Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hair of the Dog...River

Dog River up near Wawa, Ontario has been a mythical creature to me for years now, ever since my buddies first ran it about 4-5 years back it's been high on my list...despite being an early season run often done with snow on the ground! Typically when it's happening I've been away boating elsewhere, so this year seemed a good time when I was prodded by my buddy Brendan (Moose) to fire it up. I found a free Maylong weekend and we got three of us together and planned it out.

It does take some planning, being out about 9 hours from our area, requiring a shuttle driver unless you're doing your own, and a long lake paddle or booking a ride on a barge from the river mouth. After our third person had to pull pin for work, and a crew went early in May to get semi-skunked by very high water, we decided to wade into the unknown just the two of us and see what was up with this magical place.

Our shuttle ended up being run by a local named Randy, just an amazing person to spend time with and all around great person.

There is a correlating gauge here: Pukaskwa Gauge, though it is a correlation one drainage over. I have no idea what level means what, but we had about a 4.4 on that gauge and almost no snow at all in the trees. Regardless, levels seemed quite high, which meant portaging 4-5 of the big ones, but great fun on everything else with lots of padding. It also meant that Dennison Falls was very impressive...

The normal for this river as I understand it is 3 days, first night somewhere on the river and second night at Dennison Falls (near the mouth). We ended up making it to Dennison Falls on day 1 in about 7.5 hours of normal speed descent, though moving fairly efficiently, this really surprised us! The entrance to this massive beast of a rapid is a foreboding canyon that seems surprisingly gentle from the top, you don't feel the rumble around the corner, and can't see the end, nor any eddies..we had a lot of fog when we got there. Make sure you get out on river left above. We'd had rain all the first day, luckily the weather would improve for the next couple..

The run itself to the falls is great, some flat...there is a newer bridge downstream as a put-in option to cut out about 1-2 hours of that, but we saw a moose so were glad to be there! There are a couple awesome canyons with good class 5, and it has a big water feel for sure, all of this interlaced with great class 3-4 tweener rapids.

The falls is something, a stacked multi-stage rapid that probably drops a good 350 feet or so! There is a great campsite right in the middle of the 'elbow' of it. We ended up portaging gear then boats, and actually went far around the outside for an easier trail...but this wasn't obvious.

We spent our first night at the base of the falls on a rock outcropping that had massive amounts of driftwood for easy fire-stoking.

Day two meant hitting the river mouth and starting across Lake Superior, since we didn't opt for the barge trip (about 700$ I think). Realizing this, and wanting to thoroughly explore the falls, we put on at about 3 pm... lol. It was ok though, as it only took us about 3 hours to make it over halfway. We stopped for a snack at another (intriguing!!) river mouth, then camped at Dory Bay, with one point to go before hitting the takeout beach where the car and moose stew were waiting!

The next day we started at a more normal 10 am and finished the river around 1230. The lake was actually pretty interesting and beautiful, so clear and clean and fun to bounce along the 3-8 foot swells..it feels like a real ocean out there, and even 20 feet from each other we'd often lose sight because of the swell.. all the while trying to avoid being smashed into the rocks on shore by the power of the water. We got lucky with good weather, I cannot imagine how hard this would be with bad weather, there was a cold wind though, and cold nights.

I recommend, if you can and levels are better (lower), spending the time on the river, that is a real gem, and with proper levels, you'd have a great time dropping some of the bigger drops for sure!

The Pyranha Scorch X was pretty good on the multi-day, lots of fun to drive, and TONS of bow space that is fairly easily accessible!

A big horse-shoe hole rapid.

Randy after shuttling us up, waiting for us to get ready in a downpour, we had rain the entire first day. Photo by Moose.

Gettin' goin'! Photo by Moose.

A nice double rapid. Photo by Moose.

Author getting amongst it. Photo by Moose.

Enjoying some scenery. Photo by Moose.

Stoking the fire. Photo by Moose.

This is what the lake looks like. Photo by Moose, who loved the multi-day capability of the ZET Cross by the way.

The first big one, this is where we realized the water seemed high, and that this river is no joke!

A big slide with a nasty hole in the middle and a bad kicker rock on the left.

Just good times!

A bit of a hole stopped us from doing this on the left, and the wood blocked a nice boof into the eddy on the right.

Moose running the second half of the above rapid, a beauty sloper into a nice maw.

This was a green tongue surrounded by steep hole at the bottom. We were being a bit more conservative it being only two of us with the loaded boats as well. Portaging is pretty straightforward.

The bottom of Dennison Falls.

A nice parking spot!

Camping night one, on the rocks.

The main portion of Dennison.

The top portion...

Looking down from the top.

The canyon-y lead-in, if you somehow end up in here (don't), there is a last chance eddy at the bottom on the right.

This is the eddy to catch above the canyon on the left.

Snack time on the lake!

Camping night two, Dory Bay.

This was a beauty spot.

The sun was sooooo nice.

Rainbows and colours on the ride home!

Whaaaaat a sunset!!!