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Matt and I took a trip down the Mattawa River, from Armstrong Beach in North Bay, to the Marina on the Ottawa River in the town of Mattawa. It was a fantastic trip! Below is a trip description, some pictures, and a copy of the journal that I kept.

June 18, 2003
Matt picked me up after work
Drove to North Bay
Camped in Donny's back yard

Today's portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Today's paddle distance = 0 Km
Total paddle distance = 0 Km

June 19, 2003
Shuttled car and trailer to the Marina in Mattawa, thanks to Donny for doing the shuttle for us!
Put in at Armstrong Beach in North Bay
E through Trout Lake to Portage de la Tortue (not actually a portage, since the rapids were blasted out to provide motor boat access)
E through Turtle Lake to campsite
Camped on the second point past the dam on the north shore of Turtle Lake

Today's portage distance = 0 m
Total portage distance = 0 m
Today's paddle distance = 20.1 m
Total paddle distance = 20.1 Km

June 20, 2003
E through Turtle Lake
LO Beaver Dam
P200 m River Right "Portage de la Mauvaise Musique"
E through Pine Lake
P450 m "Portage Pin de Musique"
N then E through Talon Lake
Camped on top of cliff at Talon Chutes, halfway across the portage

Today's portage distance = 650 m
Total portage distance = 650 m
Today's paddle distance = 14.5 Km
Total paddle distance = 34.6 Km

June 21, 2003
P300 m River Right "Portage de Talon" (around Talon dam and Talon Chutes)
E on Mattawa River
CBR (CI) "Descharge des Perches" or P150 m River Right
CBR (CI) or P200 m River Right
P100 m River Left "Portage de la Cave" or CBR (CI)
CBR (CI) or P50 m River Right
CBR (CII) "Portage de la Prairie aka (Little Paresseux Falls)" or P287 m River Left
P402 (un-runnable) around Parresseux Falls River Right
Stop to check out "Porte de l'Enfer" (Gates to Hell) - one of only two native Ochre mines in Ontario
Continue E on Mattawa River
CBR (Swift) into Bouillon Lake, or P30 m River Left
E throught Bouillon Lake
P150 m (CI-II) "Portage de Roches" River Left, or CBR
CBR (CI-II) "Porage Campion" or R185 m River Right (turn left and follow paved road after a short section of trail)
Continue E on Mattawa River
Camp on Island site before Chant Plein Lake

Today's portage distance = 952 m
Total portage distance = 1602 m
Today's paddle distance = 19.8 Km
Total paddle distance = 54.4 Km

June 22, 2003
E on Mattawa River
E through Chant Plein Lake
E on Mattawa River
P100 m around Hurdman Dam (by taking shortcut - full portage is 300m)
E on Mattawa River to Town of Mattawa
N on Ottawa River to Mattawa Marina

Today's portage distance = 100 m
Total portage distance = 1702 m
Today's paddle distance = 8.4 Km
Total paddle distance = 62.8 Km

Maps & Info:


Here's the journal that I wrote on our trip:

The "Mah-tuh-wa-tuh-Ott-ah-wa" Trip (say it out loud fast)

June 18

I biked home from work (in record time) and quickly showered and finished packing. Matt showed up at 6:10 pm, after following slow trucks on the way to Waterloo. We went to Pita Factory in the Plaza after loading the trailer. Two chicken ceasar pitas later, we were on our way - and were on the 401 by 6:45 pm.

We made good time and stopped for a washroom break just before Barrie. We then continued to the NY Fries and Gas Station on Highway 11. We continued on 11 to North Bay, to arrive at the home of Donny (aka Don Muir) wo had generously offered to shuttle us for the trip, and give us a place to stay the night. We arrived at 11 pm, and met Donny at his door. We chatted for a while over a beer, but we soon decided that it was time for bed. Donny had set up a tent for us in his back yard, so we crashed there for the night.

June 19

Woke up at 5:40, even though the original plan was for 7am. We packed up some stuff, and Donny was soon ready with some coffee for us. We went in and discussed the trip further while looking at Donny's "Friend's of the Mattawa" map. We then went to Colonel Hoagie's Restaurant for breakfast. We all had a good breakfast, and then went back to Donny's house. We unloaded all of our gear, and left it in Donny's back yard. Donny then led the way to Mattawa, with us following in Matt's car and trailer. Once at Mattawa, we parked the car and trailer at the Mattawa Marina on the Ottawa River. We locked up the car, and hopped into Donny's car. We chatted about past trips on the way back to North Bay, and completed the trip in about an hour.

