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Posted 06.04.07



Kellys' Portage

The Kelly

Kellys' Trail




One of the main crossovers between Temagami proper and Chiniguchi passes through Kelly's split: Kellys' Portage, and Kelly Lakes. They connect the Chiniguchi River on the west and Sturgeon River on the east. Recent exploration has found the five-portage Kelly Lakes route to be reduced to three short portages as a consequence of changes in water levels.

The northern route, or Kellys' Portage, follows a 3.5-kilometre trail that was a nastawgan converted to a wagon road by early loggers. It is well used and wide open, but an exhausting slog over a ridge that can take an hour or more to cross with a load, and leave its survivors drained. Consequently, only the hardiest canoeists and the local youth camps use it. The southern route follows four lakes, long ago abandoned by canoeists because the portages and portions of the lakes passed through people-eating muskeg.

Two soloists recently explored the lake route Brian Back in the summer of 2006 and Ed MacPherson in spring 2007 and found the route changed and a great alternative to the long, lonely walk. Published books and maps show the traditional route with five portages, but Ed and I found only three were necessary: flooding from the dam on Maskinonge Lake took out the most western portage into Gawasi, and beaver dams have joined Kelly and Gamagowong lakes.

It is likely that in the decades after the Maskinonge dam was built in the 1920s, the beaver were trapped out. It was a scorched-earth period throughout the North. As the abandoned dams collapsed the water level did too, leaving so much muskeg that the long Kellys' portage became the chosen route. As trapping died off in the last decades of the 20th century, the beaver returned and raised the water level.

The lake route not only makes the crossover between lakes Temagami and Maskinonge easier, but improves the Sturgeon River loop out of Matagamasi. Canoeists can get on the Sturgeon at Stouffer Lake, get off the river here, and work their way back through some beautiful terrain to Matagamasi or Kukagami lakes.

  RELATED STORY: Ed MacPherson's Log

  BACKGROUND:  Chiniguchi series

Map: Kellys' canoe routes





1. Kellys' Portage: east end starts 50 feet upstream from Sturgeon River inside a deep, sandy creek ravine. Climb the sand bank on right. The plateau above was site of the Kelly brothers' farm.


2.  Walk 140 m from the Sturgeon along Kellys' trail.  Just past a depressed section the Kelly Lake trail starts. Head south 300 metres. The treadway was hidden by fireweed, goldenrod, raspberry and Joe-Pye-weed in 2006. Park rangers need to clear the brush.



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