Ranger Lake Route

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Brad Thomas
Trip Date : 
July 2015
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
104 km
Duration: 
8 days
Loop Trip: 
Yes
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
37
Total Portage Distance: 
10000 m
Longest Portage: 
2600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Intermediate
Lake Travel: 
Intermediate
Portaging: 
Moderate
Remoteness: 
Intermediate
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Medium
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Access via Ranger Lake, using the Lawerance Lake put-in (which is actually on Ranger Lake). This is near the east end of Ranger Lake. Drove in with a regular sedan with 4" clearance at oil pan. Parking is free.

Technical Guide: 

Ranger Lake

Saymo Lake

Island Lake

Mystery Lake

Gong Lake

Gong Creek

Nushatogaini River

Prarie Grass Lake

Unnamed Lake

Clove Lake

Megisan Lake 

West Aubinadong River

Gong Creek

Gong Lake

Mystery Lake

Island Lake

Saymo Lake

Ranger Lake

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 
-There has been a lot said about the condition of the portages and the difficulty in finding them. My experience was that the portages that are definitely needed were mostly there and were mostly in similar condition in the south end of route as in the north end. I was able to find and follow all of the between-lake portages with the exception of the one from Mystery to Gong. (Has anyone passed between those two lakes recently?) I had to cut a new one through there. 

-I have included GPS coordinates for all of the portage trailheads that I found difficult to locate, as well as several more. In some situations approaching a portage from one direction rather than the other makes a difference. I went counter-clockwise through the route. So, for example, I didn’t have any trouble finding the portage from Clove Lake to Megisan Lake. (But others have had difficulty going in the other direction.)

-Much of the information available about this trip regarding portages and obstructions along the river is unclear. I found that some of the areas near rapids on the rivers seemed to have portages, and others didn’t. In some cases there were likely portages, but I didn’t bother trying to find them because by the time I realized that a portage would be nice I was already half way through wading up a rapid of a few hundred metres. In other cases, the obstructions are ephemeral- for example, I didn’t experience really any beaver dams (at all) through the entire loop that required anything more than a quick drag over a couple inches of sticks. Others have reported many beaver dams slowing progress in other years. 

This is the biggest beaver structure I found on the whole 100-km-or-so-route:
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Others have also discussed sand bars and very shallow water requiring a lot dragging. I didn’t experience much of this, but the water levels this year did mean that there were many gravelly areas that I wouldn’t have been able to paddle up – I was able to get out and float my boat over them though. 

-Logjams are always a concern on both of these rivers. They come and go too. On the way up the Nushatogani there were no more than 15 that required me to get out of the boat. And only 4 or 5 actually required a portage around. Others I was able to pass over (or under) by only partially unloading the boat or by cutting off some branches. 

-In general, I found that the Nushatogani River was more difficult mostly due to the long stretches of rapids that didn’t seem to have portages. One of my days I felt like I spent more time wading upstream than paddling.

-It’s definitely a good trip & I would encourage others to go. The portages are all still able to be followed but might become obscured in the future if there aren’t enough people going through.

-This has been stated by others, but it bears repeating – on the way up (or down) the Nushatogani River be prepared for one night of difficult camping. There aren’t many good possibilities. There are many sections where you could make due on a bushy sandy area with a tent, but it would require probably an hour or more of clearing out plants to make room for your tent. There are also many sections you can scramble up a hill and hang a hammock between a couple trees, but I didn’t find any of them ideal. 

-Other campsites on the route vary in quality and the amount of effort required to clear out the undergrowth. I was happy to be in a hammock rather than a tent.

-Don’t travel this route without a readily accessible saw & good water shoes. 

-I was solo. In many cases I thought that going through with a group of several canoes would have taken much longer due to bunching at the portages or places where it was necessary to scramble up hills to move a canoe and gear around various obstructions. 

Day 1:

Drove from the GTA to Lawrence Lake. Left at 5:00 a.m. and was on Ranger Lake by 1:30 p.m. This included a short stop for fuel and eating lunch at the landing before heading out.

Passed through Ranger Lake towards Saymo. The portage for Saymo is actually on the dock of the cottage/complex there. Both years I was through I saw the friendly owner and talked to her briefly.

After the long paddle up Saymo, the question of where to portage out might come up. The portage is somewhat hard to find from the marshy area at the north end of the lake. The actual trailhead is located at 47.02083,-83.52587 and there is a clear trail. But you really could almost take out anywhere and push through the trees for less than 50 metres.

