Post Number: 37
|Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - 1:12 pm: ||
Nettogami River Trip Report May 2010
The trip starts at Upper Kesagami Lake off Hwy. 652 at an altitude of 968ft. It follows the Kesagami River to Kesagami Lake, portages from the lake to Piyagaskou lake which is the head of the Nettogami River at 837ft. It then continues downstream on the Nettogami River where it starts to drop off the Canadian Shield, down the Kiosko, and North French, and finally Moose River in the James Bay Lowlands at an elevation just above sea level.
There are just 2 of us on this yearís trip: James Grant, and Simon Baillie. We are using a 17ft Royalex Scott Missinabi outfitted with flotation bags front and rear.
Fri May 21 Ė
We left work early to start the long drive from Renfrew to Cochrane (approx 8hrs) and arrived in Cochrane around 11:00PM to find that hotels are busy due to a high school reunion. I guess a lot of people must move out of Cochrane after graduation! Found a motel room (smoking rooms are all thatís left) and crashed for night, set alarm for 5AM.
Sat May 22 Ė 60km, Portage 0M, Drop 43ft
Up early, last shower, and throne, then some final organizing of gear. Met Terry of Johnny Bait Canoe Shuttle service at Tim Hortonís for 6AM. Dropped his car off at his house, then he squeezed in with us and our gear and we began the 140km drive down the 652 to the put in. Because the spring was so dry, we were able to drive the Echo down a sandy bush road around Upper Kesagami Lake to the start of the river (shaved off 3km lake paddle). Got out to greet the bugs (thanks to early spring we arrived at peak season!), unloaded gear, handed Terry the keys, and shoved off before 9AM.
We had read all the horror stories about the early part of Kesagami River being a narrow, twisty, shallow, Alder choked mess and so were prepared for the worst. Having paddled Algonquin Parkís Nippissing river a few times, we had an idea what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the river is not nearly as overgrown as the Nippissing. It was only about 10M wide, and shallow in spots, but with careful paddling we only had to get out of the boat for blowdowns/gravel bars about half a dozen times all day.
The paddle was actually quite nice. We saw schools of suckers in the shallow water, loads of geese and ducks. The bugs were bearable on the water after 10AM, and we no longer needed head nets. It warmed up significantly, and the sun shone down all day. The twists and turns started to get repetitive by around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, but shortly after we hit the widening and straightening of the river denoted by 2 lines on the 50,000 scale topos. At this point to Fossil Lake the river was probably between 20M and 50M wide. I could feel a tender spot developing on my lower paddling hand, so I threw on a paddling glove and managed to avoid getting a nasty blister.
Our plan for today was to paddle hard and make it all the way to ďFossil LakeĒ a distance of 56km, but we could not find a decent campsite on the lake, so we pushed a few more km down the river and eventually found a nice campsite among the spruce trees at 9:30PM around km 60. A very good push for day 1! We setup the Mantis tarp for cooking in, and decided to try sleeping in it as it was still quite warm in the evening.
Sun May 23 Ė 72km, Portage 0M, Drop 70ft
We woke up at around 7AM after an OK sleep. The Mantis tarp was definitely cooler than a tent, but every hour or so another mosquito would find its way in and wake us up. We made the mistake of taking down the tarp before eating breakfast, so we ate oatmeal while simultaneously performing a jig. Very tricky eating while hopping around trying to avoid bugs!
The bugs drove us off land and back onto the water as quickly as possible. We had to don bug nets while starting, but after an hour or so on the water the bugs were all but gone. Once the sun got high enough we could tell it was going to be another scorcher. The 30+C heat made the mosquitoes run for cover, and significantly slowed down the blackflies.
