Squaw River

CanadaOntarioHudson Bay, James Bay north
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
W. Perry Jameson
Trip Date : 
June 2006
Additional Route Information
Distance: 
150 km
Duration: 
6 days
Loop Trip: 
No
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
9
Total Portage Distance: 
1200 m
Longest Portage: 
250 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Advanced
Lake Travel: 
Novice
Portaging: 
Difficult
Remoteness: 
Advanced
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Unknown
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

 

Technical Guide: 

Vehicle shuttle from outfitters on Cordingly Lake near Nakina to starting point at South end of Squaw Lake. Then 80 miles down the Squaw to the confluence of the Little Current.
Fly out from prearranged site on Little Current River

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Squaw River Canoe Trip (log) June 2006

Introduction (Why the Squaw?)
We have canoed now for over thirty years, but much of that, over last decade, was done in the Nakina area. This area provides some beautiful rivers, remote, but easily accessible. These rivers also provide spectacular fishing for Speckled Trout and Walleye. There are three primary rivers accessed from Nakina, the Drowning, Esnagami, and Squaw. The latter two require a fly out. We had canoed the Esnagami in 96 and 02 and the Drowning in 04 (logs are on line). That left only the Squaw to complete the trilogy. We were somewhat hesitant about the Squaw since our research showed it to be a serious white water river and very remote. This, combined with our ages, put the Squaw at the end of or our list each year when trip planning started. Nevertheless some of us, myself included, felt the need to canoe this river before we got any older. In addition I insisted on adding a couple of days to the time normally required to complete this trip. That would give us more time to relax and fish or to provide a buffer if we ran into problems. The others readily agreed.

We were armed with two logs for this trip, one from an experienced Wisconsin canoeist John Trzcinko, and another very old log from a young group of Americans. Both logs indicated serious whitewater and the older log referenced research designating the river “uncanoeable”

Equipment
There would be four of us and we would travel in two boats, a 16.5 ft, Swift Dumoine and a 17 ft. Nova Craft Prospector. I include a dictaphone to record the log and this year, for the first time, we rented a satellite phone. The latter was the subject of much debate, but we voted in favor after agreeing that it would only be used in an emergency.
We bring seven primary packs (one kitchen barrel, four personal packs, and two Duluth food packs with the standard olive barrel configuration). We also include lawn chairs and numerous small packs for beer and wine and a collapsible cooler for our first day fresh meal. This gear, combined with other loose items (chowder), makes for three carry portages. We do not pack light, but we allow plenty of time for rest and relaxation at the campsite. Our tents are Eureka Mountain Pass 4’s.

The Crew
Perry Jameson, age 55 and author of this log, stern man in the Dumoine.
Duane Inkpen, age 44, token Newfy, strong man, care giver for the old guys, my bow man.
Ed Allen, age 55 Great Northern Guide (GNG), stern man in the Prospector
John Aikin, age 63, Wilderness Survival Expert, bow man in the Prospector

The Trip Log
All map references are in miles, but being Canadian, I use meters for all other descriptions. We use 1:50000 top maps marked off with mile one at the south end of Squaw Lake, our anticipated starting point. We also have John Trzcinko’s 2004 log mentioned above. Our maps show a trip length of about 80 miles to the Little Current and then a ten mile drift down the Little Current to our fly out point. We plan for nine days, ten nights on the river. John’s 1994 trip started in Cammack Lake so his trip was about 10 miles longer.

The Drive, 060622
Normally we would drive north from Port Huron, Mi, but the Americans’ increasing paranoia about Canadian meat products requires that two of us travel the longer Canadian route this year to avoid the risk of having our dehydrated meals seized at the border. We will meet the rest of our crew in Sault Ste. Marie.
Ed and I are away from my cottage near Parry Sound at 0630. We stop for breakfast at Wendy’s in Parry Sound and depart at 0715. The weather is foggy, overcast, and warm. We reach Massey at 1000 and the Sault at 1230. Duane and John pull into the shopping centre parking lot within five minutes of our arrival. We have a brief lunch at Tim Hortons and reach the Wawa trading post at 1335. We reach White River at 1700. Our weather is now a sun cloud mix with a temperature of 16C. After a short stop to tighten the wheel nuts on Eddie’s trailer, we depart White River at 1730. We complete the Hornepayne road and stop at the Pito Pico creek rest area at 1920. The mosquitos (mossies) and black flies are thick. We reach Geraldton and, after pizza at the Blue Lagoon, depart for Nakina at 2230. The sun has set, but there is still plenty of light in the sky. We arrive at Northland Outfitters in Nakina at 2313. We will spend the night at Grant Mackie’s cabin here before he takes us to our put in point in the morning.

