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PostPosted: July 25th, 2011, 2:36 pm 
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Joined: July 20th, 2011, 9:11 pm
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I canoed the Nettogami river on a solo trip July 3nd to July 11th, 2011. I paddled a 14ft. Bell Wildfire in a carbon fiber layup. I followed the route paddled and reported the previous year(late May 2010) by J. Grant and S. Baille(see Canadian Canoe Routes-Nettogami River Trip report). The total distance was approximately 326km.

July 3rd. I met Terry O'Neil who works with Polar Bear Outfitters for breakfast at the Station Inn restaurant in Cochrane, Ontario for the shuttle to Upper Kesagami Lake. He had previously informed me that I would need to submit an itinerary with the Ontario Provincial Police since I was a soloist. The O.P.P office was right down the road. I informed them of my intention to follow the Upper Kesagmi river to Fossil Lake and then portage into an unamed lake at the headwaters of Ministik creek. Ministik creek flowed into Piyagaskou Lake where I would pick up the Nettogami river, take it down to the North French river and then to the Moose river for a take-out at Moosonee, Ontario where I would take the train back to Cochrane. In the event that I was unable to paddle Ministik creek(previously unreported route), I would continue on the Upper Kesagami to Kesagami lake proper and then follow the route reported the previous year through Opimiscau Bay and portage into Piyagaskou Lake. I informed them that I had a SPOT2 device as a personal locator beacon.
The drive to the put-in was about 80 minutes(~140km) down Detour Mine road(Rte. 652), a paved two lane undivided road. I started onto Upper Kesagami lake at 11:45am. It took about an hour to cross the lake with about a 10-15mph headwind with 1-2 foot breakers to a small creek at northern end of the lake. Had some lunch as I paddled through a series a lakes with again some headwind from the NNW. The dry salami, cheese and pita bread left me with some heartburn. Felt better after a few hours and finally made camp 8:30pm at about N 49047'30''. Mosquitos were thick. Made the mistake of not having full insect gear(long pants, bugshirt) when I landed. Got bit up pretty bad. Was able to eat dinner outside after making a little fire to keep the insects at bay. No place to hang a bear bag so stuffed my food bag in the front end of the flipped over canoe outfitted with a spray skirt. This was standard operating procedure for the rest of the trip except on the few ocassions where I was able to get the food bag off the ground on a tree branch. No sign of bear the entire trip.

July 4th. Slept pretty poorly. Decided to get rid of the stinky salami and cheese which was turning into a mess. Took off the plastic wrap and pitched it in the woods. No point going through that heartburn again and as well as taking the chance of attracting bears. Pushed off around 11:00am and was able to quickly get out of my bugshirt. Had reorganized my gear the previous night to keep just the essentials at hand in my thwart bag especially the Steri-Pen. The little UV sterilizer was way easier to use and lighter than the tradition water purifier pump I had taken on previous trips. In truth, I probabably didn't need purification as this was quite remote but didn't want to take the chance of getting "beaver fever". Solo trips have small enough margin for error as is. Took a bath as my footing slipped crossing a beaver dam that afternoon. Felt good as it was getting hot. Dryed out my shirt on the spray skirt and continued. As I was paddling into the south end of Fossil lake, I saw a cabin and decided to check it out. The mosquitos swarmed me immediately and I high tailed it back onto the river but not before they got their due. So I made the same mistake as the previous night. I won't go ashore again late in the day without proper insect preparation. Paddled to the north end of Fossil lake where my expected portage into the headwaters of Ministik creek was located. I found a Black Spruce and Spagnum moss forest littered with downed trees. No sign of a portage trail and no good camping due to the downed trees. Decided that this was going to be an exceptionally tough portage walking over all the downed trees so continued on to find a campsite. Made camp about 15 minutes down lake on river right where the lake turns north into a river at N 49058'40''.

