Batchewaung & Beyond
Our trip began out of Atikokan, Ontario. Arriving in the evening before we were scheduled to pick up our permit and with time on our hands, (Atikokan is small town with little activity) we took time to drive to the parking lot of Nym Lake our put in lake. Off the large parking lot was a clear and wide path to the lake. The path, with several switchbacks, descended down to the lake where several large floating docks provided a flat area to stand and load canoes. I was somewhat surprised but completely, that a portage was needed to begin the trip. The following morning while picking up the permit I asked about the parking lot and the place to put in. Park personnel kindly responded that there are two places to park with the easiest spot requiring no portaging to begin, instead you can literally drive right down to the lake. Thus our trip began more quickly and easier the following morning. Prior to the trip I had been discouraged from entering on Nym because motors are allowed on the lake. We saw one motorized boat on the lake going in and none coming out. Compared to Moose Lake and others in the BWCA, motors were a non factor on Nym. Strong steady headwinds were our companion for most of the day. The portage from Nym to Batchewaung, entry point into the Quetico, was like a highway compared to portages we would encounter. This one was wide, smooth, and relatively level. The sandy and pebble beach of Batchewaung was a welcome sight. Stronger winds with larger whitecaps on the lake were not. A few large groups were on Batchewaung heading for the exit. The remainder of the day only a few groups were seen. Maybe some chose not to travel in the wind and waves. Our first night was spent on Maria Lake. No other parties used the lake that evening. We chose an island site facing west after scouting out our other options on the lake. Small bays off the site provided okay fishing for two non serious fishermen. Our second day had planned to be shorter than our first. Our McKenzie map showed a clear path the length of Elizabeth lake to the portage at the east end of the lake. Beavers had long ago built a dam in the narrow section making the water not passable in a canoe. Vegetation along the shoreline indicated the dam had been there for some time. This just provided another example how maps are not always accurate. At last at the portage out of Elizabeth we were set to go. Fifty feet up the portage trail a newly fallen mature pine lay across our path. Off course it wasn’t just the trunk we had to go over or under. The crown of the tree was the obstacle which forced us to be creative in stumbling through the tree and up the hill without getting too much pine sap on our hands, clothing, canoe, and packs. Near the end of the portage we met a sizable group coming the opposite direction. It was a portage maintenance crew. They were too late, or we were too quick to provide assistance for us, but others will be appreciative of their hard work. Eventually we made our way into the north end of Sturgeon Lake. Completing the final portage into the lake requires canoeists to walk through, or at least brush up against, a sizable patch of poison ivy. Luckily my son recognized the plant or I’d be itchy instead of writing this. Very few campsites met our standards on the north end of Sturgeon expect from one sprawling site with large areas of flat bare rock on which to lounge, cook, and watch the sun set. While cooking breakfast the following morning a slow moving group of unenthusiastic canoes moved past our site. All eyes seemed to be focused four inches in front of them. This day took us up the narrow, beaver clogged Deux River. Again the map depicts a passageway easily navigated by a canoe. Not so. Shallow water and abundant vegetation created a pathway barely the width of a canoe. Pushing off the mucky bottom was at times more effective than a paddle stroke. We soon came upon a group stopped ahead of us. They were a bit perplexed about how to deal with the stout beaver dam in front of them. It turns out this group was one in the same that inched their way past our site earlier in the morning. About mid way through their Quetico trip this group of high school girls from suburban Chicago had never seen a beaver dam before. While helping them over the dam, more than one of the girls exclaimed with a broad smile, “I’m standing on a beaver dam!” They were cautioned to contain their excitement because another dam could be seen one hundred meters ahead, this one larger and taller. This second dam they were able to cross mostly on their own. The paddle through Twin Lakes was peaceful and pretty. The end of the portage into Dore Lake made for beautiful spot for a snack, crystal clear water in the lake, and the sound of fast moving water down the river. We had to search for the pictograhs on rocks as they were barely visible. Our day ended on east end of Pickerel just before the narrows. Here we found decent fishing catching northerns and bass. On our second to last day we to paddled the narrows to Batchewaung Bay. Along the way we passed the Chicago coeds, more of them than yesterday. They were a group of about eight canoes and one guide. No other parties were seen on the water this day. We were able to find an agreeable site rather easily. Although considering that it was an island site and no latrines are available the site was a bit small. After swimming, fishing, and lounging on the rock it became evident this island was home to about six billion ants. The only place they did not seem interested in going was into our food, thankfully, otherwise they were literally every where. More pleasing was that the fact that blueberries were also plentiful throughout the island. On our last morning we rose with the sun and made the short journey back to Nym. At that hour the water was like glass while fog was lifting off the water. Minimal effort seemed to make the canoe speed toward home. The final portage seemed so luxurious compared other we’d encountered in the previous days. We glided to shore on Nym, drove our vehicle to the waters edge and very conveniently loaded up for the long drive home. Why I’ve waited so long to paddle Quetico I don’t know. For decades I’ve covered many lakes and streams in the BWCA and have no desire to return there. Crowds, noise, trash, and difficulty of finding sites are too common on the U.S. side. Quetico is the place to go, or further north....... Sorry, no photos. I've stopping shooting trips.