North Seal and Lower Seal

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
482 km
20 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
2000 m
Longest Portage: 
2000 m
Difficulty Ratings
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Details are given in the trip log.
Float plane from Lynn Lake to the W end of Chatwin Lake on the North Seal.
Rapids, swifts and lakes (Kee...maw, Minuhik, Egenolf, Blackfish, Bain, Copeland, Ireland & Stony) to Shethanie Lake and the junction with the South Seal.
River travel with many rapids (some difficult, one very dangerous) to Hudson Bay and Jack Batsone's cabin.
Boat to Churchill; train to Thompson.

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

North Seal and Seal Rivers (Technical version)

Copyright: Allan E Jacobs; October 2007.

Comment: This version provides UTM locations (for rapids and campsites) omitted from my Nastawgan article (Vol. 34, No. 1, Spring 2007, pp 1-13).

From Chatwin Lake on the North Seal River (4 July 2006), to the junction with the South Seal at Shethanie Lake, to Hudson Bay (27 July).

Unguided trips on any part of the Seal require good whitewater skills.
Large parts of the Seal country were burned around 1994; some find the results unattractive.
Campsites are not abundant on any part of the Seal; expect to spend time most days discussing where to stop.
The North Seal has many eskers; though they offer few campsites, they provide excellent hiking.
The Seal is well named; most parties see their first 200 km above the Bay.
You should see polar bears at the Bay and perhaps well upstream from it; most parties report multiple sightings.
Only one rapid, Nelson Rapids between Minuhik and Egenolf Lakes on the North Seal, requires a portage; it is 2 km long (feels like more). We lined a second rapid on the North Seal and part of another on the lower Seal. All other rapids were runnable on the course we took; please note the qualification. Several rapids require lengthy scouts from shore.
The North Seal (Chatwin to Shethanie Lake) is a pool-and-drop river. Several lakes have more than one exit; taking the wrong one may get you into big trouble.
The lower Seal (Shethanie Lake to the Bay) is mostly fast river and you can make good time. The Wilson-Aykroyd book's description of this stretch is better than mine.
Major wind delays are possible on the lakes and open stretches, especially on the North Seal.

Barbara Burton and George Drought (Hamilton), Allan Jacobs, Iva Kinclova and Charles McLandress (Toronto), and Hugh Westheuser (Kelowna).

Background to the trip:
We had hoped to do the Manitoba traverse, starting from Kinoosao (oo pronounced as in moo?) on Reindeer Lake, portaging over to the North Seal (which we wanted to paddle independent of the traverse since it is little travelled by canoeists) and finishing at the Bay. But due to time and health considerations (bad legs) we could start no higher than Chatwin Lake on the North Seal. I guess though we could have started a lake or two above Chatwin on the Marks River.
We allowed a lot of time for the North Seal since we had very little information on it; indeed, the lack of information was part of the attraction. We allowed too much time though, and had 11 days to get from the esker at the narrows in Shethanie Lake whereas a guided trip we know of took 7.
Charles had paddled the Seal in 1973, starting from where the road crosses the Churchill, passing through Tadoule Lake and finishing at the Bay; the others hadn't paddled any part of it.

Gene Chorostecki (advice on rapids and campsites),
David DeMello (advice on North Seal rapids),
Stan & Muriel Good and Ralph Lloyd of Gangler's North Seal River Lodge (the world needs more such kind, gentle people),
the Trans-West people in Lynn Lake, especially Colin (who evacuated George and Barbara in adverse weather conditions),
MaryAnn of Lynn Lake Hospital and other medical personnel who assisted George,
Les Fretterly (looked after the truck and shuttle it from Lynn Lake to Thompson),
Jack Batstone (pickup from the mouth),
Jim McLandress and Hendrik Herfst (hospitality in Winnipeg),
jmc of Canadian Canoe Routes (exceptionally knowledegable, ever helpful), and
recped, Hugh, idylwyld and wapoose of CCR for their comments on fires in Manitoba.

Water level:
The North Seal at Bain Lake was about 1 m lower than at the same time in 2005, possibly because breakup was three weeks early this year; water was however high in 2005. [Source: Stan Good of Gangler's].
The mid-July level below Great Island was 0.4 to 0.5 m lower than in 2004 and 2005. [Source:

Information sources (publicly available):
1. Hap Wilson and Stephanie Aykroyd, "Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba", Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association, Merrickville, Ontario, 1998, ISBN 1-895465-26-5. Denoted in the following as WA.
Comment 1: WA should be your primary source for background information on the Seal River area in general, and for rapids and campsite information for the stretch from Tadoule Lake to the Bay. It is almost a must-take-along for Seal paddlers.
Comment 2: Perhaps due to our low water level, we found some rapids easier than reported in WA.
Comment 3: I'm confident in my values for distances, which are consistently about 10% smaller than WA's.
Comment 4: I saw nothing in my reading of Hearne's journal to justify WA's identification of his campsite as near 528/152 on topo 64J16. WA must have other sources.
2. Sydney Augustus Keighley , "Trader, Tripper, Trapper", subtitled "The Life of a Bay Man", Watson & Dwyer, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1989, ISBN 0-920486-36-3.
Comment 1: This largely autobiographical account provides a perspective on the fur trade in the first half of the 20th century. It is of interest to paddlers more for the information it provides on life in the area not so long ago.
Comment 2: Keighley did not wait for the native people to come to him with their furs; he "made regular visits to their camps with sled or canoe loaded with the goods they wanted, and returned with their traded furs". The "Tripper" of the title refers to these travels, not our kind of tripping.
Comment 3: Keighley refers peripherally to Father Egenolf, a priest active in the area from at least the early 1920's "till he died in 1957, aged somewhere in his nineties"; I would be surprised if Egenolf Lake on the North Seal were not named for him.
Comment 4: WA took a copy of Keighley's book with them on their Cochrane, Thlewiaza, Caribou trip. Their write-up mentions the HBC post, on the Caribou River, that Keighley ran from 1931 to 1937; compare the sketch on page 167 of Keighley with the map on page 144 of WA. The building from Keighley's time seems to be still standing; compare the photos on pages 138, 150, 164, 168 & 175 of Keighley with that on page 145 of WA.
3. "Nuhoniyeh (Our Story)", VHS, Treeline Productions, Sayisi Dene First Nation, Tadoule Lake, Manitoba, Telephone 204 684 2022.
Comment 1: This is well worth viewing; it is of considerable historical interest, especially on the relocation of the Sayisi Dene to Churchill, their experiences there, and their return to the land.
Comment 2: It contains a photograph of Keighley, the same one as on the cover of his book.
4. P G Downes, "Sleeping Island", Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1988, ISBN 0-88833-256-4.
Comment 1: This is mostly an account of his 1939 trip; the area travelled is best described by listing the chapter titles: "North, Where", "Pelican",
"Reindeer Lake", "Brochet", "The Cochrane", "The Little Lakes", "Fort Hall Lake and the Kasmere", "Nueltin Lake", "Windy", "Days in the Barrens" and "South Flight". Although he did not pass through the Seal area itself, his description of life and customs likely applies there also, again not so long ago. Downes was a thinker as well as a good writer.
Comment 2: Of interest also to Seal paddlers may be his passing reference to the Maria Lake trail starting from the Cochrane, and that he too refers to Father Egenolf (whose picture faces page 138).
5. John D Buchanan, "Canoeing Manitoba Rivers", Rocky Mountain Books, 1997. I got the initial lead from Paddle Manitoba and further information from CCR (Manitoba Canoe Routes Forum). The folks at CCR recommend "Volume 1 South" very highly. You can buy it at Rocky Mountain Books (, the Winnipeg MEC, and McNally-Robinson; or you consult it at the Winnipeg Public Library (but not the University of Toronto Library or the Toronto Public Library). Alas, Volume 1 does not cover the Seal, and a Volume 2 is highly unlikely.
6. You can find lots of qualitative Seal information on the web.

