The Mattawa River, ON.....        

Located between North Bay and Mattawa, the Mattawa River is a historic trading route. It is a combination of river and lake travel with sections which are very scenic and quiet and others which are very populated and busy. We meet Carol's sister Joanne to do the trip and took turns soloing one of the two canoes. Although the trip could easily have been done in two days we made it three short and relaxing days. We started on east end of Trout Lake to avoid the lake and its associated houses, cottages and motor boats and paddled directly into a section called the stepping-stones. A narrow channel followed and we weaved through beautiful rock outcrops and coniferous trees. From here we came out into Pine Lake which is a small, quaint lake with only a few cottages. We camped on the largest island which faces a rocky shore lined with coniferous trees. The only drawback was that this lake is easily accessible and it looked like our camping spot had had a few parties. Once we cleaned up the beer bottles, we had a very peaceful, relaxing and beautiful evening by the fire.

The next day we portaged into Trout Lake (all the portages are very well marked with large signs indicating the original historic name of the portage). Trout Lake starts with numerous cottages but in a short time they disappeared and we were left with steep hills on either side. Unfortunately this beauty did not last long and soon we were surrounded by unending cottages, fast motor boats (which unlike the ones in the other provinces didn't slow down for canoes), jet skies and airplanes. There seemed to be more boats the closer we got to the east end of the lake and we soon discovered the reason - a public boat launch. We hit the next portage only to discover another swarm of people at what turned out to be a popular swimming hole with a high cliff that the kids jump from. The cliff walls in this section of the river were amazing and from here a short paddle through a bay brought us to the next portage. The river had just a small swift so we ran it rather then taking the portage. It is amazing but it only takes the smallest of swifts to stop all the motor boats and virtually all the people. Once past the swift we were suddenly alone and back to a beautiful, tranquil river. We ran three more class I rapids (portages were well marked) and camped at a beautiful spot right next to a class II rapid. We spent the evening running the rapid which at this water level had a sharp turn at the bottom.

Day three saw us paddling a peaceful river with high cliffs and deep water. We portaged around a large waterfall and after just getting back into the canoes came to an old native ochre mine. As the bank (both above water and underwater) is very steep, someone had hung a rope which allowed us to climb up and have a look inside. The river flows gently along and we determined that the few canoes we did see had come up from Samual de Champlain Provincial Park to fish and spend the night. No noisy motor boats here. Although we finished at the park, it is possible to paddle all the way to the town of Mattawa. As we had heard that the river got very busy after the park, we elected not to do the lower section and to end the trip on a peaceful note.

There are numerous alternate route options or ways to avoid the crowds, such as:

  • put in at the picnic shelter on Hwy 17 (east of Trout Lake) and head down river to the park
  • paddle up from the park to the campsite at the class II rapid (portages well marked) and return the next day
  • go in the spring, fall or during the week to avoid the motor boats (it would be beautiful with the fall colours)
  • there are many roads to make a variety of take-out/put-in points


    The start



    Pine Lake campsite


    View from our first

    Straight through...

    ... manoeuvring

    Joanne the chef


    Water lily

    Stephen playing

    View from the campsite

    View on the Mattawa


    Ochre mine

    Joanne and Carol


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