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Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop
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Author:  Darl-h [ May 29th, 2016, 4:09 am ]
Post subject:  Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop, plus Ferris Lake
May 14, 2016 – May 22, 2016
Participants: Darryl and Rosa
Trip Report by Rosa

Overview map (click for link)
GPX File :!853&authkey=!AHa0a_C9ndkcu_o&ithint=file%2cgpx

Day 1 : Are we there yet?

It finally came to pass that we're paddling the Grassy River.
“It's too busy with fishermen in May”, “too buggy in June”, “too shallow in July/August”, “too vegetation choked in September”, all of these Darryl used as reasons why we have not paddled the Grassy River south of Timmins,ON.
We left early from Toronto and our original plan was to put in at the bridge where the Grassey Road crosses over the Grassy River. The on and off rain showers on the drive up, the strong north wind along with the forecasted freezing temperatures for the next few days made this less than attractive, why not drive the well maintained gravel road to Sothman Lake at the top side of the loop and see what that looks like.
Darryl walked a dirt road to what we thought should be the put-in at Sothman Lake and there's a nice little campsite by the water, pleasant surprise as it is not marked on our map. We brought the car half way down to the lake where a clearing allowed us to park the car out of the way for the next week. The gusting north wind helped the decision to make this sheltered campsite our first for the trip, lots of time to burn through the wood we brought with us.
This trip is on the Arctic watershed and it sure feels more like late winter than spring.

ImageSothman Lake campsite – at the put-in

ImageOur car had the area all to itself

ImageBurning scrap lumber from our friends backyard lattice fence – Thanks Ron

Day 2 : In search of a 'nice' campsite.

Minus five degrees Celsius in the morning, what an incredibly windy night, lots of ice pellets overnight. We left wearing almost everything we brought, at least the wind is at our back, good decision to start the loop from this point. Also a good decision to take the campsite at the put in since we didn't find the other two campsites marked on our map.
The bugs must have been yummy, the lake was thick with swirling little birds skimming the water as we left Sothman Lake.
Lots of dead fall clearing on the 900m portage, there's a good (emergency) camping spot halfway on the 100m portage. The 300m portage has a gentle climb up than a very long gravity defying descent to a bog obstacle course, all the portage work helps to keep us warm, on and off flurries.
We hugged the north shore on Halliday Lake for wind shelter and also to not miss any campsites along the way. A big campsite with an actual campsite sign on the first point we passed, sheltered from the wind but overused, too much cleaning up required and the broken down folding chair really put me off, we opted to keep going and check out the next two campsites on the narrow long arm towards the river. We looked and looked on both sides and just as we had resigned ourselves to turning back I spied a grassy patch through some bushes, lets check it out. What a great sheltered clearing deep into the trees, the land trail back of the clearing is choked with dead fall and the grassy area I spied from the water has many half buried bits of rusting metal from long past use.
Although we didn't find a fire pit we think this must be the last campsite before the river, just marked wrong on our map.
Cold all day, the high temperature of the day was three degrees.

ImageA little portage maintenance

ImageAlong the 900m portage

ImageMorning sun at the Halliday Lake campsite, deep in the trees

Day 3 : Sharing a site with a family of Bald Eagles.

Overnight wolf howls and a cacophony of calls from all kinds of critters, frogs, birds, loons…
The water bottles were frozen and the pot on the stove has two inches of ice, another minus five morning. A wood burning stove is a welcome luxury to have in our Mantis tarp/bug shelter. We left into a beautifully sunny cold day.
We saw a lady moose with a tiny baby moose along the river, ducks galore and some otters.
Easy portage up to the decommissioned road and past the water fall. Funny, every portage so far has sported a couple of box traps at either end, easy to spot.
Wind mostly at our back till we turned north towards Canoeshed Lake. This was not a long day but we were glad to find that this campsite actually exists, we set up camp and got some respite from the north wind. We share this point with an occupied bald eagle nest and the eagles share their tree with many small black birds which set up their nests on the underside of the eagles' nest, makes for one very busy and loud tree.