This is what it looks like when looking back over Saymo from the trailhead:
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There is a long portage along Gong Lake Road and another road leading up into Island Lake. I think it’s almost three km. Turn left at the Gong Lake Road, follow it for probably 1.5 km & take the first right up the road towards Island Lake. Continue on this road until the first right. Follow that road to the landing to Island Lake. Along the road to Island Lake you’ll find ponding in the road in three locations. All of this ponding can be waded through and none of it was more than waist deep. 

Here’s a photo of the largest of the three ponds:
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These are a couple photos showing poor conditions on Gong Lake Road:
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I arrived at the island campsite on Island Lake by around 6:30 p.m. (So five hours in total in calm waters solo from Ranger Lake (Lawrence Lake) to Island Lake.)

Day 2: 

I moved into Mystery Lake. 
Portage trailhead 1 (Island Lake): 47.04747,-83.52390
Portage trailhead 2 (Mystery Lake): 47.04930,-83.52823
I had hoped to get at least into Gong Lake today, but was unable to find the portage from Mystery to Gong again. (As last year.) This was the only lake-to-lake portage that I couldn’t find. 

I spent about 3 hours looking for the portage on this day. There is a lot of beaver activity in the north end of Mystery Lake, consequently there were many trails into the woods that looked like they might be a portage trailhead. Investigating each one took a lot of time. At one point I followed the marsh to the far left end of the marsh (at 47.06338,-83.53494). This looked like a legitimate portage to me, but after following it I ended up in a small pond. Upon checking the GPS I realized that I was getting further from Gong Lake than I had been earlier. 

The false portage area looks like this:
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Day 3:

I had decided to cut through to Gong on my own and complete the route. I don’t know if another “real” portage exists, but here are the trailhead locations for where I passed though:
Portage trailhead 1 (Mystery Lake): 47.06354,-83.53339
Portage trailhead 2 (Gong Lake): 47.06501,-83.53457

Looking out over Mystery Lake from trailhead 1:
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At the start of trailhead 1, on shore:
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Continued through Gong to the portage to the pond. The portage at the end of Gong is on the north side of the bay. At first I thought it looked like it went straight into the woods, but it veers a bit right at the start and follows not too far from the shore for a bit.

The put-in at the pond is kind of muddy. You'll get dirty feet here:
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At the end of the pond, the portage into Gong Creek is on the right hand side. There’s a bit of an uphill at the start and downhill at the other end. 

Put in at Gong Creek at the end of the second portage out of Gong Lake:
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I started on the Nushatogaini River by a bit past noon. It was probably about 1:00 when I made the right-hand turn. Based on the information I collected, it seemed that the Nushatogaini would be more difficult and I wanted to look forward to the West Aubinadong, which is why I decided to go counter-clockwise. After having completed the loop, I would probably still do it in the same direction. But if you're in a royalex canoe you might be better off going the other way - I think that the rapids along the Nushatogaini are more paddleable than those along the West Aubinadong. 

The first major logjam occurred at 47.11866,-83.455893. This is at a developing oxbow lake. I paddled back around to the other side of it and passed around the logjam on the right hand shore, but had to scramble up a steep bank and carry for a bit through a non-existent trail.

Big Logjam, from either side:
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After a while there was a rapid to pull up just under where a road used to pass over the river. It’s located around 47.120205, -83.437149. I didn’t actually realize that there had been a road there in the past until I looked at satellite images later at camp. 

There were a few other logs here-and-there, but the next major log problem occurred at 47.12173,-83.43456. 

This is an image of that area:
Image

After this point I stopped recording positions of log jams, but there really were only about 2 or 3 more along the entire river that required scrambling up and along shore. 

I camped for the night by around 6:45 p.m. (left Mystery Lake around 10:00 a.m. after clearing a portage through to Gong) My “campsite” was at 47.12472,-83.42806. This wasn’t a real campsite and I wouldn’t advocate that anyone else use this particular location. I had to hang the hammock about 20’ up the bank between a couple trees and there isn’t room or space here for a tent. 

View from the hammock that night: 
Image

Day 4:

The next morning I left by around 8:30 and encountered various logs and rapids along the river. By noon (12:00) I was at 47.14419,-83.40279. This was an area where the river was a bit wider and I pumped some water while sitting in the canoe.

