Moth Lake

Moth lake 2

This is a photo of moth lake taken in the winter. The rest stop is at the top of  the hill in the trees on the right hand side of the photo. The cliff is hidden by the trees.

Moth lake is located on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Kenora, Ontario. It is a small non descript rest stop that sits on the top of a hill with a view of the lake.

The newly married couple decided to move from the Province of Ontario to the open prairie of Saskatchewan. Everything they owned in the world was packed into a medium U-Haul trailer they were towing across Canada in the middle of summer..

They decided to pull into the rest stop to get out and stretch their legs and check the trailer. While sitting on a picnic table they noticed that the left rear tire on the car was low and needed to be changed for the spare.

When they pulled into the park they had turned the unit around so that the car faced the highway and the trailer faced the lake. Because of the weight of the trailer they would have to uncouple it in order to jack up the car.

They no sooner separated the trailer from the car and the trailer started to slowly roll backwards down the slope that led to a cliff overlooking the lake. In a panic they both grabbed the towing bar on the trailer and tried to stop it.

The trailer was full and very heavy. As they braced their feet in the gravel they were slowly dragged along.  They could not see any logs or rocks big enough to put behind the trailer tires. They dare not let go and could only hope the trailer would run into a tree or log and stop.

In a panic they couple yelled for help but the area was deserted. The trailer determinedly continued to slowly roll backwards. It was not until it was near the cliff the the couple realized they were going to have to let go or they would be dragged over the edge and down the cliff.

They stood and watched everything they owned in the world drop over the edge of the cliff and bounce its way down the slope and into Moth Lake. Amazingly the trailer floated but it slowly moved away from the shore.  It eventually bobbed into the middle of the lake and sank.

With the help of a passing motorist they contacted the police and a towing company. The next day the Insurance company hired a diver who found the trailer in the bottom of the lake and hooked up a cable.  It was dragged across the bottom of the lake, up the bolder strewn slope, and then up the cliff face,

Eventually the trailer was hauled into Kenora where everything was unpacked. The valuables were collected, the water damaged items were tossed and a few of the remaining items were saved.

They rarely ever forgot their trip across Ontario to their new home.

Journeys end – P5


Once again we portaged around rocky rapids and waterfalls, anyone of which would have made a good place to fish but we had to keep moving. The little motor was efficient and allowed us to bypass a couple of gasoline caches.


The supper hour passed and our hunger began to grow.  We were all tired of the long journey and looked forward to the end of the last portage.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This portion of the map shows how we had to zig zag our way north. Near the center of the map where we made a right angle turn to the right, it shows the dead end lake where we had to turn around and backtrack.

Eventually we came to the end of the journey and found VM waiting at the end of the portage with a larger boat. We happily got out of the canoe and into the roomier boat. Because it was about 7:30 pm I was handed the bottle of Scotch, having won my bet with William.


We just left the canoe  where it was and headed to the camp for a hearty meal.
VM was asking lots of questions which we answered but he knew all three of us well and quickly picked up on the frosty relationship between us.

After eating I went outside in order to leave the three partners to talk freely. I was not interested in rehashing the sore points of the trip. Soon I was asked back into the tent camp and told that we were allowed to speak our mind at the camp and anything that was said would remain in the camp.

I explained how close we came to tragedy on Goshawk lake and David’s behavior. He quickly said, “I was scared.”  I pointed out, “I was asked to go on the trip to prevent that kind of mistake but I was ignored and we all almost drowned in the cold water.”

In the ended everyone had their say and things cooled down. I left the bottle to the camp and it was opened during the discussions and helped smooth the way.  At some point David acknowledge I was right about the gas consumption and later put in his hour on the woodpile.


I took this shot the next day of William and David sitting with the plane drawn up on the wilderness beach a hundred miles north of Kenora.  The large tent camp is out of sight in the trees to the left. William and I went fishing in the morning and VM flew me back to Kenora in the afternoon.

While we were having lunch I was asked why I stuck to my gas and travel times  and how I managed to guess the right answers.  I pointed out that before we hauled the canoe to the starting point I had possession of it in Kenora for a few days and had a chance to give it a trial run. I not only learned it was great on gas but was going to be slow when loaded with three me.  There were lots of howls of laughter and complaints, but in the end  it had been a successful and safe trip.

William and I went fishing Sunday morning and he quietly admitted he thought the boat was sinking and he was going to drown. I realized that he had to stay silent or it would have damaged his relationship with his hunting partners. While fishing he took my photo at the rapids on Rowdy lake.


