Over 40+ Years Of River Logs
Compiled by Sheldon Buckmaster from notes and logs written by Gunnel Grabbers Sheldon Buckmaster, Ron Snyder, Cliff Buckmaster, Ray McMullen, Adam Kennedy, Hugh Conklin, and Steve Cole
Sand River--1971--33 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers’ first organized and completed canoe trip was the Sand River. The original Gunnel Grabbers were Cliff Buckmaster, Al Litzenburger, Paul Pfahler, Boo Litzenburger, Bob Doctor, Barry Aspenleiter, Al Damschroder, Gus Ulich,, Don Moore, and Bud Neidhamer. The trip, within the Lake Superior Provincial Park, started on Sand Lake and ended on Highway 17 near Lake Superior. The Sand River was accessed by train from Frater, a small community on the Algoma Central Railroad. In five days the group experienced all that could be expected of a Canadian canoe trip; lake paddling, excellent white water, shallow stretches, easy river paddling, and a variety of animal life. The five day trip was highlighted with excellent trout fishing and with a large amount of clear ice found in a cave near the third campsite.
Nagagami River--1972--63 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers trip originated on the Foch River and was accessed by train from the town of Hornpayne, Ontario. The trip ended to the north on Highway 11. This was the first of many of the trips that required the Gunnel Grabbers to paddle north of the continental divide toward Hudson Bay. The Nagagami River emptied into the Kenogami River which entered the Albany River which eventually entered Hudson Bay at Fort Albany, Ontario.
Nagagami River--1973--56 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers decided to take the same river as the previous year, but to enter Lake Nagagami by way of the Obakamiga River. The group reached the Obakamiga River by train from Hornpayne, Ontario. In 1972 and 1973 this was a great river to canoe. Later road access to it allowed too much pressure on the system. Tom Neidhamer and Slick Moore were swept over a small falls shortly after the group entered the water. Tom’s camera, a graduation gift, was soaked. The fishing at the mouth of the Obakamiga River provided some of the best fishing we have had over the years. After the hardest portage of the trip, Jack Pine Portage, and shortly before reaching Highway 11 Bud Neidhamer’s canoe swamped. In the process, he lost the only set of keys to his vehicle. The Gunnel Grabbers crossed the Canadian-American border with a hot wired truck.
Shekak River--1974--33 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers traveled again to the Hornpayne, Ontario area to access the Shekak River. A lumber mill was passed to access the Jack Fish River which had to be traveled to reach the Shekak River. This was the first year for Boo Litzenburger’s ABS plastic canoe which he danced on at the first campsite to demonstrate its strength. The trip included much rain from which an isolated moose camp provided much needed shelter at just the right time for the Gunnel Grabbers and also two wet souls from Ohio. The two Ohio fellows probably would have perished from hypothermia if our group had not helped them first get a fire started in the rain and then later to go back up river to bring them to the cabin. After paddling on the Shekak River a short time, the Gunnel Grabbers came to the Nagagamisis River which had to be paddled upstream to get to Lake Nagagamisis. Once on the lake a 6 mile paddle into a strong wind was required to reach the west end of Lake Nagagamisis and the vehicles.
Missinaibi River (Mattice to Moosenee)--1975--206 Miles
The Missinaibi River trip to Moosenee, Ontario provided the Gunnel Grabbers with one of the most challenging trips ever taken, over 30 years, by the group. It provided the group with some of the most spectacular scenery and challenges. The Gunnel Grabbers were following one of the oldest routes used by the Voyageurs of the Hudson Bay Company when they were opening North America for trade. One of the the longest and most difficult portages ever taken by the group was on this trip around Thunderhouse Falls and Conjuring Rapids. The trip ended on James Bay near the small community of Moosenee and Moose Factory, Ontario a Cree Indian settlement.
Missinaibi River (Lake Missinaibi to Mattice)--1976--115 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers traveled by car to Chapleau, Ontario located on Highway 101 where we rented a motel room and prepared for the 58 mile trip the following morning to Lake Missinaibi. After camping the first night on the northwest end of the lake we entered the Missinaibi River and headed north. Over the years we revisited the Missinaibi four more times with two Missinaibi River trips and two Goat River trips. This 1976 trip made several of the Gunnel Grabbers’ Missinaibi end-to-enders, having completed the Missinaibi River from Lake Missinaibi to Moosenee, Ontario on James Bay over a two year period. Two of the significant moments of the trip were the Bicentennial Party put on by Al Damschroder, Slick Moore, Ron Snyder, and Russ LaBeau and also the loss of the camp kitchen on Devil Rapids. With the kitchen lost, we were forced to use our ammo boxes to cook in and eating utinsels which Joe Bowers carved for everyone.
Missinaibi River (Peterbell to Brunswick Lake to Mattice)--1977--92 Miles
Two groups of Gunnel Grabbers traveling on different days met in Hearst, Ontario. On the following morning we traveled to Oba, Ontario on the Algoma Central Railroad and had breakfast reservations at the Oba Hotel. We left Oba by train and traveled to the abandoned town of Peterbell, Ontario located on the Missinaibi River and started the river trip. In the rapids just below our campsite at Thunder Falls a fellow from Toronto, Ontario demonstrated kayaking to us.. The next day we paddled to the portage to Brunswick Lake, which we completed with little trouble. Our camp on Brunswick Lake was a very narrow beach on the east shore on a small bay where the walleye and pike fishing was remarkable. We entered the Missinaibi River again just south of the Twin Portage Falls by way of the Brunswick River. This was the first canoe trip for Al Damschroder’s new canoe christened the “yellow banana”.
Goat River--1978--95 Miles
Like 1977 this trip began by train. We left from Hearst, Ontario in the morning on the Algoma Central Railroad and traveled to the village of Oba, Ontario. It was in Oba that Barry Aspenleiter and the Gunnel Grabbers were first introduced to the “Iron Maiden”, a piece of scrap rail iron slipped into Barry’s pack. Over the next few years the “Iron Maiden” found its’ way into and out of many Gunnel Grabbers’ pack. After breakfast at the Oba Hotel the Gunnel Grabbers caught the Canadian National train and were transported to Lake Minnipuka for the start of the trip. We traveled from Lake Minnipuka down the first section of the Goat River into Goat Lake, and then again into the Goat River. The Gunnel Grabbers once again sang songs around the campfires accompanied by Cliff Buckmaster on his harmonica. The Goat River featured a memorable canopy of cedar trees that hung over the river. After three days on the Goat River we arrived at the Mattawichewan River which carried us to the Albany Rapids on the Missinaibi River and on to Mattice.
Groundhog River--1979--107 Miles
The Groundhog River was probably the most powerful river end to end that the Gunnel Grabbers ever paddled. The Gunnel Grabbers entered the river east of Foleyet, Ontario and headed north. This year we were joined by two visitors from Austria, Kurt Nordberg and Peter Tummler who had quit smoking to save money to come to the US to canoe with the Gunnel Grabbers. A significant spill occurred at Ten Miles Rapids when Peter Tummler and Spencer Damschroder swamped their canoe and were swept down the center of the river through 10 foot high stacks. They came out at the other end of the rapids, wet, but unharmed and very little gear was lost. The strength of the river made it necessary to stay close to the river bank as we negotiated the rapids of this river. At another point on the river as we rested in two groups we all witnessed a 6-8 foot water spout develop and disappear. Faquier, Ontario on Highway 11 marked the end of the river trip. We spent the night in Kapuskasing, Ontario before heading home.
Steele River Circle Route--1980--93 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers traveled to the west on Highway 17 and started the trip just to the west of the community of Marathon, Ontario on Lake Superior. The Gunnel Grabbers put in on Santoy Lake and paddled north about half of the way up the west coast of the lake to another of the most difficult portages that we ever took over the years. The portage was up an old river bed filled with house size boulders and was at about a 45º angle, ending on Diablo Lake. From Diablo Lake we portaged into a very long and narrow Cairngorm Lake. We then paddled north into Steele Lake. We traveled onto Eaglecrest Lake and the start of the south arm of the trip. At this point Ron Snyder and Steve Splan spent much time practicing running the rapids that emptied into Eaglecrest Lake. As we traveled south on the Steele River we could see the drop of the river ahead of us. At several points on the trip south we encountered several huge log jams which were a challenge to negotiate. The circle route ended as we entered the north end of Santoy Lake and on to the south end of the Santoy and the waiting cars.
Squaw River--1981--143 Miles
Like 1980 the Gunnel Grabbers headed west to the community of Nakina, Ontario. The trip started by entering Cammack Lake east of Nakina, Ontario. From Cammack Lake we entered Squaw Lake, then Bull Lake and then into the Squaw River. We traveled down the Squaw portaging around Vanderslip Falls (where we camped), Joyce Falls and Muskeg Falls until we arrived at Brook Trout Falls near the head of the portage to Papoose Lake where we had arranged to have our group picked up by bush planes. After a layover day at Brook Trout Falls we portaged into Papoose Lake and were marooned on this lake for two day when a rainy and foggy weather system moved in and prevented the planes from traveling. The food held out, embellished with pike. Many moose lived in the area of this shallow lake. Bud Neidhamer and Sheldon Buckmaster paddled within 50 yards of a bull. One moose even walked through the middle of camp. This was the year that Will Splan’s wife Pat Splan, knitted red Voyageurs’ hats for the Gunnel Grabbers, Jimmy Stackus first used his Kevlar canoe, and John Tanton used his removable leg cast during portages.
Goat River--1982--95 Miles
A second trip for the Gunnel Grabbers on the Goat River, a very challenging river system, provided as much enjoyment the second time as it had the first time. Bob Doctor picked through fish scales in the bottom of Lake Minnipuka looking for the contact lens that he had dropped. He did not find the contact. The obvious advantage of the ABS canoes over the aluminum canoe while running rapids was demonstrated many times with Sheldon Buckmaster and John Hall in the “Lead Sled”.
Steele River--1983--93 Miles
Again the Gunnel Grabbers traveled west to Marathon to revisit another excellent trip. The Gunnel Grabbers were joined this year by Peter Tummler and Kurt Nordberg, who had returned from Austria for another Canadian wilderness trip. When the group reached Cairngorm Lake, the sails were raised, as they were many times over the years, and the rafted canoes glided to the northwest end of the Steele Lake in record time. The many log jams on the Steele River again provided the group with some significant barriers to maneuver.
Yesterday River--1984--107 Miles
To reach the Yesterday River the Gunnel Grabbers traveled to Chapleau, Ontario where they had arranged for a bush flight on a Beaver plane into the 50th Parallel Lake and the beginning of the Yesterday River trip. The Yesterday River, Wakwayowkastic River, North French, and the Moose River carried the Gunnel Grabbers to the small community of Moosenee, Ontario on James Bay. This trip was labeled as a trip that should be completed again in the future. It was obvious by the condition of the portage trails that this trip was very seldom taken by any group. It was one of the most wilderness-type trips the Gunnel Grabbers had ever taken.Drowning River--1985--62 MilesThe Gunnel Grabbers traveled again to Nakina, Ontario to start their wilderness canoe trip. Lower Twin Lake, which is the origin of the Drowning River, was the entering point. Tooth Lake and Relief Lake connected to the Drowning River. As we traveled down stream we started picking up brook trout. At the confluence of one small creek, just past the 7th Base Line, we started catching brookies. Most of the trout we were catching were 18-22 inches in length. Tom Rea and Jimmy Stackus traveled up a small creek and returned with many brookies. The river provided a variety of challenges as we worked our way to the confluence of the Wabibimigga River where we camped and prepared to portage into Supawn Lake to be picked up by a bush plane. The last morning we were picked up by “Otter” airplanes and returned to Nakina, Ontario. Wakwayowkastic River--1986--147 MilesThe origin of this trip was the Wakwayowkastic Lake, a small lake located to the east of Cochrane, Ontario. This was another end-to-ender for the Gunnel Grabbers. The origin of the river was only a few inches deep, just the width of a canoe and led us into a swamp which required the group to pull over in excess of 40 beaver dams and log jams in a two day period. After we reached Loon Lake the river obstacles diminished and we found this to be a great river. At one point, during a very cold and rainy morning, we stopped for a break and had trouble getting a warming fire started. It was observed by Russ LaBeau that the Gunnel Grabbers were all close to suffering hypothermia. On the French River we observed the damage caused by a major forest fire during the previous spring. On the French River, Bob and Mike Doctor and Bud and Tommy Neidhamer went ahead to assure our trip south from Moosenee, Ontario on the train the following day. We all arrived in Moosenee on James Bay in ample time and with very little trouble from the outgoing tides.
Drowning River--1985--62 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers traveled again to Nakina, Ontario to start their wilderness canoe trip. Lower Twin Lake, which is the origin of the Drowning River, was the entering point. Tooth Lake and Relief Lake connected to the Drowning River. As we traveled down stream we started picking up brook trout. At the confluence of one small creek, just past the 7th Base Line, we started catching brookies. Most of the trout we were catching were 18-22 inches in length. Tom Rea and Jimmy Stackus traveled up a small creek and returned with many brookies. The river provided a variety of challenges as we worked our way to the confluence of the Wabibimigga River where we camped and prepared to portage into Supawn Lake to be picked up by a bush plane. The last morning we were picked up by “Otter” airplanes and returned to Nakina, Ontario.
Wakwayowkastic River--1986--147 Miles
The origin of this trip was the Wakwayowkastic Lake, a small lake located to the east of Cochrane, Ontario. This was another end-to-ender for the Gunnel Grabbers. The origin of the river was only a few inches deep, just the width of a canoe and led us into a swamp which required the group to pull over in excess of 40 beaver dams and log jams in a two day period. After we reached Loon Lake the river obstacles diminished and we found this to be a great river. At one point, during a very cold and rainy morning, we stopped for a break and had trouble getting a warming fire started. It was observed by Russ LaBeau that the Gunnel Grabbers were all close to suffering hypothermia. On the French River we observed the damage caused by a major forest fire during the previous spring. On the French River, Bob and Mike Doctor and Bud and Tommy Neidhamer went ahead to assure our trip south from Moosenee, Ontario on the train the following day. We all arrived in Moosenee on James Bay in ample time and with very little trouble from the outgoing tides.
Yesterday River--1987--107 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers returned to this river with a mission. The Ministry of Natural Resources provided us with some benefits for charting the Yesterday River from 50th Parallel Lake to the ocean. We documented the trip with notes on provided maps and 35mm film. Included in the documentation were significant geological features such as the sulfur springs we found, river barriers such as log jams, rapids, and falls, and all flora and fauna observed. We named several land marks such as Trioka Falls and Hammer Drop Rapids. At the end of the trip Sheldon Buckmaster provided the ministry with over 250 photos, a daily log of the trip, documented maps, and a list of all animals including a black bear and her cub, and plant life observed. In return for our efforts we were provided with room and board in Moosenee and ministry caps and patches. The Wakwayowkastic River, North French River and the Moose River were all revisited on our way to Moosenee, Ontario and James Bay.
Shoals River Route--1988--34 Miles
This was the last trip that Al Litzenburger ever traveled with the Gunnel Grabbers. In March of the following Spring Litz died of cancer. We entered the water at the Shoals Provincial Park just east of Wawa. We traveled north to Windermere Lake by way of the Grazing River and Grazing Inlet and on south to Prairie Bee Lake where we set up our last camp. Scott Buckmaster supplied many of us with leeches he picked off the bottom of the lake. They were of little value however, as the fishing on this system of water was very poor this year. Al Damschroder and Tom Rea met us at the south end of Prairie Bee Lake and spent the last couple days of the trip with us on our newly named point of land on the north end of the lake.
Drowning River--1990--62 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers returned to the Drowning River because of the excellent fishing trip that it had been in 1985. We caught limited brookies on this trip and very few walleye and pike although we did catch enough to satisfy most fish cravings. With some rain the Gunnel Grabbers had a very uneventful trip, from Lower Twin Lake to the confluence of the Wababimiga River and the portage into Supawn Lake for our scheduled flight out in two “Otters” and one “Beaver”.
Wenebegon River--1991--56 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers started their trip on the Burying Creek, a creek that crossed Highway 129 south of Chapleau, Ontario. As the group moved east toward Chene Lake and on into Lake Wenebegon they fished with very little luck. The group traveled south on Lake Wenebegon and established a layover camp on the south end of Lake Wenebegon near the beginning of the Wenebegon River on a small point. Once again Joe “The Master Baker” Bowers’ skills were demonstrated with a batch of Johnny Cake. The most remarkable display of NortHirn Light any of the Gunnel Grabbers had ever experienced were observed from this point. The trip down the Wenebegon River proved to be a very interesting trip and we encountered one of the longest sustained runable series of rapids that the Gunnel Grabbers have ever experienced as we entered Aubury Lake. After camping one night on the lake, and Lee Milner arranging for the delivery of a case of beer, we completed the trip to Peshu Provincial Park on Aubury Lake.
Wakami River--1992--74 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers traveled to Sultan, Ontario south east of Chapleau, Ontario and were assisted to the beginning of the trip near a small bridge in the bush. The river quickly widened and as we headed toward Rideout Lake and toward the obvious forest fire that was being fought by helicopters. We anticipated that we may be heading into trouble. As it turned out the fire and the fire fighting operation did not affect us in any way. We pushed on through Ransom Lake and Beyly Lake taking care to not get confused by the large number of bays and channels. At one camp site we found a pipe in the side of a cliff and cold clear water flowing out of it. Following a portage around one set of rapids, every canoe and every person had a walleye on their fishing lines. We proceeded to catch thirty-seven walleye. As it turned out we were unable to eat the fish and ended up giving them to the owner of a fishing camp on Horwood Lake. We reached Horwood Lake by paddling up Heenan Creek to the portage trail near an abandoned lumbering camp. Once on Horwood Lake we sailed to an island at the beginning of the main body of the lake. After setting up camp we experienced one of the most dramatic changes in weather any of us had ever experience on any river trip. The temperature dropped from 80º to 32º in the period of a very few minutes and the developing winds exceeded 60 miles per hour. The night was spent holding down tent and trying to stay warm. In the morning we were warmed by a roaring fire that Ed Cole was able to get going in less than ideal conditions. We broke camp and headed to a fishing camp (Horwood Outpost) located a short distance from the island, where we were treated very well with warm food and a clean dry cabin to get reorganized. The owner of the camp transported us to the north end of Horwood Lake where our cars that had been shuttled to this point. Note: Horwood Lake is the water source of the Groundhog River.
Ivanhoe River (Pishkanogami)--1993--63 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers’ departure point for this river trip was just north of the abandoned town of Kormack, Ontario off Highway 667 near Chapleau, Ontario. We entered the Kenogami River and traveled through Toon Lake and Sawbill Lake. The first rapids we encountered were disastrous for Ed Cole’s recently purchased canoe, His Atchison canoe received a puncture so the patch job needed constant monitoring for the rest of the trip. Once again Duct Tape came to the rescue. Shortly after leaving Halcrow Lake, we entered the Ivanhoe River. It was on this trip that Ray McMullen introduced the Gunnel Grabbers to his baked Vadellia Onions. The portage to the Ivanhoe Lake was long and wet, taking four and one-half hours to complete. Once on the lake we paddled to the Provincial Park and set up camp, leaving the following morning for Michigan. Ivanhoe Provincial Park is the original site of the Ivanhoe Open.
White River--1994--38 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers’ trip was started on Negwazu Lake which is east of White River, Ontario. We traveled to the lake by rail on a “Bud” car. The White River left the lake at the west end and eventually crossed Highway 17 near the town of White River. We passed through Sagina Lake on the way to Pokei Lake where we camped on an island. Leaving the lake, we headed down stream into a strong wind. In fact, white caps were on the river. Some confusion arose as we neared White River, Ontario but we found a small campsite on the river and easily made our way to White River, Ontario and home the next day. The fishing on this trip was very poor.
Missinaibi River--1995--115 Miles
This trip was a repeat of the Gunnel Grabbers’ 1976 trip. In fact we camped at many of the same campsites. We sailed our canoes from the boat launch at the Lake Missinaibi Provincial Park to the north end of the lake where we camped in an area that had many bear signs in the form of scat, and Ken Hunt, Ed Cole and Sheldon Buckmaster scared one bear away that wandered toward the camp. As we headed north the air temperature started to go up and as we neared Thunder Falls the temperature almost became unreasonable. To prevent dehydration we all drank large quantities of liquid as we headed north. The original trip plans had been to portage into Brunswick Lake but at Thunder Falls it was decided to stay on the river and work our way to Mattice, Ontario. We boarded the Algoma Central Railroad in Hearst, Ontario, west of Mattice and traveled to Hawk Junction, Ontario where we had had our cars shuttled.
Wakwayowkastic River--1996--120 Miles
An advance group of Gunnel Grabbers had left Petoskey early and shuttled most of the gear, by plane, into Rainy Lake. The second group arrived on Rainy Lake the following day with only a minimum amount of gear. This was an origin change from the 1986 trip and eliminated many beaver dams and log jams. The trip north was uneventful except for a burned over area that we had to portage. It was impossible to find the portage trail clearly marked so it became an exercise of every canoe for it self. Tom Neidhamer a hat full of morel mushrooms for the evenings stir fry meal. The trip down the North French and into the Moose was uneventful. On the Moose River we camped on a mud covered island in the middle of the river that had been under water in the Spring. Bill Aten and Dennis Phelps introduced the Gunnel Grabbers to their first Mexican meal prepared over a campfire. The next morning we caught the tide as it started out and we arrived in Moosenee in good shape. We caught the Polar Bear Express the next morning and had an easy train trip back to Cochrane, Ontario and our waiting cars.
Aubinadong River--1997--36 Miles
The Aubinadong River runs parallel to Highway 129 north of Thessalon, Ontario. We arranged for a shuttle of the Gunnel Grabbers and our gear to a spot in the bush that gave us access to the river. Because of some confusion over the nightly camping fee charged by the Providence of Ontario our group was fined a total of .00 Canadian. Bill Aten was selected as group spokesman during the discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resource officer and we felt lucky to have come out of this fiasco with as little fine as we did. This whole situation was a very bitter pill to swallow. As we entered the river we were under a fire ban which was lifted while we were in the bush. When we encountered rain and heavy fog we unilaterally decided to build small camp fires and stop cooking with the gas stoves that we had carried in. The trip was a good river trip, but the fishing was less than we had expected.
Shoals Route (Prairie Bee Lake)--1998--30 Miles
This trip was designed as a get-away trip for a small group of Gunnel Grabbers. Many of the group had conflicts so a typical trip did not occur. The trip was very limited in length and time. No official log of the trip was completed and no group picture of this trip was taken. The group base camped and fished. The fishing was very poor.
Goat River--1999--95 Miles
This was the third year that the Goat River had been paddled by the Gunnel Grabbers. The trip originated in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Sheldon Buckmaster had arrange for trains and planned the trip in such a way that we only had to drive to the Soo and catch the Algoma Central train heading north to Hearst. We revisited Oba, Ontario but the train station there no longer existed so we camped on the lawn of a resident of the town. From Oba we reach Lake Minnipuka by VIA Rail. The trip to Mattice, Ontario was uneventful except for the near death of the “yellow banana” which received a significant hole in the bottom after running a set of rapids on the third day out. It was patched successfully. After arriving in Mattice, Ontario we were shuttled to Hearst, Ontario where we stayed one night and returned to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario by train and our cars.
Pokei Lake--2000--32 Miles
Pokei Lake was reached by entering the White River about 16 miles upstream. The river was free of log jams and rapids and allowed us to reach the lake by canoe and motor boat. The Gunnel Grabbers spent 5 day, on an island located on the south end of the lake. The weather was less than pleasant the whole trip and the fishing was poor. Bill Aten and Sheldon Buckmaster did have an encounter with white fish on the northern end of the lake. They were feeding on the surface. Mike Hirn organized the building of a sweat lodge which several members used during the stay on the island and Jeff Milner and Josh Wager supplied the group with an electric, battery powered, saw for cutting fire wood. Of the original 1971 group of Gunnel Grabbers Bud “The Master Chef”Neidhamer and Alan “Big Al” Damschroder remain the only persons still actively paddling with the group. Along with Bud Neidhamer, the year 2000 group members looking forward to the 30th year reunion trip were, Sheldon Buckmaster, Tom Neidhamer, Bill Aten, Lee Milner, Ray McMullen, Mike Seelye, Mike Hirn, Jeff Milner and Josh Wager One final note: Over the past thirty years forty eight people have called themselves Gunnel Grabbers.