ImageBox trap portage marker

ImageCanoeshed campsite with bald eagle nest

Day 4 : Left turn at Dumbell Creek.

We woke up to a cold gray morning and the biting north wind strengthened as we left camp, so glad it's at our back as the river turns south.
Three hours of easy paddling saw us past the south end of the hydro corridor and one hour more put us at the junction to Ferris Lake up Dumbell Creek.
Visiting Ferris Lake is one of the side trips we were hoping to do and we're pleasantly surprised at the easy paddle up the creek under the low hydro corridor bridge aided by the steady tail wind. We're not sure where the campsites are on this lake, we opt to paddle the north shore sheltered from the wind. There's a campsite on the first point through the narrows, sheltered but lacking appeal, the only thing going for it is the big pile of wood, we paddle on. Still on the north shore there's a big campsite on a point half way down the lake, much used but beats the first campsite hands down with great views to both sides of the lake, this will become our fall back position if we don't find something towards the east end of the lake. We want to go as far in as possible so even if the weather is not in our favour in the morning we can scout this end of the Little Hawk Portage before returning to the river. We ended up on the narrow point at the east end of the lake. Many tucked away mossy tent pads speak to how long frequented, but now seldom used, this campsite has been through the decades, it's a pleasure to do our part in keeping it spruced up, brush clearing and garbage collecting commenced.
The wind died down, the clouds cleared and we had a most outstanding sunset.
Ferris Lake is absolutely gorgeous.

ImageHappy, long legged people - Ferris Lake campsite

ImageSunset on Ferris Lake

ImageMorning departure view of our campsite

Author:  Darl-h [ May 29th, 2016, 4:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop (Part 2 of 2)

Day 5 : Little Hawk look and Gumming Trees.

What a grand day.
We woke up to blue skies and a mirror calm lake. The white dot at the end of the lake proved to be a cabin and the portage to Ember Lake is just beside it. We cleared the fallen branches off the trail on our walk to Ember Lake (Note to self: must map a trip to come back to Ferris Lake).


ImageWalk along the Little Hawk portage to Ember Lake

We paddled the south shore on the way back to the river, there's another campsite with a small beach but the better campsites are on the north shore.
Paddling back down the Grassy River seemed to take forever before we came across the next campsite, it's marked wrong on the map and comes just before the inch worm part of the river before it goes into Grassy Lake. Great campsite among the red pines with a real campsite sign. This campsite has been in use for a long time, two of the red pines have been used as gumming trees for birchbark canoe repairs. There's a beaver trail up the steep hill behind the campsite (mountain climbing beavers!!!) to the marsh behind it, there must be something irresistible back there.

ImageDarryl's selfie but I'm in there too – Cliffs at the east end of the lake

ImageDumbell Creek at the Hydro line corridor

ImageLow clearance under the massive I beams

ImageRed pine campsite with gumming trees

Day 6 : Moose mountain and a graveyard.

Sansawaju (Sacred Moose) Mountain, is the unmistakable land mark as we paddled down the river and did the bottom loop through Grassy Lake.


We ran the small rapid under the bridge past the put in we passed up on day one. Many marginal camping possibilities along the shore but we didn't find the campsite marked on our map between the bridge and Loonwing Lake. There's a nice island campsite on Loonwing Lake on the south west bay where the river enters the lake, this campsite was not marked on our map and we didn't find the one that was further along.
Loonwing water levels are affected by the Peterlong dam, this is a low water time of the year which the low snow pack didn't help, lots of muddy shallows and drowned tree stumps, the lake probably looks much nicer when the water level rises back up. We made our way to Sinclair Lake and the huge campsite on the north shore just west of the Grassy River channel, great view of the lake. We call this the “village” campsite, there's even a cemetery.
Many people have loved this site (really two big sites close to each other, very clean), there are even “kitchen” cupboards above the camp table. We saw our first people of the trip, two small fishing boats which eventually disappeared towards the Grassy River, we wonder were they came from.
We're off to another planned side trip to Nursey Lake and Nursey Creek tomorrow.