The plan for today was to make it 36km all the way to Kesagami Lake, and camp at the mouth of the river. In the morning the river was slow and wide, and we paddled through some beautiful wetlands full of birds including Sandhill cranes, diving gulls, and bald eagles. After about 10 km we came to a small lake, and were surprised to see a few people and a very well kept cabin. They told us that they were able to ride 4-wheelers all the way in on old trails, but it was an all-day ride to get there. They graciously invited us in for a coffee, but as we were still anxious to make it to Kesagami Lake today we declined. They also mentioned that once the river leaves the lake, it is virtually rapids all the way to Kesagami Lake.
After the small lake, we immediately found a small swift as they mentioned. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of swifts over the next 20km to Kesagami. They were shallow and gravelly, but careful reading of water would often reveal a channel deep enough to float us through. The swifts provided a much welcome relief between the flatwater sections, and there was even a couple of class I rapids, and a fun narrow class II chute that dropped about 3 feet.
After lunch the wind started to get very strong coming from the SW and helped push us along during the flatwater sections. We would often lie back, enjoy the sunshine and simply rudder our way down the flatwater sections with the wind pushing us to about 3km/hr. I will definitely be outfitting the canoe with a small sail before my next expedition!
Before we knew it we were approaching Kesagami Lake. I tried trolling a line a couple of times, and had a couple vicious hits, but no fish. When we hit the large lake, it was a mess of odd shaped waves, swells, and whitecaps. If it was cold, or the wind was going any direction other than that which we wanted to go, we would have called it a day. But we decided it would be an exciting (read sometimes harrowing) paddle with the wind at our back so we could just focus on staying upright. It was very odd trying to keep the boat aligned perpendicular to the waves, as they seemed to change directions every few swells. We crossed the first bay on our left without incident, then had a section of sheltered water along a narrow point. As we passed the point and crossed out in front of another large bay, it seemed as though the wind was already starting to wane.
By around 8:30PM we were nearing the end of the 20km long Newnham Bay, and now had a big decision to make. We were already nearly 20km ahead of schedule for the day, and were debating whether to go on and take advantage of the lull in the wind. Knowing that the forecast was calling for another hot windy day tomorrow, we felt that the lake might not be paddleable. We were also weighing the possibility of finishing the trip early. We planned on reaching Mooseonee on Monday afternoon of the 10th day and taking the train back to Cochrane. The only option for finishing early that didnít involve staying overnight in Mooseonee with canoe and all our gear would be to arrive on Friday afternoon to catch the 5PM train back to Cochrane. There is no weekend train service until later in the summer. We were pretty sure that doing a 10 day trip in 7 days was impossible, but decided to push on anyway and avoid a day windbound on the large lake.
As we paddled through the narrows into Kesagami Lake proper, the immense size of the main body of the lake became apparent. It is truly an impressive lake at nearly 20 km across. We were now headed west taking a route south of Big Island. Just past the southern tip of Big Island we saw a Caribou walking along the south shore of the Lake. It was quite a distance from us, but still a pleasant surprise. As we paddled past the shoreline, it was apparent that camping here would be very difficult. The ice from the lake must scour the shoreline, as most of it consisted of 6 to 10 foot mud cliffs with trees falling off the top into the water.
As we rounded the point to start south down Opimiskau Bay, we noticed it was now 10PM and nearly dark except for moonlight. We still had a good 10km to go down this large open bay, but decided it better to keep going while the waves were minimal than risk such a large expanse of water during the day. It was quite surreal paddling on such a large expanse of water in moonlight, after about 14 hours already on the water. By the time we had crossed the bay it was nearly 1AM and we were seriously waning. It took us nearly another hour of paddling close to the shoreline to try and find somewhere to camp. The shoreline is mostly dense black spruce with moss and peat covered ground (no solid earth or rock). We managed to find a section that looked slightly more open than the rest. It was still all spongy moss, but one section was just large enough to support our small 2-man tent, and it was dry enough that water wasnít coming up from below. We were too tired to even cook dinner, so it was straight to bed just after 2AM!
