View topic - Downes route to Nueltin - How long?

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PostPosted: June 12th, 2016, 2:34 pm 
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I'd been hoping to do this trip next year but it sounds like a good friend has decided to get married in what would be the middle of the trip. So I got to thinking maybe I'd do it this year instead. I've already got a trip of up to 45 days planned for August and September but nothing is firm so switching locations isn't a problem. But now in pretty short order I need to know if a trip to from Kinoosao on Reindeer Lake to Nueltin (paddle there and back) is feasible in that amount of time.

Downes did it in 22 days one way from Brochet. With good weather I estimate an extra 3 days (one way) paddling from Kinoosao to Brochet. That makes it sound not very likely. But they were hunting and fishing for food along the way as well as working without maps for some of the area.

After a quick look at a map and I estimated 600 miles round trip. In 40 days of travel that would be a 15 mile/day average, which seems very doable; especially considering some of the large bodies of water which will involve paddling for multiple days on end without portages. Wind and weather, of course, are the big wild cards.

I know others have done this route but for the life of me I can't find any accounts of the trips other than mentions that it was done. Most people heading to Nueltin seem to be starting at Lake Wallaston. Is this to avoid paddling up the Cochrane at the start of the trip? Is it to avoid big Reindeer Lake? Or is it just because it's a closer access point from where they live?

Any thoughts or experiences appreciated.

Alan


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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 10:57 am 
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Ran the mileage from Wollaston to Nueltin and it looks to be about 50 miles shorter each way. So a 500 mile round trip instead of 600; which starts to look more doable in my time frame.

Alan


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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 11:43 am 
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I can't recall where but I recently read about two similar (using that term loosely) trips. Now you got me thinking….

To confirm, your plan is from Kinoosao on Reindeer Lake to Nueltin and back to Kinoosao. Distance 500 mi/800 km. Time 40 days. Daily rate 15mi/day (24 km/day). Travelling solo. Experience wilderness canoe tripper, including experience wilderness solo canoe tripping in Northern MB and SK.

I'd say you have your work cut out for you but it definitely may be doable. I used to plan just under 15 mi/day but have slowed down a bit.

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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 12:05 pm 
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How does the drive to the put-in factor into your trip? I have never been to Kinoosao but I suspect the road is not great (though I don't know what it is like to your other option on Wollaston Lake either) and even if it isn't a mess of pot holes it will be slow going for a solo driver. How long have you factored in for the drive?

I used to have a contact in the local RCMP but he has moved even further north.

There is an airstrip on Nueltin Lake so you could always fly back!

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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 2:08 pm 
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Paddle Power wrote:
To confirm, your plan is from Kinoosao on Reindeer Lake to Nueltin and back to Kinoosao. Distance 500 mi/800 km. Time 40 days. Daily rate 15mi/day (24 km/day). Travelling solo.


That about sums it up except I'll be traveling with my dog as well. Rough estimate by map from Kinoosao is 300 miles and from Walloston Lake 250; each one way. 15 miles/traveling day shouldn't be a problem. From Wallsoston lake it should take 33+ traveling days at 15 miles/day to make the round trip. That should leave ample time for weather, laziness, and over estimating my abilities. ;)

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Experience wilderness canoe tripper, including experience wilderness solo canoe tripping in Northern MB and SK.


Never been that far north. Most of my other tripping has been around WCPP. Most trips have been 10 days or less but last year we (me and the dog) paddled the length of the Bloodvein and back, starting and ending at Johnson Lake. Took us 30 days with 4-5 days of no travel due to weather. Most days were at least 15 miles with a good number over 20 a couple over 25.

The trip I was planning to do this year, and still might, is the Berens River (road access N of Red Lake) to Family Lake and from there catch the Poplar River to Lake Winnipeg. Then a couple days down the coast of Lake Winnipeg to the mouth of the Berens River and all the way back upstream.

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How does the drive to the put-in factor into your trip? I have never been to Kinoosao but I suspect the road is not great (though I don't know what it is like to your other option on Wollaston Lake either) and even if it isn't a mess of pot holes it will be slow going for a solo driver. How long have you factored in for the drive?


I haven't quite factored the drive time into the 45 day schedule. I'm planning for 45 days off work so if I left Friday after work I could drive all weekend and hopefully be on the water Monday; so no days off work for that. The return trip might work out similarly or maybe not. Lots of driving though; about 1300 miles (2100 km) each way.

I haven't found much info about road conditions but I was disappointed to see how much gravel there will be. I hadn't noticed that until you prompted me to look. From my American point of view any road that shows so prominently on a map with actual highway numbers would be paved. Not so up there. Looks like at least a couple hundred miles of gravel no matter which road I take. I assume they're in decent condition, except for maybe that last 60 miles to Kinoosao which is a little dead end spur off the "highway". But they will certainly add time and dust to the trip.

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There is an airstrip on Nueltin Lake so you could always fly back!


