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Canadian Canoe Routes

Sakatawi circle route is open
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Author:  ScottW [ November 16th, 2011, 6:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Sakatawi circle route is open

As promised, Kathy and I returned to attempt to open the remainder of the circle from Opeepeesway Lake through to Rice Lake via Little Rice lake.
We did this in August 2011.

The route is open and there are a couple of options for travel from Little Rice to Rice ... here's a map.

There's a good campsite at the far eastern end of Opeepeesway with a nice sandy beach. It makes a good jumping off point for travel to either Arbutus Lake to the south or Little Rice Lake to the north.

We'd recommend early morning travel on Opeepeesway before the wind comes up since there's a lot of east-west paddling involved and the orientation of the lake can lead to tough paddling.

Proceeding from Opeepeesway toward Little Rice you'll first encounter a beaver dam.

If you are lucky these guys will still be there

After that there's a short portage (70m) into Little Rice Lake.

If you proceed up Little Rice to the northeastern most bay you'll find a 1000m portage which leads north to an unnamed lake.

You'll find this portage to be wet in spots since it's now a snowmobile trail and has been cut through a low area rather than following the old trappers trail that is evident in places.

A short paddle along the eastern shore will lead to the portage (1000m) to Rice Lake.
This trail ... still a snowmobile route ... will lead up to a spur logging road which will connect to the main logging road.
Turning south for about 50m will bring you to the ATV trail which leads to Rice Lake.
The Rice Lake end of this trail can be a real quagmire so take a light load first to plot your path.


Once on Rice Lake you'll find some possible campsites on the islands as you head north.

The best fishing seems to be about halfway up the lake around the narrows and over toward the east section of the lake.

Here's a couple of 17 inch beauties that I caught on a spinner tipped with a twister tail.


Those other options might best be followed by a party wishing to use a cart.

At the southeast arm of Little Rice you'll find a boat pulled up on shore.
From there an ATV trail leads up to a spur road and then to the main road. From there you can travel north to the ATV trail into Rice Lake.

Paddling north on Little Rice you'll find a rock point.
Directly across to the east there's another spur road.
This can be accessed by bushwacking about 250 meters to the east ... take our advice and go up through the mature forest to reach the top of the ridge and then go south to find the road.
Explore this option before attempting to get your gear up the hill because the cutover area is a real mess.

We flagged all the trails and intersections and took GPS readings so the map presented here is quite accurate.

We also spent considerable time locating the traditional portage and following it for about 300m.
It begins at the northeast side of Little Rice just past a rock point.
It can be difficult to follow since it hasn't been used in at least 30 years. We could find no evidence of a trodden path but we could manage to find some very old and obscure blazes.


As you may remember, we opened the route from Rush Lake to Rice Lake in 2008 and 2009.
In 2010 we opened the route from Opeepeesway Lake to Rae Lake. This allows travel from Opeepeesway Lake through to Rush Lake.

With our latest effort you can now travel the circle route ... please do ... help to keep this area open.

In our 30 years of traveling in this area we've never met another canoe party.

Also please remember that you may not access Rice Lake via any motorized vehicle so don't attempt to find and use the logging road ... it can get expensive!!!


Author:  CLofchik [ November 17th, 2011, 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Great work you two!
I'm still dying to get up there but it's very hard to get the time off, we can't let those opened ports go to waste!

How many people do you bump into from the fly-in camps? When I first found that area on the map and started digging for info (and your posts) I didn't realize there's six fish camps between Rice & Rush. There isn't constant boat traffic on the big lakes is there?
I want to get into Rush for some early spring pike using the route you opened last year (Opee-Rae-Rush), how bad is the flooding/bugs around May-June or do you guys only go up around August? (not exactly peak pike time)

That chain of small lakes North of Rush (Lil' Rush-Lauscor-McOwen) look really interesting, and stinkboat free.

Author:  ScottW [ November 17th, 2011, 4:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open


Fly-in camps are on Rice Lake (2) and on Rush (1).
There is a cabin on the south end of Rush but it's owned by locals and we've never seen it occupied ... although we did meet people on their way there in 2010.