Day one, 060623 (Bodkin Creek) (Mile 1 – 13)
We are awakened early to the sounds of Lunenberger planes taking off from Cordingly Lake in front of our cabin. Duane is up first at 0520 followed shortly by myself. The day is cool and cloudy and we are all excited to be off. Our accommodation was excellent and Grant Mackie advises that the cost for both the cabin and the shuttle will be $253 including taxes. We go for breakfast at the “French Club” in Nakina, the current establishment offering restaurant services, and we are pleasantly surprised with an excellent breakfast. We meet a local named Norm Vernier who, while not a canoeist, has fished parts of the Squaw including Feagle rapids. We return and complete most of our packing by 0930 and then confirm, with Lunenberger, our pick up on the Little Current on July 1. The weather is now a sunny 18C.

We complete the shuttle by 1045 and have the packs loaded by 1105. The trail from the road to the south bay of Squaw Lake is only about 50m. The day is now sunny and warm. We have our first minor glitch when I realize I have forgotten my collapsible rod on the deck of Grant’s cabin. However I have my reel and we have spare rods so no harm done. 1140 finds us at mile 2 under a cloudy sky, light breeze at our backs and 27C. We reach mile 5 at 1300 and stop for a break at a small island. We note a potential campsite on river right at mile 6 with a large flat rock on a rocky point and space for one or two tents.

We reach the end of Squaw Lake, mile 8 at 1350 and look forward to Squaw Rapids. This will be our first opportunity to gauge the water levels and we are hoping they are below normal to allow us some chance to survive this river. We are not disappointed. The water levels are clearly low. Where others had portaged or run empty canoes, we had an easy, but tight ride down a channel with low water. I would rate it a class one to two in our water levels.
We continue on down the river while the boys rig up their fishing gear. The mossies are very rich and the temperature is bouncing around a bit. It was down to 19C an hour ago and is now back up to 28C. We encounter a class one riffle at mile 10 which we bump and scrape our way through on the left side. The time is 1445. Just below this riffle John Aikin brings in the first fish, a Northern Pike. As it turns out this will be the only fish caught today in spite of Duane’s best efforts and the loss of three jigs. At 1530 we run the second rapid after Squaw rapids at mile 11. This is a pretty little class one that zigzags its’ way down to a pool at the bottom. It could be more serious in high water, but is an easy run this time.

At mile 12 we notice a high rock shelf that could make do for a campsite. Just after this at 1600 we encounter another rapid with two parts to it. We bump and grind our way down the first one and then, shortly after, Duane and I run the next section while John and Eddie line their canoe down. No question the low water is making this easier.

We continue on down river at a leisurely pace keeping our eyes open for a camp site. The weather is now beautiful, sunny, and warm. The river moves right along with some riffles and at about 1700 we find a camp site at mile 13.5 just before Bodkin Creek. The river splits around a small island with a straight chute down the left side that drops into a large pool. We run it easily then proceed to make camp on the left bank of this chute.

By 1810 we have carved out a camp site for our two tents. It’s a little tight, but a thing of beauty. The mossies are not as bad as we have seen them although none of us can quite recall when they were worse. We will have a steak dinner tonight courtesy of chef Duane. By 1940 we are all very relaxed, Duane possibly too much so, as he throws the steaks onto the grill with such abandon that we think alcohol is involved. Ed confesses that he forgot both his fish glove and the fire wand (2 ft of 1/4 in copper tubing with a mouth piece) so we will have to make do without those two luxuries. By 2035 we finish dinner. John claims that it was the finest strip sirloin dinner he had ever had with baked potato with green beans at this campsite on this particular day. After dinner we relax and enjoy a beautiful evening. The mossies are moderate, the black flies almost nonexistent. The campsite is a little tight on personal space, but makes up for it in ambience. By 2200 we pack it in for the night. All in all a great day and we covered more miles than we had planned.

