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PostPosted: September 20th, 2017, 1:31 am 
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Trip Report: Brabant Lake to Missinipe, August 2 – 9, 2017
This trip was based on Saskatchewan Canoe Trip #27. I attempt to point out where the Canoe Saskatchewan Guide differs from what we found.
The water was high, which affected the portages and connecting streams. We found little evidence that the route is paddled very often. We had to remove deadfall and clear brush from the edges of a number of portages. We saw no sign of anyone having done this route this year (early August 2017).

Day 1, Brabant Lake: we launched at the Brabant Lake public boat launch down an short unimproved road across from the Brabant Lake gas station, south of the Waddy River (grid location 782191), which is not as indicated in the Canoe Saskatchewan Guide. It would be possible to launch boats as indicated in the Guide. The route goes across a wide exposed bay, then enters the more sheltered waters of McIver Channel.
Camp 1, Brabant Lake: on the west end of a unique sand island in the north end of Doerksen Bay (810070)(about 15 km from the start). This island has a 100 meter long sand beach on its north side. It offers a huge, flat campsite in a grove of aspen trees. This site appears to be a local family campsite, used seasonally. It was trashy a couple of years ago, but it was clean this year. Several rudimentary outhouses were in the bush behind the campground, there was a large wooden table, and teepee and tent poles were leaned against the trees. We were visited by two juvenile woodchucks in the campsite, as well as pesky red squirrels. Nearby, we encountered a roughed grouse and chicks by the beach.
Alternative Campsites on this route in Brabant Lake: there is a campsite in the conifer trees on a sand spit on the east end of the sand island we camped on, with room for four tents. It showed no signs of recent use. There is another campsite on an island in the north end of McIver Channel (800154), with room for 3 tents, and another on a rocky point on the east side of the south end of McIver Channel (788089) – 3 tents. Further south, on the east side of Doerkson Bay there appeared to be camping possibilities at the start of the winter road (see Google Earth) and also beneath the power lines (see Google Earth).

Day 2, Brabant Lake to Kakabigish Lake: paddle down to the extreme southwest end of Doerksen Bay, entering the inflowing stream (at 750980) in the reeds to the east of a cabin on a low island. Paddle up the stream for a few hundred meters, around until you are on the south side of the cabin, where you will notice a slight inflow of water from a stream coming from the left (747983). You might be able to hear the cascade further up that stream. At this point, there is no discernable channel so paddle through the reeds, upstream, until you come to the cascade.
Portage 1, Brabant Lake to small unnamed lake: The portage is on the right (west) of the cascade. The landing is on the boulders just below the cascade (745979). This is a very short portage (20 meters), but steep and rough. The lower landing is small and rocky, and the upper landing is rough and complicated by a beaver dam.
Paddle across the small lake and up the inflowing stream to the rapids below the second unnamed lake.
Portage 2, small unnamed lake to larger unnamed lake: the Guide says there is a short portage (21 meters) around the rapids below the second unnamed lake. We didn’t notice it, and we easily waded the loaded canoes up the short stretch of rapids (20 meters) and pulled them over the beaver dam at the top.
Paddle the length of this small lake, up the navigable channel, through a small, reedy lake and on through the meandering channel through the reeds where you will see the obvious portage landing on the right (west) side of the shallow inflowing stream.
Portage 3, larger unnamed lake to Kakabigish Lake: the entry landing is in a channel in the floating sedge on the right. The trail is of medium length (343 meters) and in good condition. We removed three fallen trees.
Camp 2, Kakabigish Lake: we camped on the south shore (665914), with room for 3 tents.
Alternative campsites on Kakabigish Lake: On a small island (664915), room for 2 tents (with some work, there might be room for more), and south shore (683926) with room for 2 tents.

