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 Post subject: Waterfound /Fond du Lac
PostPosted: August 28th, 2022, 9:04 pm 
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Joined: September 14th, 2021, 10:36 pm
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Our group of 6 were fortunate to paddle the Waterfound/Fond du Lac route early August, 2022 from Waterbury Lake to Burr Falls. Flows on the Waterfound reported below Theriau Lake were 28.5 to 27.5 cms and on the Fond du Lac at the outlet of Black Lake from 425 to 412 cms, rates I believe would be considered high for early August and perhaps high overall. We used Laurel Archer’s notes and dated (~2015) Go Trekker Maps. These are drop pool rivers consisting of lakes or slow moving sections punctuated by fast channels and rapids.

We put in on the NE end of Waterbury lake just off the Cigar Lake road at (58.173465,-104.237616) under reasonably dry conditions and were able to reach the shore along the 500 m track with the Tacoma in 4WD. We took out via floatplane at the confluence of the Porcupine and Fond du Lac rivers (59.181658, -104.785797). Assuming a 260 km route per Archer, we budgeted 10.5 paddling days(~25km/day) and 3 rest/contingency days. However, our budget wasn't quite adequate since our start location differed from Archer and we decided to paddle back from Burr Falls for a pickup at the confluence with the Porcupine; our total paddled distance was more like 295 km over 12 paddling days. I've yet to plan a trip and walk away saying we took too much time!

This river route ranks highly among the SK tripping rivers, it's probably the most cited favourite among seasoned paddlers. It's easy to see why, there are many runnable rapids, only 2 mandatory portages, excellent campsites, world class fishing, solitude, amazing scenery, and changing landscapes. However it's remote and a little difficult to access. The only significant floatplane activity observed was on the later half of the Waterfound section and our only brief human encounter was at Ledge o matic with some fly in anglers pulling grayling out of the top of the rapids in rapid succession. As near as I can figure, less than a handful of groups paddle the route every year yet the major portages and campsites aren't overgrown, perhaps due to the thinner forest in the far north or other traffic I'm not aware of. We found no need to clear the few portages we used. We enjoyed good weather, only 3 rain showers, day time highs around 20C, modest prevailing northerly winds, only a couple of brief storm stays, warm water and diminished bugs in the late season.

The route features many minor class 1 - 2+ rapids requiring on water read and run, so much fun! Respecting Archer's notes and our 2015 Go Trekker maps, we found quite a few surprises, minor rapids where none were marked, rapids where fast water was indicated, class 1 rapids that seemed more like class 2 and vice versa. Perhaps these pleasant little surprises are due to higher water levels than were present at time of Archer's publication. As for the major rapids:
1) Ledge o matic - From the trail, we spent some time scouting this rapid for a route within our confidence interval and came up lacking, maybe next time. We paddled to the eddy above the first ledge and portaged a few hundred meters over very good trail.

2) le Mecharge - We approached this rapid cautiously and found the portage trail on RL at the position indicated on the map but in the first hundred meters or so in very poor condition; I don't think many are carrying boats through the upper portage section. We then paddled successively through a few eddy's on RL but above the ledges until the trail improved, used the trail to scout and ran the remaining rapid forward paddling with some simple slip techniques to avoid ledges and rocks. Some of us hit the big wave train at the end, some eddied out; a fun rapid!

3) Thompson Rapids - This complex and consequential rapid includes many interlaced ledges but the portage trail on RR affords an excellent perspective to scout. At given water levels we were able to run the upper sections on extreme RR using some back ferrying and a few well timed RR eddy outs, switching to RL at the curve in the river; a very satisfying run project. The trail is in excellent condition for those who choose to portage.

4) Class 4 Ledge above Manitou Falls - It was fun to have lunch here on a beautiful day, take in this impressive big water feature and imagine how it might be run; maybe another time! We portaged on the excellent trail.

5) Manitou Falls - This mandatory portage begins within meters of the falls but approached cautiously from extreme RL, is quite safe. An amazing place with pickerel holes!

6) Brink - We spent some time searching for the marked portage trail on RL but did not find it, scouted the rapids from RL and RR eddies above the ledges and decided to run the upper section RR per Archer's notes. Also per Archer's notes, we stopped just above the tip of the island to scout the remaining RL channel; there was quite a bit of current at the island tip making boat security while scouting difficult but doable. We continued down the channel left of the island negotiating another ledge. Of all the rapids this one seemed the most seat of the pants for us but not too bad!

7) Brassy - No portage trail is indicated and Archer's notes list three distinct sections including some 2+ rock hazards and wrap potential. Given this information, we anticipated some maneuvers would be required. With no opportunity to scout from land, we were on high alert through this narrow channel until about half way through when we realized under higher water conditions it was deep, lacking rock hazards and full of haystacks. Then we began to laugh uncontrollably as the waves splashed our deck, enjoying the remainder of this giddy roller coaster.

8) Perch Rapids - This rapid includes many interlaced ledges but can easily be scouted from a good trail on RL. Although we were tempted to venture into this rapid's ledges just for fun, we chose to run on extreme RL which was a very simple matter. The trail is in excellent condition.

9) Burr Falls - Paddling by, I believe we identified the mandatory portage landing on RR but cheated it by landing on the large island, bushwacking, viewing the falls from the island and paddling back up river to Porcupine confluence, the next upstream floatplane pickup location. I'm convinced the paddle back would be easier than the portage and less risky for floatplane landing than would be the Black Lake floatplane landing location. We were all quite tired at this point in the trip, having to convince ourselves this day trip out to Burr Falls and back to the confluence was worth it; it was!

