View topic - Artery-Dogskin-Family, Sturgeon River Conditions

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PostPosted: May 29th, 2021, 7:57 pm 
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Hello! I hope everyone is as well possible during these times.

My girlfriend and I are planning a 2-month canoe trip for this summer, provided the stars align and pandemic/fire restrictions allow. We hope to leave in late June.

Our planned route goes from Betula Lake in the Whiteshell to Sunset Beach on Lake Winnipeg via the Whiteshell, Winnipeg, English, Sturgeon, Rostoul, Bloodvein, Dogskin and Berens rivers. See a screenshot of our planned route at this link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Wwxgi1EM9FCF86tb8

We’re looking for more information about the Artery - Dogskin and Sturgeon sections of the trip:

1) Info on portage conditions for Berard’s Route from Artery Lake north through Hobbs Lake and Irwin Creek to Dogskin Lake. We have Berard’s map and the Canoe Atlas of the Little North, which show different portages from Artery to Hobbs:https://photos.app.goo.gl/jEAa66q5i4iKMN3JA
This thread indicates that the route's been used fairly recently: https://myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtopic.php?f=113&t=44187
Any word on which of the three portage options into Hobbs have recently been in the best condition?

2)Info about going upstream on the Sturgeon River. I’ve found a trip report for paddling down the Sturgeon River from Sydney Lake to the English River: https://www.myccr.com/canoeroutes/sturgeon-river
Has anyone gone upstream? The Canoe Atlas of the Little North includes a portage into Rowdy Lake from the river that avoids at least 3 rapids, which wasn’t used in the above report: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8ESkV4Pj6n8AY559A
Recent portage conditions and what to expect going upstream on the Sturgeon River in (probably) low water would be appreciated!


Last, if anyone has thoughts about conditions/advice/cool spots to check out on any other portion of the route we’d be happy to hear from you! Cheers.


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PostPosted: May 31st, 2021, 1:02 pm 
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Joined: January 11th, 2005, 4:58 pm
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Location: Manitoba
An excellent plan and route albeit it circuitously.

1) The quandary using quondam active tripping routes. I'll suggest both your references have issues. Berard map is old and the Atlas route coverage for your hop to Hobbs most likely relies on non primary resources and doesn't show the Berard route. Hopefully someone will reply with more information. Have you all ready reached out to the posters in the thread you referenced? Several of them are still active on the forum. Otherwise, you could simply zigzag all three and report back.

2) Upstream travel is probably not as common as it used to be but I've had good success going upstream, as have others. Unfortunately your reference trip report is listed as author unknown, so no contacting them. But all the portages are short in length so that might be mean short drops/ rapids and pools to paddle. I suspect this section will have more water than the hop to Hobbs.

The good news. I've been a similar dilemma and in the end the route I took was fine. In retrospect, I worried and fussed over nothing.

I commend you for your route choice and research and truly wish I had firsthand knowledge of your two route questions.

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PostPosted: May 31st, 2021, 11:05 pm 
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Joined: September 29th, 2005, 5:57 pm
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Hi Liam -

I don't have any recent advice for you. I can say that long ago (1979) I paddled from Dogskin Lake to Artery Lake, following the "D" route on Berard's map. At that time the portages were in good condition. Berard's route south from Hobbs to Artery (D30 - D44 on his map) seemed to be a well established route and I don't recall much trouble following it: so at least in those days it was likely the "right" way.

I can recall only a few points: I had a good campsite on the island in the lake you portage south from Irwin into; portage D39 "good trail" really was one; the south end of portage D34 really did start part way along that lake due to steep rock at the north end; and the creek D32 was navigable with a beaver dam at each end.

Good luck with your trip - it wounds like a great adventure.

-jmc


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2021, 2:01 pm 
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What I have to offer is from late Sept 1994, so very out of date. I paddled from Sydney down to Umfreville on the Sturgeon. I recall those rapids as shallow and suspect that they'd be okay to walk up, especially in low water. I doubt the old portage exists. I also recall a very pretty waterfall somewhere in that area.

Good luck!


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2021, 2:55 pm 
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Hi Brian, jmc, Bearpaulsen. Thanks for your encouragement and advice!

I just messaged Glen from the other thread directly. If we have time & energy to zigzag all three from Artery to Hobbs that would be fun! No promises. At this point we plan try the Berard D route first since it appears to have less creek and water will probably be low. I'll post a trip report if we get to go.

We'll keep an eye out for that campsite on the lake south of Irwin and for the mid-lake start of D34. There might be hints of the old beaver dams at D32 - maybe a line of willows? Hopefully recent generations will have built their own and we can skip the portage. We'll see!

That's encouraging to hear about shallow rapids on the Sturgeon. Looks like 1994 was a little bit wetter in the summer than last year:
https://wateroffice.ec.gc.ca/report/historical_e.htmlstn=05PF063&dataType=Daily&parameterType=Flow&year=1994&mode=Graph
We'll keep an eye out for the old trail but won't count on it. Thanks!


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PostPosted: June 1st, 2021, 6:51 pm 
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Hi Liam, sounds like an excellent way to spend a couple months this summer!

Six years ago I followed the Berard route solo from Wallace Lake to Family Lake and thoroughly enjoyed it. The stretch north of Artery is definitely into less travelled territory, much of it certainly less so than jmc found in 1979. Here's some notes from my trip that may be useful (using the Berard map's portage designations).

As jmc noted, I found the creek north out of Artery, D32 navigable, with a lift-over at the south end and short portages in the middle and at the north end. It was moderately low water when I made my trip. D34 was in good shape.

Portage D35 was, as Berard notes, hard to follow. It was entirely invisible at the south end, and I had to walk back and forth along the ridge line above the take-out to find it, but it was more or less where Berard's map shows it. The trail came and went along the way and there were certainly opportunities for backtracking to find it again, but it went more or less where it seemed it should go.