By around 1:00 p.m. I was at 47.15173,-83.39997. This is where I found the first marked portage along the river, which was on the right hand side (river left) around some rapids. It extended for 100-150 m or so. 

Take out for the portage:
Image

By around 2:00 p.m. I stopped for lunch at 47.15939,-83.39797. This is a spot that could possibly serve as a campsite for someone attempting to complete the south end of the river in a day. It has a decent swimming rock, occurs at an area where the river widens, and there is probably enough space for a tent.

This is what the area around my lunch spot looks like:
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Eventually you will get to the area of the river where a road used to pass over. There's a crib full of rocks, but the bridge is long gone. The road still comes right up to the river here, and you might still find a shelter of sorts there. Presumably you could potentially drive up to this point and start/end your trip here with the right type of vehicle. 

Crib in the river for an old washed-out road south of Prairie Grass Lake:
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Shelter at the road/river intersection as it appeared in 2015: 
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Just upstream of the crib is a pretty area of the river with old pine trees almost forming a tunnel over rapids. 

Area of the river just upstream from the road/river intersection:
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By around 6:40 p.m. I was at 47.20596,-83.38998. This is an actual campsite at a lake-like section of the river. It’s not in very good condition though, since it appeared that a blow-down had obliterated a lot of the site. I was able to hang a hammock, but I think if you wanted to place a tent you’d have to do some clearing. Also, the area isn’t very good for swimming with a muddy/marshy bottom.

Day 5: 

Left camp by around 9:00 and was on the island in Prairie Grass Lake by 2:00 p.m.

Island on Prairie Grass Lake with a few campsite possibilities:
Image

Day 6:

Passed through the series of three portages to Megisan Lake, explored the abandoned Megisan Lake Lodge, then passed into Torrance Lake where I camped on the campsite on the eastern shore. It took me almost exactly 4 hours to pass through the portages from the first take-out to the last put-in.
Trailheads:
Tailhead 1 (Prairie Grass Lake): 47.26409,-83.45867
Trailhead 2 (Unnamed Lake eastern shore): 47.26195,-83.46876
Trailhead 3 (Unnamed Lake western shore): 47.25948,-83.48126
Trailhead 4 (Clove Lake eastern shore): 47.25723,-83.49184
Trailhead 5 (Clove Lake western shore): 47.25416,-83.49733
Trailhead 6 (Megisan Lake): 47.25092,-83.50188

Last look back on Prairie Grass Lake from the portage landing:
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Looking out on unnamed lake (towards the west) from the portage landing on the east side: 
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Portage landing on the west side of unnamed lake. The old-growth pine is pretty neat in this area:
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Looking out onto Megisan Lake from the portage landing: 
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Abandoned Megisan Lake Lodge building:
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Abandoned Megisan Lake Lodge building:
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Abandoned Megisan Lake Lodge building:
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Abandoned Megisan Lake Lodge building:
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Day 7: 

Passed from Torrance, down the West Aubinadong River & into Gong Lake to the north campsite on the island. Left Torrance around 7:30 a.m. and arrived at Gong around 7:00 p.m. There are various logs and rapids to avoid along this river, but they are detailed elsewhere and I didn’t take any GPS readings of them.

At one point I got sidetracked and ended up on a long (and well-marked) portage into Sari Lake. I walked about half way across it to 47.18052,-83.50758. There might be something worth checking out in Sari Lake since someone has obviously done a fair bit of work keeping that portage open. (It seemed to be about 1.5 km) If you're interested in going to it, the trailhead from the West Aubinadong is at 47.17770,-83.51643 then up the hill then right - if you go left up the hill it just leads back to the West Aubinadong slightly upstream above some very minor rapids that you are probably better to wade up.

West Aubinadong River just south of Torrance Lake:
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West Aubinadong River just south of Torrance Lake (boulder in river):
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West Aubinadong River:
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Day 8: 
Moved from Gong Lake, through Mystery Lake, through Island Lake, through Saymo, and into Ranger and home by a bit past midnight. Left Gong around 8:00 a.m.

 

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
41 J/13 41 O/4 41 O/3 41 O/5 41 O/6
Other
Special Comments: 

I have chosen intermediate remoteness for this trip, but the criteria for that is that you're supposed to be less than one day away from assisstance. Depending on who else is in the watershed, you might be more than one day away from assisstance. There are fly-in-fishing lodges on Prarie Grass Lake, but if no one is there, you might be more than a day away from the next likey place you'll find people - which would be Gong Lake.