July 5th. I decided to head back to my putative portage route into the headwaters of Ministik creek. The previous years report detailed a difficult route portaging from Opimiscau Bay into Piyagaskou Lake via a small creek and I was convinced that the Ministik would be the easier route into Piyagaskou Lake. Upon second inspection that morning I found a better landing area not littered with downed trees though still no marking tape or other signs of an old portage. The portage looked do-able as it was a direct magnetic north into the unamed lakes leading into the Minisik. I took a picture of the landing site from the lakes edge and then noticed an orange ring about 16 inches across buried in the lake's edge in about a foot of water. It had to be an old portage barrel sunken years ago. I found it! The lost portage. I took a picture of the submerged orange ring but did not take the time to dig it up. In retrospect, I wish I had. I marked my position with GPS and SPOT and hefted my equipment and food bags. I took a northerly course for about 100 meters into the forest. I came to a clearing, dropped my gear, and headed back for the canoe. When I got to the canoe, I slapped my forehead and gave a Homer-esque, Doh!! I forgot to mark a waypoint where I left my gear. I headed back immediately sans canoe to find my gear. After about 100 meters and what seemed like an eternity of searching (though probably only 10 minutes) I located my two bags and marked a waypoint. I proceeded back for the canoe. Everything together again, I took the canoe first this time for another 100 meters and marked a waypoint. I estimated that the entire portage was 1.2km. The accuracy of my GPS at this time was about 15 meters. This time, I spent another seeming eternity looking for my canoe while carrying the gear forward. In this kind of dense forest with only occasional clearings of Spagnum moss, 15 meters is more than sufficient to hide a boat. Having found my boat I resolved to stay on as straight a line as possible and count out 30-40 paces between trips still marking waypoints as a backup. Well this continued for about 75 minutes, with occasional searching for gear. I had made only 350 meters and was almost out of water. It was about 90F and the black flies were buzzing me. The forest showed no sign of abating in density. Insomuch as the Ministik might not have even been paddle-able and progress was so difficult, I decided discretion was the better part of valor. I tried and was simply not experienced enough to manage this portage. In retrospect, I should have left the boat by the lake where it was easy enough to find and portaged the whole route at once leaving my gear in a conspicuous location at the end of the portage. Well, after 1.5 hours, I got back to Fossil lake and chalked it up to experience having only lost 3.5 hours. I continued on with the alternate route toward Newnham Bay at the south end of Kesagami lake.
The river was about 25 meters wide and wanders back and forth through the next section, east to west with an occasionally southerly course but mostly heading north. During my lunch break, I started to daydream a bit and inadvertently started paddling in the wrong direction. I even remember commenting to myself what great time I was making. The river gave an odd optical illusion that it was decreasing in elevation ahead of me. Eventually, I figured it out and turned around only losing about a half an hour. It's pretty easy to get turned around in these flat and winding sections when everything looks more or less the same. I set up camp, N 50007'00'' in the rain at 8:30pm just after a nice class 2 rapid where I took on a bit of water. Figured out that if I spray DEET on the tent entrance not so many mosquitoes come into the tent with me. The scramble to get into the tent quickly and zip up the screen before those little buggers got in was getting annoying.

July 6th. Got on the river around 10:45am and paddled to Newnham Bay. Arrived at the bay and ate lunch at 1:40pm. The Bay runs about 16 km mostly north and south. Unfortunately, a wind was blowing out of the NNW which is pretty typical and made paddling slow. I was able to stay to the leeward side of the bay on the left and avoid some of it. Some 2 foot waves with a little hull slapping on the long crossings between cove-lets. I got to the choke point where the Bay empties into Kesagami lake proper by 6:00pm and saw some old boats on the shore. They belonged to the Kesagami fly-in fishing lodge. The camping here did not look to pleasant so I continued into the lake since the wind had ceased to blow. I saw the lodge up on the right a few hundred meters away so went to check it out and get some advice on nice camping spots. The lodge had a dock and about 6 fishing boats where two guys were working. They didn't know of any camping spots but said they would ask their boss. They invited me up to the lodge reception area which had a rustic but nice restaurant and a bar. According to the dockhands, the lodge had 6 well appointed cabins and a small hotel. Charlie the owner was happy enough to talk to me and hear where I had come from and where I was going. He had never heard of anyone paddling the Nettogami river but was happy enough to point out the prime camping spots in the area. I had about 3 hours of light left and the wind was calm so I headed across the Lake to Big Island about a kilometer away. Kesagami Lake is about 20km across at the widest and was by far the biggest lake I had ever paddled. I am glad most of my crossings were only a few clicks at most. I found the beach Charlie mentioned on the south side of the island and set up camp by 7:30pm. Got my clothes hung out to dry and took a little dip in the lake before the bugs came out. The lake was smooth as silk and the sunset was gorgeous. Very happy end of the day!

