Besnard Lake - Sandy River - Paull River - Churchill River - Otter Lake

CanadaSaskatchewanUpper Churchill
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Tom Wolfe
Trip Date : 
August 7-24, 2015
Location Map: 
Additional Route Information
200 km
18 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
5000 m
Longest Portage: 
600 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Shuttle - Churchill River Canoe Outfitters provides shuttles. Organise your shuttle with them ahead of time, then pick up your shuttle driver in Missinipe and from there it's less than a 2 hour drive to Besnard Lake. Extremely easy logistics, not to mention affordable. The return trip is 4 hours, billed at about $25/hr = $100 per vehicle.

Access - Hwy 2 48 km south of La Ronge, take Rt 165 West 55 km to Rt 910. Continue on Rt 910 32 km to Besnard Lake where there's an outfitter and campground. The dirt roads are all in good condition and well travelled.

Egress - We finished the trip in Missinipe.


Technical Guide: 

We had little to no information about this route beforehand and managed to figure it out with 5 little kids in tow and me with a broken leg. And we're not that experienced really -- Deb and I have done a few trips over the past few summers, and this was Thomas and Sara's first wilderness canoe trip. So it's really not that complicated.

That said, it's a bit adventurous. I won't spoil that aspect of it with an unnecessary description. It all works and it's a lot of fun.

Our route started at Besnard Lake and headed north, through Besnard Creek, the Churchill River at Black Bear Island Lake, then into Sandy River, McTavish Lake, and along a northeast trending string of little lakes to the Paull River just downstream of Paull Lake.

From there we breezed down the heavily traveled Paull and Churchill Rivers and finished at Otter Lake.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

In August 2015 our family (Tom, Deb, Rohan and Ruth) joined another family (Thomas, Sara, Aria, Gaby and Maya) for a three-week canoe trip into the wilderness of Saskatchewan and back again. The children ranged in age from 24 months (still in diapers) to 12 yrs old.

Our goal was to get to the Paull River without the use of an airplane.

The first part of the trip -- just getting to Paull River -- took almost two weeks and was the highlight of the trip despite being mostly upstream and lake travel with many portages, many of which were grown over pretty good from decades of disuse (we've cleared them a fair bit and they're OK now for the most part). The cruise down the Paull and into the Churchill, with its established portages and whitewater was fun of course but we finished the trip longing for the unbeaten path.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
For all travel from Paull River south to the Churchill, and for all Churchill River travel, get your maps from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters (Churchill River maps 5 and 6 I believe -- ask Ric to make sure). NTS: 073O08 (Besnard Lake) 073P05 073P12 (overlaps with CRCO map 5, Black Bear Island Lake) 073P13 073P14 (overlaps with CRCO Paull River 1 & 2 maps) 073P11 (Get CRCO maps 5 & 6 instead) 073P10 (Get CRCO maps 5 & 6 instead)
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
073P covers most of it 073O has a tiny bit of the Besnard Lake portion on it
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GPS Tracks
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