Matagamasi - Sturgeon River Loop

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Additional Route Information
125 km
6 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
8884 m
Longest Portage: 
3200 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Start at Matagamasi L access
N on Matagamasi
P 320 L
P 325 R
N on Silvester
N on Wolf
P 175 R
N on Dwedney
P 495 R
N on Chiniguchi
P 10 over rd
NE on Sawhorse
P 565 to Adelaid
N on Adelaid
P 180 to Button
NW on Button
P 510 to Dougherty
N&E on Dougherty
P 150 L
NW on Frederick
P 805 to Sturgeon River
Downstrean on Sturgeon
P 145 R
P 75 R
P 90 L or CBR
P 410 R
P 255 R
P 240 L
P 75 R Upper Goose Falls
P 45 L Lower Goose Falls
P 3200 to Maskinonge L
N on Maskinonge
NE thru Rice & Lower Matagamasi
P 175 L to Edna
SW on Edna
P 155 to Karl
W on Karl
P 310 R
P 55 R at dam
W then SW on Matagamasi

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

After a 7 hr drive from home, 20 min south of the St. Lawrence River in NYS, we arrived at the Matagamasi launch site at 1:00 PM. Although confident of my ability to sucessfully navigate the loop w/o using topo maps & only Hap Wilson`s sketch maps from "Temagami Canoe Routes", I had concerns about finding the access. Knew I was looking for the Kukagami Lake rd, but had only a vague idea where to find it.

Thanks to assistance solicited through CCR & received from Bill Poort, I was guided exactly to the put in. He not only provided a topo showing the access rd in detail but supplied advice about a "must see" spot along the 2nd portage.

After getting organized & packed & waiting out a 5 min shower, we launched at 1:30 PM. My wife of 32 yrs. handled duties in the bow of our 16 ft. Old Town Penobscot. After only 35 min. we stopped at a scenic campsite on the West shore just south of where the lake forks into the N & NE arms. It had a great view up both arms, was beyond the development at the S end of the lake around the put in, & a rusty old set of bed springs had we wanted to stay. Arrived at the 1st portage after an additional 75 min. & huddled under the canoe with the bow proppd in a tree branch waiting out another 10 min shower. Two portages along the Chiniguchi River are separated by a short navigable stretch. The Northern trail bypasses a gorge & falls. As recommended by Bill, be sure to scramble down the hill to the river, cross the island, & take in the magnificent "swimming lagoon" with falls both entering & leaving this most scenic grotto. There`s a campsite at the Silvester Lake put in & another, I believe, on the trail if you wisely chose to extend your stay. Regretably, we departed after only a little over an hour at this beautiful lagoon. Paddled through Silvester & up a riffle into Wolf Lake. Expected Wolf to be the most scenic, so was thus a bit disappointed. A small island campsite had a tent set up but no sign of it`s occupants around. There was lots of trash scattered about, & the prospect of company caused us to move on. First searched w/o sucess for an isolated site in the SW bay.

Again disappointed to cross a road on the portage to Dwedney & find two vehicles parked there. Thought we were into the Ontario bush by this time. The road explained the trash, also the canoes we saw on Dwedney. After again sheltering from another quick but hard rainshower, we continued on to the N end of Dwedney. The "beach" campsite there mentioned by Hap Wilson was unacceptable - right at the landing on the trail & in the deep shade by this time of afternoon. Instead we paddled back a short way to a ledge on the E shore. It offered great exposure to the still warm rays of the sun, great swimming, nice views up & down the lake, & a large enough, level, red pine needle cushioned site for our small tent. 2:15 after leaving the "swimming lagoon" we were settled in to enjoy this beautiful site we "carved out " of the wilderness. As there was no sign of a fire ring, we chose not to scar the site with one.

Sunday AM we paddled back up to the N end of Dwedney & completed the 540 yd portage to Chiniguchi Lake. To our surprise we were met w/ a very stiff wind piling up large breaking waves in it`s S end. Launched carefully & crossed the southernmost bay to a long point that enclosed it from the E. Landed there at a very nice large campsite on the end of the point & surveyed the scene. As expected, the waves ahead on the main body of the lake were even larger. We settled in, hoping, but not believing, the winds would calm & allow us to move on. We were unable to do so until the following morning.

