Trip Length: 6-7 Days
Permit Required: Falls Chain (Quetico) #73
From the Cache Bay ranger station, and a Falls Chain permit in hand, your adventure begins. The Silver Falls portage will be your first destination as this portage holds the key to the southeastern end of the Quetico Park. This portage will be a good first test and get your blood flowing. Once on the other end, you’ve reached Saganagons Lake where you’ll spend your first night…not because it’s time to set up camp yet, but because Saganagons is a large beautiful lake with many islands and bays, and will lead you to the falls chain. A good destination for your first campsite would be to plan to make it across the Dead Man’s portage and set up your first camp on one of the islands on the north side of Saganagons. This will be about as far as you’ll make it on day one as the day will have been spent on your tow boat ride, and ranger station visit and a couple of decent sized portages…you’ll be ready for dinner and some fishing.
Saganagons is a lake where many groups spend an entire week. The lake is large and has many back bays and islands that provide great fishing and exploring opportunities. If this is your choice, see the Saganagons Base Camp route for more details. If you’re ready to set off down the falls chain, day two will begin by paddling through the first section of the falls chain as you travel northwest on your way into the Maligne River toward Wet and McEwen Lakes. Please use caution on the falls chain, as the portages are not optional. The rapids and falls are spectacular, but dangerous, and even more so early in the spring when the water is higher. You’ll traverse the first three falls of the falls chain all right in a row. The first of which, you’ll find the portage on the left (west) side which is about 50 rods in length. Depending on the water level, the portage may be twice that long as the water may be too dangerous to launch your canoe. You’ll see the portage diverge with one path leading down to the water, while the other continues on to a more protected launch area. Assess the situation based on the water level, and make a smart decision.
After a very short paddle, you’ll come to the next falls, where you’ll find the portage again on the left (southwest) side. This set of falls actually splits around an island in the middle of the river. The portage is on the left side of the falls on the left. This is a short portage, and you’ll be on your way quickly. If you’re fishermen, this falls chain area is a fantastic opportunity to cast your line above and below any of the rapids and falls. Bass, walleye and northern are abundant. One more short portage awaits you ahead as you’ll find the trail on the right (north) side of the falls known as Bald Rock Falls. The portage is actually not really a trail at all, but rather a quick hike over a flat bald rock, hence the name.
Congratulations, you’ve successfully navigated the upper section of the falls chain, as the water in this part of the world flows north. You will be paddling with the current on the way in toward your base camp. The next section of the trip will be a nice gentle paddle toward the Wet Lake portage, which you’ll find on the south side of the little rapids as you enter into Wet Lake.
Wet Lake has some great smallmouth and walleye fishing, along with three campsites if you decide to split the difference and camp in Wet, and then day trip to the west into McEwen for lake trout and bass, or go to the west and continue on down the falls chain and explore and fish. In fact, one great option for a day trip from Wet Lake would be to travel down the falls chain and portage around Little, Koko and Canyon Falls to Kenny Lake, and make sure to fish below the falls in Kenny for walleye. Once you’ve had your thrills in Kenny, take the portage to the southwest from Kenny into McEwen. This portage is a little longer, but surely passable with a variety of terrain, and very scenic. Once in McEwen, you can loop around back to the east and into Wet Lake. This would make for an excellent day trip without retracing any of your paddle strokes.
If you decide to push on through Wet Lake to McEwen for some excellent lake trout and smally fishing, you won’t be disappointed. There are two portages you can choose from, and both are similar in length and ease. Try them both out and see what you think. McEwen is a deep, clear lake with a number of islands and some nice camping options. Set up your base camp here and experience the great fishing. You could also paddle to the south end of the lake and explore the creek that connects McEwen to Glacier Lake if you’re so inclined. McEwen is not known for walleye, but there may be a few. So if that’s your fish of choice spend some more time in Wet Lake and the falls chain area, as well as Kenny and definitely Kawnipi further north. Focus your fishing efforts on bass, lake trout and pike in McEwen.
Another possible day trip idea would be portaging into Joliat Lake that is south from Wet Lake. Here you’ll find yourself off the beaten path. It is known for northern, bass and some walleye, and a whole lot of seclusion.
From the launch drop point where our tow boats will drop you off, it’s an easy day and a half to two day trip into McEwen. Set up your base camp for three days and really explore the area, and leave yourself a couple days to get back, and you’ve filled a week’s long trip with a wonderful variety of landscape, fishing, paddling and portaging. McEwen is generally a more quiet lake. More people travel the falls chain up to Kawnipi, and chances are you’ll see more people along that section of the trip. McEwen is a gem, and quiet with high hilly shorelines. Wildlife viewing opportunities are all over the place in this area, as bear and wolves are not uncommon and of course loons, eagles, moose, beaver and countless other birds are almost sure to catch your eye.
If this sounds like your kind of trip, with a variety of everything, give us a call and we’ll arrange the details and secure your permit.