At Donny's place, Donny put the racks on his car, and we loaded all our gear in and put the canoe on top. Donny drove us to Armstong Beach, where we unloaded the car. After loading the canoe, we said goodbye to Donny, and were on our way. We set off East into a changing wind - at times quite nasty and in our face, and quite cool. We stopped at the south shore of Camp Island and had lunch of bagels, cheese, and Hungarian sausage while floating in the canoe. We eventually got to the "Stepping Stones" which marks the end of Trout Lake and the start of the river. East of there was "Portage de la Tortue" which was dynamited in order to allow motor boats through - there were piles of rubble on the shore where they had blasted.

After the narrows was Turtle Lake. We circled the first island looking for a campsite, but came up with nothing. Eventually found a nice site on the second point after the dam.

We set up the tent, then started a fire and the stove to cook steak, potatoes and mushrooms. We didn't eat the potatoes, as the steak and mushrooms were ready well before. We then boiled some water and did dishes. After supper, we decided to go for a swim. By this time the sun was shining and the wind had died down a bit. The water was surprisingly warm, and we dried out on the rocks afterwards.

After swimming, Matt took some pictures on his new camera. We then decided to paddle over to the dam to check it out. By this time the wind had died down, and the sun was shining brightly. At the dam, Matt got a picture of me standing in the rapids below the dam.

Matt wanted to try fishing, but his first cast came up onto the dam where I was standing by mistake. I threw the lure (a rainbow coloured Mepps spinner) into the water, and 2 seconds later he had a fish on - a little smallmouth. Matt ended up with 4 fish - all smallmouth bass - in less than an hour of fishing. All were released as they were out of season.

We then came back to camp to string up the bear bag - which provided some entertaiment for a while. After that, we sat on the rock in the sun eating freeze-dried ice cream and enjoying the peace and quiet. Matt then took some sunset pictures before we cleaned up our odds and ends and hit the tent for the night - where we are right now - and are now going to sleep.

June 20

Had a pretty good sleep last night, despite sliding around in the tent since we were on a bit of a hill. Got up fairly early, and took down the food pack. Breakfast was oatmeal in a bag. We leisurely packed up and got under way.

Turtle Lake leads to a beaver dam lift over, which we were surprised to find was flowing west - against our direction of travel. We lifted over easily, into a marshy area. Soon after was "Portage de la Mauvaise Musique" which had a sign, but was on the ground. The portage sign says 200 paces, and Kevin Callan says it's 200 metres, but the portage seems less than that (this holds true for all portages on this route).

In Pine Lake, we paddled straight for the portage, and didn't spend much time looking around. "Portage Pin de Musique" is short and well travelled, and crosses a road near the start. The end is a bit steep and muddy, but no problem. Here, we changed into swimsuits and went for a very refreshing swim. We then pumped some water before continuing further.

We stopped for lunch (stoners, Hungarian Sausage, cheese, cookies, granola bars) on a rock out in the lake. Just before Grasswell Point, we found a nice sand beach for a swim. It was sandy, but had a steep drop off, which made it perfect for swimming! Then, we began the long hot paddle east to Grasswell Point. We stopped there to check out the campsite, and to take a washroom break. As we were looking around, a motor boat pulled up around the point. A guy and two girls got out and began swimming at the beach there.

We then paddled to Talon Dam/Talon Chutes. We pulled the canoe up and got out to take a look. On river left, there are three fire pits up high, with a few usable, but not very nice, tent sites. These sites are also kind of hard to access, and far from the water. On river right is the portage, which, as everyone says, appears to be quite nasty. It goes up and down and around all over the place, with ankle busting rocks all over. We walked it without gear to check it out, and found a nice flat spot to camp - the highest point along the right shore. So, we carried up the packs, and left the canoe at the beginning of the portage.

After resting for a bit, we decided to go for a swim. I suggested putting on sandals and lifejackets and playing in the rapids. So, we jumped in at the end of the portage ans swam up the rapids a bit. We got out on river left and walked part of the way until we were beside some very fast current. We jumped in and floated down. It was great fun, and the current was very fast.

After our swim, we dried offa bit and then had a nap. Matt had a head-ache and was probably dehydrated. After we woke up, we went and pumped some water and drank a litre each. Matt felt a bit better at this point.

I managed to get bit by some blackflies, and my left eye is swelled up to the point where I can only open it about half way. My hand is also a bit puffy from another bite.

Matt decided to go down to the base of the rapids to do some fishing, and almost immediately caught another bass on his favourite rainbow Mepps. He caught one more soon after, but hasn't caught anything else the whole time I've been sitting here writing - he's only had a few more nibbles.

Now, we're going to make some Thai noodles for supper. More later...

Supper of Pad Thai with freeze dried veggies and chicken was excellent. Our first attempt at Bannock also turned out pretty well. We then washed the dishes and set up the tent. We then rested for a bit before hanging the food barrel. We then went to pump some more water and pull the canoe up from shore. Now, we're in the tent, ready for bed, and happy to be free of bugs for a while.