Monday AM we were on the water before 9 AM. My frustration by being windbound so early the preceeding day caused a resolve to make up time. In 90 min we`d crossed the length of scenic Chiniguchi Lake to it`s N end where a few cottages were located. Lifted over the road, crossed Sawhorse L, & located the take out for Adelaid, but not the cold spring there mentioned by Hap Wilson. The portage from Adelaid to Button was confusing for a moment. There was a blue flag & a path of sorts but no sign of creek he mentioned. After a 200 yd portage we reached a road. Turning left on it, in 25 yds we encountered a broken out bridge at the outlet of Button L.& launched there. On Button we saw a couple fishing from a motorized boat who had also towed a camper in on that rd. "Still not back in the bush", I thought.

The portage to Dougherty L took us to a beautiful secluded bay & the scenery only improved as we paddled on. Once again we should have stopped & made camp here but was still suffering from the "hurry up disease". Can`t begin to descibe how beautiful Dougherty L is -Clear blue limpid water, rocky islands, mature forest - definitely the scenic high point of the trip thus far & easily worthy of a return trip for a more extended stay !!! A short trail connects w/ Frederick L. We stopped for lunch at a low bridge. Removal of the center section eliminated a former lift over or short carry here. We were surprised to find a well-built, large-wheeled portage cart at the start of the short trail to Stouffer L. Using one was a new experience. The large, pneumatic tires cushioned the rocks & allowed for high clearance over those you couldn`t steer around. Having it to use on the far end of Stouffer, on the 1/2mile portage to the Sturgeon river would have been handier, however.

After completing that portage, the longest thus far, we finally reached the Sturgeon. Paddling it was the reason for this trip & doing so as part of a loop offered many advantages over a point to point trip.

Our first sight of the Sturgeon, 6:45 after launching that AM, was disappointing. It didn`t appear the rocky, remote, lively run I`d anticipated. Instead we saw a swampy, slow-moving, boggy, buggy, alder-lined stream. For a moment I considered turning back to enjoy some of the magnificent lakes we`d travelled. In a few hundred yds the current & the scenery picked up. We soon encountered some rapids & knew we`d seen the last of cottages or motorized boats for awhile. We ran a few CI`s & CII`s & carried (Oops, I mean portaged - forgetting I`m not referring to Adirondack paddling ) two unrunnable ones. 1:40 after reaching the river, we pulled in at a very nice campsite on a small lake. Having come from the S end of Chiniguchi in 8 hrs paddling time, we`d made up time lost to the wind the previous day. Enjoyed a swim/bath, & afterward, a great view from our elevated site back the direction we`d come. After a colorful sunset, and a small fire, we were ready to pack it in.

Tuesday AM we packed up & paddled around the corner from our lakefront campsite back into the current. We ran 5 small rapids & then pulled in to check out what we`d read was a most excellent campsite on the trail by-passing a narrow gorge. My wife/bow paddler stayed in the site w/ a camera to take a photo while I ran the gorge.This situation (jinx) has previously resulted in my dumping but this time I managed an almost clean run, touching only one rock. We ran 3 more CI-II sets & then carried around a long, unrunnable set on a 450 yd trail on river right. The next set also had to be portaged for 300 yds, again on the right. After running another set & passing through a small lake, we took out & portaged to a gravel beach. It is on another small lake just past a falls. This required 2:15 & it was time for lunch. ATV`s had obviously accessed this very pretty site, & their "spoor" could be seen surrounding an improvised, messy campsite. In addition to the Sturgeon falling into this placid pool from our right, across the way Pilgrim Creek noisily dropped into it from the opposite direction. Unusual, I thought, to have 2 such falls dumping into the same pond. Between them, the Sturgeon flowed out. After lunch we followed it down a gently descending section through numerous CI rapids.The water ran clear over the cobbled bottom which was never far below our keel. One had to pay attention to avoid getting stranded. The river then flattened out & deepened. From Pilgrim Creek we were now about 1/2 way to Upper Goose Falls. Without the current to help any longer, it took a total of 2 1/2 hrs to get there. Shortly before, the Yorston River enters on the left from the N. Immediately before, also on the left, was a modern looking building w/ a solar panel or perhaps radio receiver ? mounted on the roof .

