View topic - The Maskwa River

Canadian Canoe Routes

The Maskwa River
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Author:  yarnellboat [ September 25th, 2018, 10:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Maskwa River

OK, the river isn't really winning me over for either the rapids or family camping. But knowing there's at least somewhere nice to camp at "#3", and other possibilities, and since I go there anyway with Beavers, at some point I'll at least head up for an overnight to poke around, just because.

Grew up in Winnipeg (Camp Stephens etc.) for 27 years, went to Vancouver for more university, then after 21 years of Vancouver life, came back to Winnipeg last summer: cost of living, rat race, family, young kids & old parents, cottage, etc. Vancouver was great as single, underemployed guy back in the day. Loved the ww canoeing, the backcountry skiing, biking, hiking, hotsprings, the beach volleyball. There's lots I miss, but it wasn't so great once I became super busy with kids - wasn't really using the mountains as much. And it's expensive and it's busy: can't go to the beach on a sunny day, can't go skiing on a snowy day. So all that was starting to bug us. And of course we couldn't afford a 3 bdr house in Van ($2 million, min), so there's that! So here we are, in a house with some space and near grandparents, working less, and back canoeing and cross-country skiing on this old landscape. It's an easy place to come back to.


Author:  yarnellboat [ July 29th, 2019, 9:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Maskwa River

Had the chance this weekend to go check out the Maskwa River. It had a bit of everything: horseflies, deerflies, blackflies, mosquitoes, ticks, leeches, and lots of poison ivy, plus coffee-coloured water and tiny fish. On the brightside, the beer cans and broken glass weren't quite as I bad as I feared.


Author:  Paddle Power [ July 29th, 2019, 9:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Maskwa River

Thanks for the update.
Did you camp / overnight?
Did you paddle downstream or do an up and back?

Author:  yarnellboat [ July 29th, 2019, 12:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Maskwa River

Sorry, that teaser was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I didn't have time for more detail.

Despite not being overly excited about the river (based on reviews of the rapids and the accessibility to ATVs), I couldn't resist, mostly because it's half the drive of other destinations, so worth it for a normal weekend. It's a pretty cool/scenic wilderness river for under a 2-hr drive from Wpg. Too many other trips have a 3-5 hr drive time. So I checked it out.

We went for a 1-night overnight, paddling upstream and back. Based on discussion in this thread, I assume there is no longer any reasonable upstream access for a shuttle. Camped about 11 km up from the Maskwa Project, and also paddled another 2 km or so farther up to see the next 2 rapids/falls.

I agree with these highlights from Christine & Karin from their 2017 trip to clear some ports, and with the 2016 report/video from Charles Burchill (though I misunderstood that Charles had gone 10 km up and 10 km back, not 10 km total - so there was more to this river than I thought):

- there are a variety of old roads & trails, some used, some not, but difficult to figure out any logic to it or predict what's passable;
- there are minor signs of commercial/industry activity here and there, such as cleared wood, steel bolts, blasted rock, timbers, but it's hard to figure out the history;
- there's not much for camping spots away from the rapids (and not all have them have decent spots);
- it offers scenic waterfalls;
- portages can be difficult to find, and higher up they not be cleared; and,
- the big sign (now basically covered by overgrowth) marking the low bridge and portage is ridiculous (the portage starts well above the bridge, before another significant rapid, and the bridge isn't the issue - the falls are!! To warn about the low bridge implies it would passable if not for the bridge, but both sets of rapids/falls are portages! Weird sign. And no other similar spots have any signs - must've been a requirement of constructing the bridge - because it's definitely more about the infrastructure than the river. Doesn't really matter now anyway, since I assume there is not really any upstream access, and you can't really read the full sign anyhow through the brush).

Christine & Karin's report: ... 14&t=46038

Charles report: ... _2016.html

Something I found in looking at this trip is the different maps (Google Earth, Toporama, and the Canmarix topo sheets) tend to provide or emphasize different features, so there's not a single source that shows the best info on rapids and roads, etc.).


