Forums Forums Help/Rules Help Edit Profile My Profile Member List Register  
Search Last 1 | 3 | 7 Days Search Search  
Ottertooth Forums * Temagami canoe routes & backcountry travel * Archive through September 18, 2013 * Montreal River, Beauty Lake Road to Stumpy Lake < Previous Next >

Author Message
 Link to this message

curly
Member

Post Number: 415
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013 - 11:00 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

I spent last weekend finding and clearing the 1895 m portage on the Montreal River downstream of the Beauty Lake Road. Though Hap describes the portage as easy to find and follow, that was written 40 years ago. Recent reports were that the trail was completely overgrown and impassable.

I started at BLR and paddled an easy 2 km downstream to the top of what is described as a 2 km rapids, Class 1-2 in high water and an unlineable and unportageable rock garden in low water. TSM attempted the route, as described here:
http://www.ottertooth.com/discus/messages/3/7185.h tml
and here:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/helene.huot/Day_4_Ishpati na_Ridge_index.html

I heard another report that a prominent Temagami youth camp opted to use 6 km of logging roads to get straight from BLR to Stumpy Lake rather than try the river or portage.

The rapids starts at a short S-turn rapids, the location of an old logging-era dam. The only evidence that there was a trail there was a very old piece of flagging tape in the duff. I camped on river right at the old dam. This is a nice campsite, good swimming in the river, and if you clear out a few pin cherries, room for 3-4 tents.

Day 1 I spent trying to find the old portage, without success. I then scouted the upper part of the S-turn rapids, which is followed by a pool before the continuous section of rapids begins. Because I could not find the old portage, I flagged, blazed and cut a new 200 m portage along river right past the first rapids to the pool.

Day 2 started trying to find the old portage on river right downstream of the pool. The bush here was very thick small balsam trees, plus it was pouring rain, so I was soaked to the bone. However, after about 20 minutes of bushwhacking, I found a section of the old trail. It took the rest of the day, but I was able to piece together the original portage between the pool and the bottom of the rapids, for a total of 1300 m. I flagged the entire length. It was evident that the trail had not seen maintenance of any kind in a long time. There were very few blazed trees, indicating that most of the original blazes have fallen down. There were very few chainsawed logs, and those I did find were very rotten and mossy, meaning they were cut a long time ago. In fact, most of the cut logs I found had axe marks, indicating that regular maintenance had probably stopped before the chainsaw era. I also found an intact section of metigo-mukana (a pre-contact type of corduroy, with 3-4 logs laid lengthwise along a muddy section). As for "garbage" I found one old bottle, one very rusty can, a bit of plastic, and a section of telegraph cable. Did the old dam have telecommunications at one time?

Day 3 I started blazing the trail, figuring that if I do nothing else, at least someone else will be able to find it. Unfortunately, my Swede axe broke, so I had to go back to the start to get my regular axe to complete the job. Then I started chainsawing deadfall and standing trees of about 2-4 inches DBH (too big for most hand tools). Not many people go paddling with a chainsaw, so if people come through with hand tools, at least they will find the heavy work done. Unfortunately, I ran out of energy before I could complete the chainsawing. I finished to within about 300 m of the end.

Day 4 I had to drive home. So if you go there today, you will find the first 200 m portage and campsite in good shape. The second 1300 m portage is completely open for about 100 m, then chainsawed for about 1000 m. The whole length is flagged and blazed. You would not be able to portage a canoe on it without at least another person day or 2 spent finishing the chainsawing then cutting the small balsams and tag alders out with clippers or an axe.

I plan on going back to complete this work before the summer. If you are interested in helping, either on your own or going with me, let me know.

When this work is done, it will effectively reopen Hap's Route #18. It will also enable paddlers to reach the West Montreal River and the Little Hawk Portages to the Grassy River in the Arctic watershed.
 Link to this message

brian
Moderator

Post Number: 1538
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Friday, May 24, 2013 - 12:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Great work. Thanks.
Now if only there were lots more such generous (with time and sweat) folks around...

