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PostPosted: August 2nd, 2009, 8:09 am 
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Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 4032
Location: Toronto
Post 1 of the report

Errors:
No document that I write is free of them.
In the final analysis, you are responsible for your own safety. Trust no report, including this one; don't believe a word I say.
Please inform me of errors, ambiguities, whatever, any way in which I can make what follows more useful to fellow paddlers.

Notes:
The report is still being edited.
The report was too long (more that 60,000 characters) for one post so I made three; and then I had to split post 1, for the same reason.
Contents of Post1:
Motivation
Paddlers
Explanatory note
Planning
Gear
Topos
Churchill River information sources
General information sources
High points
Low points
Some features
Water level
The Saskatchewan Song
Logistics
Tips on logistics
Logistics: phone numbers and web sites
RCMP detachments
Fishing
Access/egress points in Saskatchewan
Expenses
Photos (maybe sometime)
Contents of Post 2:
Journal and distances: Patuanak to Missinipe.
Contents of Post 3:
Journal and distances: Missinipe to Sandy Bay and home.
Contents of Post 4:
Campsite, rapid, portage and route information.



Churchill River: Patuanak to Sandy Bay (almost)

Motivation:
The main reason for paddling the Churchill is the vital role it played in the fur trade, without which, Canada, if it existed at all, would be a very different place.

Paddlers:
Linda Gordon, Bob Bignell, Stephen Catlin and Allan Jacobs, all WCA members (even Stephen, who now lives in OZ).

Explanatory note (aka excuses):
We had planned two trips:
1. See the Athabasca sand dunes. We would paddle from Hale Lake on the William River to Lake Athabasca and then up the Fond du Lac River to Stony Rapids.
2. See part of the country described in P G Downes’ Sleeping Island. We would charter from Stony Rapids to the north end of Wollaston Lake, paddle down the Cochrane, portage over to the Thlewiaza watershed and finish at Nueltin Lake, returning to Winnipeg on a Nueltin Lake Lodge flight.
BUT, concerned by reports of low water levels on the William and learning that about 35 km of the William was burned last year, we went to our fallback trip, the Churchill.
BTW, on my return I learned on that Jason Schoonover’s group was able to paddle the William from Carswell Lake, perhaps due to rain in the few days before their trip started; their boats got scratched up though and our PakCanoes might not have fared so well.
Because of constraints (primarily flight reservations) and not fancying the 2-3 days of open lake paddling if we had started at Île-à-la-Crosse, we chose to start at Patuanak. The four of us had a leisurely trip to Missinipe, where Linda left. Given good conditions, the three of us had enough time to get to the planned exit at Pukatawagan (Pawistik would have been a better choice) but the difficult task, which fell on Bob’s shoulders, of soloing a 17’ canoe in wind decided us to exit five days early, at Slim’s Cabins on Sokatisewin Lake, 14 km from Sandy Bay and 121 km from Pukatawagan.

Planning:
The late decision to paddle the Churchill meant that proper planning was not possible.
Topos and Archer were the main sources for river information; we referred occasionally to Peter Gregg’s reports, as posted by the SK government, not at all to Marchildon-Robinson.
Archer was the only source used for campsite information; I wish that I had had time to consult Marchildon-Robinson also.
Most of all, I regret not having had the time to do research on the fur trade, which, as remarked above, is the prime motivation to paddle the Churchill.

Gear:
Two 17’ PakCanoes with spray covers; the latter served primarily to shelter us and our packs from the rain but they were useful in some rapids (especially Otter).
MEC bug shelter with Beluga tarp (borrowed from Marilyn Sprissler) to cover it.
Cooking: two MSRs and Bob’s Black Spruce wood stove.
Pretty well everything else was standard, but I want to make special mention of my Bahco folding saw, which serves also as a grass whip, very useful in clearing sites.
For navigation, we had two sets of 11" by 17" copies (from the Toronto Public Library) of the 1:50k topo series, plus two GPSs (which, I'm embarrassed to admit, were occasionally useful).

Topos:
The maps (all NAD27) are listed in order of use.
73O13
74B4
74B3 (2 km of featureless river)
73O14
73O15
73O10
73O9
73O16
73O9
73P12
73P11
73P10
73P9 (lower left corner only, if that; not really needed)
73P7
73P8
63M5
63M6
63M11
63M10
63M7
63M8
63M9 (not needed if you exit at Slim’s)

Churchill River information sources:
The following material is posted also in the Links sticky
viewtopic.php?f=111&t=33555 ,
under Churchill River: Information.
Notes:
1. Some earlier literature refers to Pinehouse Lake as Snake Lake, Nipew Lake as Dead Lake, and the Rapid River (where it enters the Churchill) as the Montreal River.
2. The rapids between Sandy Lake and Pinehouse Lake is known as Snake Rapids; the name is accepted at Toporama but does not appear on the 1:50k topo.
3. Methy (rather than Methye) Portage is the preferred spelling these days.
4. Sandy Lake is not sandy and Sandfly Lake probably has fewer black files than many other lakes. But Pinehouse Lake was once called Snake Lake for a good reason, as explained by Marchildon-Robinson; and the Saskatoon group we met above Kettle Falls saw a snake at Snake Rapids.
5. For what must be historical reasons, Toporama gives the Churchill as starting at the outlet of Churchill Lake; by any reasonable standard, the source is actually the Beaver River, which flows into Lac Île-à-la-Crosse, or one of its tributaries.
• Churchill River Water Levels:
http://www.swa.ca/WaterManagement/Strea ... Watershed'
• Canadian Heritage Rivers System:
The reach between Île-à-la-Crosse and the Frog Portage (to the Sturgeon-weir River), part of the fur-trade route, was nominated by the Saskatchewan government in 1993 [Source: Archer]; 16 years later, it is still listed as nominated.
http://www.chrs.ca/Rivers/Churchill/Churchill_e.htm
• Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan entry for the Churchill:
http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/churchill_river.html
• Wikipedia entry for the Churchill:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churchill_ ... Hudson_Bay)
• Lac la Ronge Provincial Park:
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/LacLaRonge
• Canoeing the Churchill River:
http://digipac.ca/canoeing
• Trip reports at Canadian Canoe Routes:
viewtopic.php?f=111&t=27618
• CPAWS entry:
http://www.cpaws-sask.org/boreal_forest ... paign.html
• Saskatchewan government write-ups:
The reports were written by Peter Gregg, then reviewed by the Historic Trails Canoe Club (no web site found) in 1989; they provide information on rapids and portages, little on campsites.
1. Segment Methy portage and Lac La Loche to Île-à-la-Crosse:
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe52
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe52locatormap
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe52areamap
2. Segment Île-à-la-Crosse to Otter Lake:
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe1
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe1locatormap
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe1areamap
3. Segment Otter Lake to Sandy Bay:
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe29
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe29locatormap
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe29areamap
4. Segment Sandy Bay to Pukatawagan (MB):
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe48 (mislabelled)
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe47locatormap
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe47areamap
Books, all the ones I know that treat the Churchill:
Archer, Laurel. Northern Saskatchewan Canoe Trips: A Guide to Fifteen Wilderness Rivers. Boston Mills Press, Erin (2003). Coverage: Île-à-la-Crosse to Sandy Bay.
Finkelstein, Max W. Canoeing a Continent: On the Trail of Alexander Mackenzie. Natural Heritage / Natural History, Toronto (2002). The description of the Churchill (Clearwater River to the Frog Portage) is necessarily short but insightful. BTW, his group too camped at KamKota.
Grant, Cuthbert; edited by Harry W Duckworth. The English River Book: A North West Company Journal and Account Book of 1786. McGill-Queen's University Press (Rupert's Land Record Society Series), Montreal/Kingston (1989). The original and microfiche version are available at the HBC Archives, Winnipeg.
http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=468
Jones, Tim E H. The Aboriginal Rock Paintings of the Churchill River. Saskatchewan Archeological Society (1981). Out of print.
http://www.saskarchsoc.ca
Related Virtual Saskatchewan article:
http://www.virtualsk.com/current_issue/ ... _rock.html
Mackenzie, Alexander Sir. Edited by W Kaye Lamb. The journals and letters of Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Hakluyt Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1970).
Marchildon, Greg and Sid Robinson. Canoeing the Churchill: A Practical Guide to the Historic Voyageur Highway. Edited by Ralph Nilson. Canadian Plains Research Centre, Regina (2002). Coverage: Churchill River from the Methy Portage to the Frog Portage, with continuation on the Sturgeon-weir River to Cumberland House. Contains just about anything you might want to know about the Churchill – Sturgeon-weir route plus an extensive bibliography.
Morse, Eric W. Fur Trade Canoe Routes of Canada / Then and Now. University of Toronto Press, Toronto (1979; reprinted in 1984). Note: Who could omit such a book from this list, though it contains but two paragraphs on the Churchill?
Noel, Lynn, editor. Voyages: Canada’s Heritage Rivers. Maps and illustrations by Hap Wilson. Breakwater Books, St John’s (1995).
Google books:
http://books.google.ca/books?id=VpkuDEc ... q=&f=false
Olson, Sigurd F. The Lonely Land. University of Minnesota Press; reprint edition (1997). Coverage: Churchill River from Île-à-la-Crosse to the Frog Portage, with continuation on the Sturgeon-weir River to Cumberland House. Information on Olson is available at
http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/research/sig ... ntents.htm
Pecher, Kamil. Lonely voyage; by kayak to adventure and discovery. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon (1978). Not read, coverage uncertain.
Simpson, George. Journal and Occurrences in the Athabasca Department by George Simpson, 1820 and 1821, and Report.
The Hudson’s Bay Record Society, London, Volume 1 (of 33).
The Champlain Society, Toronto (1938), edited by E E Rich.
Digital reproduction of the Rich edition:
http://link.library.utoronto.ca/champla ... no=9_96893
Simpson, George. Edited by Frederick Merk. Fur Trade and Empire: George Simpson's Journal. Remarks Connected with the Fur Trade in the Course of a Voyage from York Factory to Fort George and Back to York Factory 1824-1825; Together with Accompanying Documents. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1931). Note: I was unable to find an accessible version, in print or online, but felt I should provide the reference notwithstanding, in the hope that it will become readily available to future Churchill paddlers.

General information sources:
Paddlers who wish to go beyond Marchildon-Robinson and Morse for information on the fur trade will discover as I did that there exists a vast literature on the topic in general and the Hudson’s Bay and NorthWest Companies in particular, not that other companies did not enter the competition; there is an entire book with title The XY Company, 1798 to 1804, for example..

Some online sources:
Early Canadian Online:
http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/?Language=en
Archives of the Hudson’s Bay Company:
http://journals.sfu.ca/archivar/index.p ... 2154/13160
The Beaver:
http://www.historysociety.ca/bea.asp
Champlain Society:
http://www.champlainsociety.ca/
HBC Learning Centre Bibliography:
http://www.hbc.com/hbcheritage/learning/bibliography/
Hudson’s Bay Record Society:
http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/ ... ations.pdf
HBRS, list of publications:
http://www.mhs.mb.ca/info/pubs/hbrs.shtml#volumes
Rupert’s Land Record Society (successor to the HBRS):
http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book_list.php?series=31
McMaster University Library:
http://libcat.mcmaster.ca/index.jsp?Ntx ... k1=Subject
University of Toronto Library (433 items, 39 online as of 31 July 2009):
http://search2.library.utoronto.ca/UTL/ ... orm_simple

Select Bibliography of the Fur Trade:
Ed comment: Some online sources.
http://www.northwestjournal.ca/masteref.htm

A selection, both random and eclectic, of books, some online in full or in part:
Atlas of Saskatchewan:
http://www.usask.ca/geography/atlas/
Atcheson, Nathaniel. On the Origin and Progress of the North-West Company of Canada. with a History of the Fur Trade, as Connected with that Concern; and … . Cox, Son and Baylis, London (1811).
Comment: My emotions on reading this material alternate between fascination and acute embarrassment.
http://www.canadiana.org/view/27875/0002
Brown, Jennifer S H. Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country. University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver (1980).
Bryce, George. The Remarkable History of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Subtitle: Including that of the French Traders of North-Western Canada and of the North-West, XY, and Astor Fur Companies. Sampson K Low, Marston & Company, London (1900).
Available in part at Google Books.
Davidson, Gordon Charles. The North West Company. University of California Press, Berkeley (1918).
Innis, Harold Adams. The Fur Trade in Canada. Subtitle: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. University of Toronto Press (1930). Reprinted in 1999 with an Introduction by Arthur J Ray.
Available in part at Google Books.
Karras, Arthur L. North to Cree Lake: The Rugged Lives of the Trappers Who Leave Civilisation Behind. Reprinted by Western Canadian Classics? Trident Press, New York (1970).
Keighley, Sydney Augustus. Trader, Tripper, Trapper: The Life of a Bay Man. Watson & Dwyer, Winnipeg (1989). This largely autobiographical account provides a perspective on the fur trade in the first half of the 20th century. It is of interest to paddlers more for the information it provides on life in the area not so long ago. Keighley did not wait for the native people to come to him with their furs; he "made regular visits to their camps with sled or canoe loaded with the goods they wanted, and returned with their traded furs". The "Tripper" of the title refers to these travels, not to our kind of tripping.
Laut, Agnes Christina. The ‘Adventurers of England’ on Hudson’s Bay. Subtitle: A Chronicle of the Fur Trade in the North. Glasgow, Brook & Company, Toronto (1914).
Newman, Peter Charles. I admit to total confusion regarding Newman’s books on the HBC; I see the titles Company of Adventures, Caesars of the Wilderness, Empire of the Bay and Merchant Princes, and I am unable to distinguish them.
Payne, Michael. The Fur Trade in Canada: An Illustrated History. James Lorimer & Company, Toronto (2004).
Pinkerton, Robert Eugene. Hudson’s Bay Company. H Holt and Company, New York (1931); T Butterworth, London (1932).
Reed, Charles Bert. Masters of the Wilderness. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1914).
Willson, Beckles, with Introduction by Donald Alexander Smith. The Great Company, 1667-1871. Subtitle: Being a History of the Honourable Company of Merchants-adventurers Trading Into Hudson's Bay. Dodd, Mead & Company, New York (1899).
Comment: The surname is often misspelled Wilson.
Online copy:
http://www.archive.org/stream/greatcomp ... 5/mode/2up

High points:
The Churchill is part of the route of the Voyageurs; ‘nuff said.
The Dene (chief, elders and others) at Patuanak who came down to say hello and offered the use of their island.
The ability of the native people to run motorboats through rapids that we portaged, in boats they build themselves!
Missinipe BBQ on 1 July (all you can eat for $2 and we arrived too late for the pancake breakfast!).
Missinipe fireworks on 1 July (what a show for a hamlet with 29 permanent residents!).
Holy Trinity Church at Stanley Mission.
Nistowiak Falls.
Sunset and moonrise on an island in Drinking Lake.
Walking the Frog Portage and dipping a boot into the waters of the Saskatchewan River.
The father (North Battleford) and sons (working in BC) camped on one side of us at KamKota Lodge.
Fellow paddlers from Montana, Lanigan, Sachigo, Meadow Lake and Saskatoon, all great to be around.
The HBC Archives in Winnipeg.

