Thomas Terry is an instructor in wilderness rock-climbing, canoe-tripping and first-aid. He outfits and guides custom canoe trips and serves as a community development and wilderness consultant. He lives in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Canoe Atlas of the Little North.
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When we broke camp, I hiked the gear and the canoe a short walk to the downstream side of the spillway on the left channel. And off we went from there.
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Lake Superior Travel Map. We put on a few miles that day paddling and portaging. The only difficulty we had was on our first portage. It was a double one that required us to put back in the middle of fast water. The map showed our next portage on the same side, but it turned out we had to ferry across the channel.
The portage path was strewn with downed timber but after doing some scouting we found a way through it. We found another nice island campsite.
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Was not indicated as such on our map, but served us quite well. After a heavy day of paddling and portaging we decided we'd check out the falls the next morning. We set up camp, did a little fishing off the island, and just relaxed enjoying the atmosphere. One of two nice Wallies Paul caught while fishing from the shore of our Island. She and her sister went back to the water as we had spaghetti in mind for dinner!
Day Three. The next morning, we paddled back upstream to below the waterfalls. Again we had great fishing luck with catching numerous Walleye.
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I'm holding up two fish I caught early in the session not the biggest ones. These fish also were returned because we didn't want to drag and portage them along to our next campsite. I kept wondering when we would begin seeing the grand palisades that gave the river its name.
Canoe Camping in the BWCA / Quetico Provincial Park
I was beginning to wonder if our particular route was going to miss the sights that has so captured that fella who first told me about his trip on the river. In reviewing the map, I noticed what appeared to be a west branch of the river that joined us less about a kilometer downstream. Following this branch into larger lake I could see the telltale contour lines of some high and steep cliffs lining an increasingly narrow channel upstream of the lake.
So I talked Paul into taking a little side trip - as I didn't want to miss those fantastic palisades. I dropped Paul off at our third Island campsite, while I soloed upstream towards what I thought might be the vaulted palisades! Worked a point and steep drop off pretty hard.
Likewise around the mouth of a creek that entered the lake. No luck. Back at the Island, Paul managed to keep his string alive. He caught a 21 inch Wallie off the bank. Day Four We broke camp the next morning and retraced our route back to the intersection with the main branch of the Palisades River. Our maps showed some pictographs ahead so possibly that would be where we might see some Palisades. The area where the Palisades were located was perhaps a 2 kilometer stretch of water. Curious that an entire river would get this name from such a relatively short stretch of Palisades?
The reality failed to measure up to the image I had expected from listening to it being described several years earlier. Day Five. By default, we again looked to one of the small islands in the relatively calm waters behind the large island. While not as nicely laid out as Paradise Island, we made it work. With a storm on the way, we didn't have time to be picky.
A little brush clearing we had our tent up and most things battened down when the high winds and rain hit us. Paul and I lay in the tent on our stomachs holding on while horizontal rain came driving at us and waves lapped to within a few feet.
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Our canoe tore lose from its moorings and threatened to take off. We charged out in the storm grabbed the canoe and shoved it as far into the brush as we could and then tied it to a tree. Half an hour later, the storm was past. We dined in the tent, ate our trail mix for dinner, and polished off the last of the Yukon Jack and Brandy. A few hands of cribbage finished off the evening. As if on cue, the sky darkened and the wind picked up as John landed the Norseman in the middle of the bay and motioned for us to paddle out to him.
By then he had blown too close to shore and the rocks for comfort. So we had to hang onto the pontoon while he taxied out to deeper water.