Canadian Canoe Routes

Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013
Page 1 of 1

Author:  austin [ July 20th, 2013, 9:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013

My first canoe trip more than two days long in 25 years turned out great!

I grew my own paddling companion, my 14 year old son and he was a real trouper. We put in off the ELA road east of Kenora, into Railway Bay on Lower Stewart Lake on an amazingly calm July afternoon. The first portage into Geejay Lake was fine but we determined later ones would be done in two passages not three! 1.5km later we did the portage into Manomin Lake and picked a fairly comfortable campsite on an island soon after. These first two portages were fine and the lakes beautiful. We hurried to get camp set up, a late supper into us and get for a bath/swim before the mosquitoes came down. No flies! We crawled into the tent at dusk but there were no mosquitoes in sight or sound!

The next morning dawned mild and still calm. I made breakfast and began packing while the teenager slept (and grew). We paddled south around a large island, and saw a young couple in there camp there. Few birds but did see some loons. We had a look at the high cliffs there then we headed NE across the lake to the Eagle River portage into Winnange Lake. The rapids of the river and the huge cedar trees and many plants of this moist area were really gorgeous to see, as I eased my shoulders - tender from my Swift Algonquin 17's flat yoke. I really must replace that yoke. At the Winnange end we met a couple of young guys in their home made cedar strip canoe, each with their 3 or 4 year old boy! They gave us some tips about Winnange which turned out helpful later. The winds were kind to us as we headed for the southern part of the lake. We met another party, two guys in a canoe and one in a kayak coming south down the lake to the same narrows. We landed across from the cliff at Jackfish Bay for lunch. Two women in kayaks went by heading north. All this traffic - but it was the weekend still. Large chunks of the east side of both Manomin and Winnage Lakes showed old burn damage, looks like maybe 3-5 years old? We carried on south then east until we finally reached Buzzard Falls. A small aluminum boat is caught in the falls just down from the top. I hope nobody was in it when that happened! A nice short portage. This brought us into the extreme south-west arm of Eagle Lake (called West Arm on the topo). After a couple of km heading south we reached the portage along Teggau Creek. I should mention that most of the portages were marked at least at the ends by orange tape on tree branches, or by many aluminum boats left by fishing lodges or fishing/guiding outfits. The portage into Teggau was just awful. All I had was an axe but needed a saw, a machete, a shovel and lots of time. The first third had 5" or so of water cascading down the path, then tree (trunks) crossed the path at awkward heights and the whole thing was very overgrown with bush. My son and then I pushed our way through all loaded down with packs etc. only to find Teggau Lake had forest fire damage everywhere we could see. I didn't have it in me to force our canoe through this rotten portage just for that ugly sight, late in the day. So we turned back north and paddled up the West Arm of Eagle Lake. Startled a duck of some kind I'm not familar with (tan head and neck). This was evening and the beautiful haunting calls of loons echoing for miles lifted our spirits as we searched for a place to camp. We stopped at a kind of twin island across from the mouth of Noname Bay, frankly exhausted. High speed setup/supper and a swim but this time the mosquitoes came down while we were in the water. Drying off while being repeatedly bitten was no fun. This had been a very long tiring day not helped by supper coming at 9pm. Lots of deer flies ever since Manomin Lake. The Muskol, "good for 8 hours" was only good for one.

