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PostPosted: May 25th, 2017, 9:20 am 
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Joined: November 2nd, 2008, 11:15 pm
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Location: Collingwood Ontario
On May 15, 2017, I set off to Jocko Rivers Provincial Park, for a five day solo canoe trip. I had found only a little information on line so I was not quite sure what I would find. I had a topo map but nothing that showed rapids, portage locations or campsites. Where the Big Jocko River crosses highway 63 there is a place to pull off just north of the bridge at the end of the guard rail on the east side of the highway. There is good access to the river at this location. About 100m further north there is a dirt road leaving the highway to the west that leads to a communication tower. At the start of the road there is a rough parking area, probably made by ATV or snowmobile clubs, that would hold at least 20 cars. It is screened from the highway by a row of trees.

Image

I was on the water by 11:00 a.m. Paddling upstream the current was moderate. The first portage was on river right (so left side going upstream) about 400m from the highway. It has a steep rocky take out and an easy to follow but narrow trail of about 200m. It bypasses a small canyon and a narrow chute with a 10m drop, which was roaring with spring water flow. A very pretty spot.
Image The chute

Image The narrow trail

The put in at the top is difficult, steep with very few footholds and quite a drop to deep water. It is also about 10m from the start of the fast water in the canyon. The danger is not obvious from the top but there is an old style portage sign to warn those traveling downstream, the only sign I saw on the trip. The sign is faded and on the ground leaning against a tree.

Image The put in

The second portage is just 100m upstream, this time around another small canyon. I did not find a trail for this portage. I bushwacked on river right, since there is a very steep high hill on river left, but if there ever was a trail here it is totally obscured by 50 large overlapping blowdowns. The footing under the fallen trees is a mixture of rocky ridges and swamp. It was a very tough slog for about 300m.

Image In the canyon

Another 100m paddle brought me to portage number 3, this time around a class 1 rapid. I could not find a trail so I pushed through the bush on river left for 200m. Another hard slog, this time due to dense alders and small spruce trees. Four days later on the way back down river I found the remnants of a trail close to the water on river right and cleared it of alder branches.
Another 100m paddle and I arrived at another class 1 rapid and portage 4. Again no trail so I pushed through the bush on river left for about 300m. I looked on the way down on both sides and never did find a trail so I did not clear one.
Finally, a decent paddle of about 300m, including paddling up a large swift/class 1 rapid to get to portage 5 around a larger class1 or 2 rapid. I found no trail on the way up so it was another tough portage. But on the way down I did find a partial trail on river left close to the water and cleared it.
A 1.5km paddle on a winding section of river with less current and a few small swifts brought me to portage 6 around a class 1 or 2 rapid. I found an almost useable trail on river right so I cleared it a bit and enjoyed an easy 200m walk.

Image

Another 400m paddle with a few swifts which I could paddle up and I arrived at portage 7, around a long, wide, shallow class1 rapid, which is probably a rock garden in the summer.

Image

There was no apparent trail, but the river seemed to bend to the west and I could paddle farther up the rapid on that side so I went that way. Big mistake. I should have spent more time looking on river left. The bush where I started out was fairly open and easy, but soon became dense. When I got up to the bend I could not see around, it turned out to be an island. I tried crossing to the island on my first trip with my pack, but eventually I had to cross back to the mainland so that was a waste. On the second trip with the boat I stayed on the mainland but got stuck in a dense spruce swamp where a tributary came in from the west. I had to saw my way out. Finally reaching my pack I continued on as there was another wide shallow rapid that I could not paddle up. About a 500m portage altogether. However, on the way back down four days later, I found an overgrown trail on river left which I spent two hours clearing. It starts with a 100m trail around the initial drop of the upstream rapid. Then I put in a floated down the class 1 to the initial drop of the down stream rapid. Then it was a 300m portage around that rapid. Took about the same amount of time as coming up but now there is a useable trail.
There was a lift over around a fallen tree just upstream of the rapid. It was now 7:00 p.m. and I was exhausted. My inner thighs were cramping from lifting my legs high over fallen trees. I stopped for the night on river left within sight of the next rapid. I camped on a grassy bank about 1m above the water level in a clearing in the alders. There are lots of such possible campsites on this river, but no rocks on which to have a fire.

Image

The next day I found a 75m trail on river right that needed only minor clearing, mainly through the alders at the start. On the way back down I found lots of moose footprints in the mud at my newly cleared spot through the alders. Nice to know someone was already enjoying the results of my efforts. However, coming downstream it is difficult to find this portage as the river bends away from it well before the start of the rapid. You have to know to stay as far right as possible on the way down.

Image It rained all morning

The rest of day 2 was clear of portages as I had expected it to be from the aerial photos I had studied before I started. The river winds back and forth through a wetland, but the channel is well defined and quite narrow so the current was a lot stronger than I expected. It was a hard paddle all day until I got to the long wide section just before Jocko Lake, where it became a hard upwind paddle.

Image The wide section before Jocko lake

Again it was 7:00 p.m. and I was exhausted but this time from paddling, so I camped at the first opportunity on the east shore of the lake on a small flat spot right by the water. Not a very promising campsite location, but others had been there before me as there was an old bench seat from a car standing in the bush near the shore.

