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      Zephira 2018 - it's on     

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DancesWithTrees
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09/27/2017 08:01AM
I've posted about Zephira before. No one had been there. I've talked with Rangers, who have not heard of anyone going there either. I've seen a few posters here try, and not get there. One got there, but didn't put a boat on the water. It appears to be the largest named lake in Quetico with no route to it. Googling reveals no stories of anyone paddling it. History books and docs appear to say that logging occurred just west and north of it, but probably not on it's shores, at least not documented or recent. How long has it been since people have camped on it or been on it's waters? Years? Decades?

In 2018, I'm going.

I haven't been to the Q in about 8-9 years (not coincidentally, just after the first kid arrived), and I miss it something fierce. But I'm putting together a crew of experienced folk to take on the challenge - to paddle Zephira. I've been to Cache a few times and am quite familiar with the route to and from there. I've got a routing plan in mind for Cache to Zephira (unnamed creek from east shore of Cache, north as far as we can go up to the old logging road cut, then walk east to the lake from wherever we make it - a sort of fan of possible routes).

I'll update this thread as we approach the trip, and I'm happy to take any advice any of you all may have. I know some things have changed in the last decade - GPS use is now common, people seem to be moving from 4-man tents to 1-man tented hammocks, etc. We plan to go ultra-light, like a backpacking trip, and will take any ideas from the crowd on ways you have lightened your loads over the years. We may also go to Cache 2-per-canoe, then hike to Zephira 3-per-canoe (would leave a boat or two cached on Cache along with the last couple days of food or anything else we won't need on Zephira hung from a tree). It will be bad enough carrying a 17' beast on our shoulders through that backcountry, so the more we can lighten the packs, the better off we'll be.

Also, if you were going, what would be your goals while on the lake? Looking for pictos or other signs of history? Fishing? Finding an ideal campsite? Depth checking the lake? Photography? Exploring the creeks in and out of it?
 
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09/27/2017 09:40PM
I can send you the coordinates on the route I took to get there if you would like to check them out. I took the Creek north, and then bushwhacked almost straight east . Very doable, although it was a pretty steep drop down to the lake where I ended up. The undergrowth was not near as bad as I thought it would be. There are some very large old growth trees between the river and Zephira, some of the biggest I've encountered in Quetico.good luck, and hope the fishing is awesome!!
DancesWithTrees
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09/28/2017 07:57AM

I can send you the coordinates on the route I took to get there if you would like to check them out. I took the Creek north, and then bushwhacked almost straight east . Very doable, although it was a pretty steep drop down to the lake where I ended up. The undergrowth was not near as bad as I thought it would be. There are some very large old growth trees between the river and Zephira, some of the biggest I've encountered in Quetico.good luck, and hope the fishing is awesome!!"


From the man who reached the shore!

When I dug through a few images I found in books of old logging maps, as I noted earlier it looks like the areas around Zephira itself hadn't been logged (or at least not in the later periods). So the old growth makes sense - and tends to be better for walking through too. So that's good news.

I am sure we will fish, though fishing has always been a side order for me on Quetico trips. I'll make sure we bring a couple rods/reels and a variety of lures though, just to cast a few here and there and see what's in the lake. I'm sure people will be very curious to know what's in there, fish-wise.

And yes please, feel free to message me and you can pass along whatever data points you have!
MagicPaddler
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09/28/2017 10:10AM
From what I remember the creek is narrow, shallow and winding. If you go when the water is high the creek would be easier to paddle.
DancesWithTrees
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09/28/2017 01:12PM
quote MagicPaddler: "From what I remember the creek is narrow, shallow and winding. If you go when the water is high the creek would be easier to paddle. "
Had a similar thought. Water is typically (but not always) higher early in the season, so we might shoot for late May or early June for that reason. Also then you get the benefit of less undergrowth at that stage, and fewer mosquitos.
mr.barley
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09/28/2017 04:49PM
If you bother putting a canoe in you HAVE to fish it. If not for yourself, for everyone else. ;-)
DancesWithTrees
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09/29/2017 08:10AM
quote mr.barley: "If you bother putting a canoe in you HAVE to fish it. If not for yourself, for everyone else. ;-)"
Oh we will certainly do some fishing. I'm not an expert but I've caught plenty of fish in the Q before, and I'll make sure we try for a few different species and see what we get.
mapsguy1955
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10/24/2017 01:33PM
I was talking to an Atikokan local recently who had been there several years ago. He told me the illusion was much better than the reality and had no desire to return, however he enjoyed the online hype about it. He didn't fish it so maybe it is good. For sure, it is the least traveled lake with a name in the Q! Seeing untrampled old growth forest would be cool!

