Allanwater - Lookout - Kopka Rivers

CanadaOntarioWabakimi
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Levi Waldron
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
160 km
Duration: 
12 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
42
Total Portage Distance: 
14000 m
Longest Portage: 
1280 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Allanwater Bridge train stop - Allanwater River - Windfall Lake - Snake Lake -
Dagger - Change - Jeep - Brennan - Granite - Elf - Smoothrock - Spring -
Lookout River - Onamakawash - Shawanabis - Loon - a couple small unnamed lakes south to the Kopka River - Kenakskaniss - Wigwasan - Bukemiga

Train dropoff at Allanwater Bridge, 8am.
P150 RR CII ran centre
"Line or Run" - CI ran near right
P125 RR - ran it
Here the river splits into 2 branches - took the right branch.
SW at the end of the lake.
CI into a larger lake.
P150 RR - CII+ at the north end of this lake.
runnable rapid (1 hash mark on the 1:50000 map) - no notes
P across island (2 hashes on the 1:50000 map) - runnable but no notes
P175 RL - CII+ or CIII- runnable
P200 RR runnable
P300 RL runnable
P200 RL runnable
P325 across island NOT RUNNABLE in a canoe, CIV to CV
P80 RR - a wonderful non-technical CIII
P440 RL - CII with some rocks to avoid but not much gradient.
P150 RR - runnable
P150 RR - runnable
P15 runnable, into Windfall Lake
From the east end of Windfall we lined the first 2 rapids then portaged along the riverside
into Snake Lake.
Exited from the southwest arm of Snake Lake, pulled across one beaver dam. Paddled through to a beaver dam pullover into a 2km-long lake at the southernmost part of this little loop.
P220 from the northeast arm of this lake.
Put in a little marsh and just paddle about 25m to the other side, then
P450 to Dagger Lake.
P100 into Change Lake
North of Change Lake, paddle through narrows
P75 on RL
P75 paddle through/carry over
P60
P50 paddle through/carry over
P30 carry over into Brennan Lake
At the east end of Brennan Lake, we took the southerly route to Granite Lake.
P550 on RR.
SW
P100 RR past Brennan Falls
P200 and P30 to McWade Lake.
shortcut to Elf Lake via two short portages

P875 from the SW tip of Elf lake into small lake west of Elf Lake.
Paddled about 11/2 km to east side of small lake than P75m.
Paddled 25 m and than P 600m.
Paddled 21/2 km to the east end of narrow lake.
P800m into Smoothrock Lake.
Paddled towards south end of Smoothrock Lake.
Paddled to the southwest arm of Smoothrock Lake into tiny lake north of Spring Lake (swift water- easy paddle).
At south end of this lake P1280 into Spring Lake.
P80 RR runnable
Paddle through/carry over
P40
P44
P220 RR
P60 RR (campsite at this portage)
P180 RR into Onamakawash Lake. Paddled toward Shultz's Trail (CNR stop) at southeast tip of Onamakawash Lake.
through a culvert under the train tracks
P550m into Loon Lake. D
1200m bushwack from S end of Loon Lake (not recommended)
lots of slogging to Kenakskaniss Lake.
then head downstream on the Kopka River
P200 RL.
P400 RR. Steep trail. Beautiful lookout/campsite midway.
P30
P200 RR.
P250 into small lake between Kenakskaniss Lake and Wigwasan Lake.
P300 RL into Wigwasan Lake.
P300 RL into Bukemiga Lake.
Takeout at south end of Bukemiga Lake

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Day 1 (August 24, 2001):
Train dropoff at Allanwater Bridge, 8am. Private property at the put-in, received permission from the lodge owner after being dropped off by the train. He informed us that water levels on the Allanwater were "medium" which was higher than average for this time of year.
P65 across island - ran left side, easy CII haystacks, great first warmup rapid
P150 RR (River Right) - CII ran centre
"Line or Run" - CI ran near right
P125 RR - ran it
Here the river splits into 2 branches. We initially took the left branch because that's
what we had portage information for, but got to the first rapid and realized that only about 25% of the water went this way and it was way too low to run anything. So we turned around and took the right branch instead. Some swift water emptying into a lake at the beginning of the right branch.
SW at the end of the lake.
CI into a larger lake. There is campsite on the east shore about 1km up from the south end of this lake, with weedy water off shore.
P150 RR - CII+ at the north end of this lake. Not much maneuvering, but large waves and a hole to avoid at the top of the rapid.
runnable rapid (1 hash mark on the 1:50000 map) - no notes
P across island (2 hashes on the 1:50000 map) - runnable but no notes
Camped at a nice, large site on RR at a wide spot in the river.