Day two, 060624 (Vanderlip Falls) (Mile 13 – 25)
We wake up at 0600 to a beautiful crisp 2C day with a thick mist hanging over the pool in front of us. Too cool even for the mossies yet, but they show up as the temperature climbs to 8C at 0800. We have a gut buster breakfast of sausage and eggs and by 1015 we are afloat. Day is now warm with a sun cloud mix. We stay and fish for 30 minutes in this pool, but no luck. The island in the centre of this channel could also be a possible campsite for a couple of tents.

We proceed down river and after a couple of small riffles we hit Bodkin Creek on the left side at 1105. We paddle on and at 1140 we reach mile 15 which our log claims is an unrunnable rapid. We complete our scout by 1200 and we concur as even in low water it looks like it would be a difficult and dangerous line plus we can’t see all the way around the corner. We find an old very overgrown portage trail on the right side just at the start of the falls in a rocky inlet. We get our saws out and start clearing. The trail never strays far from the river and we make our three trips by 1345 and are afloat in the pool at the bottom. It was hot and there were a few bugs of the biting kind on that portage, but black flies were noticeably absent. We have now covered about 2 miles in 3.5 hours so a little slow, but still within plan. According to our maps it looks like we now have about 10 miles of easy paddling to Vanderlip Falls so we open a beverage or two and set out.

The river is narrow, gravel bottom, beautiful, and so is the day, sunny, warm, with a light breeze at our backs. At 1750 we encounter a major log jam at mile 22 but we find a 50m portage and get through in about a half hour. At 1840 we come to another log jam at mile 23 and yet another short portage. There looked to be a potential campsite on a small rocky point at mile 23.5 on the left hand side. We finally arrive at Vanderlip Falls at 1935 where we will camp for the night.

Camp is set by 2100 on a small mudflat up a steep bank river right and above the falls. This is also the portage. It’s not much to look at and there is no good view of the falls or any place to bathe, but there are lots of tent sites. The river splits into two branches with the left branch disappearing around a corner which we expect is the falls, but we could only see the near smaller channel. We have a chili dinner and retire. Bit of a long and tiring day, but the weather is perfect and spirits are good.

Day three, 060625 (Joyce Falls) (Mile 25 – 31)
We are up at 0600 to greet a beautiful day. Temperature is 5C so no bugs yet. Experience has taught us to allow plenty of time on these trips and at this point we only need to cover 7.5 miles in the next two days. Today we plan to paddle only 3 to 4 miles to the Muskeg portage and camp at the first decent campsite we see. We are afloat below Vanderlip falls by 1040. At 1115 we arrive at the start of Muskeg portage which we have no intention of portaging. Instead we will line and canoe our way down. Our first encounter is a 1m high shelf spanning the river. Could be tough in high water, but for us we only need a place to drag the canoes over. We end up dragging mostly loaded canoes about 5m around the shelf on the left side and into the pool below. The time is 1140. There was a decent looking rocky campsite on the right side shortly after the shelf, but we decided not to stay there since the fishing looked poor. We continue to paddle, line, run, and bump & scrape our way through and by 1500 we realize we are probably through the rapids. There wasn’t much to them in our water levels, but apparently in high water there would be a couple of good drops and some big water spread out over a couple of miles.

For a while we are thinking we should have taken that first campsite we saw because there may not be another one until Joyce falls and we are slightly ahead of schedule, but as it turns out we are glad we kept moving. We have a wonderful paddle in fast water, running riffle after riffle all the way to Joyce Falls. In our low water levels the challenge is to find the channel, but if you miss, it’s just a matter of stepping out of the canoe. Fishing is not too good, but a beautiful day, lots of beverages, and a beautiful paddle without portages.

