Drowning River

CanadaOntarioHudson Bay, James Bay north
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Marilyn Sprissler (admin)
Trip Date : 
July 2004
Route Author: 
Perry Jameson
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
75 km
Duration: 
6 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
6
Total Portage Distance: 
1200 m
Longest Portage: 
450 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Novice
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
High
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

car shuttles work fine - no flights necessary

Technical Guide: 

depart Twin Lakes - Nakina - road access - both beginning and end - mostly river travel - should be done in June or July - small river

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Drowning River Canoe Trip (log) July 2004

Introduction (Why the Drowning?)
The area north of Nakina is a traditional canoeing area for us, remote and yet relatively easy to access.
We canoed the Esnagami twice, once in 96 and again in 02 and wanted to do other rivers on a parallel course such as the Squaw and Esnagami.
Our group gets smaller with age and this year we are only one canoe. We needed a relatively easy river with less risk than the Gami or Squaw and we heard that the Drowning fit the bill.
We were armed with a log from an experienced Wisconsin canoeist named John Trzcinko who had done the Drowning four times and spoke highly of it.

Equipment
There would be only two of us in a 17 ft Royalite Nova Craft Prospector. I include a dictaphone to record the log. We carry four primary packs (one kitchen barrel, two waterproof personal packs and one Duluth food pack with the standard olive barrel configuration). We also include lawn chairs and numerous smaller packs for beer and wine and a collapsible cooler pack for our first day fresh meal. We do not pack light. Our tent is a Eureka Mountain Pass four man.

The crew
Perry Jameson, age 53, stern man and author of this log.
Ed Allen, age 53, bow man and Great Northern Guide.

The Trip Log
All map references are in miles, but being Canadian, I use meters for all other descriptions. We use 1:50000 top maps marked off with mile 0 at the NE corner of Lower Twin lake where the road meets the lake and river. We also have the logging road maps from Kimberley Clarke showing our logging road exit and we have the canoeing log of John Trzcinko mentioned above. Although John’s log indicates the trip length at 45 miles, our own measurements put the total length to the Supawn camp at about 55 miles.

We will camp six nights, but the trip could be done in four. John makes his trips in late July to early August and so has lower water levels and numerous drag throughs. Our water levels were quite a bit higher than his and I will make numerous comparisons to give the reader a feel for both high and low water levels. Apparently in later August the river can become almost impassable if the summer is dry. Grant Mackie of Northland Outfitters told us that a group tried the trip in August 2003 and beat up their canoes and bodies badly because of constant drag throughs. We will get out by accessing a bush road from Wababimiga River. Turn right on the bush road and travel 1.5 miles to a ditched area for prearranged pick up.

The Drive, 04709
We are on the road from Bright’s Grove, ON at 0630 in Perry’s 2001 Subaru Outback. The weather is clear mild, beautiful. We have a small glitch at the Port Huron, MI border when they question us about the type of meat products we carry and send us into secondary. I have a terrible moment when I envision the confiscation of our dehydrated meals including spaghetti sauce, beef strips, and chili. However I am asked only one question. “Is all of your meat product powdered”? Although not sure of the correct answer I say “yes” and we are promptly released with no search. At 1120 we stop at Jay’s sporting goods near Gaylord on I75 so Eddy can purchase a fly rod. As long as they don’t listen to this log recording we should be able to smuggle it across no problem. We clear the Mackinac Bridge in Northern MI at 1225. We clear customs no problem and proceed to Sault Ste. Marie, ON for some grocery shopping. We purchase a couple of steaks, a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, a pound of sausage, and are on our way at 1400. We then proceed to the beer store to purchase three cases of beer and then on to the trading post for reading material. We depart the Sault at 1445. We stop to stretch our legs near a small trout stream at Rabbit Blanket Provincial Park. We notice that there are no bugs and the water levels are up from Eddie’s last visit. We stop in Wawa and bypass Youngs General Store in favor of Wally’s steak house for dinner. The time is 1708. Both the service and the meal are poor. Don’t order the hot roast beef sandwich. We stop for gas at White River and depart at 1837. We gas up at Long Lac, arrive Geraldton at 1032, and Cordingley Lake cabins at 2400. We would have preferred the less expensive Shores Motel, but it was fully booked. The cabin looks impressive, but there is no washroom and when we open the fridge we pretty much gag at the smell. I would not recommend Cordingley lake cabins for a one night stay. The total time of the trip was 17.5 hours to cover the 1,348 km, about an hour longer than our previous trip in 02. Much depends on number & length of stops and time to cross the border.

