View topic - Thoughts on Canoe Tripping and Human Impact

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 8:09 am 
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Paddle Power wrote:
You wrote,
Which leads me to question... how much impact should I strive to have? I'm struggling with the idea of leaving flagging tape, clearing campsites, putting in new blazes, cutting and burning brush, that kind of thing.

I’m all for keeping canoe routes open. To me that includes maintaining the original portage trails. I prefer tool-less hand clearing trails first. Next using hand tools, pruning loppers and pruning saws. Then a buck saw, bow saw, Swede saw.
Emphasis on the original portage trail.
I’ve never used a chainsaw for portage maintenance but I do use one for trail maintenance close to home.
Once a portage is maintained I see no use for flagging tape. It might helpful to flag a route before clearing to confirm you have the original portage before clearing.
I don’t blaze portages but I do like to find and see old blazes because they verify old portage trails. Nowadays I believe my sawed downed trees act as blazes. It doesn’t take much use to maintain portages. I wouldn’t burn brush in the wilderness.

Clearing campsites is the similar. I prefer minimal hand clearing to maintain original campsites.

I seek wilderness for nature. I believe in maintaining old portage trails as a means to travel. Seeing cleared trails is part of it but I need the wilderness and nature as pristine as possible.



You would be amazed at how fast portages can become overgrown or obstructed. The 30 percent of the boreal forest is down on its side at any given time, whether it be from wind or fire. One trail we cleared, we went back six weeks later. Couldn't find it.

Often original trails were game trails and after ten years of little use can be very hard to find again.. Been with Uncle Phil in the woods for hours looking for elusive blazes that sometimes have been eradicated by fire or the tree falling blaze side down.

Flagging tape is indeed useful. On the last pass take it up. It is for your use only. A good map and thinking like a portage should make marking the ends less necessary.

Wilderness has a history of human use. I remember nosing along what I hoped was a trail and being elated about finding fifty year old rusted tin cans, which confirmed I was guessing correctly.

Some campsites in the wilderness have seasonal use by locals and hence may not be so pristine. Others are so little used you have to think like a campsite..to ascertain if it is or not.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 8:10 am 
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I can't speak to parks like Wabakimi; I don't travel in any of them that charge a fee. I do travel unmaintained waterway parks like the Steel. But the majority of my travel is on Crown Land. For most of these Crown Land routes, if you don't take a chainsaw you are not clearing trail. You are simply leaving evidence of a trail that will make it easier for us to find when we actually cut it out with a chainsaw. Most ports up here can disappear very quickly. We use a variety of indicators to find them. Blazes, previously cut logs and flagging tape are often the most useful. My buddy and I cleared two port leading into the Steel river system last year that had completely disappeared. For large parts of them, there was no evidence of any trail at all. A major weather event had obliterated them. I had cleared them both 8 years previous. For those of you who are familiar with chainsaws, it took us 8 tanks of gas to clear the 800 meter port. That's a lot of cutting. We were able to link two sections up because I found a small piece of old flagging tape on the ground.

My understanding of Wabakimi is that chainsaws are not allowed. Take a good silky saw and clear what you can on the ports, you will be doing someone a favour. If you use flagging tape, make sure it is accurate, and remove any tape that you have placed in the search that is not on the port. You don't need much, just small piece wherever the line of site changes.

If you happen to come up to Crown Land and bring a chainsaw and clear ports, I will give you the honorary Port Maintenance Hero Award. Don't get excited, it's a can of Klick and a Bud Lite.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 2:19 pm 
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Flagging tape attached to clothespins works well. It’s very easy to ‘hang’ /clip and ‘remove’ /unclip.

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 3:42 pm 
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Paddle Power wrote:
Flagging tape attached to clothespins works well. It’s very easy to ‘hang’ /clip and ‘remove’ /unclip.

We just stuffed the removed tape segments in our pocket. As in all things canoeing ecology rules. Black Spruce is spindly and their narrow trunks take a single wrap of tape well.. Just remove it on last pass. In that area clothespins are more of a potential litter. If you drop yellow or orange tape you can find it. Not so clothespins. I hate rummaging in Labrador Tea.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 5:58 pm 
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Hrm, flagging tape glued to clothespins... a better idea might be just spraypainting a whack of clothespins orange. Might be a bit small though, and I'm not sold on carrying a bunch of clothespins around if we can make do with just tape.

I suppose rock cairns at the endpoints would help future paddlers without being intrusive as well.

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 6:28 pm 
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PacketFiend wrote:
Hrm, flagging tape glued to clothespins... a better idea might be just spraypainting a whack of clothespins orange. Might be a bit small though, and I'm not sold on carrying a bunch of clothespins around if we can make do with just tape.

I suppose rock cairns at the endpoints would help future paddlers without being intrusive as well.


In the North you look for very subtle clues. To one used to paddling in Algonquin with signs this is sometimes a hard thing to get used to. You spend time poring over maps searching out caribou ridges( the dry ground) and the shortest distance that makes sense. The flagging tape is so that you can find your gear if you have to make multiple trips.. Otherwise you can wander for days. One trip in Wabakimi ( it is a PP but essentially unmaintained unless by volunteers) I had a map that indicated a lake.. There was just a bog.. Now where to go.. That is what the tape is for.. to find my way back to the gear and mark the other end of the bog where I blessedly found the 50 year old garbage
This was in the old paper map days. 1991. The last field check of the topography had been in 1927.

So I am curious where have you tripped? What works in one area is often not practical in another.


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2020, 8:15 pm 
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littleredcanoe wrote:
So I am curious where have you tripped? What works in one area is often not practical in another.


In the last 20 years, not any further north than Sudbury/North Bay. I paddled the upper Missinaibi twice, once with a partner and once solo, back in 2000 or so. Those portages were all very well used, and thousands of years old. Since then it's been mostly shorter trips around Algonquin/Temagami. Crown land in the Kawarthas/Haliburton too, and as a fisherman I've sought out some pretty tough spots (but nothing in the boreal), both of which present unique challenges.

We're finally at the point now where we have both the money and time/vacation allowance to make more remote trips, and being old enough to fully appreciate the relentless and unforgiving march of time, we're pushing ourselves to get the experience to paddle more remote places. The next goal is one of the great Ontario rivers, the Albany, Winsk, Attawapiskat, or the Severn.

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