I saw that and it could certainly make life a lot easier but I can be stubborn and like doing things myself. I'd rather take an extra 3 weeks off work without pay and paddle it myself than to spend 3 weeks at work to pay for the plane ride. Actually I'd probably have to work for a month or more to pay for that flight.

If I do this trip I guess I always have the option of turning around before I reach Neultin Lake if I can't stick to the schedule.

Thanks for the great input so far.

Alan


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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 3:21 pm 
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The road at least as far as Lynn Lake is high quality gravel, you can average 50mph+ easily in any vehicle.

Take extra gas and make sure you have a quality spare tire (or 2). You can buy gas at Leaf Rapids and probably at Lynn lake BUT hours of operation are limited

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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 3:29 pm 
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recped wrote:
The road at least as far as Lynn Lake is high quality gravel, you can average 50mph+ easily in any vehicle.

Take extra gas and make sure you have a quality spare tire (or 2). You can buy gas at Leaf Rapids and probably at Lynn lake BUT hours of operation are limited


Thanks!

Alan


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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 10:01 pm 
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I don't what the spring melt was like up there but in southern Manitoba the back roads are only just recovering. Gravel roads just disintegrated with ruts over a foot deep and even old logs that had been buried during the original construction forced back up.through the surface. Such fun!

More driving than I could handle. I would need a week of rest after that before I could take on a canoe trip of that scale.

I think the airstrip is for a fishing lodge. Maybe you could hitch a ride back on a flight bringing paying customers in!

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PostPosted: June 13th, 2016, 11:13 pm 
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Sounds like an interesting project.

Peter Kazaks' book might be of interest: "From Reindeer lake to Eskimo Point", only $7.35 for the Kindle version.

https://www.amazon.com/Reindeer-Lake-Es ... ter+kazaks

It recounts a 1981 trip, organized by the late George Luste, from Kinosao on Reindeer Lake to Eskimo Point, which went through Nueltin. The route went from Reindeer Lake to Wollaston Lake via the Swan and Blondeau Rivers, then descended the Cochrane and went via Downes' "Little Lakes" route to Nueltin. (George had previously gone up the Cochrane to the Little lakes and didn't want to repeat himself.)

They made Nueltin by this route in 15 days from Kinosao. I don't think that could be done solo -George had a reputation as a formidable traveler - but I think it shows your 16/17 day budget, starting from Wollaston, is not unreasonable. It really will depend on the wind on the big lakes.

Old issues of Nastawgan are often useful. This one

http://www.myccr.com/sites/default/file ... ing_96.pdf

recounts a trip which followed your proposed route from Wollaston down the Cochrane and along Downes' route through the little lakes before turning up the Little Partridge river to Kasba lake.

This article

http://www.myccr.com/sites/default/file ... ter_86.pdf

describes the route from the portage away from the Cochrane and continuing to Nueltin Lake.

The road to Wollaston Lake and Points North landing in Saskatchewan is gravel from about 50 km north of Lac la Ronge. It is a good gravel road, which I have driven to Points North in a compact hatchback. Speed limit is 80 km/hr. It is rather narrow and winding after the Southend junction. While oncoming traffic is rare, it can be very large - double trailer ore trucks - so rally driving is not recommended.

You could probably get someone from Points North to shuttle you and your gear to the put-in on Wollaston and store your car in their secure parking. Alternatively, there are a couple of fishing lodges on Wollaston accessed from the highway where you might be able to arrange for parking.

In 1939 -"Sleeping Island"- Downes and Albrecht followed the Cochrane RIver all the way to the Little Lakes portage. When Downes went this way again in 1940, he and Albert Petersen bypassed part of the river by using a series of lakes. This route is described fairly well in Downes' diaries (now published) and might be of interest if you do elect to go up the Cochrane.

Good luck with your planning.

-jmc


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PostPosted: June 14th, 2016, 9:51 am 
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I think you are the best judge of what's reasonable distance-wise, but I got out my journals. For whatever it's worth, we reached Kasmere Lake in 20 Days from Pelican Lake, and on a second trip, reached Nueltin Lake in 3.5 days from Kasmere. On the first trip, we reach Southend on Day 5, so 19 days total from Southend to Nueltin. We had some bad weather, but we also push it after we get stuck (I remember a 4:30 am start on Reindeer after being windbound - it was a gorgeous morning). We generally plan to average 30km/day. It looks like 10 of those 23.5 days were over 40km.

We used a pole on the Cochrane - water was high, and I remember the poling being useful (and fun).

The beauty of a pack canoe is you can fly commercial - Brochet and Lac Brochet would be good options. We haven't done a trip up north like this for 8 years (kids) - but it used to be very reasonable to fly into these towns (I always assumed flights were subsidized).

I like the Cochrane, and the esker lakes will be a highlight of the trip. I'd go back to Nueltin in a heartbeat - you might be disappointed turning around. We went through Windy Lake to the Windy/Red River cabins.

