Friday, 10 February 2017

A Fisherman's Memories of the Nipigon River

A letter to Buzz Lein from F. Stevens - September 2, 1972 - Nipigon Historical Museum Archives

A fisherman's memories of the Nipigon River.

"Dear Buzz:
I was pleased to have your brief note and to see you are still in the same area that is of mutual interest.
Hind sight makes experts of us all and i wish we had the time over again so that a serious attempt could be made to save the Nipigon River as God and Nature created it.
I don't know of any river East of the Rockies that was so well endowed with beauty, exciting force and populated with the fairest fish.
When Hydro decided to build a dam at Pine Portage, none of us figured the loss of the river could be weighed against the benefit to accrue to people from the Hydro dam. They had the right to build it and we took the decision meekly with some protests against the higher cost of delivering wood.
If I had the power and the money, I would remove the dam and try to restore the river to its original condition and I'd try to make every part of it accessible so that everyone could experience the pleasure the river gave.
There are many people who fished the river oftener than I did and who knew it far better. Len Moffat, Corley Wilson, Ray Davies, Jack McKirdy, Bonner, of Bonner's Island, etc. If you have time to talk to Ray Davies, he can tell you of fishing experiences and people better than anyone. Ray is in the eighties and you should not delay in visiting him.
The original Nipigon River was a series of falls, rapids, fast water, lakes. In some places quite narrow with high rocky banks, in others broad as the river widened into lakes.
The fast water was the most fascinating. It was crystal clear green and boiling almost to whiteness with air bubbles created by the tumbling water. It was always ice cold and you could rarely stand in the water more than 20 minutes if you wanted to get clear of the shore to cast.
Most of the fishing was done with casting rods and level wind rolls using hardware such as red and white daredevils, Gapin's Spinner and Cockatouche fly, William's spinner and worms, live cockatouche, minnows, bucktail streamers, black and white and yellow, etc.
I caught my first trout in South Bay at the spawner's shack with Len Moffat, it weighed over 6 lbs. and was caught in late evening on a daredevil casting into shore. There wasn't more than 6 inches of water where the fish struck. Moffat cast right alongside and caught its mate a few seconds later. Next day we caught another off the point above the spawner's shack.
The overflow out of South Bay into what was then Lake Hannah was a unique place. The trout would come in there and lay in the deep water. On a quiet day, you could look down into the water and see as many as 30 to 40 trout, 5 lbs. and up, and they would most of the time ignore any bait you offered.
At some time of the day though, early morning or evening, they would bite and that pool could be a busy place for a while. I caught on 7 and a quarter pound there which would have been a record fish that year, but I gutted it  and didn't enter it in any competition. Scotty Morgan, a papermaker with Great Lakes Paper, used to camp at the overflow a week at a time to fish or use it as a base.
The creek out of the overflow used to contain lots of young specs that were partial to Gapin's Silver Doctor fly. We had Bus Davidson in the river catching them while Withenshaw and I were on shore frying them up as fast as he tossed them to us. There was never a better meal than those trout fried in bacon fat with bread and butter and cold beer.
The best job of fishing I ever saw was from the dam at Virgin Falls. Bus Davidson and Gordon Withenshaw ran through the dam and came back up on the west side anchoring about 40 feet below the dam in fast water. Both were using fly rods with brown cockatouche fly and spinner and both hooked a trout at the same time. The advantage was all with the fish. Gordon lost his almost right away as his trout simply headed downriver and tore out the hook. Davidson managed to turn his fish and thirty-five minutes later he landed his fish, weighing over 6 pounds. It was a spectacle to see him work that fish upstream with white water.
Fishermen have always had a high regard for people who could cast a long distance but in fishing the Nipigon River it meant little and the fellow who got the fish was the one able to think like a fish and didn't use more that 15 feet of line.
If you knew where to look you could spot where the trout were. A tree root into the water used to provide the watching place for a six pounder at Devil's Rapids. He would dart out from the cedar stump and grab food and then go back into shelter. Len Moffat hooked this fellow with 3 feet of line but he took off downstream, jumped a cedar in the water and was gone.
Boulders and centre jams were other good spots. At island Rapids where the launch 'Ghost' used to land there was a large boulder that sheltered a trout that went into Slim Johnson's fish basket. As soon as a trout was caught, in a short time another would move into his spot.
The centre jam at Victoria Rapids and above the Ranger's Pool where the cable bridges were located were good spots to fish. Ray Davies filled his basket many times with 2 to 3 lb. fish above Ranger's Pool.
I always believed that the Nipigon River had a function in the production of trout and in the rejuvenation of them. Fish moved up and down the river and I think the highly oxygenated water of the river had a lot to do with the strength and vigour of the trout. Certainly a river trout fought more fiercely than one in Lake Nipigon.
I caught one 6 lb. trout at the drive camp at White Chutes. I'll never know why he struck my lure because when I opened him up, I found him full of peas and a piece of salt pork that was one and a half inches by four inches by one inch. He had been mooching where the cook had dumped some left-overs in the river.
We considered ourselves lucky if we came back with one or two fish. The fish were there but to get them you had to find them in the mood.
If fishing in Lake Nipigon is finished, you had better get a private eye to find out why. It is too valuable a heritage to be lost or reduced."

