Grassy from Loon Lake to Mattagami

CanadaOntarioJames Bay south
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Aaron Otte
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
0 km
3 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
1500 m
Longest Portage: 
1000 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Bridge downstream of Grassy River to Loonwing Lake, to Sinclair Lake, to Kapiskong Lake, which becomes Peterlong Lake. Then to the Dam where we re-entered the real river and realized how underexperienced we were. A lined canoe was lost in some heavy rapids, then smashed halfway down High Falls. From there it was a ten mile walk on lumber roads to the outfitter.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

This trip is wild and rugged. I went in early July 2007 with two old canoeing buddies and a couple of pals from the US Marines. The outfitter put us in and let us go on the bridge just downstream of Grassy Lake. We went to Loonwing, then Sinclair Lake, then the wide spot in the Grassy River where we camped the first night. Campsites are EXTREMELY scarce; the forest in this region is thick. That first night's campsite was nice and flat, even unnaturally flat as though it was bulldozed. It had some old 1950s looking cans and trash. There are some very overgrown trails behind the site.

The next day's lake paddling was very scenic but got tiring in the hot sun. After some VERY hard searching, we found the second night's campsite on Peterlong Reservoir. The campsite was beautiful- a real nice site for five guys and their tents on a point overlooking the lake. Rain hit us in the wee hours of our second night where we camped on Peterlong. Cold, heavy rain continued for the next 16 hours. We stopped at the Peterlong Dam for the 3d night's camp on concrete. It was not a beautiful site, but was not a bad spot to dry off. To this point, there were no portages. Portage number one was around the Peterlong Dam. It is around 200m. This is where our inexperience at river paddling began to show. There are a pretty steady series of rapids that I would call heavy Class II to light Class III after the dam. If you don't shoot them, they require very short but bouldery portages. We are normally pretty attentive with the maps, but after a few miles of slow marshy flow did not realize we reached the 300 meter gauntlet of rapids immediately preceding High Falls. We totally missed a supposed portage that exists on river right. After rounding a sharp bend that hooks left, we found ourselves at the top of the wicked 300 meter chute. We did not know the chute led directly into High Falls, but since it was full of standing waves out of our class and we could not see the end of the rapids, we elected to line our canoes. If you shoot this long gauntlet, there are no visible eddies. One canoe was sucked into the funnel. It bucked and rolled in the drink until it disappeared around the bend and down into High Falls. NOTE: As you near this dangerous set of water hazards, there is a very visible abandoned cabin on river right. We had no clue it was our marker for the portage on river right. We lined and portaged on river left; where there is essentially no portage at all but rather thick, thick forest. The horrendous mosquitoes caused one team to hurry during lining. The boat turned broadside, caught waves, and was swamped. A great deal of walking through the woods ensued to collect our gear, collect our thoughts, and find the trail to the lumber road with our remaining gear. Two of us took a map and canteens to hike out to the outfitter while the others made camp near the lumber road. After five miles of walking and seeing no vehicles, a nice couple picked us up and threw us in the back of their pickup where we walked to the front door of the outfitter.

NOTE TWO- Peterlong seems to be full of fish, and I caught a nice smallmouth bass there that neared three pounds.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
The 1:50,000 scale maps you need are, in order, Sinclair Lake, Ontario, Peterlong Lake, Ontario, and Timmins, Ontario. Feel free to email me if you want to talk through these maps in detail; I may not always have a lot of time, but I never get tired of talking to people about wild canoe trips!!
Special Comments: 

We thought a few trips to Quetico and some rivers in the lower 48 would make us well prepared for this; it did not. Don't take the Grassy lightly unless you are an experienced Canadian paddler. It chewed us up and left me limping badly and minus a canoe. That said, I loved it. One, maybe two guys said they would never do the Grassy again! You Canadians are lucky to have so many manly rivers. Great stuff!! A true drama of canoeing legend for us, without anyone getting seriously hurt. Guess I better do a few more trips before I tackle the Missinaibi.