Day 2:
P175 RL - CII+ or CIII- runnable
P200 RR runnable
P300 RL runnable
P200 RL runnable
P325 across island NOT RUNNABLE in a canoe, CIV to CV
This brings you to a lake marked with elevation 386+- marked on the 1:50000 map. We camped
on a beautiful but small beach on the east side, covered with moose tracks.

Day 3:
P80 RR - a wonderful non-technical CIII, with very big waves and haystacks emptying into a big pool. Safe and lots of fun. The first canoe ran it with gear and swamped, then we ran it a few more times empty.
P440 RL - CII with some rocks to avoid but not much gradient.
P150 RR - runnable
P150 RR - runnable
P15 runnable, into Windfall Lake
Out of the east end of Windfall, the portage is ridiculously well-blazed by someone with an axe and too much time. We lined the first 2 rapids then portaged along the riverside into Snake Lake. Stayed at a nice campsite on the west side of Snake Lake, with a small beach near the site.

Day 4 Snake Lake to the east end of Brennan Lake(a long day):
exited from the southwest arm of Snake Lake through a windy, grassy wetland. Pulled across one beaver dam. Paddled through to an beaver dam pullover into a 2km-long lake at the southernmost part of this little loop.
P220 from the northeast arm of this lake. Was very rough be we cleared it quite a bit. Put in a little marsh and just paddle about 25m to the other side, then
P450 to Dagger Lake. We tried to skip this P450 by paddling through the marsh - definitely a mistake as we ran out of room and had to portage through the marsh.
P100 into Change Lake
North of Change Lake, paddle through narrows
P75 on RL
P75 paddle through/carry over
P60
P50 paddle through/carry over
P30 carry over into Brennan Lake
At the east end of Brennan Lake, we took the southerly route to Granite Lake.
P550 at a large flat rock on RR. We camped at the start of this portage on the big rock. Blueberry heaven, recently burned area, very nice spot. By the way, these rapids are probably runnable but not easy and a canoe-breaker if you make a mistake.

Day 5 Above Brennan Falls to below the falls (basically a rest day)
SW
P100 RR past Brennan Falls (more of a big chute)
We camped at a well-used but scenic campsite below Brennan Falls, on Granite Lake.

Day 6 Brennan Falls - Elf Lake
Side trip to Granite Falls. Walked to the end of the portage, didn't see any campsites.
Granite Falls is more like a big scary rapid.
Back south a little ways to the access to McWade Lake
P200 and P30 to McWade Lake.
A few km north on McWade there's a spot where it looks like you could go SE on a little lake then just have a short jump over Elf Lake, to save going all the way to the north end of the lake and around like the route marked in the MNR notes. Well, there are good portages from McWade to this small lake then from the small Lake to Elf Lake, even though they're not marked on the MNR maps.
We sensed a big storm brewing so were looking for a sheltered site. Found a pristine unused spot in a little finger-shaped bay on the east side of this northerly arm of Elf Lake.

Day 7 Elf - Smoothrock: Fairly long day, rained most of it.

Exited out of the south-west tip of Elf Lake. P875 into small lake west of Elf Lake. This trail was very muddy and very steep at the east end. Paddled about 11/2 km to east side of small lake than P75m. Paddled 25 m and than P 600m. This portage was also muddy and steep at the east end. Paddled 21/2 km to the east end of narrow lake. Easy and well-maintained P800m into Smoothrock Lake. Paddled towards south end of Smoothrock Lake. Camped towards the south-western tip of Smoothrock lake (on the west side). Functional well-used campsite with an eastern aspect. Good protection from the wind.

Day 8 Smoothrock - Lookout River
Paddled to the southwest arm of Smoothrock Lake into tiny lake north of Spring Lake (swift water- easy paddle). At south end of this lake P1280 into Spring Lake. There are campsites at either end of this well-maintained trail. Lots of campsites on Spring Lake.
P80 RR runnable
Paddle through/carry over
P40
P44
P220 RR
Camped just south of this portage at the north end of lake marked with elevation 368+- on nice flat drying rock with a beautiful view of the lake. Great spot to play hacky-sack.

