Canadian Canoe Routes

paddling NWFC Kaministiquia route - Quetico French River
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Author:  redbeardcanoeworks [ January 21st, 2023, 9:47 am ]
Post subject:  paddling NWFC Kaministiquia route - Quetico French River

I want to retrace the original NWFC Kaministiquia route from Lac La Croix to Thunder Bay and am having trouble linking the entire route. Specifically I am interested in the route through Quetico. I believe in the NE corner of Quetico the route goes up the French River out of Quetico into Windigoostigwan Lake and then NE from there.
Can anyone let me know what this French River is like- Paddleable? Looks really small and twisty with French Falls toward the north end.
Anyone help me here/

Author:  sturgeon [ January 26th, 2023, 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: paddling NWFC Kaministiquia route - Quetico French River

I paddled with some friends from Savanne at the north end of Lac de Milles Lacs through that lake, Brule, etc., Windigoostigwan, and leaving Windigoostigwan, the river was navigable.

We took out under the highway, because below that point we guessed it would be dubious paddling. From there I think we dumped our gear with a friend who had come to meet us with a car, and we walked along the hydro line? or an old portage trail? to come out near the park office by the beach (Dawson Trail office). This was all before internet stuff and Google maps etc.

So I think you might want to talk to the park staff about where to take out from French lake and walk to the French River.

That said, what are you going to do when you get on the Savanne river and head up that twisty thing? The old portage from Savanne to Lac de Milieu is pretty much lost to highway, road, and pipeline construction, logging, and forest fire. (Check out Eric Morse, Canoe Routes of Canada Then and Now, where he quotes a forester who witnessed the closing of the passage after a fire in the late 1960s). so travelling east-northeast from Savanne river to lac de Milieu, to the unnamed lake, to Coldwater lake will take a lot of research and slogging.

check out this amazing blog about a guy who was probably the last person to traverse that area by canoe (okay, a kayak that he dragged through there (muskeg, bog, slash, etc) by sheer strength of will alone:

I thought it would be an amazing retirement project to reopen this route to navigation. Maybe you're the one to do it?

Author:  redbeardcanoeworks [ February 6th, 2023, 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: paddling NWFC Kaministiquia route - Quetico French River

Sturgeon, thanks so much for your reply. I want to do this route from West to East. I did the Rainy Lake to Grand Portage route twice last year and am looking for something new.
I have read everything i can find about this route which is not much. Predictably Lost had a great story and I learned some things from him. Eric Morse book is invaluable for the big picture.
The best resource by far is Jim Vickery's book "Open Spaces" where he devotes a long sequence on his journey on this route. They went East to West. But that was prior to 1990. Apparently at that time he was able to get a old copy of a Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources pamphlet describing the entire route but I am not finding that at all. I did find that they portaged a nature trail along the French River into Quetico. Apparently it ends up in the campground on French Lake. I will need to ask the Quetico Rangers about that.
The crux of the route is of course the Height of Land portages which are absolutely not there. But there is a logging road going in the same general direction with a relatively short bushwhack to Coldwater lake. I can see that being possible.
The other thing I am really looking for is a description of the Kam river showing rapids, falls, dams and portages. I know that some people paddle this river for the whitewater, but I suspect that no one paddles the whole river anymore. I'm drawing a blank on this one and may just have to wing it as I come to it.
Google Earth of course is incredible but not always clear enough for what I want.

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