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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 12:45 pm 
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David and I left my home near Grand Rapids, Michigan about 7:00 a.m. It was about 9:00 p.m. when, after going into Thunder Bay to fill the gas tank we headed north on 527 toward Armstrong. We found there are no motels on this road and precious little of anything else. However, about 10:00 p.m. we passed a certain place and decided to turn in the long driveway. Some workers were renting this place for the summer. I found the boss and secured permission for us to set up our tents. We happily spent the night in a large meadow. I was glad to have saved the money it would have cost us for the motel and in any case thought I would prefer sleeping outside.

Around noon on Thursday the float plane carrying us and our gear began its flight out of Mattice Lake. I asked Henry our pilot if he had ever flown before and he replied in the same light spirit that today was his first day. Actually, if I remember right he indicated that he had been flying about 12 years. Knowing I had been on the Dumoine River He mentioned that he used to work for Air Swisha.

Just before we had crossed in Canada I had gotten an e-mail on my phone from a fellow paddler who had just returned from a trip on the Kopka. It indicated that the water level was a bit low and that he thought we would be dragging our canoe through many of the numerous rapids between Uneven and Sandison Lakes. I had remembered that a few years prior I had been advised to run the Kopka in May if I wanted to run the rapids. The expected high the next two days was 50 degrees Fahrenheit. With all of this in mind a last minute decision was made to fly directly into Sandison instead of Uneven Lake.

Henry put us down right near the campsite I had pointed to on my marked up topographical. After a cheerful goodbye he was on his way. As soon as I sat on my stern seat I realized I had made a mistake. I had not tightened the screws on the seats. 1000 miles on the back of a trailer and 30 minutes on the float plane and one of the rear screws on my seat was gone. I didn’t have a spare and subsequent use of duct tape didn’t last too long so I did a lot of kneeling on this trip. Fortunately I was able to lean back on the front of the seat. I had already made another mistake but at this point I still didn’t realize it.

Having watched Henry fly off we paddled on over to the campsite and even though it was still early we made camp. The sky was gray and soon it was raining. I split time between reading in my tent and the two of us paddling around the Lake. Dave saw a moose swimming across the lake at a distance.

Friday it was still chilly and rainy. We were still tired from the trip up and believe it or not we made the decision to stay put. I was glad to polish off a book. We again explored the lake a bit. We paddled up the river some as it came from Uneven Lake. We were able to paddle through the first swift to what looked like a class one rapid. There was no portage and the water was indeed low – lots of rocks. I didn’t really see a clear route. On the way back Dave pulled in a couple of Walleye, releasing each one. In the afternoon we did see a little bit of blue sky but not much.

We did not leave camp until about 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. I found Sandison to be merely an average lake in terms of beauty. By the end of the trip I was very sorry we spent so much time there as opposed to the truly spectacular places that would follow.

A couple of portages, a paddle through a lake, then a portage around a nice little waterfall brought us about 5 k. We stopped to eat at a very nice camp site. The sky was quickly clearing. It became a beautiful day and we decided to set up tents. Our attitude was to take our time and enjoy. We bathed. Dave fished. I read and enjoyed the gorgeous spot. From here we could faintly hear the sound of the little chute we had portaged past.

That evening shortly after getting into our separate abodes we were given a special treat. Over and over again beaver right off our camp site would slap their tails and plunge under the water. At the same time the two resident loons seemed to sing all the louder as if to make sure we heard their part of the symphony. This went on a long time. I was closer to the water than Dave was and I could only hope he was hearing what I was. This 30 minutes of pristine wilderness song was healing and invigorating. All the long days I had been working, whatever stress and worries I had allowed myself to take on back in the world were truly taken from me. Now, not only was I in the wilderness but the wilderness was in me!

In the morning Dave confirmed that he too had enjoyed the show. The sun was shining, we were enthusiastic, and after a good breakfast we were off. We paddled about 1 k to a series of 4 successive C1/2 rapids that we probably carried around given most of the rapids we saw were on the shallow and rocky side. After coming about 3 or 4 K we came to the 350 meter portage which crosses an old logging road. The trail was easy enough and the river scenery including the falls was good. Haven finished the portage we stopped at the first island sight and took lunch. All was great but we would be having some adventure before this day would end.