Day one, 040710 (Island Campsite) (Mile 0 – 11)
We are up at 0630 to the sounds of bush planes taking off at Lunenberger’s air service. The weather looks beautiful. We are packed and leave the cabin at 0730 and proceed to the Nakina restaurant for breakfast. The breakfast is poor with hard warm eggs, lousy fries, and steamed limp sausages (get the bacon or ham). We then go to meet our guide and driver, Grant Mackie. Grant owns Northland Outfitters on Cordingley Lake just past Lunenberger’s. He has a beautiful rental cabin that we wish we had booked in hindsight. We will follow Grant to the put in on Lower Twin Lake and he will arrange to drive our car back to his lodge. Total cost for this service, including pick up at the end of the trip, is $150. At Grant’s recommendation we also purchase a book “Paddle, Pack, and Speckled Trout” by Edwin Mills. The book describes fishing on several rivers (including the Drowning) in the 30’s and 40’s and the purchase proves well worthwhile. It is also worth noting that in all my years of dealing with northern outfitters, Grant Mackie was the most pleasant and competent individual I have encountered. His service is a must if you do this river.

We are on the river at 0936. Grant comments that this is one of the first warm days they have had. Prior to this it was cold and wet and water levels are well up. Certainly today is beautiful, sunny and warm, no breeze. At 1000 we come to the first mile 1 riffle with a portage sign on the left. This may be a drag through in lower water, but the levels are clearly up and we float through the left chute of this class 1 riffle. We notice a small camp on the left shore at mile 1.2. At 1120 we arrive at the entrance of Braggan Creek on river right at about mile 6. So far a very leisurely paddle on a perfect day with a slight breeze at our backs. At mile 7 we arrive at a map pencil line where the river narrows to about 3 to 4 meters with numerous overhanging dead falls. Fortunately most are chain sawed we are able to paddle and pull ourselves along. It is very pretty and looks very Specky, but we are not fishing yet. It continues for about 50m like this and then opens into a wider pool. We clear the first part at 1145 and are through the entire 1.5 mile pencil line at 1155.

At 1215 we encounter a rapid at about mile 9. It looks to be a long chute, a real rock garden, pretty technical, not really runable. There is a portage on the right aptly named “high hills portage” as it goes straight up the bank at a 40 degree angle. We will attempt to line as recommended in John’s log. There are no black flies at this point, but the mossies are very rich. The line is somewhat difficult, a little dodgy in some spots with lots of water, but we complete it at 1310 and relax with a beer in the pool at the bottom. The pool at the bottom looks good for Walleye and there is a potential campsite on the right. We each sustain about 90 mosquito bites per hand during that line as the mossies are extremely rich.

We then pass through Wiggle Lake and walk down the right channel of a small rapids at the end of the lake into a larger unnamed lake. The time is 1420. A small island is visible from the base of this rapid. It has a recommended campsite where we will spend our first night. Other than lining that one rapid the day was very easy. We mostly floated and drifted and then reached our mile 11 campsite at 1430.

Camp is set, I’ve had a bath, and the bar is open at 1600. Should note that the water is very refreshing, probably below 15C. 1830 finds us getting mellow in our lawn chairs. A breeze keeps the mossies at bay, potatoes are baking in the fire, green beans set to the side and a couple of good steaks ready to be cooked. As we relax with several drinks and a fine view of the Wiggle Lake rapids we seem to achieve a clarity of thought unsurpassed on previous trips. We apply this clarity to the development of a campsite rating system that includes criteria such as water access, swimming hole, tent sites, view, degree of bugginess, and exposure. With a maximum of 3 points per item we give this campsite 16 points out of a possible 18.

We also have a chance to start reading the book we purchased. One short chapter entitled Emile’s choice describes a fishing trip on the Drowning in 1943.