Barbara, George, Iva, Charles and I started the drive from Hamilton on 30 June, and Hugh from Kelowna. We met in Thompson on 2 July and drove to Lynn Lake the next day. We left the two vehicles with Les Fretterly (Esso station, 204 356 8692, 3568711 AT for later shuttle to Thompson (cost $100 per vehicle). On 4 July, Trans-West (204 356 2457) flew us to Chatwin Lake in a single Otter (turbo), with all our gear, in one flight.
George and Barbara were evacuated on 11 July.
The other four reached the Bay on 27 July. Jack Batstone (204 675 2300) picked us up the next day and boated us to Churchill where we stayed overnight.
On 29 July, we took the evening train to Thompson. Hugh picked up his truck at the airport (where Les had left it) and headed west with Iva. Charles and I had planned to drive back from Thompson with Barbara and George; instead, we returned to Toronto by train, via Winnipeg (where we stayed one night), arriving at 3 am on 3 August.

Alternative logistics:
There is daily bus service from Thompson to Lynn Lake; call the bus depot at 204 356 2918. You can get to Thompson by Grey Goose Bus Lines (204 677 0360), or you can fly in. The highway map shows a rail line to Lynn Lake but the train from The Pas doesn't go past Pukatawagan any more; and you can fly in. The Lynn Lake web site has more information. You can fly out from Churchill, but most people take the train.

Alternative routes to the North Seal:
The following provides a non-exhaustive list of other ways to access the North Seal. I have no first-hand knowledge of any of them. All require portaging over the height of land. I believe that all are highly demanding.
Start points:
1. Kinoosao (road access from Lynn Lake) or Brochet (air access), both on Reindeer Lake; paddle up the Cochrane River.
2. Lac Brochet (air access); paddle down the Cochrane. WA describes the Cochrane in the region of interest (Reindeer Lake to Lac Brochet). Break east from the Cochrane at Thuycholeeni Lake.
End points:
1. The North Seal about 6 km below the outlet from Maria Lake. The route goes through Kelso and Sulyma Lakes, as described in the brief write-up
(Booklet C-03) at Paddle Manitoba:
2. Maria Lake about 12 km above the outlet. The route goes through Kelso, Hlowayazi and Gard Lakes. The North Seal just below Maria is reported to be brutal.
3. Morrow Lake (headwaters of the North Seal). This one (I haven't heard of anyone doing it) is likely more brutal than the previous one. Perhaps fortunately, we couldn't try this one due to time constraints.
Of course one can fly in to some lakes on these routes, Easton Lake as in the Paddle Manitoba write-up, or Maria Lake (avoids the height-of-land portage). I don't know whether float planes can land on any lakes (other than Easton and Maria) on or near the North Seal watershed.

We had two PakCanoes and a Blue Steel hardshell. The PakCanoes saved us maybe $1500 on the flight in; even one more hardshell would have required a second flight. And they saved $1500 on the evacuation; Barbara and George, taking a PakCanoe, got out on a 185 rather than the Otter that would have been needed if they had taken the hardshell.

We saw six moose (two cows each with one calf and two bulls), one black bear, nine polar bears (two adults within 80 metres, the others with glasses), several mink and zillions of birds (including dozens of bald eagles).

A tarp is highly desirable; we had a lot of wind and rain.
I filtered my drinking water; the others didn't and suffered no ill effects.
We cooked mostly on wood; we used stoves for baking bannock.
We carried several cans of bear spray, bangers, flares and a shotgun.
We had also two GPSs and a VHF radio.

The 1:50k topos required are 54L13, 54L14, 54M2, 54M3, 54M4, 64I13, 64I14, 64I15, 64I16, 64J14, 64J15, 64J16, 64K15, 64K16, 64N1, 64O3, and 64O4.
If you wish, you can purchase them at Federal Publications, 165 University Avenue, Suite 102, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 3B8, 416 860 1611.
We used copies, many of the 1:50k topos and several of the 1:250ks. I did mine at the Toronto Public Library (789 Yonge Street, Toronto) on the 11" by 17" machine; topos are easier to access at the Robarts Library (University of Toronto) but the big copier there (18" by 24" as well as 11" by 17") has not worked for a long time.

1. Be careful! This is a remote, unpopulated area; help may be days away. Apart from several fishing parties on the North Seal and four native people on
Shethanie Lake, we saw only Colin (Trans-West pilot who did the evacuation) until we were picked up at the mouth. Jack Batstone told us that a large canoe party (6 boats?) would finish at the mouth the day after us.
2. Check out the forest-fire situation at the web sites given in CCR / Forums / Manitoba Canoe Routes, thread "Fire Situation in N Manitoba?".
3. Try to learn what other parties are on the river, especially those upstream from yours.
4. Don't forget to buy a fishing licence in Lynn Lake.
5. Before you leave home, prepare a form to leave with the RCMP in Lynn Lake. It should give the number and colour of your canoes, the number and colour of your tents, next-of-kin contact information, your travel plan, the number of your satellite phone, plus other information such as whether you are carrying a VHF radio. And don't forget to log out with the RCMP in Churchill.
6. Carry a satellite phone; you will need one anyway to confirm your pickup at the mouth. Pay no attention to the armchair paddlers who argue that carrying a phone actually makes the trip more hazardous; on ours, it may have saved a life. A PLB is a reasonable backup for the phone. A VHF radio might be useful; it was for us.
7. Take along a copy of the information you leave with the RCMP in Lynn Lake; take also the phone numbers of the RCMP detachments in Lynn Lake, Tadoule Lake and Churchill, of the medical facilities in these places, of your charter operator and of Gangler's North Seal River Lodge.
8. Do not carry an EPIRB or an ELT. Setting off either will cost the Canadian taxpayer about $50,000 and make your group infamous; check issues of Kanawa if you doubt either statement.
9. Carry a GPS and know how to operate it.
10. Do not attempt to paddle from the mouth of the Seal to Churchill; more than one party of paddlers has died on the way.
11. Jack Batstone of Churchill (204 675 2300) does the pickups from the mouth; the cost in 2006 was $500 per canoe. Reserve your pickup well in advance. Jack built the cabin, maintains it and repairs the bear damage; drop any thought of arranging a pickup with anyone else. Jack is reliable but the weather is not. He cannot boat you to Churchill if the wind is up so leave some slack in your schedule. In fact, he had two boats prepared to pick up the next party on 29 July but had to postpone the trip because the wind was due to come up that day.
12. You will save much effort if you reach the mouth at high tide; tables are available at
13. Take normal precautions against black bears.
14. Signs of polar bears have been seen three days' travel upstream from the Bay [Source: Peter K. post at / Forums / Manitoba Canoe Routes, thread Seal River]. Almost every party reports multiple sightings at the mouth. There are ethical and practical concerns related to carrying a firearm for protection. Some of what you hear about polar bears may be just urban legends. And which is the greater danger, the firearm or the bears? From speaking to Jack, I estimate that something like a thousand paddlers have stayed at least one night at the mouths of the Caribou, Seal and Knife rivers; to the best of my knowledge, there have been no bear attacks. If you carry a firearm, the only reasonable choice seems to be a pump-action shotgun, for it allows loading non-lethal cartridges as well as business ones. Take bangers and slugs; forget the trap/skeet/bird shot unless you want to give your group practice in assembling, loading and using the firearm. Use the bangers first, and then only when the bear is close by, say under 100 m; we don't want bears to learn to ignore the sound. Use the slugs only as a last resort, when necessary to save a life. The rule I've heard is "20 feet and charging". And you might try to find rubber slugs. BTW, you should expect a serious interview with the RCMP should you kill or harm a bear.
15. A shotgun is pretty cumbersome to keep ready except in camp, and not a little dangerous. Carry also or instead bear bangers and a launcher (a spring-loaded pen-like device). I don't know that pepper spray would be useful. A story, perhaps true: Native person to paddler: "What do you carry for bears?". The paddler pulls out a can of spray. Pause, then "Make bear mad". Some people carry flares for protection, "I don't know why" [Mimi].
16. Immediately on arrival at the mouth, check for bears; set up the ladder that Jack has provided and send someone to the roof while others unload the boats. Be careful walking around; bears swim in from the bay as well as walk along the shore.
17. Your last camp above the Bay should be at 765/393 (map 54L14) or upstream from it; we saw no sites below it although two of us looked for them.
18. Carry snippers/shears to ease your way through the brush when trying to get to campsites; bug shirts are precious and easily torn.
19. The water at the Egenolf end of the portage from Minuhik Lake is pretty murky; best carry ample water over from Minuhik.
20. Mosquito coils may be useful for your stay at the cabin.
21. If you leave Churchill by train, better reserve your seats well in advance; it is pretty full some days (I think weekends are the worst).
22. The best place we found to eat in Churchill is Gypsy's.