At the time of the trip/photo I was 33 years old. Today I am a few weeks short of my 83 birthday. All my companions connected with this trip have been dead for many years.







Gas/Time travel wagers – Part 4

img645 While we drove the canoe through the chain of lakes, rivers and rapids I though about the number of meetings we held the winter of 1967-68, to work out the details of the trip to Rowdy lake.. One of the earliest decisions agreed upon was that we would go in early spring of 1968. We had to wait until all the lakes and rivers were free of ice but soon enough to take advantage of the spring run off, which would improved passage through any rapids.

The most up to date map of our route showed we could make the trip in one day, but we would have to travel lite and keep moving as fast as possible.  We would start out early and carry sandwiches for one meal only. The major portages between the rivers and lakes were obvious, but very few of the rapids and falls were shown. Because our equipment was very limited we could move fairly quickly on a portage.  We carried no tent nor sleeping bags. Any unforeseen delays meant sleeping on the ground around a fire and going hungry till we reached our destination or back tracked to our starting point.

If we failed to show up at the rendezvous the plane could be used the next day to find us  and it could land on the closest lake to provide food or assistance.

Our route was easy to determine because there was only one chain of lakes and river available to us. It should not be difficult to find us if anything went wrong.

Many discussion evolved around how long it would take to make the journey and how many gallons of gasoline would be required.  Rather than carry and portage all our gas we solved that problem by filling a number of plastic gallon containers with gas then used the plane to drop them off in three places along the route. I flew with Dave a week prior to the trip and we hid one or two gallons on prominent island locations, on lakes that were large enough for us to fly into. This way we never had more than a couple of gallons to carry at any one time in the canoe or on a portage.

All the many discussions as to the length of time the trip was going to take were interesting and highly varied.  We never came to a common decision. Because of my canoeing experience I argued that it would be a race to get to the rendezvous before dark while William insisted we would be there by supper time. The winner would receive a bottle of scotch from the loser.

Another bet involved the amount of gas that we would use during the trip. David bet me an hour on the camp woodpile splitting wood that we would use all the gas we cached on the route while I was of the opinion that we would use a couple of gallons less.

As the miles and hours dragged on we all started to get hungry and at the same time watched the sun racing across the sky.  We ate the sandwiches at noon and picked up a couple of milk jugs of gas. It did not appear gas was going to be a problem but the diminishing hours were making William feel the bottle of scotch slipping from his grasp.

When I finished my turn at the helm I moved to the bow of the boat which allowed a person to lean back on a life jacket and have a nap. David was again running the motor.  Before and during the trip I had spent considerable time examining the map and the route.



When I wok up I felt refreshed.  I looked around me at the shore lines.  I did not recognize anything. As I looked at the shore that lay ahead I could not see any opening.  Half in jest, and half seriously I said, “How long have we been going the wrong way?”  William laughed heartily while David’s eyes darted around the shoreline and his heart sank.

We stopped the motor and closely examined the map.  It was obvious there was no opening on the north side of the lake.  About a mile back, David had failed to notice the river entered from his right. The lake we were on was called Wrong Lake. The hidden lake to our right was called Right Lake. Since the lakes were labeled this way on the map it was obvious prior travelers had had the same problem. David had obviously not been reading and following the map.

I was sorry for what I had said initially in jest.  There was no point in saying more. David was mortified, his face was beet red and looked like he  might die of a heart attack.

We soon were back on the right route and other than the hum of the motor there was deathly silence.


Sturgeon River portages – P3

Now we were on the Sturgeon river our travel conditions changed.  No more open water, no more high waves, and we were protected from the wind.

On the other hand we now faced impassible water falls and rocky rapids. Some portages were short and we simply dragged the loaded canoe around the rocks and shallows. Others necessitated removing the motor and all the gear.


While the scenery was breathtaking and the weather was improving, the inter-personal petty behavior continued. In one of our early winter planning meetings, before William was there, I was instructed that we all had to see that he, William, did not carry heavy loads or overtax himself as he was the oldest and had some heart issues. I agreed and had no problems with that.  I was the youngest, the biggest and the strongest and was willing to do more than my share.

When we hit the big water fall we learned the portage was about fifteen minutes in length. Once the canoe was out of the water David grabbed his pack sack, slipped it over his shoulder and headed off across the portage with out a word to either of us.