Day 3, Kakabigish Lake to Solymos Lake:
Kakabigish Lake is a long narrow lake about 11 kilometres (6 3/4 miles) long at whose extreme southwest end is found the portage to Settee Lake.
Portage 4, Kakabigish Lake to Settee Lake: (270 meters long). This portage was a very unpleasant surprise for our group. The landing is a short distance to the left (SE) side of the shallow inflowing stream. The Guide notes a campsite at the start of the portage trail, which appeared to be a small cleared space in the dark, wet, buggy bush between the trail and the stream. After a good start, the trail was mostly flooded by the high water, with stretches at both the top and bottom ends that were up to thigh deep, and with swiftly flowing water on the slope in between. We removed one fallen tree. At the Settee end, we encountered a float plane with three people removing a beaver dam at the outflowing stream – they said they owned a cabin on Settee Lake and they were hoping to lower the water level so their dock would be above water. It appeared that the efforts of the beavers to dam the outlet stream had raised the water level in the whole lake and so had caused water to run down the portage trail. Hopefully, the removal of the dam will lower water levels and improve the condition of the portage trail.
Alternative campsite on Settee Lake: we lunched on a rocky point halfway down the SE shore of Settee Lake (573866), which had a nice campsite for 3 tents.
Portage 5, Settee Lake to Solymos Lake: There are three portage trails from Settee Lake to Solymos Lake. We used the east one. (100 meters long) The landing is immediately to the right (N) of the shallow inflowing stream (542838). The trail was in good condition, but blocked with deadfall. We removed six fallen trees and did some brushing.
Solymos Lake is quite a pretty lake, with narrows between high rock slopes.
Camp 3, Solymos Lake: we camped on a pretty, flat rocky peninsula (525841) with room for four tents.



Day 4, Solymos Lake to Kemp Lake:
Solymos Lake is split into three main sections. The canoe route leads through high rocky narrows to the extreme south end of the most westerly bay to the portage to Stempel Lake. This portage crosses the height of land separating the upstream and downstream portions of the trip.
Portage 6, Solymos Lake to Stempel Lake: (230 meters). Landing is in the most southerly end on Solymos Lake. The portage was in fair condition. We removed 6 fallen trees.
Portage 7, Stempel Lake to Luther Lake: (137 meters). Landing is obvious on the right (west) side of the outflowing stream. Good condition.
Portage 8, Luther Lake to small unnamed lake: (260 meters). Located to the right of the stream. This trail was a little wet at the beginning and had thick water weeds at the end. About 100 metres along the trail, the portage trail veers unobtrusively off to the left while a winter trail goes straight on. Our group did not notice the inconspicuous fork in the trail and, about 30 metres along this winter road, the first person went up to mid-thigh in a patch of thick muddy vegetation from which it was a struggle to extricate himself. We realized that this was not the portage trail and searched both sides for the trail and then backtracked until we located the portage trail branching off. We had to do some chainsaw and machete work on this trail. It appeared not to have been used for some time. Once we finished our work, the trail was good.
Portage 9, small unnamed lake to Buchner Lake: (80 meters). Not located as described the Guide notes. Landing is immediately beside the right (west) side of the outflowing stream. Good condition. The campsite on the Buchner Lake side noted in the Guide was not seen. The south landing is 100 meters west of the stream.
Waterfalls: Most of the way down Buchner Lake, just as you enter the narrow bay at the south end, there are two waterfalls (Grid location 483726 - Map 73-P/9) coming down on the SE bank, over the high rocky ridge. With the high water levels, they were quite impressive!
Portage 10, Buchner Lake to Kemp Lake: We didn’t notice the portage trail. After scouting, we waded the loaded canoes fairly easily through two short rapid stretches (less than 50 meters each) on the connecting stream, and paddled the rest of the stream.
Camp 4, Kemp Lake: We didn’t notice many potential campsites on this stretch from Solymos Lake, but we found a nice one on a south facing rocky point in Kemp Lake (Grid location 73-P/9 - 468706). Room for three tents, with great views and swimming, but it would be exposed in stormy weather.

