Boland River Route

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
55 km
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
4235 m
Longest Portage: 
1880 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at the access point on the north side of Mount Lake. Travel east to McElrea Lake to reach the first portage. Both Mount Lake and McElrea Lake contain pike and lake trout.
PORTAGE #1 McElrea Lake to Rottier Lake - 576 metres
The portage is located to your right on the south side of McElrea Lake about a half mile east from the narrows between Mount Lake and McElrea Lake. Proceed up the hill over this portage. Head east along the south shore of Rottier Lake to -
PORTAGE #2 Rottier Lake to Grey Trout Lake - 198 metres
This portage is located on the south shore of the lake about 68 kilometers east of the creek which flows into Rottier Lake from Grey Trout Lake. This is a very level portage and the easiest one of the trip. Continue east to the end of the lake to -
PORTAGE #3 Grey Trout Lake to Rawhide Lake - 216 metres
This portage is located at the east end of the lake just north of the creek flowing from Rawhide to Grey Trout. The trail is fairly level and ends at a dam. Rawhide Lake is approximately ten kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers wide and contains lake trout. Over half of the south shore consists of a continuous chain of cliffs. Several campsites are available on this lake. Side trips may be taken to Bilton Lake, Rainbow Lake and Rosemarie Lake or proceed east to -
PORTAGE #4 Rawhide Lake to Little Sister Lake - 455 metres
At the easterly end of Rawhide Lake, there is an island with a cabin on it. The bay in which the portage is located is on the south side about halfway between the island and the end of the lake. The trail is just west of the creek that flows into Rawhide Lake from Little Sister Lake. There is a sand beach here. The latter part of the trail follows the creek. Evidence of beaver is found here. After paddling out of the mouth of the creek, ruins of an old log cabin can be seen on the east side. This is a good campsite. Both Sister and Little Sister Lakes offer lake trout fishing.

PORTAGE #5 Little Sister Lake to Book Lake - 909 metres
This portage starts in the most southern bay of Little Sister Lake. It is the most difficult portage of the trip because of a steep hill. The shore of the lake is rocky here. The trail goes up a small hill, then down through an alder swale, up a larger hill, levels off and the last half is downhill to Book Lake. Proceed south to -
PORTAGE #6 Book Lake to the Boland River - 1,881 metres
This portage is located by paddling into the creek which flows out of the south end of the lake and is on the east side of the creek, to your left, at the beaver dam. There is a campsite here. The trail is long but level. It is located on the east side of the creek for one-third of the way - 621 metres. Cross the creek just before it joins the creek from Rosemarie Lake. Now the trail follows the west side of Rosemarie Creek. After having travelled about three-quarters of the total length of the trail - 1,485 metres, cross the Rosemarie Creek to the east side. There is a large log jam here. It is easy to cross if care is taken. The last quarter of the trail passes through a stand of red and white pine and spruce trees. It is the best walking of the whole trip. At the end of the trail is a campsite. The remainder of the trip is all downstream.
The number of portages will depend upon the time of year and the water levels. The only rapids encountered will be at the junction of the Rosemarie Creek where it enters the Boland River. There are several campsites along the Boland River. The only portaging on the river will be to get around log jams. Some of these, the canoe may be lifted over, but two in particular, the canoes must be carried around.
The river snakes through flat marshy areas and stands of red pine and black spruce. About halfway down, the hills converge on the river, then open up again. As you near the bridge the pine-clad hills close in once more. When maple and ash trees are found beside the river, the journey is almost over. The 35 kilometers of winding river has a great number of brook trout fishing holes. Numerous signs of beaver and moose tracks are seen on the sand bars along the route.
The trip ends at the bridge on Highway 639 across the Boland River.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

We started our trip at Wilderness Lodge on Mount Lake. Nice people at the lodge (Judy)shuttled our truck to the 639 bridge for $20. They have a nice clean camp that you can stay at if you wanted to spend the night. You can also arrange shuttles at Frontier lodge on the east shore of McElrea Lake, but cost is greater. A road goes from Fronteir Lodge to the dock on Rottier if you wish to avoid the first portage. You MUST have 4X4 truck to use this road due to the grade.

