Exploring the Pine River
from its mouth on the Bonnechere River upstream to the Algonquin Park boundary

A description with photos of a day canoe trip from Turner's Camp on the Bonnechere River, downstream to the mouth of the Pine River, and then upstream on the Pine River to the Algonquin Park boundary, passing through Lower Pine Lake. The Pine River is part of historic canoe routes that used to connect to Achray and Grand Lake via Upper Pine Lake, Richards Lake, Tarn Lake, Clover Lake, Guthrie Lake, etc., and McDonald Creek.

2013 May 31

I have been interested in the exploring the southeastern corner of Algonquin Park for some time. There is some rugged country in that area, but it is hard to get to. At one time there used to be canoe routes connecting Achray with the Bonnechere and Pine Rivers. This involved the lakes on upper McDonald Creek -- Tarn Lake, Guthrie Lake, Clover Lake, etc. -- connecting with portages and tote roads leading to the south. But most of these have since disappeared into the bush.

As a step in exploring this area, I (Bob) undertook a day expedition exploring the Pine River with my friends Ric and Richard.

Bonnecere River at Turners Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

We launched on the Bonnechere River on the downstream side of the bridge on Turner's Road (by Turner's Camp). Ric and Richard were paddling a Swift Kipawa while Bob was paddling solo in his Swift Osprey.

Island in Bonnechere River downstream of Turners Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

A hundred meters or so downstream the Bonnechere River flows around a large island. Here Ric and Richard are heading for the northern channel which provides the shortest route to the Pine River. The southern channel is supposedly deeper, however.

The mouth of the Pine River as it flows into the Bonnechere River

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The mouth of the Pine River as it flows into the Bonnechere River.

along the Pine River near its mouth

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Heading upstream on the Pine. We had just flushed a bittern. Lots of water fowl along this section, and indeed the whole river -- bitterns, herons, mergansers, geese and ducks. And also vultures (although hardly a waterfowl). Farther upriver, we also encountered a large water snake and a couple of deer - or more likely, a single deer twice.

Bridge over the Pine River at Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Bridge over the Pine River at Gunn's Road. We could have started our trip here, but I felt more secure in parking my vehicle along Turner's Road than along the less travelled Gunn's Road. I also wanted to establish the canoeing connectivity of the Pine River and the Bonnechere River.

The Pine River just upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The stretch of river (less than a kilometre) immediately upstream of Gunn's Road was the most strenuous part of the trip. Here Ric and Richard are attempting to paddle up the first part of this section.

Note the deep red colour and clarity of the water. I suspect this to be tannin related. Deeply coloured but clear water seems to be more common in the spring than later in the year. Later in the year the water may be as deeply coloured but tends to be less clear -- I think.

The Pine River just upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The upstream paddling attempt was unsuccessful.

(Nerdy aside: Note how the water is breaking around Richard's ankle. This indicates that the flow is "shooting" rather than "streaming" -- the Froude Number is greater than 1. In other words, the velocity of the water exceeds the speed of a water wave at that depth. Standing waves form at the bottom of rapids when the water flow velocity downstream slows to match the velocity of waves travelling upstream -- the Froude Number equals 1 at this point. If you're interested in this sort of stuff see Ned Franks' book "The Canoe and White Water".)

old bridge abutments on the Pine River just upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

An older bridge crossed the river here, just upstream of Gunn's Road.

The Pine River just upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Back to paddling.

broken beaver dam on the Pine River upstream of Gunns Road

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A broken beaver dam surmounted. This was very common along the river. It may well be that the ease of travelling this section of the river varies considerably from year to year depending on the state of repair of the various dams.

wading up the Pine River upstream of Gunns Road

(photo by Bob: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

More wading.

the Pine River upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

We eventually reached a set of rapids that we could neither paddle nor wade. We had to portage. But there was no portage.

the Pine River upstream of Gunns Road

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

We crashed through the bush to the top of the rapids and on the way back discovered a very faint path. Because it was so overgrown and the path so faint and hard to follow, we decided to carry the canoes across upright, a man at each end. My past experience is that this is usually a bad idea, but it worked well in this instance.

