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Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan
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Author:  SteveP [ January 13th, 2018, 4:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Greetings from Nova Scotia! It is that time of year when I dream of summer tripping and my thoughts turned to Saskatchewan for somewhere new. I thinking of a solo trip lasting 2-3 weeks in August-September, no hard and fast deadlines, running 2s with maybe an easy 3 thrown in. I bought Laurel Archer's book and the Waterfound/Fond du Lac combination looks very attractive. I was wondering how busy it gets as solitude is a big bonus for me.


Author:  Paddle Power [ January 13th, 2018, 5:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

I canoed the Waterfound and Fond du Lac years ago and recall only meeting the odd other person.

Author:  raven4 [ January 13th, 2018, 9:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Clearwater River is another good option...its in Laurel's book. With that much time you could do Lloyd Lake right to Fort McMurray and have time to check out the Methye Portage as a side trip. Lots of long class 2 sections, some three's... awesome fishing and waterfalls, a few pictographs. Portages around all the big stuff.

Author:  Alan Gage [ January 16th, 2018, 9:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Are you paddling in and out or willing to fly one way? My only experience in that area was driving to Hidden Bay on Wollaston Lake and striking out for Nueltin Lake, which I didn't make since time started running out (I wasn't flying so had to paddle back out too). I went up to Putahow Lake instead. It's a fairly well documented historical route (read Sleeping Island by Downes) but doesn't seem to be much traveled nowadays. I was gone for 6 weeks and other than some boats from the fly-in lodge on Wollaston Lake the first couple days I didn't see a soul.

There are multiple routes you could take out of Wollaston or Kasmere Lakes. Lots of remote country up there to explore.


Author:  SteveP [ January 16th, 2018, 4:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

I was expecting to drive up to Points North Landing and fly in and out, at least for the Waterfound/Fond du Lac route. Expensive I know, but I don't think I'll have too many paddling years left so I might as well spend the kid's inheritance while I can!.

I did also consider the Clearwater River but Laurel's book recommends an early season trip because of water levels, and I don't like the sound of paddling anywhere near Fort Mac.

Thanks for the suggestions!

Author:  jmc [ January 16th, 2018, 7:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

SteveP -

When I was in Points North a few years back (2012), the pilot told me that they were able to drive paddlers in to the Waterfound/Fond du Lac route. There is a good new road passing by Waterbury Lake, serving the Cigar Lake mine, so the only question would be whether it it still open to the public. It would be worth checking with Points North on this.

If you are willing to spend the kids' inheritance, the Porcupine is worth a thought, great scenery and less travelled than the Waterfound / Fond du Lac (I believe). I saw no other canoeists and just one party of fishermen on my McIntyre / Porcupine trip in 2012. A start on the McIntyre or East Porcupine, finishing below Burr Falls, would involve 2 fairly short flights and almost certain solitude. I have a short trip report and some photos in the Saskatchewan trip reports forum: ... 12&t=40230

Last summer Osprey Wings (who operates the air charter service at Points North) had 2 aircraft there, a Beaver and a turbine Otter. If I recall correctly the Beaver was being quoted at $11.00+ per mile. Be prepared for some sticker shock.

Finally, depending on your vehicle, you may be willing to challenge the road to Stony Rapids - which might reduce flying distances for some routes. The road is gradually improving, year by year.


Author:  SteveP [ January 18th, 2018, 6:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Hey jmc,

Thanks for the info, your trip looks wonderful and a great report! I'm tempted to retrace your route. How did you find the rapids on the Porcupine? Archer's book makes them sound quite intimidating, do you think her grading is about right? Also, how was the gravel road up to Points North?T


Author:  jmc [ January 18th, 2018, 11:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

SteveP -

My impression was that the water level I had on the Porcupine was a bit higher than the level from the Archer book - not "flood" but certainly "full". That being said, I think her ratings were quite fair: I was not paddling a covered boat, and anything she rated as 3 and up was something I wanted to avoid.

The good side was that there were "sneak" routes, liftovers, and bits of lining to be done so I never really had to paddle anything that I wasn't sure about emerging upright from. Plus most of the portages described in the book seemed a little bit better defined than I had expected, likely just from traffic on the river between her trips and mine. Some of the portages, however, do involve walking on steep lichen covered rock, and could be extremely slippery in wet and rainy weather.

My one near swim was in a rapid she rated as 2+, steep with lots of boulders. The boulders were almost all submerged, but created short, steep waves that filled the boat a bit at a time. I was lucky to find an eddy to bail in halfway down, and bailed again at the bottom.

