Spanish River (Duke Lake to Agnew Lake

CanadaOntarioNorth Channel
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Laura Wheeler
Trip Date : 
August 5 - 9, 2013
Additional Route Information
145 km
5 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
300 m
Longest Portage: 
200 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Got a shuttle to the put in by Gary from Agnew Lake Lodge.

From Chrismar map:
". . . Reached via a short gravel road leading to Duke Lake from Hwy 144 about 84 km north of Cartier (about 1.5 hours NW of Sudbury)."

Technical Guide: 

Copied from here:

Hwy 144 between Sudbury and Timmins - access road to Duke Lake
South through Duke Lake
South through Tenth Lake
South through Ninth Lake
South through Eighth Lake
South through Seventh Lake
South through Sixth Lake
South through Fifth Lake
South through Fourth Lake
South through Third Lake
South through Second Lake
P 50 m L or run swift
South through First Lake
P 1600 m around Scenic Rapids (or negotiate with combination of running/lining)
(Note : first 1200 m is supposedly ok to run, remainder should be lined)
South through Expanse Lake
South on Spanish River
P 220 m R around rapids
P 200 m R around rapids or CBR
Take chute on right at train bridge (Shehan)
Past Pogamasing
South on Spanish River
South through Spanish Lake
P 230 m R around Zig-Zag Rapids (or CBR)
South on Spanish River past the Elbow (intermediate road access from Hwy 144)
Northwest for 2 km
The Graveyard Rapids, including...
P 500 m R around rapids (or CBR first and P 150 m L second)
P 150 m L around falls
P 100 m R or liftover at ledge
P 350 m L bouldery rapid at Agnes River (or CBR / line left)
West on Spanish River
Shart right turn brings you directly into Cedar Rapids
Line left or CBR (rock at bottom of first set / large standing waves!)
South on Spanish River
South through Agnew Lake to finish at Agnew Lake Lodge
Hwy 17 west of Sudbury to town of Massey, then north to lodge

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Better to read through here with accompanying photos:

We loaded up Terry & Isabelle's SUV & trailer w/ our rented Prospector canoe from MEC. They used their own whitewater canoe. We spent Sunday driving from Ottawa to Webbwood (about an hour past Sudbury). We arrived around 5pm at Agnew Lake Lodge. We set up camp on the grass by the boat ramp and after Vic & Terry went for a quick swim (w/ Vic puncturing his wrist on a nail on the dock), we drove in to Espanola for dinner at the Pinewood Motor Inn restaurant. We spent some time around the big communal fire pit in front of the lodge before bed.

Monday 05.08.2013.

We woke up & made eggs, bacon & toast on the camp stove. Gary - an employee of Agnew Lake Lodge - drove us up to Duke Lake. We arrived around 11:30 at Duke Lake. We unloaded our gear & canoes before Gary took off to drive our car & trailer back to the Lodge. We set off on the water about noon. The whole paddle will be 145km. We paddled about 1 hour before stopping at a campsite about 3 or 4 km down Duke Lake on river right where we had lunch of cheese & salami sandwiches, GORP, dehydrated fruit, etc (same thing we had for lunch each day of paddling). We paddled on; the swifts were pretty tame between lakes (there are 10 lakes to get through before the river proper starts). On 9th lake we saw aboriginal pictographs on the cliff face RL just as we entered the lake. Very cool. There was also a note written above the pictographs in white on the cliff face saying "May level water ... 1960" so high up!!! Vic spotted a very fruitful bush of blueberries on a little ledge of the cliff. He stopped to gather a small bag of them for tomorrow morning's pancake breakfast. We made it to the middle of 3 campsites between the 6th & 5th lakes; Vic wanted to go for a swim but he found too many bloodsuckers hanging around the beach area. dinner; Dahl w/ carrots, sweet potatoes & rice; yum. The campsite is below the pines w/ lots of open space. Every site has a thunderbox; luxury camping! Vic was stung by a wasp while combing the site for firewood. We travelled about 15 km in 5 hours w/ a break for lunch and not much current to help; across lakes all day. Also the wind is mostly from the South (in our face). Lots of ducks along our route today; a smallish species, not sure which.

