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Sakatawi circle route is open
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Author:  Stajanleafs [ August 30th, 2019, 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Good to know Brad. I'm headed down this this weekend. I'm Paddling down the Opeepeesway and crossing over at Little Rice though. Will avoid!

Author:  Stajanleafs [ September 2nd, 2019, 11:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Just did the circle via the Opeepeesway R, Woman R, Rush L, Rice L, Little Rice L, Opeepeesway L.

Route is in great shape. Ran/lined/waded most rapids on the Opeepeesway. Did some minor clearing and signing on a few portages (upstream only on larger sets). Worked on medium handsaw blowdowns and clearing from Woman River to Rice Lake and down to Opeepeesway. All signed.

3 days ~85km. Lots of wildlife. Great variety of scenery.

Route Map

Author:  Brad Thomas [ August 26th, 2020, 3:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Last year I posted on my experience of the condition of the portage between Opeepeesway Lake and Rae Lake. Though this portage was cleared well in 2010, by 2019 I found it basically impassable and gave up due to lack of time and heart.

This year I decided to go back and push through, but I had a bit of a different strategy. Instead of doing the first half of the portage to the bush road, then hoping to find the second half down to Rae Lake, I decided to drive the 6 km past the bridge to see if I could first find the northern section of the portage from the road. I figured that knowing where the portage continued would make it a lot easier to get to Rae Lake. Based on my last year’s trip I knew that the portage from Opeepeesway to the road was in some kind of semi-passable condition.

So earlier this month I drove the 6 km past the bridge and found a wide cut-out in the woods on the north side of the road at almost exactly the 6 km mark. I thought this was surely the spot, since at the CanoeCouple website ( ... oject.html) Scott wrote that the two of them spent four days in 2010 clearing the whole portage, and that the leg from the road to Rae Lake would be passable with a 14 foot fishing boat if someone was able to cut out four or five very large trees deeper along the trail. Thinking that the wide cut-out was surely the start of the northern half of the portage, I marked it on my GPS. I knew that in 2019 I hadn’t ventured down the road that far, so I assumed that I simply missed were the north trail started from the road. So I returned to park at the bridge and set off in my canoe down into Opeepeesway Lake.

I knew that the portage would still likely take me some time to get through, and because I had been on the road since before 4 a.m., I decided to camp on Opeepeesway Lake and tackle the portage to Rae Lake the next morning after a good night’s sleep.

The next day I spent over six hours in the woods on both sides of the portage. (I was expecting less than three hours…) The first third of the trail out of Opeepeesway Lake is somewhat clear and can be followed, but next 2/3 is pretty rough and it required a lot of cutting. While I hiked through without a canoe last year, getting the canoe through was a different story. So the south half of the trail to the road took me about 2.5 hours.

I was expecting the part north of the road to be easier based on Scott’s description of that section of the trail in 2010, and the fact that I saw the cut-out at the 6 km mark past the bridge. Well, it turned out that the cut-out was only some kind of a camp cleared just off the road, and there was really no trail past about 50 metres in. So I was back to cutting. This section of the portage took me about 3.5 hours. I’m pretty sure I was actually on the old trail at times, since I did occasionally see old blazes in the trees and flagging tape going in the same direction. But either the trail has really filled in over the past nine years, or the trail is somewhere else.

Here’s a photo of one of the old blazes in the woods, followed by a photo of what the “trail” looked like adjacent to the blaze.

1 Opeepessway Lake Old Blazes.jpg

2 Opeepessway Lake Trail near Old Blazes.jpg

Here’s an image of the path that I followed from Opeepeesway Lake to Rae Lake through the woods, as well as the KMZ file. But any semblance of a trail that I left will likely fill in very quickly, and would even now be fairly difficult to follow without taking some time to scout first.

3 Screenshot of Topo.JPG

Small KMZ File:

Included in the KMZ file is a bit of additional information about campsites that weren’t part of the route map that Brad Jennings left in his post from last September. (The post above this one.)

Incidentally, it’s always nice to follow Brad Jennings, since his portage location signs and campsite signs make things much easier. Here’s a photo of one he left on the trail between Little Rice Lake and the unnamed lake. (Thanks Brad.)

4 Portage sign to Rice Lake South.jpg

One of the things that Scott mentions on this CanoeCouple site and on posts here at myccr is that the area is mostly devoid of canoeists, and that he had never seen another canoeing party in the area in all the years he visited. It’s maybe notable to mention that that record has now been broken. On my sixth day in the area on Little Rice Lake I met a myccr user (I think Fch26) and his companion on Little Rice Lake. We talked for a few minutes about basically everything I’ve written here, and we compared notes on our experiences on the Opeepeesway-Rae Lake portage and other areas along the route.

I have a few other notes I wanted to share regarding my experience on the route as compared to what I’ve read here and elsewhere about it.

One is that on Friday August 20, 2010 Scott mentioned here that the trip from Rush Lake to Rice Lake along the Rice River takes about six hours. For me it was more around 2.5 hours over the 5 portages. ( ... 08&t=36503).

Another is that he mentions that they always saw fly-in fishermen on these trips. This was my experience too. There was a fair bit of motor boat traffic on both Rice Lake and Rush Lake. At one point two motor boats were floating around just around the corner from my camp (engines off) discussing how there was someone camped (me) on the lake.

A third is a comment about a map posted here by Scott on November 16, 2011. The map is below, but I modified it a bit by adding a very short red line and text. The red line indicates where there is most probably a trail from Little Rice Lake to the ATV trail. This might be an additional option for anyone considering carrying down the ATV trail, or using a canoe cart on the ATV trail as Scott reported doing. From the lake side, there’s a boat cached at the end of the trail. That’s the second photo below. This option makes the portage longer, but avoids the muddy 1000 meter part of it.

5 Nov 16 2011 Modified Map.jpg

6 Cached boat on Little Rice Lake.jpg

The fourth comment is that the 1000 meter portage (just mentioned) out the north end of Little Rice lake is very wet for about half the portage. In some posts it’s described as wet in places, and in others it’s reported as being very soggy. I guess it’s really dependent on the time of year and the amount of recent rain, but it’s really a pretty soggy kind of place. I experienced below-the-ankle kind of mud/moss walking for at least 300 metres.

Fifth, I wanted to mention that Brad Jenning’s map from last year indicates a campsite about halfway along the east-west portage from Little Rice Lake to the unnamed lake. There’s a campsite there, but it’s not anywhere anyone would want to stay unless maybe they were in some kind of an RV and brought in their own water; or maybe if they were winter camping. It’s basically a few logs and a fire pit in the middle of what looks like used to be a giant gravel pile.

And finally I wanted to show a photo of a memorial on Little Rice Lake near the north campsite to Alexci, it was really pretty impressive and must have taken some doing to get it made and mounted. I don’t know the story behind it, but here’s the photo:

7 Memorial to Alexci on Little Rice Lake.jpg

Overall the trip was pretty enjoyable and it’s a nice area. Hopefully someone finds this information helpful or interesting.

Author:  Stajanleafs [ September 7th, 2020, 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Great report! Glad to see some more trail maintenance being done in the area, and more canoe use! I plan to head back and follow that middle route at some point in the future. Well done!

You're right about that campsite on the portage. It's pretty garbo, but I figured I'd include it on the map should anyone not be up to tackling two lengthy back to back portages in one day. Basically an emergency site.

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