Day 5, Kemp Lake to Sotkowy Lake:
Portage 11, Kemp Lake to Hood Lake: The guide said that upon leaving Kemp Lake there are three small rapids very close together, water conditions would determine whether or not the canoeists line down the first two and that the third, which has a number of sharp ledges has a well-used portage on the north, or right, shore to a pool below. We waded all three rapids. We did not see a portage trail.
We waded the loaded canoes down the long (approximately 1 kilometer) swiftly flowing stream to quiet water which entered Hood Lake. This wade was occasionally difficult and occasionally treacherous, with frequent stretches of rapids over slippery boulders and through deep pools. The stream was frequently blocked by overhanging alders and the occasional fallen tree. The overhanging vegetation made it difficult and even dangerous to paddle the swift flowing stretches between the rapids. The water was high and pushy. We cut out and removed the most obstructive vegetation and fallen trees, but there was too much for us to make passage really decent. In this water level, it would be very difficult to pass the other way, going upstream. There were signs that obstructing trees and bushes had been cut in the past, but not in the last year or so.
Portage 12, Hood Lake to Sotkowy Lake: The Canoe Saskatchewan guide said that the narrow channel connecting the south end of Hood Lake to the north end of Satkowy Lake is navigable. It is not there. In spite of the high water, searching for 30 minutes, and trying various possibilities, we found no sign of a navigable channel. Instead, there was a low swampy stretch between the lakes, impenetrably choked with reeds and bushes. We found a trail on the left (east) side of the sedge swamp. The Hood Lake end of the “trail” was under water, but it had occasional boards and sticks placed to assist with walking. When we finally arrived at fairly solid ground, we felt that the footing was too soft and untrustworthy to carry loads over it, so we dragged the loaded canoes through the combination of water, floating sedge, wet moss and bottomless black sucking bog. Thankfully, it was relatively short (180 meters).
Camp 5, Sotkowy Lake: We were tired after the last two non-portages, so we camped on a very small island (73-P/9 – 381611) just west of the portage to Mountain Lake. We managed to find space for three tents (barely – it would be comfortable for 1 or 2). It was a pretty little island, but quite exposed. That evening, a thunderstorm passed over. We had already secured our camp and eaten supper, so we enjoyed the sound and light show.

Day 6, Sotkowy Lake to Mountain Lake:
Portage 13. Sotkowy Lake to Mountain Lake: (760 meters) The landing is in a small cove ¾ of the way down the SE side of Sotkowy Lake (385610). There were several boats left there. The Satkowy Lake landing was in a channel of floating sedge. The whole trail was muddy and occasionally slippery. The Mountain Lake landing was submerged but the footing was good. The trail was well cleared and showed signs of recent use.
The canoe route now heads southwest down the long north bay of Mountain Lake on the Churchill River, then turns (Grid location 316516 - junction of Maps 73-P/9 and 73-P/10) and heads through the northwest portion of the lake towards Otter Lake.
As the paddler approaches Mountain Portage, Twin Falls can be seen entering the lake to the right, or north, side of the portage. These are spectacular falls, the river flowing with great force through two narrow openings in the rock. A photo and fishing stop at this point is well worth the time spent.
Camp 6, Mountain Lake: We camped on a low rocky point on the north side of Cow Island (291545). It is a large campsite with excellent seating and tent sites (4+). Twin Falls are audible, as well as the Twin Falls Lodge. Some of the Lodge buildings are visible, as well as a few temporary fishing camps on low sites below the falls.



