Canadian Canoe Routes

Waterhen River - Where the Prairie Meets the Pines
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Author:  kingfisher [ September 14th, 2009, 7:14 am ]
Post subject:  Waterhen River - Where the Prairie Meets the Pines

W a t e r h e n.
What does a name like that for a River conjure up-
a marsh covered in lost feathers and squawking waterfowl?
Not quite- and what’s in a name anyways.
All those BIG rivers, names like Nahanni, the Coppermine, MacKenzie, Thompson . . . even Horton, aren’t they grand but do they have what the Waterhen River has?
No, those rivers don't get buzzed by one of these…

That was the only way I could entice my lovely wife to consider this Labour Day weekend paddle on a languorous, ancient, silty river, IF there was a chance to angle a ride on one of the fighter jets from Cold Lake Alberta, now an All Nations Air Base.

The gifts of this modest end of summer River sojourn were given to us threefold;
An opportunity to meet one of my Father’s protégés, now in charge of the fleet at Cold Lake and reminisce about His effort’s to bring some order to the bushplane business of Northwestern Ontario fifty years ago.
To wax poetic about Life and our Children with Joe Twidale from Dorintosh, Mathematician and School Teacher for 29 years, now a devotee of fine Literature who acquiesced to do the shuttle for us.
http://www.villageofdorintosh.sasktelwe ... tacts.html
Betweeen the Rivers Eco Experience
And discovering one of the most memorable campsites of our adventures together on a golden ridge, with ‘Out of Africa’ views up and down river, bubbling music from a boulder garden below us and the sculptured sentinel of a lone Jackpine.
Oh Lord, how good can it get.


The Waterhen River underscores Meadow Lake Provincial Park,
a string of Lakes, glacial potholes really, an area set aside for recreation in the western sector of central Saskatchewan.
As the interpretive panels describe in sectional diagrams, the river now a phantom of its former self was once a chasm of meltwater.


The 35 mile tour begins at the bridge north of Goodsoil (you can tell we’re in Saskatchewan) and ended about 14 hours later at the next bridge north of Dorintosh. The trip of course commenced only a f t e r the rendezvous at Cold Lake Airbase.


Reports found/gleaned for River conditions are slim, (sketchy) and outdated but served our needs to preserve the still pristine white Kevlar boat through 4 kms of high water over rock bumping shallows and downstream V's through boulder gardens.
The most difficult passage on the River was economically described by the writer simply as: “You will wreck your boat”
Those rapids were obviously unpassable and we waded the boat through them,
that Harpie reminding me at every turn to what I thought could be run:
“Honnn . . .this is the KEVLAR boat . . .”

For the most part, the birds had left these prime nesting grounds of shallow waters and reedy islands. In the stellar late summer conditions we found scattered flocks of ducks, mergansers, geese and Sandhill Cranes who had just refused to leave . . . yet.
The Sandhills, especially elegant with their huge wingspans, rode the updrafts in lazy circles calling out in their weird raspy declarations to a beautiful day.


Ranchland quarter sections touch the river in a few locations and you may hear the braying of disgruntled beef cattle munching on green grass along the shoreline

or you may see a newly built chalets in close proximity of the River. We saw two picnic tables set up at . . . utopian locations, We took up residence at the one with the panoramic view.


We quit early . . . only 4 hours into the trip to take advantage of the happenstance site, complete with picnic table


but we were oblivious to the story in the clouds high above


The next morning
in the pink light of dawn, a bald eagle, on his morning flight path along the ridge
manouvered a 360° above me to take a closer look at man . . . the intruder.

The day and a half tour allowed for this trip seemed easy enough and spirits were high until the next day, an unusal nine hour slog into the head wind from the east.

Interpretative Panels at Dorintosh Bridge take-out describing the ‘workings’
of the Fur Trade Empire


This River should probably be experienced when there is NOT an East Wind blowing in your face for 9 hours and when the marshy river is rich with wildlife and the birds are all happy.
We startled a group of 5 Canada Geese- 4 took flight and one was left behind, his wings unable to carry him.
My Bow Woman turned around asking:
“What will happen to him?”

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