By 2020 dinner is over, dishes washed and we are relaxing with a final glass of Merlot. The evening is hot and clear. By 2125 we have retired while the sun still up. A perfect first day.

Day two, 040711 (Fishing and relaxing) (Mile 12 – 17)
We are out of the tent at 0700. We had a little rain during the night, but now it is clear and warm, about 22C. At 0805 we are enjoying our first coffee while the sausage cooks. The sky has turned somewhat hazy, but the morning is perfect as there is not a bug in the air.

We break camp at 1025 and canoe back to the Wiggle Lake rapid to do a little fishing. We have time, as we are not anticipating a long day today. By 1055 we have been fishing for 20 minutes at this small riffle and have each caught a Walleye, mine on a white tube jig and Eddie’s on a fluorescent jig. It is quite hot and we are both shirtless this morning. Ed saw a large fish jump that he thought might be a speck. So far no alcohol so the observation may be accurate. He switches to a spinner, but no luck. Previous experience has taught us that the trout often seek out the spring holes in early July if the water levels are low, but they can remain throughout the river if the levels stay high. We are hopeful for the latter as our water levels are apparently well above normal for this time of year.

At 1140 we reach the end of our nameless lake at mile 13 and encounter some rapids that, according to our log, will require lining. We complete this first line at 1215. There is an unused portage on the left hand side with a small campsite at the end. We spend 30 minutes fishing the riffles below the rapid and proceed to catch and release numerous Walleye.

We drift on down and arrive at the next squeeze at 1310 around mile 14. The rapid forms an S bend just after a straight section in the river. A quick scout reveals one huge logjam and so we have no choice, but to use the portage on the right side. The portage is fairly easy, about 50 meters, and we are back in the water by 1345. We fish till 1410, but only Walleye, no Specks. At 1445 we reach Tooth Lake where we will drift to our next island campsite. The weather is clear, high 20’s with a slight 10km breeze at our backs. By 1545 we reach our campsite at mile 17 with little effort and three Walleye in the boat.

By 1800 camp is set, we’ve showered, and Eddie is cleaning the fish. In spite of the small size of this, and the previous, island campsites (max two tents) the firewood is plentiful. Apparently only one to two groups canoe this route in a season. The evening looks to be a good one with perfect weather and minimal bugs. By 1935 dinner is over. We cooked and cleaned four fish, but two Walleye would have been sufficient. No way could we eat all the fish. Also we should not have doubled the rice to a full cup. What a gut buster. At 2040 dinner is over, the dishes are washed and time to relax. We enjoy a shirtless and breezy evening in front of the fire with minimal bugs. By 2200 we are both tired and again retire while the day is still light.

Day three, 040712 ( Jack Pine portage) (Mile 18 – 29)
We are up at 0615 to greet a clear and hot day. I would guess the temperature is already 23C at this early hour. We were awakened by the strangest noise that we first took to be some sort of amphibian, but later turns out to be a tern perched at the top of a tree next to our tent. By 0825 we have finished a gut buster breakfast including a pound of bacon and a five egg omelet with a quarter lb of cheese. We also cooked up the rest of Eddie’s slab bacon that threatened to go off. We are in the water at 1010 under a clear blue sky, slight breeze, water like glass, hot.

At 1040 we exit Tooth Lake. At the squeeze here there is a beautiful place for a shore lunch on the right with a gently sloping rock shelf and good swimming hole although it might be iffy for campsites and certainly buggier than our island campsite.

1120 finds us entering Relief Lake. It is now about 30C and almost no breeze. We notice a trapper’s cabin on the far left shore, but we do not investigate. At 1230 we near the end of Relief Lake. There is an active fly in cabin on a left side point although it is unoccupied this day. We stop and investigate. Eddie feels it is pretty much what you would expect, but I would not want to spend a week here. At mile 23 John’s log shows a six foot drop as you exit this lake and he usually runs it in low water. Our experience is somewhat different. At 1255 we run an initial 10m chute, a straight shot into a pool that we then fish and catch some Walleye. Shortly after this chute is the second part of this rapid and it presents a challenge. It is about 50 meters long with a straight chute most of the way. However near the bottom most of the water funnels under a large overhanging Cedar on the left and there is every chance you’d get killed in our water levels if you were unable to get to the right of that sweeper. After the Cedar is a rock garden with no navigable path, but if the tree wasn’t there you could run the rapid and then jump out at the end to avoid major scrapes on your canoe. We elect to line down the left side and then lift first the packs and then the canoe over the Cedar tree while standing thigh deep in water. After this the river widens out and then narrows again to a couple of map hatch marks.

