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 Post subject: Bird River, Sept 2-7th
PostPosted: September 7th, 2013, 6:08 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
Posts: 846
Location: Warren, Manitoba
Just home today from a fantastic week on the Bird River out from Tulabi Lake up into Elbow Lake and McGregor Lake. It was superb!

We headed in Labour Day Monday in an effort to avoid the weekend crush considering we are having fantastic late summer weather and it worked out beautifully. We passed 12 canoes, 2 kayaks and 2 aluminum fishing boats as they came out and one canoe was even a wood/canvas craft!. We are thankful the 3 guys with the tin boat and 5hp were leaving as we went in as that isn't what we want to hear when out canoeing.

The ports are all in good shape, the stairs on the first one are annoyingly spaced apart and I would prefer none at all, but I understand the need for erosion control and it would be dangerous when wet, much like an otter slide to the river.

We pretty much had the entire area to ourselves from Tuesday on, although there was another group in on McGregor Lake, we never heard them and it was pure silence up there until Friday night. The weather was excellent, cannot ask for much better first week of September.

I have 172 photo's to sort through and edit and a report to type up and will get to that in the coming days, but, for our first time in this area it was fabulous and we are already planning a return trip, possibly as soon as the end of this month.

More to come...


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PostPosted: September 8th, 2013, 12:55 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
In 5 summers in Manitoba we have never tripped this far south nor in a developed route/park system. The past 2 Labour Day weekends we truck camped at Beresford Lake park and day tripped the area but for this year we had decided a trip into the Bird River would be a nice change. Being a developed route, the sites have amenities we don't usually have and in this case, each site had a fire pit, picnic table and privy. This was much like truck camping without the truck.

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Heading in Monday we missed the weekend crowds as planned, only seeing them as they headed out. The route in is about as easy as it can get, 3 portages, 155m, 376m and 30m in that order with nice trails although you do need to watch your step considering all the exposed roots, it is easy to trip if you don't always pick up your feet.

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We were onto Elbow and at our first site on a small island in less than 5 hours and that included perhaps 45 minutes of chatting with people on portages.

Nice little site although the best tent site turned out to be right next to the privy. It is funny what people will do, all the sites have steel fire boxes on concrete bases but at this site someone had still built a rock pit right next to the steel one. We did note that the sites were clean, as were the portages.

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Beautiful weather to start our week, no rain in the forecast and quite warm for the first week of September. We did manage to get out fishing for an hour that night and got our first pickerel and pike of the trip.
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Plenty of migrating birds, Canadian Geese and a few hundred Sandhill Cranes heading for warmer climes. We think they are Cranes, they have that distinctive laughing type of sound when in a jumbled mess way up there before forming a V to fly off. We saw the cranes for only a couple of days, the geese all week.
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The next morning we headed up to McGregor Lake which was only 4 km away. The much talked about portage into McGregor really isn't all that bad. There are 2 options, the original two ports, 12m up over the island than paddle/line upstream to the pool below McGregor falls and then 84m up from there, OR, the new portage that goes all the way, roughly 400m. My GPS pegged it at 475 but walking it paced it out shorter. Again, lots of exposed roots but a nice open trail. The steep portion at the start due to the washout isn't all that bad, 40 feet uphill then flat the rest of the way. We have been on much worse. We don't know if they will eventually put in stairs or just cut it back further since the bank may still erode further at the top.
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McGregor is a beautiful little lake, bordered by waterfalls at either end, McGregor Falls being a postcard picture and Snowshoe Falls being an amazing rush of water with a large initial drop. There are 4 camp sites on the lake, the first is right across the river at the falls, the next is on the first Island, then 2 down at the far end at Snowshoe Falls, one at the bottom adjacent to the falls, the other at the top.

We set up camp on the island for our 3 days there putting the tent on a mostly flat spot up the hill, avoiding the large flat area near the picnic table because we could see how during a rain all the water would funnel to that point and it would be a small pond before draining away. They had some significant storms the weekend before our arrival and we could see how the area had flooded.

A healthy wind came up shortly after we arrived at the site and the little lake was whipped up into whitecaps. That night we got out briefly for our first chance to fish and weren't disappointed, getting both pike and pickerel in a bay behind the island which was out of the wind.