I personally would avoid the entire lake chain and just paddle the river. The lakes are pretty, but they are heavily used by two outfitter camps. Lots of tin boats, boat caches, generator noise. The old 576 portage from McElrea to Rottier lake does not exist now. I spoke to a local who said it has not been passable since the late eighties. You come ashore at a creek mouth sand bar. You will see a red pumphouse shack on the right side, with a black plastic 28" dia. water line coming down the hill. A gravel access road has been whacked in on the left bank. Follow this road northest for approx. 350m, then hook to the right up the steep 35-40 degree grade hill. You will pass a trail marked by a painted paddle on the right "water falls". This 100m trail takes you to a scenic canyon falls. Stay on the gravel road and you end up at the Rottier Lake docks. Big boat cache and wooden docks. I measured the portage length on an NTS with a map measurer. It`s 1100m. The uphill grade section is not fun if you are heavily loaded.

The 198 to Grey Trout lake is fine. We camped on the little island on Gray trout. A nice camp site with room for at least three tents. Lots of garbage left by outfitter clients. Three boats fishing. Night`s stay ruined by very loud generator noise coming from Frontier Lodge on McElrea. Went until at least 11:00 pm.

Large boat cache at 216 start into Rawhide. Portage is good. Very large boat cache blocking portage on Rawhide side. Lots of garbage at landing. Four tin boats fishing and large lodge with 5+ cabins on northest shore. Ptretty lake with quite a few sites. Nice big scree slopes along the shore. Trolled spoons across Rottier, Grey Trout and Rawhide - no luck for lake trout.

Portage from Rawhide to L. Sister is good. You end up at an outfitters brand new white cedar log dock. The L Sister to book lake portage is not 909 meters. It`s 1500 meters with a pretty good uphill section. There`s a nice flat rock campsite that can hold several tents at the southeastern side of Book Lake, right at the portage takeout. Do not start this portage later in the day if you`re feeling burned out. A straight carry one way wityh the canoe, at fast walk, took me 42 minutes. This $$#$$#@#@ portage is no 1880. It is closer to 2925-3000. You cross a gravel road approx. 1/2 way through it. This is where I would leave atruck if I wanted to just paddle the river. The next half of the portage is not maintained - at least 30 blowdowns blocking trail.

You hit the Boland R. when you drop down hill into a gray alder swamp. There is one tiny grassed area here for one tent. If you opt to go downriver, be prepared to go at least 10km and two logjams before you start to find a site. The first one you see is on a left shore sand bank, under jack pine. An outfitters moose bivouac frame and picnic table are there. There are a total of 22 logjams/fallen trees before you hit the bridge. We portaged at least 16 of these. The pullovers were marginal. You will break your loaded canoe`s back if the water drops another 4 ". I thank the poor buggers who have recently hacked their way through the gray alder/ninebark to bypass the jams. No flag tape marking any portages. Only one sign found. An idling chainsaw in my wife`s hands would have been welcomed.

The meandering/oxbows were a little too much for us. we don`t mind a bit, but 35km with little change in the landscape is a bit too much for us. A birder`s paradise! At least 15 species of wood warblers. The highlight of the trip is to see the old growth white and jack pine. Beautiful. Lots of moose/bear hunters tree stands along the river.

An additional gravel access road entry point aboout midway down the river (between eastings 71 and 72 on the NTS. You could start the river here. We camped at easting 66 on the last day. The paddle, with fishing and 1/2 hour lunch, took us 9am - 3:45 to end the trip at the bridge. Tons of excellent campsites on the lower 1/2 of the river. was down to -5 at night with lots of rain. The blackflies were out in full force when we finally got sun on the last day. We caught four brook trout.Biggest was 2 lbs. We only found fish in the pools where creek mnouths joined the river.

Nice to have done it, but not our cup of tea with the 22 jams and the constant meandering.
River has a surprisingly good current to it for one that meanders so much. Lily dip paddle would push you at 5.5 kph. Hard paddle was up to 8.5kph. Not much wildlife when compared to other trips we`ve done. Very little moose sign. Moderate beaver activity.
have fun if you go.

Boland River - July 22 - 27 2002

The four of us, (Bill, Ken, Neal, and Bob) left London at 6:02 AM on Monday (Day1) July 22. We arrived at the Wilderness Lodge about 5:30 PM. Most of the trip up was light traffic, the heaviest around Sudbury. It rained as we travelled through the Sudbury area. I had contact with the Wilderness Lodge the previous Saturday. A price was agreed upon, which gave us a place for our 2 tents for the first night, parking for the car and to have it delivered to the bridge on Hwy 639 on Saturday. Supper here, was soup, hamburgers from home and rhubarb muffins, all washed down with red wine.