When I was there, the road to Points North was a good gravel road. I drove it in a Mazda 3 with no problems. North of the Southend junction, it has some narrow winding sections - if you are thinking about playing rally driver, first consider the size of the ore truck you may encounter coming the other way.

If you elect to go to the Porcupine, or want to investigate it further, send me a PM with your e-mail and I will send you my detailed trip log.


Author:  Alan Gage [ January 19th, 2018, 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

While I didn't take the road all the way to Points North it was in good shape last year when I drove up to Wollaston. 80km/hr is probably a good average speed for that stretch. I was in a Ford Escape. Wouldn't hesitate to drive that road in a 2wd car. It was better on my return drive since it appeared to have been recently graded in the meantime.

It's a wide road and the all the mining trucks I met moved well over and there was plenty of room for both of us. On the return drive, around midnight, I almost had a head on collision with a pickup when we both crested a hill at the same time. I saw his headlights about 2 seconds before we met and started moving over. He apparently didn't see mine and was smack in the middle of the road. I jerked the wheel hard not caring if I went in the ditch or not. He did the same and by some miracle we didn't touch and after some fish tailing we both stayed out of the ditch too.

It was sobering the think what would have happened in the event of a serious wreck. No cell service and who knows how long until someone else would have came by. And then they'd have to drive for help. And help would have to drive out to us. Be careful.

Edit to add that there is fuel available along the road but it keeps getting more expensive the farther you go. And don't expect 24 hour pumps or regular hours. I filled up in Missinipe and again at a small family run store/cafe maybe 40 miles south of Wollaston. There was also some sort of lodge about half way that had fuel available but I didn't stop.

Also I would not recommend leaving your vehicle unattended; which probably isn't a problem if you're going to use Points North. I saw a couple cars parked along the side of the road and they both had windows broken out of them. As did my car when I returned to Hidden Bay after 6 weeks. Plus a stolen passport.


Author:  Alan Gage [ January 19th, 2018, 11:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Here's a trip report from my trip NE of Wollaston to give you an idea of what it's like: ... r-and-back

Some funny business seems to have happened with apostrophes along the way making it a little harder to read.


Author:  SteveP [ January 21st, 2018, 7:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Hi Alan,

I spent some time this weekend reading your wonderful trip report, thank you for that, and great pictures! This region of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba is unfamiliar to me and your report had me scrutinising Hap Wilson's section on the Cochrane/Thlewiaza. I've had a couple of trips on my own to Manitoba to do the Grass and Hayes, but this area struck me as a bit remote and ambitious for a solo trip, largely because it is difficult for me to get more than a month off work and the drive from Nova Scotia and back really eats into the available time.
I started wondering about following your route out to Fort Hall Lake then returning via the Cochrane to Reindeer Lake.

Thanks again for the report.

Author:  SteveP [ February 14th, 2019, 6:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Greetings fellow paddlers,

It's been over a year since I originally posted this thread and I never did get to Saskatchewan, the reason being that in Feb 2018 I had surgery on my R shoulder to repair two rotator cuff muscles and reattach a tendon to the bone. It's been a lengthy recovery and I had to reluctantly shelve plans for a wilderness trip in 2018, but now I'm almost back to full strength and thinking again of a summer trip.
Ideally I'd like to put together a 3 week trip and I'm playing around with the idea of a solo round trip from Black Lake to Selwyn Lake via the Chipman portage then returning via the Porcupine, flying in and out from Points N. and leaving my car there. Can anyone comment on the condition of the Chipman route these days?


Author:  Paddle Power [ February 16th, 2019, 12:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Cool, that route has always been on my mind as well. I like the loop nature of it. Simple. Historic Chipman portages and picturesque Porcupine River--fine combination.

I can't comment specifically on the Chipman portages other than yes, canoe trippers still use them.

Author:  jmc [ February 17th, 2019, 1:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Suggestions please for solo trip in N. Saskatchewan

Sounds like a great route.

I can only offer some second-hand thoughts:

The first few days of this trip report from 2014 provide a fairly detailed description of the Chipman route. ... lake-2014/

Iva Kinclova’s group crossed the Chipman in 2017 at the beginning of their Dubawnt trip. If I recall correctly, they found it to be a well-used winter route, and experienced no major issues in following it. Iva posts here occasionally as “IK”. She would be a good contact for you.

I heard that last year Osprey Wings only had the turbine Otter based at Points North - a very expensive ride for a soloist. You might want to check this.

I hear the road to Stony Rapids is improving each year - if you and your vehicle could manage it, you could do this as a “no charter air” trip with a road shuttle from Stony to Black Lake. The couple in the website above arranged such a shuttle, and seemed pleased with the assistance they got in Stony.

Good luck!


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