Post Number: 467
|Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 1:54 pm: ||
After over five years of dreaming and planning, I finally got down Ottertail Creek. I will supplement with photos in a subsequent post. To make sense of this report, you need to look at the route on Bing Maps using the Aerial setting as well as 1:50,000 topo maps. Bing has better satellite imagery of this area than Google.
Disclaimer! This report details what we did, not what you should do. We ran the river at high water. Rapid classification and portages will be different with higher or lower water levels. This route should be attempted only by experienced whitewater canoe trippers. You need to be prepared to run rapids and bushcrash portages and campsites. Sections of the river are essentially inaccessible to rescue parties. Budget extra time in case of an incident. Lake Temiskaming can be dangerous to cross. If winds or waves prevent safe travel on this big lake, wait it out. There is no cell phone reception on any part of this route.
31 L/13 Ingall Lake, 31 L/12 Marten Lake, 31 L/14 Ottertail Creek
15, total approx. 4300 m, longest ~1000 m, average length is 100-200 m. In the report, I use the Friends of Temagami method of estimating portage length, measuring in hundreds of metres, e.g. a P2 is between 101-200 m.
Class 1 x 7, Class 2 x 6, Class 3 x 1, Class 4 x 4, Class 5 x 4, Class 6 x 2. Most regular canoeists will consider Class 4 and above to be waterfalls, so there are 14 rapids and 10 waterfalls.
Day 1 — Shuttle from North Bay to put-in at Core Sample Lake
Here are directions to the put-in from Bing Maps.
http://www.bing.com/maps/#Y3A9NDYuNjg5NDgwfi03OS42 MjE2MTEmbHZsPTEyJnN0eT1oJnJ0cD1wb3MuNDYuMzE4MDAxXy 03OS40NjYxMDNfTm9ydGglMjBCYXklMkMlMjBPTl9fX2VffnYu NDYuNjk1NDU3Xy03OS43MjcyNjJfcm9hZH52LjQ2LjY3NDY5MF 8tNzkuNjUxODg3X3JvYWR+cG9zLjQ2LjcwMjU3NV8tNzkuNTc1 NDEwX25lYXIlMjBCcmFuY2glMjBPZmYlMjBHb29kZXJoYW0lMk MlMjBOaXBpc3NpbmclMjBEaXN0cmljdCUyQyUyME9OJTIwUDBI JTJDJTIwQ2FuYWRhX19fYV8mbW9kZT1EJnJ0b3A9MH4wfjB+
Basically turn off Hwy 11 at Bidwell Road and take the first left past the pipeline on the Gooderham Road. There was active logging on this road, which is in good condition for most vehicles. Follow this for 16.7 km. The main road forks left — stay straight. Continue another 2 km to a washout at the 18.7 km mark. Now you have to portage your gear 500 m, then take a trail to the left and head 100 m down the hill to an old mining camp on the lake. We camped here our first night. Our choice to put in at Core Sample Lake was a good one, but the last 2 km requires a 4x4 vehicle and a willingness to sacrifice your paint job, the alders are that thick. If you do not want to drive your vehicle down this road, park at the fork and portage the rest of the way in. Another option is to start near Little Otter Lake, bushcrash to Little Otter, then paddle or portage down to Ottertail Creek. Our original plan was to start at the public access on Wicksteed Lake, paddle NE to the far end, paddle and portage SE down Ruth Creek to where it meets Ottertail Creek. We changed our plans after hearing from someone who had paddled this route 40+ years ago who said Ruth Creek was very difficult.
Day 2 — Core Sample Lake to unnamed waterfalls
From Core Sample Lake, we headed down Ottertail Creek. I do not think that the creek is navigable upstream of this lake, at least not without significant bushcrash portaging. The upper creek is a large wetland and the two birders in our group spotted a lot of species, including some rare birds. Go past where Little Otter Creek comes in and continue to Otter Lake. There is a nice campsite on the big point in Otter Lake. We called this Tequila Point. If you want to know why, just go poking around and you should figure it out. The creek flows north out of Otter Lake. Soon it passes under the ONR train tracks, which it follows for a few kilometres. There is a P2 on the left at an old railway camp, avoiding a small, unrunnable rapid. There is a moose camp on river right at a bend in the tracks. Please respect this property (and all bush camps you encounter), it belongs to a gentleman who has hunted and trapped this area for many decades. He paddled down the creek twice over 40 years ago and provided us with valuable information. To the north of the creek is the Gooderham Old Growth Forest Conservation Reserve. This is the start of almost uninterrupted white and jack pine old growth down the length of the river. In fact, despite passing several historic lumbering camps, I’ve never seen so much old growth along a river in Temagami. Soon Ruth Creek enters on the left, followed by Fall Creek. It may be possible to access the river here after paddling Wicksteed Lake and portaging to Fanny and Fall Lakes. We bushed a campsite on the left approx. 0.5 km downstream of Fall Creek at the top of a C5 waterfalls. P2 on the left.
