Dividing Lake Loop

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
webmaster
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
62 km
Duration: 
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
11
Total Portage Distance: 
1771 m
Longest Portage: 
706 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Easy
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Hwy 144 north from Sudbury
Put in at public access off Dividing Lake Road (just past Watershed Restaurant)
North then west through Dividing Lake
P 111 m on Mollie River
P 43 m into Three Duck Lake
North through Three Duck Lake
Lift over road into Weeduck Lake
North through Weeduck Lake
P 326 m to Bagsverd Lake (abandoned bunkhouse at start of portage)
West through Bagsverd Lake
West on Bagsverd Creek
P 35 m on Bagsverd Creek
P 54 m on Bagsverd Creek into Schist Lake
North through Schist Lake and Schou Lake
P 127 m into Somme River
North on Somme River (shallow, mucky and swampy)
Northeast through Wolf Lake and Somme Lake
Through large culverts under roadway then P 40 m R into Neville Lake
South through Neville Lake then northeast in small channel
P 152 m around dry rapid / log jam into West Arm of Mesomikenda
Around point into Mesomikenda Lake
South through Mesomikenda Lake
P 87 m into unnamed lake (or lift over two beaver dams)
P 706 m (very steep at beginning) into small pond
Pull over beaver dam into Dividing Lake
South on Dividing Lake to finish at public access point

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

This log is based on a four-day trip done in September 1997. In addition to myself, the paddlers were: George Walinga, Niel McKay, Gil Gasparini, Alan Marcon and Peter Shuparski. This was our annual "guys trip" that we take every year the weekend after labour day. One item of note - all of the campsites and portages along this route were marked with official MNR signs and the route appeared to be maintained to some extent. Possibly this is because the junior ranger camp is located on the route.

Day One - Thursday September 4

Only six paddlers this year - two had to cancel out for various reasons, so we all fit into George`s Lumina van. Gear and canoes were carried in George`s home-made canoe trailer. This was a loop trip, so another bonus was no vehicle shuttling.

We were on the road heading north from Sudbury at about 7:30 am. Did an extra run around the block because I forgot my sunglasses and we had to come back. As we headed up Hwy 144 I realized I had also forgotten my drinking jug in the fridge, but didn`t dare to mention it. Made the compulsory stops along the way for coffee, donuts, a Gatorade to replace my forgotten drinking jug and a final pit-stop for civilized washroom facilities.

We didn`t have a detailed description of how to get to the start point - just that it was at Dividing Lake just to the West of Hwy 144 around Gogama. Not to worry ... there was a "Dividing Lake Road" sign at the side road we had to take. The road leads into an MNR Junior Ranger camp and also a public boat launch. We backed up to the boat launch ramp, emptied the contents of the van into our canoes, and were on the water by 9:30 am.

We paddled north on Dividing Lake for about 1 km, then west towards the Mollie River. As we paddled up the lake, the MNR camp was visible in a bay on the east shore, as was the fire tower up on a hill by the camp. Our route took us into a reedy bay and into the Mollie River. One short portage listed as 111 m in the route description is required. As expected, we found very low water levels and bottomed out in a few locations. The Mollie winds north through swampy areas for 3 or 4 km. A short 43 m portage brought us into a small pond, which eventually led into Three Duck Lakes.

Three Duck Lakes is a long, narrow body of water separated at two points by narrows. We paddled up the first narrow lake, through a little creek at the northeast corner and stopped for lunch on a small island about half way up the second lake. The second lake was joined to the third with a narrow creek and series of ponds. Some dragging and lining was required before we arrived in the third (most northerly) lake of the Three Ducks. Apparently there is an old crushing mill at the west end of the lake (buildings are shown on the topo maps) but we did not paddle over to investigate the site.

The MNR route description indicates that there is a culvert to be negotiated at the north end of this lake to get into Weeduck Lake. We found no trace of a culvert that was navigable, but previous paddlers had obviously been lifting up and over the narrow gravel road at that point. We did the same and minutes later were heading across tiny Weeduck Lake.

