By Brian Back

There are plenty of canoeists who have never heard of Chiniguchi Temagami West. They've missed the royal-blue lakes and relatively easy portaging between its good-sized lakes.

Crystalline lagoons, old-growth red pine, aboriginal pictographs, and hilltop lookouts keep most canoeists on an easy-to-reach band of lakes Chiniguchi, Wolf and Matagamasi at the core. A quartzite band of rock running from Chiniguchi to Wolf Lake makes it reminiscent of Killarney, but without the travel restrictions of a park. Get off these often-bustling destinations and the rest of the area is yours.   

Unlike Temagami proper, this was not the traditional territory of the Temagami First Nation, but that of the Wahnapitae First Nation, now located on Lake Wanapitei. This community saw an early breakup of its  traditional lifestyle when the CPR railway chugged across its land 20 years before rail invaded Temagami. Logging followed on its heels. Temagami proper was protected by the Temagami Forest Reserve where many aboriginal families continued to live on their family territories until the 1950s. Chiniguchi had no such protection. With its proximity to Lake Huron, the earliest loggers had easy water access to the voracious American market in Michigan and they eagerly fed it the sought-after white pine while eroding the Wahnapitae's social fabric.

The earliest recreationists canoed through Temagami in the late 1880s and 1890s between the steam train station at Wahnapitae, on the lower Wanapitei River, and the steamboat landing at Montreal River on Lake Timiskaming. These adventurers took the pre-contact travel route through the Chiniguchi area that traversed Wanapitei, Matagamasi and Maskinonge lakes.

Lake Temagami youth camps have been coming since Keewaydin led the way in 1905. Fishing lodges sprouted up on Wanapitei, Murray and Maskinonge lakes after World War I, but few survived the decline of the fishery under the assault of acid rain after World War II. The Temagami camps kept coming though.

The lack of an on-the-water town or village hindered the establishment of canoe outfitters that are necessary to grow a canoe area.

In 1970 the successful Taylor Statten canoe camps Ahmek and Wapomeo in Algonquin Park opened an outpost for older campers on Maskinonge Lake. The group became the dominant paddlers of the area and helped keep portages cleared. Word of mouth of alumni contributed to a meagre rise in use of the area.

Until recently there were few good access roads. You had to be willing to take labourious, car-stressing drives on deteriorating, abandoned logging roads to get to a good put-in.

All that has changed, but the biggest improvements were recent. In 2001 a number of townships were amalgamated into the new City of Greater Sudbury, and. it began regular maintenance of the last section of the gravel road to Matagamasi Lake. In 2004 the Matagamasi public landing and parking was improved. You can now get to the landing from Hwy 17 in 25 minutes. In 2006, Chiniguchi River Waterway Park was established.

POSTED: 5.25.2006

UPDATED: 11.03.2008

  Outlet of Paradise Lagoon on Chiniguchi River.  BRIAN BACK

Chiniguchi overview

/chi-ni-goo'chee/

 

Map: Chiniguchi area and canoe routes

 
 

Nishnabai translation

Chini-koo-jee-shing

guts off to the side

 

   

 

 

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