Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Anima Nipissing Lake Loop - 2012

September is probably my favourite month for canoe tripping. The weather is still warm, the days long enough for making distance if required and a minimum of bugs. What’s not to like about that? I had mentioned to friend that if he was looking to do some canoeing to let me know. We talked about it over the summer and decided to try the South Muskego area of Temagami with a loop trip starting/ending from the public access point on Anima-Nipissing Lake.

The most common loop trip in the area loops through Turner Lake via Whitefish Bay (Lake Temagami) and Aston Lake. This is a 3-4 day trip, however I wanted to extend the trip a bit longer. To this end we decided to push up through Diamond Lake from Sharp Rock Inlet on Lake Temagami through Walsh and Sirdevan Lakes and then northwesterly through a less travelled route into Ferguson, Isbister and Barter Lakes before entering Turner Lake.

Day 1

I left Sudbury around 8:00 headed for North Bay to pick up Daniel. After a quick coffee we headed north on Hwy 11 for the Anima Nip access point. It was a typical September day for weather, warm and sunny with a light breeze. We loaded up the canoe and headed off at 12:30 or so. Anima Nip Lake has some cottages scattered around, mostly near the access point area and as we headed south we quickly lost sight of any development as we headed through the second narrows area of the lake. 

Second Narrows ahead
 We stopped for lunch at the island campsite in the second narrows area. Anima Nipissing is a scenic lake with ample opportunity for camping and fishing, plus it has several loops that enter/leave the lake giving various trip options in the area.
We spent some time in the area of the portage into Whitewater Lake searching for some native pictographs on the rock face near a campsite. We didn’t spot the pictographs but did find a wasp nest on the rock face - something neither of us had ever seen before!

Wasp Nest
 We continued south heading for a campsite at the narrows from Anima Nip into McLean Lake. This is a small site but since we were using a small tent (Daniel) and I had my hammock, space wasn’t really much of a concern through out the trip. We set up camp, gathered some firewood and enjoyed a steak and potato dinner – doesn’t get much better that that!
Day 2

Morning dawned with mist hanging over the lake with heavy dew coating the camp! 

Morning mist
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, packed and hit the water with the intention of making a Sharp Rock Inlet campsite. We paddle south through the narrows into  McLean Lake to the first portage of the day into Carrying Lake.

narrows to McLean Lake
 The portage starts up the creek a ways from the lake and follows a ridge for about 700 m. before dropping down to Carrying Lake. A quick paddle down the lake brought us to the longest portage of the day, 1000 m., to Red Squirrel Lake. We headed south around a point and then northwesterly to the Anima Nipissing River. A short distance down the river is a portage left for 780 m. around some rapids etc back to the river. You then paddle out to Ferguson Bay on Lake Temagami passing a canoe camp sprawled over both banks of the river - Camp Wanapitei.

Anima Nip River
 From here we headed west to the Napolean Mountain portage from Ferguson Bay to Whitefish Bay. The Napolean portage is about 800 m. with a fairly rough and rocky takeout and climbs quickly. We stopped for lunch here watching a houseboat circle the bay before tackling the port.

The more popular loop, heads north from here through Whitefish Bay to the portage into Aston Lake. Once we were back on the water we headed almost due west through a channel into Sharp Rock Inlet and headed for an island campsite about a kilometer from the portage into Diamond Lake. The campsite is nestled into the northeast corner of the island under a stand of Red Pine. Several canoes passed headed for Diamond Lake but we are in no great hurry and have settled into a relaxed pace, enjoying the scenery and the weather. 

Sharp Rock Inlet campsite view
Day 3

Morning arrived and after another leisurely breakfast we hit the water around 9:00 a heading for the portage into Diamond Lake. The port is about 80 m. long and crosses the Red Squirrel Road. With the low water levels it is a bit tricky to find a launch point amongst the rocks. 

Diamond Lake
We paddle north on Diamond heading for the lift-over into Lady Evelyn Lake. Once we hit the hub of the lake the wind springs up a bit more but it isn’t very onerous once we pass through hub. Along the western shore of the north arm of the lake is one of the premier native pictograph sites in the Temagami region. It is well worth it to spend some time here absorbing some of the ancient history of the area.

Diamond Lake pictographs
 It’s a fairly quick paddle to the lift-over into Lady Evelyn Lake from the pictograph site and the next portage of 520 m. into Walsh Lake. Walsh Lake is a fairly open Lake and the southerly winds are kicking up a bit of a chop as we head across the bottom of the lake to the 80 m. portage into 3 Knob Lake. This lake is also open and exposed to the south winds and we quickly head for a stand of red pine on the eastern shore looking for a lunch spot. 

After lunch and a rest we head for the Tundra Portage - longest port (1100 m.) of the trip. This portage encompasses as mix of terrain on it’s way to Sirdevan Lake. It starts of rolling but drops down into a large lowland area consisting of deep mosses and Black Spruce trees. There is a fairly extensive network of log boardwalks constructed by the Temagami MNR Canoe Rangers that cross the wettest areas of the portage. With the dry summer we have had the boardwalk is actually 2-3’ above the ground in some areas, but you can readily see the value of it if the water levels are higher J. As we approach the last section of boardwalk, I find the initials A.S. carved into one of the logs – Alison Smith, my cousin, who worked as a canoe ranger in Temagami for a couple summers!

Sirdevan Lake has 1 campsite on an island in the north end of the lake and we decide to spend the night here rather than push to Isbister Lake because after all this is a pretty relaxed trip! There is an outpost cabin on the northwest shore of the lake and Lakeland Airways Beaver is tied up at the dock and there are a few folks fishing for the evening. 