Mon May 24 Ė 9Km, Portage 2=1300M, Drop 18ft
Up fairly early around 7AM. Would have liked to sleep more after the late night, but the tent was already warming up. As we were getting out of the tent, 3 large Eagles landed in the trees above us. They were the same size as a Bald eagle, but a drab mottled grey brown colour. As best I can tell, they were likely Golden Eagles which are said to be a rare sight this far East.
Since we were camped in muskeg, and hadnít setup the bug shelter, we decided to just push on and try to find the portage to the next lake just West of Opimiscau Bay. In retrospect this turned out to be a big mistake, as we skipped dinner the night before, and were about to abuse our bodies some more.
The plan today is only about 8km total to crossover from Lake Kesagami, to Lake Piyagaskou the start of the Nettogami River. It seems like a short distance, but it is a major unkown on this trip as the only description of the route I could find was an old Wanapitei youth trip back in 1995. It took the youth group 2 days to cross 4km of swamp, so we were quite apprehensive starting the day.
We paddled off into the shallow bay, and found it full of weeds and grass. It looked like an excellent Pike habitat, so we decided to fish our way across, casting in and out of the weeds. Kesagami Lake is famous for its trophy pike, but it seemed that this 3rd day heatwave had shut most of the fishing down. Without a single bite we carried on to the west shoreline to search for the portage. I expected it to be fairly obvious thinking that the lodge guests might use it to access the next lake. It was starting to look like a bushwack would be inevitable, when we saw some posts sticking out of the water. Upon closer inspection they are the posts for an old dock, and sure enough an obvious portage started right behind them. It was quite difficult to see the portage from the lake, but once on shore it is very obvious.
This being the first real portage of the season, I wasnít paying as much attention to my footing as I should have and about 50M into the 500M portage I stepped in the middle of the path only to sink in mud up to my knee. With only one foot on solid ground, a 30lb pack, and a 80lb plastic canoe I didnít have the strength to pull my foot out. I had to roll the canoe off my back onto the muskeg, and it still took everything I had to get my foot out of the sinkhole. After some cursing at the mud and my lack of footing, I got the big canoe back on my shoulders and managed the rest of the portage without incident. The effort of recovering my foot had seriously drained what little energy I had left, and with no dinner or breakfast I was fading quickly. We got the boat launched, and decided to head up the lake to a small abandoned fishing cabin for some food and rest before starting the dreaded 4km trip through a swamp to Piyagaskou lake.
It was probably close to lunch time when we finally started paddling south toward the 4km swamp crossing. As we approached the swamp we were pleasantly surprised to find the creek flowing into the swamp was wide enough and deep enough to float the canoe. The trip started out well as the creek wound its way deeper into the swamp crossing numerous beaver dams. As we progressed further into the swamp the beaver dams started to get wider, and after each dam the creek would diverge into numerous extremely narrow channels. Progress was very slow in these channels, as it often involved balancing on hummocks of swamp grass while dragging the canoe through these narrow channels until they reconnected and formed a channel large enough to paddle. To top off the challenging conditions, the weather was 30C+ and the sun was relentless.
Just over halfway through the swamp, we came to a very wide beaver dam, and were very discouraged because no clear channels could be seen on the other side of it. As we paddled back and forth searching the length of the dam for a channel, we noticed a piece of flagging tape in the bush to the left of the dam. We decided to check it out, hoping it may mark a portage. We left all the gear, grabbed the GPS an proceeded to follow the flagging tape along what on any other day would be a reasonable portage. However, in our weakened state from the punishing day before, and not enough food, and with the extremely hot conditions it was a brutal 800m walk, even without any gear. Since it was such a dry spring, most of the portage was quite solid even though it was all through the muskeg. At the other end it came out where the channel had reconnected into an enjoyably sized creek. We were dying of heat, so we had to soak our shirts, and sponge down before trekking back to grab the gear. Once back we again sponged down to cool off, and grabbed all the gear to proceed with the portage. I didnít quite make it halfway through, before the weight of pack and canoe had beaten me. I threw off the canoe, and carried on with just the light pack. At the other end of the portage we were getting dangerously close to heat stroke, flushed tingly skin, slight nausea, so we had to do a lot of sponge bathing in the creek, and rest in the shade before going back for the canoe. Also, we both consumed about 4 liters of water each by this point. When we finally got through and back on the water it was after 4PM. The rest of the creek was very paddleable, and only contained a few more beaver dams before opening into the lake.
