'Fire Island' - Otter Lake, Fond Du Lac River
Distance 15km [691 km]
We were back on the river by 8.30 am on a very, smoky morning. Our camp site was super basic but as its purpose was to be somewhere we could keep safe the normal criteria was not relevant. Although our sleeping arrangement were strange, John in a hole and me on a ridge, it probably was not the most uncomfortable we have experienced. For the first few hours this morning we were in thick smoke, with flames and smouldering moss on both sides of the river however before we reached Otter Lake we were in unburned country. The fire was now behind us and a strong headwind was pushing it further east as we travelled west, for once we welcomed the headwind. Travelling down the river we realized how close the fire had been last night, only about one to one and a half kilometres from our camp.
Our first rapid was a class 1+ followed by riffles, fast water and and a further class1 rapid. The shore line was changing we were now on the Athabasca Sandstone and the riverbank was made up of marvellous sandstone cliffs on both sides. There were more riffles, fast water and two more rapids before we were in the eastern end of Otter Lake. We were having a morning snack in the canoe just off shore when a black bear popped its head up to check us out. After the fast water, rapids and boulder dodging in the relatively shallow river it was good to be able to just paddle across the lake for several kilometres. Finally there was one last [class 1+] chute joining the east and west sections of Otter Lake. The western part of the lake was reputed to have excellent camp sites and we were not disappointed. We arrived at our beautiful camp site in time for lunch then spent an hour or so exploring the open Jack Pine parkland with flat rock ledges. There were so many great camp sites you could have found room for an army.
Our tent was up by 2pm giving us lots of time for a snooze, wash and some laundry, what a contrast to yesterday. Tomorrow will be a short but busy day with several portages and many rapids so we are using the opportunity to relax today. We have had a swim/wash at a beautiful little beach by a rock overhang with lots of “shelves” for our bits and pieces. The lake is overlooked by a large and elaborate Inukshuk on a rock overhang, it looks like it has been there for some years.
Late in the afternoon there were some brief thunder showers, just enough to be annoying with drying laundry and cooking. Towards evening a wind has sprung up blowing strongly from the west and bringing a great deal of smoke, so much for being away from the bush fires though they seem to be some distance away. The change in the weather saw us in the tent early reading.