Sirdevan Lake
 Day 4

Sirdevan Lake has two routes out of it – the most used route is east through Bates and Ottley lakes into Lynx Lake which is part of the loop from Aston Lake into Turner Lake. We however are headed out through the northwest corner through the less used Ferguson, Isbister and Barter Lake link to Turner Lake. The portage out of Sirdevan is part of the old Nastawgan network and has only been recently reestablished from Sirdevan into Goss and Ferguson lakes. The port is hard to find but it is around the corner from the outpost camp and you need to push through the bulrushes in a small bay to find the port’s beginning on the shoreline. It’s about 600 m. to Goss Lake and then a quick paddle to the next 460 m. portage into Ferguson Lake. Goss Lake is a pretty lake surrounded by pine-covered hills. 

Goss Lake
The port into Ferguson basically follows the old creek bed up to Ferguson and the port crosses the boulder covered creek bed a couple times.Here's a map from the Ottertooth site showing the route we took from Lady Evelyn Lake through Walsh, Sirdevan and then northwesterly through Ferguson Lk. etc - South Muskego Canoe routes

The next portage (180 m.) heads east up and down over a ridge to a small pothole with a short paddle and a 50 m. port into Isbister Lake. This lake is a long and narrow lake running basically north-south and has a nice red pine covered campsite on a point in the south end. We push up the lake and stop for lunch on the west shore. Most of the portages that connect the lakes and potholes between Ferguson and Turner lakes cross over ridges. Consequently they are not excessive in length but you do gain and lose a fair bit of height in between the water bodies! 

portage out of Isbister Lake
 The portage out of Isbister is quite steep on the ends and somewhere along this portage I stretch out a calf muscle or tendon and find my mobility hampered. I have to take small steps and not stretch my leg too much. We have been single portaging all through the trip and this just means things have to slow down from our/my previous pace. The portage from Dead Tree Lake goes up over a ridge and then across a swampy area and then downhill again to Barter Lake. We decide that this has been another good days travel to this point and we set up camp on a point across from a log cabin for the night. This makes for an early day but I soak my leg in the cool water and eat some ibruprofen to relax the tendon/muscle cramps in my leg.

Day 5

Well, it’s clouded over and humid when we get the next morning. Good chance of some precipitation today! My calf is still somewhat sore although not near as tender as it was. We eat and pack up and head off, stopping to have a look at the cabin across the lake. 

Barter Lake cabin
From here it’s a short paddle down a creek between Barter and Avery Lakes. The creek meanders a bit and there are a couple beaver dam lift-overs along the way. The next portage (550 m.) as has been the case, heads up, over and down another ridge into Turner Lake and is accessed via a floating mat about halfway down the eastern shore of the lake. we pass a nice, large campsite on the northern tip of the island in Turner Lake on our way to the next portage. We meet a couple here who have entered Turner using the more popular Aston Lake route and are headed back towards Ferguson Bay, where they started their trip.

From Turner it’s a 170 m. portage into Curt Lake and then a short paddle to a 1000 m. portage into Eagle Lake. There is a high ridge on the east shore of Eagle that would have a spectacular view but we decline to climb the ridge and push onward. 

Eagle Lake
 The next portage (240 m.) is along the creek flowing out of Eagle into a small pothole and then back into the creek. There is a portion of the creek, crossed by a few beaver dams, which necessitates some wading and lift-overs on our part. Once clear of this it’s a short paddle to a 60 m portage over a small ridge into Little Eagle Lake where we have lunch on the campsite by the next portage.

The next 3 portages connect Little Eagle to Whitewater Lake, which is our objective for today. So far it hasn’t rained on us yet and we’re hopeful we can make camp before it does. The 870 m. portage from Little Eagle to Zee Lake crosses the Little Eagle Rd which can be accessed from the Red Squirrel Road. The Little Eagle Rd is gated just south of where the portage crosses the road and could provide another access point for this loop. A quick paddle and another 340 m. portage brings you to Birch Lake, which has a remote cabin on the northeast corner of the lake. From here it’s another 410 m. portage into Whitewater Lake.
As the skies continue to threaten rain, we paddle down the lake, through the narrows and land at the campsite on the east end of the island in the main part of the lake. We move our gear up to the campsite on the hill and set up camp. We manage to set up everything including a tarp, gather wood for supper and breakfast before it begins to shower. 

Whitewater Lake campsite
 Day 6

It’s still raining lightly with lots of fog and mist in the air when we get up in the morning. This will be a short day as we have one portage of 150 m. back into Anima Nipissing Lake and a couple hour paddle back to the vehicle at the access point. After breakfast we’re off wearing rain gear for the first time since we left 5 days ago. Whitewater Lake is popular with the fishing crowd and there must be 40 boats cached at the landing area for the portage. We’re quickly across the port and off down the lake in the mist and showers. 

back on Anima Nipissing Lake
We stop for a break from the wind behind a small cliff and finally arrive back at the landing around noon. We meet another pair of canoeists just heading out and chat briefly with them. They are planning to do the more traditional loop through Aston and Turner Lakes. We wish them well and load up our stuff and head for home. I dropped Daniel off in North Bay and headed for Sudbury, managing to see Jan after she finished work and before she headed off to an artist’s retreat for the weekend with friends on Manitoulin Island.

This was an enjoyable trip with some excellent weather and scenery. Although we saw people everyday that we were out on the trip, it wasn’t excessive due to the time of the year and the fact that we traveled through a less used area for a portion of the trip.

Post script: One of the 2 paddlers we met at the Anima Nipissing access point has also posted a trip report of their adventure  at - Chris Lawson's Turner Lk. Loop Report


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