Day 7, Mountain Lake to Otter Lake:
Portage 14, around Twin Falls: We did not look for or use Mountain Portage instead we chose to portage through the grounds of the Twin Falls Lodge. The management of the Lodge is friendly to paddlers. The landing is on the Lodge docks, 200 meters SW of the falls. Randy Nelson, the very friendly Lodge manager, hauled our gear up his funicular and carried to the upper end of the portage in an ATV cart. Then, he gave us coffee and a tour of the Lodge. The portage is in excellent shape, less than 200 meters long but steep up and down.
After paddling across a small lake above Twin Falls, you come to portage 15.
Portage 15, (Stony Mountain Portage) around Robertson Falls into Otter Lake: The landing is obvious about ten meters to the right (east) of the falls. It is short (73 meters), steep at the ends, and in excellent condition. It goes through a large grassy campground, with a pit toilet.
We headed toward Missinipe via MacDonald Channel.
Camp 7, Otter Lake: We camped on T Island (209596). This a heavily used camping and picnic site, with good swimming and sitting places but not so good tent sites. The bush around the campsite is trashy, mostly with toilet paper. In the future, I would camp at an alternative site.
Alternative camp sites: There are numerous alternative campsites on islands and rocky points. We lunched on a small island after leaving Robertson Falls that would be a nice place to camp for one or two tents, but small and exposed. We noted campers on the SE side of Paul Island (205603), 2 or 3 tents, and on points along the south shore of Otter Lake: (175627), 3+ tents and (172630), 1 or 2 tents.

Day 8, to Missinipe: It’s a short half day paddle to Missinipe from T Island (if you don’t have a headwind). We had time to check in with Nick (Ric was away) in the CRCO office, load up and drive to McKay Lake campground for a picnic lunch.

This was an interesting, adventurous, varied trip on an historic route through small and big lakes, and the Churchill River, that is little used in its entirety now. It was occasionally hard work, but mostly very enjoyable (rigor, but not adversity). It is wilderness – we saw no people after the first day until we came back out on the Churchill River at Mountain Lake, and no signs that anybody had passed through recently from Stempel Lake to Hood Lake.
We had excellent weather. We swam every day. The high water probably made some of the portages and wading more difficult than normal. On the other hand, we didn’t encounter much windblown deadfall, nor recently burnt over sections.
I would only recommend this trip to experienced wilderness travelers, although less experienced travelers might find it enjoyable down to Solymos Lake and then out to MacLennan Lake.


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PostPosted: September 20th, 2017, 1:16 pm 
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Hi Ralph -

Thanks to you and the Edson gang for the route update and clearing efforts.

Did you think the trail obstructions you encountered were just "normal" windfall, or had the area been affected by the major windstorm that went through on July 16th and trashed a number of routes and portages in the area?

I ask because I'm just back from a trip in the area, which I had to shorten due to some damaged portages, and a friend reported major damage on the Robertson - Stempel portage from an August trip.

As an example, I've attached a photo of the more northerly of the 2 Gowrie Bay (Colin Lake) - Versailles Lake trails, usually a well used, straightforward walk. It's feasible - Dan Driediger spent 3 hours on it with a chain saw - but still a challenge.

Hopefully, some portage clearing will go forward over the winter.

-jmc


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PostPosted: September 20th, 2017, 1:47 pm 
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I imagine that much of it is from the July 16th storm. I weathered that storm in a bothy bag on Reindeer Lake with 2 others as trees fell around us (we were to windward on the beach). Over the September long weekend myself & 3 friends worked with 2 chainsaws to clean up campsites and portages from Barker Lake to Sluice Portage (especially the Sluice portage, which was passable before out efforts but now will now be much easier). In August my family traveled on Cratty Lake through to McLean and Calder Lake - those portages were good and the area did not seem to be hit hard by the storm. It seems that the July 16th storm was numerous cells within a larger system. Some areas were hit hard by the cells, and others not touched.

I've just started reading the report Ralph, I look forward to reading more (but now I have to get back to work).

Cheers,
Bryan

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PostPosted: September 20th, 2017, 4:02 pm 
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Hi, John and Bryan,
After talking with Ric about the windstorm, we were apprehensive about the condition of the trails but none of the trails that we used appeared to be damaged by that storm. There were some trees down on most of the portage trails but these appeared to be "normal" deadfall rather than from a particular wind event.

