Thursday, 24 January 2013

Spanish River – Solo, July 2011

It had been a busy spring and I hadn’t managed to get a canoe trip in at all. I finally blocked out a few days in mid July for a trip. Of course the decision then becomes where to go? It had been quite awhile (2005) since I had been on the Spanish River, so I thought I’d use the Via Rail Budd Car train service from Sudbury.

I planned taking the train up to the Forks to access the river and then run all the way down to Agnew Lake, where my wife could pick me up at the Agnew Lake Lodge, north of Webbwood.   Agnew Lake Lodge 
This would be a 4-day trip – Thursday to Sunday.

Day 1

I was at the Sudbury train station in plenty of time to purchase a ticket and pay the extra fee for the canoe. Travel on the Budd Car is quite reasonable; it cost me about $65.00 for a one-way ticket plus canoe from Sudbury to “The Forks” where I planned to start my trip. The train was quite busy with a couple other canoe groups heading out as well from different starting points.

and so it begins
 A couple hours later the train let me off at “The Forks”. It’s a short walk down to the river from the tracks and I was quickly loaded and pushed off at around 11:30. It’s a gorgeous sunny day with a few clouds floating around. The forks access point to the river is on the west branch of the Spanish just north of the “fork” where the east branch meets it. The river is fairly wide and moving along nicely.

The first sets of rapids for the day are the Upper and Lower Athlone rapids about 5 km. from the put in. In spring conditions these can be quite pushy with large standing waves etc. but today I run both sets with no problems other than a bit of water over the bow. I stop at the bottom of Lower Athlone and take a lunch break and a quick swim to cool off. There are some small swifts between Athlone and the next set, Railway Rapids, which are just south of the trestle over Pogamasing Creek.

trestle at Pogamasing Creek
 Again it’s a short paddle to the Bridge Rapid just north of the old town site of Sheahan. This rapid runs under the railway bridge and I run it on the right hand side of the centre abutment. The river deepens and widens here for a section before you get to the Pogamasing siding area which is a series of swifts which parallel the railway tracks for 4-5 km. There is an old logging camp from the late 40’s, early 50’s on the east bank of the river just below a marked campsite where the river bends away from the tracks. I have stopped before both summer and winter and I don’t bother today.

I spend some time just floating with the river’s current and eventually I stop at the campsite on river left at Cliff rapids for the night. There is a new campsite on river right here as well that the MNR canoe rangers have established since the last time I stayed here. I putz around camp, set up my hammock and my small bug net and settle down with supper and a book. It’s been a great day on the river and a good way to relax from the pressures of work and daily life.

food barrel
 Distance traveled – about 30 km.

Day 2

The morning dawns warm and muggy with some clouds in the area. It’s going to be a hot and humid day and there’s not much of a breeze to speak of! I eat, pack and head off for the day. There’s a small swift downstream of cliff rapids and then the river broadens and slows somewhat as I move along. I reach Mogo Creek and there are 2 chaps in residence at the cabin plus 2 canoeists camped just past the mouth of the creek. These would be the last people I saw till I reached Agnew Lake in a couple days. The morning is warming up quickly and there are some convective cloud activity in the area, possibly bringing a thunderstorm or 2 later in the day.

Mogo Creek
 The next signs of human activity is the several camps on the shore of Spanish Lake, however there is no-one in residence. The next bit of excitement comes at Zig Zag Rapids. As the name implies you set up mid stream and then zig and zag right then left as you transit the rapid, always fun. The river narrows here and picks up some speed as you pass through some small rapids and swifts before the next larger set – Tofflemire Rapids. Past this set and you are now approaching the area known as the “Elbow” where the river makes a sharp bend as it heads to the “Graveyard Rapids “ area.

The Elbow looking towards the Graveyard Rapids
Graveyard rapids is actually strung out over about 1.5 km. of the river and consists of Little Graveyard, Big Graveyard and the Cascades rapids. These rapids can be Class 3-4 in certain water levels but some parts also can be partially run in some conditions. The water levels are not to bad this trip and I run some parts, line some parts and lift over the larger drops all the way down to the Cascades area. It’s about 2:00 and I decide to spend the night here. I set up camp and then swim and read the afternoon away. I check my small thermometer and it reads 28 Celsius, hot day-no bugs, you gotta love that. 

campsite at the Cascades
  Distance traveled – about 30 km

Day 3

Dawn brings some mist on the river and the promise of another beautiful day. After a leisurely breakfast I’m on my way again. Just downstream of the cascades is a large boulder plunked into the river. It’s huge and must be the remnant of the last glacial age! 

now that's a boulder!
Just past the boulder is the mouth of the Agnes River and the start of the Agnes Rapid. In the logging river drive days a rock dyke was built here to direct the logs downstream and keep them out of the shallow areas. This can be a tricky rapid as well but I have no problems today.

Carrying on downstream you come to  Cedar Rapid. The river makes a sharp right then runs on gently curving path to the left. Another kilometer brings you to a small rapid with a nice campsite nestled into some large pine on river left. The next section of river is known as the “Royal Ride”. It runs for about 20 km. down to the Wakonnasin River area. The river gains speed as it flows through here but in low water conditions it can be called the bumpy or rough ride due to exposed boulders and shallow areas. The water levels are high enough that the river is flowing quite fast but there is lots of water and no bumping at all.

along the Royal Ride
It’s another hot day and I stop at the Reynolds creek campsite for a bite to eat and a cooling dip. In fact it’s so nice I also have a 45 minute snooze! Feeling refreshed I head off again and poke along to the Wakonnasin River delta area. I spend some time exploring the swampy delta area and surprise a couple of Great Blue Herons. There is a campsite on river left, up on a bluff at the mouth of the Wakonnasin and I decide to spend the evening here as it’s a short run out to the lodge on Agnew Lake tomorrow for my pickup.

campsite at the Wakonnasin River
Distance traveled – about 30 km.

Day 4

It’s a different morning when I wake up – overcast, muggy and buggy and threatening to rain! I quickly eat and pack and shove for Agnew Lake. The river has broadened and slowed again and sure enough I get about 4 km. downriver and it starts to shower. I pull over and put on my rain jacket and sit under a tree till the worst of it is over. As I continue on my way the skies clear and the temperature jumps up to the hot range again. As I enter Woods channel on Agnew Lake I spot a deer swimming across the channel. 

swimming deer
I head out into the main part of the lake and head for an island with a beach where I stop and have a bit of bath/swim and put on a clean shirt. It’s about 2 km. to the lodge and as I pull up to the dock there’s Jan and our dog Lily sitting in the shade enjoying the view! I load up the canoe and gear and we head for Sudbury. 

Agnew Lake - view from the lodge
Distance traveled – about 16 km
Total distance – about 106 km.

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