July 7th. No bugs this morning and got on the water about 9:15am after my typical breakfast of instant coffee, oatmeal and dried fruit. Much of the western shore of the island has been undercut by the ice during break-up and presents an odd appearance with the roots and soil strata exposed. The lake is flat calm and the sun is shining. My first crossing from Big Island to the peninsula separating Opimiskau Bay from Kesagami Lake is only 1.5km but I can see 6km to the far shore. I then turn south into the Bay. I encountered a SW headwind as I paddled 10km to a cove and picked up a portage trail into a unnamed lake west of the bay. Charlie from the fly-in fishing lodge had mentioned that they had improved this portage trail as they take customers out here for lunch. It was still pretty soft in places and so I was sinking in over my ankles in mud. I use a pair of Teva water shoes that stay on my feet pretty well and provide good enough traction on the portages. There were boats at both ends of the 600 meter trail. This guy must do quite well to be able to stow boats all over the place.
I paddled to the southern most tip of the lake to find the small 4 foot wide creek that the previous years expedition had used to get closer to Piyagoskogau Lake which is the start of the Nettogami river. I make my way up the narrow channel with a succession of bow and stern prys to get around the sometime sharp corners. A 16 foot boat would find this pretty tough going. I have to assume the water was much higher for the previous years expedition which used a 17 foot boat. Alder bushes choke the sides of the channel. About every 25 meters, I come to a beaver dam. Sometimes there are a few in one area so I choose the dam which has the most water going over it. This always seemed to lead to the main channel continuing beyond which is actually pretty deep in the middle. It is a challenge to find footing on the tussocks in order to pull the boat over the dams and I am soaking wet. The dams show the water moving away from me as if it is flowing down the valley. The land is pretty flat and I initially thought the creek was flowing into the lake. At some points, I just use my paddle to push myself through the bushes as they encroach on each side. I cover about a kilometer in an hour and have crossed some 25 dams. This is the thickest alder brush I have ever encountered. The trees slowly disappear from the sides of the valley as the land flattens to more or less a marsh/swamp. At some point, the previous expedition encountered a large beaver dam with no obvious channel through. They found some flagging tape in the bushes on the left side of the dam and were able to portage on some high dry ground to the creek's exit into Piyagoskogau Lake. I continued following the channel till it broke up into numerous small waterways too small to paddle. Never saw the beaver dam or flagging tape though in retrospect, I have an idea where they got out of the creek. With no obvious channels visible in the distance, I was on more a less a westerly course with some high ground on my left. I bushwacked up into the forest with canoe and gear in tow rather than slog it through the swamp which seemed like it was going to be more difficult. I got to a clearing and surveyed the perimeter for any sign of flagging tape or trail. There was nothing but Black Spruce, moss and alot of downed trees. Seem like I had been here before. I entered the coordinates of the creek's exit into Piyagoskogau Lake and found it to be 1.3km in a southwesterly direction. I started out for the lake on a SW course with compass and GPS making one trip with gear and another with canoe. But again, I kept losing sight of my gear when I dropped it off to go get the boat so in the end decided to just drag the boat with the gear in it behind me. Pretty tiring even though I picked easy ways over brush and moss. After going on like this for about 30 minutes, I was almost out of drinking water with 900 meters left to go and feeling a little dehydrated and hot. I resolved to head for a clearing up ahead and then mark the waypoint for the boat, set it upright where I could see it and head for the lake with just the gear in order to get water. At that point, I figured the expedition could likely fail if I was not able to find the boat later. A very distinct possibility. Luckily, the clearing was the creek again with a channel. Woohoo! My SW portage course had been a hypotenuse as the creek took a ninety degree angle turn from west to south. I bypassed the swampy area presumably where it made the southerly turn. I followed the creek down to Piyagoskogau Lake without further hitch and made my way across the lake to just east of the entrance to the Nettogami and made camp. Very difficult and harrowing section!