We reach Joyce Falls at mile 31 by 1630. We clear the 200m portage river right and work our way to the end below the falls. No real campsites, but Ed turns certain disaster into a chance for survival and we manage to cut two campsites out of the alders at the end of the portage with a view of the falls and with our fire pit basically built over the water. This campsite would not likely be available in high water. This is a spectacular and beautiful falls. We all do some fishing, catch a few small specks, and then Ed takes a hike to the base of the falls and returns with a 2lb speckled trout. Not to be outdone, Duane hikes up to the falls and returns with a 3 pounder. So we have two beautiful speckled trout for dinner plus 3 smaller ones which we cook up with rice, onions, and carrots. We finish dinner and settle down to relax by 2020. Bathing has been a problem on this trip, largely because of the horse fly problem. The latter seems only to have developed in the last 5 years because we all recall earlier trips where you could bathe easily without enduring the pain of a 100 horsefly bites and these guys look big and mean. Tomorrow we are only planning to cover a mile and a half to the next unnamed falls and find a way to bathe regardless. So another perfect day without too much work. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Day four, 060626 (Unnamed (Bedard) Falls) (Mile 31 – 33)
We are up a little later than normal (0730) since we all know we don’t have far to go today, only a couple of miles. Another beautiful cloudless day, already warm, and the mosquitos are out to greet us. Duane has a couple of early morning casts and pulls in another nice 1lb speck.

Breakfast this morning is bagels with peanut butter & jam along with some slab bacon. John was fishless yesterday and so he spends some time at the falls, but only manages to lose a few lures.

Some equipment notes. Ed comments that his small folding saw broke yesterday after many years of service, but we still have 3 left. Next trip we might bring a small pair of pruners to help with campsite clearing. Duane lost his micron bulb equipped flashlight when he bent over the water and on the useless side I remind all that we brought several pounds of rope and some large tarps that will likely never be used.

Today we only have a couple of miles to go so we will get away late. In the mean time we set up a horse fly proof bathing area under the overturned Nova Craft complete with a submerged lawn chair. We enjoy a bug free bath and a couple of beers. It is now 1030 and the day is hot, even the mossies have disappeared. The water temperature is 20C.
We start packing up around 1130 and are away by 1230. The day is now a hot 28C with a slight breeze at our backs. The boys are fishing and Ed picks up a couple of beautiful two pounders in the first 10 minutes. We can even see the trout in the shallows. At 1255 Duane catches his first of the day near a small spring on river right. We come to a small creek at mile 32.5 and we spend some time fishing. The trout seem limitless here with every cast landing a speckled trout in the 2lb to 3lb range. Even I, not normally a fisherman, ask Duane to hand me his rod. A single cast produces yet another good sized speck. I hand the rod back to Duane with thanks.

We reach the next falls at mile 33.5 at 1325 and find a portage on river right just at the start of the falls. We spend a couple of hours doing some cutting and scouting on the portage trail and opt to pitch our tents in a small clearing near the start of the portage after removing an old fire pit. Certainly the previous canoeists that built this fire missed out on a spectacular campsite a few meters further down the trail. About 1/3 of the way down the portage we find a small trail on the left that leads to a beautiful open rocky area with a beautiful view of a 2m falls and here we set up our main camp. There is little in the way of campsite possiblities at the end of the portage which is about 100m long. By 1530 we have beautiful camp set up on these rocks pretty much in the middle of the rapids with a good high canoe table and a canoe covered bathing area. In fact this may be the nicest kitchen area we have ever had as it includes running water at our feet. We don’t even have to gather fire wood as we build our fire pit beside a large pile of pre stacked drift wood. At 1640 it starts to rain reasonably hard and Duane is thrilled that he will finally get to use the tarps we have packed in. I admit that I was wrong about the tarps although I should have held back on that admission since it stopped raining at 1645. The temperature soon drops to a very pleasant 21C under cloudy skies.

We are all feeling very relaxed at this beautiful site and we enjoy a beverage and more fishing. Duane wanders back to the start of the portage to try his luck, while John throws his line into the bathing pool near our kitchen area. Ed fishes from a large rock in the middle of the rapids. Duane brings back another one pounder to supplement the earlier catch, John catches and releases a two and a three pounder, while Ed has no success.

We enjoy a relaxing evening and cook up a gut buster of a meal of rice, carrots and trout. By 2030 dinner is over and Ed retires immediately. He was hurting from the prior evening when he might have had a few too many “bug killers” (hot Tang & rye) at the expense of Duane’s rye. Ed returns briefly to get some water and I try a couple of casts with his rod only to snag his lure in the bathing pool.

We all pack it in by 2200 under a clearing sky. Another perfect day.

Worth noting in hindsight, I saw Duane slip off a log while fishing at the top of the portage and I noticed a splash. From my distance of 80m I thought he might actually have fallen in so I moved over towards the falls just in case he came floating down. When he reappeared at the top of the portage I thought no more about it.

