Sandy River

CanadaSaskatchewanUpper Churchill
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Terry Johnson
Trip Date : 
Additional Route Information
245 km
8 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
3000 m
Longest Portage: 
700 m
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

June 21,2009 Terry Johnson and Doug Monger set out to explore the Sandy River and connect with the Paull river. It's about a 3 day paddle just to get to the mouth of it where it empties into the North Bay of Black Bear island lake on the Churchill River. We put in on Nemeiben Lake and paddled to Besnard Lake and down Besnard creek to Black Bear Island lake. That was done in 3 days. Besnard creek was rather high and we walked our 2 solo canoe down the 5 sets of rapids. In 5 trips down here we have never portaged that section.

The 4th day we paddled to the end of North Bay and entered the Sandy river. A short way up we paddled up a swift break in a beaver dam. A 8 wheel drive ATV was parked above there, probably from winter use. About 1 k later we hit a class 2-3 rapid and we pulled the canoes up it for 40 m. Then we looked up and saw a big rapid ahead (Class 4). It had a very good portage on the left side with logs to roll boats on (50 m). There was also a nice boat dock on the top end. We had entered Campbell lake. I think there is a Campbell Lake lodge on the west side of the lake but we saw no one.

Campbell lake is about a 15 k paddle. It is a nice lake with a big island splitting it, called Mac Kay island. Recent fires (2007-8) have burnt much of the woods here, mostly on the North East side. The fire even blackened some islands several hundred meters off shore. Still there is plenty of unburnt areas and good campsites.

At the head of the lake there is a big rapids (class 4) with a 150 m portage on the right. This is a poor portage, not made for canoers. It is a way for fishermen to get up to the boat on the next lake. It was very wet and swampy with a few slippery boards placed on rocks, sometimes in the river. We got the portage done OK with canoes overhead.

This put us in a narrow 3 k long lake (just SE of Putnam Lake) that was burned on the East side. At the head end was another Class 4 rapid with a very poor portage on the right. It was about 150 m long. It had trees across it and we would have to drag canoes thru it due to low limbs. We had already gone 45 k that day with 2 portages and a drag. The next lake looked swampy with poor outlook for camps untill we did a second portage. We were in a spruce swamp with more than a few bugs and no place to camp.

So, we paddled down the lake about 2 k to the only possible campsite in the burned area to contemplate the next day. Looking at the map 73P/14 we saw we could expect maybe 5 portages to get to McTavish lake and Zbarsky Bay followed by 7 more portages all over the next 30 K, to get to the Paull River, just above Kipp Falls. It was unlikely the portages got any easyier, maybe just drags up the rapids except where there are falls. Maybe Lucifer's Portage was up there. It probably could be done in one day with a rested crew or two days for tired old paddlers.

In any case we decided to head back down in the morning, leaving exploration of the Sandy River to others, or maybe next year.

Maps Required
Other Maps:


Post date: Wed, 05/25/2016 - 08:19


Partly inspired (daunted?) by this trip report, we completed this trip in August 2015. I just created a trip report "Besnard Lake to Paull River to Otter Lake" that gives an overview.