Low points:
Drunken louts from Macklin SK (camped on the other side at KamKota).
Screaming, drunken teenagers at the provincial campground in Missinipe.
The shooting of a bear that had been wandering around the Missinipe campground.
Too much rain.
Too much wind.

Some features:
• bald eagles, zillions of them
• beaver lodges, ditto
• beavers, ditto (noisy at night)
• boreal forest
• brown reeds (look like beaches from afar, disappointingly)
• beaches few
• bugs not so bad, though lots of no-see-ums early in the trip
• black-headed gulls (though none of us can tell a Franklin’s from a Bonaparte’s, I favour the latter)
• campsites few and small, on the whole
• Pink Lady’s Slippers (orchid family), masses of them at two campsites
• pelicans, somehow both majestic and comical. Some had bumps on the tops of their beaks (present only during breeding season, says Google), some not. We saw hundreds of them but not one feeding
• very little wildlife (2 bear cubs at Snake Rapids, not a single moose) except for beaver (who like to bomb tenters in the night)
• no fishing, our personal choice, but we were not averse to accepting gifts.
• very high water; see the next item.

Water level:
We knew that the water level was very high but not how much. In fact, the level continued to rise throughout the trip and well after too, testimony to the amount of rain that we experienced. Some rapids were made easier, others harder, than stated in the guides.
On 21 July, after our return, CBC News reported as follows, in part:
Churchill River levels hazardous
Water experts have issued a warning that anyone near the Churchill River should be extra cautious since the river is running much higher and faster than normal.
Water flows are already almost twice the normal average for this time of year and the river is expected to rise even more in the next few weeks.
Bart Oegema of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority said recreational boaters should be especially careful.
For any folks who are thinking of going canoeing or regular people, folks who go out hunting and fishing in that area, whatever they're doing, the flows are going to be stronger and a little more hazardous. I don't think there's a suggestion here that paddlers are not regular people, only that our presence is highly seasonal.
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/s ... river.html
For more discussion, including a plot of levels at Otter Rapids, go to
viewtopic.php?f=111&t=33669
The point of all this: neither our rapids ratings nor those in the guides may be relevant to your trip.

The Saskatchewan Song:
Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan
There’s no place like Saskatchewan

So far so good, but then comes
We sit and gaze across the plains
And wonder why it never rains

The writer (William W Smith, of Swift Current) must not be referring to the Churchill country.
http://members.shaw.ca/brian.bogdan/sas ... n_song.htm

Logistics:
We used Manitoulin Transport (Mississauga) to ship the boats (two 17’ PakCanoes) and most of our food and gear to David Fast, Ric Driediger’s agent in La Ronge.
We flew WestJet from Toronto to Saskatoon on 10 June; a bumpy ride on Trans-West got us to La Ronge (via Prince Albert, known locally as PA).
David met us at the La Ronge airport and drove us and much of our gear to Nut Point campground (recommended) where we stayed the night. We left our resupply boxes (mostly food) for later transport to Missinipe.
The next morning, Cecil (hired by Ric) picked us up and drove us first to La Ronge to pick up the rest of our gear, then to the Dene village of Patuanak (pronounced locally something like pa-cha-nak, unaccented) on the Churchill.
We arrived in Missinipe on 1 July; all our stuff was there, waiting for us.
On 3 July, Linda got a shuttle from Missinipe to La Ronge and eventually Toronto; Bob and I lightened our packs by sending some stuff back with her.
We headed downstream late that morning, arriving at Slim’s Cabins in the afternoon of 15 July, half an hour short of five weeks after leaving Patuanak. We rented a room (great rate), cleaned up and packed. Slim’s organised a shuttle to the bus station in Flin Flon (actually Creighton, SK). We shipped most of our stuff home by BPX, then rode the overnight bus (8 pm to 7 am) to Winnipeg. Bob flew home the same day; Stephen and I stayed over to see something of the city. All the BPX stuff arrived in good time and good order.

Tips on logistics:
If you paddle no farther than Sandy Bay, I recommend that you exit at Slim’s Cabins (14 km upstream), for a good many reasons. Slim’s is also a good spot to leave a car if you have one.
There is no scheduled bus service from Sandy Bay; we were told that there is a shuttle to the 135-106 T-junction (and maybe on to Flin Flon – we didn’t check). You might be able to get information by phoning the Co-Op store.
If you continue past Sandy Bay and take the train south to The Pas, consider exiting at Pawistik (flag stop) rather than at Pukatawagan; the train station at the latter is well out of town.
Some settlements have bad reputations.
Keep your group small. In five weeks, we saw only a few campsites large enough for more than three tents; many could hold only one or two.
Missinipe is dry but you can have beer and wine with your meal at Thompson’s restaurant.
The stores (Northern and Co-Op) at Stanley Mission might not have camp fuel and maybe other gear you might need.
Stanley Mission and Sandy Bay are nominally dry but have road access.
Don’t expect anything at Leaf Rapids (SK), which is shown on some highway maps.
The Saskatchewan Transportation Company runs a bus service on Hwy 106 (Hanson Lake Road); I recall hearing that service is three days per week.
http://www.stcbus.com/
Train from Pukatwagan to The Pas:
http://www.viarail.ca/en/resources/keew ... ay-company
Greyhound bus from Flin Flon (actually Creighton SK) to Winnipeg:
http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... ity=701102

Logistics: phone numbers and web sites:
Ric Driediger (Churchill River Canoe Outfitters): 877 511 2726; http://churchillrivercanoe.com/
TransWest Air: 306 764 1404; http://www.transwestair.com/
WestJet: 888 937 8538; http://www.westjet.com/
Keewatin Railway (Pukatawagan, MB to The Pas, MB): 204 623 5255; no web site at this time
Greyhound Bus, Saskatchewan: http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... skatchewan
Greyhound Bus, Manitoba: http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... e=Manitoba
Greyhound Bus (The Pas): 204 623 3999; http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... ity=703769
Greyhound Bus (Flin Flon): 306 688 7646 (actually in Creighton, SK); http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... ty=701102; http://www.greyhound.ca/home/en/locatio ... ity=710889
Slim’s Cabins: 306 754 2021‎ (near Sandy Bay); http://www.slimscabins.com/

RCMP detachments:
La Loche: 306 822 2010
Buffalo Narrows: 306 235 6660
Île-à-la-Crosse: 306 833 6300
Patuanak: none
Pinehouse: 306 884 2400
Missinipe: none
Grandmother’s Bay: none
La Ronge: 306 425 6730
Stanley Mission: 306 635 2390
Pelican Narrows: 306 632 3300
Sandy Bay: 306 754 4600
Pukatawagan: 204 553 2045 (emergency); 204 552 2342 (not)

Fishing:
We didn't do any; we didn't even take any equipment.
None of us is much of a fisherperson.
My personal position is that fishing diminishes the resource, in some tiny way. If the residents of Saskatchewan choose to fish, well it's their resource and none of my business.

Access/egress points in Saskatchewan:

Road access:
La Loche, Peter Pond Lake, Buffalo Narrows, Île-à-la-Crosse, Patuanak, Beauval (via Beaver River; also other points on the Beaver, plus other points on its tributaries), perhaps Sandy Lake (Hwy 914 comes close), Pinehouse Lake, KamKota Lodge (good place to leave vehicle), Snake Rapids crossing on Hwy 914, Besnard Lake (Hwy 910), Nemeiben Lake (several routes to the Churchill; check the SK government reports), La Ronge (several routes to the Churchill; again, check the SK government reports), Devil Lake campground (Hwy 102), Missinipe, Stanley Mission, Southend (via Reindeer River), Pelican Narrows (via Frog Portage), Mukamon River Lodge (near Sandy Bay), Slim’s Cabins (near Sandy Bay, good place to leave vehicle), Sandy Bay.

Float-plane access:
Float planes will get you to an almost innumerable number of lakes on the Churchill and its tributaries.
Archer, for example, describes the Haultain, Foster and Paull River routes to the Churchill, all reached by floats.
Many lodges take their guests in on floats and might have space for your party.

Expenses:
WestJet flight from Toronto to Saskatoon: $201.25 per person.
TransWest flight from Saskatoon to La Ronge: $349.39 per person.
Shipping most gear (including 2 PakCanoes) from Mississauga (Manitoulin Transport, then Ridsdale Transport) to La Ronge: $782.37 for over 750 lb.
Churchill River Canoe Outfitters services: Storage of shipped gear at La Ronge, shuttle from La Ronge to Patuanak (4 paddlers and gear, including 2 PakCanoes), transportation in La Ronge, transportation of resupply items from La Ronge to Missinipe and storage there: $1084 plus 5% tax.
Camping in La Ronge (one night at Nut Point campground): $17.
Camping at KamKota Lodge (one night): $75
Camping in Missinipe (two nights at La Ronge Provincial Park)): $34 total.
Shuttle from Missinipe to La Ronge (1 paddler): $110 plus 5% tax.
Shipment of excess gear from La Ronge to Hamilton (one box): $45.37.
Cabin at Slim's (one night, three paddlers), plus incidentals: $128.
Shuttle from Slim’s Cabins to Flin Flon (3 paddlers plus all gear): $200.
BPX shipment of gear (wanigan, paddles and one personal pack) from Flin Flon to Hamilton: $160.82.
BPX shipment of gear (2 barrels, 2 canoe bags and 1 tent bag) from Flin Flon to Toronto: $196.13.
Bus from Flin Flon to Winnipeg: $99.30 per person (senior fare); one piece of luggage each, one carry-on each. BTW, the Calm Air unrestricted fare is $329.70 from The Pas to Winnipeg; 1 hr, 20 min.
Sheraton hotel, Winnipeg airport:$ $96.74 per person, senior rate (I think), double occupancy.
Return WestJet flights from Winnipeg to Hamilton and Toronto: about $250 per person plus rescheduling cost.

_________________

A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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PostPosted: August 2nd, 2009, 8:11 am 
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Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 4032
Location: Toronto
Post 2 of the report

Journal and distances, part 1.

Distances:
Distances were measured by two methods:
1. Copies of the 1:50k topos were wheeled out along the planned route.
2. The Measure Distance feature at Toporama, at scale 1:40k, was used for the actual (more or less) route.
For the distance between Patuanak and Missinipe,
wheeling out the topos gave 316 km, while
Toporama gave 321 km.
The difference is due to several factors: the difference in routes, the 1% reduction on copying (believed value for the machine used) and measurement errors.

Toporama distances to Missinipe from the point specified, along the actual (more or less) route:
321 km: Patuanak
309 km: 73O13-74B4 boundary
294 km: 74B4-74B3 boundary
292 km: 74B3-73O14 boundary
286 km: Campsite (N2) at the start of the Dipper Rapids portage
275 km: Campsite (N3) on the island in Dipper Lake
251 km: Campsite (N4) at the end of the Crooked Rapids portage
247 km: Upstream end of Knee Lake
236 km: 73O14-73O15 boundary
235 km: Campsite (N5) on island
222 km: Elak Dase IR
220 km: Haultain River confluence
215 km: Campsite (N6) up the hill
206 km: 73O15-73O10 boundary
204 km: Outlet of Gavel (Gravel on topo) Lake
198 km: 73O10-73O15 boundary
195 km: 73O15-73O10 boundary
190 km: Swift at the downstream end of Dreger Lake
179 km: Campsite (N7) on Sandy Lake
169 km: Bridge at Snake Rapids
162 km: 73O10-73O9 boundary
147 km: 73O9-73O16 boundary
133 km: 73O16-73O9 boundary
128 km: Campsite (N10, N11 & N12) on Sandfly Lake
120 km: Needle Falls and 73O9-73P12 boundary
115 km: Campsite (N13) on Kinosaskaw Lake
112 km: Downstream end of Kinosaskaw Lake
107 km: Silent Rapids
100 km: Campsite (N14) on an island north of Hadley Island
93 km: Rapids
86 km: Campsite (N15) on island (“very nice” – Archer)
76 km: 73P12-73P11 boundary
67 km: Start of the Birch Rapids portage
46 km: Inflow from McIntosh Lake
40 km: Campsite (N18) at the start of Rock Trout portage
33 km: Upstream end of Nipew Lake
27 km: 73P11-73P10 boundary
15 km: Point west of Sluice Falls channel
13 km: Start of the Great Devil Rapids portage
6 km: Bridge at Otter Rapids
0 km: Missinipe campground

Journal:

10 June:
On the flight to La Ronge, I sat beside a young pilot from Iceland, working for Trans-West; he left because of the dreadful economic situation there to get his licence and make a new life. The taxi to the terminal passed fleets of water bombers and foam sprayers.
We knew that Bill Layman lives in La Ronge and learned that Sid Robinson does too. Short of time, we didn't try to contact either, then or the next morning.
The first night away from home was uneventful.

11 June:
We arrived in Patuanak, having seen a bear and a deer on the three-hour drive up, unloaded and started to assemble the boats. Maybe eight people came down in several groups to say hello, including the chief (David Paul, who called himself the mayor); he had been a teacher in St Thomas, near London Ontario. I expect that they came to see us because they are just plain friendly people. And so I doubt that Oslon’s words
They looked at us in amazement. It was a strange thing for white men to be paddling canoes.
describing the response of the native people in Patuanak, apply to us, if indeed they applied over 50 years ago.
We were given a lot of kind, unsolicited advice on the rapids to be encountered the next day. The native people run their boats well down the river, maybe six rapids, two of which we would portage. And we were told of a female professor from Queen’s University who was paddling the entire voyageur route solo; I figured she might make a good speaker at George Luste’s symposium but my Google search for her came up dry.
David offered us the use of the site at Cross Island for camping that night; it was a very generous offer, for the site has great spiritual significance to them. Please do not camp there without explicit permission, whether starting from Patuanak or upstream from it.
The first, but far from the last, rain of the trip came down so we dropped things and had lunch in the local shelter.
We set off on Shagwenaw Lake at 4 pm, entered the Churchill, pulled into Cross Island (hard to miss it; Marchildon-Robinson describes how it got that name) some time later and set up in clouds of bugs; we sure needed a site that close to town, for the next one was well downstream. It was an OK site, but the water that was easily accessible was stirred up. One of several fishing parties from Patuanak dropped by; they had been planning to clean their fish at the site but graciously decided to do the job back at the village; some of them, not protected in any way, noted that the “sandflies” (seems to be the local term for black flies: we heard it several more times) were rather bad that evening.

