Aux Sable River

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
80 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
2600 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

The River Aux Sables is a spring river run that I couldn’t find very much information about it. It certainly is not a very popular run, so I thought I would go and check it out. The River Aux Sable trip starts at the end of tertiary highway 810 and I was going to take out 5 days later at the bridge just past Cameron Falls. It seems from an old trip report that you can continue to The Chutes Provincial Park but this section was full of C3 and C4 rapids.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

May 18th Day 0

We left my house after the usual panicking and running for last minute items. We ended up leaving at 0900, stopped at Bass Outdoor Pro for a fishing license and continued to the French River Visitor Centre, quickly through Sudbury and onto Massey. The drive to Massey was uneventful. Following the Aux Sable, we drove up HWY 553. We noticed the river was flowing fast. I had reservations about the trip but Tom and Dan have reassured us: we are going to do it. I saw some C1s and C2 tech from the road. We made it to Ritchie Falls resort after going up HWY 553/810 for an hour and a half stopping to check out the river. The owners of Ritchie Falls Resort, Tom and Dan are friendly, after a long day of driving I am very glad to be staying at a cabin at the resort. We will have them drive my “bush car” to a campsite at Cameron Falls.

May 19th Day 1

It has been a tough day. But we have made it through the day without any major catastrophes. James' introduction to wilderness canoeing has been quite a steep one. The water level is high and progress downstream has been slow. We woke up to rain in the morning, made breakfast. I took photos of James with various stuffed creatures of the boreal forest that were in the lodge. We lingered around the lodge, getting packed and hoping for the rain to stop. We left at 1100, the rain had stopped. Dan and Tom raved about the trout fishing. I thought I had a Mepps spinner from the Attawapiskat trip, but a final inspection revealed only jigs. Tom very generously gave me two before we left. In front of the lodge I gave James a crash course in canoeing. Naturally, he was a bit apprehensive when we approached the first set of swifts 2 minutes later. I was very cautious on the river due to the high levels, temperature (although we had wetsuits) and lack of comprehensive trip reports. Before lunch we ran a few swifts and a C1 which I scouted. We had lunch at a bridge for ATVs, it was too low to go under so we did a lift-over around the left of it.

After lunch we encountered two falls and portaged both on the left for 200m. They weren’t really portages more or less bushwacking. James hates portaging already. Soon after the second portage we came to the first bridge with a technical CII flowing underneath it. We set up camp here at 1700 after doing only 9km today. We have seen 3 cars on HWY 810 tonight. The Quesidias went over well. We hung the pack with difficulty, tried to have a campfire with wet wood and had little success. We are too tired to fish. We are hoping for an earlier start and easier day tomorrow.

May 20th Day 2nd

Well James is spent. I am too, but not to the same extent. I think he is suffering from sun stroke. I woke up at two in the morning to drizzle and moved everything outside under the canoe or into the tent so it was damp, but not soaked. At 5am I woke up to pouring rain. Almost as soon as we left the campsite we encountered a set of rapids we had to do a lift-over around due to a logjam. There were loads of swifts today, even more than the “royal ride” on the Spanish. We went through about 6-10 C1s without any problems and about 3 C2s, which we ran quite well. After one C2, we were almost swamped and had trouble finding an eddy/place to bail. I though a sneak route would be a good place, we managed to get rid of the water on shore. We continued down the sneak route only to encounter a sweeper (birch tree), there was no place to eddy-out. James somehow made it through, I have no idea how I made it through but the stern plate got stuck on a protruding branch after about 30 second I managed to free the canoe. We shortly after did another C2 and almost got hung up on a rock but luckily slid over it. The scenery today has been great, lots of hills and cliff faces. We did a 40m portage (with a real trail) around a C3 (GRID Reference104556). We then ran a bunch of more swifts, after I got out to “use the facilities” and discovered a great campsite amongst some pine trees. (Grid reference 116506) HWY 810 is about 750m away.
I set up camp, James discovered the fishing rod was thoroughly broken and spent 2 hours trying to fix it with no luck. This was really disappointing because we came across a lot of great places for fishing. Black flies are starting to make an appearance and hanging the pack was a pain as usual. It was hot today, drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and I am encouraging James to do the same. He has really bad sunburn around his face.