Lake Missinaibi Thirtieth Rendezvous--2001--46 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers' 2001 trip was a celebration of thirty years of paddeling the waters of Northern Ontario. This years 46 mile canoe route was canoed by partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Tom Neidhamer and Bill Aten, Lee Milner and Ray McMullen, and Mike Seelye and Charlie Tobel. This group elected to arrive at the island rendezvous by canoe over the historic "Heigth Of Land Portage" over the Continental Divide. This is a significant feat for all voyageurs to accomplish in a life time. Another group of Gunnel Grabbers elected to arrive at the Iron Bay camp site by plane by way of Hawk Junction. This group included "Boo" Litzenburger, Ron Snyder, John Tanton, Tom Rea, Joe Bowler, and John Hall. A third group traveled by power boat from the Provincial Park boat launch on Lake Missinaibi. This group included Al Damschroder, Russ LaBeau, Bob Doctor, Mike Doctor, Peter Tummler, Kurt Nordberg, Don Moore, Bud Neidhamer, and Jim Stackus. The canoe group was forced to spend several hours weather in on the shore of Lake Missinaibi going to the rendezvous and on the return trip to the village of Missinaibi, Ontario
The East Branch of the Spanish River--2002--92 Miles
The 2002 trip started about 90 miles north of Sudbury, Ontario on Duke Lake. Duke Lake was accessed off highway 144. The East Branch of the Spanish River runs south and eventually empties into the North Channel near Espanola, Ontario. The Gunnel Grabbers ended their trip at the Agnew Lake Lodge on Agnew Lake. The four days of rain was a significant high light of this years trip as well as the higher than normal water levels. The higher water levels provided us with many exciting swifts and runable rapids. This trip will rank as one of the best trip that the Gunnel Grabbers have ever done. The 92 mile trip was canoed by canoeing partners: Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Ken Hunt and Brandon Inglehart, Lee Milner and Ray McMullen, Tom Neidhamer and Bill Aten, and Mike Seeley and Charlie Tobel.
The West Branch of the Spanish River--2003--75 miles.
The 2003 trip of the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan started about 90 miles northwest of Sudbury, Ontario on Sinker Creek. Sinker Creek was accessed off VIA Rail at mile marker 45 and ran into the West Branch of the Spanish River north of the Forks. The Spanish River runs south and eventually empties into the North Channel near Espanola, Ontario. The Gunnel Grabbers ended their trip at the Agnew Lake Lodge on Agnew Lake. The 75 mile trip was canoed by canoeing partners: Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Ken Hunt and Brian Engle, Lee Milner and Ray McMullen, Tom Neidhamer and Bill Aten, Mike Seeley and Charlie Tobel, Russ LaBeau and Marc LaBeau, Mike Hirn and Ed Cole, and Mike LaBeau and Greg Andrews.The Spanish River turned out to be as good as they come. Logistically Sheldon got all 16 of us from vehicles to trains, to canoes, through rapids, to campsites, and home again flawlessly. The weatherman provided fantastic weather, one day of rain (just a little test) and a tail wind to get us off Agnew Lake. The liquor commissioner provided cold beer and ice in the middle of the week. The food was good. Tom and Bill fed 8 hungry "Gunnel Grabbers" at a time, cooking and baking over an open fire for 16. Russ rejoined us after years of absence and brought his sons, Marc and Mike. Russ also held sick call at the Elbow Camp site. "Flip and Dip" kept us entertained and sacrificed a rod to the fishing gods (to no avail). Lee won the green jacket facing very strong competition from Ray. Again, the camaraderie, laughs, expertise, beauty of the river, teamwork, and memories, will satisfy all of us until next year.
The Steel River Route--2004--60 Miles
The 2004 trip of the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan started about 70 miles north of Terrace Bay, Ontario. Kawabatongog Lake was accessed off a limited public access road that paralleled the Steel River system from Highway 17 to the north. Kawabatongog Lake was part of the Little Steel River which flowed through a series of small lakes to the “The Corner” which was the start of the south flow of the Steel River to Santoy Lake where the trip would end. This was the third time the Gunnel Grabber had visited this river system. The swiftness of the water made it a very enjoyable and challenging trip. The river had three very large log jams with very poorly marked portages around them. We had prearranged to met a group of Gunnel Grabbers on the north shore of Santoy Lake. The group included Gunnel Grabbers “Big Al” Damschroder, Bob Doctor, Boo Litzenburger, and a friend of Al’s, Bill Swanson. The Steel River eventually empties into Lake Superior between Marathon and Terrace Bay, Ont
The Wanapitei River--2005--70 miles
The 2005 trip of the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan was on the Wanapitei River and started about 45 miles north of Capreol, Ontario which is just north of Sudbury, Ontario. We accessed the river by VIA Rail from Capreol. We traveled east by river for two days through an incredibility beautiful and meandering section of the river. On the fourth day after a layover day at the “Saw Mill” we traveled south for the last three days of the trip to Lake Wanapitei. The 70 mile trip was canoed by canoeing partners: Mike Seelye and Charlie Tobel, Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Lee Milner and Jeff Milner, Tom Neidhamer and Bill Aten, Peter Gorkiewicz and Mike Castigleone and Kurt Roland and Joe Lundquist.