12 June:
A km of paddling got us to Drum Rapids, which we could hear from the campsite. We ran the first two parts, portaged across the neck to avoid the third and fourth and ran the fifth. Bob had a look at the C3 and C2; he says that they could be run but only with great care. The portage starts at 352.81/098.70; look for a break in the vegetation near the shore. There’s a small campsite at the start, a larger one at the end. Olson's group ran all of Drum.
Almost immediately we arrived at Leaf Rapids: We started the upper part on the left, moved to the centre and finished on the right; the second part was just a swift.
Five km of easy paddling got us to Deer Rapids: We started the first part on the right and moved to the centre; we started the second part on the left and moved to the centre.
A lazy paddle got us the sharp left turn above Dipper Rapids; the water was high and there were more than the two channels shown on the topo. We pulled in at the second egress point above Dipper; it is serious enough that even the native people use the marine railway to get their motorboats around it. We took one boat over on the marine railway and checked out the campsite mentioned in the guide; it was a small site up a very steep hill, not suitable. Since the next guide site was well downstream, we returned to the start and scouted for a place to set up the tents. Finding nothing on the ground, we cleared the platform of the picnic table and assorted junk and set up on it.
It was a very buggy place, with no easy access to good water, definitely a desperation site. Later, we helped three native people get their boat on the carriage; they were the last people seen for six days.

13 June:
We returned the table to the platform, completed the portage and headed downstream. The river empties into a marshy, delta-like region, well described by Olson:
After the rapids, the marshy expanses of Dipper Lake were a relief. The river fanned out into a great delta with grassy flats and winding channels.
We passed lodge-like structures on river right (this is the IR settlement marked Dipper Lake on the SK highway map) entered Dipper Lake and had lunch at a rocky point. This may be the point where Olson’s party camped:
We decided on a sheltered island just across the channel …
The wind was up and the guide showed only one campsite within a reasonable distance, so we paddled upwind and camped on the south side of the island halfway across the lake. But we give thanks to the wind, which gave us welcome relief from the bugs that had pestered us at the first two sites.
A big bad thunderstorm came through in the late afternoon and early evening.

14 June:
We finished Dipper Lake and Primeau Lake, then turned north toward Crooked Rapids. We arrived at the portage at 4 pm; it starts about 1 km before the bend, well above the rapids: look for a channel through the vegetation near the shore. BTW, Olson’s party went down the river, wading and portaging some.
It’s a fairly long portage (1,100 m), but well defined and dry, with only one hill (a mild one at the start). On a later carry, we heard a motorboat heading up the rapids, so Bob raced to the start of the portage in an effort to call it in and get some of our stuff taken down for us, but no luck.
We camped at the end, a small, very buggy site (third such in four nights) but with easy access to good water. We did not set up the bug shelter because of the size of the site and the lateness of the hour, and we were tired from the portage, so supper was quick.

15 June:
We encountered Knee Rapids not long after starting out.
The first part was a solid C2+. Linda and I went left, over a ledge, corkscrewing some; runs like that are meat for a PakCanoe but anyway we told the others to go farther right, where though they had to dodge boulders. After the ledge, we moved to the centre, then left again. Olson's party portaged this one.
The second part is a C1+, extended (not at all as shown on the topo).
The wind was down (!), so Knee Lake was an easy paddle. We entered Bentley Bay (it is not a bay; it is rather the Churchill River!) and checked out the guide site on the sandy beach; we found it not so attractive and continued 2 km to the island site, a much better place to spend the night. Some poor soul had forgotten a bag with maybe 10 rolls of film long ago.
There was a forest fire to the south; a float plane passed over from the northwest, returning about 20 minutes later.

16 June:
After a late start in light rain, we passed a possible campsite, a sandy beach, at the first point on the right but didn’t check it out. The weather was looking not so good so we checked out the guide site facing Elak Dase IR. Archer says that Olson's party camped there; I read Olson's account differently and place their site above Crooked Rapids. The guide site didn’t look promising from the water, in fact we saw no sign of a site (but didn't land and look).
There seemed to be no one home at the reserve. We didn’t go over to look, just headed downstream, starting a lengthy marshy region starting that continues almost to Dreger Lake, about 20 km in all.
A lazy paddle got us to the guide site way up a hill on the left; it’s far from the water and buggy, but the view is good and we saw many Pink Lady’s Slippers.
It rained intermittently through the night.

17 June:
After another late start, we wound our way down the river. Not having read Marchildon-Robinson, we missed the short cut; we turned left at the outlet of Gavel (misspelled Gravel on the topo) Lake. The river passes with good current through yellow-brown, almost golden, reeds on this stretch, quite a pleasant paddle. Lunch was at a campsite (undocumented, two tents) on river right, a km or so before Dreger Lake. The wind was up on Dreger but not so bad; the rapid at the end of Dreger was just a swift for us.
We headed down the entrance bay to Sandy Lake (which is not sandy), in a manageable headwind; one of the bays to our right housed the largest beaver lodge any of us had ever seen. We crossed the large bay on the right and continued to the guide site at the end of the beach.
Three planes, the second and third of them water bombers, flew over heading northwest, maybe to address the fire we had seen two days before.

18 June:
Another late start; I have to explain that we are not lazy (well, maybe somewhat); it’s just that we had a lot of time to get to Missinipe. The wind was from the east and very stiff, and so we had trouble crossing the bay. Once we got over, we got shelter by sticking close to the shore. On the way to Snake Rapids, we saw possible campsites in two sandy bays on the right, maybe a third. We saw three motorboats, the first people in six days. Their presence and the cabins to the northeast corner of the lake suggest that Sandy Lake is accessible by road, perhaps only privately though.
After turning the corner, we ran down to the right side above the bridge, passing a dead pelican with its head stuck between rocks; bridge access should be possible also from river left, given that the portage is reputed to be on that side. After climbing up to the road and scouting the first part of Snake Rapids from the bridge, we paddled upstream, ferried over and ran down the left side, a clean run; I backpaddled hard to avoid getting washed into the big stuff in the centre. Linda and I missed the two bear cubs seen by Stephen and Bob as they went down.
Fairly quiet water got us to the second part of Snake. It obviously required a serious scout, which we made from the bay on the left. We eventually found the portage trail. A rough one, it starts at the far end of the bay; it is marked with red tape farther along but no trace of it is visible from the water.
We ran down the right side, dodging boulders, then paddled through some large boils and whirlpools. As we neared McDonald Bay of Pinehouse Lake, we saw more motorboat traffic. Rapids scouting had taken a lot of time, it was 4 pm and the estimated time to the next guide site was four hours (it turned out to be more); we started looking for a site.
We came to the corner, saw some clear ground on the right and headed over, just like Max Finkelstein. But then, there it was, KamKota Lodge! Decision time; we averaged 65 and figured we have nothing to prove. The vote was unanimous and almost silent: $%^ on it, pull in and camp.
Linda took charge and arranged the stay there with the great staff. The six-year-old son of one drove the ATV around the site, doing chores when he wasn’t chatting with us and the fishermen. He acted more responsibly on the ATV than most youngsters ten years older.
We brought our stuff up from the river, set up the tents and did what most of you would have done: shower, shave, do laundry, buy ice cream, buy soft drinks and so on.
The guys at the site to our right (father from North Battleford, two sons working in Kamloops BC) caught three walleye for us, filleted and cooked them; and they gave us lots of their leftover food the next day, as they left.
The camp staff went around at maybe 10 pm, asking everyone to observe quiet hours.
The guys from Macklin SK, on our left, were not to be told by two women how to behave; they shouted and carried on until well past midnight. Some people would say that they used far too many f words; scarcely a sentence (when the speaker was sober enough to construct one) or sentence fragment lacked one. I disagree! They used only a few; it’s just that each was spoken far too many times.

19 June:
After more dallying, more ice cream and a group photo, we left at noon. Need I say that the wind was up again? At the narrows at the end of McDonald Bay, we pulled over to the left for lunch and a respite. The beach and the area back of it looked as if it could be used as a campsite and indeed, when I checked Marchildon-Robinson on getting home, found that they had listed it. Bob walked the trail across the point, to the lake, to check out the lake and plot our course across it. After lunch, we rounded the corner, stayed left for a km or so to get shelter, then bit the bullet and headed across the open stretch. The bays on the south shore offered some shelter as we made our way along; we saw several more motorboats.
We camped at the Archer site on the small island to the southeast of Cowpack (sic) Island, which we reached at 6 pm; tent sites are scattered but it is otherwise a good site. BTW, Marchildon-Robinson says that Cowpack is a corruption of the Cree word for the narrows.

20 June.
We made another late start, occasioned in part by wind and drizzle, which changed later to strong wind and rain. We passed a lodge on left past Cowpack Island, with motorboat traffic, but saw no buildings at the former settlement of Bélanger on the north shore.
Somehow we missed the turn to the left below the mouth of the Bélanger River and went 3 km down the channel before realizing the mistake; we found however a native site clearly used for spiritual purposes. The return paddle was against the wind, of course.
A good current in the river got us to Sandfly Lake and we headed out into it, working our way through the islands, getting shelter where we could. Wanting to make the “very nice” guide site on the island, we carried on past the guide site on the beach. I realized around this time that what I had thought were the white buildings of a lodge were only pelicans; each of us made the same mistake several times on this trip. It was at this point that I decided to coin the word pelicabins.
We crossed to the island site in a stiff bow quarter wind, wallowing badly all the way. Getting on to the island though was difficult, with waves breaking on both sides, and we wasted a lot of time looking for a landing spot. All four of us were wet and cold, some shivering, so in the end we just forced our way ashore on the east side, set up the tents and the shelter, had supper and went to bed.

21 June:
Having lots of time to make Missinipe, and wanting to dry out, we decided to lay over, admire the masses of Pink Lady’s Slippers and explore the island; we found three small camp sites at the south end. The weather was OK in the morning but the skies clouded over later.
I think it was this day that we bushwhacked to the north end of the island and inspected the black bear rock mentioned by Mackenzie:
… a very large stone, in the form of a bear, on which the natives have painted the head and snout of that animal; and here they also were formerly accustomed to offer sacrifices.
The source for both the quotation and the location is Marchildon-Robinson.

22 June:
The wind was up in the morning, but we took down the tents and the shelter, packed up everything and positioned ourselves to leave. But we questioned the wisdom of trying to cross four km of the lake in such conditions and decided to wait it out.
But the wind declined to subside, so we called off the attempt, set up the tents again and spent a third night on the island.

23 June:
We headed out at 8, with both wind and waves building. Conditions were bad by the time we reached the portage around First Needle Rapids, which we did not spot immediately. It lies left of the island, in a noticeable gap, left of the trickle; only when very near it do you see the remains of the log ramp. The waves crashed into us as we worked our way over to the portage; I got flattened once when the waves pushed the canoe against me. And the waves made it tough to get the gear out of the boats.
A short carry got us to a km or so of some calm water before we had to deal with Second Needle Rapids (marked NEEDLE RAPIDS on the topo).
Believing that the portage was only 365 m as the guides (SK government and Archer) said, we had decided just to portage. Linda and I paddled down the left side of the left channel, looking for but not finding the start of the portage; getting too close to the dancing water for comfort, we pulled over and she climbed the bank for a scout. She found the portage trail and walked it some distance in both directions, looking for the start. She gave up and we worked our way back upstream to the bay on river left. There we found the start, at the northeast corner of the bay, maybe 200 m above the island, and a steep climb from the water.
It was a very wet portage, not is such good condition, with trees down, and we did it in the rain. Had we know its conditions and its length, we might well have decided to work our way down the rapids, maybe lining the first bit on the right side of the left channel; the rest of the rapid looked quite runnable but we didn’t know that until we had started portaging. For sure though, there is no way down to the river from the start of the portage to its end.
Back home, with access to Toporama, I measured the length of the portage; from the known start to the known end, the straight-line distance is 600 m.
Another 2 km got us to the start of the portage around Needle Falls, with its remnants of a log ramp. On the portage, one PakCanoe was punctured by a protruding nail; fortunately, I was carrying a PakCanoe repair kit and was able to fix the hole, that is when the rain let up for a few moments.
After lunch, we walked the trail to the falls, passing through the large campsite; the falls itself is very impressive. Of course the pelicans were waiting below the falls, as they were below every falls and most of the rapids on the river.
We entered Kinosaskaw Lake in a stiff tailwind and started to look for a campsite. The first guide site was too exposed and we continued, losing our way though and having to paddle back against the wind. We found a site on the left side of the channel to the northeast, roughly midway down it, but it was not the greatest and we decided to rely on the next two guide sites, not such a good idea as it turned out.
We saw a path that might have led to the second guide site but Linda found nothing at the point. At the third guide site, both she and I did a thorough search but found no trace that it had ever been used.
Things were looking grim and I feared that we would be sleeping in the boats; on Bob’s initiative, we started looking at every rocky point, on both sides.
We found a reasonable site on the left side, reached only by crossing in a head wind, at a point about 1 km downstream from the third guide site. Rather small and in the grass, it was just large enough for the tents, cheek by jowl again.

24 June:
We spent a good part of the morning drying out and so got a late start. Several motorboats went by before we made the right turn to the east and we encountered more when we turned south; they must be coming from the big lodge on Black Bear Island Lake (which Marchildon-Robinson places near the east shore of Corman Island). Still more were fishing below Silent Rapids, which has several nasty boils and whirlpools; we noticed later that the motorboats run it on river right and I recommend that you do the same.
Lunch was at the point below Silent, at the channel going left.
We continued south, passing through another swift with boils and whirlpools, not as serious though as Silent, and entered Black Bear Island Lake. With a long stretch without guide sites ahead, we decided to stop early. We saw nothing at first guide site, but on the north side of Hadley Island we found a site used for shore lunches by the fisherfolk; it needed a lot of cleaning up (fish skins and backbones plus smelly items) though.
The sun was out (hurrah!) and I was able to repair my Thermarest, which I had punctured somehow a few days earlier.