A Diverting Experience -Ogoki

Sorry photos didn't copy over for me for this post. I'll sort them out later.
Anthropogenic Changes to a Great Lake Superior

MAN, We Did It!

Changes to the hydraulic features of the Great Lakes have been going on since the early 1800's.

The Lake Michigan Diversion at Chicago ( 1848, 1900, 1928) , is now in the news as they race to keep the Asian Carp from accessing the whole Great Lakes water system.

The Long Lac diversion (1941), and the Ogoki diversion (1943), divert water from the Hudson Bay watershed to Lake Superior.

Long Lac began as an aide to logging operations and then turned into hydro-electric generation. The Ogoki was purely extra water for the Nipigon River power dams at Cameron Falls and Alexander Falls and later Pine Portage. The down-stream power houses on the Great Lakes also benefited.

Between the two diversions flow rate in 1999 averaged 5,600 cubic feet per second and that raised Lake Superior level by + 0.21 of a foot. By the time it p[asses through all the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario raises level by + 0.21 of a foot. The effects change with regulation plans - I am using 1999 rules from Volume No. 136 July 2, 1999 Great Lakes Update, US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District : Anthropogenic Changes to Great Lakes Water Levels by Frank H. Quinn, Ph D.

In 2007 I was on a site called " Great Lakes Water Wars " that described the Ogoki Diversion. The author was in a DeHavilland Beaver float plane, 150 miles north of Thunder Bay. He watches as the logging roads and cut-overs fade away - then they are flying over "pure unadulterated Canadian wilderness."


"In the middle of nowhere rests a dam."


"It's located in a roadless area!"

The Summit Dam: named because it sits on the divide between Hudson Bay and Lake Superior watersheds.


The Waboose Dam: spans 1700 feet - that's 450 feet longer than the Hoover Dam.

The Summit and Waboose Dams are part of the largest inter-Basin water transfer project built in the Great Lakes.

The Waboose Dam cuts off the Ogoki River, backing it into a reservoir feeding toward the Summit Dam which pours the water at a rate of 4000 cfs toward Lake Nipigon and the Nipigon River power dams and then Lake Superior and the Great Lakes system.

The Ogoki diversion started in 1940 and had its grand opening in 1943. The cost $5,000,000.

From HYDRO NEWS, Volume 30, No. 9, September 1943  Published by The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario

Editor: William Rattray
The Waboose Dam
"Might and Majesty both find expression in the spectacle of a massive dam,
and water which rushes over sweeping sluice-ways
to roar into a turbulent torrent on the rocks below." photo by W. Rattray 1943

" It was the winter of 1940 when actual construction work commenced. The keen-edged axe of the lumberjack quickly made a clearing in the bush at Ferland where base headquarters were established. In all, approximately 80 miles of roads were built within the Ogoki area to facilitate the movement of equipment and more than 20,000 tons of different kinds of materials which had to be brought from outside. Of that total more than 800 tons were foodstuffs alone."

"Where sand and gravel for the mixing plants had to be trucked, or excavated rock or earth moved from the shovels, short stretches of good gravel road were built. The main winter roads, however, were simply clearings through the forest surfaced with hard-packed snow and ice. Thus cold weather provided smooth-surfaced highways over which heavy sleigh trains could be hauled. When spring came, however, these roads reverted to the forest primeval and became impassible swamp or rocky, stump-studded bush. By using this winter type road many thousands of dollars in construction costs were saved as well as a great deal of valuable time."
"Caterpillar tractors played an important role in Ogoki construction operations.
They were used extensively in moving freight over winter roads
and in hauling loads of rock-fill as shown above. " photo W. Rattray

"With the use of tractors, pulling long strings of freight carrying sleighs, most of the material and equipment was brought in during the winter months ready to commence operations in the spring when the frost released the ground from its icy grip."

" In summer planes were the principal transportation link between the Ferland headquarters and the various camps. One of these planes based at Ombabika Bay, two miles from Ferland, equipped with skiis in the winter time and floats during the summer, carried more than 1,800,000 pounds of freight and nearly 2,000 passengers within the Ogoki area during the construction period."

"Some conception of the magnitude of the task can be formed from the fact that during the construction period nearly 800,000 cubic yards of earth and muskeg and 140,000 cubic yards of rock were taken out by the tireless jaws of the mighty excavation machines."

"Where it was necessary to construct auxiliary earth dams a great deal of fill was also required. When the job was completed there were 65,000 cubic yards of rock fill, 284,000 cubic yards of earth, and 51,000 cubic yards of rip rap used, in the dams which close low spots in the contour."

"These works, combined with other auxiliary dams at Chappais Lake and Snake Creek, which flows into Mojikit Creek from the west, will create a reservoir extending upstream to the west a distance of 30 miles and to the south in Mojikit Lake. The total area of this reservoir or new lake will be 120 square miles of which 78 square miles only will be newly flooded land."
The new lake level is at the top and this shows the fall to Montreal.
page seven Hydro News
"Daily communication between construction camps and
the H.E.P.C. office in Toronto was maintained by shortwave radio.
 Key points at which shortwave radio was installed included
Waboose, Summit and Jackfish.
"This is the new railway bridge which was erected at Jackfish crossing
where the channel had been enlarged to take care of the increased flow of water."
"Houses for the operators have been constructed at both Summit and Waboose dams."
"Otto Holden, chief hydraulic engineer, W. B. Crombie, superintendent of Ogoki diversion constructions and David Forgan, the commission's construction engineer.  Declaring the Ogoki diversion open, Otto Holden smashed a bottle containing Niagara River water against a stop log at Summit control dam. With an  almost inaudible splash, the contents of the bottle mingled with the water below the dam."

International Lake Superior Board of Control Board Meeting  March 9, 2005  Conference Room E  Jacob Javits Federal Building, 25 Federal Plaza, New York City

...Item 3.  Update on Lang Lac and Ogoki Diversions

"Mr. Caldwell reported that Ontario Power Generation provided the Board with an update on the discharges of the Long Lac and Ogoki Diversions. The Ogoki Diversion into Lake Nipigon averaged 129.1 cms (4,560 cfs) during September 2004 - February 2005. The Long Lac Diversion averaged 60.6 cms (2,140 cfs) for the same period. The total diversion was reported to be 135% of average for the reporting period. Water was spilled northward to the Ogoki River from September through February and from Long Lac from September through November."


Secretary of State for External Affairs to Ambassador of United States

note No. X-259  Ottawa, September 29th , 1953

...concerning the Long Lac and Ogoki diversions in Northern Ontario:

"As stated in the Department of External Affairs Notes No. X-125 of May 1, 1952 and No. X-133 of May 7, 1952, the diversions of these Canadian rivers are harnessed to important hydro-electric power developments serving communities and industries in the area which are consequently dependent on them. In spite of co-operation, however, the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario has on occasion made arrangements to reduce or stop the diversions temporarily when such action would serve a useful purpose without serious damage to the interests involved. The Long Lac diversion is directly harnessed to the Aguasabon power plant and continuous use of this water is necessary; but in order to ease the anxiety of interests directly affected by the out-flow from Lake Superior, the diversions have been reduced to a minimum by stopping, temporarily, the entire flow of the larger or Ogoki diversion to the Great Lakes basin."

"With regard to the proposal that the International Joint Commission be requested to give priority to this aspect of the Reference of June 25, 1952, the Reference itself asks the Commission to make recommendations with a view to reducing the fluctuations and to bringing about a more beneficial range of stage of water levels of Lake Ontario."...etc..".Accordingly, no useful purpose would seem to be served in requesting the Commission to digress from the orderly conduct of its work ..."

In 2010 consideration is back on the front burner for a power dam on the Little Jackfish. It has been an on again/off again project for many years.  With so many mill-closures the need for more power is not there, unless they are looking toward The Far North Ring Of Fire business?

Issues in the Forest

Landscape Management, Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity

Something new in forest management?

No way!

This is from "Forest Operations and Silviculture Manual" prepared under the authority of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act, February 20, 1995. Ministry of Natural Resources for Ontario.

Over a decade before Victoria's Secret turned her models loose with chainsaws - in a most derogatory put-down of our forest workers and managers - this is really what was planned for our forests.

page 30 " Considerable work has been done on this subject (Landscape Management, Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity), resulting in the recommendation of an ecosystem approach to wildlife habitat management rather than a species - by - species approach."

"The featured-species approach to habitat management is being changed to one which strives more explicitly to conserve biodiversity with methods derived from landscape provide the vegetative mosaic required by all species in the forest."

"This approach will seek to ensure that wildlife habitat requirements of a broad range of species will be met over the long term across large areas... It will not eliminate the need for site-specific prescriptions and critical habitat elements for some species."

In 1996 the Timber Management Guidelines for the Provision of Pine Martin Habitat were completed.

"The provision of martin habitat has potential to provide habitat for other species that depend on mature and over-mature coniferous forests."

"At the forest level the pine martin guidelines suggest maintaining a minimum proportion of each conifer-dominated forest unit in older post-rotation age classes and those older forest conditions are to be maintained in patches of a minimum size.( Rotation = the planned number of years between the regeneration of a stand and its final cutting at maturity.) These areas would ideally be located beside areas of intermediate-aged stands to create "core habitat areas." Wherever possible, core habitat areas would be connected to each other by riparian reserves or unmerchantable areas etc."

"At the stand level, the guidelines speak to the retention of course woody debris (large downed trees) and snags (standing dead or dying trees) as well as live green trees which are expected to become snags later."

Resource Manuals also exist for : Bats 1984; and Woodland Caribou 1996; Furbearer Habitat etc.

By 2014 we will be seeing an Eastern Cougar Habitat Guideline...I kid you not.

Starting in about 2001 the Environment groups tried to stop all logging in Ontario because we were destroying birdnests.(Previous posts – in Blog … have gone over that issue) So, let’s see what the Forest Managers were doing way before that.

The Timber Management Guidelines for the Provision of Pileated Woodpecker Habitat , completed 1996.

Forest Level:

"The pileated woodpecker feeds and breeds in a range of forest conditions, but shows a preference for the mature and over-mature stages of forests dominated by tolerant hardwoods and pine."

Stand Level:

The pileated woodpecker requires dead and dying trees and downed woody debris for feeding, nesting and roosting."

Problem # 1 The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires operators to fell standing dead trees.

Problem # 2 Dying trees are removed preferentially in partial cutting systems.


"To address these concerns, current MNR guidelines require that living cavity trees be kept to provide habitat for primary and secondary cavity users in the tolerant hardwood and pine forests of Central Ontario. (They describe the number and dispersion and characteristics of trees to retain.)"

"Since living cavity trees may not meet all the habitat needs of the pileated woodpecker, MNR will continue to work with the Ministry of Labour to find methods to keep dead standing trees without compromising the safety of woods workers."

Resource Manuals also exist for: Osprey 1983; Forest nesting Accipiters, Buteos and Eagles 1984; Cavity nesting birds 1984; Protection of Heronries 1984; Warblers 1984; Birds of Wetlands 1985; Bald Eagle 1987; Golden Eagle 1987; Peregrine Falcon 1987; Waterfowl; Hawk Guide 1991.

Since that time these may have been upgraded and some amalgamated but I wanted to list them here , in their individual state to show that our loggers and pulp cutters weren't just going out and attacking and slaying and destroying the boreal forest and all the creatures that live there. Even the plants -

"Consideration is being given to providing direction on plant management such as protecting the habitat for uncommon species. For forest operations where ginseng is known to exist prescriptions include maintaining dense crown closure around intermittent streams and seeps, limiting the seasons of operation and minimizing the number of points at which streams and seeps are crossed."

B.Brill essay

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Virgin Falls Dam

Virgin Falls

from the Nipigon Historical Museum Archives

" In 1924, a survey of the proposed damsite was completed.  In 1926, the Commission built a control dam at Virgin Falls, at the outlet of Lake Nipigon, creating the largest storage reservoir in existence at that time, with a capacity of 6,700,000 acre feet. "

"Order-in-Council dated April 25, 1930, approved construction of control dam to maintain Lake Nipigon level of 855; approved amount $486,884.26. The control dam consisted of a concrete pier and stop-log structure (nine sluices, 15 feet deep, 5 feet freeboard) across the main channel together with an additional three sluice ways located in the left bank diversion channel. Total design discharge for the structure was 10,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) at minimum lake level."

