Scarecrow - Lady Evelyn - South Muskego

CanadaOntarioTemagami
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Simon Baillie
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
173 km
Duration: 
9 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
56
Total Portage Distance: 
26675 m
Longest Portage: 
3000 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Floatplane access, or 200km car shuttle

Technical Guide: 

Day 1: 19 May
Fly in from Temagami to Scarecrow Lake
Hike up Ishpatina Ridge

Day 2: Paddle Scarecrow to Solace (32.5 km) (9 Portages=6640m)
Scarecrow to Woods Lake
Woods Lake to Little Scarecrow P140m
Little Scarecrow to Hamlow
Hamlow to Sturgeon river P3000m
Sturgeon to Paul and Ghoul Lakes
Ghoul to Selkirk P1380m & pond & P230m
Selkirk to Solace P260m & P70m & P95m & P590m & P875m

Day 3: Paddle Solace to Florence (24.2 km) (10 Portages=5500m)
Solace to Samson P230m
Samson to Bill P75m
Bill to Maggie P920m
Maggie to Pilgrim P1010m
Pilgrim to Rodd P90m
Rodd to Benner P340m
Benner to Bluesucker P385m
Bluesucker to Florence P900m & P200m & P1350m

Day 4: Paddle Florence to South Lady Evelyn River (25 km) (1 Portages=10m)
Florence liftover shortcut P10m
Florence Lake to Florence river
Florence River to Lady Evelyn River

Day 5: Paddle South Lady Evelyn R. to North Lady Evelyn R. (21.8 km) (10 Portages=1625m)
South Lady Evelyn River to North Lady Evelyn River P315m & P35m & P270m & P55m & P125m & P125m & P155m & P180m & P135m & P230m

Day 6: Paddle Lady Evelyn R. to Willow Island (19.2 km) (11 Portages=3335m)
North Lady Evelyn River to Lady Evelyn River (South Channel) P520m &P140m
Lady Evelyn River (South Channel) to Willow Island Lake P215m & P220m & P315m & P450m & P910m & P110m & P305m & P100m & P50m

Day 7: Paddle Willow Island to Turner Lake (22.8 km) ( 9 Portages=4970m)
Willow Island Lake to Lady Evelyn Lake P500m & P450m
Lady Evelyn Lake to Isbister Lake P2000m & P460m & P180m & P50m
Isbister Lake to Barter Lake P200m & P140m &P440m
Barter Lake to Turner Lake P550m

Day 8: Turner Lake to Anima Nippissing Lake (19.4 km) (6 Portages=4595m)
Turner Lake to Eagle Lake P170m & P1000m
Eagle Lake to Shallow Lake P150m & P820m
Shallow Lake to Harris Lake P1145m
Harris Lake to Anima Nippissing Lake P1310m

Day 9: Anima Nipissing Lake to Takeout (7.8 km) ( 0 Portages)

Total 172.7km, 56 portages=26675m

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Day 1

While 2 of our party shuttled a vehicle to the access point on Anima Nippissing Lake, the other 2 took the first flight to Scarecrow Lake. The flight in from Lakeland airways was fantastic under beautiful sunny skies. 3 of our 4-member party are Aerospace engineers, so we truly looked forward to the flight in the old 1956 Beaver floatplane. We had camp set up on the island, and paddled to the base of the Ishpatina ridge trail by 2PM. The hike up the ridge was much easier than we expected, probably taking 1.5 hours. Caught some fresh pike for dinner, along with our chicken and stuffing, and early bed as a bitter cold rain started.