The East Arm of Bagsverd Lake is accessed from Weeduck Lake via a 326 m portage. This trail is well-groomed and easy. At the beginning of the path, barely visible in the bush to the right, is the remains of an old logging bunkhouse about 50 ft. long. The building has collapsed, and is rapidly being reclaimed by the bush. The route description indicates a campsite at either end of the portage. It might be possible to use the small clearing at the start of the portage for camping, but it is a poor site with sloping ground. The far end of the trail is much more suitable, with some large areas of flat rock and more tent areas. Neither site gets anything close to a four-star rating. This portage did not actually reach the East Arm of Bagsverd, but rather a small pond connected to Bagsverd. We had a small liftover before we were actually in Bagsverd.

Bagsverd was our destination for night one. The route description indicated the presence of two campsites on the lake. The first was on the west side of an island at the west end of the lake. As with the other sites on the route, it was clearly marked with signs at the north and south ends of the island. Unfortunately it was also filthy, littered with trash and the remains of a summer`s fish-cleaning. Fish heads and skeletons lay scattered everywhere. Concerned that the fish remnants would attract all manner of local wildlife, we moved on to investigate the next site on a point at the most westerly point on the lake. Although smaller, this one was in better shape. Better doesn`t mean perfect ... we were greeted by beer cans and propance cylinders in the fire pit, pieces of paper, a plastic pail which had been used as a latrine and then left behind the site, a scattering of toilet paper and shit behind the site and most unusual, a complete steel bed frame (headboard, springs and footboard) sitting on the site. We spent some time cleaning up the mess and debating what to do with the bed. Eventually we decided to balance it across one of the canoes, take it out to the deepest part of the lake and "deep-six" it. With the cleanup completed, we set up our tents and were in "rest and relaxation" mode by 4:30 pm.

Wonderful stars that night, and a serenade by a very vocal loon for hours and hours.

Day Two - Friday September 5

After a cold night, we were greeted by the sun rising over Bagsverd. We were up at 7:30, packed and had a relaxed breakfast and were on the water at 9:30 am. The route left Bagsverd Lake and followed Bagsverd Creek to the west. We had to wade and lift over at a few shallow spots and beaver dams, but we made good progress. The water in the creek was absolutely freezing, as if it were spring-fed. We passed under the grey steel beams of the road crossing, and were soon at the first of two portages. Both of these trails bypassed small dried-up rapids as we headed upstream and were simple and short (35 m and 54 m). The last portage put us into the east end of Schist Lake.

Schist Lake is a large body of water, dotted with islands. We paddled west across the lake into a stiff headwind. Many sections of the lake were amazingly shallow, and we stirred up thick clouds of silt from the deep layer on the lake bottom. The route description indicates that the portage to leave Schist can be difficult to find, since it is at the end of a long, winding channel. We headed to the bay at the northwest corner of Schist and saw no indication of any portage, just a mucky, reedy area. Peter and Alan, having no regard for the cleanliness of their footwear, headed into the swamp to investigate. About 50 m in, they found the portage sign on a tree, and a clearly visible trail heading uphill. Due to the low water levels, the "narrow channel" described in the documentation was now a narrow moose path with a deep layer of black ooze. We removed the packs, and by jumping from rock to hillock to log we managed to maneuver the canoes closer to the actual portage take out. Once this "swamp trek" was complete, the portage was a fairly simple up-and-down 90 m long. The high point of this portage is the height of land which divides the Atlantic watershed from the Arctic watershed. From this point on, we would be travelling downstream. We posed for a photographs at our best estimate of the watershed line, and headed into a small pond amidst very bad jokes about how the Arctic landscape was not much different than the northern Ontario landscape we had just left behind.

The small pond quickly narrowed down to a narrow and very shallow creek. We paddled (poled) our way through thick weeds and high marsh vegetation. A periscope would have been a handy navigation tool as we followed the little channel zig-zagging through the wetland, since the plants were well over our heads and we had to stand up occasionally to scan the area ahead. Two km of this paddling put us into a small unnamed lake which eventually narrowed once again then opened up into the west end of Schou Lake.

A number of campsites are supposed to be on the north shore of Schou, but we did not stop to check them out, since we wanted to reach Somme or Neville Lake that night. We quickly traversed the west end of the lake, heading north and arrived at a portage to get into the Somme River. The simple 127 m portage split near the end, with the left fork heading to the "original" take out. The right fork brought us into a new extension of the portage, bypassing the dried-up creek and bringing us about 50 m further north where the creek was deeper. We ate lunch on the rocks at the end of this portage then paddled north on the river.