Image

At about 4:00 in the afternoon, at the junction with the creek from Sucker lake, there was an interesting navigational situation. I was paddling up river expecting to head left at the junction. When I got close to where it looked like it was, I checked my GPS which told me I had another 200m to go. I got there in the middle of a marsh with confusing channels and followed the obvious one from the GPS, but it petered out. I went back to the original place I thought looked likely and sure enough, behind a little island there was a channel. The GPS map agreed with the topo map, but both were wrong.
Day 3 was a restful day of exploring the area around Jocko Lake. I had originally thought I might be able to find a way through to the little Jocko river via Malone lake and make a loop trip, but there is private property, a rundown lodge, at the south end of Jocko lake with a No Trespassing sign stolen from the railway.

Image The lodge

There was no one around so I guess I could have ignored it, but I was unsure how far I would have to go down the little Jocko before it was canoeable. So I wimped out, decided to go back the way I had come and just went exploring where I could paddle. There are several likely looking campsite locations on Jocko Lake but I found no rock fire circles at all.

Image Jocko Lake

I paddled up Black Duck Creek for half an hour just to see if it was navigable and it was, at least that far. At my farthest point up it, at a junction with a creek from the west, there was an open flat rock and a couple of long bright pieces of flagging tape wrapped around a tree. I went over to investigate and found about $25 in coins scattered over the rock. Some of the toonies had the centre piece punched out of them. The flagging tape held a plastic bag with a mouldy piece of paper in it and a pen. The paper was a blank entry form for a kids Fish Art contest being run by Ontario Parks in 2015. The closest I could come to making sense of this is that a family staying at the lodge set up a treasure hunt for their kids, and when they did not find the treasure, the parents could not be bothered paddling down the lake and up the creek to retrieve the cash.
I paddled back down the Jocko River until I got to the creek from Sucker lake and paddled up that to see how far I could get. It turned out someone had been through with a chain saw, probably last year by the colour of the cuts, and sawed through about five trees that were blocking the creek.

Image The creek from Sucker Lake

So I got as far as Sucker lake. I paddled down the lake with a fierce wind at my back to see if I could find a way through to Solace lake. The waves were so big that I was surfing down several and I could not safely land on the shore but I saw no obvious trail. The creek to the lake was not passable. I came back up the lea shore, fighting my way around the points into the wind.

Image Sheltered from the waves

There was a nice sheltered camp site under a big pine tree just 100m down the creek from the lake, but the black flies had made their first appearance of the trip, so I went back to the last point on the lake. There was a small campsite on the point, heavily overgrown but easily cleared. Even on the exposed windy point the bugs were annoying, just swarming not yet biting.
Day 4 was the most relaxing of the trip. Hour after hour, a strong wind at my back, a strong current going with me, I sat in the bottom of my canoe with my boots off and dabbled my paddle in the water. It sunny, very warm, and peaceful.

Image

I was making so little paddling noise I saw 6 moose, including two sets of a mother and calf.

Image

However, by 4:30 the temperature started dropping and a huge thunder storm rolled through. I got off the water at one of the many grassy banks, stuck my pack on a hummock of grass, sat the upside down canoe on the pack and lay under the canoe for an hour, snuggly out of the rain. I paddled on to the same site I had stayed at the first night, but I went farther back from the river into the pine trees to get some shelter since there were no bugs.
Day 5 was doing the portages again, but this time I spent more time looking for trails and clearing them so in the end there were only two without trails numbers 4 and 2, both tough, but not exhausting like the first day. The weather had turned so cold that it snowed all morning. Just a few flakes that melted when they hit the ground but just a reminder that it was only spring. The blackflies went back into hiding so it was a very enjoyable day. I was back at the highway by 4:00.

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Here is a marked up topo showing the portages.

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shearjoy Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Thich Nhat Hanh



Last edited by shearjoy on June 30th, 2017, 8:30 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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PostPosted: May 25th, 2017, 10:57 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2007, 5:40 pm
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Location: Timmins
Nice! I had wondered what that area was like for a while! Smooth sailing past the portages near the highway eh? I wondered about taking it further downstream to the Ottawa.

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PostPosted: May 25th, 2017, 3:38 pm 
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Joined: February 12th, 2008, 6:01 pm
Posts: 454
Location: North Bay, Ontario
Wow, thanks for this! I have been thinking of paddling this river for years but for various reasons have never gotten around to it (I live in North Bay). I would also like to do the Jocko's E of 63 down to the Ottawa.

I have paddled a bit on the upper Little Jocko from where the logging road that starts just S of the Jocko River crossing crosses that river. It was clear going with no rapids, and I think there are none until you get fairly close to the highway. I have also paddled a short distance down the Little Jocko from 63 and there is a big drop about a km downriver with a portage on river right, and a small campsite at the top.

Maybe later this year I will have the time to paddle at least part of this river system

Kinguq.


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PostPosted: May 26th, 2017, 12:23 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
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Location: Milton
Great report!
Great pics!
and great to see you still posting your stories!

Jeff

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