1. Gangler's North Seal River Lodge is on Egenolf Lake, to the south of the canoe route; Gangler's has also satellite camps on Burnie Lake (portage in from Kee...maw Lake), Bain Lake (on the route), Maria Lake (pronounced Mar-eye-ah locally; for those doing the hair-shirt trip from the Cochrane) and
Stevens/Nicklin Lakes (well off the river).
2. There are buildings, perhaps an active exploration/survey site, near 324/227 on map 64J16; we were on the other side of the river and didn't go over to investigate whether anyone was around.
3. From Shethanie Lake you can paddle up the South Seal to Tadoule Lake.
4. Seal River Lodge is located on the coast, 3-4 km north of the mouth.
5. If you have to call out, have your coordinates ready in longitude-latitude format; I haven't yet met or heard of a pilot who uses UTMs.

River information:
Your primary resource for rapids and campsite information on the South Seal (Tadoule Lake to Shethanie Lake) and for the lower Seal (Shethanie Lake to the Bay) should be the book by Hap Wilson and Stephanie Aykroyd (referred to as WA below). We found it invaluable, especially for campsite locations.
I provide rapid & campsite information for the North Seal (Chatwin Lake to Shethanie Lake) and also the lower Seal; my campsite information especially is less complete than WA's.
I have included all the information, and then some, that I thought you might want to record on your topos in preparation for your trip; the report is then however rather long to take along.
I included the river information with the day-by-day stuff, rather than write another section.

Locations of rapids, campsites, etc are given in UTM coordinates, as easting/northing. This information is intended for use with the 1:50k topos; you will have to make adjustments if using the 1:250k set.
Coordinates are given to the nearest 100 m, but errors are often larger than the nominal plus/minus 50 m.
All my topos used NAD27. Since UTMs can differ by several hundred metres between NAD27 and NAD83 topos, you should check the datum on your topos. And don't forget to set your GPS.

I provide also distances from campsites, map junctures, etc, to the Bay. I found them by wheeling out, twice, copies of the 1:50k topos; I corrected for the 1% reduction (and verified the reduction by wheeling out 100 km).

1. Please forgive the preaching and butt-covering, but you are responsible for your own safety. Although I took care in compiling the information, I almost certainly made errors, some perhaps serious.
2. I give UTM locations for the starts of rapids; the qualification "near" for these locations is implicit. I give this information solely so that you can match my comments with the corresponding features on the topos, preferably the 1:50k set; the locations are not to be taken literally, for example for use with a GPS.
3. Whitewater experience is necessary for unguided travel on the Seal. Avoid like the plague prospective partners with something to prove.
4. This is a remote area, and caution is required. Where possible, scout the big stuff; unless you're sure you can run it safely, portage or line it. But it is not feasible to scout all the rapids from shore; for some, you must be able to scout from the boat.
5. I make no recommendations as to what you should do at the rapids, except for comments like Scout!, which means get out and walk the shore. My remarks are descriptive (what we did); they are decidedly not prescriptive.
6. If your water level differs much from ours, the information given below may be useless, even seriously misleading. It may be that you should scout some rapids that we did not.
7. Our party agreed on the rapids ratings given below, but these are inexpert, personal, perhaps inconsistent opinions; they are not adjusted for runout or remoteness. In short, don't take them literally. Since our assessment of the difficulty differed markedly from WA's in too many cases, I decided to denote the difficulty by D1, D2, etc rather than CI, CII, etc.
8. Rapids ratings apply to our routes through them; some rapids have dangerous areas that will literally swallow the foolish.
9. Spray covers are pretty well mandatory for the entire Seal. We put them on the first day and left them on until we finished.
10. Finally and most importantly, don't trust the topos, or WA, or any trip report (including this one); in the final analysis, you must rely on your own

Route notes:
I've included information on the routes we followed and also on what I know of other routes (for example other exits from lakes).

Campsites are not plentiful on any part of the Seal and so they will figure large in your daily planning.
I give UTM coordinates for our sites; I include also sites that we noticed en route, some from shore, others only from the water. This information may be useful also in assessing your progress down the river.
WA lists many more sites than I give, but none for the North Seal.
Having looked at Google Earth and seen all those eskers (especially above the exit from Shethanie Lake), we expected many great campsites. But many eskers are heavily wooded and offer no place to camp; and thick shore brush makes access difficult to others. I recommend that you bring snippers/shears.
Campsite N1 means the site on our day 1, etc.
Site quality is rated, inconsistently, on a scale from A (superb: worth stopping early, or pushing to reach, or staying over) to E (avoid if at all
possible); criteria used were ease of landing and loading, distance from the water, views, hiking, flatness, dryness, size, sand (ruins zippers), litter, how tired or wet we were, and others I've forgotten.

C: centre.
L: river left.
R: river right.
D: degree of difficulty (for example, D2 is roughly equivalent to Class II).

Trip Journal, Rapids and Campsites:

Friday 30 June 2006:
Charles, Iva and I drove from Toronto to Barbara & George's home in Hamilton. Barbara joined us after 3:30 when she got off work. The five of us loaded up and headed out at about 5 pm, into the thick of the traffic on the busiest weekend of the year; fortunately George knows the back roads up to past the 400/11 fork and we missed the worst of it. At his suggestion, we took the Hwy 11 route rather than the shorter (by about 70 km) but more hilly and more heavily travelled Hwy 17 route. We stopped at 12:30 am at a not so nice motel in Latchford; digs are likely better in New Liskeard.

1 July:
We drove through rain, stopping for lunch in Hearst, to Dryden and a motel.

2 July:
We drove on to Thompson (third largest place in Manitoba, after Winnipeg and Brandon) where we met Hugh, as arranged, at the McCreedy campground. He stayed there (recommended) in the back of his truck; with the weather looking bad, the others wimped out and stayed at the Meridian hotel (183 Cree Road, recommended) in town.