25 June:
The wind was already up when we got off and it got worse as the day progressed.
We followed the channel north of Hadley and Wamninuta Islands and ran the rapids on the east side of the latter (yes, rapids in a lake); we started right of centre and followed the tongue to the left, avoiding the line of rocks extending from river right.
At the left turn to the east, we passed a possible campsite on the north shore of the leftmost channel and also a native site. We were now heading east, into the teeth of a strong east wind. We kept left, getting shelter where we could, looking (without success) for a campsite, hoping that we would find the “very nice” guide site if we didn’t.
The site was there, at the point just as the guide said. Good thing too, for we had gone as far as we could; there was no way we could get across the bay beyond it. We landed at the sheltered spot on the west side and got our stuff up the hill to the tent sites. The view was great from up there but the site was exposed to the wind; we set up the tarp to get some protection. Later, I went down to our landing spot and cleared away a lot of brush with my folding saw.
After supper, a spectacular storm came up, the four of us “in thunder, lightning and in rain”. It was not your standard thunderstorm, for the rain was pouring down in a very small chute; I recalled my six years in central Illinois, listening to the radio every April and May for tornado warnings. The bulk of the storm missed us though and we saw no evidence of twisters forming.
As usual Bob went exploring; he found another land/launch site farther down the coast, on the bay side.

26 June:
The wind was up again but had changed direction by 180 degrees; it was now a tail wind and we used the other side of the point for launching. We wallowed through big waves on the unprotected 4 km to the main channel. BTW, when the waves were well separated, we found the paddling easier when we aligned the boat parallel to them. We were able to get shelter for most of the reach.
We stopped for lunch on an island, which turned out to have a campite; only later did I see that Archer lists it as a campsite. The wind was now from the south and very strong, so we wanted to go to the south shore. I messed up though and turned us right too soon, into the teeth of the wind. After a lengthy struggle, we pulled over and learned that most of the struggle had achieved nothing. We headed back, downwind, and passed the lodge mentioned in the guide; we were told later that it is owned by Thompson, not by the company to which he had sold the bulk of his business. We saw only one building; I gather that the main camp is on the north side of the island.
We had already decided to do the portage around Birch Falls, rather than attempt Birch Rapids on the north side of the island, and so we turned south into the channel on the west side of Craik Island. It would have been a bad crossing, into a stiff headwind, so we were very pleased to find a site on the right, not far past the turn to the right.
It was a good site, 3 km above the portage with a good view to the east; lots of trees were down though and there was space for only three tents.

27 June:
Two paddlers in solo boats, the first paddlers we had seen in 16 days, came by in the morning and we had a lengthy chat with them. Doug Monger had done several trips north of 60. I gather that Terry Johnson, from Montana, had paddled in the Churchill area every summer since reading Olson’s The Lonely Land some 20 years earlier. They had started from Bell Bay on Nemeiben Lake, followed SK canoe route #18
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe18
through Head Lake, etc to Besnard Lake and on to Black Bear Island Lake. They took a side trip up the Sandy River for about 10 km, then rejoined #18 for the six-portage return to Nemeiben and the campground, which they reached the next day, as Terry wrote me later; we were the only paddlers they saw in 8 days.
We finished breakfast, loaded up and left. Stephen and Bob had gone ahead and scouted the Birch Portage. On the way, Linda and I saw several motorboats coming up from Birch Rapids, on the north side of the island; I don’t know though whether they were able to run up or whether they had had boats waiting at the top. The others had found a trail starting above the corner and a shorter one starting around it, just above the rapid. The portage is short and in good condition, with a tiny, unattractive campsite at its end.
Six youngsters (two of them nephews of Ric), apparently three couples, from Lanigan SK came through the portage at the same time; we would see them several times over the next few days. They had flown in, I believe to Shadd Lake, using Thompon’s services. They were going to fish at the falls, then camp on the island immediately below.
We carried on down Trout Lake, in deteriorating conditions (wind and rain). We stayed left, finding some current in the narrow sections. Not finding the guide sites, we camped at a poor site with nothing to recommend it but first its existence and second its ability to hold three tents; there’s a fire pit up from the shore and another in the water, the latter another indication of high levels. The lodge in the bay was visible from our site; it was busy, judging from the number of motorboats that passed by.

28 June:
As suggested by Doug and Terry, we avoided the Trout Portage and paddled up the river that drains McIntosh Lake. At the fast water, Linda and I portaged 100 m on the right (river left). Stephen and Bob took a much faster route by lining up 50 m up the left side, but Stephen banged up a shin. As we finished the portage, a motorboat ran the rapids, heading downstream. Another came upstream, heading for the lodge, as we paddled on McIntosh Lake. We had lunch at the start of the portage to Stack; a motorboat was moored to the dock. The portage (300 m) itself was in great shape, with much of it boardwalked for the convenience of the lodge’s guests. The three motorboats moored at the downstream end made for a difficult put-in though.
Several motorboats (from the lodge?) were running around Stack Lake. After passing three paddlers camped at Rooster Rapids (on the same channel as Trout Portage; we didn't go over to chat), we ran the easy rapids below Stack and camped at the start of the Rock Trout Portage.
The six youngsters arrived soon after and camped at the second site on the portage; they had taken the Trout Portage route.

29 June:
We portaged past the youngsters and headed downstream.
I don’t know whether to believe them, but my notes say that we took the left channel at the rapid before Mountney Lake, going right past a small ledge and then into the centre wave train.
The first set of rapids after Mountney Lake has three parts; the first two were C1s, the third a C2 with big waves. The rapid at the P on the topo was a C1; we went right, passing a motorboat with active fisherfolk.
We entered Nipew Lake and passed the lodge on river right; motorboats were going this way and that. Lunch was at a spot on the Selby Peninsula, above the almost-island. We stayed left, passed the three small outlets, went south of the island at 050/720, running swifts and passing the fourth outlet (at 050/718), then turned right to go around the south side of TwoLake Island, running some strong eddies.
The above paragraph was rewritten in response to the question raised by pawistik below. To repeat, we hadn't considered going north of TwoLake, toward Clark Falls, and so stayed close to the point near 056/721; on that route, the southbound current was way too strong to permit going north of TwoLake. We can't say whether it would have been possible to go north if we had turned to the left instead.
We entered Hayman Lake and continued down it until we spotted a large, well used site about 3 km above the start of Great Devil Rapids. It would have been a great site had not the ground been so damp from all that rain. In preparation for the last day or two, we all got cleaned up using the bathing nook to the north end.

30 June:
We ignored Terry and Doug's advice and bypassed the two channels to the right, having decided to play it safe after reading Archer's description of those routes.
We did the entire 1,100 m of the Great Devil Rapids portage, in light rain. I say entire because both Marchildon-Robinson and Archer state that there are three parts to the rapids; neither states though whether one can access the portage trail after the C2+. Rather than do a blind probe, not knowing whether we would recognize any of the egress points, we decided to bite the bullet and portage the whole thing.
Hoping to provide information for readers of this report, we looked for trails coming in from the river but saw none along the entire portage trail; at the end of the portage, I saw something indistinct, but it might have been used to view the falls rather than portage around them. I was told later that the Great Devil consists of four (not three) parts, that the other trails are there, that we didn’t see them because most paddlers do as we did and portage the whole thing, and that only the last part (the falls) must be portaged. But I still have no information on egress points, where they are, whether they are marked, …
A party with three canoes was at the larger of the two islands between Great Devil Rapids and Little Devil Rapids; they were not interested in chatting. The three parts of Little Devil were as described in the guide; on the way, we passed a couple paddling upstream.
Guess what? When we entered Devil Lake, the wind was in our faces, way too stiff for us to attempt reaching Missinipe. We did what we could but had to pull in and camp about 2 km above the bridge, past the last of the three channels up to Barker Lake.
Devil Lake had lots of canoe and motorboat traffic, I expect because of the campground on the east side. Two paddlers in a Grumman passed by, on their way to camp and fish at Barker. And the six youngsters pulled in and camped on the other (north) side of channel to Barker.

1 July:
The youngsters left before us; we didn’t see them again. Having full confidence in the PakCanoe’s ability to handle big water (I must say that we had spray covers), Linda and I did a C3 run down the centre of Otter Rapids, in huge waves, the biggest I’ve ever run; they would have swamped any hardshell I've ever been in, spray covers or not. It helped a lot to have Linda in the bow. We did bail some though after eddying out to the left at the bottom. Stephen and Bob did a C1+ run on the far L. We were happy not to see the jet boats reported to Otter; neither did we see body surfers.
As you near Missinipe, you see first the float-plane base, then the Thompson docks and then the playground. I understand that Thompson sold the Missinipe operation and most of the other lodges, except the one on Black Bear Island Lake, the new owners being allowed to keep the name. The provincial campground lies around the corner; Ric Driediger’s Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, perhaps best accessed by foot, is farther yet.
We arrived at the campground dock around noon. It was a busy place, with, sad to say, PWCs. There we met Ely, a paddler from Sachigo in northern Ontario, where he teaches. His dog Willow was having a good time retrieving the ball that the children were tossing into the bay. Ely uses an inflatable boat, 12’ long as I recall, in which he has paddled the Churchill from Patuanak to Missinipe, the route we had just completed. We saw him the next day at Ric’s; he is paddling the Albany this year. We wanted to chat more with him but he had gone the next time we passed his site. I hope that he sends CCR his trip report on the Sachigo River.
No one was on duty at the campground office, I guess because of the holiday; sometime the next day, we found a staff person and paid up. Not deterred, Linda found the ideal campsite for us, the only one easily accessible from the water; ever the opportunist, she walked by just as a guy in a bus (sic) was preparing to leave and grabbed the site. I was unsure whether to be alarmed or reassured by the baited bear cage at the site.
We unloaded, then went into town for ice cream and all that. We were struck by the use of golf carts rather than ATVs for getting around town, the first time any of us had seen them used in this way. I understand that the carts are actually more expensive but they are sure quieter and less damaging to the environment.
The BBQ started at 2 pm ($2 charge for it plus the pancake breakfast, which we missed). Our waistlines grew considerably. David Fast recognized me and introduced us to Ric.
We had supper at Thompson’s restaurant (good food, reasonably priced). The only beer offered was domestic Pilsener; for those who prefer dishwater, there was Kokanee, Bud Light and Coors Light. A bear caused some excitement when it walked by the restaurant, heading toward the campground, and more when it returned.
About 20 teenagers (we were told that most come La Ronge, guests of the children of people who own the store in town) were well out of control before the fireworks started, chugging vodka from the bottle, .... If indeed the parents turn the place over to the youngsters, I wonder if they realise that they might be liable in the event of a tragedy.
I had seen a notice that application was being made for Missinipe to revert from hamlet status to settlement status. Before the fireworks, I was introduced to one of the hamlet councilors and asked him why. The response was that there are only 29 permanent residents, an insufficient number for many purposes, including supporting an administrator.
The fireworks display was spectacular, given the resident population; I’m not sure though that the staff were fully qualified.
On the way back to the campground, we learned that a conservation officer had tried to lure the bear into the cage by our tents but had failed and shot it; the body was gone when we arrived. One of the families told us that the bear had eaten their child’s birthday cake, which they had left on the picnic table by their trailer; I wonder how much that incident had contributed to its death.
The teenagers continued screaming and drinking into the small hours.

2 July:
We met with Ric, did the finances and arranged Linda’s shuttle to La Ronge the next day.
Concerned that Bob might have trouble paddling a 17’ PakCanoe solo, I asked Ric about exiting at Sandy Bay; he advised us to use the services of Slim’s Cabins if we decided not to continue to Pukatawagan, advice that we were glad to have when the time came. I wish though that I had asked for the explicit location of Slim’s. Anyway, Ric's advice was much appreciated later; carrying on to Sandy Bay instead of stopping at Slim's would not only have been unpleasant but also would have made our return more difficult. Thanks, Ric!
I did a load of laundry and shaved. Linda packed up and moved into one of Thompson’s rooms for her last night in Missinipe; she hosted us in her room after another supper at Thompson’s.
With the evening came more parties in the dock area, with some fireworks, but most of the residents at the Animal House had kindly gone home.

3 July:
Linda treated us to breakfast at Thompson’s. We walked back to the campground, where one of Ric's people picked her up at 9 for the shuttle to La Ronge. The rest of us finished loading the boats.

_________________

A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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PostPosted: August 2nd, 2009, 8:13 am 
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Post 3 of the report

Journal and distances, part 2.

Distances:
Distances were measured by two methods:
1. Copies of the 1:50k topos were wheeled out along the planned route.
2. The Measure Distance feature at Toporama, at scale 1:40k, was used for the actual (more or less) route.
For the distance from Missinipe to Sandy Bay,
the wheeled-out distance was 231 km, while
the Toporama distance was 236 km.
Reasons for the difference are given in Post 2.

Toporama distances to Sandy Bay from the point specified, along the actual (more or less) route:

236 km: Missinipe campground
219 km: End of the Robertson Falls - Twin Falls portage
215 km: Campsite (N23) on Cow Island
211 km: 73P7-73P10 boundary
201 km: Stanley IR
200 km: Church
196 km: 73P7-73P8 boundary
195 km: Little Stanley Rapids and campsite (N24)
192 km: End of Drope Lake
186 km: Mouth of Rapid River (hike to Nistowiak Falls)
179 km: Potter Rapids
160 km: 73P8-63M5 boundary (north of Grennan Island)
152 km: Start the Keg Falls portage
148 km: Start the Grand Rapids portage
133 km: Narrows north of Archibald Island
127 km: Frog Portage
122 km: 63M5-63M6 boundary
109 km: 63M6-63M11 boundary
100 km: Kettle Falls
93 km: Upstream end of Iskwatam Lake
82 km: 63M11-63M10 boundary
78 km: Wapumon Gorge
67 km: Wintego Rapids
61 km: C2 rapids north of Duncan Island
55 km: Abandoned cabin (N33)
52 km: Rapids opposite Cameron Falls
25 km: 63M10-63M7 boundary
17 km: 63M7-63M8 boundary
8 km: 63M8-63M9 boundary
0 km: Sandy Bay

Note:
If you exit at Slim’s Cabins, which is 5 km southeast of the 63M7-63M8 boundary and off the shortest route to Sandy Bay, subtract 12 km from the above values.