Day 2

Up early for one of the longest days of our trip. Awoke to snow covered campsite, and mix of snow and ice pellets falling. The first portage of our trip was a short hard to find 140 meters from woods to scarecrow creek. Saw an entire moose skeleton sinking into the bottom of the creek here. Fishermen were camped on Hamlow Lake, which was obviously accessible by road. The next portage was the longest of our trip at 3km, but was on an old gravel road coming from the Sturgeon River, which made it bearable. We expected the road to be inaccessible as we read that there was no longer a bridge at the sturgeon, but we met some fisherman driving up the road and they explained that they simply forded the river in their truck. The paddle down the sturgeon was quick with the benefit of wind and current. Saw lots of aluminum boats on Paul and Ghoul Lakes, but they would be the last people we would see for the duration of our trip. As we jumped from the Sturgeon river to Solace Park, the portages became increasingly difficult to find, and very rough. The portages here aren’t the same as the manicured super highways commonly found throughout Algonquin. Be prepared to get your feet wet through the numerous boggy sections. Some portages were almost entirely through the swamps! We arrived at the island campsite on Solace Lake late that night, and found that we shared it with a very well equipped remote cabin. Luckily there were no fishermen at the cabin, as we really didn’t feel like searching for another site. Steaks, fresh trout filets and sleep.

Day 3

Awoke to another beautiful sunny day. Started paddling early, as this would be another hard day of pond hopping, and some grueling portages. Saw an interesting sign in Maggie Lake, and after investigating it turned out to be a trapper’s trail. We all found it truly amazing that some of these portages could climb 100 to 200ft, and still have boggy sections at the top. Did some fishing in Pilgrim, and had a late shore lunch when we reached Bluesucker Lake. Took our time here to prepare for the long haul into Florence. Hap Wilson’s book foreshadows the portage into Florence as a “Temagami classic, throwing just about everything at the porteur from rock ledge to fathomless bog”. This made us fear the worst, so we were pleasantly surprised when the portage started out as a single track smooth enough for mountain biking. This however ended abruptly, as the trail came down a hill into the aforementioned “fathomless bog”. There are numerous old slippery logs thrown down the trail, but maintaining balance on them with a canoe or pack on your shoulders is quite trying. We all slipped off at least once or twice, ending up in mud nearly to the waist. Eventually we reached the end of the portage, and after paddling through a shallow muddy bay, the waters finally deepen and clear as you enter the body of the Lake. What a lake it is! Florence is ringed by spectacular hills, and cliffs on all sides, and the water is crystal clear 20 ft deep or more. We reached camp late that evening, ate steak and potatoes, lay on the rocks and watched the stars come out, and slept in the next morning.

Day 4

Day 4 was our planned easy day. We took it literally, sleeping in that morning, and had a leisurely start to the day. We awoke to a light rain, but once underway the skies cleared to reveal another beautiful day. Our only planned portage of the day was the short liftover on Florence beside an old cabin that eliminated paddling 6km around the central peninsula. We spent the day exploring the beautiful rapids upstream of the Florence Lady Evelyn junction, and spent some time fishing the river. The river is quite wide and slow in this section, and is quite peaceful. We made camp that night on a small sight that at first appeared to be very swampy, but turned out to be quite nice. We dined on a simple pasta dinner, along with some fresh trout filets.

Day 5

We were up early this day from the bright sun beaming into our tents, as well as the warming of the air. It became very hot this day, and we were thankful not to have any long portages in the hot sun. After a short paddle we cam upon the Red Squirrel Road Bridge. The decking has all been removed, but some logs have been thrown down presumably for four-wheeler crossing. This stretch of the South Lady Evelyn becomes quite narrow, and winding, lined with marsh and alders. It is very reminiscent of Algonquin Park’s Nippissing River, just slightly deeper, and not nearly as overgrown with alders. It ends abruptly as it joins flow with the North Lady Evelyn River, and the river becomes much wider. We soon came upon our first portage of the day around a rapid. We did run most of the Class I rapids with careful scouting, but were leery about trying anything above that, as we are not very experienced in Whitewater travel, and one of our canoes was a painstakingly built cedar strip. We stopped for shore lunch at the next rapid, and found the partially eaten remains of a large trout on the rocks. Continuing on we walked around many rapids, finally ending our destination at Shangri La rapids. This is an absolutely stunning set of rapids, with 3 campsites overlooking them. After a dinner of chicken soup and dumplings, we lay on the rocks listening to the sound of the rapids well into the night. One member of our party decided it was too beautiful to sleep in the tent, and enjoyed a night sleeping under the stars.