The next morning the east end of the lake was blanketed in fog. This was my first trip with the new DSLR and I took advantage of that, getting up early each day to do some serious photography, something I haven't done for years. Having the ability to shoot many photo's to get the right "one" and delete the rest is much more cost effective than my old days of shooting several rolls of film for each morning or evening.
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I had purchased a larger Pelican, model 1450, for the new equipment and although it fit under the bow seat well enough, getting the camera out meant pulling the case forward, opening it, hanging my legs on the gunwales before having the room to open the case and get at the camera. Something I need to work on since I have no issues with pulling the camera out when out on the water.

That first full day on the water we headed to the far end where the inflow is, having no idea at the time about the waterfall there, other than being able to hear it from 2 km away. It turned out to be the likely source for all the morning fog considering it was kicking up spray even during the hot sunny day.

Along our path to the falls we first fished a rock wall and the first cast produced a nice 30" pike. A fish this size is always fun in a canoe and we looked for a place to beach to land it but it didn't have much fight in it, and once I had it in the boat we knew why. It had what first appeared to be bite marks on one side but the other side was untouched, so we figure the local eagle grabbed it but couldn't hang on, so the marks were from talons, not teeth.
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PostPosted: September 8th, 2013, 1:18 pm 
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Joined: September 27th, 2008, 12:41 am
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Location: Warren, Manitoba
The pool below the falls didn't produce as many fish as we had thought it would, but perhaps it was just the wrong time of day, since it was 27 feet deep just out of the main current. It was here we met the other group on the lake, a father and his two sons who had already been up to Snowshoe Lake and were slowly making their way back to civilization. We portaged up to the top and had a short visit into the Ontario side before enjoying lunch at the campsite at the top of the falls. Up there we found sign of moose activity and caught some nice pickerel on the Manitoba side of the river.

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We fished our way back to the island and found more pickerel along the way putting into use the "pattern" we have developed over the years when fishing new waters. That provided our first pickerel dinner. It was a beautiful night and a definite warming trend with no wind.

Thursday morning brought me a beautiful sunrise over still waters and a friendly loon. No fog this morning as it was warming up nicely. After shooting a couple dozen pictures of the sunrise, I made a few casts off the island and finally got into a couple of pickerel, one of which I kept and put in the rock live well next to where I was fishing. We would need a couple more for a meal, but what better place to keep it until later?
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Christine eventually got up and soon we had a nice breakfast and planned this day's activities. The wind had come up again out of the south this time so Christine had to paddle while I got to fish, it was too windy to just drift and boat control is the duty of the person in the stern seat. The day before I had paddled from the stern coming back from the falls so she could fish and I mapped the lake bottom on my depth finder.

In behind the larger island out of the wind, we had an eagle swoop in and land on the largest tree it could find, with its back to us. We pulled in close to shore and I had the camera pointed almost straight up to get photo's and happily it turned around a couple of times for me, but it was a challenging shot to get. In a bay behind that island we saw two does wading and foraging, and later in the day we would see them again across from the island following a buck. They never got close enough for photo's, I will need a longer lens for that.
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Heading back to the site for lunch and to drop another pickerel into the live well, we were amazed to find the one from earlier seemingly no longer there. Had the eagle swooped down and had an easy meal? We kept the fish on the stringer in there to hopefully thwart it again.
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Later that day, before having what would be our second and last pickerel meal for the trip, I was sitting on the shore and a big snapper moseyed up the sloping rock within ten feet. Each time I moved it would move out but kept coming back. Eventually he/she went away but later, 30 feet out, a smaller snapper popped up out of the deep, like a sub doing an emergency blow, then the big one came up behind that one in the same fashion, it was quite spectacular.

They both hung out for an hour or so, likely foraging on the new fish carcasses in the 15 feet of water just offshore. This time the large one allowed me to get close enough for good photo's. The shell on the old guy was close to 2 feet long and he had been in the water a long time based upon the algae on his back.
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We figured they are habituated to the island from previous campers who, like us, would toss the fish remains into the deep water off the rock shore.
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Up there on that lake was pure silence, night and day. We could hear a beaver gnawing on a tree behind the island one night. When the crickets stopped it was pure silence, no frogs, no birds, no leaves rustling.