3 July:
We drove on to Lynn Lake, rather a sad place since the mine closed, with many houses boarded up. We registered with the RCMP and made some last-minute purchases; Iva bought a fishing licence. We left the two vehicles with Les at the Esso station in town, for later shuttle to Thompson. We overnighted at the Trans-West base; Barbara and George slept inside, the others in tents just off the parking lot.

4 July:
We assembled our stuff and moved it down to the dock. There we were met by a very friendly mutt (with more than a little golden) adopted by the Trans-West people from a nearby reserve; its hindquarters are in really bad shape (perhaps something hereditary, ...) and it can hardly walk. We loaded the single turbo Otter (pilot Ted) and took off at about 8 am. On the way, we passed over smoke, from fires to the NW I guess. We landed on Chatwin Lake somewhere between the mouth of the Marks River and the peninsula with tip at 923/264. We had difficulty unloading our stuff and getting it and us through the shore brush to a moderately clear area. After hot, buggy work assembling the gear and the PakCanoes in a burned out, brushy area, we paddled several km to a site just downstream from a cabin.
Start on topo 64K15.
Campsite N1: 914/254; Class C site. Area badly littered; tent spots good; very small space for unloading and loading boats; near the cabin, there's an outhouse with however a low entrance (ouch!); esker with some hiking; sound of rapids from not far upstream.
482 km to the Bay.

5 July:
A thunderstorm came through after breakfast and we returned to the tents. We got on the water at 11. We spotted several beachy sites (possible campsites), at least one with a boat, on the N shore; I don't know whether they are Gangler's or First-Nations sites (maybe both).
Exit from Chatwin Lake: We went down the L side of the island.
D2- (not marked) between the island and the L shore (994/283).
D2- (not marked) at the contour-line crossing below the island (996/281).
D2- (not marked) at the narrowing (994/274).
D2- (not marked) at the top of the NS stretch (988/268).
D1+ (not marked) above the start of the lakey section (988/260).
Several swifts (marked) after the turn to the E, followed by a D4.
Scout! D4 (marked) near 002/252. We stopped on the R to scout and decided to do the short lining job (we were already in position) rather than run the D3 slot.
Several swifts (not marked) after the D4.
An east wind came up and we decided to look for a campsite; given their scarcity so far, we took the first reasonable one.
Campsite N2: 059/275; Class C site. Difficult unloading and loading; long carry up very steep hill; good tent spots; some hiking on esker; view marred by dead trees; no place to wash up.
461 km to the Bay.

6 July:
On Kee...maw (sic) Lake (known locally as Long Lake; even the topographer is unsure how to spell it), we met Ralph Lloyd of Gangler's and two US fishermen; they had walked in from the Gangler's outpost lodge on Burnie Lake.
Entered map 64K16; 448 km to the Bay.
Entered map 64N1; 444 km to the Bay.
Campsite N3: 183/409; Class B site at esker; good tent spots; fair walk from water; nice view. Ralph and the fishermen dropped by for a talk.
442 km to the Bay.

7 July:
Exit from Kee...mau (sic) Lake:
Scout! D2+ (marked) near 212/431. We scouted from the R shore where fisherfolk from Gangler's have made a good trail. On the scout, George tore ligaments in his left knee, with consequences later.
Rocky swifts (marked) after the pond.
The wind came up and we struggled to reach the beach at the start of the portage around Nelson Rapids (named for a Canadian soldier who died in the Netherlands near the end of WWII; Google Nelson Rapids North Seal River for details).
Campsite N4: 324/473; Class B site. Beach; good swimming; good hiking; good tent spots; some litter; used by fisherfolk from Egenolf Lake.
426 km to the Bay.
All but George and I went hiking, starting from the Gangler's road to Egenolf Lake. We were thinking about portaging 1 km across the peninsula at the narrowing (starting from near 326/485), rather than starting at the base and heading east along the road; doing so might save a lot of effort, and the topo suggests that the worst of the rapids is upstream from 333/486.
Here are Hugh's comments on the hike to the river: There is a drop of 20 meters between Minuhik and Egenolf Lakes, most of it close to Minuhik. Barbara & I walked up to the narrower area, and got within 50 m of the river. It is a chute here, with a ledge at the bottom, a pool, then another rapid with what looked like a ledge. The east embankment was steep and the west side not much better. It would be difficult portaging out of it, and no place to line. This is a definite portage. We did not look at the rapids just above Egenolf, but the first rapid as you leave Minuhik looked runnable. The river had previously run to the west of its current channel years ago, and to portage through the old river bed, full of large bottom rocks, and now overgrown with trees and willows, excluded the shortest distance across the peninsula from being a viable portage route particularly as there was a road at the bottom end that we could use.

8 July:
We did the portage; it looks to be 2 km long on the map, but it felt more like 3. Most of it is easy going, on the road Gangler's has put through for its guests; their buggy had broken down close to the (upper) west end. George's knee was in bad shape and he could get only himself and his day pack across. The portage ends in a damp area with not much space for loading boats; you have to paddle out to get good water.
Route note: Watch for the old portage trail breaking off to the left from the road; it cuts off a loop.
We loaded up and headed out across Egenolf, seeing several Gangler's boats; we didn't see it, but Gangler's main lodge lies to the south, down the channel.
Entered map 64O4; 415 km to the Bay.
We pulled in at the first marked esker, rather than push on to the one at the narrows (498/461). This was a good decision since, as we learned the next day, the latter has no campsite; if we had continued, we would have had to carry on at least as far as the beach near 516/482.
Campsite N5: 454/482; Class C site. Good tent sites; view OK; small beach.
411 km to the Bay.

9 July:
A stiff SW wind came up. We threaded our way through the islands, crossed to the tip of the peninsula and turned NE, hugging the left shore as we wallowed along. We pulled in and waited out the wind at the beach near 516/482 (with bear-hunt camp); some of us spoke to a Gangler's party at the cove (519/480). The wind dropped a bit after lunch so we headed out, again threading through the islands.
Route note: We took the south (right) exit from Egenolf Lake. The decision, the correct one, was made on the advice of David DeMello and the Gangler's guides, and on our own reading of the topo (the marked rapids are longer on the R channel). Several D1s and swifts (marked) start near 575/485. The upper part is shallow (most of the river seems to go left; recall though that we had low water) but we had no difficulty anywhere. It was a nice route actually, fast but gentle. At the bottom of the R channel, we caught a glimpse of the L channel; it looked tough.
Some of us saw a dead moose just below the junction. A storm was coming, and we were unsure whether we could find anything better, so we pulled in at a small beach and camped; most of the storm missed us. Again we made the correct decision, for next day we saw few if any campsites immediately downstream.
Campsite N6: 600/507: Class D site. OK tent sites back of the beach.
395 km to the Bay.

10 July:
D1+ (marked) at the start of the R turn, near 596/517. We cut hard L at the bottom. It is followed by a short stretch of fast water, then a D2+.
Scout! D2+ (marked) starting near 595/518. After a long scout on the L, through heavy brush, we started C, then cut hard L.
Route note: We took the first exit (near 654/552, no problem) from Blackfish Lake, then the narrow channel to the S of the island.
Swift (marked) at 670/536.
Riffle (marked) at 677/528.
Riffle (marked) at 685/519.
Comment: The unnamed lake (upper lake 269) has several beaches that may serve as campsites.
D1- (marked) at 681/497.
Swift (not marked) near 673/485.
Swift (not marked) near 679/488.
Perhaps an unmarked swift near 686/491.
Scout! D3+ (marked) at 692/486. After a long scout on the R, we did a D2+ run on the far R, a tricky route requiring sharp turns; the bottom was OK.
Several swifts (not marked) between 692/486 and lake 259.
Tricky gravel fan (not marked) just before lake 259.
Several swifts (not marked) after lake 259.
D1+ (not marked) near 715/415 (on map 64O3).
Several swifts above lake 255.
Entered map 64O3 for the third time; 364 km to the Bay.
After considerable discussion and fruitless searching, we found an OK site and camped.
Campsite N7: 726/399; Class D site. Barbara & George and I camped by the water, the others up the hill.
363 km to the Bay.