I was surprised at the lack of signs of travel on this route. When we talked with Ric before we started our trip, he said that a group had gone through earlier in the year and that another group was just ahead of us. We saw no sign of them. South of Stempel Lake there was no sign of anyone having gone through by canoe this year or even longer. On the portage from the Luther Lake to the next unnamed lake the winter road was clear and obvious and so we missed the inconspicuous turn off to the portage trail. Once we retraced our steps (after a mid-thigh, sucking black mud experience on the winter road) we had to do quite a bit of work on this section of the portage trail. It required that some trees be removed and quite a lot of machete work be done to keep the smaller vegetation back from the trail. It did not appear that anyone had passed that way in a few years. It could be that paddlers used the winter road but, as I said, it was muddy and would have been quite difficult.

Too bad about the wind storm this July. We had planned to go up to McLennan Lake area and work on some of the trails but due to a variety of circumstances beyond our control, none of our usual group was able to go up to Missinipe this fall - hopefully next summer and fall.


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PostPosted: September 20th, 2017, 10:52 pm 
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Great update/report Ralph.
I was through the Mclennan area right around the time John was - it was nice to finally meet him too (Hi John!). I had planned to pass through Settee as well as part of the #1 circle route but I was so enamoured by the narrow lakes that I cut through into Stock with the intention of going into Seivewright... I got hung up in there pretty bad and wasn't well equipped to clear trails and I actually failed to find the trail into Seivewright (burnt) so I came out through Lust which was a bit better (although still pretty rough). One of the portages through Stock was mostly live blow downs which I didn't see a lot of anywhere else; most others seemed to be dead/burnt blow downs which allowed some space to wiggle through

I was pretty happy to get back on the main route after that. Dan's work on Gowrie as John described was much appreciated as I'm sure what your group did would be as well.

Its only my 2nd trip into the area but I'll be back! So many places. I haven't yet even paddled on the Churchill itself yet...


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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2017, 1:28 pm 
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Edit needed due to limited memory storage. Many thanks to jmc and to SaskRambo for correcting me. After some discussion and some defending of my memory, I now have been convinced that I mixed up the description of two portage trails. The descriptions of Portage 6 and Portage 8 should be changed.

Original:

Portage 6, Solymos Lake to Stempel Lake: (230 meters). Landing is in the most southerly end of Solymos Lake. The portage was in fair condition. We removed 6 fallen trees.
Original:
Portage 8, Luther Lake to small unnamed lake: (260 meters). Located to the right of the stream. This trail was a little wet at the beginning and had thick water weeds at the end. About 100 metres along the trail, the portage trail veers unobtrusively off to the left while a winter trail goes straight on. Our group did not notice the inconspicuous fork in the trail and, about 30 metres along this winter road, the first person went up to mid-thigh
in a patch of thick muddy vegetation from which it was a struggle to extricate himself. We realized that this was not the portage trail and searched both sides for the trail and then backtracked until we located the portage trail branching off. We had to do some chainsaw and machete work on this trail. It appeared not to have been used for some time. Once we finished our work, the trail was good.


Corrected versions:

Portage 6, Solymos Lake to Stempel Lake: (230 meters). Landing is in the most southerly end of Solymos Lake.
This trail was a little wet at the beginning and had thick water weeds at the end. About 100 metres along the trail, the portage trail veers unobtrusively off to the left while a winter trail goes straight on. Our group did not notice the inconspicuous fork in the trail and, about 30 metres along this winter road, the first person went up to mid-thigh in a patch of thick muddy vegetation from which it was a struggle to extricate himself. We realized that this was not the portage trail and searched both sides for the trail and then backtracked until we located the portage trail branching off. We had to do some chainsaw and machete work on this trail. It appeared not to have been used for some time. Once we finished our work, the trail was good.

Portage 8, Luther Lake to small unnamed lake: (260 meters). Located to the right of the stream. The portage was in fair condition. We removed 6 fallen trees.

Sorry about the error and thanks again to jmc and SaskRambo for their assistance.


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