Piyagaskou Lake is quite large, 2km x 6km, and is very shallow and sandy. Just left of the creek was a large sand beach that was our destination for the day. We were looking forward to jumping into the water and cooling off. The sand was quite nice and clean, but we had to walk nearly ľ of the way across the lake to find water hip deep. After setting up camp, and cooling off we went out to catch a few Walleye for dinner. As we were fishing we could see some nasty thunderheads building in the distance, so we hurried back to cook dinner before the rain started. We managed to get the fish cooked before the first rain, but it extinguished our fire that was to be used for cooking our Striploin steaks. The rain only lasted a few minutes after which we restarted the fire, and finished the steaks.
After dinner we could see another round of nasty weather coming from across the lake. We sat on shore under the Mantis tarp for a while stunned by the ferocity of the storm building. Huge lightning strikes were hitting the ground almost continuously. We began a debate over the effectiveness of the SPOT in such severe weather if one of us was to be hit. We were on a large stretch of beach, with nothing but muskeg behind us, and it was getting very dark.
James headed to the tent, tucked in against the bush, while I decided to pack up the loose items, and lower the front of the mantis tarp, a little too late. Just as I grabbed the peak of the Mantis, a fierce steady wind came from across the lake directly into the mantis. It peeled the rope right out my hand and sent the entire tarp into the bushes. I frantically grabbed my clothing bag and sleeping bag and ran for the tent, just as the wall of water overtook me. James gave me a dirty look as he had quite cautiously entered the tent to avoid tracking sand into it. As I dove in headfirst, I probably dragged a few pounds of sand with me. The furious storm probably continued for another hour, with incredibly strong winds and driving rain. The lightening strikes were so frequent that it was more light than it was dark. Luckily the lightning avoided us, and once again we were amazed at the waterproofness of my little Mountain Hardware tent. Virtually no water made it in, even though the wind was probably a steady 50 km/hr, with even stronger gusts, and driving rain.
Somehow, even with the crazy storm still raging on, we both managed to fall asleep after one of the hardest tripping days weíve ever had.
Tues May 25 Ė 47km, Portage 0M, Drop 112ft
Again we were up too early, as it was turning into another hot day. The day starts on Piyagaskou Lake at an elevation of 837ft. The morning was busy peeling the Mantis tarp out of the bush, and taking inventory of our equipment to determine what is missing. The Mantis is in surprisingly good shape considering it was well implanted on some large driftwood and spruce trees. A few holes in the top, a few holes in the mesh, and only a single large tear about 3ft long in the mesh near the door. A few minutes with the duct tape, and it is setup in time to hide from the bugs, and start breakfast. We find a lot of our items literally buried in the beach, and determine the only missing item is my hat. Later, as I head off into the bush to relieve myself, I stumble upon my hat!
The plan for today is to quickly hit the river, and start downstream. We were aiming for a small lake like expansion of the river 40km away. We expected the river to be mostly flatwater paddling until the lake, with only a couple of rapids, one marked on the map, and another referred to as a logjam and visible on google earth. After a short paddle across the lake we enter the mouth of the river and find it already a good size river. It is pretty much flatwater paddling in this stretch from Piyagaskou to the tip of Nettogami, with the odd slightly submerged boulder to avoid. By the time we hit the tip of Nettogami, and change directions from west to due North it is starting to get unbearably hot again. We are pleasantly surprised when only a few kms downstream we come across a swift requiring some maneuvering to avoid the rocks. The area referred to as a logjam is actually a barely paddleable rapid (maybe class1) with boulders and gravel bars. The afternoon continues much of the same, paddle easy rapids around a bend, followed by a few kms of flatwater paddling.