We had a good breakfast in the Lodge on Tuesday morning and were on the water by 8:30 AM. As we paddled Mount Lake we noticed the cottages, more importantly, we felt the energy of an adventure. As we paddled into McElrea Lake, the anticipation of the first portage was felt. One of the route descriptions we used mentioned the portage was “about half a mile east of the narrows”. We started looking about 600 M east of the narrows and could not locate the portage. There appeared to be a new road (portage) at the end of McElrea L. We didn`t explore it. We retraced our route and about 240 M east of the Narrows (I know, where do you start to measure the distance - from the beginning or end) on the south side of the lake. There was red paint about 2 M up on a white Birch tree. I marked a waypoint (Lat. 46 40` 15.56182"; Long. -82 42` 35.39190") at the beginning. The end of Portage 1, I marked a waypoint (Lat. 46 39` 59.45569"; Long. -82 42` 25.77457) again. The portage (642 M) was what I call primitive. In other words, it was there, you had to work a little to follow it. The portage (576 M) at the end of McElrea Lake is marked on a map called Elliot Lake and Blind River Area. It is based on NTS 1:250 000 scale digital data, with data from 1:50 000 topo maps. I purchased a copy at Wilderness Lodge, (about $10).

Rottier Lake appeared in various shades of emerald green. The scree slopes along the southwest end were interesting. The short paddle across the lake was punctuated by motor boats ferrying a group of fishermen out. We had a brief talk. We both thought the other was crazy in regards to our preferred mode of transport. The portage trail from Rottier to Grey Trout was easy. At the end a turn to the right provided you with a new cedar dock and several boats. If you took a sightly trail to the left, you arrived at a nice open area for a couple of tents. There were 2 boats here and no dock. Our lunch of pumpernickel bread and canned ham (with mustard) and beans was eaten here.

Grey Trout Lake was another emerald green lake. The cliffs along the southern shore were a rock hound`s delight. The paddle was short, with beautiful scenery. The third portage into Rawhide Lake was also easy.

Rawhide Lake was calm. We began paddling with a slight wind in our face. It soon changed and we enjoyed the wind at our back for the rest of the paddle. We paddled the south shore looking at the cliffs and the different fracture lines in the rock face. We made camp (Tuesday Day 2) , about 4:30 PM at the eastern end (Lat. 46 39` 07.39080"; Long. -82 36` 26.74695") of the lake.. The surface rock was very interesting. Supper was soup (with fresh onions and pasta shells), Alpine spaghetti (olive oil, parsley, sweet Basil and liquid gralic and Parmesan cheese), and chocolate pudding. Tea and coffee goes with every meal. We left the next morning at 8:25 AM and arrived at the portage at 9:15 AM.

We arrived at Little Sister Lake at 10:35 AM after relatively easy 455 M portage. This lake was surrounded by interesting hills. A short 10 minute paddle had us at the fifth portage before we were ready. We found this 909 M portage to be the hardest of six portages. The steady climb up, with some little dips wore us out. The rocks of the cliffs, that we could see were a stiff price to pay. We completed the portage about 2 PM. By 2:30 PM we were on the island (Lat. 46 37` 38.28567; Long. -82 33` 10.49937") in Book Lake (Wednesday Day 3). This was the best camp site of the entire trip. There was lots of space, a steady wind, and a fire pit area. We had lunch of coffee/tea, soup, rye crisp with corned beef (mustard and hot ketchup). By 6 PM we`d sleep for 3 hours. Supper was started about 7 PM. It was soup again, with sweet and sour curried rice and butterscotch pudding. Like the evening before, the bugs drove us into the tents and hence bed by 9 PM. We were up as the sun was driving the wild horses from the bays. We were on the water at 8:20 AM after a breakfast of instant oatmeal. We paddled the short warm-up distance to the last portage.