Tuesday 06.08.2013.

Blueberry pancake breakfast cooked over the morning fire. Made w/ the blueberries that Victor collected yesterday at the cliff. Blueberry pancakes are yummy! We set off on the water at 9am. I paddled w/ Terry this morning for a while to even the speeds of our canoes; Vic's & my canoe is faster on flat water. We passed under an old logging road bridge (which looks like it's well used even today). Cavana Rapids were quite shallow (scraped bottom a bit) but easy. We saw Snake Rapids on the right (a connection between the West branch & the East) - it is quite a steep incline w/ raging water! We wouldn't paddle through there that's for sure. We suited up w/ lifejacket & helmet for the Drive Road Rapids (which turned out to be swifts more than rapids) & Breadner Rapids.Stopped for lunch on RL right after Breadner Rapids at a campsite. Some drizzle & wind today so we made a lunchtime fire so we could make some soup in addition to our usual sandwiches. It was a very windy site but lots of driftwood to choose from. It rained last night, but we got some sun before lunch. Then all afternoon it misted with the occasional shower. It was a LONG paddle down Expanse Lake; the south wind was in our faces along w/ the mist & rain. The Kingfisher swifts had a couple of technical spots. The long swifts are super fun! We arrived at the top of Athalone Rapids around 5pm. We thought we'd have 3 campsites to choose from (we hadn't seen anybody yet on the trip!) but the 2 best sites were already taken with big groups that we had caught up to. We got the site at the portage trailhead with some not so flat spots, very wet areas, and not much dry wood. But we made the best of it. Dinner was a tasty herb pasta w/ bacon. We also scouted the Athalone Rapids before going to bed. 

Wednesday 07.08.2013.

It rained a bit overnight & started again as we made breakfast; oatmeal on the fire. We packed up & ran the top set of Athalone Rapids - no problem & FUN! My first real rapid set w/ no instructor around to explain where to go or catch us & our stuff if we dump. We got out to scout the lower set before running them. Lots of fast moving water this morning but there was also DRIVING rain after the big rapids. We were all soaked to the bone (no photos of the morning b/c of the rain too). The train passed by us right next to the river & we had this beautiful clear view of it. We waved to the conductor who opened his window, waved to us, and blew his whistle a whole bunch for us. There were some nice falls RR too - but again rain, so no photo. Stopped for lunch RL just after Pogamasing. It was pouring & we were cold but needed to eat. We shoveled GORP into our mouths & hastily made sandwiches while standing huddled under a tree. I was shivering as we left but warmed up a bit once we started paddling again. Lots of swifts this afternoon which let us cover lots of ground (or water). About 1:00 or so the rain dwindled & eventually the sun & blue sky came out! We scouted Cliff Rapids & ran them. Our plan was originally to camp there along the portage but we were ahead of schedule & decided to keep truckin'. We saw some cabins along the way (who knows how all these people get to their cabins ... ATV trails?) We soaked up the sun. Notice our wet clothes from the morning laying across the canoe to try & dry in the sun. We decided to paddle all the way to Spanish Lake; the NE campsite. But upon arrival we saw a large group sunning themselves on the rocks at the beautiful site frown emoticon They said they stayed put all day because of the morning's rain. We were disappointed but paddled across the lake to an old campsite where we sheltered from a passing shower that cropped up as we got about halfway across the lake. We entered the channel towards Zig Zag rapids and camped RR. Another wet campsite. We at least had some rocks & trees that let us hang our clothes & gear to dry on ropes we strung up. We all had a swim; Victor & I jumped off a nice rock along the waterfront of our site. The water was cool but felt great. Dinner was a veg chilli. We pitched our tent on the wet ground, maybe 2 feet from the river's edge under the greenery behind the tent in this photo. We can hear the rapids and also heard some beavers around 10 pm as I read my book before bed. 