We've almost always met fishermen on the south end of Rush ... although the fly-in camp is at the north.
They come to the south end to fish the weedbeds there and at the mouth of the Rice river.
In the spring I'd give Rae and Mallard a try ... the fly-in guys will have a tough time getting their 16 foot outboards down the narrow channels involved.

There's a place to camp at the southwest end of Rae but it hasn't been used in a long time.
There's also a possible spot on an island in Mallard.

The last guys we met on Rush were from Kentucky and had some pictures of 20 inch walleye that they caught somewhere on the north end.

Rice lake has a camp at the north end and another at the narrows between the east and west sections of the lake.
We always meet people on Rice lake ... they're curious as to how we got there ... but the fly-in people are always from the States.
We have met guys that fly their own planes in for a day or two to fish ... and we've met a couple of native families that were in to fish for a day.

There used to be a fly-in camp on Northpoint lake to take advantage of the good pike fishing there but it hasn't been used in years. We visited it last year on a day trip but we did not fish.

Spring water levels should not be that high on Rush ... a little more water will actually help in the journey from Rae through to Rush.

The earliest we've been there is the July 1st weekend ... one year was almost bug free and another was so bad we left after one day.


Author:  Erhard [ November 21st, 2011, 6:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Scott, hats off to you!
I know a number of guys that tried or just intended to go in there and check it out (including myself) but never did.

Most folks here don't realize how important his and his wife's work is for the routes: without such work, we all are going to lose many lesser traveled routes.
For Sakatawi specifically, some history that illustrates it:
* in about 2005, the MNR had accepted the Sakatawi route and entered it into the MNR mapping data base. Scott had supplied the details based on a trip he had taken in the 70's (?)
* in 2009, the operator of a fishing camp up there filed a complaint with the MNR about what he calimed was the undeserved inclusion of the route. He claimed it never existed and asked it be removed from the maps. He wanted to exclude canoeist from entering "his" lakes. It's better for business if you can tell you fly-in customers the area is "exclusive" for their use...
* the MNR listened but instead of removing the route, they contacted the source of the info. The route stayed: because Scott could give details and an old "Lands and Forest" (precursor of the MNR) map actually showed the portages.

So guys, travel the old routes! (...or else stick to the parks and stop complaining about crowds at portages and the high fees they charge us! :wink: )

And again, Scott: a big THANK YOU!

Author:  Canoehead123 [ November 21st, 2011, 10:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Very nice !! Im doing the same with exploring an old route that leads to James Bay just west of Gowganda..little hawk portages..the only route out of there north used by fur traders and before that (600 years) by the natives !! Good work !!

Author:  Voyageur [ November 21st, 2011, 10:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

On behalf of the many past participants of The Wabakimi Project, allow me to add my congratulations to Scott and his wife for this most recent effort in salvaging another of our province's Crown land canoe routes. As Erhard pointed out,
without such work, we all are going to lose many lesser traveled routes.
Erhard went on to describe getting
the Sakatawi route . . . entered it into the MNR mapping data base
Unless a value such as a canoe route is "recognized" by the MNR and entered into its Natural Resources Values Information System or NRVIS data base, it cannot enjoy whatever prescriptions are designed for its protection in the applicable forest management plan (FMP). This also applies to any of the land-based attributes of a canoe route such as portages, access points, campsites, scenic vistas, etc. which the MNR treats separately and severally, if at all.

It is imperative that paddlers concerned with the preservation of our province's Crown land canoe routes be aware of this vital first step. The Forest Information Manual of FIM sets out the rules for the "identification" and "recognition" of a previously unknown value such as a canoe route. Unless a value is entered into NRVIS, it will not appear on the appropriate "values map" that is part of every FMP.

Only when a value has been entered into NRVIS and appears on the appropriate values map of a FMP can we negotiate for its improved protection in order to ensure its preservation for generations to come. I urge all concerned paddlers to follow the lead Scott and his wife have so gallantly set. Get involved or, as so many have warned before, "Use 'em or lose 'em!".