Image"Historic Site Indian Grave Yard"

ImageOld cross – New cross

ImageSinclair Lake campsite – many tent pads into the trees

ImageLeaving Sinclair Lake – the beach goes on forever

Day 7 : A day at the Nursery

We turned towards Nursey Lake, no portage marked on our map but it made sense to find the portage at the narrowest section, except we didn't go left enough. The very low water, boggy mucky footing and random drift wood did not say “this way to the portage”. Darryl started hacking through the underbrush and I walk east (right) looking for some sign of a trail, sometimes the easy way is the long way. Sure enough I found an area into the bush festooned with flagging tape, Darryl brought the canoe towards me while I set off with my folding saw beavering way from flagging tape to flagging tape. “Rosa come back here, you're going towards the wrong lake”… What! Sure enough I was heading away from where we wanted to go. We now took off through the bush looking for Nursey Lake and eventually crossed a trail, Darryl went left and I went right, didn't take me long to figure out that once again I was going in the direction of the “wrong” lake. I turned back and soon came across the actual portage, Darryl was already gone to get the canoe. Duh, the portage is so short you can stand halfway and see the water at either end.
Darryl cleared some of the vegetation on the Sinclair side of the portage and I strung up plenty of flagging tape, “this way folks”.
Nursey Lake has that height-of-land look about it, low topography all around but very healthy shore line down to the water since it's level is not affected by the Peterlong dam. Pretty islands on the south end, we didn't scout but one of them might be a campsite. We made good time down the lake enjoying the now west to south/west wind at our back.
Nursey Creek was an unknown segment, would it be passable? Choked with deadfall? Enough water to float the canoe? Let the quest for Kapiskong lake begin.
I was heartened by us finding a real portage into Nursey Lake, surely there must be a way out as well. Sure enough it's a very paddlable creek through tamarack and black spruce, the only obstruction the old corduroy logging road remains which we pulled the canoe over. Eventually water from the Moher Lake joined Nursey Creek, and with Moher water it was an easy meandering float (see what I did there). There are impassable rapids just before Kapiskong Lake so we took out on the big flat rock landing to the right and did the tiny portage into Kapiskong.
Although an interesting setting we decided to skip the less than attractive campsite by the portage, after all there's supposed to be a campsite not that far up the river. We paddled and paddled, we could hear ATVs in the bush and wondered how they got there since we paddled all around the land on our left and didn't see an ATV trail crossing the small land connection. We pass a waterfall to the right and almost across from it I can see a grassy flat area, it's a real campsite with the ATV access to the exposed land flats right beside it. No matter, it's been a long day, they are gone and we set up camp, Darryl has to walk a long way to find water that's not been muddied by the ATV visitors.
A couple of putt-putt boats passed by to go fishing late in the day, we wonder were they are coming from.
We have gone from winter to spring and now summer today, the bugs are out and not sure what to do yet.

ImageNursey Lake – many little islands

ImageNursey Creek – old logging road

Day 8 : Long Weekend crowds.

We woke up to blue skies and paddled across to investigate the waterfall, on closer inspection there's an old fallen down cabin on the point by the waterfall.
We turned south pushed along by a strong north wind looking for the campsites on our map, they don't exist except for a site on a north facing point with a half dozen small fishing boats and an equal number of oversized mcMansion tents. They brought a couple of portable privys as well.
Big surprise when we turned the corned north east towards Reading Lake, it's a minor trailer park village, it's a shock after so many days in relative wilderness, this is where all the little boats are coming from. The sky had now turned threatening and we made a bee line for the Reading L portage against the strong gusting wind, got there just in time before the rain started. Great big golden eagle flying in low circles on the small bay close to the portage.
On Reading Lake side of the portage Darryl sawed a big newly fallen balsam fir tree in half so we could drag it off the campsite area. Great to get shelter from the cold rain and wind, yesterday's summer weather is now just a memory.
Once the rain stopped we were visited by two fellows on an ATV, they came from the trailer “fishing village” and assured us that it's not usually busy at all, it's only because it's pickeral season opener and the May long weekend. The older fellow couldn't believe we hadn't done any fishing having passed through some of the best fishing areas in the province. Some time later a mother and daughter passed by on an ATV and exchanged pleasantries with Darryl who was chopping wood at the time. Very social campsite.

