View topic - A Two-Day Paddle Up Wabakimi's Witchwood River System

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PostPosted: May 10th, 2014, 12:37 pm 
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Seeing RHaslam's use of the Garmin Basecamp-generated maps in his great post on the Steel River finally motivated me to make use of them myself.

The result is a post on Wabakimi Country's Witchwood River system. My bro and I made use of this forty-five kilometer river last summer when we paddled south from the Albany River to the Ogoki.

If you love the in-touch-with-both-sides feeling of canoeing on narrower rivers, the Witchwood makes a excellent two or three day river to explore. It also has moose country written all over it and we did indeed see the biggest bull moose ever as we came around one of its many little bends.

The post can be found here - http://wp.me/p25mXk-1ZE

Let me know if you've been down - or up! - the Witchwood lately and if your details fit with mine.

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PostPosted: May 10th, 2014, 1:58 pm 
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Very nice trip report and loved the details you provided including the maps.

I really got a kick out of this line:

true_north wrote:
By the time we got to the bottom of Petawa Creek on Petawanga Lake on Day 9, half of the food had been turned into paddle strokes


Tried to leave a comment on the blog site but I'm not sure it went through. Thanks for sharing your travels!

Ken


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PostPosted: May 12th, 2014, 10:54 am 
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Peter: Thanks for the wonderful trip report and for your kind words about The Wabakimi Project.

The entire Witchwood River system is part of the Attwood Conservation Reserve--something you didn't mention. This will be important to non-residents as they would be obliged to purchase Non-resident Crown Land Camping Permits to camp overnight along this route. The same regulation applies to Albany River Provincial Park which is a non-operating park. On the up side, residents can travel this route without having to purchase any permits.

One of the long-term goals of The Wabakimi Project is to rehabilitate and map the traditional and historical north-south routes that link the Albany River to the Ogoki River. The Witchwood River system is but one of five routes; the others include the Pashkokogan and Misehkow Rivers to the west of Wabakimi and the Cat Tail and Opichuan Rivers to the east of the park.

Along with the Witchwood, the first two of these routes are done. This summer will see completion of the latter two routes which merge at Kagianagami Lake and then follow the Opichuan River upstream into Mahamo Lake and into the Ogoki River via French Lake. From there, one can proceed upstream into the Ogoki Reservoir and descend the Little Jackfish River from Mojikit Lake or continue into Whiteclay Lake to follow the Raymond and Pikitigushi Rivers. Both these routes ultimately lead to the Armstrong East Road.

These routes will provide paddlers who travel the Albany River with exit route options that avoid (or, at least significantly reduce) the expense of having to be extracted by float plane.


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PostPosted: May 12th, 2014, 10:19 pm 
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true_north, thanks for your informative trip report from Aug. 2013 up the Witchwood! It brought back many memories of my trip in May 2012 with the Wabakimi Project from Witchwood Lk. to Hurst via the Witchwood. Riv. We encountered flooding conditions, lost the chainsaw, fought rain and snow, but the work went on! It is a beautiful river and I'm glad your trip went so well!

I'm particularly proud of the 365m. portage across the E-W like peninsula west of the 180 degree big bend in the river. That bend was impassible and we were stranded until we got a replacement chainsaw to finish that portage. After starting to scout the portage from the south, we worked our way north and were rewarded by finding old blazes at the north end in the big blow-down area near the river. Travelers in the past had used that exact route for a portage!

The 1300m portage that crosses the logging road took some time to clear, but was level. Did you see the 1st Nation Person's grave marker in the logging road?

The messy portage of 125m river left you refer to is probably one that two of us hurriedly cut so we could get dowstream to meet our other two canoers. One of the canoes got tangled in a sweeper due to the high water and capsized! That's where we lost the chainsaw. We used river left to avoid a terrible cedar mess on river right. Sorry, that portage isn't up to our standards! We left anything we didn't have time to cut or we could climb over.

Glad to know the upstream trip is doable in two days instead of the nearly two weeks we spent there!

