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Ottertooth Forums * Temagami canoe routes & backcountry travel * Archive through May 29, 2009 * MNR responds to Portage SOS < Previous Next >

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brian
Moderator

Post Number: 948
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Sunday, September 7, 2008 - 4:13 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

MNR's canoe-route maintenance program quickly responded to my appeal to rescue a canoe route that had become an overgrown nightmare.

I took the Yorston-Pilgrim crossover (which is recorded on the Canoe Routes Planning Map) in late June, getting lost twice on old logging roads, and forced to almost bushwhack across the portages. When I got home, I sent an email titled "Portage SOS" to the new acting Park Superintendent Kevin Pinkerton and Assistant Superintendent Kelly Frost. Here's the text:

The 4-portage crossover route between the Sturgeon River (at Pilgrim Creek) and Yorston Lake is badly in need of maintenance, more so than any set of portages I have seen in a long time. The section is partly in the Sturgeon River Park and the rest on Crown land. It is published on the Temagami Canoe Routes Planning Map.

Let me deal with each portage, from the Sturgeon to Yorston Lake:

1. Sturgeon River to Pilgrim Creek: This portage looks like it was bushwhacked and then never properly cut and cleared. (It used to take advantage of a logging bridge over rapids on Pilgrim Creek, but when the bridge went out the bushwhacked detour became necessary.)
a. South half of trail: The trail could take advantage of a former log dump (located about 100 metres west of the mouth of Pilgrim Creek and hidden by Labrador tea) as the landing on the Sturgeon River. This would also avoid the steep bank climb on the bushwhacked landing (about 25 metres west of mouth of Pilgrim Creek).
b. North half of trail: After crossing the old logging road, the poorly situated bushwhack goes over a tough boulder field, and zigzags through trees. I suggest cutting a new trail farther west to avoid the terrain problem. A new trail could terminate at the current landing of the bushwhack on Pilgrim Creek. (The entire portage is within the Sturgeon River Park.)

2. Pilgrim Creek to first lake: A disaster. This follows what were logging roads in the 1960s. The trail deteriorates as it moves east because the balsams have almost completely overtaken it. It is more a bushwhack than a portage now. One of the worst trails I have seen. (Part of this trail is within the Sturgeon River Park.)

3. First lake to second lake: The old nastawgan in use as the trail it is in fine shape. (On Crown land.)

4. Second lake to Yorston Lake: Another disaster. The entire trail needs brushing, but it deteriorates into a bushwhack for most of the eastern half. This trail also has orphan paths in the eastern section that turn it into a confusing quagmire for anyone coming at it from the west. Right now, someone who has never been on this trail could get lost three or four times and have serious trouble actually finding the correct trail, tricked by the old logging paths. A good wide brushing would solve both of these issues. (On Crown land.)

A serious problem with this route is the fact that it was logged (before portages were protected in forest management planning) and crisscrossed with logging roads and skidways, destroying the old portages. In such a situation there are no landmarks for canoeists who are forced into following the old logging paths, which no longer follow water or take a straight line from beginning to end. Any side road can easily trick a portager into thinking it is the portage. In these cases, I hope Parks and MNR would consider additional marking of the trails/roads to guide canoeists across. As the areas are no longer pristine, it becomes hard for those who object to signage to not make an exception. I was first on this route in 1970 right after it was logged. It was confusing then and continues so, though to a lesser degree as the forest grows back.

I intend to produce a map of the route and publish it on Ottertooth.com. Please, keep me posted as to any work that is done so I can update the map.



(Note: I should point out that I was incorrect in saying the logging took place in the 1960s. From old Keewaydin Camp logs I later learned that the logging took place in the 1950s.)

That day, unbeknowest to me at the time, they called up Park Warden Steve Lewis and Interior Ranger Trevor Leveille on their sat phone and asked them to change their route and head over to the portages. My comments were passed on to them.

They were on Wakimika and took the Pinetorch portages west to the Yorston River and headed down to Yorston Lake. Then they began the task of trying to find the correct routes and clearing them. The guys actually ran out of food and kept going on bass they caught.

Although they did not re-route the Sturgeon to Pilgrim portage, this year, they did improve it somewhat. They cleared the rest of the trails and hung up signs where they could (not a lot of large trees on some trails thanks to the extensive logging in the 1950s) where the routes got confusing within the old logging roads.

I hope no one will touch these signs. If there is one situation that I believe desperately requires portage signage, it is along portages that intersect with (or are destroyed by, as is the case here) logging. These can be nightmares to navigate otherwise.

I want to commend MNR for responding so quickly. Thanks.
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erhard
Member

Post Number: 10
Registered: 03-2004
Posted on Sunday, September 7, 2008 - 8:49 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

That is one hell of a positive story! Hats off to you, Brian! And I am impressed with the folks at the MNR and their response!
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brian
Moderator

Post Number: 949
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Monday, September 8, 2008 - 7:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

This reminds me of the program back in the 1980s when people like Hap Wilson, John Kilbridge and Doug Hamilton were maintaining trails. If they had to catch fish so they could stay and get the job done, they did.
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curly
Member

Post Number: 144
Registered: 03-2006


Posted on Tuesday, September 9, 2008 - 3:28 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Brian,

Someone has hacked your ottertooth account and is posting libelous drivel, absurd innuendo, and obvious lies. Look what I found under your name:

"I want to commend MNR for responding so quickly. Thanks."

You should address this issue immediately. It has been obvious for years that Ontario Parks hates canoeists, so this silly notion that park rangers are out there "clearing portages," (and after a request from the public, at that) must not be allowed to spread further.

Your brother in arms (or paddles),
Curly
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brian
Moderator

Post Number: 950
Registered: 02-2004


Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - 9:21 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Did those hackers really think that we would be fooled into believing that drivel?
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doublebend
Member

Post Number: 20
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - 8:36 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Nice one! A friend and I traveled from Yorston Lake to the Sturgeon last year. It started to rain as we began our first carry from Yorston Lake, just before we hit the wall of balsam you speak of. A pair of drowned rats in minutes flat. Good to know no-one'll have to face that again.

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