The total "portage" distance was no more than 100m, if that.

the Pine River downstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Upstream of the "portage". For the rest of the trip upstream, we had no further need to wade or portage, but there were numerous beaver dams that needed negotiating.

This section of the river is shown as wide, almost lake-like on the topo but as a narrow creek on the satellite view. What we encountered was more lake-like than creek-like, but it was quite shallow immediately above the "portage".

the Pine River downstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The river passes through a band of rocks a little upstream of the "portage". This was the only location that we noticed that the river was flowing directly over bedrock. Elsewhere the river was flowing through sand and glacial till.

the Pine River downstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

This beaver dam marked the downstream end of Lower Pine Lake.

Lower Pine Lake on the Pine River

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Heading for our lunch spot on Lower Pine Lake. From a distance I thought it would be neat to climb up to the bare rock area to see what I could see. When I got there, I decided that it was too damn hot.

Across from our lunch spot, there is a campsite marked on Jeff's Map. We didn't investigate, but from a distance, it looked like a pleasant location beneath the pines.

Lower Pine Lake on the Pine River

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Lunch. Three old guys recuperating.

poison ivy on Lower Pine Lake on the Pine River

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The only photo that includes me. Just sitting, enjoying my lunch and admiring the flora.

I tend to be pretty nonchalant about poison ivy since -- so far, at least -- it doesn't seem to bother me. It was noticeably present here and also back at the "portage". Ric is sensitive. We'll see how he gets along over the next few days.

Lower Pine Lake on the Pine River

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The northern end of Lower Pine Lake. The passage forward was not immediately obvious, but it's over by the western shore (left). We almost turned around at this point as it seemed as though a storm was brewing -- there were white caps beginning to develop on Lower Pine Lake. But we pressed on, since even if a storm were brewing, we would probably get hit before we reached the car no matter what we did.

The Pine River upstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Above Lower Pine Lake. Note the sand banks and the pines. The shores featured red, white and jack pines.

A stand of jack pines along the Pine River upstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

A stand of jack pines.

A pine banked sedge meadow along the Pine River upstream of Lower Pine Lake

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

A pine banked sedge meadow.

The Pine River at the Algonquin Park boundary

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

This is the "road access" to the Pine River on the boundary of Algonquin Park. This is as far as we went -- we were out of time and running low on oomph.

The Pine River at the Algonquin Park boundary

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

The road. A bush road parallels the Pine River to the west but somewhat away from the river. A side branch of that road, perhaps 2km long, leads to this spot. I had investigated this side branch last fall and concluded that it was a bit much for my vehicle. However, if you have a true four wheel drive with adequate clearance, you would probably be able to drive to this location -- clearly someone has recently. For a day trip, this would be a good starting point to explore Upper Pine Lake, its cliff and the site of the old ranger cabin.

The Pine River at the Algonquin Park boundary

(photographed: 2013-05-31 - map - explore

Looking north on the Pine River at the Algonquin Park boundary towards Upper Pine Lake, another 1500m (or so) upstream. A trip for another day.

The return trip was uneventful although the wind was an issue at times: the beaver dams were easier going downstream than up; the fast sections, except for the "portage" were all quite runnable.

I am very pleased by how this trip turned out. During the winter I had decided that I wanted to undertake this exploration. I imagined that it needed to be done in the early spring before the water ran out, but late enough that you wouldn't mind wading. For various reasons, I wasn't able to fit it in as early as I would have liked. I thought that I had missed the window and that a trip on this date would be hot, buggy and mucky and maybe not even feasible. I almost didn't bother. It was hot alright (>30C), but that made the wet and the wading pleasant and probably suppressed the bugs. The bugs were a non-issue -- although I did get nailed by a deer fly -- no big deal; more of a surprise. It was not mucky; the water was clear and there was enough of it; the footing was solid (except in the sedge).

A pleasant trip on a pleasant river; not many people go that way and that is good. We had enough water. But the rivers are holding their flows late this year. How this trip would work later in the season, I don't know.

Sources

C.E.S. Franks (1977), The Canoe and White Water, University of Toronto Press.

Roderick Mackay (1996), Spirits of the Little Bonnechere, The Friends of Bonnechere Parks.