Day 3 — unnamed waterfalls to top of Red Rock Falls #1
Soon after our campsite falls are two C1 rapids. We ran both centre. There is a huge clearing on the right side of the big south bend, this would make a more suitable campsite than our bushed site. Next rapids is about 5 km from the previous rapids. It is a C2, which we scouted from both sides and ran right of the island at the end. After this, the river bends in a Z-shape and drops over a C5 falls. P1 on the left. Shortly after this is where the Lasalle Road (an offshoot of the McConnell Lake Road off Hwy 63) reaches the river. Someday there will be a logging bridge crossing here. It makes a good access point to begin or end your trip if you are not travelling the whole river. See previous threads on Ottertail Creek for details on this access. A few kilometres past the road is where the real fun begins. It was getting late in the day and we were wet from lengthy rain showers, so we bushed another campsite on the right at the top of Red Rock Falls.
Day 4 — Red Rock Falls to O’Brian Lake
Red Rock Falls is set of 3 rapids and falls (C4-C2-C5) and marks the beginning of a steep section of river. Between here and O’Brian Lake, the river drops about 120 feet in 8 km, or 15’ per km. That includes 11 rapids or waterfalls. Bushcrash P2 on the right around C4 Red Rock #1. The portage ends at the top of the C2 Red Rock #2 rapids. This rapid ends at the top of C5 Red Rock #3 waterfalls. A huge fallen pine bridges the canyon at the top of this falls. If you dump in the C2 there is a good chance you and/or your gear will go over Red Rock #3. The portage around Red Rock #3 is a P3 on the left. Take note that our Red Rock #1 portage was on the right and #3 was on the left. We ran the C2 rapids in between and crossed to the opposite side of the river. If you want to portage the entire Red Rock section, you should consider the left shore. This will involve a lengthy bushcrash. After Red Rock #3 we paddled about 1.5 km to a C2, which we scouted and ran on the right. Another km downstream is a C4 waterfalls, P2 on the right. There is an old campsite half way along the portage trail, overlooking the river canyon below. Immediately past the pool at the bottom is a C1 rapids with a river-wide sweeper. The rapid would have been easily runnable, but we portaged on the right. Immediately past the sweeper rapids is a C1, which we ran centre. Half a km after this is Diver Down Falls, a C4 rapid, P1 on the left. The river is relatively calm for 2 km until C6 Brute Creek Falls, P1 on the left. Immediately after the pool at the bottom is an easy C1 which we ran, however, this runs straight into C5 Rifle Rapids. P2 on the left between the C1 and C5. If you dump in the C1, you or your gear are probably going down the C5, so use extreme caution. By this time it was late in the day. We opted to continue to O’Brian Lake, as the river is calm in this section. We bushed our last campsite on a point in the middle of O’Brian Lake.
Day 5 — O’Brian Lake to take-out
We had a late start off the campsite. Started the day by paddling north to check out the North Ottertail Creek. Below O’Brian Lake are seven rapids before Ottertail Falls. There is a tote road along the left bank of the lower river, making portaging a breeze. First is a C1, we ran right. Then come two C2s in quick succession. We opted to portage them, I think we were getting lazy. About 0.5 km downstream is another C1, which we ran centre right. After that is a lengthy C2 which we scouted and opted to run “pick and choose." About 2 km below this is a C3, P1 on the left. This location is used as an ATV ford in lower water levels. There is also a pontoon boat barge here for ferrying across in higher water. All of this is to supply a trap line on O’Brian Lake. After a few oxbows, there is a lengthy C4, P5 on the right (the tote road is now on this side). At the bottom of the C4, we ferried to the left side to the Ottawa-Temiskaming Highland Trail, our portage to Lake Temiskaming. It is approximately a P10 and it was obviously designed with hikers in mind, not people carrying canoes. While it wasn’t as difficult as the bushcrash portages upstream, it was long and arduous nonetheless. At the bottom we saw what might have been a river right portage, but didn’t have time to investigate. There is a nice campsite at the mouth of the river, but we paddled down Lake Temiskaming in the early evening calm. Use caution at Opimica Narrows, where this huge lake narrows suddenly. The currents and whirlpools were very strong. The take out is on the left, in Quebec, at the public access on Cedar Pine Road, north of Temiscaming, Quebec. This access is on a good dirt road and is suitable for most vehicles.