July 8th. The original Bug Shirt was a great purchase. It has made it through all the bush crashing and still retained it's integrity in keeping out the mosquitoes. It's filthy but not torn. The side screen ventilation keeps you relatively cool in the heat. Even with it though I still am covered with bites. Zanfel or the comparable BiteMed pen is a must. No point being uncomfortable. Another tip, keep 2 garbage bags for clothes. One for the dry stuff that you will change into at the end of the day, hopefully your other pair of long nylon pants, a long sleeve shirt and fresh-ish underwear. One is for the wet stuff that you haven't had a chance to dry out yet. And lastly any underwear which has been downgraded to not wearable is left outside of the other two bags but still in the clothes compression sack. I could have used an extra pair or two of underwear. Yet, another tip, lip balm. My lips are dry and cracking as can be with the wind. Lunchtime is typical; pita bread, fruit and nut mix and an Energ-C drink with lots of vitamins and minerals. Make sure to chill out at lunch and really rest. I like to sit down in the bottom of the boat and stretch out my legs with my PFD behind my back so I can rest against the seat comfortably. Just make sure the boat doesn't get turned around and you start paddling upstream. The Nettogami river through the next section below Nettogami Lake is slow and windy about 10 meters across. I saw alot of mollusk shells opened on the muddy banks through this region. I am guessing river otters though couldn't see any obvious tracks. Do beavers eat clams? The first unnamed lake after Nettogami lake is mostly just grass. Pretty cool looking, a lake of grass. After exiting this lake I expected a rapid from the map but never seemed to encounter anything serious. Paddled onward and was heading north which I hadn't expected before the rapids and wondered if I somehow got turned around again. Kept an eye out for the bending direction of under-river grasses and came to the conclusion that I must be still going downriver. Saw an old A-frame cabin mentioned in the previous report. Stopped to check it out and didn't like the look of the trash. Though it was flat enough for a campsite and it was about 8:00pm decided to continue downstream. As it got on 9:00-ish, having just completed some class I rapids, I was getting tired. A likely pull-over spot showed up on river right, a few kilometers downriver to the cabin. I climbed up the 6-8 foot embankment, which was pretty typical for camping spots in this trip. On initial inspection, I was skeptical. Loads of bumpy sphagnum moss and downed spruce trees made for scant clearing for a tent. Sussed out a 3x6 foot flat-ish spot in the moss. Tied up the boat to some roots on the embankment and called it home. It turned out to be pretty comfortable and in the end not really wet. I think a bigger tent would have been out of luck. Had some wierd auditory hallucination that night. People singing or talking...sometimes not always in a peaceful way. There was no way anybody but me was out here, for at least 25 miles or more. Must have been the sight of the cabin which set it off. Ah, paranoia. It can surprise you at it's pervasiveness. Deep focused breathing took me to rest.
July 9th. Got a nice face wash and teeth brushing this morning as the bugs were not too bad. Feeling good and the sun was shining enough to dry some clothes out on the riverbank bushes. Saw my second moose of the trip and kept my distance as it was downstream. As I neared it took off into the woods but got a few pix. Also say a white-headed bird of prey and took some pix. Seemed too small to be a bald eagle and it seemed to have some longish cap of feathers. Maybe a kestrel. Hard to be sure. Hit a few class I's and a more technical class II. Came close to a pin on a rock but a few back paddles cleared me. Finally came to Waskitaukishimo rapids, the first major class III technical rapids. For all my planning and marking of GPS coordinates of the rapids, I found it easiest to just pay attention and listen for the sound of fast water. Didn't really use the GPS at this point. After checking out river left and right potential portages, decided on the left. Found some old flagging tape which confirmed my decision. The forest here suffered a burn about 20 years ago which made the going difficult. The flagging tape was hard to see. Carried the gear down around the rapids back to the river about 600 meters. Followed the same course with the canoe as long as I could but lost sight of the flagging tape and ended up about 50 meters downstream of the gear. Dragged the canoe a fair bit as I had to pass it over and under downed trees. Bushwacked up the side of the river, grabbed the gear and made my way in the river down to the canoe using the paddles to keep my balance. Tough portage with all the downed trees and took about an hour in the hot sun and of course back flies. Bug shirt, stinky as hell, is still holding strong. Made camp at 8:45pm just short of a major waterfall. Nice big flat rocks to pull over on the right as the river bends around to the left after an easy class I with some high ground. Excellent spot for a few tents on the moss in a clearing above the flat rocks. About N 500 31' 50''.
July 10th. Day 8 Nettogami river expedition. Last cup of instant coffee this morning. Damn that stuff is nasty. Finished my morning constitutional. Need to get a little net to cover myself during the morning evacuation. A couple of mosquito bites on the scrotum was enough to convince me the need for personal shitting net cover. Came to the "Chute" where the river narrows down to 10ft from 45ft. Very fast moving. Non-runnable class III. Portage is on the left close to gorge along the rocks but obvious. Don't lose your footing here. Note, the 1:40,000 maps I downloaded from the Canadian Topo site were not that useful since it didn't have Long/Lat coordinates. The 1:75,000 custom maps I bought did not have the detail I wanted. Just buy the standard 1:50,000 maps for the area, mark the major rapids and be done with it. Came to the major falls and portaged on the right. Easy 100 meter portage starts just above the falls. Be careful as you pull into the eddy the 20ft falls are only 10 feet away. Was having some issues with low water later in the day and was looking forward to connecting with the Kiasko river. The Kiasko joined the Nettogami river but the Kiasko was pretty dried up. The