When we reach the small lake around 6PM, we are disappointed to find the potential campsite is a mosquito infested muddy island. We decide to push on downriver, and are rewarded by a close encounter with a couple of young moose grazing at the mouth of the river. After a couple more rapids, we hit a straight stretch in the river, and find an old A-frame cabin at the end of it. The cabin is in rough shape, but is still locked up. We find enough of a level area in front of it for our tent and shelter. The area is densely wooded, and the shores are swampy, so naturally the mosquitoes and blackflies are terrible. We quickly duck into the cook shelter, and spend an hour cooking an amazing pesto pizza dinner. We packed along 4 pizza nights on this trip due to the success from our last expedition. We have ingredients for 2 pesto pizzas with sundried tomatoes and green peppers, and 2 regular pizzas with mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni and bacon. With full bellies we crash in the hot tent with anticipation of the next days expected whitewater madness.
Wed May 26 Ė 35km, Portage 4=700M, some wading L/O, Drop 375ft
Again we are up early at 7AM, a terrible habit we need to break. We have a nice coffee and oatmeal breakfast, pack up, and are on the water by 8AM. The whitewater starts around the first bend, and is nearly endless for the entire day. It seems that every bend contains significant stretches of whitewater, followed by fairly fast flowing straight stretches. We have a fairly good run through the morning mostly Class 1-2 rapids. They mostly involve weaving through very narrow breaks in the rocks at our water levels. There are few significant hazards this year, but in high water a lot of the ledges and large boulders may create more significant holes and waves. For us though, we just have to avoid the rocks for the morning. Shortly before noon we run a small ledge without scouting, and a hidden rock throws us off balance, and we go over. The water isnít quite waist deep, so we immediately right the boat, and jump on some rocks to dump the water. The boat is outfitted with flotation front and rear, and the 180 liter pack is strapped in place of a center flotation, so the boat doesnít hold much water when swamped. The only casualty to dumping, besides bruised egos on such a small ledge, is my digital camera that got wet inside a Ziploc inside a pack.
We stop for lunch and a swim at a short portage around a nice waterfall. It is again unbearably hot, and the water is as warm as a swimming pool. We are able to simply dive in with no shock from the water. It is hard to believe that the water can warm up so much in May, north of the 50th. After lunch the rapids continue, but we quickly come into a burned over area. By the size of the regrowth, the burn looks like it occurred about 20 years ago. Shortly after we come across a large waterfall, that requires a difficult portage through the burned over forest. As usual the portage landing is precariously close to the drop, but we slide in without trouble. The portage is a short but grueling haul through the downed timber. We slide the Royalex boat through the bush, weaving under and over the fallen timber. This is where James lost his whitewater paddling helmet when it must have been torn from the pack by a deadfall branch. Before long we are in the boat, and running some more fun whitewater.
Shortly after the portage, we come across a narrowing of the river, with large boulders and a good drop. We eddy in behind one of the large boulders on the right side close to the drop, and jump out to scout. The majority of the water seems to funnel through a narrow 6ft wide chute to the extreme left. The middle of the rapid contains large rocks, and a drop of about 6 ft, and the right a bunch of smaller waterfalls that are too bony to line. The chute to the far left looks like a good class 3, and drops into reasonably calm water for a couple hundred meters downstream. We decide that the chute looks like a fun run, and worth a shot considering the calm water below, and the heat. We hop back in the canoe and put the nose into the current hoping to power over to the drop on the left. We make a critical mistake in not getting up enough speed, and halfway to the chute, we slide to the right off a pillow of water where the current divides, and are now in the channel heading for the rocks in the middle of the river. We broadside a rock just in front of the 6 ft drop, and at least have the foresight to lean into it, keeping the upstream gunwale high. So here we sit pinned against a rock about 2m from a rocky 6 ft drop, frantically debating our options. Our biggest fear is swamping the boat against the rocks here, as the current is quite strong, and it would be a difficult place to try and unpin a boat. We decide to hop onto the boulder, although we are worried that as one of us gets out, the change in buoyancy will lead to the canoe working its way off with the other person still in. Iím in the stern, so I hop out first, and steady the boat so James doesnít get swept away. He hops out next, grabs the bow painter and leaps to the top of the rocky drop. I grab the stern painter line the boat to him where he pulls it onto the top of the drop. Finally we slide it down the drop, and are able to safely re-enter the boat. Again are egos are severely damaged, and I think we become overcautious for the rest of the trip, even though we are fully aware that it was our lack of power that let the river gods take over. Looking back, Iím most disappointed about missing the drop, as it looked like a very good run, definitely the only runnable class 3 rapid in these water levels.