The two km on the Somme River that followed was one of the most tiring parts of the trip. The river was very shallow, and the bottom was a thick layer of muck and silt. The bottoms of the canoes dragged along this silty bottom, making it seem as if we were paddling through thick oil or molasses. We eventually saw the river widen into Wolf Lake and breathed a sigh of relief, tired of the mucky bottom. Unfortunately, the first section of Wolf Lake matched the river exactly, with water a foot deep and thick silt under that. We finally broke free of this shallow mucky section and headed northeast into Wolf Lake. We saw two marked campsites as we passed through the lake, one on the south shore at the second narrows, and one on the north shore just a bit further down the lake.

The topo maps showed the connection between Wolf Lake and Somme Lake as a single line - a narrow creek with intermittent ponds. As we entered the first section of these "single lines" we were greeted by a boulder-strewn channel with only a trickle of water running down the centre. What would normally have been a swift rock-garden was now a tiny channel running amidst spherical algae-covered rocks which should have been underwater. There was no apparent portage at the site, and portaging along the slippery boulders would have been almost impossible without breaking an ankle, so we began to work the loaded canoes down the narrow channel in the water which remained. The process involved much lifting, pulling on lining ropes and dragging of canoes. Future visitors will find a good layer of canoe gel-coat on these rocks the next time the water is that low. Three times we had to repeat this process, wincing at the damage being caused to the canoes, before the river opened up into a pond. We paddled the length of the pond, turned right into the Somme River and were again greeted by a section of dried-up river. Once again we left the boats and dragged our way through. We finally reached a widening and the next 1.5 km of the Somme were navigable and deep.

We reached Somme Lake and began to look for campsites. The route description mentions two sites, but gives no indication of where they are on the lake. Carefully watching the shorelines, we paddled to the east. We saw the tell-tale orange sign indicating a site on the north shore, and Niel and Gil paddled over to investigate. Niel proclaimed the site to be "a bit rough" so we paddled on. Unfortunately we reached the end of the lake without ever seeing another site. We did notice an old yellow lawn chair nailed to a tree, but it seemed to be just a lunch stop with no room for tents. By this time, a very strong west wind was whipping up the lake and we were looking at whitecaps and large rollers. We had two choices ... to backtrack into the headwind to the "rough" site or to carry on to another site on Neville Lake. We figured that 1 km into a strong wind was probably as difficult as 3 km with the wind at our backs, so we continued east.

Reaching the east end of Somme Lake, we encountered four large culverts which passed under the road. Paddling through these culverts while yelling to appreciate the fine acoustics and echoes (could anyone resist doing that?) we pulled out at the head of yet another dry rock garden. The novelty of wading these areas while dragging our loaded canoes had worn off long ago. Niel and Gil arrived first and started pulling though this channel. The rest of us noticed a portage sign to the left of this channel, but like sheep we followed them down the rocky drop. It was a mistake - the channel was filled with lots of broken sharp rock rather than the "bowling balls" we had encountered on the previous dry sections. It took a lot of careful lifting and dragging to get the canoes down to the lake. Finally, with much bumping, scraping, slipping and straining we reached Neville Lake.

We were all tired by this time, and eager to get set up on a site. Paddling south on Neville Lake, we noticed an island site and stopped to check it out. It was a bit dirty, but the main problem was the small size. It would have been almost impossible to set up the tents on anything close to level ground. To add to our joy it began to rain. Another site was indicated on the large comma-shaped island at the north end of the lake. We paddled down the west side of the island, watching carefully for any indication of a campsite but saw none. For some unknown reason (possibly related to fatigue, bad judgment or stupidity) we chose not to paddle the extra 200 m around to the back of the island to check out the east side and came to the conclusion there was no site on the island.

The only possibility seemed to be a gravel "beach" on the shore just southwest of us, so we paddled over there. The area was less than ideal, but it was now 5:30 pm and we were quickly losing patience with the lack of campsite availability and the rain running down our backs. The beach area just looked too wet and uneven, so we decided to bite the bullet paddle back the 500 m to the first island we had seen. We knew that we would somehow come up with some spots to squeeze in the tent. A light bulb must have clicked and we decided to go back by way of the east side of the large island - the side we had failed to check. Lo and behold, we found a developed campsite with plenty of room and with much kicking of our own butts over our stupidity, we unloaded the canoes.