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PostPosted: May 13th, 2014, 8:33 am 
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The 1300m portage that crosses the logging road took some time to clear, but was level. Did you see the 1st Nation Person's grave marker in the logging road?
To avoid damage to the grave site, the MNR is planning to re-route the road crossing a few hundred meters further north. This will involve construction of a new bridge and removal of the existing bridge but should not interfere with the portage which is on river right.


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PostPosted: May 14th, 2014, 12:57 pm 
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A great use of text, photos, garmin maps, and google maps.

The report was outstanding.

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PostPosted: May 15th, 2014, 8:12 pm 
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We enjoyed our two days going up the Witchwood - we have talked about a next time which would have us going down the Witchwood and then joining the Attwood to the Albany all the way to Marten Falls.

Voyageur, I noted your point about the Attwood River Conservation Reserve and slipped in a reference - thanks for pointing that out as well as the info about the camping permits. It hadn't even crossed my mind! I'll include a note about camping regulations that I may paste into the relevant posts in a few days.

BV- your hard work definitely meant less work for us! Thanks for cutting the trails and carving out the occasional campsite which we stayed at. (Did you guys create the one on Felsia Lake?) Also, did you see very many moose during your two-week stay on the river? While we only saw one we had the feeling there were dozens watching us paddle by! Re: the native grave site! In the logging road? We did not see any such thing or any sign that people had visited or left anything behind.

Voyageur - The person buried there must have been one important person to consider spending a quarter million dollars moving the bridge. Then again, why would one lone grave be located there? You wonder how many people actually come to visit the site.

This reminds me of an incident earlier in our trip. We were on the Albany coming into Miminiska Lake. Just before we did , we turned north on Howells Lake to visit an Anishinaabe graveyard that Turtl had marked off on his Albany trip report map.

We spent an hour in what we thought was the right location but came up empty. We figured that the graveyard was related to the Anglican parish - St. Andrew's - with a chapel on Turtle Island at the east end of Miminiska Lake . What is not clear is what kept the community at Miminiska Lake. The one HBC post that I found related to the lake only has records for the year 1785-86. Would anyone know if there was a post that survived there into the twentieth century?

There is no native community there these days - people just moved to Fort Hope and Collins and other locations and the graveyard was forgotten - or too difficult to get to. Anyone ever visit this graveyard or know more about it?

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PostPosted: May 15th, 2014, 10:07 pm 
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The double campsite on the point halfway along the west shore of Felsia Lake was in very poor shape when we first encountered it--a lot of blowdown and trash.

I'm surprised you missed the burial site which is a few steps east of where the portage diagonally crosses the Ogoki Road. It is marked with an attractive bronze plaque and surrounded by orange, plastic snow fencing. I'll see if I can find some photos.

The Diocese of Keewatin Archival List of Parishes includes the following reference:

Miminiska & Ogoki       Post – St. Andrews 1895-1959

http://184.69.36.142/www/diocese/New/ht ... show&pid=1

The word “Post” preceded by a blank space appears nowhere else in the Archival List???


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PostPosted: May 16th, 2014, 2:45 pm 
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Voyageur, the grave site is a puzzle. Wearing the canoe as I walked by probably didn't help! I vaguely remember seeing the plastic snow fence that you mention. It was caved in to the middle and perhaps hid whatever was inside. It registered in my mind as an unfinished construction project. Send a pic and - if you don't mind - I'll insert it into the post with a brief explanation of what it is.

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PostPosted: May 17th, 2014, 1:32 pm 
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I thought I would add a few comments about the Attwood and Witchwood Rivers and connecting routes.

I have been on the Witchwood River on 2 occasions. The first trip, in 2009, started from the Ogoki Road Bridge north of Nakina. My wife and I travelled upriver on the Ogoki to the Reservoir, clearing the portages as we travelled. We went across the Reservoir to the Ogoki Triangle and then into Whiteclay and onto Witchwood Lake and River.
We travelled Witchwood Lake and River downstream and arrived at the Ogoki Road crossing on the Witchwood River. Only the beaver dam to portage over or around, near the south end of Witchwood Lake. We subsequently camped on the road and spent 2 days clearing the long 1200m portage.
Several meters from our tent, at the side of the road, was a tripod with some eagle feathers attached to the top. We did not know at the time that it marked a grave. In the fall of 2009 MNR and the Fort Hope community, (Ebamatoong First Nation) erected a bronze plaque, marking the grave area. I recall seeing the orange snow fencing on the road while flying over it in July, 2010 on my way to Guerin Lake on the Attwood River.
The story I have heard, and I do not know if it is true or accurate, is that a group of Fort Hope Anishnabi people were travelling the road by snowmobile one winter. They had their spiritual leader and healer, an elderly person, with them. He passed away during the night. They could not bring him back to Fort Hope, so they built their campfire on the road, which thawed the ground underneath and then buried him there marking the approximate location with the tripod and feathers.

