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Canadian Canoe Routes

Pipestone River Report
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Author:  Been Digging [ August 10th, 2005, 10:08 pm ]
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Hi Worth

I very much enjoyed the article.

I looked at your photos on the Hoosier Canoe site. I was curious about the one of the Cross Waterfall. I wouldn't have guessed it was that dangerous from the picture; it looks like a ledge a few feet high. I was wondering what made this such a dangerous feature.

Sorry if this is a dumb question. My experience with whitewater is limited. I thought maybe I'd learn something important by asking.

Author:  recped [ August 10th, 2005, 10:47 pm ]
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Been Digging wrote:
I was curious about the one of the Cross Waterfall. I wouldn't have guessed it was that dangerous from the picture; it looks like a ledge a few feet high. I was wondering what made this such a dangerous feature.

On these Northern Rivers the look of a river in Mid-summer (a dry one at that) would not give you much idea of what the river would be like during Spring breakup. I don't know the details of this particular memorial but no doubt it is for a local trapper, logger or surveyor. Of course anyone can drown even in quite a mild rapid, get lazy, go sideways, flip, smash your head, drown......

This rapid on the Pipestone


In early May that big rock might be many feet underwater creating a giant wave.

This big lump of water on the Broadback I would estimate at around 10 - 12 feet high, flow rates were very high but still well below peak. It was near the opposite shore about 100 metres away


Here's a closeup



Author:  jjoven [ August 11th, 2005, 7:59 am ]
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Good point about changing river features.

First Nations people travel between the villages in their fishing boats, up and downstream. Here is a picture of a fellow from Bloodvein Village traveling up Namay Rapids on the Bloodvein. The fellow on the cliff was his passenger and was spotting and gesturing the safest route through.


He needed 2 tries after spinning out. It was exciting to watch.

They had killed a Moose upriver and were going to butcher it out.

On the Pipestone the man didn't necessarily die in those rapids either. It may have been his personal spot, where he liked to fish or felt the presence of the Great Spirit. His relatives could have placed those markers to honor his memory.

His namesake from Kingfisher has a website but he looks to be a little kid. I wouldn't want to write him out of the blue asking about the death of Hosea.

Author:  yarnellboat [ August 11th, 2005, 1:06 pm ]
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Thanks Worth,

Trip reports like that are a great way for others to plan trip & know what they're getting into. I wish I had my old maps of the Pipestone to follow along, I've done parts of it in 1985 and 1992, but all I have clear memories of is the bridge and that steep, sandy esker portage. After that, the bugs and the rapids all blend together. I'd love to do a trip like that in solo boats! Thanks for sharing!


For the record, I agree with Mel & Monster - wilderness routes include blowdown and uncertainty; you need to be able to exert (sp?) yourself and adjust your schedule accordingly. And to enjoy the challenges.
For the most part, the legacy of historical portages trails etc. were cleared by people using the route, not government agencies/programs, and I'm sure they have always fallen into poor/impassable conditions due to fires and storms. That's the way it is out there in the bush. And we need plain old unmanicured bush. It's wilderness. You're on your own.
The reality that we all eventually must face is that anyone who can't physically deal with such challenges needs to select their wilderness routes (and/or their travel partners) very carefully. Or limit themselves to canoe tripping areas that are heavily travelled/managed/cleared. I don't think you can have it both ways (i.e., expect that "wilderness routes" will have maintained portages all the time).

Author:  HOOP_ [ August 11th, 2005, 8:21 pm ]
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I agree Yarnellboat that we can't expect it all the time, but I don't agree that people were always "on their own".

The fact is that many, many more people lived and traveled the land in the old days, and there were always people maintaining portages as part of the commercial infrstructure of the land. People's work and livelyhood was travelling the land by canoe. It was not recreation. People lived permanently throughout what we call canoe country. People's home ranges were sometimes very large, and many family groups would travel long distances between summer and winter range.

When the Hudson's Bay Co. and The Northwest Company and the independent fur traders were doing business at the peak of the fur trade industry, there were hundreds of thousands of people using and maintaining all these routes with metal saws and axes. As they locally reduced beaver populations they would continue to search further a field, opening up new routes their ancestors maybe never used.

The reference to governments clearing portages I think is a red herring. The government is us, and it was business and commerce (fur trade and trappers and hunters) clearing trails in the olden days.

There was a huge depopulation of the bush starting in the early 1920's when tuberculosis and influenza swept though the land and killed over 50% of the 1st nation people. In some areas it was up to 90% of the People. Before then the waves of smallpox and other diseases had already caused massive die offs. After the 1920's and 1930's, almost all bush people had moved to permanent settlements, and the bush was relatively empty of people. Demand for furs plummeted, or the prices never recovered. People also changed and would not and could not live in the bush anymore, but would only travel in and out of settlements. It has become more empty of people living on it ever since, except for the popular parks.