You could put a kicker on the canoe, and stash it in the woods at the Cochrane mouth. Reindeer Lake is pretty (reminds me of Lake Superior with a more interesting shoreline) - but big lakes can get tedious.

-Andy

PS The route is covered in detail in Hap Wilson's "Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba". There's also a Berard map of the route "Land of Little Sticks". Pictures from the route paddled in 1912 by Oberholtzer-Magee are published in "Towards Magnetic North".


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PostPosted: June 14th, 2016, 11:21 am 
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I think you are the best judge of what's reasonable distance-wise, but I got out my journals


Very much appreciated. I agree that it can vary a lot of from person to person but from what I've heard so far it sounds doable for me and is nice confirmation. In the canoe is my favorite place to be on a trip so I tend to put in fairly long days and only take days off when forced by weather.

It's nice that I already had a long and strenuous trip planned so switching gears to a new route on short notice isn't that big of a deal. Research, new maps, and, after checking the average daily highs and lows for August and September, a warmer sleeping bag!

Things can still change but at this point I'm planning on doing this trip, likely from Wollaston, and am pretty darned excited!

Thanks for all the great input.

Alan


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PostPosted: October 17th, 2016, 12:16 pm 
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I got back from my trip about a month ago. Started on Wollaston Lake at Hidden Bay. I spent 42 days on the water and did not make it to Nueltin. The trip started with being windbound for 3 days and bad weather for the first week. Very nice weather after that and I made good time. I made it over Kasmere Lake on day 13 and decided to push on for Nueltin down the Thlewiaza. Spent one day going down the river from there and didn't even make it to Sucker Lake. Rapids were too big for me to run in my canoe and portages seemed to be non-existent. I decided it was better to turn around there rather than go any further down the rabbit hole.

Went back upstream over a couple sets of rapids the next day to get back to Graves Lake and the following day portaged over to the Putahow River and eventually made it to the Nunavut border before turning around. Would have been cutting it way to close on time to keep trying for Nueltin. The decision really bothered me at the time but it turned out to be a wise choice as the weather for the last 2 weeks of the trip was abysmal with many days of no/short travel.

I don't think the original time estimate was out of line but I caught bad breaks with the weather and was not prepared for the size of the rapids and lack of portages. I hope to be back to avenge myself someday.

You can find a trip report here: http://www.canoetripping.net/forums/for ... r-and-back

Alan


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PostPosted: October 18th, 2016, 1:20 am 
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Been reading about your trip. You're the second time that I recall taking a dog. The first time was back in the 80s. Two Vietnam Vets and their dog Barnie. Selig and I, separate boats, met them early one morning exiting Sucker Lake. They had a twenty foot Grumman and very little experience. Not many rapids in southern Illinois. Sat around for a while talking about the "esker carries". Selig and I did the water route and it was easy. In fact we found a six pack of beer at the first small lake after the first meander. Can't get better than that. Barnie's crowd headed south to pick up the first of the portages and got lost and spent some time bushwacking with Barnie and the 20 foot Grumman. Tough going. Spent a couple of days on the river until Nueltin Lake. Parted company in the lower part as they moved to Shannon Lake and eventually the Caribou River. No doubt the rocks of that river ground on that Grumman. Sorry about the weather and Sadie sounds like a real bear dog. Thanks for sharing your story. Makes my dimming memories real again.


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PostPosted: December 27th, 2016, 10:39 pm 
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I just read your journal. What an enjoyable read, and great pictures. It's good to see someone else has experienced the nightmare of that last portage to Gillander Lake. I've done it several times now, and it's one of my least favourites!

I've only taken the Thlewiaza to Nueltin once, and it was fairly intimidating. That long rapid you partially ran, I portaged the whole thing - I couldn't make sense of it. That was also one of my least favourite portages! It actually got hairy a few places after that. I ran most of it, though. A couple of times I jumped out briefly to drag my boat a few feet past some bad bits. On shore that is. I rarely line... It was QUITE hairy, now that I think about it... There were only two out and out portages I did after Sucker Lake (plus the one between Nahili and Nueltin) though, so I think you could maybe have done it. Hard to say, of course, since I travel in a 10' kayak mostly. I did that in IIRC 2009, and Nueltin was still covered with ice on July 7th, so water levels would have been quite different as well.

Great trip! You found a lot of really interesting places along the way!

Derek


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PostPosted: March 12th, 2018, 11:24 pm 
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I know this is late. Alan Gage: "I need to know if a trip to from Kinoosao on Reindeer Lake to Nueltin (paddle there and back) is feasible in that amount of time." Possible alternative route. Up Cochrane R. then crossing over to North Seal @ Maria L. ( Downes talks about it in Sleeping Island) then down North Seal R. to Jackfish lake then head north through labyrinth of lakes including Shannon Lake and into Nueltin L. Alan Jacobs has done most of this so his memory/note would voice a second opinion. Wanted to do this on our second N. Seal run but incredible number of fires and small waterways precluded it. Ran the rest of trip down Seal. There is/was a lodge on Maria lake.


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