Thursday, 08.08.2013.

We had a bit of a slower morning as we hung clothes to dry again in the morning sun. We made pancakes w/ apple rings over the fire.Left our campsite about 10am with gorgeous blue skies above. Water levels have risen a lot with the rain. Paddled to Zig Zag Rapids & spent about 30 minutes scouting them before running them. We scouted Tofflemire Rapids from the canoe (w/ Vic standing in the back to see better) and ran them. Many swifts were more like C1 rapids w/ the higher water levels. We scouted Little Graveyard Rapids; the first half were runnable so we did & then eddied out before the 2nd half to portage past this ledge; might not look like much but had we gone over we'd have been crashing our canoe into rocks at the bottom of a 3 foot drop. Not possible in a loaded canoe w/ no skirt. We scouted the middle Graveyard Rapid and ran it. Big Graveyard Rapids had a HUGE ledge also so we portaged around it & stopped for lunch at a campsite high up along the portage overlooking those rapids. Not too many photos today as my camera was packed away in case we dumped. The Cascades Rapids also had a ledge so we paddled a few waves at the start and then eddied out to the side in order to line our loaded canoes over the ledge. Next was Agnes Rapids. We spent a LONG time looking & deciding if & how to run them. Vic & Terry went out into the rapids a bit on some rocks to see better. They picked a route & we ran the left channel (we couldn't see the right channel at all from the portage route). They were very tricky w/ lots of rocks, logs, etc. The bottom bit had large frothy waves & both boats took on a fair bit of water. We pulled to RR to unload & tip the water out of the canoe. Agnes was a really FUN set of rapids; technical too. Just down river we saw a yellow canoe RR, swamped & floating near the edge of the river. But it was bent as though it had been wrapped around a rock & then dislodged in higher water levels. The boys wanted to tow it back with us to repair it but Isabelle & I weren't very keen on that idea. We had some more big swifts as we made our way down to Cedar Rapids which were long but easy enough. Had some bigger waves at the bottom that snuck up on us; soaking Vic in the back for a change. About 1km after was an easy rapid just ahead of a 90 degree bend left. Terry & Isabelle paddled past the campsite we had chosen but we called them back once we had spotted it. It's a great site w/ beautiful pine trees & lots of open space again high up off the water. We got a beautiful view of the setting sun. Great campfire. Victor cooked up a load of Chanterelle mushrooms that he collected along the Little Graveyards portage path; delicious! Terry & Isabelle cooked up a spicy chicken curry that was very tasty. What a fun day w/ lots of bigger rapids & swifts; very little flatwater.

Friday, 09.08.2013.

A little spitting rain as we got the fire started this morning to cook our last breakfast; leftover eggs, cinnamon & raisin bannock & oatmeal. 3 course meal! Rain started again as we packed up & was on/off again through the morning. We set off around 9:15 to travel down the "Royal Ride"; 20km of fast movig water & swifts w/ hidden boulders just below the surface. Had to watch carefully. Stopped for our usual lunch food at the last campsite w/in the Park's boundaries; in a big clearing RR that used to be a logging camp right at the mouth of Agnew Lake. Lots of big plump blueberries here! Paddled across/down Wood's Channel into Agnew Lake. It was raining & windy; a tough slog. Stopped on a tiny island halfway across for a quick break. Continued through a small channel into Sutherland Bay; b/w 2 islands hoping for a little shelter from the wind. And the home stretch across to Agnew Lake Lodge. We arrived at the lodge about 4pm. We loaded gear & canoes into the trailer. We paid up at the lodge & I bought a t-shirt that said "I survived the Spanish River" (cheesy, eh?) We drove into Sudbury about 6:15 & got rooms at the Hampton Inn. Had a scalding hot shower and then we went to Buzzy Brown's for dinner. Hit the sack exhausted around 9:30 or so.

Saturday we drove back to Ottawa, stopping to visit a friend of Victor's over a quick coffee at his home in Sudbury.


Maps Required
Other Maps: 
Chrismar Adventure Map: