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JULY 24, 2008

Clearcuts closing on the Sturgeon

For a long time the upper Sturgeon River has been considered a haven from clearcutting and permanent logging roads. I am referring to the stretch from the old Portelance Road (aka Hamlow Lake Road) crossing down to the Pilgrim Triangle (a triangle of water where two rivers enter and one leaves).

Not anymore. It never was safe, but out-of-sight out-of-mind denial is more comforting than facing the grim future.

Selkirk Forest

Gervais Forest Products of Falconbridge is closing from the west, prepared to rebuild the Portelance Road bridge over the Sturgeon, in preparation to roll into a patch of unprotected forest on its east bank. This patch, bisected by Selkirk Creek is enclosed by protected lands: Sturgeon River and Solace parks, and the North Yorston Conservation Reserve. The road to the Selkirk forest will cross the Sturgeon River Park and the reserve.

The area forester at Vermilion Forest Management Company expects the bridge to be built next year. Vermilion owns the timber license to the Sudbury Forest. The company is owned by the 13 companies that operate in Sudbury and its selects the cuts and allocates them.

  EXTERNAL WEBSITE:  Vermilion Forest Management

BACKGROUND:  Map of Sudbury forest

Gervais is a clearcutter, taking everything because everything  birch, poplar, spruce, pine has a buyer, or did before the American housing collapse. It mills little and sells most, much of it to Domtar's Espanola paper mill and its Nairn Centre sawmill (set to re-open when the market turns for the better).

March to the Sturgeon

To see Gervais' handiwork, look at Google's satellite image. It is several years old and does not reveal the recent march of cuts to the east. These new cuts are closing in on the Sturgeon River in the upper-right corner. As a consequence we should expect new illegal vehicle landings cut through the meager park buffer around Eaglenest Lake. The same happened on Paul Lake after the early 1990s cutting there. Today, traffic on the new logging road can be heard from a canoe on Eaglenest.

Yorston Wilderness

Goulard Lumber, a pine sawmill in Sturgeon Falls, has approval to extend a road north of Seagram Lake and into the virgin wilderness along the upper Yorston River. The planned route crosses the Yorston at the stunning Talking Falls lagoon and campsite. However, roads in this area cross tough terrain, and this makes the pine expensive to retrieve. With the low demand and low price of pine, Goulard postponed road construction. Vermilion told me it is not likely to be built before 2010. 

Another bridge over the Sturgeon

By next year the industry will have two bridges Portelance Road and Lower Goose Falls across the Sturgeon and extensive road networks on both sides. Gervais' will be given timber south of Solace Park, near Goulard's limits. Because Gervais has built a good road network west of the Sturgeon, Vermilion is considering bridging the river so this company can access the timber by avoiding Goulard's poor roads in the area. Does it sound like they are acting as if they own the forest?

Out of sight, out of mind no longer.

Photo: canoe lost in rapid on Sturgeon River, Temagami, 2008
Photo: bow of canoe lost in rapid on Sturgeon River, Temagami, 2008

Anyone with information on this canoe,

please contact Brian at Ottertooth.com.

JULY 17, 2008 Ouch! These photos were taken July 6 on the rapid immediately below Kettle Falls, flowing into Renfrew Lake. With its large rocks, it is not run during the summer. Someone cockily thought otherwise with the high water this season or in the spring.

A tree, now gone, had been dropped from the river bank to the canoe-grabbing rock, either to rescue the paddlers or the canoe, or both. The canoe rescue did not seem to go well.

Never let it be said that ABS is indestructible. Severed with a cut as clean as a scalpel's, the bow floated in the eddy below. It still held a "Life is Good" sticker.


JULY 13, 2008

Pink slip for the season

Has the late start after a cold, wet spring tricked nature into thinking summer is just starting?

On July 1, fresh pine pollen fell and lined lakes with yellow bathtub rings. Far later than normal.

Blackflies continued to torment near backcountry running waters as late as July 6. I have the bloodied bite marks to prove it. Blackflies should have disappeared in June as the water warmed up.

I also observed few unriped blueberries. They should be drooping from every blueberry bush. In recent years, poor harvests were attributed to too much heat and too little rain. This year it appears the opposite is true.


Photo: Kettle Falls, Sturgeon River, July 2008
Photo: Kettle Falls, Sturgeon River, July 2005

JULY 10, 2008 This is the year of the big water. Water is high everywhere, but proportionately higher on the Sturgeon River. The top photo was taken Sunday, July 6.


JULY 9, 2008

Hum of summer

Summer is off and running and raining and humming.

The hummers mosquitoes, blackflies, deerflies and horseflies are out in numbers not seen in years. The rain and cool temperatures have made it the winged-ones' nirvana. Yes, there are STILL blackflies, though nearly gone, lingering in the backcountry near running water.

Deerflies, while an irritant in the past, are terrible affront. On Saturday, while standing on the summit of a gusty Ishpatina, deerflies were spinning around me like a swarm of a bees. It was surreal.

Happy slugs crawl onto anything put down too long. Look before you sit.

High water has drowned many portage landings. Portions of trails once as hard as bedrock, are mucky, or turned into boot-eating bogs.

Lake levels are high everywhere, though off peak, but the highest may be the Sturgeon River. It is so swollen that it is almost at spring surge.

Stay locked and loaded with your rain suit, rubber boots, bug dope.



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