Day 9 Lookout River - Shawanabis Lake
P60 RR (campsite at this portage)
P180 RR into Onamakawash Lake. Paddled toward Shultz's Trail (CNR stop) at southeast tip of Onamakawash Lake.
[Note: We tried to find the Shultz's Train Trail Shop by hiking 150m west along the CNR line (as marked on the MNR maps) but found no such establishment. No candy for us.]
On the MNR canoe route maps, the portage is marked as P850. This appears to start on private land and is marked with a no trespassing sign. Instead, we took the 25m (RR) culvert that passes under the CNR line. This is an amazing dark and dank tunnel blasted through the rock. There was a difficult liftover (pile of coarse woody debris) at the end). We were able to paddle through and pull our gear and canoes over these logs at the end.

We camped on large island (north side) about halfway down Shawanabis Lake. This was a great campsite (northern aspect) located on top of a smooth rock. Lots of tent spots. Saw other campsites on lake, one occupied.

Day 10 Shawanabis - middle of nowhere

Were initially aiming for the P960 RR into Boulder Lake. Got confused and ended up taking P550m into Loon Lake. Decided to continue down Look Lake (scenic) to hook up with the Boulder or Kenakskaniss Lake further down. I would not recommend this route (although good for team building skills). No established portage out of Look Lake. We bushwhacked for approx. 1200m through wasp infested swamp land and over a height of land.

Camped on little swamp/tiny lake south of Loon Lake (rock haven). This was not an established campsite (understatement).

Day 11 middle of nowhere - Kopka Falls
Initially pulled over beaver dam, than paddled through grass wetland. Reach old decrepit trapper cabin on 11/2km narrow lake. P150 on an old maintained trap line trail. Trail heavily blazed, but not immediately visible from water. Now back on track.

P440 RR. Good trail, with flat easy landings.
Shallow rapids but runnable into Kenakskaniss Lake. Noticed a few campsites on Kenakskaniss Lake, both on west side.

P200 RL. Shallow rocks. Walked gear, paddled canoes through first part, ran middle, lined last part.

The next few portages are around spectacular waterfalls.
P400 RR. Steep trail. Beautiful lookout/campsite midway.
P30
P200 RR. Portage had two endings. The closest ending has a steep drop off and is difficult to lower canoes and gear. Second ending further on culminates at a spectacular campsite. I would recommend the later route. The campsite offer a scenic view of the cliffs to the south, and numerous tent sites. Excellent swimming although the water was very chilly. We camped here with two American fishermen who had great success with walleye and pike just around the ledge where the lake depth dropped off. Highly recommend this campsite.

Day 12 Kopka Falls - Bukemiga Lake

P250 into small lake between Kenakskaniss Lake and Wigwasan Lake. This is the infamous Mountain Goat Portage. On the MNR maps it is labeled as RL. Apparently ropes are required to lower down canoes and gear (old ones may still be there). We took the portage RR and found the trail steep but doable.

P300 RL into Wigwasan Lake. We lined than ran these rapids on the left side.

P300 RL into Bukemiga Lake. These rapids were too shallow to run. Campsite at the west side. Noticed lots of litter here, likely because of easy access from Bukemiga Lake. Noticed one campsite directly on Bukemiga Lake on the west up from access point.

We finished the trip at the access point at the south end of Bukemiga Lake on Day 12 (Sept. 4) at 5:00. We had arranged with an outfitter for shuttle to the Armstrong Train Station. Train left Armstrong in the evening (11:00pm) bound for Toronto.

Legend:

RR = river right (your right when looking downstream)
RL = river left
SW = swift water
CI, CII, CIII = international river rating system. I try to rate rapids according to the
strict definitions of the scale, which results in sometimes lower ratings than many canoeists will rate a rapid. When I say something is a CIII, it really is near the limit for an open canoe, with a series of difficult moves or waves over 1 metre high. A "technical" CII would require making one difficult move or a series of relatively easy moves - might be runnable without scouting from shore but probably a good idea to scout.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
52 I/4 Aldridge Lake 52 I/12 Wabakimi Lake 52 I/3 Wigwasan Lake 52 I/5 Onamakwash Lake 52 I/6 Armstrong
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
52 I Armstrong
Other
Special Comments: 

Space for canoes on the train is limited, however the VIA employee working the baggage car told me that they had never run out of room and had fit over 20 canoes in the baggage car at once!

