French River - Eighteen Mile Island Loop

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Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Admin
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Unknown
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
74 km
Duration: 
4 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
9
Total Portage Distance: 
730 m
Longest Portage: 
400 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Portaging: 
Easy
Remoteness: 
Novice
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Hwy 69 south of Sudbury, east on Hwy 607
Turn right after railway crossing - access at Loon`s Landing (Dry Pine Bay)
Northeast across Bigwood Bay
P 100 m R around Meshaw Falls
North through Eighteen Mile Bay
East on French River
P 50 m L around rapid
Swift under bridge (paddle up or Portage over road)
East on French River
P 60 m L around Cedar Rapids
Liftover at small rapid
P 400 m L around rapids immediately after previous Liftover
East on French River to Wolsley Bay
South on French River
P 25 m R around Little Pine Rapids
P 25 m R around Big Pine Rapids
P 10 m R around Double Rapids
P 30 m R around Blue Chute
West on French River
P 30 m R around Big Parisien Rapids
Devil Chute
Little Parisien Rapids
West on French River to finish at Dry Pine Bay

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Eighteen Mile Island Loop
by Richard Munn
We paddled this trip with eight paddlers (four canoes) in early September 1996. Weather was unseasonably warm (gorgeous) and water levels were fairly low.

Day 1 - Thursday September 5
Left Sudbury and drove south to the put-in on Dry Pine Bay. First navigational screw-up of the trip. We were supposed to be meeting at Loon`s Landing, a lodge on Dry Pine Bay. Unfortunately, the crew in the other car hadn`t had sufficient coffee to wake up, and only heard the "Dry Pine" part of the instructions. Had they followed us, they would have been fine, but they took a "short cut" and disappeared. Our vehicle was pulling the canoe trailer, so when we got to the lodge, we registered and waited for the other car. No sign of them, so we took the canoes down to the lake. Still no sign, so we hauled all of the gear down to the lake. Finally realize that regardless of how slowly they were driving they can`t be 45 minutes behind us, so we started phoning home, various lodges and driving around to try and find them. Located them sitting with blank looks on their faces at "Dry Pine Resort" - there is still strong suspicion among some of our members that it was a ploy to avoid unloading the gear.

In spite of the delay, we were still on the water by 9:30 am. Visibility was approximately 100 m in the thick fog. Since Dry Pine Bay was over 1 km across, we obviously couldn`t see the other side, so we set off on a compass bearing of 30 degrees towards Meshaw Falls. Short (100 m) portage around the right side of the falls that begins at the beach of Meshaw Cottages. The trail goes up along a road, and puts back in just above the falls. The most difficult thing about the portage was finding a good place to put back in - with the water level being low, the normal put-ins were quite high above the water level. Found one good spot, but it was already occupied by a large swarm of wasps that chased us out of there. Settle for second best put-in, and were back on the water.

Paddled north through Eighteen Mile Bay then headed east onto the French River Main Channel, paddling against the direction of flow. Not many people out on the water, but there are a lot of cottages in the area. Continued east to the next portage around a small rapid (UTM ref. 376004). It could probably have been lined, but there was a simple 50 m portage to the left, and seeing as we were stopping for lunch anyway, we hauled the canoes and gear out of the water. Putting in after lunch at the head of the rapid into the swift water - my paddle snapped clean in half, leaving me looking at a shaft in my hands, a blade floating down the rapid, and a very busy bow paddler ahead of me trying to stop us from running the rapid backwards. Someone threw us a paddle from the shore, and we gradually made some progress upstream away from the rapid.

Passed under a small bridge about 1 km later - hardly looked like a riffle under the bridge, but we had to paddle like crazy to get through it. I understand why they used to pole upstream instead of paddling through stuff like this. From this point, the river widened out into more of a lake than a river, and stayed that way for the next 5 or 6 km. Lots of cottages - too busy for my liking.

the weather was extremely hot - close to 30 degrees C. In spite of the short and simple paddling day, we were all drained and exhausted. There were a few campsites in the stretch just past Baie Daoust, but one was occupied and and some of the others were too small. We made camp on the south (right) shore of the river (UTM ref. 487034). Quite a nice site. We set up camp, had a swim and a cocktail and everyone felt human again.