The chute is really awesome, with 30 metre high cliffs on both sides and water coming down from the dam into a nice set of rapids. Very cool!

June 21

This morning we got up and had breakfast of oatmeal in a bag, and Matt had an apple. We packed up all of our gear, then walked to the start of the portage to get the canoe. I carried it for the first half, and we switched for the second half. The portage was actually not as bad as we had anticipated it to be. After we got the canoe over, we went back up to our site to get the rest of the gear, which we then carried to the end.

We paddled east, and missed the Watchdog, and arrived at "Portage Descharge de Perche" We landed at the start of the portage, and got out to scout the rapids. We decided to do it, so we did! The first half was ok, with only a few minor bumps, but we got hung up on a rock near the bottom. I got out of the bow and tried to free the canoe. However, the stern went backwards, so Matt ended up finishing the rapids backwards, solo, from the stern seat - and actually did quite well.

The next set of rapids (unnamed), we also decided to run. We got grounded near the end again, and both had to get out to free the canoe.

"Portage de la Cave," we portaged, after scouting and determining that it was too shallow to run.

We ran the next little swift before "Portage de la Prairie" with no problems. At "Portage de la Prairie," we scouted and determined that we could run it. We ran it left, middle, right, middle and blasted over the ledge at the end. We had a pretty clean run (only just bumping the big rock at the end), and were very happy about it. Matt took some pictures of the end of the rapids.

Next came Paresseux Falls. We walked the portage once to check it out, then went back for the gear. The portage was ok, and only 402 "paces" [I counted just over 200 paces, so assumed that all of the distances were actually counted on every footstep, not just every pace - which should actually be right foot to right foot (or left to left)]. We had lunch (Pitas, Hungarian Sausage, cheese, cookies) at the end of the portage, then pumped some water. The falls are approximately six metres high, and had a lot of water coming over them. Very nice spot!

We paddled to "Porte de l'Enfer", which is basically a hole in the rock. It's one of only two native ochre mines in the province. We climbed up to get some pictures, and tied the canoe to the rope which is permanently installed for that purpose. It's a short but steep climb. Inside, there was a chipmunk, which didn't want to leave while we were blocking the door.

We then paddled on to Elm Point, where we stopped for a swim at the sandy beach. Water was warm except for where the little stream enters the river. We checked out the campsite to find that it had electicity! There was an outlet with a buried wire running to it - strange...

Next was "Portge de Roche," which we scouted and determined was too rocky/shallow to run. We portaged River Left 150 "paces" which was nasty - lots of ankle busting rocks and holes along the trail.

Portage Campion came soon after the Amable de Fond River joins the Mattawa, in Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. There was a rubber raft and a girl on an inner tube coming down the Amable de Fond when we arrived. We walked the portage (partly on the paved park road) to scout the rapids. We picked a line on river right and set off. However, we ended up running it middle, and had a perfect run, with no scrapes at all. We were pumped! We considered running it again, but decided to push on to make some time.

Folling Portage Campion is along stretch of river with no obstructions. We paddled along in the hot hot sun, and eventually came to the island site marked in Kevin Callan's book. We set up camp and went for a swim. After a rest in the tent we had supper of freeze dried beans, carrots, corn, beef and potatoes. We then washed dishes, hung the bear bag, pumped water and hit the tent to avoid the bugs and to write in the journal. We took a brief trip out to get some sunset pictures, and again returned to the tent.

June 22

Woke up kind of late to a bright sun and clear sky. Had a quick breakfast of oatmeal, stoners, pitas, granola bars. Struck camp in good time and were soon on the water. Headed east to Chant Plein Lake. There are quite a few cottages beginning here. Hurdman Dam was the next stop. We got out at the portage, and checked out the trail and dam. We found a "shortcut" so that we didn't have to do the entire portage - instead we put in closer to the base of the dam after crossing the little stream on the right.

We were then in Boom Lake, which took us into the town of Mattawa, and the Ottawa River.

We paddled up the Ottawa for a short ways, to the Marina, where we took out at the boat launch. We were packed and in the car by 11 am.

We drove to North Bay, and had lunch at Burger World on Donny's recommendation - Pemeal bacon burger with fries and beef/barley soup. It was very good.

After lunch we went to the tourist information booth, where we both bought a copy of the "Mattawa River Heritage Map." We left at 12:10 or so, and are now on our way home.

We stopped once more for gas, and once south of Barrie for a washroom break, but that was it. We arrived in Waterloo at about 4:30 or so, and after unloading all of my stuff, Matt took off for Woodstock. I spent the rest of the day unpacking and getting myself cleaned up for work tomorrow.

All in all, another fantastic trip! Can't wait for the next one!

Darren Cope, Matt Fallowfield
  This page was last updated on March 25, 2011 at 03:09 PM