Day five, 060627 (Unnamed (Brook Trout) Falls) (Mile 33 – 36)
Duane wakes me up at about 0200 and asks me to look at his behind. I warn him that if this is a joke I might have to kill him. Turns out he bruised himself fairly badly just above the left buttock in his fall yesterday and was now in some discomfort. I couldn’t see much by flashlight so we agreed to let it wait until morning.

Duane and I are up early and down at the main camp site by 0645. The weather is a cool 8C under a partly cloudy sky. We agree to discuss his injury with the group and I pray he is not badly injured. The plan today is to cover about 2 miles to the next falls. Our old log mentions a hard uncut portage on the left side that took the previous group over three hours to get through.

When all are present Duane drops his drawers in dramatic fashion and we see more than is required to assess his injury. The bruise looks bad and is growing, but Duane agrees to keep the satellite phone in the pack for now and carry on. We have a breakfast of oatmeal and start packing up shortly after 0900. By 1025 we are on our way. We have a pleasant drift for the next 45 minutes although the cool gray weather has certainly brought out the mossies. We reach the next falls at 1110 at mile 36. While Duane and Ed scout the rapids, John and I decide to start clearing a portage on the left side. We opt for an aerobic 250m path on the left side that will take us up a good sized ridge.

This rapid has two impressive falls about 2-3 meters in height with a large 100m pool in between. The group that canoed here in 1979 named this rapid “Brook Trout Falls” The pool is inaccessible from the left side and one can only imagine what the fishing must be like there.

The portage is tough and takes over two hours. We are a tired bunch as we rest with our gear below the falls at about 1330. At one point I actually saw Duane resting part way up the portage trail (a first) and again I wonder just how serious that bruise is and how much blood he has lost.

From our vantage point at the end of these falls we can see a class one rapid in front of us that bends left around a small point. At 1415 we are about 100m below the falls and have just eddied out on the right side where we noticed an old tree blaze. We take a short walk up and find an old portage trail on river right, but it is littered with deadfalls and we go no further. It may be worth considering this portage as it might provide a campsite on the pool in between the falls. We’ll never know.

We proceed another few meters down river and make camp on river left on a large rock shelf. By 1550 we have carved out a pretty decent campsite although it is a little tight.
We debate whether or not we actually did a portage today or just a “carry to camp” since we are only just over 100m below the falls. Duane ends the debate with the declaration that it was definitely a portage and an arduous one at that.

1720 finds us relaxed and enjoying a beverage under a gray sky, slight breeze, and a pleasant 17C. Dinner tonight will be Jambalaya. We again examine Duane’s injury which has now grown. Dr. John offers his assessment that it looks like two pounds of liver. I’m guessing that Duane has lost over a pint of blood at this stage, but he’s a trooper and insists he feels ok. By 1910 we have finished a huge meal of Jambalaya and are now enjoying after dinner cigars and beverages. John opts to retire early, likely because he put away three servings at dinner. The rest of us hang in there until 2100 and then retire before sunset. I recap in my mind that we paddled 45 minutes and did a two hour and 15 minute portage in cool temperatures and we are now exhausted. Makes me wonder how we would fare in 30c weather, with higher water and a couple of portages. We’re all getting older.

Also a note that our last three campsites were probably accessible from an old fly in camp on Papoose Lake, but we saw no evidence of any use for several years.

Day six, 060628 (Feagle Falls) (Mile 36 – 48)
I’m up at 0630 under a mostly blue sky and a temperature of 9C. By 0855 we have finished a fine breakfast of pancakes and slab bacon courtesy of Duane. The plan today is to cover about 12 miles to Feagle Falls at mile 48 although our log does show a couple of log jams along the way. The boys break out the fly fishing gear in anticipation of fishing some of the spring holes. We are away by 1020.

The river is very shallow and occasionally we have to step out of our canoes, but the going is easy and we enjoy picking out the centre channel as the river meanders. At 1135, mile 38.5 we stop to fish a small creek coming in on river left. The creek temperature at 21C is 3C cooler than the main river and all (except me) catch some small trout. We continue on at 1205, fishing as we go. Pretty much every riffle, log jam, or undercut yields a speckled trout. At 1335 we pass a small dried up creek on river left at mile 43. AT 1410 we encounter our first log jam, but in our low water we are able to go under the single large tree blocking the river. At 1510 we arrive at Feagle Falls after a very pleasant and relaxing 12 mile paddle.

