superiortrailsgranite lake in wabakimi Park
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Ontario Fly In Fishing & Canoe Trips: Granite Lake, Wabakimi Park

wabakimi flyin fishing

Our Ontario Canoe Trip for 2003
took us to Granite Lake and parts of the Allenwater River in the Wabakimi Wilderness Provincial Park. This trip my 33 year old son Karl accompanied me as Jo had some health issues that prevented her from this level of adventure.

We went mid-week to mid-week so none of our travel up or back was on the weekend. That eased the driving and increased our ability to find vacant campsites en-route along Minnesota's North Shore.

See Ontario Park's Explorer Guide to Wabakimi ParkWe arrived Thursday, June 11th and headed straight for the E&J Cafe in Armstrong, Ontario to catch dinner. Jo and I enjoyed eating there last year, so that's where I took Karl. Good food, good size portions, reasonable prices. After dinner we picked up some leeches at a bait and tackle shop near the eastern edge of town. A very friendly proprietor. Discovered she also has block ice which is nice to know for the future.

That evening we stayed again at the Wabakimi Wilderness Canoe Outfitters B&B with our favorite hosts Bert and Brenda Zwickey, the lodge managers. Brenda was disappointed Jo was unable to make the trip - told her next year she'd be back. Our game plan was to catch the early morning west bound train in Armstrong and be dropped off at the Allenwater Bridge to begin our trip. We still had route details to go over with Bert and Ian Beatty - the new canoe trip coordinator who was beginning his first season at Wabakimi. After wrestling with a few alternatives - each of which had downsides - we finally settled on a canoe route and got to bed. To catch that train, we would need to rise early in the AM which was made worse because Karl's and my body clocks were on Central Daylight time and Armstrong is Eastern time zone.

The next morning Karl and I bolted out of bed thinking we were 15" behind schedule. Our alarm clock misfired. But then Brenda told us the train was late. Hit a deer in Eastern Ontario and wouldn't be in Armstrong until at least 1 pm. She added that don't be surprised if it is even later than that! So breakfast and morning shower went more leisurely than we thought ten minutes beforehand! Digesting the new developments along with breakfast, I realized our entire itinerary would be thrown off by the late train. With less than a half-days paddling first day out, we'd never make our designated float plane pick up point on our last day - without busting butt. And it was important to both Karl and I that we have enough leisure time to fish and dink around versus getting in a marathon race with the clock.

Fortunately a timely phone call and Bert's inspired idea saved the day for us. A party called indicating they were ready to be picked up via float plane at Granite Lake. If Karl and I wanted to plan a canoe trip out of Granite Lake, we could catch a ride in with the float plane at a reduced price. We all consulted a map and within ten minutes had a new route planned: we were now going to Granite Lake. And an extra plus was our new destination and canoe route had everything we had hoped to find in a trip - no downside. So within 10 minutes we were in the truck and headed to the float plane base.

Wabakimi Wild Waters Canoe Outfitting Services

Strapping the canoe on the DeHavilland Beaver as Karl and I ready to depart from MacKenzie Lake.  
In the air on the way to Wabakimi, somewhere between MacKenzie and Granite Lakes.  
We were dropped off on a beach in the SE arm of Granite Lake. Loaded and ready to take off on our adventure.  
Making our way north towards Granite Falls - a little overcast - but rain not immediately threatening. The falls is at the extreme northern end of the lake where the Allenwater River continues its journey northward.But shortly after we arrived at our campsite above the falls, a thundershower descended upon us. Luckily we had a tarp handy and put everything under it while Karl and I donned our rain gear to wait out the storm. Half an hour later, the sun was shining, and we set up camp. Then Karl got his fishing gear ready.
We went fishing upstream of the islands and first set of rapids above Granite Falls. This is typical of the nice 15-17inch "Wallies" we were throwing back. Kept two larger ones for dinner that evening, but didn't get pictures of them. It was 10 pm when we decided better clean some fish for dinner! Didn't get dinner made until 11 pm and dishes weren't finished until 11:30 pm! A long, but really enjoyable day.

Day Two

An early morning nature call rewarded Karl with this great shot of a "moonset" taken from our campsite.
A morning "coffee crisis" was averted with some ingenuity. The little glass bowl on the top of the coffee perker had disappeared - thwarting coffee production. . . . until we it on the idea of using an overturned coffee cup to funnel the perking coffee back into the basket.
Our tent and camp kitchen at the campsite above Granite Falls. After breakfast, we decided to hike around the falls. We bushwacked from our campsite through the woods until we intersected with the regular portage trail that goes around the falls.
Looking upstream at the pool and one of the islands above Granite falls (left). The portage trail around the falls is on the downstream right hand side of this pool. The pix on the right is a mini-falls from a spur of water off the lower falls. Shoulda' brought my fishing rod on the hike!
The middle part of Granite falls (left) and the rapids and run-out below the main falls (right).
The view from a bluff overlooking the Allenwater River, downstream from Granite Falls. There's a nice tent site at the edge of the river just a little upstream from this point. Hiking the trail without a canoe wasn't bad, but turns, twists, and footing carrying a canoe will be much more challenging.That evening we went fishing by the islands again and again caught lots of fish and stayed out fishing quite late. Just wasn't in the mood for cleaning fish at 10 pm, so we let the 20 inch Walleye go we had decided would be our evening meal and settled for an easy "Food in a Bag" dinner - Jo's name for any freeze-dried meal.

Days Three & Four
On day three, we break camp to head to Brennan Falls, where the Allenwater River empties into Granite Lake.  