There were two very well marked and used trails heading to the west where Berard shows N1, so perhaps one or both of the more western routes into Hobbs is more regularly travelled. Further along that western route is Scout Lake, and I understand there are some American Scout troops who have done canoe tripping in the area for decades, so perhaps they maintain one of the other routes into Hobbs?

D36 was the most exciting. It's obvious roughly where the portage has to be made, and it's not far to the next lake. I found no trail at all, but my map and compass showed to head NE. I had a hell of a time finding my way across, it was pretty dense in there, and interestingly I found a couple of old cairns on exposed bedrock 'islands' in the middle of the bush, but with no signs of trail anywhere heading off the rock and through the bush. Obviously there used to be a trail. On my way back for my second load I ended up coming back out at the NE lake, twice, at two different spots (because clearly no need to look at my compass). And after I finally got back to the SW lake and walked along the shore to find my canoe, I made my way back across and came out at yet another new spot on the NE lake, and had to paddle to the next bay to find where I had dropped my first load. Yeah, I've spent a lot of time in the bush, not one of my prouder moments :) . As I was leaving I saw a nice big cairn marking what I figured must have been the elusive portage trail, so I went ashore to check it out but the trail vanished completely after about 20 feet into dense bush.

The rest of the portages on the "D" route heading north into Hobbs were a less exciting experience. Some were marked with cairns on one or both ends, and some trails were visible while others were not, I guess depending on the vegetation and terrain they go through as there had clearly not been recent use. But it was always obvious where one had to go. I'll also note that this was a really pleasant stretch to travel through: a series of small, intimate lakes, numerous potential campsites, and the sense of really being away from it all.

The first two portages north out of Hobbs, D45 & 46, were well travelled -- perhaps Scouts travel north to Hobbs via one of the western routes and then explore up a bit north too? D46 had been maintained very recently, including someone using saws and lots of flagging tape, and was basically where Berard shows it (at the tip of the northernmost bay on the east side of the western arm of the lake ... if that makes any sense). It would have been tough to find my way if it had been in the shape of the trails south of Hobbs.

D48 didn't exist, but was an easy and obvious walk from one lake to the other through a tall stand of aspen.

I didn't look for D49 north into Irwin Lake. There's a trail more or less midway along the SW-NE side of the lake that the fishermen from the lodge on Irwin Lake take to fish this lake to the south. It's short but goes up and over a very steep hill (see the contour lines on the topo map, that's where the trail is). However, a friend from Little Grand Rapids confirmed that back in the day there was a nice trail his family used to use where Berard shows D49.

From Irwin north to Family Lake all the portages were findable and had seen some more recent use. However, no reason to use D69 and D71 to get north from Dogskin Lake to Hutch Lake on the Dogskin River, just paddle all the way up the NW arm of the lake to where the Dogskin River flows out, two relatively short portages and you're in Hutch Lake (the second portage can be a bit tricky in high water as the takeout is in the current and out onto sloping bedrock). Also, there may be boats on one end of the portages heading north from Dogskin as a family from Little Grand Rapids has a cabin on Clayton Lake, south of Dogskin.

My last note is that Night Owl Lake, where the Berens flows out of Family Lake, is one of my favourite spots, esp. the island-cluttered western arm and the impressive Night Owl Falls that the portage trail has you miss entirely. Also, if you're into fishing you'll be pleased, the Family Lake area has some ridiculously good pickerel fishing, and Cumming Lake along Irwin Creek apparently has trout.

Hope some of that helps. Planning is of course important and looks like you have that well in hand, but then in good Canadian fashion at some point you just give'er, and as Paddle Power said it'll (most likely) turn out wonderfully :D .

Have yourselves a great trip!

Glen
Glen


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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2021, 3:05 pm 
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Sounds like a great adventure. I have looked over that route and on the same maps you reference. I have used those maps info to explore on the Manitoba side of the maps. Northern Tier Scouts do travel a lot in the area but mostly in shorter circuits out of Scout Lake. I really hope you will record your trip with a GPS and share what you learn. If you contact me I can send you my lastest GPX file on my travels on the Manitoba side. It might be nice to have a plan B if water levels get to be an issue. I have used and mapped routes crossing the Bloodvein and heading for the Berens RIver. There is a nice route from Noname up to Black Lake and then north or west. The north route will take you to Clayton to the east or Giraffe to the west and on to Brad Lake and the usual route to Family Lake from that side.

I have found those old maps facinating for finding routes but less so for the actual portages. Best to really check the shore for signs of a new portage before busting your way through what used to be. Over the years travelers have found better ways into some of these lakes and the portage may be in a bay a kilometer from the old portage.

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PostPosted: June 2nd, 2021, 8:30 pm 
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Joined: May 25th, 2021, 2:10 pm
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Thanks very much Glen. All that detail is appreciated. We'll keep and eye on the compass for D36, if we pass that way. Sold! We'll plan for a layover on Night Owl.

Hi Marten, thanks for your offer. Having a backup option would be great. I'll pm you. We don't plan to continuously track with gps but we will have an Inreach Mini that we'll use to ping our campsite coordinates every day (and keep our families happy!). After we get back I plan to update the route we took on google earth and share that along with a trip report.

We're looking forward to getting out there and going for it! Thanks to everyone for sharing.


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PostPosted: June 3rd, 2021, 2:20 pm 
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Wise words from Marten re. navigating with the Berard maps and finding trails. I too have found the maps very useful for showing possible routes, but lots has changed since his trips and it's always well worth scouting from the water for newer trail locations. I'd also note that sometimes fainter trails are tough to see from the water and some hiking a ways into the bush and parallel to the shore might be needed to pick up the trail.


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