"The gravity wall section, right abutment is founded on rock with a top width of 24 inches and downstream batter of 7 and a half to 12. The gravity wall section between channels is also founded on rock, with a 12 inch top width, 7 and a half to 12 downstream batter, with the deeper sections back filled on the downstream side by rock fill ( one and a half to one slope)"

"The Pine Portage project assumed control of Lake Nipigon and all stoplogs were removed from the Virgin Falls dam. During demolition proceedings on the deck, one of the piers was demolished and the structure is no longer in an operational condition."

"Note: License of Occupation 7785 dated November 1, 1963 grants Ontario Hydro the right to occupy and maintain the damsite areas at Virgin Falls and Black Sturgeon in order to regulate the Lake Nipigon level up to  elevation 855 feet. Land involved at Virgin Falls is 5.1 acres and at Black Sturgeon 13.63 acres."

Ogoki Diversion and Nipigon River Dams

"Through a 1940 agreement with the United States, approval was given to Canada " to utilize immediately for the increase in power output at Niagara for war purposes, an additional flow of water equivalent to that which will be added to the Great Lakes as a result of diverting water from portions of the Albany Watershed..."  (HEPC, 1941). This led to the construction of the Ogoki River Diversion which sent water south into Lake Nipigon. In 1942, the Hydro Electric Power Commission promised the diversion "will increase the power resources of Southern Ontario and Quebec and improve levels of the Great Lakes for the benefit of Canada and the United States."

"The diversion increased flows into the Little Jackfish River by 113 cubic metres per second and this minor stream turned into an excavated soft, wide channel. It is estimated that 30 million cubic yards of sediment were released from the Little Jackfish River between 1943 and 1972. This resulted in 9 metres of sediment being deposited near the river mouth in Ombabika Bay, (Holmes, 1976)."

"The completion of the Pine Portage Dam in 1950 raised the water level on the Nipigon River by 31 metres, (100 feet) and flooded out almost 16 km of white water, rapids and waterfalls, including: the White Chutes, Victoria, Canal, Devil, Rabbit and Miner's Rapids. Lake Emma and Hannah were both flooded out and the whole area renamed Forgan Lake. The Pine Portage Dam raised Lake Nipigon water level by 12 cm, flooding over the Virgin Falls Dam."

"Until 1990, the dams on the river were operated by Ontario Hydro for the sole purpose of generating electricity, restricted by only their legal flooding rights. In 1990, when it was demonstrated that fluctuating water levels on the Nipigon River and excessive drawdown was killing developing Brook Trout in the spawning beds, an interim flow agreement was reached."

"In May 1991, in response to an April 1990 landslide on the Nipigon River, Ontario Hydro put further restrictions on their rate of flow reductions ensuring that flows were reduced in stages to reduce scouring of the river banks, (Atria, 1993)"

"By 1994, a long-term Nipigon River Water Management Strategy was developed. From this strategy, an Operating Plan to guide the day to day dam operations was released to the public in 2001."

Taken from: Water Resources, Limnology and Power Generation on the Lake Nipigon Basin, The Nipigon River and the Black Sturgeon River System, R. Swainson, 2001 (in preparation) OMNR

Used by The Lake Nipigon Signature Site  background document June 2001.

In 1920 Cameron Falls Dam raised 23 metres of water to eliminate the Narrows, Lake Jesse was backed up over  Lake Maria and Split Rapids and created a pond 19 km long up to White Chutes.

Alexander Dam in 1930 raised the river 18.5 metres and eliminated 2.5 km of waterfalls and rapids up to Cameron Falls.

So, when the HEPC made a statement in 1927 to"... enable the total flow of the Nipigon River to be utilized for power development as the land requires it." ...they were quite prophetic.