From our campsite at the extreme northern end of Granite Lake, we paddled up stream about five-six kilometers back towards the main body of the lake to the point where the Allenwater River enters the lake from Brennan Lake. About 500 meters upstream on the river, there's an island that retricts the water flow into a ledge and a small set of rapids. There's a nice chute on the south end of the ledge that Karl and I tried to paddle up, but we ran out of "beans" at the top of the crest and had to do a quick 180 turn to avoid capsizing. So we lined our canoe up over the ledge on the opposite end where the water wasn't moving as fast. (On our return trip, we easily shot the chute and negotiated the rapids.)

It's another 2 kilometers where the river widens and into two branches by a long island. We took the south branch, which hooked around before joining the other leg of the river. Should have taken the north branch - much shorter. Shortly after the two legs join, we could hear the thundering falls and encountered fast water coming from it. The portage is easily apparent in a protected harbor just east of the main flow of the river. But watch out, there's two trails - take the farthest one from you.
On the left is the upper part of Brennan Falls as it empties into the gorge it has carved out over the eons.The roar was deafening and you could "feel" the power of the water as it poured beneath your feet. - wanting to suck you into its flow. On the right is the outflow from the falls as it tumbles into the river that empties into Granite Lake.

Should be some good fishing in the pools beneath the falls but Karl and I were preoccupied with getting to our next campsite destination.

There are two portage trails on the downstream right-hand side of the falls. The trail that runs most close to the falls is not the one you want to portage canoes and packs on.There's a pool of quiet water above the falls that you can put in at saving some additional portaging. However, there's a rock point you have to go around that brings you close to fast water. Karl and I lined the canoe around the point rather than risk being swept downstream.

A few hundred meters upstream from Brennan Falls is a series of ledges called Harbinger Rapids (sorry, no pics). You can portage or line your canoe on the upstream right hand side of the river. The water is fairly fast between the rapids and the falls - leaving not a lot of spare time to move over to the other side of the river to portage or line the canoe. Exercise care above the rapids too because the water is flowing quicker than it looks. Karl and I had some nervous moments where we were paddling to a standstill threatening to get swept backwards over the rapids.

Above Harbinger Rapids is an unnamed lake or flowage about 1 km long. It is actually a wide part of the Allenwater River as it takes a hook shaped turn coming out of Brennan Lake. There's several islands near the north end of this lake where we told there were a number of campsites.Our search of the islands yielded several marginal sites. The best one was on the southwestern tip of the southern most larger island. We initially paddled by it not "seeing it" as a potential site. But after two hours of searching, it changed its face and showed us its potential! We found a small bed of moss for our tent and thus avoided having to sleep on a rock floor.

Fishing was decent in the river channel below the rapids that comes from Brennan Lake. Had to get back a hundred meters or so from the really fast water for success. We caught a number of smaller walleye plus these three: a fat 19+ inch walleye, a 17 incher, and a stout 26 inch northern. Only the big walleye was kept for dinner that night.

Day Five
Time to head to our rendevous with the Float Plane. Our appointment was at 2 pm and we had about 10-12 kilometers of paddling plus a portage and lining one or two rapids to negotiate. Pushed off at 9 am with a few darker clouds on the horizon.A fast moving storm caught us on the portage trail around Brennan Falls. But again the tarp was handy and we hunkered down to wait out the storm. 30 minutes later the sun broke out and we resumed our trip. Back on the water, we kept moving - aware that another storm system was behind us.
We arrived at the float plane pickup beach an hour early - giving Karl a chance to swim. 15 minutes after this time dark clouds caught up with us and a light drizzle ensued with some lightning in the distance. Again, we pulled all our gear under the tarp to wait out the storm.
Was beginning to get worried the storms might delay our pick up, when exactly at our designated 2 pm pickup time, I heard the buzz of an aircraft and looked up to see a yellow Beaver burst through the cloud cover. We waved our foil covered space blanket we were using as a personal tarp and he circled around for his landing run.
While there was light drizzle when we took off, on the way back to the float plane base camp we flew through a first class thunderstorm - lightning and zero visability for about 10 minutes.

Fortunately we got ahead of the storm by the time we landed, allowing us precious time to get the canoe tied on the truck and our gear inside. No sooner had I turned on the ignition, the storm moved in in full force with thunder-booming buckets of water coming down as we made our way back to the comforts of the B&B of Wabakimi Wilderness Outfitters.

Wilderness Outfitters
B&B Lodge
Outpost Camps

(807) 583-2626
(807) 767-2022

Lady Luck and fortunate timing were with us our entire trip. So many turns could have gone the other way. We had great fishing, saw some great scenery, the "bugs" weren't bad at all, and we had sunshine most of the time. Every time it rained we had tarps handy to cover our gear and fifteen minutes later the sun came out again. My only regret is we didn't have enough time to portage into Brennan Lake and check it out. But there's always next year - the lord willin'
Stopped by Thunder Bay on the way home. Enjoyed the Port Arthur lakefront park and the view of the Sleeping Giant peninsula.
  • For you fishing fanatics out there, have to show you my biggest fishing thrill. While I've caught some nice fish in Ontario, this one was in northern Wisconsin, on a bass plug, no leader. . . with an 8 lb test line. 45 inches of fight that spit out the lure as soon as she got in the boat (hooks were straightened out by then).

Wabakimi Links

Wabakimi & Kopka River Canoe Trip
Return to Wabakimi & Kopka River - Canoe Camping Trip
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing Canoe Camping trip, Granite and Brennen Lakes,
  Allenwater River
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing & Canoeing Trip, Palisade River & Kenoji Lake
Wabakimi, Train-in, Fly-out Outpost Camp - Shawanabis Lake
Wabakimi, Fly-in, Fly-out Fishing & Canoe Camping - Chance Lake -
  Allenwater River - Granite Lake

Resource Links:
Canadian Canoe Routes
Wabakimi Wilderness  Park
Boundary Waters  Canoe Area
Wabakimi Outfitters  Links




Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)

Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)