The rest of the day continues to be endless class 1-2 rapids, with a couple bony ledges requiring easy lining. One set of rapids we ran reminded me of downhill skiing moguls with about 7 chutes that were on opposite sides of the river with only a few boat lengths of downstream distance to align the canoe, definitely an adrenalin rush. Around dinner time, we hit 2 sets requiring portages very close together. The first is another nice set of falls, followed by a short paddle across a pool to an amazing chute referred to as bullseye chute in one trip report. In this one the entire river is funneled into a narrow canyon no more than 8 ft wide. In here the water flies by at an incredible rate of speed. The portage here is longer than we are use to, and takes a toll on energy reserves. It is starting to get late, and we still havenít seen anywhere reasonable to camp. After a few more sets of rapids, we hit a tiny island in the middle of the river with 2 ledges behind it. We decide to get out and scout from the island, and realize that it is now after 8PM, and it is starting to get dark. We donít see much room for the tents, but as we look at the rapids below, we realize we are drained, so we carve out some room for the tent and cook shelter. It is a tight campsite, but has a flat spot that just fit the small tent we use, and is quite scenic. We enjoy a second Pesto Pizza dinner, and are pleasantly surprised that it is finally cooling off. After a hot drink, we hit the pillows. We both feel absolutely exhausted, but surprisingly I have no aches and pains as I had the previous days. Usually after a long day paddling my back and shoulder bother me, but the continuous whitewater required much different paddling techniques, and seems to wear out the mind more than the body. When I first close my eyes, I instantly see more whitewater, but shortly after I enjoy a great nightís sleep.
Thur May 27 Ė 82km, Portage 0M, Drop 300ft
We are up very early today, as we are now keenly aware that if we are to make the Friday train, we have over 100km to go in a day and a half. The next train doesnít leave until Monday at 5PM, and neither of us want to spend 2 days in Moosonee. I think we are both a little anxious knowing that we have such an incredible distance to go. We have another nice oatmeal breakfast along with some bacon that we coat in maple syrup to make an incredible artery clogging maple toffee coated bacon! All fuelled up, we head out, and decide to line both ledges, as they are a bit bony, and after our 2 ego bruising mishaps yesterday, we are still a little cautious. After lining we run a couple more fun easy rapids, before a nasty thunderstorm catches us forcing us to shore to hide out the weather. Sitting on shore waiting for the thunderstorm to blow out, thinking about the distance still to go is excruciating. The clouds are barley moving, and for a long time the thunderstorm hangs directly above us. The lightning strikes are way too close for comfort, so we ready the SPOT, and spread out in case one of us should get hit. Again we debate whether or not the SPOT will even work in such a nasty thunderstorm. Thinking back, I should have sent a check in message during the storm to determine if it would work, next time I guess. We start counting the time between strikes and thunder, and resolve to carry on once they reach 30 seconds. After what seems a couple hours, but was probably only 30 to 45 minutes, we jump back in. It takes a few minutes to bail the 4 inches of water in the canoe, then we are on our way. The storm seems to stay just behind us the rest of the day, but never caught up with us again.
