Trip Start Date: Aug 30, 2021 Nights: 6 Days: 7 People: Me (Michael McCaffrey), Koda (dog)
Link to YT Video: https://youtu.be/rPQ2yb-YrTM
MyCCR link: https://www.myccr.com/canoeroutes/tamarack-lake-bukemiga-lake-kopka-river
Wabakimi Provincial Park, north of Thunder Bay is Ontario’s 2nd largest park with nearly 9000 square km of protected boreal forest and wildlife habitat.
I think my favorite thing about Wabakimi is its remoteness. You feel like you’re right there with nature, and if that’s what you’re looking for, make sure to add Wabakimi to your list.
There are hundreds of ways to plan a trip through Wabakimi… this...is what my 7-day, 73km journey looked like.
-- Wabakimi park is easiest to access through one of the local outfitters. I used Wabakimi Outfitters to help plan my trip and shuttle me into my start point at Tamarack Lake.
My point-to-point route took me Northwest out of Tamarack into the Boiling Sand River and south to Mastadon lake where I spent my first night at a gorgeous north-facing campsite.
Day 2 brought torrential rainfall for nearly the whole day. I decided to try to make my next planned campsite anyway and braved the rain and wind. I made it through a few portages taking me through Gneiss Lake and Bath Lake before I got stuck with heavy headwind at the very open Collins Lake for about 4 hours. Eventually the wind came down enough that I could make it across the lake and I rolled into an absolutely stunning campsite at twilight. The rain had stopped by now and I got to enjoy the colorful horizon across the now-calm Shawanabis Lake.
The next morning - now on Day 3, I continued South out of Shawanabis Lake into what felt like a labyrinth of reeds that made for a very relaxing morning paddle. I had a little trouble finding the portage here, ending up a little too close to the rapids… I did some very unnecessary bushwacking and eventually made it onto the portage trail. After another short paddle through Boulder Lake, I had another 900m portage into Kenakskaniss Lake. At the south end of Kenakskaniss, I turned west onto the Kopka River. A few more short portages and I was in Hook Lake. This was the first moment in the trip where I felt like I could exhale and relax a bit. I pulled in just in time for a beautiful sunset and magic hour at the series of rapids at the west Hook Lake campsite. Fell asleep to the sound of rushing water. Doesn’t get much better than this.
Day 4 was a bit of backtracking to get back out of Hook Lake… no complaints from me as it was a calm and sunny day and I really fell in love with Hook lake. On the way out, I went past one of the many Trapper cabins scattered throughout Wabakimi. South out of Hook Lake, back into the Kopka river and continued south onto Kenakskaniss Lake to the world class campsite on the south facing rock. The weather had turned into a beautiful sunny day and I enjoyed a few hours relaxing in the sun, enjoying the complete remoteness that you can only feel after being alone in nature for a few days.
Day 5 I was up early, excited to get into the Kopka rapids. I had a beautiful paddle through the south end of Kenakskaniss Lake before coming up on the first set of upper falls. I spent some time exploring them before I continued through.
There are some pretty challenging portages through here, particularly if you’re soloing. The falls aren’t runnable, so if you’re coming this way, make sure you’re ready for some extreme portaging!
When I got to the lower falls, the landscape changed to what I consider to be the best of the Canadian Shield. Lots of high cliffs, small rock islands and untouched evergreen forests as far as you can see in all directions.
The campsite I stayed at on my 5th night might have been my favorite, just for the view alone. I got there early enough in the day that I could spend some time relaxing on the rocks and exploring the shoreline, enjoying some of the best lake views I’ve seen in Ontario.
The next morning (Day 6), I woke up and had a quick shower in a small waterfall of a stream nearby, and then continued through the last of the falls. And I think it’s safe to say that the best was saved for last.
Almost 20 feet high and 50 feet wide, the way the water cascaded down the rocks… man I could have sat and watched these falls for hours.
For my last night, I continued out onto Wigwasan Lake. There’s a really cool campsite I found on an island in the middle of the lake. It was a little windy out and the island provided some nice shelter and sun... it was a nice place relax and make a meal. Probably should have stayed here, but I decided to push on to the east end of Wigwasan Lake and camp there for the night.
Day 7, my last morning, I had an easy paddle through Bukemiga Lake which took me through some pictographs before reaching the end of my journey.
This canoe route was pretty special and I’d recommend looking into Wabakimi if it sounds like your thing.I always appreciate time alone in nature… and it’s amazing that places like this still exist for us all to explore.
t’s a beautiful world we live in… get outdoors and enjoy it.
Put in: Tamarack Lake NW out of lake
P (150m) to Boiling Sand River
S on Boiling Sand River
Continue S to Mastadon Lake (1st campsite)
S out of Mastadon Lake P, south of creek (200m)
S on Gneiss Lake; about halfway through the lake, take P (250m); boggy at end
S to end of Bath Lake; P at south end (450m) to Collins Lake
W out of Collins lake; P to pond (100m)
P to Shawanabis Lake (600m) (2nd campsite)
S out of Shawanabis Lake through reeds (or P if too low)
P after reeds to Boulder Lake (700m)
S all the way though Boulder Lake; P (900m) to Kenakskaniss Lake
Turn W onto Kopka River; P up rapids (440m) and P (50m)
Continue N into Hook Lake
Go to the west end of Hook Lake - falls - (3rd campsite)
Back E through Hook Lake;
S onto Kopka,
E on Kopka; P through rapids (50m) and (440m) back to Kenakskaniss Lake
S on Kenakskaniss Lake (4th campsite)
SE on Kenakskaniss Lake, E onto Kopka through many sets of rapids and falls
P (650m - bouldery & hard), P (300m), P (175m), P (150m - very steep)
E on Kopka river, through rapids or P (150m)
Continue E into Wigwasan Lake
E out of Wigwasan Lake, P into Bukemiga Lake (440m)
E, then S on Bukemiga Lake (Pictographs on rocks on east shore);
S to pick-up spot just off Hwy 527
Link to Trip Photos Folder: https://photos.app.goo.gl/yb8nZsQeePCu6aHM7
Michael (Outdoor Earthling), Thank you for your trip report! I really enjoyed watching your video on YouTube and viewing the posted photos after reading your trip report. The technical breakdown of the trip is most helpful to anyone who is planning a similar route in Wabakimi. Great job!