Journal:

3 July:
We said sad goodbye to Missinipe, a place we all really liked, not as sad though as the one to Linda a bit over an hour before.
Stephen and I realized right away that Bob, with his double-bladed paddle, was just as fast as us if not faster on the lakes, provided there was no wind. And he had no problem in the rapids. But the wind caused him considerable difficulty; the usual remedy, sitting in the bow seat and facing the stern was not possible because of the PakCanoe’s construction. Often he had to go well off course to get shelter, sometimes even paddle backward.
We passed the entrance to Grandmother Bay. Marchildon-Robinson does not mention how it got that name. We were told at Patuanak that a grandmother had been abandoned there long ago but had survived the winter; the Churchill chapter by Michael Snook in Lynn Noel’s book says that the name honours Sally McKenzie, whose cabin at the narrows was a meeting point for trappers.
This reach of the Churchill is well used by both motorboats and canoes. Passing through the maze of islands, we spotted four canoes (2 yellow, 1 red, 1 white) ahead on the same course but didn’t see them again. We found our way to the head of the MacDonald Channel and had lunch at the campsite there; it is large enough for three tents. Two canoes heading upstream passed by; too many motorboats went by.
On the water again, we passed a possible campsite on a small island north of Reid Island, then arrived at the start of the one-portage route past Robertson and Twin Falls, as described in the guide. We chose this route, rather than the historic Stony Mountain and Mountain Portages, because we lost too much time unloading and loading the boats. The trail was very muddy to the high point, then dropped steeply to the put-in. A native family, dropped off at one end and walking to the other to be picked up, told us that the two-portage route is easier.
The river at the bottom of Twin Falls was turbulent, with eddies and vicious whirlpools but we got through OK. We passed Twin Falls Lodge (owned by the same people who own the “Thompson” operation in Missinipe) just downstream, then some native sites of obvious spiritual significance to them. The wind came up again and the rain threatened once more, so we pulled in where we could, at a campsite on Cow Island, rather than try to reach the guide site south of the island.

4 July:
We wound our way through the maze of islands, entered Mountain Lake, paddled south past Amuchewaspimewin Cliff (“Shooting-up Rock”; Marchildon-Robinson and Archer explain why it is called that) and on to Stanley Mission, where we bought a few things; but neither the Northern store nor the Co-Op had what we really wanted and what we were told we could buy there, namely fuel, either on the shelves on in the rear.
We crossed the river to the church (oldest building in Saskatchewan, oldest church west of the Red River) and spent quite some time there. It’s beautiful from the outside, but I found the interior strange; it is constructed of wood but made to resemble a 14th century church, arches and all, a little piece of England in the wilderness. I saw no explicit statement of the architect’s name, which leads me to believe that it was Robert Hunt; if so, he was a multi-talented individual.
On the river again, we encountered motorboats going both ways. We passed Big Stanley Rapids and camped at the start of its smaller sibling, using the roller ramp to get the boats out of the water. Saskatchewan Parks went to considerable effort to prepare the portage and the campsites, both the site we used and the other one at the foot of the rapids; they share a thunderbox very deep in the woods.
At the downstream campsite were John Mielke, Carol, Wendy, Hector, Eric and ?, a very friendly, church-based group from Meadow Lake SK; they invited us over and gave us fish and potato supper; after a good chat (I asked particularly about the Beaver and Waterhen Rivers), we returned to our site for soup and dessert.
More motorboats came by, upstream and down, most running the rapids, some dropping off women and children before doing so. Two kayakers ran the rapids and continued downstream.

5 July:
Little Stanley looked runnable but we used the roller system rather than head back upstream. After another chat with the Meadow Lakers, we headed across Drope Lake, passing the two kayakers returning; they had visited Nistowiak Falls, having camped near there. Heavy rain hit us at the turn to Purmal Bay, but only briefly. Soon after, in the fast channel before Nistowiak Lake, we passed two guys in a canoe coming the other way, both paddling on one side, then both swinging wildly over to the other; well, maybe many of us made such a comical sight when we started out.
Seeing a big storm coming, we paddled back to the huge guide site on the island at the top of McMorris Bay and had lunch there. On our way again, we passed a native site (also mentioned by Archer) at the point before the turn to the right; there’s a settlement on Hall Island. A bit of a struggle got us to the foot of the portage around the last rapid on Rapid River (known as the Montreal River in earlier accounts) and we walked up to see Nistowiak Falls; the trail skirts Jim’s Camp. It’s a popular visit for the native people and others alike; on the way up and back, we met perhaps five other groups. One of the people we met runs a second lodge near Twin Falls, one we didn’t see.
The falls itself is magnificent and we spent a lot of time there; shame on you if you hurry by without a visit. The Meadow Lakers had told us that a ledge upstream is called Airplane Falls. According to them, a pilot was unable to get a float plane started and drifted over the ledge; a crew had had to come in and disassemble it.
We continued downstream in rapidly worsening conditions; a stiff crosswind came up and the campsite search began once more. We spotted the guide site southwest of McCusker Island but the waves were crashing in and we passed it by.
A struggle got us to the portage (river right) past Potter Rapids. The very friendly people at Angler Rapids kindly helped us portage all our stuff through their site. More rain hit us as we fought to load the boats in the turbulent, surging water below the rapids, with gradually moderating stuff below that.
Under way on Drinking Lake, we passed the memorial to Philip A McLeod, but the structure atop the hill was no more. We camped at the guide site about 1 km downstream.
It required clambering up the rocks and also some brush clearing but was otherwise a good site. We were treated to simultaneous sunset and moonrise, a reward for a tough day on the water.

6 July:
It was dry-out time and we got a late start. We passed another campsite, with motorboat, after about 1 km. The lengthy rapid to the north of Healy Island was a solid C1+, with only a narrow clean channel (river left) at the lower end.
We took the Inman Channel to Keg Lake without checking whether we could line or portage using the islands in midstream; I believe that Olson’s party took the latter route. After running the swift, we arrived at the pictograph site mentioned in the guide and stopped to take photos. We scouted, then decided to portage the next rapid; it was runnable even in high water, but failure to follow the fine line through it could easily have resulted in a swim, something we didn’t need. As we had lunch, a native couple came down in a motorboat and ran the rapid, scarcely slowing down, then did a neat eddy turn; the woman started fishing before the boat had stopped.
After a while, they left and we continued down the north arm of Keg Lake, to the north of Grennan Island. We missed the guide site (we saw only impenetrable bush) and so continued to Keg Falls, which we portaged on river left; it was an easy portage on the log ramp, but time consuming since there is room for only one boat at the start. We ran the two marked rapids below the portage (I have no notes on them; I would have commented on any concerns) and continued down the lake-like region to the left turn and toward Grand Rapids. There’s a ledge extending to the left of the centre rock; we found a clean run slanting to the left maybe 20 m from it and continued to the start of the portage and the small guide site there. We had supper and hit the Thermarests at 10 pm.

7 July:
We started the Grand Rapids portage at 8:30. The trail, well defined but not well used, has only one wet spot, easily avoided. Many trees have fallen across it but they block it in only two places.
We loaded up, only to find that the wind was up again; we pulled into the bay on river left and had lunch. Stephen looked unsuccessfully, by foot, for the guide site at the end of the fast water.
The wind relented some and we tried again, taking the left side of the left channel. We were fully exposed to the wind on entering Trade Lake and so headed for the first of the three guide sites on the south shore; we missed it, but found a native site on a beach. A float plane took off from some place not far to the north, perhaps carrying a fly-in fishing party.

8 July:
On the water at 9, we passed three possible sites before the 810 vertical, one shortly after our site, another by a conspicuous fire pit and a third at a beach on the west side of a bay. A stiff quartering wind came up from the right bow but we got some shelter left of the chains of islands; Bob had a tough time in the gaps though.
We pulled in at the Frog Portage, located near the end of Trade Lake where the river turns north. Connecting the watersheds of the Churchill and Saskatchewan Rivers, it was an important fur-trade link between the pelt-rich Athabasca country and the Lake Winnipeg – Hayes River route to Hudson Bay; it is still heavily used by the native people. We took photos of the plaque (down and rather badly shot up), then walked the rather impressive marine railway to Lindstrom Lake and dipped our boots in the waters of the Saskatchewan River.
We found the highly recommended site just downstream, but the island had been burned since the guide was written. Given our success in finding guide sites, and after an otherwise fruitless search, we decided not to chance continuing. That turned out to be a wise decision, for the next day we found none of the guide sites.
We set up the tents on a small grassy spot at the southwest point, cheek by jowl again. Suppertime saw two motorboats heading upstream and more rain.

9 July:
The river had risen overnight, tribute to the rain we had been experiencing; we learned later that it has been rising for weeks and would continue to do so for days yet, at least at Otter.
It was another bad day, with heavy rain and very stiff winds; the latter caused Bob a lot of grief. The rain at one point was the worst downpour that any of us could remember when on the water. Need I say that we started looking for a site early? The strategy was for Bob to stay in a sheltered spot while Stephen and I paddled around, checking guide sites. We missed the guide sites at the NE or SW points of the island, finding only a tiny site at the NE point, we didn’t see the trapper’s cabin and we saw no evidence of a site on the next island; it wasn’t protected enough anyway.
We continued along the left shore, checking out anything remotely possible. Bob had to stop and bail his boat. He got stuck in a bay and it took him three tries to get out. Things were looking pretty grim when Bob happened to notice a fire pit on the left. We went in and checked it out. Stephen and I were able to clear the brush and high grass out of one area, enough for our tent; the folding saw made a pretty good grass whip. Bob got stuck with a really bad spot, his worst ever. A motorboat went by, heading upstream to somewhere, bouncing on the waves rolling by our site.

10 July:
Conditions were little better in the morning: strong head wind, big waves and black clouds, but at least no rain. They ameliorated somewhat in the early afternoon but by then we had decided to stay there that night, consciously deciding to exit early, at Slim’s.
As we lounged about, five paddlers (in two canoes and a kayak) from Saskatoon stopped by: Mike McGavity, Bonnie Mihalicz and their daughter Kathleen, plus Janet and her daughter Erin. They had paddled from Patuanak to Missinipe another year and were doing the remainder of the Churchill to Pukatawagan (more precisely Pawistik). They had had the same experience as we in finding guide sites but somehow had found an unlisted site about 8 km upstream from us. After chatting for a while, they continued downstream, it turned out only for another km.

11 July:
The morning was clear and calm and we got away at 8:30. We passed the site (“five stars” according to them) where the Tooners had camped, then a cabin or two on the left shore, then two sets of cabins on the left before Whitford Bay.
As we neared the Kettle Falls portage at the end of Uskik Lake, a float plane flew right over us and landed a bit upstream. We parked the boats and started unloading. Not long after, the pilot and two fishermen walked over; then came four native people from Pelican Narrows, in a Misty River with a 40 hp motor, followed closely by the Tooners. I gather that the route from Pelican Narrows, through the Frog Portage and up the Reineer to Southend is well used by the native people.
Things got a bit crowded on and near the log ramp; we moved our stuff first so that the boat could get through, then for the Tooners, figuring that they wanted to press on. BTW, the path on the left offers the easier route for portaging gear.
We took many photos of the falls; the name Kettle is quite appropriate.
We chose the leftmost rapid (Lower Kettle Falls in Archer) below Kettle. It is listed as a C3, but was only a C1+, I guess because of the high water. Stephen and I didn’t know that when we came to it however; we got stuck in a bay and ended up lining; we waved Bob on through. We didn’t see the log roller ramp mentioned in the guide.
We ran into the Tooners again at lunch and chatted with them a bit. The confluence with the Reindeer River was a non-event, but the “fast water” in the channel below was a solid C2; we started in the C, then went far left, then far right. On entering Iskwatam Lake, we chose the southern route, reputed to be easier than the northern one.
After a lengthy search, we found a site on a small island; my folding saw came in very handy in clearing space for the tent.

12 July:
The two “fast water” stretches mentioned in the guide, and clearly marked on the topo, were no more than a little current. At the first rapid south of Brackenridge Island, we saw the Tooners scouting from the right shore. We chose the left channel, as advised in the guide, and went straight down it, figuring that we could see nothing from where they were. It was a solid C2, which we ran in the centre, over a ledge.
The next set of rapids was more of a challenge. We lined the first part on river left; Stephen and I did the same for the second but I think that Bob ran it. I stayed behind to direct the Tooners to the start of the first part.
We couldn’t get river right to run the “riffle” (it didn’t look like one from our vantage point) but we found a clean run on the right side of the left channel. The next rapid was a C1+ which we ran to the far right, but left of the rock.
As directed by the guide, we took the far left channel above the gorge, ran some splashing water (we didn’t see the start of the 1,100 m portage) and headed into the bay on the left. After a search, we found the start of the portage at the north (far) end of the bay; I marked it with a piece of ribbon I had handy.
A short paddle got us to the start of the second portage; only one boat could unload at a time and we were still getting stuff out when the Tooners arrived. Anyway, both parties got their stuff over and didn’t mix things up. There’s a tiny campsite at the end of the portage trail; we didn’t look for the guide sites. Both parties stopped for lunch and photos of the falls, quite a sight; the others fished, with success. Since they were not pressing on, we loaded up (one of the worst put-ins ever) and took off, with some help. The river immediately below the gorge was rather nasty, with huge surges, but we were able to sneak through between some rocks. We took the left (west) channel, the shorter one, scouting and then running the C2 above the confluence with the east channel.
The river skirts the lower end of Wapumon Lake, which doesn’t look like much on the map, but a lot of water seemed to be coming down from it. After the trip, I checked Toporama; there is indeed no major tributary entering Wapumon, so I guess I was seeing the Churchill current collide with largely still water. We ran a few C1s before the turn to the left and Wintego Lake.
Bonnie had told us that their group would likely camp at the guide site just above Wintego Rapids, so we started looking hard for another site, early; we found only brush and clouds of bugs. The other group came by and offered the use of the Rapids site if there was room after they set up. We kept looking and were surprised to see them coming our way; they had found nothing at the guide site. Both parties ended up camping at the beach on the south shore. They gave us some fish for supper.

