Missinaibi River trip notes

(The following notes were submitted by Rich Bailey on the trip)

Hawk Junction to Mattice. Dan Sullivan, Mary Powell, Bob Dick, Jay Hanks, Emma Bailey and Richard Bailey

 

Friday, July 10: “Headed Up”. Met at Jay’s around 11 & packed & on the road by noon. Stopped and ate at the Voyager Inn just west of the Batachawana. Camped at Alona Bay. The lake was beautiful, but the black flies were thick.

 

Saturday, July 11: “To Stony Portage”. Breakfast in Wawa. Dropped the boats & gear at a landing on Hawk Lake, then parked the vehicles at the train station. Launched about 10:45 AM. Smooth sailing for a while, then the wind came up. Surfing big rollers and some breakers from behind. Pulled off about 1:30 to wait for it to calm down. Had coffee & scrambled around a bit. About 4:30 we thought it was calming down some, so we made a run for it. We had to cross to the far side to make the turn up the arm that leads to Stony portage. The wind came up big time while we were crossing. We were running cross swell through a wind tunnel towards the end, but we made it. The run up the last bay was much easier. We arrived at the falls and started to look for the campsite and portage trail, but it just didn’t look right. We finally found them 50 yards to the right. Set up camp, had dinner then bed.

 

Sunday, July 12: “Blown off Dog Lake”. Light comes around 4:30 – 5 AM. We got up around 6 AM all through the trip. After breakfast & packing we carried Stony Falls, had a short upstream paddle then carried Little Stony on the left, then into Dog Lake. Gentle winds to start, so we set sail. However, the wind starded blowing at least as strong as Saturday. We pulled off on a small island and hung out for awhile. We found just enough room to sit more or less comfortably. After 3 hours or so we thought the wind was dropping a bit so we packed up and headed out. We were about 1 KM out when we realized the Emma’s rain coat had been grabbed by a bush when we were carrying back to load the canoes. Emma & I turned around and went back to get it while the others waited. The wind started to pick up & we fought a head wind back to the the rain caot. Heading back up the waves picked up & we started to get some splash from the breakers. We caught up with the others in a small bay. Explored a bit & found a spot good enough to camp on (more or less). About 4:30 we decided that it was a wind day & did set up camp. Had some heavy gusts & rain later, then some clearing. Much entertainment trying to get Jay’s fishing reel out of the lake where it fell when the foot broke. No luck, but Bob dove in & retrieved it in the morning.

 

Monday, July 13: “Over the height of Land”. Up and off by 7:45 AM. The winds were sailable and we moved right along. Chose not to stop in at Missanabie, but kept going. Lunch at a camp site at the entrance to the narrows. Beautiful flowers, but some trash. The Height of Land portage is boggy to start and end. One canoe at a time to unload. The put in is easier/drier if you go right a bit. Very wet straight ahead. A nice run up Crooked lake but some head wind at the end. Saw a black bear swim across to the far side just before camp. Arrived at a nice camp site about 5:30. No rain today.

 

Tuesday, July 14:”Fairy Point & Barclay Bay”. Very calm this morning. We need a moose to show us the start of the portage to Missinaibi Lake. An easy portage and off on the lake by 9 AM. A short paddle over to Fairy Point to view the pictographs and the rock formations. It was almost chilly by the rocks. This is a very special place. We took lots of pictures, but they really don’t do it justice. It was a blessing that we had a clear calm day as this point has a reputation for being dangerous in a wind. We stopped at Whitefish Falls where the Little Missinaibi river meets the lake for lunch and exploration.  With the sun beating down it seemed almost too hot as we paddled up the lake. We planned to stop at Bells Island to camp, but the site was occupied. Camped at the group site at the Barclay Bay campground. We had time for a swim & to dry out some laundry. There were fresh bear tracks on the beach around the corner.

 

Wednesday, July 15: To the River”. We were up early & packed, but needed to wait for Dan to make a 9 AM phone call. The first pancake breakfast. That worked better than I thought it might have. It rained some in the AM and really picked up after we were through the narrows. We stopped on a sandy beach & squeezed back into the woods to get out of the rain & have some lunch. After four days of lake travel we are on the river! We scouted Quittagene rapids & then ran it. There was no sign of the submerged log sluice at this water level. Emma & I ran a bit too far right & shipped some water. At the campsite past the Hay River a group ahead of us left a “hello” spelled out in orange peels with daisy decorations. Dan checked out the camp and found three paddles, one new. The middle of Long Rapids looked like class II not class I. Emma & I eddied out left half way down then finished the run. Camped about 4:30 at the Flying Post Creek site. Small, but surprisingly few bugs. We saw one moose a long distance ahead during the day.