We continued our downriver trip on the Witchwood, clearing off several other portages on our way to Hurst Lake. The water levels on the Witchwood that year in July were reasonably high, so we were able to run several of the rapids, including the rapid where Voyageur tipped over and lost his saw . To be fair to Voyageur, we took on a lot of water on that little chute when we ran it and the water was not nearly as high as when he ran it in June, 2012 following a deluge of rain the night before.
We also ran all of the chutes on the Big Bend, a bit to the north, managing to dodge all of the low branches and tree obstacles blocking the three runs through there. At that time, the cross-peninsular portage that the Wabakimi Project found and re-opened was not clear.

We noted the sad state of the campsites on Felsia Lake as we passed by. The beavers had been busy, cutting down numerous Aspen and Birch on the point.

We travelled on into Hurst Lake paddling through the narrows separating Hurst and Felsia and passed the outpost on Felsia, which was not in operation in 2009 following the US financial crisis in late 2008.

On that trip we stayed on a large, well-used site on Hurst Lake on the south shore a bit east from the narrows.

Hurst Lake is a part of the Attwood River.

The next day we travelled to Guerin Lake on the Attwood River. There are about 13 small swifts, CI’s and CII’s between Hurst and Geurin Lakes. We were able to run all of them in about an hour. While running one of these chutes we came around a corner and almost hit a bull moose, with huge antlers, drinking from the river as we made the run.
We were all surprised at each others’ presence, the moose tried to scramble out of the way over the rain soaked rocks as we whizzed by his nose, our JRT,”Pepper” got very excited at being so close to a really big moose, while I yelled at my wife to stay focused as we dodged the rocks along the run that was very close to the shore.

We arrived on Guerin Lake in time to see a case of beer flying over the top of our canoe as a Beaver took off from the outpost. It was a bit later when our vision of flying beer became clearer. There was no one at the outpost and neither was our pre-stashed beer. Seems the occupants had found it and told the pilot it had been there since they had arrived and perhaps he should take it back out. Clearly they were not beer drinkers.

The intent of this trip was to go down the Witchwood and then onto the Attwood to the Albany, along the Albany to Abazobitichuan Lake and upstream on the Opichuan etc. the area that the Wabakimi Project did last year and will complete during this present year.

We stayed at the Guerin Lake outpost for a few days and after finding out that the weather forecast was for 10 more consecutive days of rain, we took a backhaul flight out to Armstrong, leaving work on the Attwood River for another year.

In 2010, I returned to Guerin Lake and started to explore the Attwood River with one of my daughters. We cleared as much as possible as we travelled down the Attwood to the Albany, then on the Albany we cleared the south portage at Frenchman’s Rapids on our way to Abazobitichuan. The remainder of that trip took us to Opichuan River and Lake, Kellow Lake, the Cattail River, Elbow Lake and then back to the Opichuan River to Kakianagami Lake, Mahamo Lake, French Lake and out onto the Ogoki River to the Ottertail River and the Ogoki Forest Access road, a bit south of our start point during our 2009 trip.

In 2012, I returned to Guerin Lake with my daughter to clear out a long messy portage into Peninsular Lake on the Attwood River. It took us 8 days to clear 850metres, the worst portage I have ever done. We had bypassed it in 2010 when we found out how bad it was, opting to travel down the river, lining our canoe.

