Pukaskwa River - Gibson L. to Hattie Cove or Michipicoten Harbour

CanadaOntarioLake Superior basin
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Additional Route Information
176 km
10 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
12457 m
Longest Portage: 
2540 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Access by fly-in to Gibson Lake
South through Gibson Lake
South through Jarvey Lake into creek
P 124 m L in high water or CBR/Line in moderate or low water
P 45 m R or CBR
Southwest through Beaver Lake
Into Pukaskwa River
P 1210 m R (no eddies in high water - caution!)
P 200 m at narrows
P 220 m R
P 140 m R
P 250 m R (or CBR high water / low water run to beaver pond, lift over dam, run or line rapids below)
P 41 m R or CBR
P 67 m R or CBR
P 245 m R or CBR
P 167 m R or CBR
P 830 m L or CBR in moderate or low water
P 1600 m L
P 237 m L or CBR
P 311 m L or CBR (dangerous in high water)
Cross boundary into Pukaskwa National Park
Two sets of unmarked rapids when water is high - scout and run
Rapids both sides of island - scout and run left channel
Small rapids - CBR
Small rapid - run left side
P 170 m around Lafleur`s Dam
Small rapid - scout and run
P 500 m L around falls
P 100 m R around falls (rapid to run just before - caution!)
P 15 m L around falls (old dam)
Rapid - run right (caution - dangerous in high water)
P 30 m centre of island (gorge and falls - caution!)
P 403 m L around rapid (dangerous in high water)
P 365 m R (not runnable)
P 500 m R in high water (can be shortened to P 200 m R in low water)
P 250 m R
P 250 m R (landing has difficult left ferry)
P 2530 m around Ringham`s Gorge
Section of swift water and rapids (runnable)
P 100 m R in high water (can be shortened to P 15 m R in low water)
Section of continuous fast water
P 457 m R around falls
Section of fast water
Gorge - dangerous in high water (stay right ... large standing waves on left - possible portages / lining in this section)
P 1100 m L around Schist Falls
South to Lake Superior
West to Hattie Cove or East to Michipicoten Harbour

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
If travelling west to Hattie Cove: 42 C/5 Lurch Lake 42 C/4 Pukaskwa River 42 D/1 Otter Island 42 D/8 Oiseau Bay 42 D/9 Marathon If travelling east to Michipicoten Harbour: 42 C/5 Lurch Lake 42 C/4 Pukaskwa River 41 N/13 Michipicoten Island North 41 N/14 Dog Harbour 41 N/15 Michipicoten Harbour
Special Comments: 

In times of normal runoff, the Pukaskwa can be paddled from early May to mid-June. After that time, water levels make the trip a hike, not a paddle. However, runoffs are not always normal and local weather patterns can extend or reduce this window dramatically. Water levels are not monitored, so there is no way of knowing. Because the Pukaskwa runs through a bedrock channel with no soil mass to buffer rainfall, it is very sensitive to precipitation - a rainstorm can change the nature of the river overnight. By late May, most (but not all) of the rapids on the route are class 1 or 2.
This river demands scouting and whitewater paddling skills - definitely not for novices.

Caution should be exercised on Lake Superior. Allow for a weather day in case of large waves, and there are no guarantees that you won`t lose more time that that if weather is bad. Camping is available in many small coves and inlets along the Superior coastline.


Post date: Mon, 01/26/2009 - 13:50


You can access the river from Highway 17 at Sagina Lake and paddle up the White River to Pokei Lake, up Pokei Creek to Soulier Lake and portage into Gibson Lake. The river can usually be done before the bugs, BTB.

Post date: Wed, 07/02/2008 - 14:35


Acess to the river can be obtained driving to the river where the Domtar 600 road crosses the river. To get to the river, turn onto the Paint Lake road off Hwy 17 near Obatanga Prov. Park, and drive until the first main road to the right is reached south of the power line. Turn right on this road (this is the Domtar 600) and follow it until you reach the river.

Post date: Wed, 07/02/2008 - 14:28


I paddled the Puk solo from June 26-June 30, 2008. I used the water guage on the Environment Canada site; http://scitech.pyr.ec.gc.ca/waterweb/main.asp
to guage the water levels. I paddled in levels from 4.6 - 5.5 m. From my experience I would say 4.5-5 m would be ideal to paddle the river. Over 5m and the water is high and may force portaging sections that could otherwise br run and lined, such as the 2.5 Km Ringham's Gorge section.

The portages were getting overgrown. Outside Pukaskwa Park they are essentially non-existant and sweepers are a real danger. Inside the park portages around significant drops are well used and only seriously grown over near the river banks by alders. The Two Pants portage around Ringham's and the Schist Falls portage have been brushed out recently and are not in too bad of shape. If maintenance isn't done soon all the portages will be in bad shape.

The campsites are small, but nice. Large sites are availble at Lafleur's Dam, Oxford Ledge.

George Drought's guide is still an accurate description of the route.

In all one of my favorite rivers. The fast water goes on for miles. Swifts connect most rapids. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous.

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


There is a good little guide book called "Teasing the spirit" on the coastal paddle from Marathon to Wawa, and a publication written by George Drought and published by Friends of Pukaskwa on the river route.

Beware that a substantial section of two pants portage where it returns to the river has become a bushwhack. The eginning of it will be next.

There is a water level monitoring station a days paddle up from Superior,
that must have cost plenty to install, but does anyone collect the data?

Naturally Superior dropped us off and we paddled back to Wawa.

Great trip.