Total fall of river = 77 m

Total fall developed = 72.5 m

Total fall not developed = 4.5 m


Controlling Black Flies 1948 - mid 1960's

A major pest for the people living at Cameron Falls was the Black Fly. A Black Fly control program consisted of dripping D.D.T. directly into any creek within 8 km (5 miles) of the community. This was done twice a week during the Black Fly season. Small creeks had one station, larger ones had more: eg. Frazer Creek had three stations in order to get a specific concentration of D.D.T. in the water.
In the late 50's and early 60's aerial spraying (probably D.D.T.) was conducted near the Cameron Falls Colony.
H.E.P.C. (Hydro Electric Power Commission) was reported (1967) to be evaluating the use of organo-phosphorous compounds as an alternative larvicide - but no evidence has been found that they ever used it on the Nipigon.
Personal reminiscence of Mr N.: (2006 N.H.M.)
"I played Broomball and Baseball for the Cameron Falls Rebels, and I played for them for quite a few years, which was made up of a combination of Nipigon people and people who worked for Hydro. I played in Cameron Falls a lot and I remember the flies were really bad and in those days the thing was to spray the mosquitoes. They had these "foggers" which they used in the Colony so we used to get one of our guys to go and get the fogger from Hydro. In between, when the flies got really bad, they would go out into the field and there would be a fog hanging over us all. It was made up of D.D.T....and all our kids used to run in behind the fogging machine as little toddlers."
What Men Did For a Living
Mr. N. continued:
"So for the Hydro Forestry crew, our job was to basically run around and cut down any dangerous trees along the way from Terrace Bay to Dorion, all the rural and high-tension lines. I've walked all along those lines."
"In the summertime we sprayed 2-4-D on the lines - that was our job - and then 2-4-5-T which is all banned. Those are sprays that they are suing for now in the camps in Nova Scotia through the military where they sprayed."
"In the summer when we sprayed it was hot. We had a swamp buggy with a trailer which had booms on each side. K. would be on one end and I would be on the other end and we sprayed in the air and would be soaked from sweat because it was so hot outside. They had defoliants in them like the ones they used in the Vietnamese war and that was the same thing."
"At lunchtime the flies were bad. We always carried a can of D.D.T. and would spray it all around so the flies didn't bug us."
"Now there are a lot of suits going around and I got  a letter last fall from Hydro inquiring whether or not I had any side effects from the spray."
"I can actually say I'm fine!"
Black Fly Control from page 23  Nipigon Bay RAP Technical Report Series, The Nipigon River: A Retrospective Summary of Information about the Fish Community, North Shore of Lake Superior Remedial Action Plans  A Report to:OMNR, Nipigon District Division of Fish and Wildlife  prepared by Mary Ellen MacCallum March 1989

Unless It Is Cherished...