Any biters yet?
 Link to this message

curly
Member

Post Number: 416
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 7:39 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Blackflies, pouring rain, constant danger... what's not to love. It's a weird hobby that combines orienteering, archaeology and chainsaws. I'm just happy when people start using the old routes that are reopened. Nothing confirmed, but one person has expressed interest.
 Link to this message

brian
Moderator

Post Number: 1539
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Saturday, May 25, 2013 - 10:45 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

More will come as word gets out.
 Link to this message

tsm
Member

Post Number: 154
Registered: 03-2004


Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 5:42 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Curly
Great job and report!
Kind of glad to hear someone else couldn't find the portage either! :-)

(Message edited by Tsm on May 28, 2013)
 Link to this message

curly
Member

Post Number: 419
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Saturday, June 1, 2013 - 7:44 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

I went back yesterday and finished the portage. The bottom 300 m was very thick bush, so the chainsawing took more time than I had anticipated. I actually ranthe rapids down to the bottom, figuring that the only way I was getting home was by finishing the work and portaging the canoe back up. The rapids were nice, getting a little shallow. Anyone comfortable with Class 2 rapids and backferrying can run it without scouting. In spots it is narrow enought that a fallen tree could form a full sweeper, so be careful of that.

There is an ATV trail on river right at the bottom of the rapids which I had not seen on my last trip. It's about 50 m downstream of the spot I originally marked for the landing. Instead of creating two landings and sowing confusion, I extended the trail slightly to use the existing landing.

If people go through there, I was short on time so did not do as much clearing on the middle 800 m as I would have liked. Both the top and bottom of the portage are cleared out very well, but in the middle there are still a lot of balsam branches extending across the trail. The trail is well flagged and blazed and enough has been cleared that no one should get lost. You can definitely get a canoe through.

If you are going through this way, please budget a little time to help cut some balsam branches on the middle section. (Really, everyone should be doing that everywhere. If everyone spent 10 minutes of trail maintenance for every 1000 m of portaging, we'd never have to worry about this again.)

Here are some ideas to use this "new" portage:

- Beauty Lake Road to Matachewan or Elk Lake via Montreal River
- Gowganda to Twinkle Lake or Upper Sturgeon River access points
- Gamble Lake to Gowganda

The main reason for opening this was to facilitate the Little Hawk Portages project to the Grassy River, Mattagami River and James Bay if you're so inclined. The Little Hawks are now open (I'll try to write a more detailed post on that soon).
 Link to this message

grncnu
Member

Post Number: 282
Registered: 08-2010
Posted on Saturday, June 1, 2013 - 9:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

"If everyone spent 10 minutes of trail maintenance for every 1000 m of portaging, we'd never have to worry about this again."
i couldn't agree more!
by the way (& i'm certain curly would agree)- in general, and for most people, chainsaw clearing is best done with at least 2 people present- if only because it's hard to tie a ligature with only one hand!
 Link to this message

curly
Member

Post Number: 420
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Sunday, June 2, 2013 - 8:29 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Very true about the chainsaws. I don't like chainsawing alone.
 Link to this message

brian
Moderator

Post Number: 1541
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Monday, June 3, 2013 - 8:46 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thanks for your work, Curly.

"If everyone spent 10 minutes of trail maintenance for every 1000 m of portaging, we'd never have to worry about this again." pass it on
 Link to this message

canoehead
Member

Post Number: 22
Registered: 09-2008
Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 1:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thanks Bob,it makes me happy that you cleared some bush so as to enable people to get to Little Hawk. I'm glad that Little Hawk is now completed. Nobody should have any problem following any of the Little Hawk portages,they are cleared approx. 6 to 8 feet wide,many of the rotten logs were all removed to prevent foot traps and it is all blazed really well,the new campsite half way at the bottom of String Lake is an added bonus since some may have to do a double carry and may run out of daylight to continue further!!

Forums | Last Day | Last Week | Search | User List | Help/Rules Home