11 July:
We woke to a stiff north wind.
George was in very bad shape and it was obvious that he needed medical attention ASAP. Here are the symptoms, etc, as Barbara reported them over the satellite phone: slow breath, pale, short of breath, sweaty, always conscious, mental sharpness in and out, can walk but limps badly, believes he tore ligaments in his left knee, thinks pacemaker wire may have been damaged.
The ways we thought of to get him out were:
1. Call in a float plane from Lynn Lake.
2. Ask Gangler's to send a motorboat up from Bain Lake, take him back there and fly him out.
3. Paddle down to Bain Lake and get him flown out from there; this was the last resort, for it would have taken most of a day to get there, we didn't know how serious the intervening rapids were, and the trip might have strained his body beyond the limit.
The first option was clearly the best, if it could be arranged.
We called Trans-West and talked things over with Bryce and others. After establishing our location (we had longitude and latitude ready), we talked about the aircraft, cost ($3124 for the turbo single Otter, $1580 for the 185), weather in Lynn Lake (closing in, with stiff wind, too windy for small plane?), pilots, weather conditions at our site, landing conditions at our site (we were in a rocky bay, but the plane could land on the lakey part nearby), the VHF frequency to use, etc. George was alert enough to suggest that we send out my PakCanoe rather than the Blue Steel. All parties agreed on the 185; the flight time would be about 1.5 hours.
Please note that all these arrangements were made by satellite phone; had we not had one, we would have had to chance the paddle down to Bain Lake.
While waiting for the 185, we folded up my PakCanoe and sorted through the gear and especially the food. We spoke over the VHF radio with the Trans-West pilot Colin as he was flying in. He arrived at 11:40 and taxied in to the bay.
There followed a messy business loading the gear and George plus Barbara, all in a strong wind (needing two of us to hold the plane). That old dictum about safety in numbers came to mind; in those conditions, a smaller group could not have gotten someone out. The 185 left at about 1 pm. We learned later that the weather closed in on the flight to Lynn Lake; Colin got them back though, in highly adverse conditions (he got his location in part from the old mine chimney).
Colin's willingness and ability to fly in adverse conditions may have saved George's life. The rest of us kept our cool and did what needed doing. Barbara and George deserve special praise here; each put on a remarkable display of sang-froid, like no other I have witnessed. We learned later that he had suffered a pulmonary embolism, often fatal, perhaps more often fatal than not; a blood clot had formed in his knee (perhaps from binding it too tightly, too long, both?), passed through his heart and lodged in his lung. The doctor told him: "You were very lucky", that others had died in such circumstances.
The wind stayed up and then the rain came down. Not surprisingly, after that morning and in those conditions and thinking that we might well not see George again, we stayed put. In hindsight, maybe we should have carried on; concentrating on paddling might have relieved the worry, at least for the moment.
Campsite N8: Same place.
363 km to the Bay.

12 July:
Entered map 64J14; 362 km to the Bay.
Swift (not marked) at 739/389.
D1 (not marked) at 768/393.
Swift (not marked) at 776/395.
Comment: We had lunch at an island (805/366).
D1+ (marked, two parts) from 812/319 to 818/318; we ran the top part R of C and the bottom part L of C.
Route note: We took the R channel; the L channel (842/316) looked pretty dry. D1+ (marked) at 841/313. We ran it L of C.
We met Stan and Muriel Good on Bain Lake; Stan runs the Gangler's outpost lodge there. Ralph Lloyd (we met him on day 2) had emailed them that we were on our way; they had expected six people though.
Campsite N9: On the island centered at 860/300.
340 km to the Bay.

13 July:
We talked to some of the Gangler fishermen; one who had been down to the next set of rapids was surprised that we would run it. A friend of another had paddled the North Seal some 30 years before; I tried to find out the name but failed.
We headed east down the river, passing several possible campsites on the L shore, then turned to the SE.
Entered map 64J15; 323 km to the Bay.
Maybe some swifts before the opening near 025/330.
Nothing at the contour-line crossing (042/378).
Comment: The last 6 km before Copeland Lake have a lot of fast water.
D1+ (marked) at 052/385.
D1- (not marked) at 060/383.
Swift (not marked) at 064/382.
D1+ (marked) at 071/382, at the "island" (we didn't see the right channel).
Swift (not marked) at the end.
Route note: We went L at the end; the R exit looked pretty boney. We passed a possible campsite (on the island centered at 104/370), but it looked big-time littered and we pressed on. We headed for some likely looking shore somewhere near 120/353. Just before we landed, Iva spotted a black bear coming out of the brush, heading for a drink I guess. It was not aggressive, but neither was it frightened of us. After taking some pictures, we continued on our way, looking back occasionally to see which way it was walking. After a little fast water, we camped on the R shore before Ireland Lake.
Campsite N10: 107/331; Class E site. Badly littered; bad tent sites (not level, not dry, well away from the water); drizzle; enough already, why write more?
302 km to the Bay.

14 July:
After an overnight rain, we loaded up, headed out and entered Stony Lake. A west wind came up so we stayed close to the L shore, getting what shelter we could, but wallowing badly. We pulled in at an island (220/248?) for shelter and lunch. The wind was bad enough that we camped as soon as possible, at the beach we spotted about 3 km to the east.
Campsite N11: 247/249; Class C site. Good tent sites; beach; sheltered but buggy cooking area back in the burn-out. We spoke to Barbara over the phone; they were both in Winnipeg. George had been flown there from Lynn Lake; she had driven their car and trailer. George was better and recovering at the hospital; she was staying at the place they have for relatives. We arranged to speak again a week later.
283 km to the Bay.

15 July:
We paddled out onto Stony; the west wind came up and we were soon wallowing again.
Entered map 64J16; 279 km to the Bay.
We pulled in at the east side of the spit (318/246) for shelter, a rest and some hiking on the esker (good views). There are campsites on both sides of the spit. There appeared to be an exploration site on the south side of the river, near 324/227.
Route note: As David DeMello had advised, and as we inferred from the topo (the L channel has longer marked rapids than the R one), we decided, correctly, to take the north (left) exit from Stony Lake.
North exit from Stony Lake:
D2- (marked) at 362/245.
D2+ (marked) at 367/244; maybe you should scout this one.
Scout! Long D3- (marked) starting near 370/244, just below the D2+; after a lengthy scout from the R shore, we went down hard R, then swung L at the bottom, picking our way through the rocks.
Comment: We stopped for lunch at the L end of the right (south) channel, near 385/245. From the bottom, the right channel looked very bad; don't even think of running it.
Swift (not marked) near 393/238.
Route note: We went R around the island at 463/223.
The west wind was getting ever stronger; we didn't want to paddle out into Shethanie Lake, but campsites are scarce in this area. Fortunately, just before Shethanie, we spotted a small beach on the R.
Campsite N12: 511/208; Class D site. Small beach at the end of a small bay; OK swimming; ugly tent sites behind the beach, in the middle of a major burn-out, but sheltered from the west wind; short walk over to look at Shethanie.
256 km to the Bay.