We paddled about 3k to the end of a narrow lake. It took me a while to understand from either map I had with me that we now had a choice of alternate portages. Neither of them was easy to find. One went over to the other side to a place beyond three rapids and the other went to other side ending before the rapids. We paddled to the spot where we thought the 1st choice should have been. There was a ribbon tied in a tree but the area was completely choked by brush. It seemed natural to think that the other portage was the road most traveled. It took a bit to find it and it didn’t seem to well traveled but it did work.

I believe we portaged (if not ran) the first rapid. The 2nd rapid did not have a portage and seemed to me to be too low and thus to rocky to want to run. I have enjoyed running many rapids on many rivers but again this just seemed a bit on the low and rocky side.

I should explain at this point that this was Dave’s 2nd wilderness canoe trip outside of the boundary waters. The year prior to this he and I had run most of the Steele River. Dave was about to have his first experience of lining a rapid. Our chosen side of the river had a lot of leaning trees at the side and we opted to have one person on each rope. I explained to Dave the best I knew everything to keep in mind. I emphasized repeatedly the need to keep the canoe from turning sideways in the water. The low sun was bright but time was starting to be a factor. The current was fast. As we picked our way along Dave slipped and fell a bit and suddenly the canoe with all our packs in it was turning sideways and over toward the rushing water. We were within a split second of trouble that at best would have cost us precious time that we didn’t have. Dave yanked quickly with all his might and was able to bring the canoe around. How glad I was that the spill was avoided! It still took a bit of time to finish the line, again due to the trees hanging out.

Soon we came to another rapid. Once we again we counted it to rocky to run. Once again we couldn’t find any trail. Time was really of essence. The prospects for lining were poor. I was the unofficial leader of this trip and I knew we didn’t have any time to waste. I told Dave we were going to have to bushwhack. We had to go up hill for a bit with our packs but Dave spied out a way that wasn’t too bad at all. A couple of trips as fast as we could probably took about 45 minutes. We quickly loaded up and paddled and portaged to a camp site in clear view of a nice waterfall. Tents were set up as it was getting dark. The bugs were ferocious but I still took a quick bath and then crawled into the security of my tent. It had been a long day but even with the adventure it had been a good one. By the way we did see the other end of the alternate portage we could have taken around those rapids. It was wide enough to drive a truck through and had been freshly cut. Apparently we just somehow didn’t find its beginning.

The next day being Monday we paddled and portaged our way to the top of Kenakskaniss Lake. We fought a moderate wind as we made our way down her. We stopped and ate lunch at a nice campsite on river right. By the time lunch was over the wind had died down quite a bit and we made good time while enjoying this beautiful lake. We opted to take the decent campsite at the very bottom of the lake on river right.

Tuesday morning it was a very short paddle to the class 2/3 rapid and the first of the portages in the “seven sisters” area. We didn’t give much thought to the rapid, opting instead for the portage trail. A lot of this trail is completely littered with boulders but even though it was lightly raining we didn’t have that much trouble. We double carried the canoe at the worst parts. I hate to compare but that portage led us into what I believe is the most ruggedly beautiful section of river I have ever paddled. It features one beautiful waterfall after another. We took a lot of time to take pictures and drink in the sights. We came through 3 more portages eating lunch above a falls halfway through the third. Portions of these portages are somewhat challenging involving steep steps up as well as drops down.

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We had planned to make the “mountain goat portage” on this day but as we came to the end of portage before it we noticed a nice campsite just across the way. We commented that we were tired and it would be best to stay on that site for the night.

As we discussed this, much to our surprise a person was making the way toward us on the trail. When the canoe came off the head we were looking at a college aged female. We soon learned that she was the leader of a group of 5 high school girls. They were connected to a YMCA camp in Minnesota. I believe it was called camp Menogyn but I am not sure. We were surprised and impressed to learn that this was their 21st day out. They had begun with 3 canoes up on the Albany River but had actually lost one of the canoes in a rapid on the Albany and never found it. The leader said the Albany was in flood stage when they were on her. So they were traveling 3 to a canoe- Bell prospectors if I remember right. They had carried all of their food for the entire trip. The few moments we spent with these girls was enough to be thoroughly impressed and pleased with their outdoor skills and their attitudes. One of the girls played a flute as she portaged and then again as they paddled away. The whole thing was so very nice. After they left we continued to comment on how good it made us feel to see these kids out on an extended wilderness trip. I know it is more common in Ontario but frankly, I doubt if any YMCA in Michigan would ever be willing to sponsor a trip like that. So hats off to Minnesota – a great state.