Again, thank you Scott.

Author:  Blinker [ November 23rd, 2011, 7:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Awesome job Scott and Kathy!

I had the pleasure of getting up that way a few times recently. I have to thank you both for writing about this area and posting it on myccr.
Water levels during the past summer were incredibly low and made for a real adventure paddling the creeks connecting Rae ,Mallard, Marion and Rush lake. I took the chain saw and cleaned up the larger trees on the ports connecting Opeepeeways/Rae as well as the Arbutus/Opeepeesways port.

Sure would be an awesome place to do some winter camping/icefishing. :D
Thanks again for all your work. Youve inspired me.




Author:  Canoehead123 [ November 29th, 2011, 9:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Hi Phil..thanks for the good words !! We are in the middle of protection and work permit for the Little Hawk portages near Gowganda that lead to James Bay..portions have been located !!

Author:  Voyageur [ November 29th, 2011, 11:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Canoehead123: And thanks to you for your own efforts to reclaim another canoe route before it is lost. I'd like to learn more about the route you've adopted. Please write me at: when you have a chance.

Author:  ScottW [ December 8th, 2011, 4:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open


Thanks for the kind words.

Like a lot of things in my life this didn't start out to be about protecting an historic route.
It started out of a self interest in being able to access lakes that we traveled in the late 70's.

After opening the portages from Rush to Rice I called Ivanhoe Airways to let him know that the portages were open and that he could begin offering canoe trips.
His response was that I'd illegally opened access to his lakes and that there was no canoe route through Rice and Rush lakes.

The rest is history ... Grey Owl can rest assured that his old stomping grounds have survived.

While the route from Little Rice to Rice has changed over the years I don't see that as a major deterrent.

Anyway ... thanks again ... I know that you have been active in the Spanish watershed protection effort so keep up the good work.


Author:  ScottW [ December 8th, 2011, 4:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open


Your project dwarfs ours in both scope and longevity.

I remember talking to you at Canoecopia and having chats with some of your participants. Some of the guys had been at the project for a couple of years and were looking forward to continuing ... and all these guys were US residents ... a selfless bunch that just wanted to help in the effort that you started.

We both know that these projects are never completed ... they just establish a new beginning for those that follow.

Keep up the good work you've begun ... we're all thankful for your leadership and efforts.


Author:  ScottW [ December 8th, 2011, 4:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open


Thanks for clearing the big deadfalls on the portage from Opeepeesway to Rae.

Where did you catch that fish? It looks like a beauty.

Our biggest pickerel was a 20 incher that Kathy caught on Rice Lake in the narrows from the north to the south end ... around the islands there.


Author:  ScottW [ December 8th, 2011, 4:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

For the rest of you ....

Please come and use this area ... and help to keep it open.

This is the year that sees my age pass the weight of our canoe in pounds (it's a Dagger Venture if you want to do the calculation) so I don't know how much longer I'll be able to tackle those longer portages.

If anyone is interested I could be convinced to explore and mark the traditional portage from Little Rice to Rice. It would cut the portage distance by about 400 meters and make it a single carry versus the portage, paddle, portage setup that exists now.

However, we'd need the cooperation of the snowmobile folks to keep the route open instead of using the current route.


Author:  Blinker [ December 13th, 2011, 4:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Hi Scott,

That fish was caught on Rice lk with a 1/3 oz Silver and Blue Cleo.

Author:  Erhard [ December 13th, 2011, 5:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sakatawi circle route is open

Scott, I think folks might be easier convinced if they had the directions to the launch point - the Sakatawi route description in CCR tells folks to start from Bisco and to head north across the watershed. Even though that is the traditional route, it may be too long to do a four-day trip - which is a typical trip length, these days. One probably should come in from the big logging highway that connects Hwy 144 with Chapleau via Sultan. And then one needs to know which turns to take when following the small roads that lead Arbutus, the most likely access point.

Here is a webpage with satellite and topo views of the area:,-82.13250&z=14&t=T

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