13 July:
Both parties left at 8:30. After some searching, the Tooners found the start of the portage; it is very close to the start of the rapid. We portaged too, but from the trail (too late) saw that we could have run the rapid; it was a tongue ending in big waves, easy pickings for PakCanoes with spray skirts.
The sharp turn to the right brought us to a series of three rapids; we watched from above as the Tooners portaged the second set. It was clear that the third rapid was a monster even from several hundred metres upstream, with huge bursts of water rising every ten seconds or so. We ran the first set by running a bit out from the point on the right shore, pushing into the little bay, then running down the right shore to the next bay; actually, there’s a clear tongue down to the second bay but I wouldn’t want to have run it in those conditions. Running the second rapid was out of the question, and lining it would have been far too dangerous, so we followed the Tooner example and portaged (30 m R) to the bay before the third rapid, a monster C5 that we portaged (50 m R).
The north (left) channel around Duncan Island is the shorter so we went far left at the broadening, running a C1. The topo doesn’t show the channel at 412/630; there is actually an island in the middle of the river. The Tooners went down the right side, portaging we think. We landed at the island and scouted both the trickles and the rapid in the left channel. We spent a lot of time bushwhacking, trying to get a good view of the rapid, but gave up and returned to the boats. Stephen and I ran the tongue while Bob watched. Embarrassingly, we missed the eddy turn into the bay below the point, but we straightened it out and went down; I gave the all-clear to Bob at the last possible moment, though one boil caused some anxiety. The Tooners were out of sight when we reached the end and we didn’t see them again; they may have gone south.
We turned left, to the east, passed the confluence with the southern channel around Duncan Island and turned south toward Brown Peninsula. The wind was up again, in our faces of course. Leaving Bob in a sheltered spot, Stephen and I crossed to the east side and looked hard for the guide site, to no avail. We returned to the west side, picked up Bob and headed south, moving over to the east shore. We turned into the bay and found the abandoned cabin right where the guide said it was. It was surrounded by waist-high grass, uncampable without a major clearing effort, which would have left the area badly scarred; we were told later that the owner had grazed horses there. Having no choice, we set up the tents inside the cabin; it was in very bad shape, with one entire side gone, big holes in the roof and a floor very weak in places. I don’t know that it will be available for next year’s paddlers.
A big, bad storm hit us in the night and some stuff got wet that need not have.

14 July:
This was by far the worst day of the trip, cold with a stiff wind and plentiful rain.
Note on channels: There are two ways to reach Reeds Lake from Pita Lake; I found Archer unclear on this point and I didn’t check the copy of the topo carefully enough.
The north channel, marked Churchill River, bypasses Cameron Falls, does a large U through the lakey area at 495/680 and enters the upper part of Reeds Lake (the part above the constriction near 522/615) from the north.
The south channel is not marked Churchill River; it is 7.5 km shorter. It runs through Cameron Falls, but breaks east before rejoining the north channel, passes through Pikoo Lake, passes north of Johnson Peninsula and enters the upper part of Reed Lake from the west.
Naturally enough, we took the north (longer) channel, perhaps fortunately because the falls, listed as a C2, might have required portaging or lining in the high water we had. The rapid in the north channel, listed as a C1, required a delicate route between the eddy on the R and the big stuff in the C; it verged on a C2.
The wind came up and the rain came down. Bob had a rough time dealing with the head wind. Verging on hypothermia, we pulled in for shelter at the top of a bay before the lakey area (495/680) and the turn south toward Reeds Lake.

15 July:
We left at 7:50 under threatening skies, 32 km from Slim’s, expecting a repeat of the previous day. All went well though except for the wind, which caused problems in the open stretches.
The crossing through 495/680 was difficult for Bob but the channel heading south was sheltered. A good current got us down to the upper part of Reeds Lake OK but then we were exposed to the wind again and he had to struggle once more. We crossed to the east shore, passing the lodge mentioned by Archer; there was no one there at the time but we learned later that a large party was going in the next day or so. We passed also Russell’s Camp on river left; it too is active, just not that day. Both are owned by Slim’s, which calls the first Scotties Beach and the second Cameron’s Point.
After lunch at the narrows (lots of current and boils), we entered Sokatisewin Lake and began the search for Slim’s; we regretted not asking either Ric or the motorboats we had met on the river. I won’t bother you with an account of what happened, but we passed one reach five times, in a bad wind that caused Bob much grief. Stephen and I paddled just upwind from him; that seemed to provide some shelter. If so, we should have tried it much earlier.
Eventually we flagged down a motorboat and got instructions, something like stay right and you can’t miss it, rather unclear in view of the several bays on the right. We were offered the services of Mukoman River Lodge but elected to continue to Slim’s. Much later, as we were debating whether to head over to a batch of cabins to the left, we were blown down to a point where Stephen spotted a flag on the right and we were on our way.
We arrived at Slim’s around 3:30: http://www.slimscabins.com , located at UTM NAD27, 626/456 on the 1:50k topo, at the end of the bay just east of Campbell Island; look for the road coming north from Hwy 135. Darcy, Sandy, Jim and Bruce, great people and very paddler friendly, went well out of their way to help us. BTW, they have no restaurant; it’s strictly cook it yourself. I believe it was Bruce who said that only 3 or 4 canoe groups come through each year, but they hadn’t seen the Tooners, who were by then half a day ahead of us, we think. Somehow it came out in the chat I had with her that Sandy had paddled the Churchill the year before with Jason Schoonover, with whom I had corresponded regarding the William; small world indeed.
We rented a cabin at a very reasonable rate, cleaned up and started repacking. Slim’s arranged a shuttle to Flin Flon, where we would take the overnight bus to Winnipeg. But Hwy 135 was flooded out, not surprisingly in view of the weather we had experienced; not knowing when we could get through, we didn’t call either WestJet (to reschedule our return flights) or Hendrik Herfst in Winnipeg (he paddled with us in 2005 on the Back and in 2007 on the Keele and we wanted to see him again).
But Stephen did phone Ric to say that we were off the river. Fortunately we had no rain overnight and all the gear we left out stayed dry.

16 July:
The morning was spent drying things out and repacking; again we lucked out with the weather (we sure deserved it). Bruce came by and gathered us up; he had good news and bad news: the washout had been fixed but another one had opened up. We left for Creighton around 1:15; not knowing whether we would get through, we didn’t try to call WestJet or Hendrik, again.
After a lengthy wait at the washout, we got through and arrived in Creighton (just across the border from Flin Flon) and the Greyhound station. For the origins of these place names, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flin_Flon .We sent nearly all our gear back by BPX; tickets were $99.30 (senior rate); the woman at the bus station was very helpful even more patient. We had a so-so supper at the Prospector Inn, returned to the station and hit the road at 8 pm (MB time).
The mine and smelter in Flin Flon have devastated what was surely once a beautiful area. With rocks, water and trees, it must have looked like Temagami; now, it looks like Sudbury in the 50s.
During a stopover in The Pas (the name does not come from the French; it is rather an abbreviation/corruption of the native word), Bob and Stephen were able to get through on the phones and rearrange our return flights from Winnipeg, with substantial charges; it was too late to call Hendrik.
We passed through Cranberry Portage in the evening, to me a sad sight. The portage was a link in the "Upper Track", the route (used by the native people between 1670 and 1774) linking Cumberland House to the Nelson, through Namew Lake, the Goose River and the Grass River [Morse]. At the relief stop in Swan River, I was pleased to see a large, lighted swan outside the Super 8 motel; someone had gone to a lot of effort and considerable expense to set it up.

17 July:
After another stop, this one at the all-night Tim Horton’s in Dauphin, we arrived in Winnipeg on time at 7 am, somewhat bleary eyed since none of us had slept so well. After a lot of fussing with the baggage, we found a large taxi to get us and all our stuff to the airport. It was too early to check in so we went to the Four Points Sheraton next door for a hearty breakfast, replenishing our fat supplies.
Bob left for his WestJet flight to Hamilton. Stephen and I had decided to stay and see something of the city, especially the HBC Archives (which contains also some NWC Archives). After trying to reach Hendrik (turned out he wasn’t able to meet us for supper), we cleaned up, found out where the Archives are located (200 Vaughan Street, across St Mary from the Bay parking garage, open 9 to 4) and headed downtown on the #15 bus.
We spent the afternoon there, apart from a lunch break. Not knowing what else to do, I asked where I could find information on Peter Pond, having selected the name at random from my small memory bank of names of early visitors to the Churchill. The staff, all great people, got out the original manuscript of Cuthbert Grant’s English River Book, his journal for 1 April to 31 May 1786; he was a subordinate of Pond. They invited us to leaf through the manuscript, but there was no way that either of us would as much as touch something so precious.
I gawked for a long time at reproductions of Peter Pond’s maps from his 1792 trip on the Churchill and Sturgeon-weir (Île-à-la-Crosse to Cumberland House). One map showed Grand Rapids, with the ledge upstream clearly marked, and also the portage (marked “720”) around it, on river left as it is today. Other maps showed the Frog Portage, Birch Portage, Knee Lake and Primeau Lake; Primeau’s house was located roughly where we saw the settlement on Primeau.
And I looked at publications of the Hudson’s Bay Record Society:
(Samuel) Black’s Rocky Mountain Journal of 1824, describing primarily the Finlay River, with the Introduction by R M Patterson of Nahanni note,
John Rae’s Arctic Correspondence of 1844-1855 (including the fateful letter announcing his findings regarding the Franklin expedition),
and lots of similar material.
All too soon the Archives closed. I went to the Bay and bought underwear, socks and shoes for the flight home, leaving behind my hiking boots, by then absolutely gross and leaking to boot; Stephen tried unsuccessfully to get some CDs. We met up again and hoofed it down to The Forks, which Hendrik had shown me three years before on my return from the Seal River. The water was way up and the path was closed but we went down to the river anyway. We should have had supper at the Forks, but we returned downtown, looking for a restaurant but finding only the Pony Corral. Downtown Winnipeg was a bit of a disappointment; the sidewalks get rolled up at 5 pm or so.
We returned to the Sheraton on the #15 bus and got ready to leave the next morning.

18 July:
After another big breakfast at the Sheraton, we started home, to the drudgery of laundry, cleaning up and replacing gear, and all that. I had another big meal that evening, the fourth in two days, but found that I had still lost 10 pounds.

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PostPosted: August 11th, 2009, 4:55 pm 
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Allan Jacobs wrote:
27 June:
Two paddlers in solo boats, the first paddlers we had seen in 16 days, came by in the morning and we had a lengthy chat with them. Doug Monger had done several trips north of 60. I gather that Terry Johnson, from Montana, had paddled in the Churchill area every summer since reading Olson’s The Lonely Land some 20 years earlier. They had started from Bell Bay on Nemeiben Lake, followed SK canoe route #18
http://www.tpcs.gov.sk.ca/canoe18
through Head Lake, etc to Besnard Lake and on to Black Bear Island Lake. They took a side trip up the Sandy River for about 10 km, then rejoined #18 for the six-portage return to Nemeiben and the campground, which they reached the next day, as Terry wrote me later; we were the only paddlers they saw in 8 days.

Hi Allan,
It's taking me a while to get through your report, there's a lot of detail here! :)
As I go through it, I've been following along more or less in Google Earth. I noticed some placemarks showing up by a fellow with the username of "montanatrail". Then I read what you wrote here. I'm putting 2 + 2 together and suspect that Montanatrail, who has posted stuff in GE on the Churchill before that I've noted, is the same fellow you mention. Interesting connection.

Now, back to reading the report...

Cheers,
Bryan

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PostPosted: August 11th, 2009, 5:14 pm 
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Allan Jacobs wrote:
29 June:
.... Lunch was at a spot on the Selby Peninsula, above the almost-island. We stayed left, running swifts, until the sharp turn at Two-Lake Island (you really can’t do much else); after that we ran into some strong eddies. We continued down Hayman Lake ...

Hi Allan,
I'm trying to follow where you are going and am uncertain, perhaps it's a typo? Do you mean you went river left (north) then turned sharp right to go on the South side of Twolake Island? If that's the case, then one certainly has the other option of going on the north side of the island which takes you past Clark Falls where the Weaver flows into Hayman.
Cheers,
Bryan

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PostPosted: August 11th, 2009, 7:41 pm 
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Hi Bryan:
1. I think that the Terry in my report is your Montana guy. I'll get in touch with him.
2. We went south of TwoLake Island (which I misspelled in my report). To go around the north side of TwoLake (toward Clark Falls), you might have to stay far left to avoid getting caught in the current going toward the south side. We didn't even think of going north.
I'll rewrite the report to make this point more clearly.
Thanks for reading all that babble!
Allan

EDIT, 21 August:
From Marchildon-Robinson, page 241, it appears that it is easy to paddle the northern channel to Clark Falls.

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PostPosted: August 19th, 2009, 3:13 pm 
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Post 4 of the report

Campsite, rapid, portage and route information:

Regrets:
Post #1 got too long (more than 60,000 characters) and I had to move some stuff out of it.


Campsite information:

Coordinates:
Locations are specified using UTMs.
The easting is given first, then the northing.
I used the 1:50k series of topos. All use NAD27; set your GPS accordingly.
The nominal accuracy of integer UTMs is plus/minus 50 m, but they may be incorrect by more than that since they were read from the topos. To emphasize that fact, I use ~ (which means approximately). Example: ~333/087 for the campsite on Cross Island.
In a few cases, I give more accurate readings using decimals; these were obtained from the GPS. To emphasize that fact, I use (GPS) after the UTMs. Example: 352.81/098.70 (GPS) for the campsite at the head of Drum Portage.
To obtain the corresponding three-digit UTM from your GPS (to within 50 m), drop the first two of the seven figures, then round to three figures.

Guides:
The main sources for campsite information are Archer and Marchildon-Robinson; both report many sites. In preparing for the trip, however, we used only Archer, for lack of time. I recommend that you consult both books to obtain far more sites that I list below.
Neither Archer nor Marchildon-Robinson says much about the size and quality of the sites, however, and this is important information to some of us; I provide such information, as best I can.
We had difficulty finding some sites mentioned in Archer; some sites get burned, others get grown over if not used, so don't expect too much.

Types of campsites:
I distinguish two types of sites:
1. Known sites: We camped there, or inspected them from the land, or saw groups camped there.
2. Possible sites: Ones that we saw only from the water, unoccupied; please don’t expect much, if anything, from any of these. Some of these sites are listed in Archer and Marchildon-Robinson.

Campsite quality: (personal scheme)
Class A means worth pushing hard to reach, worth staying over if you have time.
Class E means avoid if at all possible; you will want to leave early the next morning.
My assignments are made on a subjective basis only.
You will find a quantitative scheme in Mike McCrea’s post (5 August) in the thread Reporting campsite information: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=33706&start=0
In the same thread, you will find Blair Caron’s list of criteria.

Campsite size:
Example: Three tents (one 2 p, two 1 p) means that there is room for one two-person tent and two one-person tents.
Group size means that there’s room for more than four tents.
Our bug tent can be put up on ground unsuitable for tenting; please don’t think there’s more room that I say for tents, just because we put up the bug tent.