William unfastened the motor and head down the trail with it in one hand and the gas tank in the other. I stood there looking at the empty  16 foot canoe, then lifted it on my shoulders and followed. When I arrived at the end of the portage Dave stood there looking at William and his load, then staring at me with disgust on his face.

I never did find out what David was fuming about. The small motor and gas was certainly lighter than the canoe. William was a very positive individual and he was at least twenty years old than I was. He was not going to listen to me and he was certainly going to do his share on the portage.

I could not help but reflect that had this been 150 years ago, David and I would have settled the issue once and for all, right there in the wilderness.


Instead we put the canoe in the water, motor back on, and the gear loaded. We soon pushed off shore into the current and sullenly and silently sat and watched the shoreline slide by.

I now understand the stories I have read about canoe travel in the past and how men crammed into a small canoe got into knife fights and not all of them arrived at the distant destination.

English River Maze – Part 2


Once we crossed Goshawk Lake we immediately went ashore and David started a fire.    We soon got warmed up and our wet clothing dried. Note the fresh snow covering everything and which continued to fall to the north of us. William is back in the boat and ready to proceed. Note the square stern canoe and small motor.

We had an agreement that David would run the motor across Goshawk lake and I would then take over. In the distance you will note a log boom blocking our way. In 1958 when the White Dog Falls Dam was built this whole area was flooded. This was one of the areas in which the trees were not removed before the flooding occurred. It has taken years for the trees to rot at the waterline and fall over.

This results in hundreds of floating trees along the shore and tree stumps just below the water surface. Boat travel is restricted to a slow pace as there are multiple collisions between our propeller and the tree stumps. This slowed us down for a couple of  miles. The log booms kept the logs from floating out into the English River and floating to the intakes at the dam.KODAK Digital Still Camera

This map shows how we crossed Goshawk lake and then went ashore. Once we were dry and warm we had to proceed from the fire site through the narrows until we entered Umpreville Lake at the top of the map..

Once free of this section we had to cross the east end of Umpreville Lake then cross the English River which entered it at this location. From there we had to locate the Sturgeon River which flowed into the English River from the North. It was best described as a maze as the route was also confused by many islands and bays.

On the map below the largest section of open water near the lower portion of the map is the east section of  Umpreville Lake. The English River enters from the north and is marked. We then curved to the north east and continued almost east until the opening of the Sturgeon River, shown by a right angle bend near the top of the map.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

To make the journey even more interesting we moved north into thicker snow fall and visibility was again reduced to about fifty feet. Since it was my  turn to read the map and steer the canoe my companions began to question what direction I was going in.  We all knew it was going to be difficult to find the opening of the Sturgeon River.

David felt we were going too far to the east while William felt we had gone too far north. These questions, when added to our previous disagreement only increased the tension in the canoe.

Without getting too irritated I said, “It is my turn to navigate and if I fail to find the  Sturgeon River, then someone else can take over.  In the mean time the wind continues on my left cheek while the rising sun shows a slight glow in the snow fall to the east. I intend to continue in this direction until we meet the current of the English River. Once into that current we will follow the north shore to the north-east till we meet the current of the Sturgeon river which enters from the north.”

The rest of the trip was suffered in dead silence and the tension continued to increase as time passed. Finally after about a dozen miles, we hit the mouth of the Sturgeon and there were smiles all around.


Because this river was much narrower we were no longer bothered by the snow fall and restricted visibility.  The temperature continued to rise and the snow finally stopped. I took this photo as we entered the Sturgeon River and the current is obvious. The chance of getting lost was now diminished and we all relaxed. David in particular was not so intense and the rest of the trip looked brighter.



Goshhawk Lake snowstorm



Goshawk Lake, heading north, into the face of a spring snow storm

It was early May of 1968 and three of us were in an 16 ft. aluminum canoe crossing Goshawk Lake, forty miles north of Kenora, Ontario. As we pushed off from shore the  wind from the west started to pick up and to the north, the direction we were heading, it started to snow.

David was running the small motor, William was sitting in the front seat, while I sat on the floor of the canoe in the middle. We were off on an adventure to deliver this canoe to a temporary hunting camp located at Rowdy lake, fifty or so miles to the north.

We had about three miles to go across the lake, while the width of the lake was at least four miles. As we moved away from the shore the wind increased as did the waves. Because we were traveling parallel to the waves the canoe was rolling badly as each wave passed under the canoe. As the minutes passed I became concerned about the canoe filling with water and leaving us with a half mile swim in very cold spring water.