Author:  yarnellboat [ July 29th, 2019, 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Maskwa River

Here's my breakdown of our trip (note that I seem to have counted rapids differently than Christine & Karin counted portages):

- Water was surprisingly high. It was also surprisingly dark - if you were shin-deep in the river, you couldn't see your shoe. The shallow & dark water would present some challenges/bumps for running any of the rapids (and for your shins when wading).

- Short paddle (20-30 mins or 1.5 km) to the 1st rapids above the Maskwa Project. Clear portage on paddler's left, about 100-200 m. To here there is boat access from Winnipeg R. (we saw 1 boat) and the ATV track appears active. Rapid 1.

- For the character of the whitewater this is typical - a larger drop to start the rapid, often a falls or ledgey spots, followed by a rapid or 2 all connecting together. In many spots the water sliding over the rock was 1 cm deep, so even if your boat would float, you couldn't get a paddle in. I didn't see much that was inviting to run, but there are some decent surf waves etc. for fun at the bottoms. It seems the bigger the falls the longer the runout. Three or four of the falls were probably drops of 20-30 ft, with connecting rapids over about 100-400 m in length. Mostly shallow slides or rocky ledges, but pretty to look at.

- From the first rapids/portage, it's about the same distance (20 mins or 1.5 km ish) to the falls with the bridge (Rapid 2). Portage on paddler's left. Along the portage along the lower runout somebody has a little bush campsite that appears actively used. Portage goes up about 100 paces (not steps) to the ATV track/road. At the road, it's easy to be distracted to hang a right and go check out the bridge and falls, but the portage trail continues straight ahead, through the grass to the rest of the trail, about another 150 paces back to the river. Total portage about 250 paces (e.g. approx 250 m).

- This portage trail takes you around the falls and bridge (Rapid 2) plus another pond and rapid/falls (Rapid 3). We actually put back in above the bridge falls, and paddled the 100-200 m across a pond to this next set. It has a main channel on paddler's left coming upstream, and we dragged up & over a side channel on the right. It's a scenic spot that you miss on the trail that bypasses 2 & 3 together, but the long trail does make sense, and we did that on the way back down. Above this set in the bush is the ridiculous sign. On the way down, we didn't really see or understand the sign, so paddled right to the brink of the drop around a bunch of log jams. Somewhat sketchy, better to use the access at the sign, though it wasn't easy to see from the river.

- Based on the volume of big log piles jammed up at all the rapids and corners, this river can really pump at high flow!

- Short paddle to the next small rapid (Rapid 4). We didn't look for a portage, just paddled up and dragged over. Christine & Karin cut a portage here on paddler's right coming upstream, which connected to the next rapid and campsite.

- Short paddle again to a small rapid/swift (Rapid 5), didn't look for a port. These little rapids are minutes apart.

- On paddler's right coming upstream there is a nice flat rock area (and erratic rock) above this swift - attractive rock for a fire/kitchen area, but above it looked bushy (though somewhat flat & open), we didn't take a close look, but I now realize this is where Christine & Karin reported excellent camping.

- After small rapids 4 & 5 it's another short paddle to a nice, open set of falls/rapids (Rapid 6). Portage trail has some visible cutting on paddler's left coming up, then you can either stay high through the trees or go along the rock. Something around 100-200 m. Poison ivy city. Old bolts in the rocks. Some blasted rock at the top put-in. An ATV track/road parallel to the river going upstream from here. Nice rock bluff on river left (paddler's right coming upstream), apparently with road/trail access nearby, but we didn't check out that side. Nice to look at though. The area of Rapid 6 can be seen towards the end of Charles' video.

- The ATV track/road from here goes upstream along the north side of the river. I assume it see very little use, but we also paid very little attention to where it came near the river (because it doesn't show on the printed map we were using). Christine & Karin did see a group along this stretch, so maybe the the whole river above here is accessible? If so, it didn't have any impact on our trip. There were some trail crossing showing on our map that we could not pick out from the river. So, I have no idea what mess of trails might be active vs. abandoned.