Day 6

The trees provided some shade for our tents allowing us an extra hour sleep this morning. The day was already getting warm by 9AM, so we knew it would be a scorcher. Because of the warm weather, we decided to spend more time running rapids today, as getting wet would help to cool us down. Of the 7 sets of rapids we opted to run 5 of them, all CI with the exception of the first CI-CII Punch-Drunk rapid. This rapid is a straight run, but this early in the spring it has nice big standing waves. There are a couple of rocks at the end that made for a tight keyhole, but the rest of the rapid had a substantial amount of water over the rocks. The waves were slightly higher than our lake canoe is designed for, so a large amount of water slipped over the gunnels from the heavy waves, but the ride was well worth it. This portion of the river is essentially a number of pools or ponds, separated by rapids and falls. There are 3 sets of falls that are absolutely stunning: Cabin Falls (where Hap Wilson’s EcoLodge is located), Bridal Veil Falls, and Fat Man’s Falls. We took some time to soak up the spray at the bottom of each set of falls as the day became blistering hot. We even climbed up one of them to take an impromptu shower (very refreshing in 60F water). Most of the portages in this section were very grueling rock hopping, boulder climbing types. Very slow, and careful foot placement is required to avoid a nasty fall down the steep rock faces. One poor member of our party was in process of hopping from one boulder to the next when a branch caught the canoe, pulling him off balance and down into the crevice between the 2 boulders. The end result of his misstep was a nice black eye, and small goose egg from the canoe landing on top of him. At the base of Fat Mans Falls, we were surprised that the fishing suddenly changed from speckled trout to Walleye. By the time we had navigated this measly 12km stretch of river it was already nearing 5PM. When we finally arrived at the lake, we were surprised to find the water 3 to 4 feet low. After an hour of downwind lake paddling among huge waves and whitecaps we arrived at an incredible island campsite. The site was atop a high rock, and was well equipped with a couple of small tables, an outback toilet, and a beautiful view. After an excellent dinner of fresh walleye fillets, and outback pizza, we enjoyed stretching out on the smooth rocks. We were privileged to see a group of 3 rare cranes fly by with a unique call, that one of our members was able to identify as sandhill cranes.

Day 7

Up early this morning in anticipation of another hard days travel. Crossover from Willow Island to Lady Evelyn was reasonably well traveled, however we still did not see anyone else, even Lady Evelyn Lake had no other boats on it as far as we could see. The first portage out of Lady Evelyn Lake into the South Muskego started in a boot sucking swamp for the first 200m. Both Willow Island and Lady Evelyn Lakes appear to be about 3 ft low in water, so presumably if the water were higher the creek through the swamp would be paddle able. As it was, the 200m of muck was tremendously draining to walk through. Once we finally hit the 2000m portage, things got only slightly better. This trail is obviously very rarely used, most people probably opting to use the shorter 520m portage into Walsh Lake. Thankfully someone had recently flagged the trail, as it is extremely overgrown, and very easy to lose. Things got marginally better as we headed to Isbister and Barter Lakes, the trails were still nearly impossible to find and hold, but at least they were shorter. The best way to follow the trails was to keep your head up and look for axe blazes on the trees. For the most part the blazes were 5 to 10 years old, but they definitely marked the trails. When looking for the start of the trails paddle very close to shore and watch for the blazes. It was very hard to see the footpaths from the canoe, even though we were traveling in May when the undergrowth is just starting to fill in. We saw lots of aluminum boats stashed in the South Muskego, and even a couple of remote cabins. Most of the boats seem to be owned by Lakeland airways, but not all of them. When we finally arrived at a beautiful, large, open site on Turner Lake, we were very tired from a hard days travel. We admired the large rock formations around the site, fried up some tortillas for dinner, and headed off to bed early.