The rest of the morning was fairly continuous current, interspersed with more easy rapids. Before long, the banks of the river started to get higher, and we were pleasantly surprised to hit the Kiasko River before lunch, a distance of 20km in only a few hours! This helped improve the mood greatly. Once on the Kiasko, the river was much larger, and still had a good current. We were able to cruise along at 7 or 8 km/hr, and hit the North French in a few hours. Most of the rapids encountered were large swifts, with submerged boulders or gravel bars to avoid. After such great progress, we were a little annoyed to hit the large North French, and encounter a fierce headwind. The North French is a much different river than the rest. In most places it is 1/2 km wide, but the most striking feature are the ice scoured shores. The spring ice floes have ripped off most of the soil at least 10 ft up the banks. It must be something to see the power of this river in spring flood! The rest of the long day was spent hopping from lee shores to islands to avoid the wind. The current is still good in the North French, so even with the nasty wind, by dark we landed on an island a few kilometers short of the Moose River for a total distance of 82km in one day! Finally the pressure was off, and we were no longer worried about hitting the train on Friday!
We setup camp, spread out our wet mattresses in the wind, and discussed what to do with all the food. We had planned this trip to last 10 days, and thought that was pushing it, so added in some spares. Luckily we had planned on a few fish dinners, so for those we were carrying just oil, and fish coating which we can pack out for future trips. We had 2 pizzas left to cook, so we decided to make both, and eat one cold for dinner on the train tomorrow. So after an excellent pizza dinner we finally got to bed around 11PM, and enjoyed weather cool enough (somewhere around 5 to 10 C) to finally crawl inside the summer sleeping bag for the first time.
Fri May 28 Ė 21km, Portage 0M, Drop 50ft
For the first time we finally slept past 7! We had our usual breakfast, packed up and hit the water looking forward to seeing the mighty Moose River for the first time. For us the river was a bit of a let down, as in size it very much compares to the Ottawa River where we spend considerable amounts of time as it is in our backyard. The major differences being that it has the same ice scoured banks as the North French did, and it is full of very annoyingly shallow sand bars. Again we experienced a fierce headwind, so we immediately headed for the shallow left side of the Tidewater Provincial Park Island. After a few kilometers hopping in and out of the canoe to wade through shallow sandbars, we finally hit some paddle deep water. The next few kilometers into the wind also contained huge odd shaped waves. The waves were large 3 to 5 feet rollers that rattled us even in our very capable whitewater canoe. After a long hour, we ducked into a sheltered cove of the Tidewater Island just before the Hydro lines. We had some lunch, and were both dreading heading back out into the scary waves, but we were starting to feel the pressure of the train schedule again.
When we pushed off, and rounded the bend back into the wind, the waves were no longer the same? I canít believe that the waves were tidal influence this far from the mouth of the Moose (20 km), maybe it was just the nature of the current behind us. We made much better progress for the rest of the afternoon, with only the headwind to deal with, not the large waves. We finally landed at the docks in Moosonee before 3PM in the afternoon. Our last task was to find the train station, as in all our trip planning we neglected to look up a map of Moosonee. We packed everything up, and headed down the street straight away from the water. We got a few curious glances by locals, but were on a side street without much traffic. When we hit the train tracks about 3/4km from the water we were at the DeBeers diamond mining loading yard. I asked a worker which way to the station, and he pointed up the tracks and told us the second building about a block away. When I asked him which road to take, his response was just walk up the tracks!
We finally reached the station, dropped our gear bought our tickets, ate our pizza, and changed into dry footwear, what a feeling! We watched the train arrive, and were amazed to see so many people getting off. We headed back to the baggage car where we were to stash the canoe and packs, and saw a plethora of fans and air conditioners getting unloaded, likely due to the early heat wave this year. It was a refreshingly unstructured affair claiming baggage for those of us use to the modern airport baggage handling. People would drive up, hop in the car, toss off there baggage, and drive away. Probably the most entertaining thing was watching people get in their car, and drive 2 blocks to their house within sight of the train station! I guess in a town with not much more than a dozen roads, if you have a vehicle you might as well use it!