At 1420 we continue on down river to the first of two hatch marks. Both are just riffles, less than a class I even with our water levels.

At 1510 we round a bend in the river and notice a moose camp up the bank in the trees on the left side with some stored and tarped firewood. Shortly after that at about mile 26 we encounter a large bull moose grazing in the water.

At 1550 we arrive at the Jack Pine portage at mile 29 on river left. Up a steep grassy bank there is a large wooded campsite with room for many tents. It has been used for many years, but it is not our type of campsite (too buggy, no running water, no swimming, no fishing) and so we move on to see what’s available at the end of the portage. We walk the 450m portage by 1610 and decide that we can likely camp on river right at the end of the portage. There is a rock shelf at the end of the rapids and what looks to be a possible tent site. By 1630 we have arranged our gear and are ready to portage. Since we are heavily packed we will make three trips. By 1835 we have portaged and canoed the gear across the river and set up our camp for the night. The site is beautiful with a great swimming hole at the base of the rapids. We were able to cut out one tent site and saw evidence that we are not the first to do this. We are both dead tired, but it was well worth the effort. By 2030 we finish our dinner of chili and toast and are relaxing in the chairs looking up at the spectacular Jack Pine rapids. This is a large rapid with four to five good drops as it winds its way down. The one directly in front of us is about a class III with our water levels. At 2225 after a few beers, rums, wine, we hit the deck. Our longest day so far and a great one.

Day four, 040713 (Bald Rock) (Mile 30 – 44)
We are up at 0650 to greet another beautiful day. The temperature has dropped to mid teens, clear, mist coming off the water. It just doesn’t get any nicer. During the night we had a thunderstorm with quite a light show and some rain between 0200 and 0400. We guess that we are now under the influence of a massive high pressure area, probably moved in from Saskatchewan. We again congratulate ourselves on our choice of campsite, far better than the site of many tents just up river that others “always stay at”.

By 0745 the sun has cleared the trees and the temperature has risen 10C in that short time. It is going to be another hot one. Breakfast this morning is a simple one, porridge only, so we don’t work too hard around the hot fire.

At 0950 we are on the water, the earliest so far. We both feel good having slept well in spite of the thunder. Today we plan to cover the 14 miles to Bald Rock portage at mile 44 so this will be a longer day for us. First stop will be Tin Can rapids mile 34 or about two hours. For the next hour up to 1055 we drift, paddle, and fish through a beautiful section of river. We are making good speed through numerous riffles and class I rapids. The temperature is about 30C and no black flies. At about mile 31 we come across another bull moose. With his head completely submerged we are able to get quite close before he bolts. There are three hatch marks on the map at mile 33 before Tin Can rapids. The first of these is a class I rapid with a portage marked on the right side. The other two are only riffles at our water levels. At 1150 we arrive at Tin Can rapids at mile 34. The portage starts immediately before the falls on the right side.

John’s log suggests that this rapid can be run in lower water levels, but certainly not in ours. The top part looks to be about a class III with several large standers and after that it gets a little technical with several more large haystacks. We would almost certainly swamp in the second set of waves. While the bottom half looks runable it would be difficult if not impossible to line to that point and so we portage. The portage starts up a steep bank on the right. There is a large campsite similar to the Jack Pine site with room for numerous tents, but no view. Again not our kind of campsite. The portage itself is about 350m and we are through and back on the water at 1305.

At 1410 we think we are at about mile 38. There are some hatch marks marked on the map, but we encounter nothing. The weather has turned cloudy and it looks like it could rain later. At 1445 we reach the mouth of the Singing River. We presume that it is named after the Sirens of Greek mythology that lure unsuspecting canoeists to their deaths. Even knowing the risk that awaits us we turn up river to see what the Singing falls look like. We are not overly impressed. No sea nymphs here and the falls is more of a wide shelf than a falls. Our book refers to the “verdant slopes & the white lacy rapids”, but 60 years have replaced the green meadows with full forest. We catch no fish there.