The Kapuskasing River--2006--75 Miles
The 2006 trip of the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan started east of Foleyet, Ontario, Canada on the Kapuskasing River. We accessed the river by Via Rail from Foleyet to Elsas, Ontario which is located on the railroad and Kapuskasing Lake, the headwaters of the Kapuskasing River. The Kapuskasing River is scheduled for the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the summer of 2007. It was important for the Gunnel Grabbers to canoe this river before the nature of this river was changed forever. The 75 mile trip was canoed by canoeing partners: Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Russ LaBeau and Marc LaBeau, Lee Milner and Jeff Milner, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Mike Seelye and Charlie Tobel, Mike LaBeau and Kurt Roland, and Ed Cole and Larry Emery.
Nabakwasi River Route--2007--31 Miles
The 2007 trip of the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan started near the town of Gogama, Ontario on Minisinakwa Lake. The trip would include a series of small lakes, paddling up stream a short distance, short and easy portages, beautiful scenery, fishing at will, and short travel days. The trip was put together because of requests last year to have a short and easy trip that would be available to any Gunnel Grabber who wanted to take a trip this year. The 31 mile trip was canoed by canoeing partners: Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Lee Milner and Jeff Milner, Mike Seelye and Ed Cole, Tom Neidhamer and Russ LaBeau, and Mike Hirn and Ken Hunt.
Aubinadong River--2008--50 Miles
This year a 50 mile section of the Aubinadong River, south of Chapleau, Ontario and west of Highway 129 was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Mike Seelye and Charlie Tobel, Mike Hirn and Kurt Roland, and Paul VanWagoner and Lee Milner. The Gunnel Grabbers canoed this river in 1997 and decided to start a few miles north of our starting point that year. The first couple days proved to be a real test. We started the trip off a logging road south of Chapleau, Ontario and ended the trip at the Ranger Lake Road Bridge seven day later.
Chapleau River--2009--60 Miles
This year, sixty miles of the Chapleau River, north of Chapleau, Ontario was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Paul VanWagoner and Lee Milner, and Ed Cole and his son Steve. The trip started on Mulligan Bay on the Chapleau River in the front yard of Norm Daniel's cabin. The river descriptions that were used to prepare for the trip indicated that most of the portages, other then falls, could be run or lined. When we entered the river system north of Robinson Lake we realized very quickly that the water was at least a foot high and that the character of the river was going to be very different from our previous descriptions. The trip ended on Kapuskasing Lake at the "Do Little Inn".
The Shoals Provincial Park--2010--35 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers trip for 2010 included about 30 miles of the Shoals Provincial Park which is a series of lakes, east of Wawa, Ontario and just west of Chapleau, Ontario . The route was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Paul VanWagoner and Lee Milner, “Big” Mike Seelye and Charlie Tobel, and Mike Hirn and Kurt Roland. Our original plan was to canoe the Tatachickapika River near Timmins, Ontario but because of very little snow accumulation during the the winter of 2009-2010, and the lack of rain during the spring of 2010 the rivers throughout Ontario were all at late August levels making many rivers near impassable. We were also facing the potential of a fire ban in the area that we entered so decided not to attempt the “Tat” this year. We elected to revisit the Shoals Provincial Park. In 1988 and again in 1998 the Gunnel Grabbers canoed the Shoals. In 1988 it was visited so Al Litz could have one last trip. At that time we did the Northern Loop starting in Little Wawa Lake. In 1998 because of several scheduling conflicts with the Gunnel Grabbers a small group returned to the Shoals and spent about three days on an island on Prairie Bee Lake.
Spanish River--East Branch 2011--40 Miles
The East Branch of the Spanish River starting at Duke Lake and paddling 40 miles south to Pogamasing, ON was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Mike Hirn and Kurt Roland, Joe Jones and Tony Amato, and Bob Doctor and Lee Milner and Mike Seelye. Charlie Tobel was scheduled to join us again this year but because of some business concerns he elected to bow out this year, one week prior to our departure. Charlies decision this year meant that Mike Seelye had no partner, but Mike elected to paddled the 40 mile trip solo. He borrowed Bill and Tom’s 16 foot Old Town canoe, took out the stern seat, and paddled from the bow seat looking at the stern. He did the complete trip with little if any difficulty. The Gunnel Grabbers had canoed East Branch of The Spanish River in 2002, and the West Branch of the Spanish River in 2003. Our trip this year would not be all the way to Agnew Lake, but only to the whistle stop of Pogamasing, ON where we would catch the Budd Car south to Sudbury, ON.