river widened to about 100 meters across and there was no increase in flow. At this point, I was dragging my boat on and off for a few hours looking for channels where I could get a 100 meters or so paddle before getting out of the boat again and dragging. I figured about 10km till the North French river joined and I feared I would be wading and dragging the boat the whole way. It did eventually deepen. I lost my glasses as I took off my Tilly hat in the heat and flies in some exasperation. With a plunk down they went into the river. I got out my extra set and proceeded to take great care not to lose these. What a mess, if I was to lose the second set! I swore I would never do another solo expedition. I had to get off of this dried out river which I did insult much to my chagrin later. The river is always good! The North French river finally connected and I made my way down to some grassy island. There was a sand/rock beach and weeds about 5 ft tall just off the beach. After looking around I realized that the land was pretty flat and sandy so just stomped down the weeds and set the tent in the weeds. Very depressed at the end of the day. I was wet, grumpy, crappy scratched glasses, stressed, camping in the weeds with bugs a swarming. Boiled my 2 cups of water, ate dinner in the tent and slept.
July 11th. Day 9. 50km to Moosonee. I am feeling very done with this trip but surprisingly in good spirits after yesterday’s debacle with the low river and loss of good eyeglasses. The sun was shining, the bugs were low so got a good wash in the river, teeth brushing and clothes dried out on the bushes. Boat has some major gouges. Used duct tape on the deep ones. No leaks and no more rapids so I should be good. Had a good tailwind so tried to set up a sail. Used the vestibule of my solo tent. Had my big toes linked into two tie down loops in the front of the sail leaned back and got some good wind holding out the edges of the nylon with my hands. Needed one more hand though to keep the boat into the wind with a paddle rudder. Gave up eventually and just paddled. Saw a trio of river otters playing in the river. One of them popped up almost a foot out of the water to get a good look at me. Very cool! Came to the joining with the Moose river about 2 km across at this point. Had to drag a bit to get into the Moose river. Saw some fishermen and asked them when the next high tide in Moosonee. The Moose river is so big and close to the James Bay that paddling against the tide can get tough. They said the tide was going out. At 7:00pm, with no wind now, tide going out and 12 km to go, I decided to push to Moosonee. 11 years ago, I had camped near here at an old Cree ceremonial grounds. I started getting pretty tired so checked out what I thought was the Cree encampment up a 30 ft climb off the river and found a cabin. I didn't feel comfortable camping here so continued onward. The fishing boat came by me heading for Moosonee. They asked me if I wanted a tow but figure after 325km, I would just finish it out. After 30 minutes later, I started hearing thunder and looked behind me to see some dangerous looking black clouds. I paddled a little closer to the right bank. A few lightening strikes convinced me to get off the river quick. I dug in my paddle and made the few hundred meters to shore pretty quickly. The rain started coming down as I hightailed it up onto the 30 ft embankment sinking up to my ankles in mud. I lay in the brush on the side of that hill and waited. About 30 minutes later, the storm appeared to be passing to the south. With no good tent spots, I continued downstream. A northerly headwind kicked up at this point about 20 mph. The going was quite choppy and slow. Bone weary, I again decided to look for a camping spot. With the wind and evening falling, around 9:00pm, I was getting cold. No good camping on the high spot above the river. Not even for my small tent. I was a bit confused as to the island I could see downriver so took a GPS reading. It was Burntbrush Island and I was directly across the river about a click from the Bull's Gateway. The Gateway is a channel between two grassy islands and used by fisherman to get back to Moosonee. I knew if I got into the Gateway, I would be protected by the wind and then only have another 5km to the Provincial Park across the river from Moosonee. The 3 foot chop slapped at the bottom of the canoe as I quartered the waves driving for the channel. Very unnerving especially since I neglected to put on my PFD during the previous flatwater paddle. I made it and rested. Some fishermen came up behind me in a powerboat, more of a powered 18 foot canoe really. They told me that I had a few more miles to the Provincial Park with the last click up into the wind. They offered a tow. I accepted. They tied off the canoe and I got into their boat. Two Cree guys with a nice half dozen 15 inch fish. They offered to call Polar Bear Lodge to check for a room open. Lucky day! Polar Bear had a room and they towed me to the docks of Moosonee. Along the way, they offered me some Canadian beers(I drank two) and I told my story. It was about 20 minutes to the docks. I checked into the lodge and proffered apologies to the proprietor for my disheveled condition. The shower was difficult to adjust but plenty hot and the bed was soft. Well, I didn't actually paddle the whole way, but it was enough.
July 12th. Epilogue. Well, this was my 3rd and toughest 8+ day solo expedition and as with every one, I learned alot. At this time of year the Nettogami river is quite challenging to get onto and you are rewarded with a few pretty falls, some technical rapids which could be tough to run in a larger boat and low water with potentially kilometers of dragging. Maybe in higher water conditions it would be easier. I think the Wakwayokastic river was more interesting in terms of falls and slightly easier in terms of portages, though they were more numerous. If you want really remote and challenging trip with some very pretty portages(though exasperating in difficulty), a few nice falls and some good wildlife this is for you. Hopefully, someone else will take up the challenge of trying the Ministik creek route and checking out that old barrel I found in the water. I did not fish during this trip but ran into a big one and heard saw some others splashing. I expect it is excellent in areas. I would take a look at the Wak first though if you are new to paddling this region.
Greg Palardy