"Unless it is cherished, the glory of the Nipigon may fade and the story of its marvelous attractions may become a tradition of the past"
This cry of alarm came from an American Fisherman named McDonough in 1888.
Yet, if you check out PEW's "Forest of Blue" document  wherein they discovered all our wonderful water in the Canadian Boreal Forest, you will see they have relegated Lake Nipigon to a reservoir and our river barely discernible!!
Our Living Heritage, the Glory of the Nipigon, the book, shows how that call was and still is being answered.
The Nipigon Bay Remedial Action Plan Public Advisory Committee had this book put together by John M. Kelso and James W. Demers in 1993. It shows that throughout the past century ..."there was ample evidence that the glory of the Nipigon and its abundant life were cherished by those who lived near her, those who put the great river to the service of man and those who found her sporting charms irresistible."
" This is a success story. The story of a people, of industry, of science, of government who have answered the call to be guardians of one of the world's richest treasures. It tells of our first people, reflects the birth and growth of a nation, and offers the world a model of man and nature serving and affecting on another."
And PEW calls us a reservoir!
We have three power dams on the Nipigon River. They do use the water from Lake Nipigon. The Ogoki Diversion dam sends water to Lake Nipigon that would have gone to Hudson's Bay. 
The Nipigon River System
"The Nipigon River drains Lake Nipigon, with its large tertiary watershed; 32,129 square kilometres of land and water surface including the Ogoki Diversion." (1943).
" The River flows south for about 51 kilometres (32 miles) from Lake Nipigon to Lake Superior, through a gorge that follows a geological fault. Along its course the river drops 75 meters (250 feet) in elevation, cutting through Precambrian red sandstones, with their flat caps of volcanic diabase, in its precipitous descent."
"At one time falls and rapids punctuated 16 kilometres (10 miles) of its route. The river is now characterized by lakes that alternate with turbulent stretches. The largest of the lakes, Lake Helen, differs in that it is not formed (or re-formed) by a dam. The river flows through only the southern corner of the lake, which extends northward as a cul-de-sac."
'The Nipigon River is the largest tributary, in terms of discharge, of Lake Superior. Along with the lake's other major tributaries, the shallow near-shore areas, which in this case are in Nipigon Bay, and the mouth of the river play important roles in the lake's ecosystem. These areas are biologically productive, support a different complex of species than the deeper, colder waters of the open lake, provide important sources of nutrients, and are essential nursery and spawning habitat for a range of fish species. "
"The river has been noted for its abundant fishing as far back as we can trace. This abundance is more properly attributed to seasonal concentrations of spawning or migrating fish than to the intrinsic productivity of the river. The number of species that made up the early (pre-1890) fish communities of the Nipigon River would have been fewer than today, and they would have been determined by two major factors: post-glacial colonization and habitat suitability."
"Descriptions from the late 1800's focus on brook trout and their favourite food, the cockatouch (commonly called sculpins today); they also refer to lake trout, whitefish, and northern pike in all the major sections of the river" - Hewitt, E.R.  1948  A trout and salmon fisherman for seventy-five years. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York , 33pp
"By 1902 walleye (or pickerel) and suckers, in addition to northern pike were being removed as nuisance fish." - Fourth Annual Report of the Fisheries Branch of the Province of Ontario for 1902
"Other species are known to have occurred in the system below Alexander Falls. These include burbot and lake sturgeon, which were common in Steamboat Bay (Lake Helen) until the 1920's and tullibee and "blue pickerel" (probably sauger)." - Wilson, L. 1991  Nipigon Walleye Historical Review.
  • 1930 Walleye = the most abundant fish on the river
  • 1950 Local residents report excellent walleye fishing
  • 1956 Thousands of walleye noted in the lower Nipigon during May; 1000 tagged
  • 1957 Estimated walleye population in the Nipigon River spring spawning run to be 22,000 individuals; fall estimate in Nipigon Bay was 41,000.
  • 1958 During 1955 - 1958, 2200 walleye were tagged with 397 recaptured indicating the possible migration routes and spawning locations.
  • 1959 Walleye were common but not abundant enough to provide numbers for tagging.
  • 1961 Walleye were scarce on the Nipigon River spawning grounds.
  • 1965 Crash of Black Bay Walleye population.
  • 1975 Compared with peak years the commercial walleye catch in Lake Superior is down 88 -100% (Schneider and Leach, 1977)
  • 1978 An attempt to re-introduce walleye began with the deposition of walleye eggs into the Jackfish River.
  • 1984 Commercial fishing of walleye was closed in Nipigon Bay.
  • 1986 Adult walleye stocking program began in Nipigon Bay.
  • 1989 The Nipigon Bay, the Nipigon River, and the Jackfish River were closed to walleye angling year round to assist rehabilitation efforts.
Adapted from A Chronological Review of the Stresses Affecting the Fisheries in Nipigon Bay, Lake Superior: Wilson 1991
That was the timeline of Hate turning to Love.
Today , 2012, the Nipigon Bay RAP,PAC is busy rehabilitating spawning grounds threatened by fluctuating water levels  and putting the meander back in some streams straightened by the CPR and or CNR.
B. Brill, 2012 essay

PIC continued

Road Map
Ontario, Nipigon to Marathon portion along Lake Superior and north to Nakina.
Showing Heron Bay and the Pic River.
Blue circle is destination of Mckirdy crew.
Jack Mckirdy as a young man.
Jack McKirdy's buddy Joe Salt
Jack 's father William McKirdy in front of their store in Nipigon.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