We split into two groups - one to get up a rain tarp and light a fire; and the second which set up the tents and organized the gear. Within half an hour, we were changed into dry clothes and sitting around the fire enjoying a cold beer.

The light rain continued for the evening, and once we were in our tents (at 9:30 pm ... what a bunch of party animals) we were absolutely dumped upon by heavy rains. It poured off and on all night.

Day Three - Saturday September 6

We woke at 7:00 am to a damp, misty morning with the occasional light sprinkle of rain. We had breakfast and turned to the grim task of packing wet tents, tarps and clothing. We paddled south on Neville Lake and eventually turned east into the narrow channel leading to Mesomikenda (Beaver) Lake. The channel was narrow and bouldery, but thankfully it had just enough water to float the canoes without dragging them. A couple of hundred metres down the creek we reached a dried-up rapid with log jams and the accompanying 152 m portage on the right. The most difficult part of the portages on this trip seemed to be the rocky put-ins and take-outs. The low water meant that we could never reach the proper start or finish of the trail, instead having to hop precariously along the rocks which normally made up the riverbed. The portage was a steep up and steep drop, with slippery, rocky footing. It was also very narrow and brushy, so we were soon soaked from rubbing against the wet underbrush. The end of the portage puts into a narrow channel with a sign marking the beginning of a fish sanctuary.

The channel widened steadily as it ran northeast towards Mesomikenda Lake. We reached the end of the channel and turned south on Mesomikenda. We now had a straight southward paddle on this large lake. Our plan was to stop for the night about halfway down the lake and make camp. A word of warning about this plan ... don`t bother. There are no campsites on Mesomikenda. We watched very carefully as we paddled down the lake, even splitting into two groups to check out both sides of the lake. The shoreline is very steep and thickly treed right down to the water`s edge. There is literally no place to set up a campsite.

We had paddled about 10 km down the lake with not even a possibility when a small fishing boat approached from the south. We waved down the boat and asked the occupants about the potential for campsites further down the lake. They confirmed our worst fears and said that there were none on the lake. The only possibility was the boat launching area 2 km further down the lake, but it was clearly posted for no camping.

By this time we had no real options left unless we wanted to paddle another three or four hours, do a 700 m portage and finish the route a day early, so we headed to the landing and set up camp next to the parking area. It was actually one of the nicest sites of the trip, with level tent sites, lots of trees to hang a tarp and a stone firepit. While we don`t usually advocate camping in restricted or posted areas, we felt that we had no options at that point. The landing was almost deserted, and we were only there for a short overnight stay. We decided that if we were visited by the MNR, we would babble at them in a fake Slavic language, throw in a few english words like "canoe, campsite, cold and rain" in a heavy accent, shrug our shoulders and generally try to look puzzled. If this plan failed, we would walk out to the highway and hitchhike to our vehicle at Dividing Lake, but we had no serious fears about eviction that late in the season.

Day Four - Sunday September 7

A goof-off day ... we all slept in until about 7:45 and had a leisurely breakfast. We paddled south under overcast skies. A short distance below the landing we passed under the road bridge, with a campsite cluttered with all manner of garbage, including broken lawn chairs and a washing machine drum. Approximately 4 km further south we arrived at a set of two beaver dams, one about 2 ft. high and a second one about 4 ft. high. We pulled the loaded canoes over and continued south into a narrow section of lake. We thought this area at the beaver dams was the 87 m portage marked in the MNR description, but saw no sign of the trail.

The lake eventually ended at a portage sign marking the 700 m trail toward Dividing Lake. The trail is not difficult for the most part, but the first 100 m has a very steep climb, gaining possibly 50 m (150 ft.) of elevation quite quickly. Although the portage looked like it had been cleared quite recently, there were 10 or 12 new blowdowns across it when we used it. A sweaty hour later, we were in a small pond at the north end of Dividing Lake. The pond had a small narrows at the south side with a beaver dam to pull over and a fallen tree about 2 ft above the water surface that we had to "limbo" under.

We entered Dividing Lake and within half an hour were passing the fire tower and Junior Ranger camp near the parking lot. We were off the water and loading the vehicle by 1:00 pm. We stopped for our obligatory end-of-trip group photograph at the "Arctic Watershed" sign just south of Dividing Lake on Hwy 144 and went for lunch at the Watershed Restaurant.

