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PostPosted: September 26th, 2022, 2:09 pm 
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Joined: December 20th, 2003, 9:27 am
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2022 Portage Clearing Report - 11-17 September

We put in at the small dock on McLennan Lake beside the road and just south of Bear’s Camp. We left our vehicle in the parking area at Bear’s Camp after talking with the proprietor, Vince. He charges $10.00 per day for parking.
We paddled a little over 1 km generally east then SE across McLennan Lake to the first portage. This portage goes into a small lake which didn’t used to have a name but, on newer GoTrekkers Maps, it is now called Jackfish Lake and the next lake to the SE, which didn’t used to have a name, is now called McCann Lake. Both of these portages had been burned in 2021 and had significant wind events. Dan D. had cleared the first portage a few days earlier.
Day 1: P1 (McLennan – Jackfish Lake) – we removed two fallen trees, fallen after Dan had cleared it earlier.
P2 (Jackfish – McCann Lake). Burned 2021. We removed lots of trees, wide enough for a winter snowmobile trail.
Campsite: on E shore of the S of McCann Lake. It used to be a nice campsite but was burned in 2021. We stayed because we had little choice because of the widespread burn. The kitchen/sitting out area was fine but the campsites are back in the woods. We got dirty
P3 (McCann – Fowell Lake). Burned 2021. We removed lots of fallen trees, wide enough for a winter snowmobile trail. We cleared both the winter trail (wet) and an alternative summer trail (dry but narrower) to the E of the winter trail.

Day 2: P4 (Fowell Lake – Cushon Bay). Not properly located on 2022 map. It is on E side of low area, following the shortest possible route. Burned twice in 2015 and 2021. Couldn’t see the trail in places due to complete devastation, but you can walk anywhere in the middle of the portage because almost all of the trees, standing and fallen, have been completely burned. Removed a moderate of fallen trees, especially at the ends.
Campsite: on a long ledge at the SW end of Cushon Bay. Not burned!!! Beautiful campsite. Had a lazy afternoon. We noted that the SE island in Cushon Bay has not been burned and it appeared to be camp-able.

Day 3: We packed up and started toward Versailles Lake via Bryan Lake. P5 (Cushon Bay – small nameless pond). In previous years when the water was higher, we were usually able to wade our canoes up the tiny creek into the small pond, paddle across the pond and then do the short portage but this year the water is very low so we had to do the portage from Cushon Bay into the small pond. Rough footing. Be careful. Very short. No clearing required. We paddled across the small pond and did the short portage to Bryan Lake.
P6 (Small nameless pond – Bryan Lake). Rough footing, be careful. Very short. No clearing required.
(Inspected campsite on the SW end of Bryan Lake – no work necessary)
(Inspected the first portage on the S end of Bryan Lake on the route to MacLachlan Lake. Removed fallen tree blocking the N landing. Short, rough, showed signs of infrequent use.)
P7 (Bryan Lake – small nameless lake). Good shape, no work required.
P8 (small nameless lake – Versailles Lake). Good shape (dry!!!), no work required. This portage is usually quite wet but in this dry year it was good.
Campsite: on a small, high, rocky island in the N end of Versailles Lake. Not burned (!!), but the west shore of the lake was burned (hot fire) right down to bare rocks in 2021. The campsite showed signs of frequent use. Found an abandoned sports bra, a bump strip from the bow of a canoe, and what was later identified as a blackhead and pimple remover (there’s a story there).

Day 4: Storm in the late morning. Scouted various routes to Mink Lake because the current portage trail has some challenges and we were trying to see if there is another better route. Map lists the current route as 115 meters long (wrong), it is at least 150 meters. Current trail has recently been burned. Part way along from the south landing it had a few large dead fallen trees (with more to fall soon due to the fire), causing paddlers to follow a difficult, steep detour. The north half of this existing portage goes up a creek bed. In this year’s low water, that part was a jumble of medium sized rocks which makes for tricky walking, especially with a load. In a year with normal water levels you have to walk up the creek through the water and on top of the slippery rocks.
Located an old trail on a different bay to the west of the current trail, at the extreme N end of Versailles Lake. It looked like it had some potential as an alternative, however, the area was burned and it had lots of fallen trees to cut and more of the standing dead trees would continue to fall over the next few years. While it is a good possibility, there would be considerable annual maintenance required over a number of years until all of the dead trees had fallen.
We identified an alternate route on the high ground to E of the drainage, through a burn that had almost completely burned all standing and fallen trees so most of the potential portage had no trees at all. Decided it was too wet to use a chainsaw safely. Returned to camp to nap in the afternoon.

Day 5: P9 (Versailles – Mink Lake). Rerouted current portage with not much work to the E side of the drainage (on the opposite side of the drainage to the current portage) along high ground through the bare ground of the 2021 burn. We cleared a landing area at the south landing including taking out all of the shoreline bushes for about 6 meters. We put up surveyors tape of some trees at the south end and occasionally along the portage route. We marked the north end as well as we could considering there were no trees left standing at that end. It is 220 meters long (we GPSed it).
That same day we went from our island campsite to the portage from Versailles Lake to Zacharias Lake. The portage has been burned and will likely see some trees falling for the next few years.
P10 (Versailles – Zacharias Lake). Cleared a moderate amount of trees and did some brushing. Burned and barren in the SW end, not in the NE end.
Returned to camp on the island.

Day 6: P11 (Versailles – Minuhik Lake on canoe routes 1 & 2). Good shape, short.
Campsite: on the small island in the N end of Minuhik Lake. Clean and in good shape.

Day 7: P12 (Minuhik – Davis Lake). Good shape.
P13 (Davis – McLennan, canoe route 1 &2). Good shape.

We were a party of four with two Stihl MS170 chain saws. Usually we only bring one chainsaw and the people not involved in clearing trees do edging (cutting back alders, willow, birch, etc.) but, through a burn, there are a way more fallen trees and virtually no edging. We found it was quick work to cut through the “pick-up sticks” of a burn with two chainsaws working at a distance from each other, with each saw having a swamper to throw the cut pieces off the trail.

PostPosted: September 26th, 2022, 4:32 pm 

Joined: September 29th, 2005, 5:57 pm
Posts: 671
Thanks for the good work and the report.


PostPosted: September 29th, 2022, 7:46 pm 
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Joined: October 5th, 2015, 9:32 pm
Posts: 114
Location: Saskatchewan
I did go through several of those recently while making that video you responded about in its thread. The Versailles to Mink portage was a strange one. I filmed the whole portage but only kept short clips in the final edit. It was unobstructed, but walking on sloped roots and across the rocks had me wondering if this was the traditional passage. Nice to hear you made a new way.

The 350m portage from Mink to Hutchings lake was in okay shape. I didn't need o remove any trees or branches. There is, however, a melted boat hull at the Mink lake side. I had intended to camp on Mink Lake. I saw no campsite when I circled the islands there. I think the fires hid all evidence of it and even if it was there, sleeping under the burnt spires doesn't appeal.

Nice report by the way. Thanks for your work clearing portages!

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