McKirdy on the Pic, 1910

Freighting Supplies up the Pic River 1910
William McKirdy (of Nipigon)  contract with Canadian Northern Railway
John G. (Jack) McKirdy made notes before taping stories for his three grand children in England between 1969 and 1971.  Also involved were exchanges with his two grand daughters in Edmonton.  The notes were transcribed and edited by his son, John G. M. McKirdy.
When I was quite young, your great grandad [William McKirdy] took a contract to supply and deliver four tons of provisions for the engineers locating the Canadian Northern Ry. North line east of Nakina.  This was to be an exciting job for me.  I figured I was an experienced canoe-man.  My faithful Joe Salt, “Sheeptogan”, was in charge of the party with Paul Cameron, my canoe partner and myself.
This was an exciting job for me.
While I thought I was an experienced canoe-man by this time, it was on this trip that I graduated.
[Dad (Jack) would have been 19. JGMM]
Dad [William] figured out the supplies for the delivery crew on the trip, with instructions we were not to touch any of the contracted supplies.  The supplies, eleven Indians, and myself with six canoes, three birch bark canoes and three all wooden chestnut canoes, canvas came later, landed at Heron Bay on the C.P.Ry. the 30th of September, 1910.  The supplies were to be cached at Pagwachawan Lake, at least 400 miles [643km] from Heron Bay. [Very windy river, less than 300 km as the crow flies.]
Starting up the Pic River, we knew there were 26 portages. The supplies had to be packed on our backs with head-straps [tump lines] . The average load was 250 pounds.[ 113 kilograms] The head-strap was about 12 feet long, [3.65 meters], widened to three inches [7.62 cm] at the middle. It was placed over the top of your head with the load on your back. At one level portage, about an eighth of a mile long , the crew started a competition. One Indian would take 400 pounds, the next  500 , then Sheeptogan, Joe Salt,  the main Indian Boss on the trip, loaded six, 100 pound bags of flour, two tied to the strap the other four piled on top. I followed him with the same load of 600 pounds.  When I dropped the load at the end of the portage I thought I was going to float up into the air. We held the record. That is the most I have ever carried on my back.  You have to practice and build yourself up to carry a load like that.
[ 400 pounds = 181 kilograms; 500 pounds = 226 kgs; 100 pounds = 45kgs; 600 pounds = 272kgs]
On the road a week and we were out of sugar, syrup, jam etc..  It was a tough deal packing sugar and not being able to use it.
On Cranberry Portage Jerry Morriseau and I were packing a heavy freight canoe when I kicked a can, it was rusty but wasn’t empty.  We let the canoe down, it was a five pound can of corn syrup.  Jerry and I sat there, cleaned up on it and not a word to the rest of the crew.
Near the end of the trip, in the canoe ahead of Paul and I, Joe Salt called a muskrat that was on the bank. He swam over to the canoe. Joe conked him with a pole.  In that stretch of fast water we all used poles instead of paddles.  By the time we camped that night, Joe had picked up nine muskrats, for cooking as a stew in a couple of our big pails.  The muskrat, “bouwal”, that night was beyond description. Joe and some of the others could turn out food fit for kings.
The final portage was six miles long over the height of land and it took three days to pack the supplies into Pagwatchewan Lake.  Twelve days out we landed at the lake, spent two days to build a log building to store the supplies to keep them dry and so animals could not get at the supplies.
[On the current, 2017, road map the lake is spelled Pagwachuan.]
 The last night on Pagwatchewan Lake , ‘Wazogo’, Michael Daba, shot a couple loons.  This called for a celebration. After supper, the loons were cut up, adding lake trout, salt pork, white beans, rice, dried potatoes and onion, then boiled in our biggest pail for two or three hours as a stew, “anabobecon”. I caught the lake trout, they were so plentiful I caught one on every cast. We sat around and one at a time they told stories,  all in Indian.  Finally the pail came off the fire, then each of us with a cup, drank the broth, ate the fish, then the loon.  Loon is about the toughest bird that flies, but they consider the loon to be a real treat.  It is tough and you can chew it like chewing gum. The best of the party was the stories they told,  their experiences with animals and trapping and travelling.  The loon was tough, alright, but I never will forget that party.  My recipe for loon would be to place the loon in a pot with a rock and when the rock can be pierced with a fork you know the loon is cooked and ready to eat.
At all of these portages there were rapids, on the way back we ran some of them with the canoes.  It was late in the fall when we made this trip and on the way back there were small lakes where we had to go through that were covered with ice.  We broke the ice with a heavy  poplar pole.  With the delay, we ran out of food for three days.  We lived on a fish diet and an odd partridge, but I had cached five pounds of flour in the bottom of my packsack.  We had this, with a rabbit I snared the last night before we landed at Heron Bay.  One of the canoes with Joe Salt went on to Heron Bay, travelled almost all night and when the rest of us reached the bridge the next day, a real meal was all set out for us as we came in.  We loaded everything on the train, landing in Nipigon early in the morning.  Mother had breakfast all ready and I ate everything that she had cooked.
Revised by John G.M. McKirdy  to Oct. 2016.