Upper Goose Falls was another spot that enticed you to stay awhile. Naturally, another magnificent campsite was there to accommodate. It offered a beautiful view of the falls and the scenery downriver, but, always wanting to make more miles, I pushed on. The river was fast until just before reaching the mouth of the Obabika River. We stopped to filter water from this clear stream & again considered staying the night, but my wife found the large sandy area at the junction too noisy from the rapids in the final yds of the Obabika.

Soon we reached Lower Goose Falls. Here was located a new, sturdy looking bridge, high above the river. The road accessing it, I assumed, was responsible for all the activity around. A huge, converted schoolbus-camper was parked on the otherwise beautiful big sand beach at the base of this magnificent falls. Parked nearby were a number of ATV`s. At least two vehicles crossed the bridge while we completed a 50 yd portage (no trail) on the left. Other signs of life were evident & then we began hearing chainsaws. After their drone died away, we chose one of a number of large, high sandbanks to set up camp. This was 2 hrs below Upper Goose Falls at the end of another big day.

Wednesday, July 4th, dawned cloudy. Soon it was raining. We hung out until 11 AM waiting for it to stop. When it did, we launched & the rain soon resumed. When it got harder, we paddled under some thick spruce branches & sat in the canoe on the river for 45 min. Later, after an hour of meanders, ( A legendary, local paddling guru who literally wrote the book on canoeing hereabouts writes re tight meanders" If you go around the bends fast enough, you can see the back of your own neck" - Paul Jamieson ) we reached a small rapid. Another, 2 additional hrs later, added a little interest & helped to provide a benchmark as to our location. Between were many more bends. The scenery was repeating itself & not particularly interesting. After some more, tighter meanders, we reached the mouth of a small creek. Here an option existed. We`d spend the night & make a decision to either continue down the Sturgeon or short-cut through Maskinonge Lake back to the start.

The former Kelly farmsite, up a steep bank from the creek mouth, offered space for camping but not even a view of the water. We decided to spend the remaining daylight hrs.on a sunny sandbar & retreat to the buggy farmsite at dark to camp. I also took the opportunity to both get a run in & scout the 2 mile portage trail to Maskinonge the same time.If the weather is nasty a mining co cabin w/ a welcome sign is located in the old farm clearing 200-300 yds along this trail

Thursday morning after again running the trail in both directions, we began the now well scouted portage. This trail is very wide & easily traversed. It reaches Maskinonge L at a former drilling site, w/ another cabin. It`s smaller, filthy, & posted against visitors. The drilling site is interesting & had stacked hundreds of wooden trays of core samples which likely represent thousands of feet of the underlying rock strata. There is also a campsite at the landing, much more appealing than the decrepit cabin in which critters appeared to be partying for yrs !!! We single tipped this portage (as we did all the others) in 55min.

Small islands on our NE bearing across Maskinonge helped provide some shelter from a stiffening wind. At least one had a nice campsite w/ thunderbox. The view S down the length of the lake was beautiful. Many more islands dotted the scene. In the extreme NE end, immediately before narrowing into Rice L.,we passed a few cottages. One hr. after putting in, we stoppped on a N point for lunch & to take shelter from another rain shower. Continuing on we passed through the shallows into Lower Matagamasi L. Campsites can be found here. The short trail to Edna L. skirts it`s tumbling outlet to the left. A short paddle across Karl L. brought us to an incredibly beautiful area that continued to the dam holding back Matagamasi L. This 350yd trail contained the most beautiful mix of rock, water, & trees imaginable. I felt as if we were passing through a Japanese sculpture garden. Numerous small falls plunged over bare, glacial scarred rock into pools below. The water twisted it`s way over & around the irregular, rocky shoreline. Intersperced throughout were bent & deformed pines that must have been well tended bonsai trees at one time, set out in the wild to enhance the scene.Campsites are located on both sides of this magnificent but brief section of the river.