We had an hour to kill before the train was to leave, so we walked the main street. The street has the train station at one end, the docks at the other, as well as elementary, high school, college, hardware store, liquor store, grocery store, post office, chip truck, bar, hotel, and 50% of the population of Moosonee out enjoying the sunshine! Probably the most social small town I have ever seen. We grabbed some drinks and snacks in the grocery store, and headed back to the train station. There I called Terry to let him know we were getting on the train, and told him the bush is quickly running out of water, and filling up with bugs instead. Shortly after, we boarded the train for an enjoyable ride back to Cochrane. The tracks are rough to say the least and at about 60km/h you think you might leave the tracks in a few places, not to mention that we tiptoed across the Moose River bridge, which was under construction. Made you think, is this thing safe? I managed to get a couple hours sleep on the train, so I could spend the night driving back to Renfrew. We reached Cochrane around 11PM, were Terry was waiting for us with our car and keys. We thanked him again, grabbed a coffee, and started the drive home. By 8AM the next morning I hugged my kids and wife, and caught a few hours sleep in my own bed.
Total Ė 326km, Portage 6 = 2000M, 968ft drop
This was such a different trip than anything else we have done, that we have a lot of mixed feelings about it. For one there were only 2 of us which made for different dynamics than we are normally use to. We both seem to struggle with the ability to stop and enjoy the moment so the trip became more of an eco-challenge than the vacation it was supposed to be. The whitewater portion of the trip was excellent, but again we pushed too hard and, likely didnít enjoy it as much as we should have. I like to spend some time fishing on remote canoe trips, as the fishing in these untouched areas is usually excellent. On this trip however, the brutal heat waves, and early spring seem to have warmed the water past the comfort zone of the speckles, and a few attempts only yielded a single 6 inch speckle. If I was more inclined to fish for Walleye, they seemed to be readily available, but I was really looking forward to breaking out the fly rod for some brook trout. The likelihood of missing the train on Friday was definitely a source of anxiety throughout the entire trip. I think in the future we should time it to be out on a Wednesday, to give us a better buffer of a couple days either way.
Next rivers on our list: Wak, Partridge, North French, Kattawagami
Post Number: 104
|Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010 - 8:19 am: ||
Nice report, thanks for posting.
Post Number: 227
|Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010 - 1:00 pm: ||
I did the Nettogami in 1990 and the Partridge in 1996. Both put in at the Detour Lake Road. Last I heard of the North French is that it was choked up with trees. Love those little Bay rivers!
Post Number: 258
|Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010 - 3:00 pm: ||
You must have been boy then Curly !
Post Number: 38
|Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 - 4:31 pm: ||
Here is the beach on Piyagaskou. Be a great site on nights without a thunderstorm and hurricane force winds.
Post Number: 39
|Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 - 4:37 pm: ||
Here are a couple moose we surprised on a small lake like expansion of the Nettogami.
Unfortunately this is about all we managed for pics, as the following day my digital camera didn't take well to a short swim (neither did my ego!)
Post Number: 40
|Posted on Monday, July 26, 2010 - 4:40 pm: ||
Curly, when you did the Nettogami did you access it through Kesagami as well? I saw an alternative route crossing over from the Wak in the Atlas of the Little North.
Do you have a trip report posted anywhere? I'd love to hear other peoples experiences on the river.
Post Number: 228
|Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 - 12:37 pm: ||
I have a paper copy of the trip report somewhere in the basement. Maybe someday it will get scanned. Maybe.
Yes, we put in off the Detour Lk Rd. Same access for the Partridge.
Post Number: 4
|Posted on Friday, September 10, 2010 - 5:41 pm: ||
I'm new on this forum - just read the trip - thanks for sharing it with us - I used to think of doing something like that but it just never panned out - now I'm too old