May 21 Day 3

We got up around 8 am and left our campsite at 1000. I made apple-cinnamon pancakes but they were too “battery”. The campsite last night was pretty sweet. It was already really hot when we were on the water. We made quick progress to the third HWY 810 bridge. James was already worn out when we reached the bridge at 1130. I made him drink lots of water and gave him an Advil. The river had slowed down and was meandering a lot. We cautiously approached the first falls there was a sign indicating the portage on river right. The Falls, (not named on the map, but called High Falls on the portage sign) were really scenic, probably a 30’ vertical drop, lots of water going over too. It was probably one of the most scenic places I have been to on all my canoe journeys. The pool below the falls would have been a great fishing spot (stupid reel). We had lunch for 1.7 hours there, even swam with our wetsuits on. We also spotted a Milk Snake on the portage trail. Swifts and few C1s ensured we made quick progress to the next portage on river right, again signed.
We ran a couple of C1s bailed, and found a campsite just past the hydro cut. I made a pasta supper which was tasty and relaxed with a green tea before hanging the food. Hanging the food was not fun. I ended with 2 cuts and a large splinter on my right hand; some blood ended up on my shirt so I rinsed it.
It is amazing how quickly we went from very few bugs to swarms of black flies in 24 hours. I don’t think James is really enjoying himself, he keeps asking how much is left and wants to get it over with sooner rather than later. Probably too intense for him, a lake trip in the fall might have been more appropriate, if at all. I imagine when he is done this though, he will have a different opinon. This evening it was drizzling off and on. We had strong SW winds during the day.

May 22 Day 4

Woke up at 0800, I ran the rapids at the “slug campsite” solo and asked James to take a photo (which didn’t turn out). There were slugs everywhere at last night’s campsite; on the tent, in our shoes, everywhere! Right after leaving there was a CII which I scouted and ran, we just avoided a rock at the end by a matter of inches. Progress was slow in the morning. Lots of rapids we encountered that needed to be portaged, all on river left. I just guessed where the best take-out would be as I didn’t want to get too close to the lip of the falls. Some portages had trails with flagging tape which made it easier but there were no signs. James did well to carry the canoe 500m with just one break.

We had a floating lunch until we encountered another set of rapids that needed to be portaged. After Mearceau Falls the river went into a flood plain/ marsh and meandered a lot. There was a hydro-electric dam at Cameron falls which wasn’t marked on our NTS map. The approach was confusing. We went all the way to the right of the booms and after we went around an island, found ourselves quite close to the lip of a massive 70’ waterfall. I decided we should take out on the left side of the river. We had to drag the canoe around a swamp island so we stayed on the correct side of the booms. It was a very steep embankment down to a pool on the other side of the dam. It was so steep we had to tandem carry the canoe down. Two minutes after loading the canoe at Cameron Falls we were at the bridge and campsite where our car was waiting for us right where we asked Tom and Dan to leave it.
A couple of families had set up camp and one man offered us some pop which was welcome. James was not interested in staying at the Chutes PP but we got changed there, had some Wendy’s at Espanola and stayed at the Best Western in downtown Sudbury. We enjoyed some beer from around the world at the Laughing Buddha, but were too tired to stay out much past midnight.

All in all the Aux Sable was a great spring river trip with spectacular scenery, no development on the river except for the road. The rapids were quite plentiful but the portages were challenging. I found that at these water levels (9.1’ at Ritchie Falls Dam and 7.5m at the Massey Gauge) wherever rapids were indicated on the NTS maps they were significant enough require scouting or portaging. The falls indicated on the topos were certainly C5s. This was a good intermediate river trip.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 J/9 41 J/8
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Other Maps: 
Special Comments: 

There was quite a bit of portaging required on lightly used/non existant trails. Campsite were in good shape. The scenery was great.