View topic - Hints to help in finding portages

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2010, 9:09 pm 
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I was with a group that travelled a route last week that someone else got misplaced and cold on in May. That made me think about why my group had no trouble and the other folk did. They apparantly missed a portage.

So lets find out your portage sleuthing hints. Assume that there are no signs nor cached boats to give you a clue.

What do you look for to find the start of a portage?

I will start. I have a bunch but that would stifle discussion.

1. Blaze on tree at shoreside..confirmed by a blaze on a tree farther in. ( sometimes its hard to be sure that a shoreside scar is not an old ice rub mark)

2. Cut logs.


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PostPosted: September 6th, 2010, 10:08 pm 
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Good topic!
Let me put this on the table: in many situations, a look at the horizon will give it away. The lowest point is the portage. Canoeing folks are lazy and rarely climb any more height than necessary to get to the next lake.

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2010, 10:14 pm 
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Path of least resistance!

Oh if it's Algonquin large annoying orange signs.

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PostPosted: September 6th, 2010, 10:16 pm 
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Hi,
Good topic - I can use some pointers.
I do the following:
1. Look for a break in the shoreline vegetation.
2. As Erhard said look for the lowest and shortest possible route and then walk some metres back in the woods at right angles to the probable direction of the portage trail - traces of the trail are often still visible back in the woods when the start of the trail at the shoreline willows and alders is overgrown.
3. Walk through the woods to the other lake/river and see if I can find it from that side.

Ralph


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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 5:47 am 
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cobain_lg wrote:
Oh if it's Algonquin large annoying orange signs.



See, that's how folks get lost....the campsite markers are orange...the portage signs are yellow........ 8)

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 6:10 am 
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..being a simple guy of lesser skills...
as erhard said, low points, but more than that, if a hilly area, usually a valley trail between lakes, so it will be on the edge of the valley. in killarney they are often in a valley.
or just beside a feeder creek to the lake, where the animals would naturally go, and where man would have chosen to go long ago.

in temagami it is just one bit of trail-mark tape, very hard to spot, but if there is a bare rock, or a scruffed grass area, that might be it too.

a buddy told me the first thing to establish is the trustworthiness of the maps you are using. once you know they are accurate, then follow them as much as possible and you'll be close.

and as my brother and I do, because we are both poor map readers, we aim high or low to the expected spot by a few hundred feet, and paddle along the shore till we cross it

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 6:26 am 
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If you know you're in the right general area, within a couple of hundred meters, you can often paddle along the shoreline, as shallow as you can, and you'll see a TON of canoe-paint scrapings, in every imagineable color, on the rocks, right where the portage is. :)

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 6:41 am 
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On rivers, usually to the inside of the curve in the river. This can be a tough one if there is a double ess bend.

Some areas have portage right above the first drop. Perhaps a canoe length away. Water levels can play tricks on you. At high water you might sail right by the portage and wind up in a nasty situation.


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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 7:23 am 
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Particularly on a less-traveled, remote route, alder and other brushy vegetation can often obscure the ends of a trail. After looking at the map and considering the lay of the land, I have often found it useful to investigate a likely portage location by going inland a few yards and walking parallel to the shore. A trail is usually more apparent when you are away from the immediate shoreline.


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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 8:01 am 
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sk8r wrote:
cobain_lg wrote:
Oh if it's Algonquin large annoying orange signs.



See, that's how folks get lost....the campsite markers are orange...the portage signs are yellow........ 8)


I was always wondering why people were camping on the portage. :lol:

In all seriousness I can usually know where I'm gonna portage by doing a good map study. Usually on larger trips I study the map and put a clear sheet of plastic over it, which allows me to colour the contours etc and gives me the ability to know pretty well what the lay of the land will look like.

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 11:08 am 
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I rarely miss the location of a portage. But this June I spent an hour looking for a portage from a lake, and I lost a portage halfway. As a bit of disclaimer, I'm very geographical, and very aware of my surroundings... I'm a geologist with a strong penchance for geography. I travel with a dramatic teacher who memorizes to get places ((like she knows nearly all of the freeway exit numbers for places she travels). On the first instance, she was more correct than I, and she deserves props for that!

portages in lake country:
1) I use the topography as my primary indication. Ports are usually in valleys not up ridges
2) similar to #1, portages usually follow rivers and streams entering or exiting the lake
3) looking down the lake, where do you see a break in the vegetation out in the distance. That tells you where the next lake is. (Sometimes this means that the portage is in a side bay rather than at the end of the lake.
4) obviously breaks in vegetation, or exposed rocks often mark the beginning of a portage
5) the most difficult to locate are usually in a marsh or wetland
6) know something about the the drainage. Are you workind down a chain of lakes, is this a port over a height of land into another drainage. These ports are often located in different parts of a lake.

On rivers: I think this is ALOT tougher!!!
1)The port is usually around a rapid/falls. As Kim stated usually it's on the inside of the bend, because the river usually is cutting through rock on the outside necessitiating porting over the shield rock that creates the rapid/falls, and the river has more current on the outside making exiting the river more difficult
2) Look for an eddy
3) Usually the port begins just above the rapids. But looking for the port well upstream is important. I've gotten off the river and bank scouted for the portage, as it's real easy to miss a port trail when you are also preoccupied by the impending horizon line ahead and a somewhat more emotional SO is expressing a growing stress.
4) I've found port trails by walking perpindicular to the river (as opposed to silver falls... Yep, pull over, bushwack through the alders and walk straight away from the river, you may intersect the port trail you missed while on the river.
5) don't be afraid to look upriver occasionally as you approach a rapids either.

I know there are more that I employ subconsciously that my conscious mind isn't thinking of

PK


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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 11:40 am 
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Might as well mention some exceptions, like this one in Algonquin Park.

The portage from St. Andrews into Marie Lake goes insanely across the top of a hill rather than stay on a more level course (with a bit of extra length). Actually, when planning the trip there, I thought the map maker made an error, but reality proved the map right. I still believe someone made a mistake: maybe the portage was planned on paper by someone without portaging skills and knowledge, and subsequently cut according to plan. On the other hand, maybe the terrain for an alternate trail is obstructed with rocks or whatever. Anyways: there are always surprises and that's half the fun...
Attachment:
bad portage layout - Algonquin Park.jpg
bad portage layout - Algonquin Park.jpg [ 79.61 KiB | Viewed 1960 times ]

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2010, 5:07 pm 
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Portages usually avoid bogs and wetlands in boreal forest country. Most likely they do start in such country but often make for the nearest high ground as a caribou ridge. Following a caribou ridge is much earlier for human than thrashing about in Labrador Tea.

Sometimes casting about for one is best done by following the moose trail that goes around lakes. Moose also like to travel lake to lake in the shortest distance too and a GPS can help you find the shortest distance to the next lake.

Oh and look for snowmobile accessories like skis and junk too. :evil:


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PostPosted: September 8th, 2010, 8:04 am 
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a lot of times there is no sign of a portage because the landing is on a big, flattish sloping rock - so I look for those kind of spots as well as a beaten down/cleared landing


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PostPosted: September 8th, 2010, 8:48 am 
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Portages usually avoid bogs and wetlands in boreal forest country.

If such a place must be crossed, look for a beaver dam that just might have been the dry alternative to get across. Off the top of my head, I can think of two places where this is the case: one in Temagami to get from Aston to Eagle, and the portage from Kelsie to John (Noganosh area).

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