Richard Munn
September 1997

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 P/5 Westree 41 P/12 Gogama 41 I/9 Opeepeesway Lake
Other Maps: 
41 P/NW Gogama 41 P/SW Westree 41 O/NE Ridout (Provincial Series Maps)
Other
Special Comments: 

You`ll note that my comments in the trip log below state that there are no campsites on Mesomikenda (at least none that we saw). I received the following information from Gord Butson about some sites up at the north end. I stand corrected, and thank Gord for this information.
"Would just like to add some info to your summary of this route. I have a cottage on Mesomikenda Lake, and in your route diary you stated you could not find any campsites on Mesomikenda. In fact there are several very large, flat and wind protected sites on this lake. When you came into the lake from Neville you entered the West Arm portion of Mesomikenda. Before you leave the West Arm and head south on the lake the campsites are located on the North Shore of the West Arm in 3 separate locations. I can only assume that you were paddling on the
south shore of the West Arm, then headed south down the lake, thus missing these campsites. Just thought you may like to know."

Photo Gallery

Comments

Post date: Mon, 09/17/2012 - 09:02

Comments: 

After 15 years we decided to redo the route described by Richard Munn with 4 of the original members of the group mentioned in the route description above. The trip was from Wed Sept 5 - Sun Sept 9, and was our 19 or 20th annual 'Guys' canoe trip. We made it to Schist Lake by 4 pm on Wed with a planned lay-over day Thurs. The portages on this part of the route were better marked but the water levels were lower. Also, we had the luxury of staying at a rough camp (thanks Ray )and enjoying the fishing and sauna. On Fri we were on the water by 9 am. It rained off and on all day. The paddling was slow between Schist and Schou because the creek was narrow, winding and shallow. Often we would have to push off the creek banks with our paddles to make forward progress. The Somme River section of this part of the route was narrow in spots and shallow and turned into an almost impassable mud flat due to a beaver dam (made by an Italian beaver based on rocks placed strategically in and on top of the dam). We had to pull our canoes with ropes from the scrub willow banks for about 50 m, avoiding small mud filled side ditches as we went and then paddle solo until there was enough water to float the loaded canoes and two paddlers. There was no portage option available as far as we could tell.
The shallow rapids described in the above description were even shallower and narrower making for a tough go from Wolf to Somme and Somme to Neville Lake. We were hoping to camp on Neville but the sites were small so we pushed on to Mesomikenda and 'found' a great campsite on the large island where the mouth of the west arm of the 'Mes' meets the main part of the lake at @ 4:30. Exhausted but happy to be on a good site we set up quickly and enjoyed a good meal knowing Sat was a lay-over day. Fishing was difficult because of 'Fish Sanctuary' signs in this area and a strong wind when we were out in the main part of the 'Mes'. Turns out it's only a 'sanctuary' until mid June. No fish fry that day. We decided to shorten the paddle out on Sun by taking out at the public landing @12 km from the island site. It was an easy paddle with a tail wind all the way.
We were glad to complete this route again after 15 yrs. Sadly, as water levels continue to go down this route may not be passable, possibly even by next year. That would be unfortunate because this route has some unique features that would provide an interesting challenge for most paddlers.
Cheers,
Alan Marcon

Post date: Sat, 09/25/2010 - 20:22

Comments: 

We had great time on this trip. The last portage was a real challenge to complete. One of our party was lost in the reforested section on the last portage.

Post date: Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:59

Comments: 

We just did this route (September 2010) and discovered that the last portage seems to dead-end. There is a fairly new looking sign at the bottom of the hill. There is another sign at the top of the hill, but the trail just ends there.

Following the most-beaten (not very) path took us to a fairly new mining road. The road isn't marked on the topo map whose data is from 1996. We couldn't find our way from this road into any body of water and there was no suitable camp site nearby, so we walked the 4 km or so back to the Dividing Lake access point to get the van and went home.

Post date: Sat, 01/01/2000 - 07:00

Comments: 

Hello!
I just wanted to confirm that yes, the signs as well as the maintenance of the Dividing Lake Loop (alson known as the 4M loop) are a result of Dividing Lake Ontario Ranger Camp. Every year this route is worked on by a crew of rangers.