A short paddle brought us to the dam. An even shorter portage (50yds) to it`s right & we were back on Matagamasi L, at the far N end of NE arm. We hugged the N shore to avoid a large bay to the S but still found this section a little confusing. Islands & passages between them appeared that I couldn`t locate on our sketch map. When this arm turned to the SW & narrowed, route finding was much easier. Here we stopped to check out a pretty island campsite. Recall finding a large stash of clay pidgeons (skeet) there & assumed waterfowl hunters perhaps use this campsite to sharpen their aim ? We left & continued on the unchanging SW bearing into the scenic narrows. Found a great campsite on the E shore immediately N of the extensive pictograph panel on W shore. 3:20 from our Rice L lunch stop we set down the paddles for the final time this day. Could have easily made the take out/access site but w/ the shortcut through Maskinonge, we were well ahead of schedule. Spent a wonderful final night out.

Friday, revisited the pictograph site. Still keeping a SW bearing, we passed into the main body of the lake & arrived back at the launch/take out location after only 75 min. Met two different parties launching motorboats while we loaded our gear. Wished them luck fishing & hit the road.

POSTSCRIPT - Being only Friday AM, we considered another short trip in the local area. Instead decided to put part of the long drive home behind us. In the vicinity of Petawawa we agreed to check out Algonquin`s Barron River Canyon. Pleasantly surprised at Sand Lake gate to learn sites were available, on a Friday in July, no less ! Paddled N through the canyon & then back to a campsite below. Saturday AM we stashed our overnight gear & took a daytrip back through the canyon, Brigham, Opalescent, Ooze & High Falls lakes, then the river downstream, back through the canyon (our 4th passage in <24 hrs) & out in 5 hrs. Hiked the canyon trail & were back on the S side of the St. Lawrence River 2 1/2 hrs from Sand Lake gate with lots of memories of two more great Canadian canoe trips to savor.

Glen & Kathleen Larson

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
31 L/12 31 L/13 41 1/9 41 1/15 41 1/15 E 41 I/16 41 P/2 41 P/7
Special Comments: 

Route can be extended to 106 km by continuing down Sturgeon to mouth of Chiniguchi River then upstream through Maskinonge L


Post date: Tue, 04/07/2009 - 12:14


Please note that the government dock on Matagamasi Lake no longer exists. Best put in for the lake is two kilomenters north at the first water crossing. New put in is not in a housing development and the parking and traffic situation is much better.

Post date: Tue, 04/07/2009 - 12:14


Please not that the government dock on Matagamasi Lake no longer exists. Best put in for the lake is two kilomenters north at the first water crossing. New put in is not in a housing development and the parking and traffic situation is much better.

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


Our trip was in July of 2002.

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


This trip has to be rated difficult. It is obviously little-used, except where it touches cottage country. Some lakes are very large, which could result in being wind-bound. The portages and camp sites are not maintained, and are rough. Some camp sites do not exist or are so grown in as to be unusable. This is particularly true on the Sturgeon River below Upper Goose Falls. The Sturgeon is full of sweepers. We got the impression that spring floods had tremendously modified the river banks. On the lower stretches of the Sturgeon, high muddy banks made take-outs very difficult. Some of the campsites on Hap’s maps are so poor, that they should be deleted. Others are not shown in the correct location. Those mentioned in his text are generally very good with the exception of Kelly’s Farm, which was an overgrown mosquito swamp with nearly impossible access. Speaking of mosquitoes, they were generally not bad during the day, but were unbelievably thick after dusk, nearly every night.

This is not a trip for white water enthusiasts. Rapids on the Sturgeon are either very easy or not runnable. The rapids that Hap says must be portaged do have to be, mostly because of rocky drops or water falls. Rapid 17 through the gorge was an easy run. The water level on our trip was fairly high, so no lining was necessary on downstream runs.

On the plus side, the scenery was gorgeous on the lakes and at the falls. The water in the headwaters of the Chiniguchi was extremely clear and an aquamarine colour. The fishing for walleye and bass was excellent in the upper part of the Sturgeon. Wildlife was abundant, especially loons, frogs, turtles and hawks of several species. We were treated to a close-up of two great horned owls in the daylight. The sense of remoteness was high; we met only a few people, and they were going elsewhere. We had the Sturgeon to ourselves.