We continue on towards Bald Rock.

We reach Bald Rock falls at 1615, mile 44. The campsite is a raised grassy plateau on the right with a wide open view of the falls. The campsite is also the short 20m portage. The weather is now threatening with lots of thunder and we move quickly to set up camp. By 1710 the camp is set and the tarp is up. There is a severe lack of firewood and this campsite is obviously well used and very garbaged up over the years. There is scarcely a square meter back in the bush that does not have some garbage in it. We are somewhat surprised since the prior camp sites seem hardly used at all and the fishing up stream does not indicate overuse. Bald Rock falls is a single ledge about 20 meters across with a drop of about 2m and a large pool at the bottom. In our water levels the entire ledge has water rushing over it shore to shore, but I can see that in lower water much of this shelf would be exposed and you could walk out on it. In our water levels you could run this in a kayak and even in a canoe you would live, but almost certainly dump.

It starts to rain at 1800 and we put dinner off for the time being. Instead we opt to open the bar and admire the number of mossies in the air and on us. We try to count the number on Eddie’s right shoe, but stop at three hundred. This may not be the most mossies I’ve seen in my canoeing career, but I cannot recall a time when they were richer. Our only consolation is that there appear to be no black flies among them. Also note that current Canadian insect repellents contain only 30% DEET and in spite of government assurances we found them only 30% effective. Far better to purchase the 90% DEET products still available in the US at most service stations.

It rains lightly until 1920 and then starts to clear. Eddie fillets our fish and we enjoy a meal of fresh fish and rice. By 2200 the evening is beautiful, but the mossies are extremely rich and we retire for the evening. Another great day on the Drowning.

Day five, 040714 ( High Rock campsite) (Mile 45 – 53)
I am up first at 0555 to greet a beautiful morning, clear, cool, mist on the water. The mossies however, are still rich. The dew is so heavy this morning that everything is wet, both inside and outside the tent. We do not have a lot of miles to cover today so we decide to go back up river to test out Eddie’s new fly rod.

By 0740 the campsite has dried out and the sun is full up. The mosquitoes have tapered off, the temperature is much cooler and the air dryer, so today should be a great day. We have a simple breakfast of bagels and peanut butter and then climb into the canoe at 0850 for a short paddle.

We are back at Bald Rock campsite at 1025 and start to pack up now that things have dried off. At 1115 we are just about ready to go. The day is beautiful, sunny and cool in the low 20’s. The plan today is to paddle to an unnamed rapid about 9 miles down river. It should be an easy paddle with no rapids marked until that point. At 1130 we are afloat. Eddie makes a few casts into the pool, catches a Walleye, and then we move on.

For the next couple of hours we drift and fish a beautiful section of river.

At about 1450 we approach what appears to be a large logjam at mile 52. We are nearing the rapids where we will camp. The logjam is massive, but amazingly enough there is a sort of route through it on the right side. The jam looks to be a permanent fixture so I can only guess that previous travelers have kept this route open. Up until this point I felt the Drowning River was appropriate for a family trip, but this section (not mentioned in John’s log) makes me reconsider. Perhaps in low water it is not intimidating, but in our levels it is dangerous. The water is fast and deep and we are required to stand on fallen trees in the river while we slide the canoe over between us. You do not want to fall in on the up riverside of one of these logs. We navigate the logjam in about 20 minutes and proceed to the first of the unnamed rapids about 200m after the logjam. We follow the main channel to the right. There is a smaller channel to the left, but it is not passable and ends in a high waterfall.

The first of three hatch marks appear as a runable rapid, but I would not recommend doing so since it is followed immediately by three waterfalls. We start to line this upper part as our log suggests and we have a near mishap. We float the canoe through a small V, but as I pull the stern line to bring our loaded canoe back to shore it starts to tip. I start releasing line and am just about at the end of my 10m painter when Eddie (who is slightly ahead down river) saves the day. He is able to wade over quickly and grab the rope and bring it in to shore. I was only seconds away from a decision to hang on and dump the canoe, or let it go and hope it grounds up safely. Either way was certain disaster since we could not possibly hold a swamped canoe and the subsequent rapid would certainly have destroyed our canoe.