List of sites:

73O13, ~333/087.
Comment: On Cross Island, accessed from the channel on river right. The site is of great spiritual significance to the Dene of Patuanak; do not camp there without permission.
Quality: Class C; flat, buggy; the boat ramp makes for difficult access to good water and also difficult landing & launching.
Size: Group; lots of room for our three tents and the bug tent.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

74B4, 352.81/098.70 (GPS).
Comment: At the head of Drum Portage.
Quality: Class D; grassy, not inspected carefully.
Size: One tent.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

74B4, ~354/101.
Comment: At the foot of Drum Portage.
Quality: Class C; not inspected carefully but it looked larger and nicer than the site at the head of the portage.
Size: At most two tents.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73O14: ~476/040.
Comment: On the platform at the start of Dipper Portage.
Quality: Class E; buggy, difficult access to good water, difficult landing (boat ramp), grassy, area is littered.
Size: Two tents (two 2 p); nothing else in the vicinity.
Credit: Our party. Marchildon-Robinson suggests other sites in the vicinity; we looked but didn’t see any.

73O14, ~548/032.
Comment: On the south side of the island halfway across Dipper Lake, on the west side of the bay.
Quality: Class B; open to the breeze, easy access to good water, good view, OK landing & launching, better than suggested by Marchildon-Robinson.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p) plus the bug tent.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73O14, ~673/968.
Comment: At the end of the portage around Crooked Rapids, below the C2.
Quality: Class C; flat, buggy, treed, easy access to good water, good launching.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p); no room for the bug tent; might be cleared for a larger group.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73O15, ~759/875.
Comment: At the east end of an island in Bentley Bay.
Quality: Class B; easy access to good water, good landing/launching, good view.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Archer.

Possible site: 73O15, near 818/897.
Comment: Small beach on the south shore of Bentley Bay.
Quality: Likely a desperation site.
Size: May not be large enough for even one tent.
Credit: Our party.

73O15, ~904/861.
Comment: On river left, up a hill.
Quality: Class B; far from water, buggy, good view, great flowers, OK landing & launching.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73O10, ~877/777.
Comment: On river right, 1 km above Dreger Lake.
Quality: Class B site.
Size: Two one-person tents.
Credit: Our party.

73O10, ~936/731.
Comment: On Sandy Lake, on the west shore of the bay, toward the south.
Quality: Class B; on beach but tent sites are off the sand, good landing & launching.
Size: At least three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p), plus bug tent.
Credit: Archer.

Possible sites: 73O10, between ~004/768 and ~011/777.
Comment: Two or three large beaches on river right, above the hard right turn to Snake Rapids.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson; noted by our party.

73O10, ~028/728.
Comment: KamKota Lodge.
Quality: Recommended; showers, laundry facilities, ice cream and soft drinks; no restaurant.
Size: Group.
Credit: NA.

73O09, ~099/766.
Comment: In a small bay on river left, just before McDonald Bay opens into Pinehouse Lake.
Quality: Class C; beach, tent sites slanted; trail extends to bay on Pinehouse,
Size: Several tent sites; site not inspected for camping possibilities.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73O9, ~182/784
Comment: On a small island southeast of Cowpack Island.
Quality: Class B; tent sites are scattered over the length of the island.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Archer.

73O9, ~322/764.
Comment: Island in Sandfly Lake.
Quality: Class B; tent sites not the best (moss stays wet), great views, great flowers; bear rock at north tip.
Size: Four tents (one 3 p, two 2 p, one 1 p) plus room for bug tent.
Credit: Archer.

73P12, ~372/720.
Comment: At Needle Falls.
Quality: Class B; large stock of firewood when we were there, heavily used, great view, tent spots not level.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73P12, near 389/721.
Comment: On the river-left side of the narrows, about 2 km below Needle Falls.
Quality: Class C; uncertain (seen by only one person); larger and better than 404.15/749.07.
Size: Uncertain but likely three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Our party.

73P12, 404.15/749.07 (GPS)
Comment: At the southwest point of an island on river left, about 6 km below Needle Falls.
Quality: Class C; grassy, cramped, easy access to water.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p), absolute maximum.
Credit: Our party. Likely the correct location for the Archer site said to be 1 km upstream.

73P12, 499.73/713.66 (GPS)
Comment: On the north side of an island north of Hadley Island.
Quality: Class B; used by fisherfolk for shore lunches, mildly littered, lots of space, good sites, easy access to water.
Size: Four tents (four 2 p).
Credit: Our party.

Possible site: 73P12, ~538/663.
Comment: On the river-left side of a narrow channel.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Likely small.
Credit: Our party.

73P12, ~585/657.
Comment: At the southern point of an island in Black Bear Island Lake.
Quality: Class B; far from water, good landing & launching (either side), good places for tents, great view to the east.
Size: Three tents (three 2 p) plus room for bug tent.
Credit: Archer.

73P12, ~682/649.
Comment: On an island just west of the P12/P11 border.
Quality: Class B; well used, large area but not so many flat spots for tents.
Size: Two or three tents.
Credit: Archer.

73P11, ~728/622.
Comment: On river right, west of Craik Island, 3 km above Birch Portage
Quality: Class C; tent sites OK, good access to water, lots of trees down, good view to the east.
Size: Three tents (three 2 p) plus room for the bug tent.
Credit: Our party.

73P11, ~755/602.
Comment: At the end of the portage around Birch Falls.
Quality: Class D; unappealing except for the view.
Size: Small.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73P11, 822.27/659.79 (GPS).
Comment: West side of Trout Lake, 6 km from the outlet to Crew Lake.
Quality: Class D; any port in a storm, easy access to good water, lots of motorboat traffic, not nice sites.
Size: Three tents (two 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Our party. It is near Archer sites, which we didn’t find; likely the "822661" in Archer is a typo.

73P11, ~880/736.
Comment: At end of Rooster Rapids (Archer) or Moose Rapids (Marchildon-Robinson).
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown, but party of at least three was camped there.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73P11, ~902/729.
Comment: Near the start of Rock Trout Portage.
Quality: Class B; far from water.
Size: Three tents (three 2 p) plus room for bug tent.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

73P10, 103.00/714.87 (GPS).
Comment: On river right, upstream from Donaldson Island.
Quality: Class B; well used, bathing nook, sites stay wet.
Size: Group.
Credit: Our party.

73P10, ~133/697.
Comment: On the larger island between Great Devil Rapids and Little Devil Rapids.
Quality: Unknown, but popular.
Size: Large enough for the party of six camped there.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73P10, ~159/682.
Comment: West side of Devil Lake; on the southeast point of Manitou Island, across the channel and to the north of 160.68/681.78.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Large enough for the party of six camped there.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73P10, 160.68/681.78 (GPS).
Comment: West side of Devil Lake, south of Manitou Island.
Quality: Class B; well used by fisherfolk, easy access to good water, good landing & launching, good sites, unlittered.
Size: Three tents (three 2 p) plus room for bug tent.
Credit: Marchildon-Robinson.

73P10, ~147/614.
Comment: Site 15 at the Missinipe campground; it is the best site at the campground for paddlers, because access from the water is the easiest. I recommend reserving it.
Quality: NA.
Size: Group.
Credit: NA.

73P10, ~241/581.
Comment: On the south side of MacDonald Channel (river right), 3 tents.
Quality: Class C; the site itself is class B but the channel is very busy with motorboats.
Size: Three one-person tents.
Credit: Our party.

Possible site: 73P10, ~269/571.
Comment: Small island north of Reid Island.
Quality: Unknown but looks well used.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Our party.

73P10, ~282/534.
Comment: Native site at a point on the west side of Cow Island.
Quality: Class C; well used, some litter, OK tent sites. Tip: wind and waves permitting, land and launch on the southwest side, not in the small bay on the north side.
Size: At least three tents (three 2 p).
Credit: Our party.

73P8, ~333/426.
Comment: Above Little Stanley Rapids, on river right, at the upper end of the roller ramp.
Quality: Class B; far from good water, thunderbox deep in the woods, logs for sitting, fire pit.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer (nonspecific reference)

73P8, ~333/426.
Comment: At the downstream end of Little Stanley Rapids.
Quality: Class A; fire pit, connecting trail provides access to thunderbox, logs for sitting.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer (nonspecific reference) & Marchildon-Robinson.

73P8, ~377/409.
Comment: Island at point near northwest end of McMorris Bay (Nistowiak Lake).
Quality: Class A.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

Possible site: 73P8, ~391/406.
Comment: At point before right turn toward Nistowiak Falls; native site?
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson; seen from the water by our party.

73P8, ~490/395.
Comment: Island in Drinking Lake, about 4 km below Potter Rapids.
Quality: Class B; well up a moderately steep hill, good views, OK landing and launching; we used our saws to open it up a bit.
Size: Two tents (two 2 p) plus the bug tent.
Credit: Archer.

Possible site: 73P8, ~502/391.
Comment: In a small bay about 1 km east of 490/395.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown, but we saw a motorboat there.
Credit: Our party.

63M5, ~729/355.
Comment: At the beginning of the portage around Grand Rapids.
Quality: Class D; not much to recommend it but that it’s there.
Size: Two tents (one 2 p, one 1 p) but possible site 10-20 m to the northwest.
Credit: Archer & Marchildon-Robinson.

63M5, 781.47/346.88 (GPS).
Comment: On the south side of Trade Lake, about 5 km beyond the Grand Rapids portage.
Quality: Class B; native site; beach, but with tent sites off the sand; OK in nearly every respect but view.
Size: Three or four tents (2 p).
Credit: Our party.

Possible site, 63M5, between 781/347 and 810/352.
Comment: Small beach on the south shore of Trade Lake.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Our party.

Possible site, 63M5, between 781/347 and 810/352.
Comment: Point with fire pit, on the south shore of Trade Lake.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Our party.

Possible site, 63M5, between 781/347 and 810/352.
Comment: Large beach on the west side of a bay, off the south shore of Trade Lake.
Quality: Unknown.
Size: Unknown.
Credit: Our party.

63M5, ~924/415.
Comment: Small grassy spot at the southwest side of the island, very close to the river.
Quality: Class D; the island was burned not long ago; the site has little to recommend it but that it’s there.
Size: Two tents (one 2 p, one 1 p) plus room for bug tent.
Credit: Archer recommends the island, but the description was written before the burn; the specific site was located by our party.

63M11, ~044/528.
Comment: On river left, just past the long, narrow bay.
Quality: Class E; desperation site; Stephen and I were able to clear an area for the larger tent; Bob had the worst site of his entire paddling career. Both Bob and I slipped on the black goo running down to the river and banged up forearms.
Size: Two tents (one 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Our party.

63M11, near 046/536.
Comment: On river left, about 2 km before the first point on Uskik Lake.
Quality: “five-star site” according to the people who camped there.
Size: Large enough for a party of five.
Credit: Saskatoon party of Mike, Bonnie, Kathleen, Janet and Erin .

63M11, 193.72/570.79 (GPS).
Comment: Small island below the southwest tip of Loewen Island.
Quality: Class B; OK in every respect, after we cleared a space for the larger tent.
Size: Two tents (one 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Our party.

63M10, ~292/584.
Comment: At the end of the portage around Wapumon Gorge.
Class D: Small spot, uneven ground, close to good fishing.
Size: One tent.
Credit: Archer.

63M10, near 385/605.
Comment: Beach in front of the cabin mentioned by Archer.
Quality: Class C; tent sites are off the sand.
Size: Group.
Credit: Archer.

63M10, ~441/593.
Comment: In the bay before the left turn toward Cameron Falls.
Quality: Class D; abandoned cabin, failing fast; the roof has huge holes, the floor is rotting and the front is gone, but it is more comfortable than the waist-high grass outside. It may not be available after 2009.
Size: Two tents (one 2 p, one 1 p).
Credit: Archer.

63M8, ~626/456.
Comment: One of Slim’s Cabins.
Quality: Recommended; great staff, refreshments, no restaurant.
Size: At least 6 beds.
Credit: Ric Driediger.


Rapids, portages and route information:

Guides:
Everything is well documented by Archer, Gregg (SK gov't site) and Marchildon-Robinson (above the Frog Portage only).
We used Archer primarily, Gregg occasionally, Marchildon-Robinson not at all; I recommend that you consult all three.
Archer and Gregg cover the entire route from Patuanak to Sandy Bay; they don't differ much regarding details like rapids difficulty and portage lengths but Archer provides more in the way of alternate routes, for example those above Devil Lake.
Marchildon-Robinson, which treats the Churchill only to Frog Portage, is the better source for background information; and it documents alternate routes.
Both Archer and the SK government site describe connecting routes, Haultain, Foster, Paull, Rapid, Sturgeon-weir, 6-Portage, etc. The Sturgeon-weir is thoroughly described by Marchildon-Robinson.

I made a conscious effort to provide only information on what we did. Some duplication is unavoidable however, simply because my notes and my readings of the topos agree with information available elsewhere.
Consult Archer, Gregg and Marchildon-Robinson for more precise locations, portage lengths, routes through the rapids, etc.

Coordinates:
NB: Locations are given for use with the topos, NOT for use with a GPS. You must not entrust your safety to the accuracy of the UTMs that I give.
Locations are specified either by using place names on the topos or by using UTMs (which refer to the start of the rapid/fall, portage, whatever).
For the UTMs, the easting is given first, then the northing.
I used the 1:50k series of topos. All use NAD27; set your GPS accordingly.
The nominal accuracy of integer UTMs is plus/minus 50 m, but they may be incorrect by more than that since they were read from the topos; moreover, the topos cannot be relied on to mark correctly rapids and falls locations. To emphasize the possible inaccuracy of the UTMs, I use ~ (which means approximately).
In at least one case, I give more accurate readings using decimals; these were obtained from the GPS. To emphasize that fact, I use (GPS) after the UTMs.
To obtain the corresponding three-digit UTM from your GPS (to within 50 m), drop the first two of the seven figures, then round to three figures.

Water level in June-July 2009:
The level was very high already when we started and it rose throughout the trip.
Some rapids were made easier, others more difficult.
The main point: You may find my ratings and comments inappropriate for your trip.

74B4, Drum Rapids:
Part 1: ~346/093. Ran; C1 as in Archer.
Part 2: ~350/096. Ran; C1+ as in Archer.
Parts 3 & 4 (~351/101 & ~352/103): Portaged. The portage starts at 335.281/098.70 (GPS); look for a break in the vegetation near the shore. The portage is in excellent condition.
Part 5: ~356/101 (not marked on topo). Ran; C1 as in Archer.

