Guide to Planning a Whitewater Canoe Trip on the Temagami River

Find out everything you need to know about camping, shuttles, difficulty, and routes.

One of the most beautiful regions in Ontario, Temagami is a gem of a location; old growth forests abound and true wilderness provides plenty of opportunities to get away from it all. If you’re looking to explore the Temagami region and want to do a bit of whitewater paddling while you’re there, the Temagami River is the perfect option.

Located just north of North Bay and east of Sudbury, the Temagami River is about 30 kilometres long and is known for its novice to advanced whitewater paddling. With class I to class III rapids (depending on water levels), this is a great spot for paddlers with experience to get out in the wilderness and experience a multiday trip. All rapids have portages around them, so if you’re not sure after scouting a section, there’s always another option for getting downstream.

Beginning at Temagami Lake makes for the perfect trip. It starts as a lake paddling trip, then gradually gets more and more difficult as you go on. The last day or two are where all the most challenging rapids (and portages) are located, so there’s plenty of time to warm up, and if you’re not ready for the final rapids, you’ll have the least amount of food to carry on the portages.

We took it extremely slow and did the Temagami River in four days. With a night of camping on each end it was a total of six nights. It can definitely be done quicker, but the Temagami is a perfect river to take your time on; the scenery is inspiring and the campsites are top-notch.

Read on for our guide to canoeing the Temagami River.

people whitewater canoeing down the Temagami River
With class I, II and III rapids, experienced whitewater paddlers will have a blast. Source: Colin Field

Route Options

First thing’s first: you’ll need the Temagami 2 and Temagami 3 maps from Chrismar’s The Adventure Map series. This covers the region of Temagami you’ll be paddling, providing details about portages and rapids, including which to paddle and which to avoid.

Top to Bottom

If you want to paddle the entire river, the standard route is to put in on Lake Temagami at the Temagami Access Road Boat Landing. You can leave your vehicle here, or get shuttled in by local outfitters like Temagami Outfitters. Paddling south from the put-in, head to Outlet Bay, then to Cross Lake. Paddle south down Cross Lake to Surveyor Lake, then you’ll hit the first dam at the top of Temagami River. Portage around the dam.

Following the river downstream, you’ll hit Red Cedar Lake. Head south, portage around the dam, then head south to Island Lake to get back on the river. You can take out at the St Joseph Road bridge or enjoy the eight kilometers of swifts that take you downstream to the River Valley Bluegrass Park.

Bottom Half

If you’re looking for a shorter route, you could put in at Mountain Home Lodge or Temagami Riverside Lodge, paddle north to the second half of the Temagami River, then head downstream to River Valley. This would be a pretty short paddle, maybe two to three days.

Daytripping

For a fun day trip, you could easily put in at St Joseph Road bridge (at the south end of Temagami River Provincial Park) and paddle downstream to the River Valley Bluegrass Park. This is a really relaxing float down swift water for about eight kilometres. The last half-a-kilometre under the Rte 539A bridge is worth scouting, and once you’re through the rapids, be sure to pull over to river-right before the falls just past the bridge.

Shuttle Options

Depending on how far you want to go, the Temagami River is a relatively easy shuttle drop. If you’re doing the whole river, you’ll put in on the Temagami Access Road Boat Landing and take out at the River Valley Bluegrass Park. The guys at the Bluegrass Park are really friendly—just ask where you can leave a vehicle and they’ll tell you where to put it. This is also a great place to camp on your final night.

Of course there are also local outfitters that’ll do the shuttle, like Temagami Outfitters.

Campsites

The campsites on the Temagami River are incredible. They’re marked on the map and are well-established, most of them having firepits, thunderboxes and occasionally a bushcraft table. While they aren’t marked with signage, the map provides the rough areas of where the sites are.

We spent four nights on the river and every campsite was incredible—beautiful, quiet and full of easily scavenged firewood. Simply put, Temagami River camping is perfect.

Our favorite site was on the island between the rapids just upstream from Island Falls.

a rough canoe portage along the Temagami River
Most portages around rapids are easy—most. Source: Colin Field

Rapids

The Temagami River is known as a whitewater river. Most rapids are class I or II with a couple class III and a couple unrunnable waterfalls. Difficulty of the rapids is variable and depends on water levels throughout the season. Contact local outfitting companies to determine what the water will be like during your planned trip. Temagami Outfitters is a great place for that kind of info. Just give them a call.

All the rapids have portage options, so if you scout something and you’re not comfortable, there’s a way to avoid it. And the portages are all pretty easy—nothing too long (the longest is 560 metres), too steep or too gnarly.

The one exception is the Island Falls portage. This one is mandatory and getting back on the river requires a challenging descent down a rocky, cliffed-out trail. Take your time, make good choices, and work as a team and you’ll figure this one out.

Ragged Chute is another rapid that’s probably best portaged; it’s a gnarly chute full of jagged and sharp rocks. As always, best to scout anything before paddling it. And if you’re not sure, portage or line the set.

people using rope to move canoes through rapids
If any of the rapids seem too much for you, there’s always the option to portage around or line down. Source: Colin Field

Fishing

One of the reasons Temagami is so popular with the outdoor types is the fishing. The Temagami Access Road Boat Landing is full of boat trailers, proving just how many people are out there fishing. Lake trout, brook trout, northern pike and walleye can all be found in the waters here and Temagami River fishing is a truly rewarding and exciting experience. Of course you’ll need a license, so be sure to get one before entering the Park.

Permits

You’ll be on Crown land when you start your trip and in Temagami River Provincial Park for the rest of it. This is a non-operating park; officially there are no facilities or activities in the Park. It also means you don’t need a permit to camp here or paddle the river.

Lodging

If you’re looking for a place to stay before or after your trip, there are a couple options. For one last day of luxury before getting on the river, places like Temagami Shores Inn & Resort, Lowell Lake Lodge, Lake Herridge Lodge, Chic Shore, Mountain Home Lodge and Temagami Riverside Lodge offer a range of prices and comfort all located relatively close to the put-in. Some will be able to offer shuttle options as well.

If you’re ready to do one more night of camping at the end of your trip, the River Valley Bluegrass Park is a good spot, and if you time it right, you could arrive just in time for one of three annual Bluegrass Festivals.

About Colin Field

Colin is an award-winning photographer and writer, specializing in outdoor travel and adventure. He is the editor-at-large with Mountain Life Magazine. He is based in Collingwood, Ontario. 

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