- This Rapid 6 has nice campsite rock and swimming hole. The rapid splits between 2 channels the whole way down. Pretty spot. Rock/camping area well visible on Google maps, and showcased at the end of Charles' video (4:30). This is about 5 km up from the Maskwa Project. Might come back with my kids sometime.

- Now you paddle some as the rapids get more spaced out. The banks are pretty consistently forested, nowhere inviting for a snack or swim, but at least nice, big mixture of trees, not really dull & low-lying as I expected. You paddle for an hour or so in this section (about 4 km to the next swift/rapid).

- Eventually this long stretch of trees comes to a widening and another rapid/swift (Rapid 7). No rock or anything for camping here. Didn't look for a portage, paddled/dragged/lined.

- More trees for about 2 km, then another widening and rapid at about 11 ish km up from the Maskwa Project. Looks like small/normal rapid upon arrival, but that's just the exit drop - around a tight bend to the left is another impressive waterfall (rapids & falls together as Rapid 8 ).

- At this widening/pond there was a bush/ATV campsite on paddler's left coming up. It had a fire pit, frying pan, etc. left there. I assume somebody accesses this by ATV for fishing? From here you can follow the ATV trails to portage to above the falls. Maybe 200 - 300 m portage. Could camp at the site below, or on the open rock at top, but as river users as opposed to trail riders, we made a spot on the rock along the lower rapid on paddler's left. Nice spot, but only room for 1 tent on the rock. We camped here, then continued in the morning just to explore the next section, since more rapids were visible on the maps.

- In a short bit (1 km), come to a nice, short little rapid (Rapid 9) Didn't see a port, but didn't look too hard. Lifted/dragged over. Space here to camp if needed. The ATV road is very close, walked up 50 m up to look at it, seemed relatively wide, clear and dry in this section, but not much to see other than bush. Not sure where it connects to or whether it's used much.

- In another short bit we came to our turn-around at around 13 km ish. Another really impressive waterfall/slide (also with impressive log jams) (Rapid 10). We bush-crashed around on paddler's left without finding a proper trail. The bush is fairly easy walking, but it seems it would need a trail cleared. Portage to top probably one of the longer ones, including crossing some little creeks and the need to clear, maybe 300 ish m. ATV access/camping visible at top of falls, but not sure how recent/frequent.

- So, 10 rapids over 13 km. Longest flat stretch about 1 hr or 4 km (more like 6 km, because that stretch is only interrupted by a small rapid/swift - but still enough to get you out of your boat, maybe do some fishing, etc.).

- Through this section with the rapids/falls at 9 & 10, the river loses 10 m of elevation over about 4 km. Above, it loses 10 m over about 10 km, which is about the same as the lower section from above Rapid 2 (the falls at the bridge) to below Rapid 9 - 10 m over about 9 km.

- Rapids seem to get fewer and farther apart from here, so this (Rapid 10 at 13 km) was our goal for turn-around (and it seems the portage would be quite a bit of work!), so we turned around and returned.

I'd do it again, largely because of the reasonable drive to Maskwa Project. Generally it exceeded my expectations in terms of scenery and wilderness.

It looks like another 3 km to the next whitewater. Then another 3+ km quite section, maybe with another rapid, to a T-intersection with a trib/creek, so that fork might be a good destination sometime, but in this section it look like it could be about 8 km between rapids, so the flatest stretch. After 4 km beyond the trib/fork there looks to be another 4 or so rapids/falls within the next 6 km, so maybe a draw someday. From the trib/intersection it would be about 15 km to possible old access from the old Translicence Rd, and after that it goes to a windy section.

Eventually I assume it gets twisty and boggy and campsites get harder to find, but based on what I've seen so far, I'd go back and I'd go farther. Could be a good 4-day trip up to the last marked rapids (about 30 km up) and back. Although, if I had 4 days available, I guess I'd probably drive somewhere else.


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