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PostPosted: September 29th, 2013, 9:38 pm 
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Joined: September 29th, 2005, 5:57 pm
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The following is a report on my 7-day solo trip in northern Saskatchewan this September.

I based this trip out of Missinipe, using Ric Driediger’s CRCO for shuttles and pre- and post-trip accommodation. Service there was excellent, as always. I was shuttled to Stanley Mission to start the trip, and picked up at its end at Dickens Lake, about 20 km north of Missinipe on Hwy 102. With 2 or 3 more days, I could just have paddled this as a loop from Missinipe, paddling down the Churchill to Stanley and returning from Dickens via the Stewart River. It would also be possible to paddle a shorter loop from Stanley, going up the Drinking and then returning south via the chain of small lakes that runs north from Guncoat Bay on Mountain Lake, on which Stanley is located.

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Day 1:

After a final packing and the shuttle, I was paddling out of Stanley by 9:30. My first stop was at the old church across the river, for a few photos. This is a Saskatchewan heritage site, the oldest church west of the Red River. Sigurd Olson recounts his visit to this church in “The Lonely Land”.

Church

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Plaque

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Graveyard

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After sightseeing, I headed down the Churchill. I ran Little Stanley Rapid and continued through Drope Lake to NIstowiak Lake. Here I took a detour to the south to photograph Nistowiak Falls on the Rapid River. With this year’s high water, the falls were impressive.

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From there, I followed the south shore of Nistowiak Lake to Potter Rapids, at its exit. Here I portaged on the boardwalk on RR – the trail runs through a fishing camp here.

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Below I paddled the swirling current out into Drinking Lake, and found a good campsite on a small island near the south shore, where I landed at 3:50. An easy travel day, 25 km with just one easy carry. It was warm and mostly sunny, with a tailwind for the most part, although a few showers motivated me to set up the tarp for dinner.

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Day 2:

I was off at 8:20 on a cool, sunny morning. The afternoon would be warm, with an increasing north wind that would make paddling work. I headed north into Boland Lake and then the mouth of the Drinking River. The first portage, around Hunter Falls, was in good shape, as were all the trails today.

Drinking River

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Hunter Falls

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Dedication plaque

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Heading up Pitching Lake, I was struck by how green the country was. I last paddled up here just after a major fire (1998) had swept through, and the area from Pitching to Wapassini was uniformly charred. The recovery has been quite remarkable.

At the head of Pitching, the first portage at Wick rapids was an easy slide with a cleared wading channel above.

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There are some attractive cliffs on the east shore of Malchow Lake.

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The portage to Rink is good but starts steeply uphill. Above Rink is a small falls.

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After pushing through some shallows above the portage, a southward leg on Soroski Lake provided a respite from the north wind. But when I turned north on Irving, the last three km to the campsite were a slow grind, pounding through the whitecaps.

Camp in Irving

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A longer travel day, slowed by the wind in the afternoon. 30 km and 5 portages.


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Day 3:

There was heavy fog on the lake this morning: I left after it cleared, at 8:10. It was a nice day, cool and sunny in the morning, warm in the afternoon, but without much wind. Here the route works north through small ponds and intervening rapids to Dirks Lake, and then to the large, sprawling Wapassini Lake.

Rapid, Drinking River

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I found a good campsite on an island in Wapassini, and pulled in by 5:00, leaving time for a bath and dinner before dark. Today’s travel was 18 km, with another 5 portages.

Camp in Wapassini

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Day 4:

I was underway at 7:55, on another pleasant morning. But the wind would soon become strong and gusty from the WSW, making paddling strenuous once I reached the north end of Wapassini and swung west.

At the portage from Wapassini to Robertson Lake, beavers had constructed a large dam, turning the first section of the portage into a canal: I slid the boat up the bank and poled the first 50 meters of the portage to reach dry ground.

Beaver dam

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Portage

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It was a struggle into the wind to reach Robertson’s south bay and my route to Ahasew Lake. This looks like an occasional winter route, and portages are much less obvious. The longest carry towards Ahasew follows this tiny drainage through the woods.

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I had hoped to reach Buchner Lake today, but as I battled west on Ahasew I realized that would not happen before sunset. So I swung south into the channel to Palmer Lake, and camped on a small rocky point I had used years before. It’s a small site, but the picture doesn’t do it justice: there’s room for a tent and kitchen, and a good dock. Rocks are needed for the tent – fortunately, the ones I gathered 13 years ago were still in place! 24 km today, some a struggle into the wind, and another 5 portages.

Camp

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Sunset

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Day 5:

Despite my delay yesterday, I wanted to get back on schedule and reach my intended Day 5 campsite in Gowrie Bay of Colin Lake. The weather generally cooperated, a mix of sun and cloud with just a SW breeze in the late afternoon (when I was heading SW, of course).

It took me longer than I had expected to find the Ahasew end of the portage to Buchner: once I found it, I had to do a bit of clearing to get the canoe through at the start. So I didn’t reach Buchner until 10:00 am, and had to “hurry” for the rest of the day – not many photos as a result. The route from Buchner heads north through a series of small pretty lakes, connected by portages, to Settee Lake.

Portage north of Buchner

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From Settee the route turns west via three portages and two small lakes to Colin Lake. I reached my campsite at 6:30 – time to set up and cook in daylight, but I had to do the dishes by lantern light. Whew – a long travel day, 30 km and 9 portages. After sunset, there was a dramatic lightning show in the west, and there were wind gusts and showers after I retired to the tent.