In the morning I noticed there was very little fire damage here, as we headed north for Long Bay and after a bit of trouble found the portage to Crabclaw Lake, which was a bit of a struggle. I couldn't carry the canoe alone so we both carried an end - and so it was three passes through the portage. Crabclaw was nice and a wee island sported a flock of seagulls. Carrying on westward we came to the pointy end of the lake and realized the pond on the map was now a beaver pond. We emptied our canoe onto the dam and hauled the canoe up over and reloaded. Now where is that portage among these reeds/grass islands? After a considerable search we found the portage where it had to be but due to steepness it took us both to carry the canoe up the rock ledges, and into Winnange Lake again. What with the delays finding then traversing the portage, the day was getting on again. Another snack bar put off supper again, as we fought a head wind across the middle of the north end of the lake. We saw a very long beach on the northeast shore with a small party camping on it. I decided not to go there because the wind was from the southwest and I wanted to be able to get off from shore in the morning if it didn't shift. We headed for the first wee island but it didn't look as good as the earlier guys had told us so we headed upwind-ish for another to the west. This had a great large and well-used site at which we were alone. The wind kept rising so after supper we tied everything down including lashing the paddles to a tree and fully beaching, turning over and tying up the canoe. Had a bit of rain off and on, with rather untrustworthy looking clouds. The pine trees really made the wind sound worse than it was.

Next morning at 06:01 the wind rose very suddenly and the waves with it, still from the southwest. Good choice not to camp on the beach! After only 15 minutes the wind dropped to a more normal level. I got organized somewhat and woke my son so we could break camp and head off which conditions looked ok (if variable). The long strenuous days with late and missed meals and not sleeping well has taken a toll. We had both had to really fight to break camp earlier this morning and to get paddling. We headed west then north up a bay and started looking for the portage up into Upper Stewart Lake. The map (based on the ELA website) showed the portage should be about "here". And there are the usual pile of aluminum boats. I really have to hand it to the folks who manhandled these over narrow portages into these lakes. Or not - I don't like the thought of motor powered boats polluting the waters. Ok, there should be a trail here. Hmm, it starts here but ends in a wall of never cleared bush. Searched about - hmm a branch goes into the water! Ok, cross the bay and look on the other side, there was a blaze on a tree there. Nope. Just a campfire spot. Back again. It must be here. Ahh a light dawns. The beaver dam we saw creates a pond above it and the old portage trail must have run along the shore and has now been submerged. Ok, haul the canoe up over another damn dam. Lots of work on a maybe. Search about then my son spots a small clearing. Yes this is it. Once again this is a three-pass portage due to getting the canoe up what from the east is a very steep and rather long climb up a well-trodden path. We carried gear up an even steeper alternate path but took the canoe up the boulder-strewn path using them like awkward steps. After that we went up and over a large couple of rock ridges, then it is easy. We're just about out of water after a hot climb and longish portage. We paddle off into Upper Stewart Lake and then get busy pumping water through my MSR filter for a cool drink. Too many flies to stop for lunch (again). We headed to the west end of the lake and through a gap where a bridge used to stand into Railway Bay. The wind was in our faces no matter what turns along shores we made across Upper and Lower Stewart lake/Railway Bay. On and on until we got back to our starting point. Still lots of flies and heat, so we packed up the car and drove into Kenora for a very late lunch. I was very groggy and had to stop the car often but improved after a meal and fresh drink.

Really a great trip and good weather but bad deer flies. Strangely little wildlife. I only saw some old scat once and we never saw bears, skunks, porcupines etc. The only deer was on the road in, plus I saw beavers twice. Heard some squirrels once. That was it for mammals. Saw bluejays, crows, seagulls, nuthatches, and chickadees. And a fair number of loons, some with chicks.

I am so proud of my son who has never done more than a two day trip before (years ago) and who worked hard with never a complaint about it (just about the flies which wouldn't leave him alone), in spite of some pretty arduous portages and long days. Heck, he wanted to keep going those days as much as I did!

Must do this again.


Author:  austin [ July 20th, 2013, 10:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013

Now for some pics.

Author:  mich [ July 22nd, 2013, 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013

Awesome those lake. did the stewart loop 2 time very nice lake and the beach are awesome. Very good fishing for lake trout too.

Author:  Paddle Power [ August 15th, 2013, 1:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013

Long live ELA!

Author:  chris randall [ August 15th, 2013, 8:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) trip - July 2013

I guess it could be classed as honorary Manitoba!

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 5 hours
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group