Good luck!
Stumpy
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11/02/2017 01:53PM
quote mapsguy1955: " For sure, it is the least traveled lake with a name in the Q! "

I'm not sure about that. Try and find somebody else, who's camped and canoed Dettbarn Lake.
mapsguy1955
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11/02/2017 02:22PM
Dettbarn Lake... hmmm.. Where the heck is it?
Stumpy
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11/02/2017 03:07PM
quote mapsguy1955: "Dettbarn Lake... hmmm.. Where the heck is it?"
East of Agnes, North of Fauquier.
Eyedocron
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11/03/2017 11:16AM
Hmmm - PP shows a 2 star campsite on Dettbarn, but no portage to get there.
Stumpy
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11/03/2017 11:43AM
quote Eyedocron: "Hmmm - PP shows a 2 star campsite on Dettbarn, but no portage to get there."

It's probably listed because of someone I told...
ksfishguy
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05/03/2018 11:43AM
mapsguy1955: "I was talking to an Atikokan local recently who had been there several years ago. He told me the illusion was much better than the reality and had no desire to return, however he enjoyed the online hype about it. He didn't fish it so maybe it is good. For sure, it is the least traveled lake with a name in the Q! Seeing untrampled old growth forest would be cool!


Good luck!"


We made it to Cache last year with the idea of spending a day or two there fishing and exploring and then heading into Zephira for a couple of days with the kids. Needless to say, the kids had probably had enough of the tough portages by the time we got to Cache, knowing we still had to make our way back out so we didn't end up going to Zephira. I will say it was amazing how much easier the portages were on the way back out and the kids did 100 times better as well.

But, much of the reason we enjoy Quetico is the amazing fishing as we are avid anglers. After fishing on Cache for a few days and realizing there just wasn't a lot in there to catch (although I was surprised to find yellow perch which I hadn't heard about before), we decided our dream of hammering these untouched fish on Zephira may be more of a dream than a reality. I just have this feeling that the fishing will not meet expectations for anyone that gives it a shot. I am still stunned that we spent over a week in Quetico last June and didn't catch a single walleye or smallmouth.

With that said, it would still be amazing to get there and explore an area rarely seen by others, but we just couldn't muster up the desire to do it with the assumption that the fishing would not be worth it.

Good luck to you guys, though, and thanks for all of the advice you gave me last year in preparation for our trip. Best part was we didn't see a soul from the time we launched our canoes until we were about an hour away from the vehicles. Amazing!
Barnabas1
 
08/09/2019 11:52PM
This is my first post on the forum, and I have found it to be very useful in researching gear in the past. I want to thank the active members for making it the great resource that it is. Zephira Lake had my attention for over a decade years before we finally made it there some time ago. We were on Cache Lake as a part of our trek through Quetico and decided to spend an extra day to day trip it into Zephira. 4 guys, a 17' Royalex canoe, a 17' kevlar canoe and one pack.

We went up the creek on the east side of Cache lake quite a ways, then bushwhacked straight east through the woods coming out close to the northernmost point of Zephira. The bushwhack was horrible. We encountered dense spruce forests (which are fun with a 17' canoe), many large blowdowns, 30' rock faces we had to scale, you name it. We came very close to cutting our losses and turning back halfway. There was no "easy" stretch of woods until the last quarter mile or so when it started to open up some. We left a lot of blood and sweat in those woods. It took us 6 hours from the time we left the creek on Cache until we reached Zephira with our canoes and pack. If I could do it again, I would definitely attempt a bushwhack farther to the south, despite increasing the overall distance. It sounds like wallee's route would be much better. Fisher maps shows a trail that runs parallel to the creek coming out of Cache. This did not exist, although other sections of this trail on the south side of Cache that cross the portage were still maintained.