Feagle Falls is an impressive 5m falls with two large drops and is about 30m across. It would be even more impressive in high water. By 1635 camp is established. We pitch our tents in a well established clearing near the top of the falls on river right. There is evidence of visitors here and it looks like locals access these falls via ATV. We set up our kitchen on the large flat rock below the falls. There is plenty of room for the kitchen, chairs, fire pit, and a great bathing area. We all bathe and true friendship is tested when we take turns waving off the horse flies with hats as the bather/partner emerges and dresses.

We all fish in the large pool below the falls. As usual the fishing is great, but the character of the fishing has changed. Not many trout, but lots of bass, pike, and walleye. Duane catches and releases a 3lb smallmouth. Even I caught 3 Pike and a small Walleye.
Dinner tonight was to be spaghetti, but we opt for fish instead. We cook up rice, onions, and bacon to accompany the fish and dinner is ready around 1900. The temperature is a pleasant 25C, but there is no shade in the kitchen area and I’m guessing it’s 35C around the fire.

At 2125 John has retired and the rest of us are enjoying bug killers around the fire. The last of my rum is gone so hopefully my partner is in a sharing mood. The plan tomorrow is to canoe only 1 mile to the next unnamed rapid which may just be a lower part of Feagle Falls.
By all accounts today was spectacular, a very easy 12 miles, no portages, beautiful weather, great fishing, and a beautiful campsite. It’s what you wish for when you come on these trips.

Day seven, 060629 (Lower Feagle Falls) (Mile 48 – 49)
I am up at 0710 and try some fishing. My second cast yields a nice 2lb pickerel. It clouds up by 0800 and looks a little ominous, but after a brief shower things started to improve by 0815. We have the tents packed up by 0825 before things can get any wetter. We have a simple breakfast of oatmeal and bagels and are on our way by 0915 under a dark grey sky, with high humidity and a temperature of 14C. Our plan today is to paddle only about a mile to the next falls, then kick back and do some fishing.

At 0955 we reach Lower Feagle Falls about 1.5 miles downriver. Duane asks how far we will travel today and I tell him “this is it”. There is a short 100m portage on the left and a campsite half way down on a raised area, but we elect to camp on a sandy beach at the end of the portage. This choice would not likely be available in higher water.

These falls are more rapid than falls although the total drop is probably six or seven meters spread out over several drops, definitely not runnable. We have camp set by 1115 and Duane erects a shelter on the beach using tarps, ropes, and poles cut from dead trees. In the end it looks like a beach resort. We now have a steady rain and the shelter is much appreciated.

Certainly this is the earliest we have ever camped and the shortest paddle in our history. The extra few days allowed has made this trip a real vacation with lots of extra time for fishing and enjoying the wilderness. Too often in the past we have had to rush by perfect campsites or shorten our fishing in order to keep to our schedule.
1350 finds us getting mellow after a few beers and lots of fishing. The pool yields plenty of Pike, Bass, and Walleye. The sun comes out around 1445 and the temperature rises to about 20C. For the rest of the day we do nothing but relax and reflect that life doesn’t get much better than this.

John offers to make me something called a dream catcher using a small donut shaped rock that I picked up just below brook trout rapids. We finish a spaghetti dinner with garlic toast bagels at 1930. By 2130, after a few bug killers, we turn in after a very pleasant 11 hours on this beach. John remarks that the reason we are retiring early is because when you do nothing all day you can’t stop and take a break.

Tomorrow we plan to cover 30 miles to the confluence of the Little Current. Hopefully there will be enough water to float our boats.