We then did our second run on the Witchwood River, this time going upstream in August in very low water levels. The chutes on the Attwood between Guerin and Hurst were clearly not runnable downstream this year and for our travel upstream we had to clear out some more portages. Fortunately the Wabakimi Project had been through a few weeks before and had cleared a number of them. We ran into them on Guerin Lake as we passed back through, on our way to the end of the Witchwood River at Hurst Lake. When we got to Felsia Lake we cleaned out the campsite that true-north used last year on his Witchwood trip.

At the “Big Bend” (see Peter’s Map), the water was so low that we could not access the portage take-out that goes over the peninsula. There was less than 2” inches of water covering the ooze, that was deeper than our paddle shafts. We had to follow the river around the Big Bend pulling up over the chutes in that area. If one is travelling downstream on the Witchwood in very low water it would be helpful for you if you checked out the conditions at the north put-in at the Big Bend before committing to portaging over the peninsular in case you arrive there with your canoe and gear and can’t get your canoe out onto the open water.

We spent a few days in that area clearing the trees and branches blocking the chutes, during our 2009 trip. We also cleared out the trees that Voyageur ran into in the spring of 2012 and the short 88m portage located there, on RL.

Most of the remaining ports along the route had been cleared in 2009 and then again in the spring of 2012 by the Wabakikmi Project leaving little for us to do as we travelled upstream on our way to Witchwood Lake and then into Whiteclay.

We spent more time working on the 1200m port that crosses the Ogoki Access road where the Anishnabi grave plaque is located.

A decision to relocate the logging road a few hundred metres north and move the bridge was arrived at that fall. It appears from true-north’s report that the work was not done as of last year.

The trip upriver from the bridge area to Witchwood Lake was a slog through very shallow water full of rotting weeds, that produced a less than pleasant stench, as you disturbed the water and various decay produced gases rose to confront the nose.

The Witchwood River is a part of the Attwood River Conservation Reserve and offers a way off the Albany River and into Wabakimi PP.
If you plan to use this route, it would be advisable to travel it in July or no later than early August. Pilots familiar with the Witchwood advise that it gets very shallow in dry years and it may not be navigable at times.

In Late August, 2012 we were lucky to get through the section above and below the Ogoki Road crossing.

We continued to Whiteclay Lake, got onto the Ogoki River, crossed over into the Ogoki Reservoir and were extracted from the Mattice Lake Outpost Lodge located at the west end of the Reservoir.

The route details for the Witchwood and Attwood Rivers etc. are expected to be in Volume 4, the next edition of the Wabakimi Project map booklets.

Thanks to true-north for posting his well written report complete with pictures and maps.


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PostPosted: May 17th, 2014, 5:39 pm 
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Best Thread Of The Year Award!


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PostPosted: May 20th, 2014, 10:53 am 
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Mac - thanks for the details on the Witchwood and Attwood portages and water levels ... lots of useful info for future trippers to consider.

More to the point, thanks to you (and your wife and daughter) for doing the grunt work that allows slackers like my bro and I to sail through. I guess the trick is to find out where you - or the Wabakimi Project crews - have just been creating or sprucing up the portages - and then head up there for a nice canoe trip!

Interesting story on the grave site. I will insert some pix that Voyageur sent me of what was there in 2012 in the next day or so - I really cannot say for sure what we saw in 2013. I am hoping that someone posts some pix of their 2014 trip down (or up!) the Witchwood with some shots of what the grave site looks like now.

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PostPosted: May 20th, 2014, 3:17 pm 
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I guess the trick is to find out where you - or the Wabakimi Project crews - have just been creating or sprucing up the portages - and then head up there for a nice canoe trip!
There is a free resource for prospective visitors to the Wabakimi area.

At the top of the Trip Summaries page of The Wabakimi Project website are links to a pair of maps that show the 4,393km (2,730 miles) of canoe routes rehabilitated and mapped over the past 10 years and what remains to be done in order to complete exploration and documentation of the routes that lie within Wabakimi Provincial Park and on adjacent Crown lands.

2004-2013 Summary Map
http://www.wabakimi.org/project/files/w ... 4-2013.pdf

Work Required [& Improvements Needed] Map
http://www.wabakimi.org/project/files/W ... ed2013.pdf

Both maps are updated each Fall to reflect what's been accomplished over the past paddling season.


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