74B4, Leaf Rapids:
Part 1: ~362/101. We started on the left, moved to the centre and finished on the right; C2, as in Archer.
Part 2: ~369/102. The marked rapid near the widening was just a swift.

74B4, Deer Rapids:
Part 1: ~416/123. We started on the right and moved to the centre; C2 as in Archer.
Part 2: ~421/135. Just before the right turn. We started on the left and moved to the centre; C2+ as in Archer.

73O14, Dipper Rapids:
We used the second egress point to reach the portage; look for the boat ramp, which makes the landing unpleasant. Lauching is a bit awkward, for the same reason.
My notes don't mention the rapid below Dipper, before the left turn, noted by Archer.

73O14, Crooked Rapids:
We portaged the whole thing. The portage starts about 1 km before the bend to the right, well above the rapids. The start is not obvious; look for a channel through the vegetation near the shore. It’s a fairly long portage (1,100 m), but well defined and dry, with only one hill (a mild one at the start).

73O14, Knee Rapids:
Part 1: ~678/942. Marked on the topo; a solid C2+, as in Archer. One boat went left, over a ledge; the other went farther right but had to dodge boulders. Both then moved to the centre, then went left again.
Part 2: ~690/936. Marked on the topo; a C1+ with some boulders to dodge, as in Archer; it starts well upstream from the mark, as Archer says.

73O10, Rapids at the end of Dreger Lake:
For us just a swift.

73O10, Snake Rapids:
Between Sandy Lake and Pinehouse Lake; named at Toporama, not on the topo.
Part 1: ~017/773. We scouted it from the bridge, which we reached from above, on river right. BTW, access to the bridge should be possible also from river left, given that the portage is reputed to be on that side. We paddled upstream, ferried over and ran down the left side, a clean run; I backpaddled hard to avoid getting washed into the big stuff in the centre. I give it a C2, as did Archer.
Part 2: ~025/763. We scouted it by walking in from the bay on the left. On the way back, we spotted the portage trail, which starts near the south end of the bay; later parts of it are marked with tape. We paddled back up, ferried over and ran down the right side, dodging boulders, then paddled through some large boils and whirlpools. I give it a C2+, as did Archer.

73O16, Route information:
Be sure to do the left turn after the Bélanger River. Only swifts between there and Sandfly Lake.

73O9, First Needle Rapid, ~354/739:
Marked but not named on the topo. At the exit from Sandfly Lake. The portage starts about halfway along the rocky spit from the north shore. There’s a noticeable gap, left of the trickle; only when very near it do you see the remains of the log ramp.

73O9, Second Needle Rapids (marked NEEDLE RAPIDS on the topo). ~366/741.
Both Archer and Gregg state that the portage is 365 m long, so we decided just to portage it, on the left side of the left channel. After a lot of exploring, we located the start; it’s at the northeast corner of the bay, 200 m or so above the island, with a steep climb up. Had we known then the length and condition of the portage, we might well have decided to work our way down the rapids, maybe lining the first bit on the right side of the left channel; the rest of the rapid looked quite runable but we didn’t know that until we had started portaging.
It was a very wet portage, with trees down, and we did it in the rain; some parts are not in good condition. For sure though, there is no way down to, or up from, the river from the start of the portage to its end. It was only on our first pass that we knew the portage to be much longer than 365 m and by then it was too late to do anything but carry on.
Back home, with access to Toporama, I measured the straight-line length of the portage, from the known start to the known end, to be 600 m; and I read Marchildon-Robinson, which states the portage to be 650 m long.

73P12, Needle Falls:
The start of the portage (on river right) is easy to find. Only remnants of the log ramp remain; one of the nails sticking up punctured the bottom of one of our boats.

73P12, Silent Rapids:
We ran the centre through several nasty boils and whirlpools. Motorboats run it on river right; I recommend that you do the same.

73P12, ~459/728:
Unmarked; more boils and whirlpools, not as bad as Silent.

73P12, ~535/675:
Unmarked; we started right of centre and followed the tongue to the left, avoiding the line of rocks extending from river right. C1 as in Archer; called Swimming Stone Rapids by Marchildon-Robinson.

73P11, Birch Falls, at BIRCH POINT on the topo.
The portage around Birch Falls is on the south (river right) side of the south channel; note that Birch Rapids is in the north channel.
The portage has two access points; one starts before the corner, the other after it. There was enough space above the white stuff even in high water so I see no reason to use the longer portage.

73P11, ~770/602:
Easy run through the channel on river left.

73 P11, ~865/724:
We had originally intended to take the Stack-Mountney route to Nipew Lake, rather than the Crew-Torranee route, but we followed the advice of Doug & Terry and head up to McIntosh Lake.
At the fast water, Linda and I portaged 100 m on the right (river left) side. Stephen and Bob took a faster but less safe route by lining 50 m up the left (river right) side.

73P11, ~875/738:
Portage from McIntosh Lake to Stack Lake. 300 m with much of it boardwalked for the use of the guests at the lodge on McIntosh Lake. The dock at the start makes for an easy take-out; the boat ramp at the end makes the put-in very difficult if there are boats moored there, as we found.

73P11, ~895/727:
For us, a C1.

73P11, Rock Trout Portage:
The portage starts at a small sandy spot (less than a beach) on river right. Side trails lead to campsites and tent sites. The portage is damp in places but OK on the whole.

73P11, ~908/728:
My notes (not sure they are correct) say that we took the left channel at the rapid before Mountney Lake, going right past a small ledge and then into the centre wave train.

73P11, ~934/701:
The three distinct parts of the rapid (shown in Marchildon-Robinson) start well upstream from the marked location ~934/701, which is that of the C2+.
For us, the first two parts were C1s, the third a C2+ with big waves.

73P11, ~936/690:
For us a C1; we went right.

73P10, Route information:
Route between Nipew Lake and Hayman Lake, starting near 040/714.
We stayed left initially, passing the two small outlets at the small island and then the third (slightly larger) outlet at the end of the larger island. We went south of the island at 050/720, running swifts and passing the fourth outlet (at 050/718). We turned right and went around the south side of TwoLake Island, running some strong eddies.

73P10, Great Devil Rapids, including Wladyka Falls:
We ignored Terry and Doug's advice and bypassed the two channels to the right, having decided to play it safe after reading Archer's description of those routes; a major factor in this decision was the knowledge that the water level was high and so it would be better to portage as much of the big stuff as possible.
We did the entire 1,100 m of the Great Devil Rapids portage. I say entire because both Marchildon-Robinson and Archer state that there are three parts to the rapids; neither states though whether one can access the portage trail after the C2+. Rather than do a blind probe, not knowing whether we would recognize any of the egress points, we decided to bite the bullet and portage the whole thing.
Hoping to provide information for readers of this report, we looked for trails coming in from the river (as noted by Marchildon-Robinson) but saw none along the entire portage trail; at the end of the portage, I saw something indistinct, but it might have been used to view the falls rather than to portage around them.
I was told later
that Great Devil consists of four (not three) parts,
that the other trails are there,
that we didn’t see them because most paddlers do as we did and portage the whole thing, and
that only the last part (the falls) must be portaged.
But I still have no information on egress points, where they are, whether they are marked, …
Sorry I can’t be of more help.

73P10, Little Devil Rapids:
The three parts were as described in Archer, two C1s followed by a C2 (boulder dodging).

73P10, Otter Rapids:
You have your choice of a C3+ run (huge waves but no rocks) down the centre or a C1+ sneak on river left.

73P10, Robertson Falls and Twin Falls:
Two routes, one requiring two portages, one only one.
We took the single-portage route starting at ~285/565. The trail, very muddy from the start to the high point, drops very steeply to the put-in. We chose this route, rather than the historic Stony Mountain and Mountain Portages, because we lost too much time unloading and loading the boats. While on the portage, we were told that the two-portage route is easier.
The river at the bottom of Twin Falls was turbulent, with eddies and vicious whirlpools, perhaps due to the very high water.

73P8, Stanley Rapids:
We went past Big Stanley to Little Stanley at ~333/427.
Little Stanley is runable but better scout it first.
We had decided to camp there and so used the roller ramp to get the boats up to where we could unload them easily. The next morning, we saw no point in going upstream to run the rapid.

73P8, Potter Rapids:
We portaged on river right, starting from the Anglers Lodge dock; the staff there were very helpful. The ramp remains but the rollers are no more.
Strong surges (likely stronger than usual) made for a difficult put-in.

73P8, Channel north of Healy Island:
It was a C1+ for us. The rapid was OK at the top but it degenerated into rocks and small ledges toward the bottom; we found a clean route on the far left.

73P8, Inman Channel:
The unmarked rapid at the bend was a swift, no problem.
We scouted, then decided to portage the next rapid, the marked rapid at the sharp turn right; it is called Jump Rapid by Marchildon-Robinson. It was runable (a 2+) even in the high water we had, but missing the fine line through it might well have resulted in a swim, something we didn’t need.

63M5, Keg Falls:
We went north of Grennan Island, north of the island at 680/390, then along the south shore of Greig Island, as in Archer.
The rapid above the turn to the right was a C1, as in Archer; I noticed that not much water was coming from the north channel around Greig (so good idea to go south of Grieg).
The portage is from the bay on river left; the portage is made easy by the log ramp, but it was time-consuming because there is room for only one boat at the start.
The marked rapids below Keg were run without difficulty on the left, following Archer.

63M5, ~720/354:
The rapid at the turn to the left, before Grand Rapids; referred to as Upper Grand Rapid by Marchildon-Robinson.
It was a C2 for us; we started close to the centre, spotted the ledge extending to the left of the centre rock and found a clean run slanting to the left, maybe 20 m from the rock.

63M5, Grand Rapids:
The portage is on river left. The take-out is safe but plain ugly. The trail is well defined but not well used; it has only one wet spot, easily avoided. Many trees have fallen across it but they block it in only two places.
We followed the left shore below the portage, past the island.

63M11, Kettle Falls:
The portage, on river left, has a log ramp for boats plus a pathway to the left for carrying packs. It is heavily used (I expect mostly by the native people) and in good condition.

63M11, ~116/574:
We took the leftmost channel through the rapids about 1 km below Kettle; it was a C1+ (barely) for us. We didn’t see the log roller ramp.

63M11, ~158/596:
The 1-km-long reach below the Reindeer confluence was a C2 for us. We started in the centre, went far left and then far right to miss some big waves.

63M11, ~202/575 and ~206/576:
The marked rapids were current only.

63M11, ~239/576:
We went down the left channel, as advised by Archer. It was a solid C2, which we ran in the centre, over a ledge.

63M11, ~246/580:
Three parts, not well enough separated to list separately.
Part 1: We lined it on river left.
Part 2: Stephen and I lined it on river left but I think that Bob ran it.
We couldn’t get river right to run the “riffle” (it didn’t look like one from our vantage point; I'm not sure I read Archer correctly though) but we found a clean run on the right side of the left channel.
Part 3: For us it was a C1+ which we ran on the far right, but left of the rock.

63M10, ~271/579:
I have nothing in my notes for this marked rapid.

63M10, ~282/588:
The marked rapid was a swift.

63M10, ~285/585:
The portage around the rapid at ~285/582 starts at the north (far) end of the bay; I don’t know how long the ribbon I placed there will stay. It’s a short, easy carry.

63M10, Wapumon Gorge:
The portage starts across the bay from the previous portage; like the first, unloading is one boat at a time. It is the more heavily used of the two and is in good condition; the end is steep though. The put-in, already difficult because of the rocks, is made considerably more so by the surges; I can’t remember a worse one.
The river immediately below the gorge was rather nasty because of the huge surges; we were able to sneak through between some rocks though.
The marked rapid at ~296/584 was anticlimactic after the surges.

63M10, ~301/585:
We took the left (west) channel, the shorter one; after scouting it, we ran the unmarked C2 above the confluence with the east channel. The marked rapids below the confluence were a few rocks, easily avoided.

63M10:
There are several C1s between Wapumon Lake and Wintego Lake.

63M10, Wintego Rapids:
The portage starts very close to the start of the rapid, a clean tongue ending in big waves. We portaged it, noticing too late that we could have run it.

63M10, ~380/616:
Three rapids in over less than 1 km.
Part 1: You have two options.
Do as we did: start a bit out from the point on the right shore, push into the little bay, then run down the right shore to the next bay (the "second").
Or, after a scout, start roughly in the centre and follow the tongue down to the second bay; if you mess up though, you are in really big trouble.
Part 2: Running it was out of the question and lining it would have been far too dangerous; we portaged 30 m on the right to the bay before the third rapid.
Part 3: We portaged the monster C5, river right, 50 m.

63M10, ~398/617:
For us, a C1+ (barely) run on the extreme left.

63M10, ~412/631:
On the north channel around Duncan Island. The topo is incorrect here for it shows only the left channel. Better scout from the island to find the tongue; for us, it was close to the island. The boils farther down made it a C2 for us; they continue for some distance.

63M10, Route information:
There are two ways to reach Reeds Lake from Pita Lake; I found Gregg clearer than Archer on this point.
The north channel, marked Churchill River, bypasses Cameron Falls, does a large U through the lakey area at 495/680 and enters the upper part of Reeds Lake (the part above the constriction near 522/615) from the north.
The south channel, not marked Churchill River, is 7.5 km shorter. It runs through Cameron Falls, but breaks east before rejoining the north channel, passes through Pikoo Lake, passes north of Johnson Peninsula and enters the upper part of Reed Lake from the west.

63M10, ~455/595:
On the north (left) channel, which bypasses Cameron Falls. For us, it was a C1+ run with not much room between the eddy on the right and the big stuff in the centre.

63M7, ~540/527:
About 1 km of fast water with boils.

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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PostPosted: August 20th, 2009, 1:28 pm 
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Joined: January 11th, 2005, 4:58 pm
Posts: 1861
Location: Manitoba
Just when I almost done Post 4 appeared!

All good stuff.

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http://www.JohnstonPursuits.ca

 


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PostPosted: August 20th, 2009, 4:34 pm 
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Joined: January 22nd, 2005, 12:16 pm
Posts: 4032
Location: Toronto
Hey Brian, don't sweat it!
Post #4 was extracted from the old post #1 (which grew to more that 60,000 characters so I had to split it) so there's nothing new to it; you are done!
Wish I were done; now I have to go back and edit it.

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A literal mind is a little mind. If it's not worth doing to excess, it's not worth doing at all. Good enough isn't.  None are so blind as those who choose not to see. (AJ)



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