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Churchill River, Ile-a-la-Crosse to Pinehouse, July 2010
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Author:  pnordgre [ December 4th, 2010, 5:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Churchill River, Ile-a-la-Crosse to Pinehouse, July 2010

July 20-27, 2010

Four Wisconsin and two Virginia canoeists traveled the first week of the "Lonely Land" route on the 55th anniversary of the trip by the Morse/Olson party. We found average water levels, warm and relatively placid weather, exciting rapids, friendly residents, and land that remains lonely, but magnificent.

The river: we ran all rapids except the main pitch (third) of Drum, Dipper Rapids, and the main pitch of Knee Rapids. At the main (second) pitch of Crooked Rapids, we chose to run the channel on the south side of the island, rather than get near the big wave on the north side. This route probably would become scratchy at any water level lower than average. We traveled in Bell and Old Town Royalex canoes with Cooke spray covers. The spray covers were not required, but kept us dry in some of the wave trains, and would have been a great help had we encountered wind on the big lakes. All of the portages were short and easy by our standards – the rail portage at Dipper was convenient!

Campsites: Day 1 on a sand beach in a cove 16K north of Ile-a-la-Crosse, Day 2 on a gravel point on the west side of the lake about 15K south of the outlet, Day 3 at the foot of Leaf Rapids, Day 4 on the west side of the smaller island in Dipper Lake, Day 5 at a rock outcrop on the east side of Knox Bay in Knee Lake, Day 6 on the northeast end of Spruce Island in Dreger Lake, Day 7 on the sand beach near the outlet of Sandy Lake. We’re sure the Dipper Lake campsite is the site used by the Morse/Olson party in 1955, marked by a lichen-covered fire ring up on the rocks. We also recommend the Knee Lake and Spruce Island campsites, which are not mentioned by Marchildon-Robinson or Archer in their guidebooks, but proved excellent sites.

People: the only canoeists we saw were two young men from northern Wisconsin who were paddling a birchbark canoe from Lake Superior to the Pacific. We met them on the sandy point in Lac Ile-a-la-Crosse where the Morse/Olson party camped on their first night, about two hours after starting our trip. You can read about Marc and Dan’s trip at http://www.paddleforsustainability.org. They also had a Cooke Custom Sewing spray cover for their birchbark, attached with a drawstring.

We met several Dene fishermen and hunters in the Patuanak area, friendly folks who gave us tips on the river and the rapids to come. We admired their skill as we watched them run rapids in their motor skiffs.

Other notes: The Veteran’s Park (former Provincial Park) near the south end of Lac Ile-a-la-Crosse was a good overnight campsite prior to launch. The Ministry of Environment office in Ile-a-la-Crosse and Kamkota Lodge at Pinehouse Lake provided safe parking for our vehicles. The shuttle route was about 3 hours each way over mostly washboard gravel. Be sure to fill up with gas whenever you’re near a community; the distances between are long between the gas bars!

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/86661789@N00/sets/72157624626545818

The video below shows the first of our canoes running Lower Snake Rapids between Sandy and Pinehouse lakes on the last day of the trip. They follow the west shore route recommended by Marchildon and Robinson. This route was a bit shallow near the head, but very navigable.



Author:  Watersong [ December 4th, 2010, 6:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Churchill River, Ile-a-la-Crosse to Pinehouse, July 2010

Quote:
the "Lonely Land" route on the 55th anniversary of the trip by the Morse/Olson party.


Cool ! Still one of my favourite books! :thumbup:

Author:  Ralph [ December 4th, 2010, 7:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Churchill River, Ile-a-la-Crosse to Pinehouse, July 2010

Thanks for posting. I agree with Watersong, it's a great book and wonderful country.
Ralph

Author:  jmc [ December 4th, 2010, 9:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Churchill River, Ile-a-la-Crosse to Pinehouse, July 2010

For fans of Sigurd Olson and the "Voyageurs", Denis Coolican's diary of the 1955 trip is on line as well:

http://www4.uwm.edu/letsci/research/sig ... _diary.htm

It makes an interesting read and it's fun comparing it to Olson's book.

Sounds like you had a good trip.

-jmc

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