The campsites along this route are very nice, in some stretches, we were conflicted with multiple great choices. We enjoyed the many beach and bench sites and were happy we stopped early to stay at Manitou Falls, a mystical place. I regret that we did not spend a night at North rapids; given good weather, an evening campfire on those shelves (59.030865, -105.167548) banking that location would be amazing! The marked go trekker campsite locations are sometimes not precise; here are our camp locations:

58.250133,-104.514506, a good site a few km downstream of Waterfound Lake
58.345051,-104.592633, an acceptable site, very sloped cooking area, couldn't find site on island to south, checked further north next day, nothing obvious.
58.461256,-104.592225, This RL site below the rapids is quit good and well developed, perhaps too much so; I think fishing parties might be attracting bears here. Go trekker shows a site on RR below the rapids but we found nothing there.
58.618841,-104.364195, a beauty for sure.
58.819073,-104.001325, another beauty, sufficient for our group of 6 but not much more.
58.976670,-103.997611, RedBank Falls, a beautiful site, landing is a bit of work, that's right we're spoiled now.
58.988020,-104.270468, Amazing beach site and probably multiple sites around here too.
58.989328,-104.386040, Manitou Falls, Wow!
59.012696,-104.887096, This site has burned a few years ago, not many trees and very small but you get sunset and sunrise. I can see how it will be beautiful again some day.
59.063711,-105.099935, another beautiful beach with abundant tent sites and endless blueberries.
59.181658, -104.785797, The confluence with the Porcupine. Quite a beautiful site really, although the beach had a lot of bird shit which detracted from our swim, yes we really are spoiled now.

Wildlife sightings included beaver, muskrat, weasel, otter, bear, moose, fox, swans, mergansers, eagles, osprey and numerous other birds.

This was another soul enriching trip in the Saskatchewan North with wonderful companions!


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PostPosted: September 3rd, 2022, 9:25 am 
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Joined: August 26th, 2008, 8:48 pm
Posts: 131
Nice!
I’m in the camp that the FDL is Sasks best river. It definitely has it all. It’s fishing and wildlife puts it slightly ahead of the Porcupine in my books.
Small rant: I’ve found the Gotrekkers maps to be somewhat inaccurate and outdated as well, it’s a little disappointing considering what you pay for them.


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2022, 6:54 pm 
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Joined: October 16th, 2008, 9:20 am
Posts: 1502
Location: Warkworth
Oh man what a trip! This has been on my list for awhile!!!

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PostPosted: September 10th, 2022, 8:01 pm 
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Joined: September 26th, 2016, 8:13 am
Posts: 25
Thanks for the detailed trip report and beautiful pictures. Sounds like a dream trip, I've long wanted to paddle that route as well. If you have time, I have a couple of questions.
1) What did you do with your vehicle while you were on the river? Did an outfitter store it?
2) Who did you use for the floatplane pick-up? Was their rate reasonable? Did you need to nest canoes on the floats?
3) I seem to remember seeing that a large fire was buring summer 2021 around Waterbury Lake. Was decent camping still available early in the trip in the burn area (if it indeed occured)?


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2022, 9:02 pm 
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Joined: September 14th, 2021, 10:36 pm
Posts: 22
Hey arrowheadpaddler, we used Osprey Wing's Points North Landing based single turbo otter to fly us out of the porcupine confluence and back to Points North Landing; Ive used them several times and I think they're quite reasonably priced and offer good service, about 3k to extract 6 paddlers and 3 canoes in this case. Nesting is required for 3 canoes in one trip. I'm not sure if Points North Landing is a town or a vertically integrated business or both but if you fly with Osprey, Points North Freight Forwarding will do some car shuttling, in our case dropping our two drivers at waterbury lake using our vehicle, less than 30km from PNL, an inexpensive shuttle. So, our vehicles were parked near the lake within PNL grounds. There's a patchwork of burns along the river, you can check the federal website but none that created a problem for camping anywhere along the route. We did stop for lunch at a recently burned campsite on NW Waterbury lake but there were more sites downstream. Best camping I've ever seen.

Come paddle SK, you won't regret it!


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2022, 7:42 am 
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Joined: September 26th, 2016, 8:13 am
Posts: 25
Thanks for the additional info, this trip is definitely on my short list!


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PostPosted: September 14th, 2022, 1:02 pm 
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Joined: April 6th, 2007, 8:42 pm
Posts: 452
Hello CraigB, Thanks for posting this excellent report. That river has percolated in my mind since the mid-70's when I was a young and foolish fishing guide two summer seasons on Waterbury lake during the pre-mining era. We took old alum. boats and battered motors twice from Waterbury to Unknown Lake (Theriau) and back, running everything in both directions. That time-frame certainly dates me, doesn't it? But I'm quite a bit younger than both Cher and Keith Richards. I know! Who the hell are they? Nonetheless, I'm still doing lots of paddling and solo and tandem tripping. Northern Saskatchewan remains a near-mythical region for me that I hope one day soon to re-visit while I'm still able to paddle and portage decent loads. Your report is particularly useful due to its practical and detailed information.


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PostPosted: October 7th, 2022, 4:57 am 
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Joined: December 29th, 2004, 11:00 pm
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Location: Florida
Sounds like a great trip. I’ve been thinking about the Waterfound…


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