Day 2 - Friday September 6
On the water by 9:00 am to continue working our way upstream on the Main Channel. First rapid 3 or 4 km later (Cedar Rapids). It is a simple P 60 m L, but we chose to line it. Just upstream is the second part of Cedar Rapids. This second part is actually a double rapid. For the first part, the river splits around a small island. We lifted over the first part of this island and put the canoes into a narrow channel which splits the island and had barely enough water to float the canoes. After the island, there is a small pool, then the second part of the rapid. It is a chute which can be portaged 400 m on the left. It looked like a good climb, so we chose to line the chute. Even with the low water, the current was quite strong, and the gunwale of one canoe got pulled over. Luckily, most of the gear stayed put in an eddy just downstream, so we didn`t have to chase it too far. Some of the group headed over to the portage for the remainder of the chute, and others finished lining. In high water, lining would not be an option - the portage would have to be taken. The area around the rapid is quite scenic - one of the nicest spots on the route.

About five uneventful kilometres later we were ready to stop for lunch. After two days of paddling in scorching heat, everything was beginning to melt in the cooler, so we decided to stop at Pine Cove Lodge in Wolsley Bay to buy some blocks of ice, some fresh water for our jugs, and to cheat and have our "shore lunch" in the restaurant. Looking at the map, we guessed that even though it was unmarked, there was probably a portage cutting across the narrow strip of land separating us from Pine Cove. Our guess was correct - it was a little overgrown, so we carried across (about 200 m) and headed to the lodge. An hour and a half later, with a good meal and a cold beer under our belts, we headed east again.

We paddled south through Wolsley Bay towards Commanda Island, chased by a group of seven or eight canoes. Guessing that they were a school group, and that we would be competing for sites, we paddled hard to stay ahead of them.

At the easterly tip of Eighteen Mile Island at Commanda Island, we reached Little Pine Rapids. Apparently this is usually a centre run, but when we arrived, there was just a trickle of water flowing down a section of flat rock. We simply picked up each canoe and walked them down the right side on the slippery rock. In higher water, there is also a 25 m portage which follows the right side from a small bay adjacent to the rapid. It was nice to be heading downstream finally.

About 1 km further, we arrived at Big Pine Rapids. These were certainly more challenging that the previous set. We portaged all of the gear down the 25 m trail on the right side. Two of the canoes were portaged, and two of the canoes were run. There was a bit of ferrying and prying to stay in the small "deep water" channel and avoid the many rocks visible in the low water, but both canoes made it through fine. No idea what the rapid would look like in higher water.

The French River is much more "remote" beginning at this section. This part is in French River Provincial Park, and there are no further cottages until near the end of the route. Another 1.5 km past Big Pine Rapids, we were watching for Double Rapids. Good thing we were watching - we might have missed it. It was just a small riffle going down around an island. We headed south towards Double Rapids Island. This island has, as the name implies, two rapids - one on each side. On the north side of the island is "The Ladder". It is a series of ledges and can be bypassed with a couple of liftovers on the right side. At the time we paddled the route, the ladder was basically dry. On the other side of the island is Blue Chute - there is a portage which begins in a small channel that almost splits the island. The trail climbs up steeply out of the channel, passes through the campsite on the island then drops down to the foot of the rapid. At the water levels we experienced, Blue Chute was obviously runnable with a straight centre run. A bit of bouncing in the standing waves at the bottom and we were done. We camped on the Double Rapids Islands that night. It was even possible to walk part way up the shoreline and take a bumpy swim down Blue Chute.

Day 3 - Saturday September 7
There were a number of small chutes and rapids marked on the map in the two or three kilometres following Blue Chute, but because of the low water, they were pretty much non-existent. They were all easy centre runs, or small riffles. We continued heading west, past Cross Island, the burial site for some Jesuit missionaries drowned in the rapids upstream.