Earlier in the winter my partner in business, VM, came to me with a request. He and two other men owned a temporary hunting camp on Rowdy Lake.  It was a fly in camp and consisted of two large tents, one inside the other for insulation purposes.  It all sat on a large plywood floor and could be taken down and removed at any time.  Rules and regulations set out what was considered a temporary camp and this site followed the rules.

The camp had been in use for a couple of years for hunting deer and moose. A couple of aluminum boats and small motors had been flown in by bush plane but the canoe was too long for this form of transport.

The many swamps and small creeks could not be used by the boats when recovering downed game as the water was too shallow and narrow. The three owners of the camp had decided they needed a canoe to improve their transportation of moose meat in particular. It could not go in by bush plane so the only alternative was to take it in through a system of lakes and rivers that flowed from Rowdy lake. In other words the whole trip would be up stream.

My partner came up with the bright Idea that I should accompany the them on the trip north since I had considerable canoeing experience, which they all lacked.

We had been in a business partnership for four years but I only knew the other two men casually. I was about 35 years old, David at least 45 and William at least 55. We met a number of times to make the plans. My role in the trip was  rather limited so I played a small part in the actual plans of what we were taking and or the route north.

And now, here I  was in a cold northern lake traveling in a loaded canoe in an unsafe manner. I kept my mouth shut until we were in the middle of the lake and the situation was becoming critical. Finally I turned and said to David, “David, if you turn into the waves and increase your speed a little, I  think you would find the canoe would ride better and there would be less chance of shipping water.”

In an instant he exploded and yelled in what I took as a frightened cry. “Here we are, hardly off the shore and you are trying to tell us what to do! Then, like a child having a tantrum, he suddenly turned the canoe into the waves and increased the speed. In an instant the next wave climbed the side of the canoe and deposited about five gallons of cold water on us all. At the same time the sudden increase in speed caused the bow of the canoe to dive into the following wave, once again adding to the water in the canoe.

It was a very frightening move and I felt sorry for William in the front as he had no warning of the sharp turn and no doubt was seriously frightened when he was doused with cold water.

Almost as soon as soon as David swerved left he swerved back so once again we were rolling in the trough of the waves and creeping our way north to the distant shore.

I can remember sitting there in the cold water and considering my options. I was a good swimmer but cold spring water could bring on hypothermia very quickly.  If the canoe filled with water it would barely support three grown men from sinking.  I looked at the shore and guessed we were less than half a mile away to my right or east. it would be an easy swim in warm water. Under these conditions I would have less than half an hour to make the shore before I would be slowed down by the hypothermia.

I actually started considering loosening the laces of my boot and unzipping my jacket. I knew there was no way I could save either man by towing them to shore.  I was thinking rationally and certainly considering looking after myself, but finally decided to let the situation run its course. I was so disgusted by David’s behavior I probably would have tried to only save William.

It was at this  moment the snow from the North moved in over us, limiting our vision to the length of the canoe. The heavy thick snow seemed to dampen down the waves and at the same time David cut our speed by half. In this little world of snow we crawled forward with no idea where we were or where we were going. The snow built up thickly on our hats, shoulders and legs.

Eventually the far rocky shore came into sight and we all agreed we need to get a good fire going and get dried out before we continued. The mood was dark, each of us were very disturbed by the turn of events and realized it was not going to be a pleasant journey. Worst of all we were only three miles into a 50 mile trip.

David and I were not on speaking terms.  Things did not bode well for the rest of the journey, but I was ready to face it and make the best of it.






Bush Pilots & Depth Perception


I lived in Kenora, Ontario, Canada for ten years and made many trips around the area with Bush Pilots and float planes. Landings and take-offs can be exciting. Lifting off from a small lake and clearing the trees at the other end of the lake can get the blood flowing.

One year, back in the 1960’s, a young pilot transported a Moose Hunting party into a northern lake. After a successful hunt he returned to pick up the party and their moose. The first two plane loads deposited the hunters at their main dock cabin. Then he went back for the butchered moose.

The entire hunting party watched the float plane circle the lake and come in for another landing.  It was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky and without the slightest breeze.  Not a leaf was blowing and the water was a smooth as a mirror.

As the plane descended to the surface of the water it failed to pull out and flew right into the lake and crashed. The pilot was killed and the plane was destroyed.

The accident was caused by the lack of depth perception, caused by the smooth glass surface. The pilot had no reference as to how high he was off the surface of the water.  From what he saw he believe he was much higher up from the  surface of the lake and failed to level off and allow the floats to touch first.