We spent 2-3 hours on the lake. Our goal was to explore any past human use (campsites), depth, and fishing potential. We did find an old (trapper?) campsite on the lake. The lake is roughly divided into a north and south basin. The campsite is located on the tip of the large peninsula on the northern shore of the southern basin that juts out to the south. We found an old fire ring and some sort of a wooden lean-to structure. We were shocked to find depths of 100+ feet in the southern basin of the lake. The northern basin topped out around 60 feet. Our experience fishing was similar to what we found on Cache Lake. Each of the four of us caught one lake trout on Zephira. All the fish were similar size and color to the lakers we caught on Cache. Despite quite a bit of effort we did not see or catch any northerns on Cache or Zephira, even though we caught many just days before on McKenzie, and days after on Baptism/Trousers. We nosed into Zephira creek a little bit, and my impression was there is very little flow down it. Also, the "pond" on the far east side of Zephira was not connected to the lake at the time we were there. We did not take the time to portage to it to explore it.

We did the long trek back to camp and arrived after sunset, exhausted and accomplished.

MagicPaddler
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08/10/2019 05:37AM
Thank for the report Barnabas.
As someone who has poked around that area several times it is good to get your report.
Love the picture
08/10/2019 06:42AM
Thanks for the story. I'd love to know the story of that wood shelter. Looks pretty old.
user0317
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08/13/2019 02:54PM
TomT: "Thanks for the story. I'd love to know the story of that wood shelter. Looks pretty old."

There's some rope in that picture that doesn't look terribly old.

Interesting that the lake holds lake trout. I bet there's some old fish in that lake.
Barnabas1
 
08/13/2019 10:34PM
Here are the rest of the pics I have of the campsite. A shot of the inside of the structure, the fire ring, and a picture of what the site looked like from the lake.



Bushwacker
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08/15/2019 05:57PM
That rope may not be old but I'd say the structure is 30-40+ years old. Bet it's a trappers cabin. Great to finally have a confirmed landing at the lake! Good Job and thanks for your effort! Hopefully someone will base camp it for a few days to really pin down the fishing situation. Obviously 2 hours only scraped the surface to figure out the patterns and I wouldn't be surprised if there are other species in it. I wondered if it may be very shallow, I'm surprised it's so deep for not such a big lake. I would like to read a more detailed report on your time there, what lures you used, where, how deep, any more photos, how far around the lake you went, etc. It would be interesting if you are able to draw a line on a Sat map showing what route you took. That pond is fairly big, I bet there's fish in it. Good stuff.
Queticoforlife
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09/03/2019 09:49PM
Very cool report thanks for sharing!

I had noticed Zephira on the map before but honestly hadn't given any thought to trying to get there... Until now! Certainly have piqued my interest..
Stumpy
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09/16/2019 04:09PM
Barnabas !
Very cool that you made it in.
I too, am surprised it's that deep. Nice to know it holds Lakers.
I did a lot of work on that trail that crosses the Cache Portage, while trapping in there 25 years ago.
Family issues have kept me from getting back in that deep, as of late.
My guess is, that's an old trappers shack and put it way over 50 years ago.
Stumpy
Stumpy
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09/16/2019 04:19PM
Stumpy: "quote Eyedocron: "Hmmm - PP shows a 2 star campsite on Dettbarn, but no portage to get there."


It's probably listed because of someone I told..."


LOL.... Just looked at P P ..... It was listed by me & I forgot about it.
DancesWithTrees
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11/07/2019 02:09PM
Oh nice, someone made it! I hadn't been on the site in a year or two (after my trip attempt in 2018 fell apart for various reasons I kind of mentally drifted off Quetico for a bit), sign in, and lo and behold - my thread was updated.

Congrats. Very cool you found an "archaeological" site of sorts (does 30-40 years old count?). Also cool the lake has that much depth. Combine that with the shallow marshy areas, a few rocky cliffs, and zero fishing pressure, I'd bet a few days on Zephira could be some fantastic fishing.

I'm only a tinge sad I didn't fulfill my mission, but more glad someone else made it.
 
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