16 July:
After two consecutive forced early stops due to the wind, and facing a day's paddling on Shethanie, we got up at 5 am. Good idea but no cigar.
Entered map 64I13; 248 km to the Bay.
All too soon we were wallowing in big waves again so we headed toward the S shore just in case; we barely got around the point at 640/187 before turning SE down the channel and getting some shelter from the wind. We saw a cow moose with calf on the R shore.
We did the U-turn at the tip of the esker and found four young hunters from Tadoule Lake camped at the site there; they had shot a moose, dressed it and were taking it back for the community. We stopped in for a chat; they told us of another campsite farther north so we headed up that way. We weren't sure where the site was so we pulled in at a possibility and walked around, some to the north, others back to the west side of the point. We went N and camped.
The hunters motorboated past and went down the lake, stayed there a while, came back for some fishing near the point and then took off back to Tadoule.
Campsite N13: 735/140; Class B site. No beach; excellent tent sites; nice spring-fed pond at the back with creek at exit; better in every respect than the site at the tip of the esker; good hiking. We discussed trying to get out in four fewer days but decided to stick to our schedule.
230 km to the Bay.

17 July:
It was such a good site, and we had so much time left for the trip, that we decided to stay another night. We did shotgun practice in the afternoon, assembling, loading, firing, unloading, disassembling, the works (with though cheap light shells). I wish I had done as the others and worn ear plugs. I've fired shotguns in the past without a problem though; maybe I sighted with my cheek too close to the barrel.
Campsite N14: Same place.
230 km to the Bay.

18 July:
We got up to find two sets of fresh bear tracks (black bear size, one large, one small, likely a sow and cub) on the sand to the north, less than 50 m from our kitchen tarp. They changed direction sharply and went around us; I picked the tracks up again by the creek from the pond. After a lazy breakfast, we took off again, for once without a strong wind.
Two rocky swifts (marked, as one) at 811/243; we ran them easily on the R.
Comment: We had lunch on the L shore, at the campsite marked in WA. There are several beaches (possible campsites) on the south shore in this area.
Entered map 64I14; 209 km to the Bay.
Rocky swift (at most a D1-) starting near 945/321; guess our low water reduced the difficulty from the CII rating in WA.
We turned left into the cove, pulled in and camped.
Campsite N15: 952/322; Class B site. Stiff climb to camping area; far from water; water in bay not so good so must walk down to current; excellent views; lots of hiking on the esker; trails over to the other sites upstream. We looked for but couldn't find the Bill Mason plaque mentioned in Gene's notes.
200 km to the Bay.

19 July:
We decided to stay over again, for the same reasons. I think it was this day (didn't want to remember I guess) that I tried to cook with my dehydrated beef. It tasted so bad that we burned most of it (quite a stink); Hugh though soldiered through.
Campsite N16: Same place.
200 km to the Bay.

20 July:
Swift (marked) at 043/303.
D1+ (marked) at 055/301; we ran it C.
Comment: We saw our first seal here, 190 km from the Bay.
Swift (marked) at 098/288.
D1- (marked) at 105/284, on R channel around 1st island.
Swift (marked) at 120/284, on L channel around 2nd island.
D3- (marked) at 132/279; big splashy waves with rocks to miss.
D2- (marked) at 147/282; waves only.
Entered map 64I15; 179 km to the Bay.
Scout! D3 (marked) at 163/286. We scouted from the L shore (recommended). A ledge extends from the R almost all the way across, giving a D3 in the C. We did a D1- run down the far L.
D2- (marked) at 178/290; boulder.
D1+ (marked, waves) starting near 193/289, on the L side of the 2nd island.
Rocky swifts (one marked) on the L sides of the islands, from near the end of the 2nd island (of 6) to the end of the 4th.
Comment: Gene's notes show a campsite near 203/303, one not shown in WA.
D2- (parts marked, waves) from near 215/306 to near 222/312.
Rocky swift (marked) at 225/325; we did a clean run on L.
D2+ (marked, rocks and waves) at 231/333, on R side of island.
D1+ (marked) at 244/344.
D2- (marked, rocks and waves) at 251/345.
D2- (marked, rocks and waves) at 270/356.
We pulled in and camped at the Great Island site shown by WA.
Campsite N17: 325/348; Class A site. Good tent sites; good beach; good hiking on the esker across the river.
160 km to the Bay.
Route note: I haven't heard of anyone who has paddled the Lavallee Channel. The first rapid, not far downstream from our site N17, looked bad but we saw it only from a distance. The topos sure don't give a good impression.

21 July:
Scout! D3- (marked) at 319/3354 We scouted from the L shore. We started R of C, turned L and powered to reach the diagonal tongue, went down it and then bashed through big waves to the bottom.
Swift (not marked) starting near 327/304 on the L side of the island.
Swift (not marked) at the constriction (335/278).
Long D1+ (marked) starts after the high islands, near 340/270.
Route note: We went down the L side of the island (at 345/260).
D2- (marked, waves) on the L side of the island, near 347/259.
Swifts (not marked) and a D1 (not marked) from near 347/256 to near 359/249.
Scout! Bastion Rapids (marked) at 372/247. We hugged the R shore, to the R of the island at 371/248. We landed on the R shore (across from the island) and climbed to the top to scout (good view); a rain squall came through. After an easy run around the island, we turned sharply into the main current and kept to the R side through big waves. It was a D2- (waves) as run.
Scout! Peninsula Rapids (marked). D3- starting near 397/245. We landed on the L shore, just before the point (398/246). and scouted. We ferried upstream to the other point (397/246), crossed, turned, ran R of C down the tongue, and then powered hard L to miss the boulders.
We camped just before the next rapids.
Campsite N18: 407/238; Class B site. Steep climb through thick brush (snippers would have been nice to have); good tent sites; good view; no bathing. We knew about the campsite thanks to Gene; it was hard to find though. To reach it, land at 408/237, just past the last point before the rapids, and struggle up.
143 km to the Bay.
As arranged, we spoke with Barbara over the satellite phone. She was at home, having driven with George back from Winnipeg. George was OK but their car had been broken into while parked at the hospital in Winnipeg; they lost cameras, photos and other stuff, including valuables belonging to Charles. She had made arrangements to get Charles, me and gear (including the Blue Steel) by train from Thompson to Toronto. She saved the worst for last, that Herb Pohl had died on Superior; she and George had driven through that violent storm in the same region, the same day.
What a bummer! We could do no better than drink to Herb; this we did.

22 July:
Scout! D1+ (marked) as run but with D3 possibility, 410/237. We scouted this one from the campsite; we ran it R of C, with ledges on both sides.
Entered map 64I16; 139 km to the Bay.
Scout, several times! "9-bar rapids" (name from old topo?); 4 km long, starts near 493/284. We landed on the L, high up; after a very long scout, we ran a stretch of D3- (rocks, waves, sharp course changes), then pulled in again on the L; we decided to stay L rather than cross through all those rocks. There followed a stretch of D1+, then calm water, then some D2- to the point on the L where we landed and scouted the last part. We lined the boats through
(Charles and I unloaded the barrels from the Blue Steel first), then finished off with a D2-. Some parties cross over and line the last part on the right.
All this took a long time and we decided to camp. We saw several possible sites; the first was OK and we stopped there.
Campsite N19: 526/299; Class B site. Good tent sites, up a long steep hill though through thick brush (why didn't we bring snippers?); far from water; good view; no beach.
129 km to the Bay.
We watched the seals sunning themselves on the rocks. A bad storm came up; the others watched it from the tents, but I got caught down by the water and walked up through heavy hail, tearing my bug shirt in the brush.