After setting up camp Dave and I paddled over and started up the portage trail on river right. We noticed a Kevlar Wenonah sitting at the beginning of the trail and speculated regarding its owner. After a bit on the trail we cut back through the woods toward the river and the water falls. The moss here is very thick. We were able to make our way over to a place above one of the falls and also an excellent spot above the canyon beyond the falls. This is truly spectacular scenery. We were glad we had decided not go on that evening. There was plenty to soak in on this side of the “mountain goat” portage. We truly felt we were in our own little paradise.

We woke up to a beautiful Wednesday morning. We found that the first portion of the portage on river left was quite easy. We took everything to the “mountain goat” section of the portage where the use of ropes is the best way to lower things down the first part of the steep drop. We first let the canoe down and then I went down the drop and positioned myself where I could catch and place the packs, barrels as Dave let them down. Things were getting a little crowded on the ledge so I decided to give my pack a little push planning that it would go down a little ways making room for something else. Well it went down alright, all the way down and into the water. I didn’t worry about it much though because I was confident everything in there would remain dry, which it did.

I had positioned the canoe where I was confident it would stay put and told Dave to go ahead and let go of the rope. Well I was wrong and as soon as Dave let go the canoe took off down the steep slope all the way into the water where it launched itself. This time I was concerned and made my way down as quickly as possible. Fortunately, I was able to quickly get the canoe and no harm was done.

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After loading the canoe we paddled over to the class 5 campsite situated right across from a spectacular waterfall. We took some pictures and took it all in before heading on.

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From here it would be about 13 K to where we hoped to camp for the last night. We stopped for lunch at an island site on beautiful Wigwasan Lake. We chose to take the portage rather than the rapid over into Bukemiga Lake which was looking beautiful. We had to stay on the trail into Bukemiga as a thunder storm came through. It lasted about 15 minutes and soon it was sunny again.

It must have been 7:00 p.m. when we neared our campsite destination but alas it was taken. We stopped and talked to a gentleman who was the only one on the site as his fellow paddlers were out on the water fishing. Their group was from Thunder Bay. He had a boom box with music blaring. He explained that he wanted the folk on the water to be able to hear it. He offered to let us stay on the sight but we opted to move on. Before we did though we learned that the Kevlar we had seen at the beginning of the alternate trail to the “mountain goat” portage was theirs. They had heard that the rope on the other portage was getting frayed and so they had taken that trail. They were already camped at the 5 star camp site and had comeback to get the canoe the next morning. We were sorry to hear that the girls were not able to get that site as they had planned.

We were basically at the end of the lake. The sun was hanging low and in our eyes. We put our sunglasses back on and entered a narrowing that would turn out to be about 1k of swifts or class 1 rapid if you will. This took us to the bridge where we expected to find our car but we did not. It was getting late and so all we could do was set up our tents and hope the car would arrive in the morning. About half way through the trip I had remarked to Dave that I had not had a detailed discussion with Yolanda at Mattice Lake regarding where they would put our car. Now this mistake had come to its fruition.

I started down the dirt road and was picked up by the first vehicle that came through. The contract worker took me right into the Mattice Lake outfitter campus but nobody was awake. It was a magically beautiful morning. I sat on their dock and took it all in as the mists rose from the perfectly calm lake. A couple of loon were playing and singing. It was actually worth the trouble. After a while my stomach was calling for breakfast so I finally knocked on the door of the beautiful main log cabin. Don Elliot came out and quickly took me to our vehicle sitting on a beach on Kopka Lake.

Dave and I spent that evening camped at Lake Superior Provincial Park and the next evening camped at one of my favorite spots in a national forest in Michigan. The beauty and tranquility of the Kopka River has definitely stayed with me.