Day 6:

Last night’s storm has blown away, leaving another pleasant sunny day. The wind would rise from the west again in the afternoon. I set out at 8:20 on a beautiful calm autumn morning. Two easy portages took me to Versailles Lake.

Small lake before Versailles

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From Versailles, another short portage leads to Minuhik Lake. From its west shore, a chain of three small lakes and four connecting portages take you to Berven Lake.

Portage route landing in Minuhik

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After a short joust with the west wind, and a last portage around the wrongly named Hawkins “Peninsula”, I reached the island campsite in Berven Lake by 5:00. A few dark clouds threatened dinner, but blew away after shedding only a few drops of rain. In celebration, I had a second rum and lemonade. It was very good. A steady travel day, not a race like yesterday: 18 km and another 8 portages.

View from Berven Camp

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Day 7:

With just a few km remaining, I had a relaxed morning. I baked blueberry bread for breakfast, and then cleaned up both the gear and myself to prepare for “civilization”. It was cooler and overcast this morning, but with no imminent threat of rain. The usual west wind would arise to slow my progress on Dickens Lake.

After a short paddle, I made the last portage into Dickens Lake. This portage follows in part a mining exploration road, which has been freshly graded since I last crossed it: at that time it was slowly reverting to forest, so perhaps the exploration camp it served is operating again. With gold prices high, this area has seen much exploration and considerable development over the past decade.

Into Dickens Lake

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In Dickens, I paddled west, despite the wind’s best efforts, and reached the takeout at the little recreation area where the road passes Dickens, en route to Reindeer Lake, Wollaston Lake, Stony Rapids, and other great paddling destinations.

The End

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Today a mere 10 km and 1 portage. Trip totals 155 km and 34 portages.

This area of small lakes and streams, north of the Churchill and east of Hwy 102, has been my favourite spot for fall tripping for the past 17 years. I hope you have enjoyed this look at it, and that you get a chance to visit it someday.

-jmc


Last edited by jmc on October 5th, 2013, 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: September 29th, 2013, 11:14 pm 
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jmc,
Thanks for another great trip report and pictures.
Ralph


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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 5:48 am 
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Another highly imaginative route, another great report!
The people at the Potter Rapids camp were really helpful to us in 2009; hope that they are still going strong.

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 7:07 am 
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Another great start to a morning! Thanks for posting that!


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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 10:19 am 
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Location: Saskatoon
Fantastic report!
Bryan

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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 11:21 am 
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Can't thank you enough for posting these trip reports. This is what makes CCR what it is and is meant to be.

Fantastic sunset shot. :clap:

I don't know how solo canoeists can do all they do by themselves. All these great photos, route details, etc.

Lots of work involved in putting these trip reports together. :clap:



Barbara

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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 4:49 pm 
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Location: Waterloo, ON
I'm planning to spend a few months paddling around northern Saskatchewan in 2015. I'm taking some time away from work, and am hoping to do some trips that my usual holiday time won't allow for. For the last few years I've been reading and doing research on Saskatchewan routes, and this type of trip report adds more fuel to the fire.

If you have any additional experience paddling the Churchill, primary Île-a-la-Crosse to the Reindeer River, as well as the Wapiskau River & routes back to otter Lake, I'd appreciate any information.

Cheers,
Mike

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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 6:50 pm 
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canoeguitar,
I think you'll really enjoy northern Saskatchewan.
Besides some reports here on CCR, you can find information about the Wapiskau River here:
http://canoesaskatchewan.rkc.ca/route34.htm

and information about other trips here:
http://canoesaskatchewan.rkc.ca/skroute.htm

enjoy,
Ralph


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PostPosted: September 30th, 2013, 8:01 pm 
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Right on, Ralph!
We had a great trip (apart from the rain) on the Churchill (Patuanak almost to Sandy Bay) in 2009.
Seeing the Frog Portage was the highlight for me (dipped a toe in the waters of the Saskatchewan River).

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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PostPosted: October 1st, 2013, 1:06 pm 
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Location: Manitoba
A great report.
Nice site on Wapassini.
You are not one to shy away from connecting waterways or portaging.
It is also good to see that paddlers get out in Sept. and not only in July and August.
Thanks for posting and sharing.

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PostPosted: October 5th, 2013, 10:40 am 
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Another great TR JMC!

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PostPosted: October 5th, 2013, 11:40 am 
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Thanks, everyone.

Canoeguitar, my experience "on" the Churchill is not that great, I have paddled it from the mouth of the Foster to the mouth of the Drinking only. For the Churchill you want "Canoeing the Churchill" by Marchildon and Robinson. Best guide book ever - it would be a shame to paddle the river without it.

Wapiskau - I paddled it some years back. I don't really have much to add to the route guide Ralph linked: it is a very pretty little river. "Deebs" has posted a Wapiskau report in this forum, and if you zoom in on Google Earth, you will see some Wapiskau photos as well.

From Southend back to Otter lake there are many options. Assuming you will go up the Wapiskau to Brabant and then via Kakabigish to Settee, there are many options from there. You could also go from Brabant up the Chartier River to Wierzicky (sp?) Lake then to Buchanan and south via McLennan (west) or Hornet / Settee (east).

-jmc


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