As northern communities are now exploding in population, and the fly in fishing camp business is continually occupying more lakes, and most of the routes are being invaded by road networks, then more people are now occupying areas of the bush, although most are transients (including us paddlers).

There is trail blockage, and then there is trail blockage. A few hundred meters of blowdown occasionally is do-able with a lot of grief. There are routes you cannot possibly do on whatever your time schedule within reason. Big fires followed by big blow down can obliterate long portages and you won't be able to get though them in time. A one kilometer portage of mature boreal forest, burned and blown down could easily have several thousand trees criss crossing the trail. Add up several portages and you are not going to make it on your time schedule. Can you cut a thousand trees per hour, per day?

I think it is sometimes easier to get a boat through blowdown than packs. You can skid and drag the boat across the trees as you hop from tree to tree unweighted. But with packs, especially awkward food barrels, it can be a nightmare, especially when the fire is about 5-10 years old and thick with regeneration and almost impenetrable, and almost all the burned trees are down. I scouted a burn+ blowdown in Wabakimi last month on a solo trip, looking for a portage that they had changed the location of. Without any load I could barely scramble through the tangles, using both arms. I was often over 6 feet in the air hopping from tree to tree. There is no way I could have done the distance around the rapids fully loaded with packs. I finally found the newly cut portage lucky for me. I travel solo with a heavy royalex boat on river trips, so it is very tough for me in extreme blowdown. I suppose a group of 6 with several saws could clear the route 6 times as fast as me and maybe find enough time to do their route.

Author:  Worth [ August 12th, 2005, 1:12 am ]
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I wouldn't have guessed it was that dangerous from the picture; it looks like a ledge a few feet high. I was wondering what made this such a dangerous feature.

This is not a good picture of what the falls look like. I took this picture at a weird angle from above and with some magnification. If there was an indivdual standing in the picture it would give you better depth perception. Those rocks in the center are larger than a vehicle. You are looking at a 6 foot drop or more. What you do not see are the souse holes and huge waves below the drop.

This is why it is so important to scout rapids from the top all the way to the bottom using different advantage points. Earlier in the trip we had ignored this rule and it resulted in us swimming 1K before we washed upon shore. 500M of that swim was in a CIII. It was stupid and all of us knew better!

I suspect the individual died at this spot because he flipped a V-hull fishing boat over and was not wearing a PFD.

Author:  yarnellboat [ August 12th, 2005, 10:45 am ]
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Thanks Hoop, great post.

My point was just that there is a difference between maintained routes in popular parks and remote wilderness routes, and that we have to be realistic about the use of public resources to keep up with trail clearing along rivers like the Pipestone, or even in Wabakimi.

I'm not saying it's ideal; I too wish that park and other land/resource agencies would recognize many of the changes and values that you talk about and give these routes/trails higher priority. In the meantime, those of us planning wilderness trips have to collect as much info as we can from places like this, assume that no "trail crew" has been through, and weigh what level of physicality we're prepared for.

If people thought the trail conditions on the Pipestone were beyond sanity, then the recommendation to forward a report to the managers is a good one. But I don't think we can expect to have routes like that always clear. 'Shades of grey' I guess about how bad it was, since neither of us were there.

Cheers, P.

Author:  wahoo128 [ December 15th, 2005, 7:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Hosea Mamakwa

Greetings to all paddlers.

I was just googling my son's name, Hosea Mamakwa, who is named after his late uncle.

My brother drowned at that site(god's rapids- translated in our language) in a boating/hunting accident(20HP with 14 lund). During that time, water was very high and fast. It is not usually a good idea to go upriver on a fast moving water, even for experieced hunters.

At that time, I guess he tried it and had hipwaders on. His body was found 10 days later. His hunting partner survived.

Anyway, happy canoeing and stay safe.


Author:  jjoven [ December 16th, 2005, 6:03 am ]
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Hello Wahoo128, thank you for the update. I am "Hoz" who has been corresponding with Esther.

Best wishes toyour family for the Holidays.

Author:  Worth [ December 16th, 2005, 3:14 pm ]
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Greetings Wahoo128. I am sorry for your family's lost. I google your brother's name when we returned home and learned he was a great hockey player and coach.

God's Rapids is a beautiful place. After experiencing some hardship and surprises, your brother's cross served as a somber reminder for us to be more observant and careful. Actually, it was un-nerving staring at the cross and realizing how close we came to running the flooded rapids. All of us stood there in silence for several minutes alternating our gaze from the rapids to your brother's cross.

Some day I would like to return and paddle the river when water levels are closer to normal and it is not raining all the time.

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