A stiff breeze had come up from the east, so we took the opportunity to tie the canoes together and joist a tarp for a sail. We clipped along for 6 or 7 km, stopping for the day at a nice site on the south shore of the river (UTM Ref. 457980). There was a nice point of flat rock overlooking the river, and flat, grassy tent spots. We were off the water quite early in the day.

Lost one member of our group that afternoon. An aluminum fishing boat pulled in looking for him, because his father-in-law was ill and they had to get him back to town. Now I know why we leave an accurate route description and itinerary behind.

Day 4 - Sunday September 8
A leisurely paddle out to the west on Sunday - 16 km back to Loon`s Landing on Dry Pine Bay. We were slowed down a little because one person was unexpectedly paddling solo, but we made good progress. The shoreline got busier and we saw more and more cottages as we approached Dry Pine Bay.

The landscape changes dramatically in sections along this part of the river. There are some wonderful narrow channels with stunted trees and bare rock here.

Before noon, we were out at the lodge and unloaded.

The verdict on the trip...
The section heading west is much more isolated and scenic that the one heading east. We enjoyed the second half of the trip much more because of the "isolation."
The nature of the whitewater can change dramatically with differing water levels
In spite of the popularity of the route, campsites were surprisingly clean - although many of them are beginning to look overused, with erosion, trampling of vegetation and packing down of underbrush •Traffic on the route was steady but not busy in September. I don`t think I`d want to paddle the trip in the peak summer months of July and August - it would be much too busy.

Richard Munn
April 1997

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 I/1 Noelville 41 I/2 Delamere
Other Maps: 
French River Provincial Park map - shows all campsites and portages
Photo Gallery

Comments

Post date: Fri, 01/22/2010 - 10:26

Comments: 

I completed the full loop at the Labour Day weekend 2009 with some strong but otherwise complete beginners. Found the low water conditions very suitable for a white water introduction, and the prtages easy as well. Regardless of skill levels everyone was appropriately challenged and enjoyed themselves very much.

Post date: Mon, 10/05/2009 - 13:49

Comments: 

Just completed this route Oct '09. Weather was cold and cloud/rain but not a bad trip. Low water level made the river slightly different from our maps but we could line or shoot the rapids and swirlies without much problem. Three canoes, three adults, and six kids made for quite a run in three days, starting from Dry Pine Bay. We made it from Cedar Rapids 9am to French River outfitters (app.34km)5pm on the last day due to more bad weather and no want to sleep in wet gear as we could dry nothing out. Overall not a bad trip for beginners but too much civilization and garbage for our liking. Would have liked to see some history other than a white cross to mark the route but I guess too well used. Also was difficult to find a level site for three tents. Better off to put in at Wolsley bay with one truck and go two days to hwy69 and have a second truck waiting. Would certianly not pay to do this route with an outfitter.

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

Comments: 

When we did this trip there were a few motor boats on the north section. When we turned the corner on the eastern end of the island and started down the southern section we have a very good trip. It was somewhat special to stand on land trod upon the early French explorers and Scottish fur traders.

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

Comments: 

I grew up on the French River, and I sure miss the annual canoe loop around 18 mile island! I have done the trip in spring, summer and fall and I still beleive early fall is the best time to go. It's quiet and the scenery seems more tranquill. Great place to spend a whole week and just relax and reflect on life. I agree with the author - the south leg of the river is much more scenic and private. Try the pickerel river for another great trip.

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

Comments: 

I did this trip in late August 2005. The scenery along the entire route was incredible, got some great photos, notably a 100m tall cliff just past the first portage, which we hiked up. I found the boaters very friendly and most slowed down for us. Highly recomended.

Post date: Wed, 03/17/2010 - 17:38

Comments: 

Does anyone know of a good outfitter to do this trip with a group of 10 people? Just need canoes, paddles, PFDs.