We were advised that the water was low. Now we found out how low. The water level at the mouth of the creek was so low we could not get into the creek. We had to bush wack about 100 M just to get to the beginning of the portage trail. Once we were on the trail (9 AM) our shuttle walk started. To accomplish this shuttle the first load is carried for about 125 steps ( count each time a foot is put down). The return walk is the rest period. The next shuttle distance is 250 steps. This 250 step shuttle walk and return rest phase is done until the portage is complete. We crossed the logging road about half way over the portage. Lunch here, was soup, with peanut butter and jam on 7 grain bread. It was surprising fresh and no mould. Rosemarie Creek was crossed only once by us. There were numerous blow downs in the second half of the portage. All four of us missed the log jam and the path crossing over Rosemarie Creek to the east side. We literally walked into the Boland River 180 M down stream from where we had planned. This portage took about 5 hours for us to do. I have never walked all day on a portage before in my 39 years of canoeing. It certainly was an interesting experience. The blow-downs were a challenge. We were however, not as physically tired as the day before (coming into Book Lake). I bared my sole with Ken as both my running shoes lost theirs. It was my back up hiking sandals for the rest of the trip.

Our camp on Thursday (Day 4) was beside on an old logging road (Lat. 46 36` 33.08868; Long. -82 33` 18.70693"). It looked like rain, so Bill and I put up the tarp. The tarp fulfilled its purpose, the rain didn`t come. It did spit a couple of times, that was all however. Supper began with soup (with fresh onion), followed by tuna helper and energy bars for dessert. Breakfast was pancakes and real maple syrup. The four of us were on the river by 8:30 AM.

Our river trip had now begun. On Wednesday, we had not reached our intended camping spot. This put us about 5 hours behind on our schedule. A quick meeting decided that we would attempt to do half the distance to the bridge on Friday and the remaining distance on Saturday.

Our original plan had us at the bridge on Hwy 639 about 12 noon.

Friday`s (Day 5) paddle went slower than planned. This was caused by the number of logjams we encountered. We had 3 trip reports with us. Only one had a date with it. This report mentioned there were 4 major ones, another report mentioned a total of 22 logjams/fallen trees. In our planning meetings (yes, we did have 3 or 4) we let our excitement about the trip cloud our eyes to the number of logjams ( well, enough of the crying and it wasn`t the onions). By the end of Friday`s paddle we had covered a straight line distance of about 8 km, on the river that converts to about 13.76 km. It also included many logjams, duck-unders and a few pull-overs. We spent the night beside a logjam at Lat. 46 38` 00.33986"; Long. -82 39` 12.67483" Our supper here again started with soup (and yes, fresh onion), Alpine spaghetti with spam in a tomato paste with garlic. Coffee and tea was had before the bugs rushed us off to bed. At this site I saw 2 or 3 day old bear prints, and a number of moose prints. Breakfast was coffee/tea and rice pudding/instant cream of wheat. We were on the water early.

Saturday`s (Day 6) paddle started at 8 AM and we didn`t get off the river until 9:25 PM. In a straight line we travelled just over 11 km. According to the river we paddled 23.76 km. This included 24 logjams and duck-unders. To say the least, it was a grueling day. We were physically spent by the time we had the canoes tied on and the gear in the trailer. We spent the night in Sudbury, arriving at 2 AM - ending a 20 hour day.

As I sit writing this report 2 days later, I still feel the physical drain. The Boland River at this time of year (July22 - 27) had very little water in it. Yet, it is a dynamic river. The river water was cold, in the deep pools the trout were hiding. The riverbed is constantly changing, the currents change, the meanders I found provided a look at the formation of the valley the Boland erodes. This trip will be remembered for the physical challenge, the beauty of the smaller lakes, the wonderful stands of pine trees, and of course the log jams. With excellent 20/20 hindsight, we should have planned 6 days on the water. The water was low, however, it was the number of logjams that slowed our progress.

Bob Shiell

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
Rawhide Lake 41 J/10
Other Maps: 
Chrismar Adventure Map "Mississagi Prov Park & Area"
Special Comments: 

The Boland River canoe route starts at Mount Lake, Sagard (1A) Township and ends at the bridge on Highway 639. It takes you through a natural habitat for moose, bear, beaver, grouse and many varieties of waterfowl. The lakes contain several species of fish (pike, bass, lake trout) and the river provides excellent brook trout fishing. The best time of the year to take this trip would be during the month of May thus avoiding extra portaging due to low water levels.

This trip is 55 kilometers long and can be made in a minimum of three days. Allow additional days if side trips are planned.
Mount Lake may be reached either by traveling 45 kilometers north from Elliot Lake via Highway 108 to 639 to 546 or by travelling 74 kilometers north on Highway 546 from Iron Bridge. Supplies may be obtained at Iron Bridge, Elliot Lake or at one of the tourist lodges on Mount Lake and McElrea Lake, and canoes can be rented at Mississagi Provincial Park.

Don McGorman

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