23 July:
Comment: We passed the water survey station without dropping in.
Fast water (marked) starting near 572/308.
Long rocky swift (marked) starting near 583/316, with much to-ing and fro-ing.
Route note: We chose the slot through 635/333 and did the swift at the end of the island.
Comment: We stopped in at the campsite at the N end of Daniels Island.
Fast water (marked) near 670/315.
Comment: We saw the first tundra on the left.
Fast water (marked) near 696/299 (on L side of island).
Rocky swift (marked) near 697/296.
Comment: We stopped for lunch at a beach on Lavarie Island.
D1+ (marked) at 714/286.
Entered map 54L13; 106 km to the Bay.
Route note: Looking for a campsite, we took the small channel on the L (as suggested by WA), a pleasant paddle but no cigar.
D1- (not marked) starting near 303/237, followed by swifts.
The river below 385/210 figured to be slow due to several rapids and we started looking in earnest for a campsite; the ones shown in WA were not obvious from the water though. Charles found a site (maybe near 317/237), but we figured from the WA map that the WA site had to be downstream; we realized later that we should have stopped. After this fox's paw, we worried that we would miss the WA site at the R turn and pulled in at a point.
Campsite N20: 350/231; Class C site. Very unappealing at first sight but OK; camped on low brush. I broke a tent pole setting up and tore the sleeve for good measure; Iva fixed the sleeve and I the pole.
97 km to the Bay.

24 July:
After passing what looked to be a WA site at the rocky point, we pulled in for a scout at a point on the L.
Scout! D2+ (marked, lots of rocks and big waves) starting near 385/221.
D1- (marked) starting near 391/197.
After some fast water at the turn to the L, we pulled in on the R and scouted.
Scout! About 3 km (marked) of D3- starting at 408/196. After scouting it from the R shore, we hit the water. We started R of C, went farther R, cut to the C, then cut L at the end to avoid a line of rocks; the D3- stretch ends in a D1+ at the runout. It is difficult to scout more than the first bit from shore; after that, you have to improvise (aka do a blind probe).
At the bottom, we watched the seals for some time, then stopped at the peat island (450/185) for lunch and some picture taking. Seals were plentiful both above and at the island.
Long stretch (2 km?) of D2- (continuous, marked) starting near 481/203. Both boats started in the C and then went L; one stayed L and the other went far R.
We did a long slog to the N in a moderate headwind. We were looking for the WA site on the L but stopped maybe 100 m too soon. We passed the latter the next morning; it is larger than our site but I don't know that it is any better. BTW, The sandy area on the R shore looks good to the eye but not so good through glasses.
Campsite N21: 524/298; Class D site (sand).
69 km to the Bay.

25 July:
We did a long slog to the N in a moderate headwind, stopped off at a campsite on the R shore for lunch, then slogged some more.
Entered map 54M4; 55 km to the Bay.
Entered map 54M3; 53 km to the Bay.
Entered map 54L14; 46 km to the Bay.
The wind was coming up, as was a long string of rapids, and we were I guess tired of the wide river, so we pulled in.
Campsite N22: 624/403; Class B site. Beach; hiking on the tundra behind the beach; tent sites in the sand. We camped at better sites on the tundra.
44 km to the Bay.

26 July:
We headed out with a stiff north wind, but it was at our backs once we made the turn.
D1- (not marked) on the L channel around the island at 616/382.
D2+ (marked) at 623/375; centre rocks, moderate waves. Then, right away,
D2- (marked) at 627/374; I think we ran it C; a few rocks to be avoided.
Several swifts.
D1+ (not marked) at 644/367; I think we ran it C.
D2- (marked) at 647/366; think we ran it C; a few rocks to be avoided.
Tambanay Rapids (marked) start near 683/363; about 3 km long. It was a D2- run on the route we took. We started hard R and stayed there for the most part, swinging L at the bottom to avoid a line of rocks from the point (711/367).
Scout! Deadly Rapids (not marked) start near 724/366. It looked like a D3 (big waves) in the C. After scouting it on the R, we ran it very hard R; it was a D2- run (D1+ except for needle-threading between two rocks).
After Deadly, there's a long stretch of shallow water with many boulders, several D1+s and swifts; figuring out where you are is not easy.
Campsite N23: 765/393; Class C site. Marked on WA map; at NW corner of island. Grassy; small landing area; difficult unloading and loading; fairly sharp but short climb; no bathing. Last known site before the Bay.
25 km to the Bay.
We had thought of going beyond 765/393 and taking our chances on a campsite farther down; we were very glad that we had pulled in, for we saw nothing below it although two of us looked fairly hard the next day. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to clear the site; I trimmed some dead stuff to make the site more conspicuous from the water.

27 July:
Trying to reach the mouth around high tide, we got up at 4:30 and hit the water a little after 6, another good idea!
Entered map 54M3; 22 km to the Bay.
We stayed close to the L shore. The trees stop about here. We missed prayer rock, not having time to stop; according to Gene, it is in open country, 250-300 yards from the river, easily visible from there, with access near 805/452. My notes don’t mention the marked rapid at 850/474.
Entered map 54M2; 13 km to the Bay.
Route note: The main channel is fairly easy to spot, except in fog (which Charles had in 1973). We took the channels at 880/483 and 890/487. There's a spot where you can see the Bay clearly, but you have a lot of work to do before you get there; in fact, we had fast water and rocks to dodge all the way to the cabin. It helps to have a GPS handy as you roll along. Deaf Rapids must be scouted; we improvised the rest. On the way, we spotted strange-looking objects out on the Bay; they turned out to be hull-down, whale-watching boats from Seal River Lodge.
D2-, followed by a D2+ and then a D3-, largely as marked in WA; we were travelling too fast to figure out where we were or to take GPS readings.
Scout! Deaf Rapids. The rapids are marked as starting at 941/497 but you should get to the L shore well before then. I recommend that you do as we did, namely go around the L side of the small island at 939/498 and scout; if you go R of the island, you might get caught in the flow and not be able to scout it. BTW, we took the shotgun on the scout. Even in low water, Deaf was pretty impressive; the centre is dangerous, with a big hole. We returned to the boats and did a bump-and-grind, D2+ run hard L; Charles and I got hung up at one point.
At the end, we turned R to avoid the shallow water and thought we were finished with the tough stuff. Surprise! We had to power L immediately to avoid a bad ledge coming out from the R, another D2+ run.
We had ww action all the way to the cabin. We arrived at 11 am, a little after high tide; we unloaded, opened the cabin and set up for the day. Jack has kept his place in good shape, under adverse conditions; bears, fearsome weather and thoughtless paddlers all do their share. One window was broken (we didn't find out how) and the interior was littered with glass, so we swept the floor carefully.
Some of us strolled toward the Bay and looked around from atop a high rock. The main interest was the many belugas, blowing away. Seal River Lodge was visible to the north and Point of the Woods (on I guess the tree "line") to the south, with The Knoll providing some elevation to otherwise level ground.
We went back to the cabin and had lunch on the porch, which is on the side away from the Bay; a green-winged teal with 5 or so youngsters came by and attracted our interest. I'm not so much a birder and chanced to look around the corner of the cabin.
A polar bear was about 80 m away, on top of the rock where we had all stood to watch the belugas, sniffing it intently (Hmmm, what a funny smelling seal?) and apparently looking inquisitively in our direction (Hmmm, what a funny looking/tasting seal?). But the wind, really a light breeze, was blowing toward us and the bear may not have been aware of our presence; still, we were afraid that it would smell our food (which was out) or us. We threw all our stuff into the cabin. Hugh has a lot of experience with black bears and grizzlies, and has spoken about white bears with many Inuit hunters. The Inuit respect them highly and take absolutely no chances; this governed his thinking more than anything else. He decided that if the bangers would get it to move away from our immediate area, then that would be the best solution; he did not want it to investigate our presence, i.e. come any closer. He shot the small banger first, and that did move the bear up the coast, to the north. It was not so frightened that it ran, but moved in the typical slow walk of polar bears. He decided to try a second banger from the shotgun. This was far more effective; there was the noise from the shot when fired, and the second explosion (when the banger got close to the bear) hurried it away. But soon it settled into a lazy, scouting stroll. I want to emphasize that it was a considered decision to use the bangers, made after careful thought conditioned by knowledge and experience; it was definitely not a move done in either panic or fun.
After that experience, we set up the ladder that Jack has provided and mounted a watch from the roof. We watched bear number 1 for a long time. Over the day, through the glasses we saw 5 more bears on the other side of the channel, one single and one mother with 3 cubs.
Hugh was cooking supper when we first noticed number 7, a larger animal that he thinks to be a prime male, eating a seal not far past the high rock. Our guess is that the seal had been stranded in a tidal pool or sunning itself on a rock. We think that we would have seen the bear if it had walked along the coast, so likely it swam in. As the evening went on, the bear dragged the seal up the beach (toward us), and continued to feed on it, taking the occasional rest, and cleaning its bloody front legs; they show up well on Hugh's photos.
After we had eaten, and the breeze had died down, the bear showed ample evidence of being aware of our presence, but also seemed reluctant to leave the seal to investigate the smells coming from the cabin. There was no reason to use a banger, and in any case the bear had food that it was unlikely to leave in any circumstances; we kept a close watch though.
Hugh was quite confident that we would be safe in the cabin for the night, primarily as this animal had food; I, for one, was not so sure. We went to bed, taking what precautions we could. Hugh put a banger in the breach and a slug in the magazine; I think that we slept better as a result. Answering the call in the middle of the night was worrisome though. A helicopter buzzed us around midnight, perhaps on its way to Seal River Lodge, perhaps dropping off a bear from Churchill.
Campsite N24: 971/504; Jack Batstone's cabin. Good place.
0 km to the Bay.