 

Thursday, July 16: “Fish Fry Potluck”. Up and out and ready for some rapids. Sun rapid was a bit wild. Jay ran Hap’s line to the right, but couldn’t see the rocks to “thread the needle” and banged some. He almost broached on one. At the bottom he pointed up left. We ran that way & plowed through some big waves and wondered why he pointed that way as we didn’t really know what problems he had. I guess that left may have been best after all. Barrel rapids was an easy run. Dan caught 4 walleye & Bob caught 1 in a small rapid. Two of the fish were quite large. We planned to stop at the Peterbell site for a shore lunch with the fish, but there was a large (7 canoes) group there so we had lunch at the bridge & fed the bugs. The weather had been a bit off all day, but it became worse for a while in the marsh. We had a sun shower followed by strong head winds and a blast of rain. There were some very interesting clouds. The weather cleared up before we turned right to the campsite on the rocky outcrop in the marsh. This was a very nice large site with plenty of room and great views. Dan cooked five pans of fish, Mary baked corn bread and we added a two person “Meals With Wheels” and everyone was well fed.

 

Friday, July 17: “The Greenhill Slog”. Off down the river looking for moose, but we saw none. Swamp rapids looked big, but had several lines. Jay took the main left – right run. We wiggled through on the right at the top. At Allen Island there seems to be a new logjam forming 50 yards or so above the main jam and portage. We pushed over two logs to get through. That portage is ugly and rough. We had thought about camping at Wavy Rapid, but were concerned about the large group dropping in late so we chose to get Greenhill out of the way today. Wavy was big. It looked like the second wave would stop & swamp a loaded canoe. Jay & I were reminded of Cucumber Rapid or the runout from Swimmers Rapid on the Yough. We were able to run far right to just above the campsite, then a short portage. It rained some during the day. We were concerned about the water levels at Greenhill, so we opted for the portage. I don’t know which would have been worse, but the portage was an experience. It was very wet and muddy. Carrying the packs wasn’t so bad, but the canoes were another thing entirely. We camped in the tight site at the end of the portage. It rained hard from 8 to 10 or so. Lots of wet gear, but the tents stayed dry.

 

Saturday, July 18: “Rain and Thunder (Falls)”. We were able to break camp and have breakfast before the rain came again. We looked at St. Peter Rapid and gave him the courtesy of a portage. There were complications every where we looked. It could have been fun in a play boat, but on a cool, wet, gray day with loaded trippers, a walk seemed pleasant. It was raining through the Split Rock portage. There was a single tent with a father & son having a lay over day camped there. We pushed on to Thunder Falls where we had planned to camp. The rain stopped before the portage. The class I rapid just before the falls seemed to be washed out, so we had no problems with the landing. We camped at the big site across the pool. This is another special site. There is a big sandy beach and camping area with some more sites back in the forest. The floods have washed sand out from under some of the cedar roots leaving lots of cave like spaces. We hung gear out to dry, but there was not much sun & wind. Dan fished with no luck except losing a bass and his favorite lure in the rapid below.  Mary & Emma explored on the rocks by the falls. I went down to look at the run out rapid.

 

Sunday, July 19: “Bonus Day”. Up and out, but not in a hurry. We puttered around a bit trying to dry out some gear. We had some rain during the night and it became chilly & picked up again after the first rapid. Dan had spotted a good line there when fishing. Drop into the top right eddy then peel out the bottom & go left. In the eddy, Dan found his lucky lure high & dry on a rock. Dan & Mary went up the Fire River to see the falls & trappers cabin. The rest of the group continued down the river. The rain let up after awhile. We stopped at the Brunswick portage for a snack and again to feed the bugs. After this we began to get some sun showers, but still cool. After lunch it changed to sun with fair weather clouds. Yeah!! We camped at the First Lake Rapid island site (rapid 30). This is a great site! We hung everything out to dry. Dan caught a mess of fish for breakfast. Jay hooked a big one twice, but lost it both times. The sky is perfectly clear this evening.

 

Monday, July 20: “Sunshine”. Sunny all day with fair weather clouds in the afternoon. We had fish and pancakes for breakfast, so we didn’t leave until 10:30. Dan & Mary headed over to look at the falls on the creek from First Lake and to fish. We didn’t see them until the Camp 95 Bridge. Stopped at a campsite marked on the bank that was not on any map for a stretch and snack. Lunch & nap was at Camp 95 rapid. Stopped at the bridge to wander around a bit.  Dan, Mary and some fish showed up while we were there. They were getting tired of towing the fish, but we still had a way to go to camp at Two Portages Falls. We arrived at camp about 5 PM. Scouted the runout rapid for the morning & thought it looked ok.

 