Last edited by Ipaddle on November 2nd, 2009, 9:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 2:50 pm 
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What a great read! :clap:



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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 7:36 pm 
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Glad you enjoyed it Barbara!


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 7:43 pm 
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Thank you for taking the time to write it up and post it.

Felt like I was right there with you guys.

Love the canoe sliding downhill part, but you should put a positive spin on it...

yeah, uh, we meant to do that, yeah...

:lol:



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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 8:16 pm 
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I would like to put up a few pictures in the gallery but I couldn't really figure out how?


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 8:18 pm 
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Nice. And I thought I had a screw loose. :lol:

I did the Kopka four years ago - I know many of the landmarks of which you speak. You brought back vivid memories. Fortunately we had a little more solitude - we didn't bump into anyone until Bukemiga.

The river gorge is truly spectacular.

I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how those girls went from the Albany to the Kopka - must have cut across WPP?

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 8:25 pm 
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Well, I didn't want to nag.... :oops:

First thing you need to do is register for a Gallery account. It's a separate platform than the Forums, so you can use the same username and even the same password.

It's best to have the photos resized before uploading them. A maximum size of 900 x 800 pixels is best for posting on the forums.

Or you could post them as attachments, inserting them in appropriate places in the original thread. You would do that as an edit to the original thread. The caveat is that you can only place 3 attachments per post.

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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 9:55 pm 
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Ok Barbara I got a few pictures attached.


And yes Strathcona the girls had come down through Wabakimi.


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PostPosted: November 2nd, 2009, 10:13 pm 
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wowza, great pics! :thumbup:

gee, if you get a Gallery account, we could see more of them. :wink:



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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2009, 7:48 am 
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Strathcona wrote:
Quote:
I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how those girls went from the Albany to the Kopka - must have cut across WPP?

There are several routes, none of them maintained and all subject to water levels and flows......
up the Misehkow River , up the Shabuskwia River , up Petawa Creek off Petawanga Lake to Attwood Lake , or into Gowie Bay and up the Attwood and Witchwood Rivers or from Abazotikichuan Lake on the Albany go up the Opichuan River.
They probably would have then worked their way into Smoothrock Lake, then Onamakawash, Shawanabis and then Boulder Lakes ending up on Kenakskannis Lake on the Kopka.


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2009, 8:16 am 
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Yes I am quite sure that she mentioned they entered the Kopka on Kenakskaniss Lake


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2009, 10:56 am 
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If I had to take a guess at the various options they probably came off the Albany at Gowie Bay and travelled up the Attwood to the Witchwood and then south to Whiteclay Lake and then upstream on the Ogoki River to Whitewater Lake etc..

There seem to be several YM/WCA groups from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota who regularly travel through the Boreal and have been doing so for many years. I didn't run into any this past Summer, but in 2008 there were Y Groups travelling on the Berens, Bloodvein, and Pigeon Rivers. Also a large Scout Group ( a composite group from several US states) on the Gammon. The Scouts have a permanent camp on a lake over there and do loop trips in the area.

It has been a while since I have been on the Kopka, but I think the "billy goat " portage has another route that can be used to avoid the sharp descent. But it might be the route that has about a 9-10 foot rock face that you have to get up on top of with your gear. After that it is an easy trip down to the water. The portages on that multiple Falls section of the Kopka are ...... well simply amazing.


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2009, 12:02 pm 
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Mac wrote:
But it might be the route that has about a 9-10 foot rock face that you have to get up on top of with your gear.


Actually, I believe the rock face you are talking about is on the portage just before the "billy goat" portage. At least there is one there that meets that description.

The group that I talked to that actually took the alternate to the Billy goat portage indicated it took a very long time.


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PostPosted: November 3rd, 2009, 6:38 pm 
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You may be right Ipaddle.
The rock face portage may be a different one than the "billy goat". I recall that someone had cut a birch tree and laid it against the rock face to facilitate getting up on top of it.

Anyway , I did enjoy reading your trip report and the pictures. That section of the Kopka is a magical place.


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PostPosted: April 22nd, 2012, 11:51 am 
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Very nice and very interesting !! :D


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