The answer to the problem was simple.  An expericed pilot appreciates the danger and simply flies over the spot on the lake where he plans to touch down and drops a life jacket onto that spot.

When he circles back he is able to judge his height off the water surface by watching the life jacket floating in the water.  Being familure with the size of the jacket gives him a proper gauge as to how high he is off the surface of  the lake.

It does take more time to make the landing, by having to circle and extra time, but it is a small price to pay when lives are concerned.



Subtle retaliation

The old white haired Indian slowly paddled his canoe in silent purposeful strokes. He was heading for a favorite fishing hole on a sunny August weekend, filled with city folk and their frantic actions to squeeze in every last minute on the lake.

As he slid through a narrow bay, he was very aware of all the owners of camps and cottages that lined the shores on each side. Sitting on their docks, sharing the view and comradeship, surrounded in boats and canoes.

The hum of outboard motors was constant in the background but the canoeist tuned into one particularly loud motor that was coming closer. He had earlier seen these four boaters who were heavily into their drinks and racing about without a purpose.

As the motor noise came up behind him, the old man was alert and prepared for the loud rush and roar as the big boat sped by with a large bow wave. It was met by the experienced flick of the wrist that presented the bow of the canoe to meet the attacking wave.

The canoe rose easily to shrug off the rush of water, and just as easily swung back to his original track, without effort or emotion.

The rabble in the boat, shouting, yelling, and swilling more firewater, suddenly realized they had a great object to harass. The big boat swiftly and easily swung back the way they came and headed for the defenseless victim.

A pattern soon formed of the racing boat with the high bow waving coming closer and closer to the canoe on each pass. It progressed to the point that the boat would swerve at the last moment before impact to create a very large wave with the stern of the boat.

The Old canoeist met each attack with skill and calm. The bow of the canoe met each wave head on and just as skillfully turned back on course, which was slowly taking it deeper into the bay. A little water entered the boat but nothing to be of concern.

During this dangerous game, the property owners sitting and standing on the many docks were become very concerned about the safety of the canoeist.

On one of the last attacks, the boat went a little farther out into the bay before returning on what appeared to be a high speed pass. During their last turn out in the bay they failed to appreciate that the old Indian not only had been paddling deeper into the bay, he was also moving closer to the rocky shore on his right.

As the boisterous crew of four young men came closer they noticed for the first time that the canoeist was backing up, as if he was afraid and was no longer meeting their challenge.

Two or three of the old cabin owner on shore jumped up and started waving their hands in the air, in what appeared to be an attempt to tell the boater to slow down or go back. However they were very familure with the waters and reefs in their bay, and like the old man, knew the danger.

Youth and alcohol fueled their activities and only spurred them on.

When the high speed boat was almost up to the canoe a huge CRASH filled the bay with sound. The entire portion of the racing outboard motor was sheered off below the hull of the boat. Follow seconds later by a great thumping Crash, as the bow of the wooden boat smashed its way onto the hidden reef.

The blow suffered by the engine was transferred to the transom of the boat, to which the engine was attached. While the engine was not torn free it partly broke the transom, allowing water to pour into the boat.

The front bottom portion of the boat was holed in two places, causing the water to roar in as if from high speed pump. All four occupants, drink in hand or in the mouth, were propelled forcefully, either into the windshield or through it and onto the bow.

The canoeist rapidly and skillfully avoided the disaster while everyone on the docks were standing watching and stunned by the events.

Each occupant of the destroyed boat were hurt in various ways, but in shock with minor injuries. The boat came to a stop with the bow on the reef which was about a foot under water. The rapidly filling boat sank by the stern and into the deeper water.

The old man threw out his small anchor, strode across the reef, and one by one pulled the four boys onto the reef where they sat safe in a foot of water crying and moaning. The driver of the boat was moaning through a battered bleeding mouth and threatening to sue the old Indian for causing the accident.

Many people lining the bay jumped into their boat and rushed out to help. Soon the reef was busy with people helping the injured into boats and heading into town to the hospital. No one was paying any attention to the canoeist who had climbed back in his canoe and just as determinedly as before continued his journey to his fishing hole.

As the turmoil toned down, the smashed boat finally filled, and slipped off the reef into deeper water, damaged beyond repair. Leaving the water covered reef with no evidence of what transpired.

The Police investigation was filled with a dozen witnesses who gave detailed facts as to what occurred. Charges were eventually laid against the boaters for dangerous driving. No one even interviewed the old man. They couldn’t find him or his fishing hole.