ImageWaterfall on Kapiskong

ImageMorning at the Reading Lake portage campsite

Day 9 : The road home.

We woke up to near freezing temps and a big blue sky. We did the tour of Reading Lake and checked out one of the campsites before making for the ATV trail which passes by Little Reading Lake and the boat launch on Sothman Lake. This is not where the portage is but it's the nearest point to our car. The ATV trail is as good as any dirt road, Darryl brought the car to the spot where we had left our gear.
Another great trip, Ferris Lake the definite highlight.


Author:  OwenMeany [ May 29th, 2016, 4:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Hi Darl-h, thanks for posting but you won't believe this... I was camped at Reading Lake the May Long weekend and we drove over to Sothman Lake looking for a fire grill and I actually saw your Subaru parked near the far North West corner of the lake!!! Small world! Thanks for posting as I have wanted to make this loop trip for a very long time.

Author:  OwenMeany [ May 29th, 2016, 4:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

I also recognize your take-out spot at Little Reading Lake. I've been camping at Reading Lake all my life, even for the past 16 years since I have been living in So. Ontario (Whitby). Discovered it when I was growing up in Timmins... Also love your posted topo map. I'll refer to it to update a map I have been working on for the Grassy River Canoe route. Posted here and let me know what you think. ... sp=sharing

Author:  Darl-h [ May 29th, 2016, 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Hi Owen, you probably thought that your group was alone on the lake on for the May long weekend. We paddled up to the campsite down the road from your setup but went around the far side of the island on our way out to leave you alone.

I like your Google Map, I think I came across it or something similar while prepping for this trip. The CalTopo site lets you flip the base map to Satellite, NR Canada topo and other WMS servers for good visual comparison. It will take a KMZ or GPX data file that then can be further edited.

As you can tell from Rosa's writing, quite a few campsites have been lost to the bush, not a lot of canoe camping taking place along the route. Ferris lake was a treat, the Nursey Lake/Creek extension was interesting but not something I'd repeat.

Author:  OwenMeany [ May 30th, 2016, 5:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Thanks for the follow-up and again thanks for the write-up. I noted Rosa's mention of "box traps" at the portage take-in/out spots. If I am not mistaken those are actually marten and/or duck nesting boxes that were installed by the organization that did some cleanup of the portages a few years back.
Anyway we did not notice you guys camped on Reading lake on the night of the 21st but I guess we were at opposite ends of the lake... It's a big lake but I hope we weren't too noisy. I camped with my daughter and son as well as my brother and his four boys....haha. We didn't notice you go by onto Little Reading on Sunday the 22nd either.
Yes Ferris lake looks quite nice from your photos and will make sure to take it in. It had not crossed my mind to do that. Thanks.

Author:  Darl-h [ May 30th, 2016, 6:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Good to know about the Nest Boxes vs traps. We set up during the rain on Saturday afternoon and did not hear you until the wind calmed and the skies cleared later in the day. Not noisy, just sounded like family fun.

Author:  yakfish [ July 6th, 2016, 7:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

I just want to say thanks! You have no idea how awesome it was for me to read this post! My great grandfather used to fish the Grassy River in the 40's and 50's. I've been curious about it since hearing about it as a child. To these the pics and read the information about your trip was extremely exciting for me! I will definitely be making plans to visit The Grassy myself in the not so distant future! Thanks

Author:  Stajanleafs [ November 6th, 2017, 9:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Grassy River – Halliday Lake Loop

Just got back from the Nursey Circuit. Can confirm there are campsites on the islands on Nursey. Also, found a few more on the Grassy and Sinclair. They don't see as much use, but they're not trashed like some of the ATV accessible ones. Brushed 8 sites out, cleared out a garbage bag full of cans and signed the sites. Will definitely return in the summer months to check out the rest of the Halliday circuit.
Map of the route here: ... sp=sharing

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