Tuesday, July 21: “To Big Beaver”. It’s busy to start on this leg of the trip and then no marked campsites for a long ways. In 1997 we had spotted a cut coming down to the river and explored to find a gravel pit where we camped. That was a late September trip se the day’s were shorter. We had originally planned to camp there again this trip, but decided to try to skip on through to Big Beaver. The run out rapid from Two Portages was fun. We carried the full route around Pond Falls. The class III stretch looked nasty for loaded boats. Carried Devils Cap Falls and had fun running the rest. A little splash, but no big deal. The class II ledge below was an interesting tight right run. Pulled off far left to look at Z-Drag and have lunch. We carried the packs over and ran the far left drop. In 1997 we had lunch on rocks that were underwater today. Quite warm and sunny this afternoon. The path to the gravel pit looked overgrown. We didn’t stop to explore though. The Albany swifts were fun at this water level. At low water it seemed to take two hours of picking and banging to make our way through. This year we were through and into the rapids below in no time. The first rapid was pretty easy. After that Dan & Mary were far left and seemed far below us. I was looking ahead trying to see where we were going to loose the elevation, but couldn’t see the ledge until we were nearly on top of it. I guess that’s why it’s called “Sleeping Beauty”. No problems there though. The final drop is rated class II. We came up to it looking at the far left. I thought we might stop to scout, but ran on through. Dan & Mary had gone left close to the rock. As we were dropping into the wave train we saw them drop into a hole and slowly swamp. We took on about 10 gal of water in the waves, but were able to help pull them to shore while Jay & Bob pushed. Nothing lost except a sock and a fishing pole. As we were coming into Big Beaver we saw three boys fishing from the bank. After we were past we heard them fire up a motorcycle or Quad. As we were portaging into camp we found a new ATV trail cut into the portage. Dan & Mary camped at the upper sites while the rest of us camped at the lower. I was tired, but the next day is a layover day.

 

Wednesday July 22: “Layover Day”. Not long after breakfast two men and a boy came down the new ATV trail in a “Argo” an 8 wheel drive go anywhere utility vehicle to go fishing. Note that we are still in the provincial part and motorized ground access is not allowed. They fished the pool and from the center island, but didn’t have much luck and left around noon. We did laundry, swam, and explored. There were thunderstorms off to the east in the afternoon. We had some light rain. We did a pot luck dinner with much of the remaining camp food this evening. Six men portaged through on their way to Glassy Falls about 6 PM. They were carrying enough gear for a month, but are just headed to Mattice. They said that they had dumped in Albany Rapids (Sleeping Beauty from the sounds of it) and one canoe was taped up. One of the canoes they were carrying was a Scott. I think it’s a popular inexpensive canoe in Canada. Most of those we have seen have been broken below falls & rapids. They let us know that the youth camp group would be coming through tonight as well. They stopped to scout Little Beaver and portaged it. About 8 PM the group from the Sudbury youth camp arrived. Two leaders and 12 campers. This is a high adventure leadership training camp. They are on their way to Moosonee, having put in at Missanabie. We made sure they had room to set up and have the fire ring. The kids set up their three tents in the middle space while the leaders were next to us. Their group also dumped a canoe at Albany Rapids making it three dumps for three groups there. We enjoyed talking with the leaders while they dried out their tent. The tents & wannagan were in the canoe that dumped. Three campers came down to the fire to cook later. They had a big pot to boil for the 12 campers. A pleasant group the kids were all 15. We had a little bit of rain at bed time. Their group had left the Hello at the Hay River camp for another group from the same camp that is several days behind. We were able to return the three paddles we found there. They were grateful as they had lost some while running Greenhill. Talking to the leaders, the Missinaibi is almost an easy river for them given some of the other rivers they have been out on in the past.

 

Thursday, July 23: “to Mattice”. We were up and out early. The Sudbury group weren’t stirring yet. We scouted Little Beaver, but didn’t see any problems & ran it easily. Sharp Rock was basically a lift over rather than a portage today. The launch was a little tricky, but no problems. At Glassy Falls we caught up with the six men that had portaged through the previous evening. We chatted for a while and found that they were from Smooth Rock Falls & Kapuskasing and basically locals. They had only put in at the Camp 95 bridge. The day cleared up and became sunny. At Crow Island Rapids we saw the remains of the Pak Canoe that had wrapped there in early July on the far left. We could see a rocky ledge on the right, but were able to pick our way through the left center with no problems. Arrived in Mattice around 1:30 and called Owen and Denise for shuttle to Hearst. Into Hearst for hotel, shower, and beer. Picked fresh food at the supermarket down highway 11 for dinner & the train the next day. Played cards outside until the skeeters drove us in. The train is running slow this year and didn’t arrive until around 10 PM.

 

Friday, July 24: “Slow Train Home”. Yep, the ACR is running slow this year. 30 MPH on the good tracks and 15 on the bad. We had a Tim’s hike in the AM before portaging the boats & gear from the hotel’s shed to the train. We talked to a couple that the come up yesterday on a “Tour of the Line”. Planned to have dinner at the hotel, stay over, then back to the Soo the next day. They didn’t arrive until about 10 (about 3 hours late) and the hotel restaurant closed then. They were able to get something to eat at the hotel bar, but have a long day ahead today. We were only about 2 hours late arriving at Hawk Junction. Loaded and off to Dan’s place by the Black River. Our car was the random check winner at customs after 40 minutes on the bridge, but no real problem, just another 10 min delay. Dinner at the American Soo then to Dan’s cabin. We arrived there about 10 PM after picking up eggs and bacon for tomorrow.

 

Saturday, July 25: “Home finally”. A big breakfast of bacon eggs, fresh bread and coffee. More rain over night & on the way home. We ran through a good storm south of Shepherd, but no problems. Home and drying out gear. We had a great trip, but it’s good to be home.

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