Our canoe trips were not always as leisurely as they are now. Back in the day we only stayed one night on a site. It was a great way to explore, see more sites and challenge yourself a bit.
Our first trip to the Chiniguchi River was a short trip with some friends. We met at a hotel in Sudbury for the first night and drove out to the put-in early the next morning. It was a long and bumpy drive but lots of free parking. We put in at Matagamasi Lake and paddled up the North Arm of the Chiniguchi, into Wolf Lake for a night, then on to McConnell Bay for a night then back to Wolf Lake for our last night, then home after a stop in North Bay for some pub food.
Our second trip to the area involved an unplanned stay on the Chiniguchi River, three nights in the South Bay of Chiniguchi Lake and then back to Wolf Lake for a couple of nights.
This area is called the Chiniguchi Waterway Provincial Park. However it is unmaintained, which means you don’t book sites, there is no cost but you take your chances in terms of finding a site.
Matagamasi Lake and the Chiniguchi River
On both trips we put in at the parking area just off Matagamasi Road and paddled north on Matagamasi Lake. Depending on the wind this part of the trip takes us about 3 hours of steady paddling.
It is a very pretty paddle but you will find cottages and motor boats and the occasional “tuber”.
On our second trip we made a mistake; we tried taking the long portage to the right of the stream at the north end of Matagamasi Lake rather than going left and doing two short portages into Silvester Lake. The take out was awkward with no easy access to shore because of the boulders. We walked a very long time with packs before we realized that the trail was leading us away from the lake – thank goodness we had a GPS.
We admitted defeat and returned to the canoe. It was very late in the day so we set up camp at a rarely used campsite not far from the portage. We knew it was rarely used because we found pop cans with pull tabs.
We were tired but not so tired that we didn’t enjoy the sunset.
We had people tell us about this area called “Paradise Lagoon” so we had to check it out.
The portage into Silvester Lake travels along a waterfall. We met a group who say they camp there all the time. Not sure it would be a place I would want to camp – it would be busy – but it is a great place to cool off.
There are a couple of swifts going into Wolf Lake that you may want to check out first because how you proceed will depend on the water level and the “newness” of your canoe.
Wolf Lake has a few nice spots but it can be busy. The first time we stayed on Wolf we were “creeped out” by a solo paddler camped on the island doing Tai Chi and watching us with binoculars. Now I am older somehow it doesn’t seem as creepy.
On our third time on Wolf Lake we stayed on a great site near the portage into Dewdney Lake. I have never seen so many blueberries in all my life. We were surrounded. We were on our way home so we spent the last morning of our trip picking some berries to take with us.
This was a pretty site but busy because of the portage and an ATV trail. It is a steep site with a great view of a waterfalls. A nice spot for swimming, sitting and reading.
The portage into Dewdney lake is short but steep. It crosses the ATV trail so you need to watch for the trail markers.
This is a pretty lake with very few “lunch spots” because of the steep shoreline. There is a nice camp site which would be pretty private with a nice view of a little waterfalls coming out of Chiniguchi Lake.
There is an old ranger cabin on this lake as well. I can’t imagine what life would have been like for those rangers living alone and isolated. A real mix of peaceful, beautiful, terrifying and lonely.
The portage between these two lakes is rocky but pretty flat. Keep your eyes open for the old growth red pines. You are never too old to hug a tree.
Very early one morning on this portage we met a group of girls from a kids’ camp in the area. The young girls were 12 years old. They were working so hard to impress the counsellors – two young women about 18 years old. You could tell that these girls just idolized the counsellors. This group was so organized and efficient it was impressive. They explained to us that they portaged early to beat the boys’ camps to the best sites. Very late the same day we saw the boy’s camp come through the portage, looking pretty grumpy.
On our first trip, we stayed on a beach campsite in McConnell Bay at the far end of Chinichuchi Lake. This bay is pretty and has a great campsite that has the most breathtaking night sky. We had the whole bay to ourselves, so it was private, but there several campsites in the bay. There is a house/camp and ATV access at this end of the lake.
On our second trip we stayed three days in the Southeast Bay of the lake. It was a perfect place to spend a few days exploring all the nooks and crannies. The lake has unique white rock hills, red rock shoreline, beaches, beautiful trees and lots of little twists and turns into bays and around islands.
We didn’t see too many people but this is a busy area for kids’ camps and we did meet with two guys in a fishing boat. It is always so strange to hear a motor after a few days of just nature sounds.
We got up early each morning and paddled before the winds picked up and before the sun got too hot. The mist, the birds, the stillness, the morning is the perfect time to paddle. We arrived back to our site ready for breakfast!
On both trips to this area we had a lot of wind but also a lot of sunshine. However, on our way home from our second trip it started to rain. The paddle south on Matagamasi Lake was eerie – the water was perfectly calm and every so often canoes would appear out of the mist. There was no sound except for our paddles. We were within site of our car when the sky opened up. By the time we got to shore our canoe had about an inch of water in the bottom. Thank goodness we were heading home and had warm dry clothes in the car.
In his book “Ontario’s Lost Canoe Routes” Kevin Callan describes the Chiniguchi as “Killarney without the crowds.” The area is definitely less dramatic than Killarney but it is beautiful in its own way.
Rating: Moderate because of the long paddle and rocky portages.
Lakes: Chiniguchi River, Silvester Lake, Wolf Lake, Dewdney Lake, Chiniguchi Lake