28 July:
We packed up, then strolled down to where number 7 had been eating. Some skin was left and also some drag marks. Likely the bear had been scared away by the helicopter; it sure wasn't going to abandon those numnums. From the roof, we could see two bears on the south shore, one (number 7 we guess) apparently eating.
Jack arrived a bit early. We paddled out several 100 metres to meet him and loaded his boat. After a splashy ride (have your rain gear handy) we arrived in Churchill just before noon, after less than two hours, passing a pod of belugas in the harbour. I was surprised to see only one ship at the dock, more so that it was a cruise ship (with Russian crew); I had expected to see deep-sea ships loading grain. As things are, I wonder whether Churchill without tourists would be a viable community.
Iva and Hugh stayed at Jack's shed. At Jack's suggestion, Charles and I stayed at the Ice Berg Inn, $25 per person per night; it's a good clean place but some clientele have had a rough time. The four of us got together for supper and walked down to the Lazy Bear, only to discover that it is not licensed. We ate at a place I won't name; Iva was sick afterward. We had all our other meals at Gypsy's (recommended).
We saw two helicopters heading north, perhaps carrying bears away from town.

29 July:
Charles and I walked back to the harbour and the four of us packed gear. We moved everything to the train station and then went out on the town. Sights include the Eskimo Museum and the Parks Canada exhibit at the station. Early August is a good time to see the belugas, but not the bears. A South African woman staying at the Ice Berg was disappointed.
The train left pretty well on time. It was almost full though and we didn't sleep so well, not being able to stretch out; Iva even curled up in the aisle.

30 July:
We arrived in Thompson about noon, several hours late; the tracks are in bad shape and getting worse since there seems little interest in keeping them up or money to do so. Most of our fellow passengers got off there. Hugh took a taxi to the airport, picked up his truck (shuttled there by Les) and raced back to the station to get stuff (e.g. my city clothes) left by Barbara after the evacuation. Hugh and Iva left by truck for the west, Iva to meet friends for hiking in the Rockies, Hugh for Kelowna. The same train took Charles and me to Winnipeg, another all-nighter.

31 July:
We arrived in Winnipeg several hours late; the Hudson Bay Rail staff told us that we could get a credit on a later trip. There was no train to Toronto that
day, maybe a good thing since we were so late; on the other hand, maybe it wouldn't have mattered since the train left late the next day. VIA staff were very helpful in getting the Blue Steel and our packs off the train and into overnight storage.
Charles' brother Jim picked us up at the station and drove us to his home where we stayed that night. I called Hendrik Herfst (from our Back trip in
2005). Charles, Hendrik and I met at the McNally-Robinson bookstore and made purchases.
Hendrik drove me to Louis Riel's tomb, to the Grey Nun place for more Riel stuff (I bought a LR T-shirt), and then to the Forks and tourist stuff in the area. He finished off with an architectural tour of downtown Winnipeg (he was an architect earlier). Hendrik and I went for supper with Charles, Jim and their sister Jane.

1 August:
The baggage people in Winnipeg were very helpful getting the Blue Steel and our packs onto the train. And VIA staff invited us to wait in the special lounge and get on the train ahead of the bulk of the passengers. We left in mid-afternoon, several hours late due to equipment failure much earlier.

2 August:
We rolled along, losing time all the way due to a slow freight train ahead. Charles kept in touch with Barbara by phone about our progress. We slept on the train again, for the fourth night in five.

3 August:
We arrived in Toronto at 3 am, seven hours late. No one from VIA informed the passengers that they could apply for credit due to the late arrival. Barbara the Angel was there to meet us. After a long wait, we got our stuff to her car and spent much more time sorting through things. She drove Charles and me home and then left for Huntsville at 5 am; Charles and I got to sleep several hours before she did.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:50,000): 
54L13, 54L14, 54M2, 54M3, 54M4, 64I13, 64I14, 64I15, 64I16, 64J14, 64J15, 64J16, 64K15, 64K16, 64N1, 64O3 & 64O4
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
54L, 54M, 64I, 64J, 64K, 64N & 64O
Special Comments: 


Post date: Tue, 06/26/2012 - 21:22


I paddled from Leaf Rapids to the end of the Seal River on the coast of Hudson Bay in 2010. Jack Batstone wanted to charge us more than the flight company. We flew out from the lake that is close to the tourist camp just North of the estuary of the Seal River. I would not waste my time with Jack. Isn't it crazy that a flight would be cheaper than a boat ride?

Post date: Wed, 08/13/2008 - 21:08


I've been asked about costs.
The drive from Toronto to Lynn Lake (one way, truck with trailer, 5 people and all their gear, one hardshell plus a PakCanoe carried inside) cost $1120 in gas and motels (3 nights, 5 people).
The flight from Lynn Lake to Chatwin Lake cost $2926 (single Otter, six people, two PakCanoes carried inside, one hardshell carried outside). As I remarked in my report, if we had had one PakCanoe and two hardshells, we would have needed a second flight, estimated to cost about $1500.
The pickup at the mouth and ride to Churchill cost $500 per canoe ($250 per person).
The train from Churchill to Thompson cost $56 per person.
The train from Churchill to Toronto cost $317 per person.
Shipping the hardshell from Churchill to Toronto by train cost $86.
The cancellation fee (2 people, Churchill to Thompson) was $32.
The shuttle service from Lynn Lake to Thompson cost $100 (one vehicle), pretty cheap in my opinion.
And we paid $200 for the shotgun plus ?? for slugs and "crackers".
Yours in paddling, Allan