Shortly before sunset we heard a splash close to shore but couldn't see any rings forming on the lake, so we headed to shore to see what it could have been... lo and behold we find the missing pickerel finning half hidden behind a large flat rock where it must have been hiding all day. With some effort and taking down half the wall, we freed it and it took off in a frenzy to likely hide somewhere deeper. After that we removed all places a fish could hide or escape. Someone put a lot of effort into building that and it isn't our place to tear it down, and given the resident turtles, it likely works well to protect ones shore lunch.

A definite warm front moved in late on the south wind, the temperature rose at least ten degrees and before dawn some thunderstorms rolled through dropping a ton of rain. Even though we were well up the slope, we still managed to be in the flow down to the bowl and it appeared the water rose high enough to allow a small amount into the tent.

Friday morning was moving day, back down to Elbow and perhaps further since Saturday was leaving day. Dead calm and hot to start the day and hotter as the day progressed. Packed and moving early and the other group was moving today as well. We had a good chat at the end of the port, we passed on fishing info for them before we set out once again. All the way across and down Elbow it was dead calm. It would be a formidable lake to cross in a wind, it can be quite deep, we did find a couple of 40 foot depths on the other side of the point and assume it is the same on the south side of the long point.

Since we had one more night out there, we checked out some of the sites before the last designated site on the river proper. #3 is really nice, great for a group, two fire pits and a fully enclosed privy. #2 was a disappointment, it would be the first site on the lake itself after coming out of the river. The only flattish tent pad I could find had used toilet paper strewn about it. This was the first "dirty" site we had seen of all the ones we had looked at. I didn't actually find the privy on this site, likely it was deeper into the bush.

Let me clarify what I would call dirty. This one had used TP strewn about but was otherwise clean. If you are seeking "no trace" then this route isn't for you. There are small amounts of trace on all the sites, be it nails in trees, the odd rusty or burnt can and little bits of plastic, twist ties, littered on the ground. This route and Elbow Lake get "A lot" of use during the summer so this type of thing is expected.

Our last site for this trip was the one on the river off the main lake and again we found partially burnt beer cans, rusty cans hidden in a cleft under a rock and Christine found partially burned TP in and around the fire pit, and when you consider the privy was less than 30 feet away, you have to wonder why they left toilet paper out there.

All the privy's in the park are plastic and made in Canada. Some of the holes are deeper than others depending on the amount of earth they could find on the site. They all have a nice view but this one was on a slant and anyone paddling by could watch you do your business, and as Christine pointed out, you could fish from this one.

Mid to late afternoon storms were brewing and a huge thunderstorm passed by just to the northeast of us, we were actually under the outside edge of it, later we would find out that Lac Du Bonnet was under a severe thunderstorm watch that afternoon and we had front row seats for that storm system.

Although we were watching more thunderheads building behind us, none of them spoiled our day.

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As evening progressed we met a group of 3 canoes/8 people coming in for the weekend and sent them around to the large site we had seen earlier in the day.

Being on "new" water we put the established pattern into play and it worked once again, we finally found the jumbo yellow perch, a species we seek for meals, and pike and pickerel. We were out for a couple of hours and landed 18 fish. We fished for about 14 hours total on this trip and caught 68 fish, which is why we had come in the first place to this route.

Later that evening as we sat by the campfire, we heard what at first sounded like gunshots from the site where the group had gone, but it turned out they were lighting off a lot of firecrackers. Seeing as they had children along it likely was done to scare off any wildlife that may have been hiding in the dark woods and a cheap version of bear bangers.

Shortly after that barrage of noise I noticed a V in the water from the far bank across to camp and the little creature with eyes that shone blue under my headlamp turned out to be a mink! We saw 2 more on the trip out the next day.

Saturday morning I was again up before sunrise, we had a small breakfast, packed up and headed out. We did chat with a couple of guys heading in for a day's fishing and the other group was chasing us out and we took our time, but still made it back to the parking lot in just over 3 hours.

All in all it was a great trip with fabulous scenery and fishing, peace and quiet and we will definitely be going back, but only in the off season, we imagine Elbow Lake to be a zoo during the summer months with the ease of access.

Wildlife seen... 4 eagles, 3 deer, 3 mink, beavers, loons, cranes, geese, ducks, crows, hawk, frogs, garter snake, chipmunk, mole, turtles, crawfish.


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