the loop, I should've been windbound on day 1 and was windbound on my final day--both on Santoy. I'm sure you can do it, but I just want you to know the time factors beforehand.

The paddle to the start of the Diablo port is 7-8km which will likely take 1.5-2 hours if conditions are okay. The port itself, if you're double carrying, will likely take a good two hours. Starts steep, but in the middle is the fern-riddled ravine full of ankle busters, and you'll need to go slowly there. Assuming you don't want to set up in the dark, I would say you need at least 4-5 hours in total to make camp on Diablo for night 1. If you're leaving from the GTA, for instance, and your drive is ~12 hours, that is probably not realistic. You'd have to leave Friday night and put a big dent in the drive. I would be prepared to camp on the beach at the south end of Santoy if you arrive too late and/or a north wind is up.

For water levels you can also check out the fed's Water Office. The Steel has a hydrometric station below Santoy L. The snapshot of the current levels can be meaningless, but hit the "-" button on the graph to zoom out and see how the current level compares to the history. August will be low but hopefully you have a canoe you can bump and scrape. Not just for the rapids but the continuous swifts which can be shallow.
https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/report/rea ... tn=02BA006

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PostPosted: July 13th, 2020, 7:33 pm 
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Thanks Rob & Jon, we appreciate the additional replies. :)

Right now, our plan is to drive north from Toronto on Friday at 5pm, and knock off as many km that night as we can. We're scouring the Crown Land Atlas (another thing we can thank this forum for) for Friday night just-off-the-highway camp spots, somewhere between Sudbury and the Soo. How far we get depends on traffic, weather, and all the other unknowns, but hopefully, we can make a quick camp and get 6-7 hours of sleep before setting out again, worst case our vehicle is roomy enough for an only-slightly-less-than-comfortable snooze. ;)

We figure we'd aim to put in at Santoy by 2pm on the 8th (and no later than 4pm), and if we don't make it to Diablo for the first night, we're good with that too. :)

About how long are the three new ports that Biigtigong First Nation put in, are they dramatically shorter/easier overall than Diablo? We're not so ambitious that we *have* to do the Diablo just to say we did, but if it's more efficient then we might still push to get through it. Yes, we'll be double-carrying.

We're excited for the adventure, we know it'll be tough at points but the payoff will be so worth it. :)


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PostPosted: July 14th, 2020, 10:35 am 
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I haven't done those three parts yet, but my good buddy has. He says they are easier than Diablo. They are a few k further up the lake as well. I like the idea of them because they eliminate the need to worry about wind when we descend the river first. Been wind bound a few times on Santoy, drives me bonkers. I have done the loop in 3.5 days, probably take 4 this August, but we will be single carrying and not bothering to smell the flowers or sip the coffee. The average time for people who really want to enjoy it, maybe do a little fishing is around 8 days.


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PostPosted: July 15th, 2020, 7:33 pm 
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After taking some time to look things over, we're considering changing our itinerary to start at the top, at Eaglecrest Lake and work our way down from there instead. We don't seem to have a lot of room for leeway on our schedule, and 1 or 2 windbound days on Santoy or one of the other big lakes could tighten our schedule past the point of enjoyment.

We love canoeing and camping and exploring, but we don't want to be rushing to the next spot because we don't have the luxury of lingering. If driving the extra distance and descending from the top of the river means that we aren't as beholden to the whims of the elements, then that bodes better for a fun time. Starting and ending at Santoy means we couldn't really afford to be windbound on the first or last day, because we'd either be spending the next few days trying to get back on schedule, or getting back home way too late on the final night.

Thanks for all the intel, Rob & Jonathan (and Speckling upthread, whose trip review put this alternative idea in our heads), you guys have been really helpful! :)


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PostPosted: July 16th, 2020, 6:34 am 
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If you come up the # 11 instead of the 17, you will be end up saving time. Turn off in Longlac, and then follow the Catlonite Road for approximately 50 k. Sun Road south is the turn off to Eaglecrest. There is a small bridge a few K down Sun Road South, you can canoe the creek down to the lake and then you are in business. Parking is usually good there, but if it is full (sometimes a group of people will go to the nice site on Eagle crest for a few days), there is lots of parking past the bridge, either on the side of the road or the clearing up the hill.


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PostPosted: July 16th, 2020, 6:58 am 
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Unfortunately we're picking up our canoe in Wawa, so we can't divert to #11 without doubling back quite a bit. From Google Maps it looks like Longlac Backroad from 17 is our best bet? Or should we go north on the 614 to 17, and then south again at Longlac?


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