http://www.bing.com/maps/#Y3A9NDYuODM5MTA3fi03OS4y MTI2NzgmbHZsPTE1JnN0eT1oJnJ0cD1wb3MuNDYuMzE4MDAxXy 03OS40NjYxMDNfTm9ydGglMjBCYXklMkMlMjBPTl9fX2VffnBv cy40Ni44MzgwNjlfLTc5LjIxMzU1MF9uZWFyJTIwQ2hlbWluJT IwUHJpdiVDMyVBOSUyQyUyMFQlQzMlQTltaXNjYW1pbmclMkMl MjBRQyUyMEowWiUyQyUyMENhbmFkYV9fX2VfJm1vZGU9RCZydG 9wPTB+MH4wfg==
Jeremy and Luke compiled a list of 74 species which they spotted or heard during the trip. Click here for the list:
Remember that old trapper who gave us some info on the river? One thing he said was, "Ottertail Creek? There's a reason no one goes down there." Then there is Jeremy's mom. She grew up in Thorne, a nearby community. When Jeremy told her he was going down the Ottertail, she said, "Why? That's just a bunch of waterfalls."
In terms of flow, the OC is similar to other Temagami rivers, such as Lady Evelyn, Upper Wanapitei or Temagami. It is high in the spring and fall, and a rock garden in the summer. Ottertail Creek will never be a popular route. First, it is not part of an easy loop. You can only paddle it as a linear trip, or a very long loop incorporating more bushcrashing up North Ottertail Creek or extensive travel on the unpredictable Lake Temiskaming. Even if there were portages around the many waterfalls and challenging rapids, they would still be beyond most people's abilities. However, if you crave something way off the beaten path, extreme physical challenge, if you want to float past some of Temagami's biggest old growth forests, and if your skills are up to it, the Ottertail Creek awaits.
(Message edited by curly on May 22, 2014)
Post Number: 334
|Posted on Friday, May 23, 2014 - 12:02 am: ||
Wow, sounds pretty amazing. Looking forward to the photos.
Post Number: 13
|Posted on Friday, May 23, 2014 - 8:32 pm: ||
Congratulations Curly, I know you've been at this one a while. Thanks for that report, great trip.
Post Number: 468
|Posted on Sunday, May 25, 2014 - 8:49 pm: ||
Put in at Ottertail Creek, just upstream of Core Sample Lake (unnamed on maps, it's a small lake just upstream of where Little Ottertail Ck comes in).
ONR train near Gooderham Old Growth Forest CR.
Luke birding from a moose camp, looking upstream.
Looking downstream, between the ONR tracks and Fall Creek.
First night campsite, at the top of the first waterfalls, just down from Fall Creek.
Red Rock Falls #1 in high water.
Red Rock Falls #1 in low water, Sept 2013
Red Rock Falls #3
C2 between Red Rock Falls and Diver Down Falls. Luke in the stern and Paul in the bow.
A typical portage.
Portaging down the Ottawa-Temiskaming Highland Trail.
Calm as glass on Lake Temiskaming.
Post Number: 1613
|Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 9:20 am: ||
Do you think there will be enough water during normal summers to attempt the route?
Post Number: 335
|Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 12:12 am: ||
Great pictures, especially the fabulous shot of Rifle Rapids, I can't think offhand of another rapids that spectacular and dangerous-looking in all of Temagami!! Almost as dangerous as the spot you took the picture from...
Seriously, great shot.
Post Number: 471
|Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 10:20 pm: ||
Brian, you could do the route in the summer, but you'd be lining or wading most of the rapids. And most of the "falls" are really just difficult rapids, so you could probably wade them too. Really we should call this Ottertail River, not creek. That minimizes the size of the waterway.
Post Number: 43
|Posted on Saturday, May 31, 2014 - 1:17 pm: ||
Looks like a great adventure. Excellent write up and photos.
The OTHT wasn't designed as a portage and we're always concerned about ATV incursion so we try to make the going difficult at access points (you were at the current southern trail head). Hope it wasn't too rough. The place where you took the photo of Ottertail Falls is a favourite spot of mine and I really like the walk down to the lake.
I've spent a lot of time on Lake Temiskaming. It requires a cautious approach but it's not something to be afraid of. I've had much worse wind and waves on Lake Temagami and Lady Evelyn. At high water there is quite a current through Opimica Narrows but it shouldn't flip you over.
Thanks for the excellent, detailed route info and photos. The Ottertail Creek canoe trip will probably remain an arm chair adventure for me so it's great to be able to follow your trip.
Post Number: 33
|Posted on Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 11:56 am: ||
I was a great trip and Bob's summary was great ! I had trouble the last day ! I was dragging,I could lift my feet slowly to climb over rocks on the last trail,our final lake travel was the best,being calm with little wind. After Bob got me back to my vehicle,I finally made it to Temagami and slept in the Blazer over-night to start my next trip to Temagami island to help clear island trails !
Post Number: 1631
|Posted on Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 8:17 am: ||
When did you do the trip? And what was the water level like?
Post Number: 474
|Posted on Friday, July 4, 2014 - 7:29 pm: ||
May 15-19, 2014. Water levels were high. There was some evidence that they were starting to come down, they could have been up to a foot higher earlier in the spring.