We continue to line down the left side, but the river quickly turns into a full blown waterfall with at least three significant class III drops. Fortunately we find an old unused portage about 100m from the start of our line where we are forced into shore. We have no choice, but to use it. The time is 1515. The portage is only about 100m long but the trail is obscure, full of dead falls, and we must spend time sawing and clearing. We also encounter our first (and only) black flies on this portage. By 1615 we are through and into the pool at the bottom. That was a lot like work and we are tired. Looking at these falls from the pool at the bottom, we cannot imagine how anyone could possibly line, but then things change with the water levels.

We paddle across the 50 meter pool and take out on the left at the very brink of a beautiful falls. The takeout is tricky, but we manage to wrestle our gear up the embankment and into a beautiful campsite at mile 53. The time is 1640. This campsite has everything, view, bathing area, and good tent sites. The portage trail continues on through to a put in about 100m further on the left shore. By 1740 camp is set, fire built, tents up, and bath complete. Our fire pit is on the edge of a 5m cliff overlooking the falls and pool. Time for a beer. Dinner tonight is “slops” a wonderful concoction of mashed potatoes, dehydrated hamburger, mushroom soup, and peas. We have a great evening and consume the last of the Merlot. The evening is pleasantly cool with minimal bugs. We fished the pool at this campsite, but no luck so we assume it is fairly accessible. At 2145 we retire with the daylight not yet gone. This was the sort of day that memories are made of.

Day six, 040715 (Supawn campsite) (Mile 54 – 55)
I am first up at 0610 to greet another spectacular day, sunny and cool, probably about 9C. By 0800 we’ve finished a great breakfast of pancakes and bacon in a cool bug free morning. We are packed and in the water at 1025 and proceed across this 300m pool to the rapids at the end. The rapids appear on the map as two hatch marks. There is a portage on the left and we use it to scout these rapids. Looks like a class II so we run this one and have a great ride with lots of fluffies and a little water in the boat. We have very little distance to cover today so we spend the next hour and a half simply drifting, fishing, and depleting the bar stock.

At 1100 we encounter a small ledge across the river that we navigate easily. Eddie catches a Walleye here. Other than that, fishing today is only fair. At 1200 we reach the 200m portage on the left to our next campsite. Normally you could cover this distance in about 40 minutes.

The day has now turned hot, but the portage trail is ok and we are through at 1305. The portage itself follows the left channel of the river that splits around a large rock island. The rapids are quite spectacular. Immediately after this portage is the confluence of the Wababimiga River and immediately after the confluence is our final (Supawn) campsite on the left shore at mile 55. The campsite is a flat grassy area accessed by a short sandy path right at the confluence. This campsite has some history with the partial completion of a cabin by Lindsay Vanderbeck back in the 40’s. The site is quite garbaged up and we spend some time on clean up. Also along the river path and in the bush garbage lies under every leaf and vine, a testament to the last 70 years of use. Also, for the dedicated fisherman, there is access to this campsite by bush road and then either trail or canoe down the Waba.

By 1430 camp is set and we relax with a beer. I had a cool down bath right in front of the campsite while hanging on to tree roots to keep from being swept away. The horse flies were somewhat fierce so the bath was a short one. The day has turned very hot, definitely the hottest so far and this in spite of the fact that we had our coolest morning. There are two options for getting out on this trip. We can paddle and line up the Wababimiga River for 500m to a bush road or access the logging road via a trail that leaves directly from our campsite. We decide to explore the trail first and see how far it is to the road so after a couple of drinks we start our walk at 1550. The trail is about 800m and is in very poor shape with numerous deadfalls. In fact it would be impossible to find except that some dedicated fisherman recently tied new tape markers on the old trail and also marked off a new trail where the old one was impassable. By the time we get to the road it is approaching 40C and we are bushed. No way could we carry a canoe through that trail. We search out the river access route and are pleasantly surprised to find that heavy equipment was at work very recently to clear a new 400m route from the logging road to the Wababimiga.