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PostPosted: July 27th, 2011, 8:51 am 
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Joined: July 19th, 2004, 9:36 pm
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Hi Greg

Great report. We met on the train (I had just come off the Partridge). email me about the spring if you are interested.

Stew


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PostPosted: July 27th, 2011, 9:14 am 
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Thanks Stew. What was the name of that river you were talking about next spring? palardyg@mail.nih.gov

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2011, 1:33 pm 
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Location: Eganville, ON
Hi Greg,

good report; it was great to hear another perspective on the route. I'm intrigued about your possible creek route, I never noticed that one. The atlas of the little north also suggests a route portaging in from the Wak. Whenever I get a chance to paddle the Wak I will probably check it out.

Another route I'm interested in is the North French river. It is little travelled, and a bit of a challenge to get into but otherwise sounds like a nice route. PM me if your interested in any of the details.

We did have higher water than you (but not high by any means) and were able to paddle through everywhere. Your trip through the beaver swamp into Piyagaskou sounded as exhausting as I remember it!

Simon


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PostPosted: August 9th, 2011, 2:04 pm 
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Hi Simon
You might take a look at the Wawagigamau/Yesterday river which flows into the Wak and starts on the N. French. I wanted to do it this summer but the road was washed out. After the Wak and Nettogami, I am thinking to head more east in this watershed and try the Harricana for my next big trip north. Cheers!
Greg

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PostPosted: August 9th, 2011, 4:02 pm 
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Yes I've looked at that one as well. Have you considered the Lawagamau (Kattawagami)? It is another one on the list, but more and bigger rapids than the other little rivers.


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PostPosted: August 12th, 2011, 12:42 pm 
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Great trip report. Would love to see you do a similar write up on the Wakwayowkastic.


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PostPosted: August 31st, 2017, 7:57 pm 
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Has anyone tried the Ministik cutoff? Tempted to try, but looks like the 20-odd miles your saving could be laden with deadfall and beaver dams.


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2017, 8:26 am 
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To my knowledge, no one has ever tried this route. As you suggest, bring a good saw! Let me know if you decide to go.

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