Day 8

Our original plan for day 8 was to take it easy, and spend some time fishing, but we decided to take the pressure off of day 9, and combine our fishing day with some extensive travel so we could get out early on day 9 to make the drive home. We spent the morning traveling to and fishing on Eagle Lake. The 1000m portage to Eagle Lake was difficult, starting with a good climb, then coming downhill straight into the middle of a large swamp. The trail quite obviously went straight through the swamp, as we could see a small rock cairn on the rocks 200m across the swamp. When we arrived on Eagle we took a couple of hours to catch some nice pike, and cook up a good shore lunch. After lunch we started the rest of our days travel to Anima Nipissing, and on the Shallow Lake portage we immediately found out that the mosquitoes hatched in record numbers. We virtually ran the portage into Shallow Lake to escape the bugs, and paddled off shore as fast as possible. On Shallow Lake we made our biggest blunder of the entire trip. We looked for the portage at the swamp on the east end of the lake, and not seeing any obvious axe blazes, we started to follow some sticks with flagging tape at the south end of the swamp. After virtually bushwhacking 150m up a hill following the flagging tape, we decided that the path must be denoting a logging boundary as it was dead straight, and there was no semblance of a footpath whatsoever. 3 of the members headed back to the lake, and I decided to circle behind the swamp and look for a portage. Halfway through the back end of the portage I came upon a very obvious portage trail, and following it back to the lake it came out in the middle of the swamp. Further investigation revealed an axe blaze and red paint on a tree at the edge of the lake, 20m north of were we started looking for a trail. We learned two valuable lessons on this trip. The first is that canoeists do not like walking, so always paddle as far as absolutely possible before looking for a portage, even up a creek or mud puddle with 6 inches of water in it. The second is that canoeists do not like cutting trees, so where available the trail will head through a swamp or rock pile if it means no digging out the axe. When we finally reached Anima Nipissing Lake, we were almost too tired to appreciate the magnificent cliff to the immediate right of the portage takeout. At the base of the cliff the temperature was easily 5 degrees cooler than the surrounding area, which was very refreshing on another hot day. Once out on the lake we saw lots of cottages, and shortly after some fishing boats. These would be the first people we have seen since we left the Sturgeon River 6 days earlier, an incredibly remote experience. Our planned campsite for the night turned out to be a pile of jumbled boulders, so we decided to push on the second narrows site. A short paddle later we arrived at our campsite and enjoyed another great meal of fresh pepperoni pizza, and a well deserved nights rest.

Day 9

We took our time getting up on day 9, as we all knew a short paddle later we would be back at the car, and headed back to the business of everyday life. The access point was only a couple hours paddle, and not too busy. We found the car where we left it, and found a way to load 4 people, all their gear, and 2 canoes onto my Nissan Altima, then headed back to the Lakeland Airways parking lot to pick up our second vehicle. On the drive home we had lots of time to reflect on how amazing a trip it had been, despite being the most grueling travel we have experienced. The next day the Advil wore off, and we were reminded why not too many people travel this route.

Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Hap Wilson\'s Canoeing Kayaking and Hiking Temagami OMNR\'s Temagami Canoe Routes Ottertooh.com\'s South Muskego Nastawgan Map
Other
Special Comments: 

This route starts at the base of Ishpatina ridge, Ontario’s highest point. It winds south down the Sturgeon River Provincial Park, jumps east through Solace Provincial Park, follows the Lady Evelyn River through Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park, crosses the lakes of Obabika Provincial Park, and travels east through the South Muskego to Anima Nippissing Lake.

This is a very rugged and remote canoe route. Many of the portages are very hard to find and grueling. Some of the portages on Lady Evelyn River are extremely dangerous rock hopping, cliff climbing types that could easily lead to broken ankles legs etc if someone should misstep. However along with great hardship come great rewards.

This was by far our best canoe trip yet. We were well organized so that on each portage 2 people took a large pack, and the other 2 took a small daypack and the canoes eliminating any double carries. Aside from snow on the morning of day 2, the weather was beautiful and sunny for the entire 9 days. However, the most amazing thing about this canoe trip was that we had the wind at our back virtually the entire trip! Another wonderful part of our trip was that after day 2, we didn’t see anyone else until day 8 on Anima Nippissing Lake. To cap it all off, we didn’t experience any major bugs until the second last day of our trip when the mosquitoes hatched in record numbers.