Recent Wabikimi Park Maintenance Projects - 2000 (from the MNR Thunder Bay office)

The Armstrong Fire Crews worked on the following routes:
1. Rockcliff, Muskiga, Burntrock, Palisade River to Arril Lake to Grayson Lake. They noted
that portages are hard to locate in the Davies/Muskiga Lake area.
2. Brennan Lake to Jeep Lake and Brennan Lake towards Stump Lake.
3. Lonebreast Bay to Whitewater Lake; 1st portage from Outlet Bay to Berg River; Smoothrock
Lake to Elf Lake. The north route shown on the section sheets no longer exists, but the south
route is now in good shape (but steep says Levi)
4. Elf Lake to McWade to Lower Wabakimi to Smoothrock + initial portage north out of River Bay.

The Lake Superior First Nations Development Trust worked on:

1. Grayson Lake to Whitewater to Whiteclay.
2. Allanwater River from CNR line to Wabikimi Lake to Kenoji Lake to Whitewater Lake
3. Collins to Smoothrock via Shawanabis/Onamakawash and the Lookout River. Return on the Boiling Sand River.
4. Onamakawash to Beagle to Aldridge to Kopka River to Bukemiga Lake.

The Sandbar Lake ORs worked on the Flindt River from Valley Lake to Wabakimi Lake and paddled through to Caribou Lake. They had completed portage maintenance on the Flindt River from south of the CN line to Valley Lake in 1999.

There may be more maintenance done since then.

The route:
Allanwater Bridge train stop - Allanwater River - Windfall Lake - Snake Lake -
Dagger - Change - Jeep - Brennan - Granite - Elf - Smoothrock - Spring -
Lookout River - Onamakawash - Shawanabis - Loon - a couple small unnamed lakes
south to the Kopka River - Kenakskaniss - Wigwasan - Bukemiga

Comments

Post date: Sun, 05/04/2008 - 21:51

Comments: 

do you have any info on the last section of the kopka river route from the boat launch off the road to armstrong at pishidgi lake to Nipigon lake? What are the portages like from wabinosh lake to nipigon lake. Any info on this area of nipigon? can't seem to find anyone from the states who even knows about this area. I talked to kevin callen when he was in minneapolis and said to get info from you. thanks - wayne iseri - who has makes best teriyaki meals in the bush

Post date: Sat, 06/06/2009 - 12:45

Comments: 

We ran the Kopka in July 2008 from Uneven Lake down. Super wet - super bugs - and SUPER high water. Tough going on the portage trail. As to your question Mr. CAR WASH - this is NOT a whitewater river per se. Yes, there are listed 48 sets of rapids in our stretch, but they were either nasty killer types, or just plain waterfalls, or were too small for play. In lower water there might have been more. So if you're looking for Petawawa-style or Kesagami-style endless play, this is NOT for you. But if you're looking for the most stunningly spectacular and serene waterfalls, GREAT fishing, and isolation, the Kopka is THE river for you. Mink Bridge Waterfalls alone are worth the drive - best I have ever seen! Better than Thunderhouse on the Missinaibi!

Post date: Thu, 04/02/2009 - 15:56

Comments: 

Please tell me. how are the rapids????

Post date: Sat, 08/09/2008 - 00:10

Comments: 

Everyone stops at Bukemiga. Rest of the route is relatively unused. I paddled in 2003. There are a number of small rapids between Bukemiga and Obonga. From Obonga to Kopka Lake is a steep, overgrown trail with lots of downed trees. It wasn't especially long, but took a long time due to the trees. Think there were a couple ports from Kopka to Pishidgi. You can paddle all the way from Pishidgi to Wabinosh - no ports. There's one long port from Wabinosh into Nipigon that's in pretty good shape. Inner and Outer Barn are spectacular, the campsites are nil, even for a solo paddler. All this is from memory, but I'm pretty accurate. Ironic that you talked to Kevin at Midwest. I work there.