Day eight, 060630 (The confluence) (Mile 49 – 87)

I am up at 0550 to greet a beautiful sunny day and a temperature of 7C with very few mossies. By 0745 breakfast is on the go as Duane cooks up some pancakes and bacon. By 0935 we are packed and on the water looking forward to a very long run of white water. In high water this next 30 miles could be a little too exciting, but we anticipate a much easier, if slower ride, with our low water levels. Our older log references a time of only 4.5 hours from here to the Little Current, but we anticipate twice that length of time. 1105 finds us well down river under a cloudless sky and a pleasant temperature of 18C. We decide to open the bar as we travel. The first few miles were constant riffles and we were able to slowly pick our way down the centre channel without too many scrapes. Now things have flattened out a little and we are able to put the paddles to work. We get to Papoose creek, mile 57, at 1215 so gauging our current speed we estimate a total of nine hours or another 6.5 to the confluence. It will be a long day, but nobody is complaining. The bar is open, not a cloud in the sky, and 24C. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

At 1230 we have our first sturgeon sighting. We see several more as we drift along over a sand and gravel bottom. I think we are all a little awestruck to see these giants darting from under our canoes in a true wilderness environment.

1325 finds us at the mouth of the Little Squaw River at mile 60. The drift/paddle is just wonderful and by 1640 we are at mile 70. There appears to be a potential campsite here on the left hand side where we notice a large rock shelf. We reach the confluence at 1855 and now start to look for a campsite. At 1920 we check out an island in the Little Current just down from the confluence, but it is so mosquito ridden, that we pass it by. We then go across to the left bank to check out an old trapper’s cabin that had been used by previous canoeists in 1994. However twelve years have since taken their toll and the cabin is now roofless and returning to the earth so we move on. At 2040 we find a possible campsite on the left bank at about mile 80, but Ed does not declare it as home and we move on again.

Finally at 2110 we find a campsite at mile 86.5 on river right that appears to be the same one John Trzcinko and his boy stayed at in 2004. It is about 200m past a group of 4 small islands and is on a grassy bank above a gravelly shore. The hour is late, but I manage to put together a hurried meal of slops (ground beef, onions, mushroom soup, peas, over mashed potatoes) and we still manage to get the dishes cleaned up by 2250 while there is light in the sky. Duane cuts his two remaining cigars in half and we enjoy stogies and bug killers as darkness sets in.

It’s been a long day and we covered 38 miles with relatively little effort as we floated, paddled, and picked our way down the fast moving river. Wow, what a great way to finish.

Day nine, 060701 (The take out) (Mile 87 – 92)
We are up at 0750, a little later today, under a gray sky, slight breeze and a temperature of 12C. John is preparing a simple breakfast of oatmeal and precooked bacon along with our last bagel. Our food situation was pretty well estimated as we have little left over save some powdered milk, one package of drink crystals, some Kraft dinner, and a package of Fettuccini Alfredo. The Little Current is moving quickly, but this is as low as I’ve ever seen it. By 1100 we are packed up and on the river. We are to meet our float plane at mile 92 at about 1300 if things go as planned. We start our drift in light drizzle and a cool 15C and by 1315 we reach our take out point. We have been here before as this is where Lunenberger’s air service likes to do their pickups. We notice that the water levels are about 3 feet lower than they were in 1996 and about 1 foot lower than they were in 2002. By 1700 when no plane arrives, we pull out the satellite phone and call the air service. We are advised that they are not flying today because of heavy rain in Nakina so we call our families and advise them that we will be a day late. By 1950 we have finished our Fettuccini dinner and the sky has cleared. We stay up a while longer, but with no beverages or cigars, and an abundance of mosquitos, we finally retire after bemoaning our poor beverage planning. So a quiet and uneventful day as we all reflect on the previous 8 days and the realization that the trip is almost over. From my perspective at least, it was one of the best trips ever.

Day ten, 060702 (Headed for home)
We are up early by 0500 and start packing up. The weather is clear and we call the outfitters who confirm they should be there by 0620. In the mean time we brew some coffee and wait. True to their word the Otter arrives on time. By 0650 our pilot fires up the engine and we are ready to go. A slight glitch as our pilot is advised at 0720 that Nakina is fogged in so we set down in Samuelson Lake to wait for things to clear. We pull up to another cabin where we take on two more passengers so it appears we were scheduled to stop here anyway. By 0835 we are again on our way. We are back in Cordingly Lake by 0850 and by 0955 we have our gear packed and are back at Northland Outfitters and taking advantage of Grant Mackie’s shower facilities. Then we head for home. It was a wonderful trip, but there’s a bit of melancholy in the group as most of us realize that this may be the end of an era and the last of this type of real wilderness tripping.

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We canoed the river in low water which made the trip relatively easy. With another meter of water, the white water and lining would be more challenging.