Spanish River--2012--By Way Of Sinker Creek to Elbow--50 Miles
The East Branch of the Spanish River starting at Sinker Creek and paddling 50 miles south to the Elbow was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Tony Amato, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Mike Hirn and Riley Hirn, Mike Seelye and Al Damschroder, Bob Doctor and Mike Doctor, and Paul VanWagoner and Lee Milner. The Gunnel Grabbers had canoed the East Branch of the Spanish River in 2002, the West Branch of the Spanish River in 2003. and part of the East Branch in 2011. Our trip this year would not be all the way to Agnew Lake, but only to the Elbow, where we would be shuttled back to the Fox Lake Lodge for the evening.
This year the Gunnel Grabbers elected to select a trip with plenty of water. The last few years have shown a drastic drop in the water levels in most of the rivers in northern Ontario. As it turned out the winter provided plenty of snow and run off and we would probably not had any trouble with any river we had wanted to travel. The trip this year was primarily a canoe trip through the Obatanga Lake Provincial Park. This years trip was canoed by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Al Damschroder and Don Moore, Tony Amato and Joe Jones, Paul VanWagoner and Lee Milner, and new Gunnel Grabber Adam Kennedy who canoed the trip solo. Adam and Mike Seelye were to canoe together, but at the LAST minute business obligations would not allow Mike to travel with us
Tatachickapika River--2014--45 Miles (May 31 – June 8, 2014)
This years crew was Bill Aten, Sheldon Buckmaster, Tony Amato*, Adam Kennedy, Kurt Roland, Mike Hirn, Josh Hall*, Dylan Hall*, Casey Sulak*, Joe Jones*, Tom Neidhamer, Dennis Phelps. and Tom Castiglione
*The “boys” in this journal are Josh, Dylan, Casey, Joe and Tony in that they are under age 40!
Group met at Sheldon’s father’s home in Petoskey to begin the caravan to Canada. Three trucks, one trailer and one minivan carried 13 men and seven days’ food and supplies. The long-ass 10-hour drive was to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, east then north to just shy of Timmons, Ontario.
We paddled into a section of the river burned from a forest fire two summers prior. Rocks and hills stood out because there was minimal foliage. Charred tree trunks stood naked like giant toothpicks as far we could see. Little did we know this spectacle would prevail throughout the rest of our days on the river.
Sheldon passionately told us about his father, an original Gunnel Grabber, who recently passed away. He shared memories and how, even after his father was too old to continue the paddles, he still wanted to know all about each new trip. Then all of us followed Sheldon to the main branch of the river where he emotionally sprinkled his father’s ashes the river.
Josh and Dylan were given traditional red voyager stocking hats that they wore the rest of the trip.
Joe and Tony scored a mess of morels near a trapper’s cabin. Tom C. and I canoed across the river to check out the cabin, and also found more morels. As we prepared to cross back to camp, reinforcements arrived to pick morels. By supper time, we had three to four pounds of morels.
Aubinadong River and Mississagi River--2015--60 Miles
Sixty miles of the Aubinadong River and Mississagi River trip were paddled from Honey Lake on the Aubinadong River south to the Pig Pen on the Mississagi River by the Gunnel Grabbers of Northern Michigan. The trip was paddled by canoe partners Sheldon Buckmaster and Dennis Phelps, Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Mike Hirn and Kurt Roland, Tony Amato and Joe Jones, Casey Sulak and Josh Hall and Ed Cole and Sean Morrison. The Gunnel Grabbers had canoed The Aubinadong River in 1997 and 2008. We have never ended the trip on the Mississagi River and wanted to add the additional mileage to the trip this year. The extra miles on the Mississagi proved to be interesting with a rising water levels caused by the unexpected opening of the Aubury Dam, cutting a camp out of the bush in the dark and the Pig Pen.
Spanish River via Sinker Creek and Cabana Lake--2016--50 Miles
This year’s the Gunnel Grabbers elected to return to the Spanish River for the fifth time. We had canoed the Spanish River in 2002, 2003, 2011, and 2012 and have always found it to be a challenging and rewarding trip with fast water, beautiful scenery, and great campsites. We entered the system from the railroad crossing on Sinker Creek, north of Cartier, ON, and paddle to Tenth Lake on the Spanish River by way of the Snake River. This year trip was canoed by the following partners: Denny - Sheldon, Bill - Tom, Kurt - Hugh*, Ed - Sean, Tony - Joe, Josh - Greg*, Casey - John* (*Denotes Rookies).
Nagagami River by way of the Foch River--2017--70 Miles
The Gunnel Grabbers of Northern MI decided to tackle a river that we had not taken since the 70’s. The Foch River into Nagagami Lake and out of the lake following the Nagagami River North to Highway 11 was a 70 mile adventure. The canoe teams consisted of Bill Aten and Tom Neidhamer, Denny Phelps and Herm Madison, Kurt Roland and Mike Hirn, Ed Cole and Mike Malleis, Tony Amato and Joe Jones, Josh Hall and Dylan Hall, and Casey Sulak and Greg Mastin. (14 in all)
The trip proved to be a real challenge at points. The portage trails were virtually nonexistent. It was obvious that the Nagagami River trip had not been traveled very often in the last several years.