We return to camp by 1640 near exhaustion. In hind site we should have jumped in the river and enjoyed a cool 15 minute float back to our campsite. Our exit route is now decided. We will go up the Wababimiga, carry our gear up the newly cut route to the logging road and then make the 1.5 mile carry to the ditched area where we will meet Grant Mackie. That night we offer prayers to the weather god Oden that he bring cool and cloudy weather or two old guys might die on the logging road.

Dinner tonight is Belgian Beer stew over egg noodles. I need about three hours to prepare this meal as the steak strips must be rehydrated. Eddy sheds a tear as I poor our last beer into the stew. We eat at 2015 and by 2115 the temperature has dropped to abut 30C and we are enjoying “bug killers”. At 2210 we call it a night with a last prayer to Oden.

The return, 020716 - 020717
We are up at 0610. I wish my wife a silent happy birthday. This is the day we have been dreading. The weather is gray, low 20’s so it looks, at this point, that Oden may have answered our prayers. At 0710 we are enjoying a breakfast of porridge and toast with peanut butter and jam. We are impressed that our bread (country harvest stone milled 100% whole wheat) is still ok after a hot week in the bush. We spend the next couple of hours repacking and throwing out what we don’t need. We will try to do the road carry in two trips, unheard of for us. By the time we complete packing we estimate that the weight per carry will be about 90lb each.

We break camp at 0855 and complete the 400m up the Waba by 0915, not too bad. Our water levels were between knee and crotch so we used a combination of paddling and pulling over that 20 minute stretch. Much of the new 400m bush trail is up a steep incline, but we manage to wrestle our gear out to the logging road by 0945. We help each other load up and walk 2400 paces with a brief rest each 800. We reach the ditch with our first load at 1025. By 1235 we complete the final carry and settle down for a drink and a nap while we wait for our ride.

Grant is not scheduled until 1500 since we weren’t sure how long this carry would take us, however he arrives at 1430 having anticipated that we would get out early. My already high opinion of Grant escalates when he points to the floor of his truck and says “couple of cold beers in the cooler there”. This is a man that looks after the details. We arrive back at Northland outfitters at 1630 after a 30 mile drive. During that drive Ed and Grant talk like old friends as it seems they both know many of the same people. We meet his wife Arlene and they offer us a shower & sauna that appears to have been fired up just for us. Regrettably we must decline since we want to get some miles under our belt. At 1730 we arrive in Geraldton. We pick up a few beer and then book into the Crown & Anchor Motel. The price was reasonable at $62 for both of us and they serve a good breakfast in the attached restaurant. This might be a good place to stay when starting a trip. It would only be one hour to Nakina, the price is right, and you could avoid breakfast in at the Nakina restaurant. We have a pizza dinner at the Blue Lagoon and after a few beers, call it a night.

Next morning after breakfast we depart Geraldton at 0720. We stop briefly at the Pito Pico River and by 1230 we are in Wawa at Young’s General Store. We hit the bridge at the Sault at 1530, customs at 1610, the Mackinac bridge at 1700, Gaylord (Jays) at 1800. Depart the Burger King in Gaylord at 1905. Arrive Brights Grove at 2240.

Conclusion
Our time allotment on this trip was perfect. With six days and minimal portages the 55 mile trip was very leisurely with ample time for relaxation and fishing. Even so, we were tired at the end of each day, a sure sign that we’re getting older.
The Drowning River is a beautiful river with the best fishing at miles 23 to 53, below Relief Lake and above high rock campsite. It is smaller than rivers like the Ogoki or the Esnagami and much of the length mentioned above averages less than 15-20 meters in width. It moves along quickly with numerous riffles, but few falls or portages. In June or early July the fishing is good
With the right water levels the river could be considered for a family trip since the trip is short and the campsites well established.
People use various methods to cover that last 1.5 miles on the bush road, but I think the best method is pack light, carry out to the ditch, and have Grant pick you up. The alternatives, canoe wheels, mopeds, etc, require your own car set up and aren’t worth the trouble.

The End

Perry Jameson, aka Bob Riley

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