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Canadian Canoe Routes

No Pain, No Gain
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Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  No Pain, No Gain

The Maskwa River. Maskwa means Bear in Cree, but for this weekend it meant Bear-ly any Water.

We got away around 9:30 Friday morning under patchy cloud with a forecast of 30% chance of rain Friday, 60% rain and thunderstorms for Saturday. It did drizzle a bit on the way to the Maskwa Project, which is a camp on the river which bills itself as a Minimalist Wilderness Retreat. They have self made yurts and tent camping spaces, some other little buildings and are putting in trailer sites, so I suppose they need more funding to keep, keeping on. On the site but just upriver is a canvas wall tent set up. Someone must like being very minimalistic.

It is 142.5 km from our driveway to the Project. Not too bad at all for what is a wilderness river once you get a few portages upriver.

FLIES!!! Where did all the flies come from. The Project had flies everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of flies that would walk around on you and check you out but not bite. It got to be very annoying quickly. We were on the water by 11:30 and the flies came with us.

The river seemed to be pretty flush as we left but it does flow into the Winnipeg River and the damn gates had been closed, so it may have been holding the water back. It is a short paddle to the first portage and we finally got to see our first Eagle this year, it was perched above the flowing waters at the first portage. This port is river left going upstream. It paced out at 150 and the put in was a bit awkward due to the low water upstream. Seeing as this is a typical pool and drop river, we had sufficient water between the falls and rapids to continue, but the water was down about 2 feet.

We carried on to where Christy had gotten in April. The Falls she had called it and there was water falling but not in the volume she had seen. First use of the chainsaw as Christy hacked out a lay down that blocked the start of the trail.





We carried this portage and spend a bit of time finding a better put in upstream which Christy cleaned up with the axe. It is 540 paces, the first 200 uphill. The top end could still use a better entry point but we made do with what we found.

TICKS!! It was here we found the ticks. There is a couple hundred paces of travel through waist high grass which is likely where we picked them up.

There were several crawling on our pants and tops so we needed to rid ourselves before they set up home.

Just upriver we ran aground on some flat rocks and did a tick check. Two old ladies almost stripped bare in the middle of the river picking ticks off each other. To this point I had 4 and Christy had 9. Before the day ended I had 5 to Christy's 13. More ticks in one day than the previous 5 years combined.


Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 10:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

I didn't have any agenda for this weekend but Christy had hoped out loud we could get all the way to port 15 which is 28km in. My agenda won out.

Flies again.

Now, we know from speaking with a native Water Steward, Charles Simard, a number of years ago that the First Nations people who used to ply these rivers used oak trees to mark the start and end of portages and in between on long ones, in the same vein that we use blazes, as well as camp sites. I had forgotten to look at #1 but there were plenty on 2. Start, finish, middle. Lots of oak trees. Why oak? They are not indigenous so would stand out over time and they still do.

After #2 we ran out of clear portages completely, so due to the quad trail that uses the bridges at 2 and the usual spoils of partiers, they likely keep the trails open a bit as there are tracks most places but it was apparent nobody really uses the river anymore.

It wasn't far to the third rapid, which would not be difficult to wade at these water levels but the purpose of this trip was to find and resuscitate the ones we knew had to be here. So we looked but did not find an oak tree on either side, but chose the right bank as the likely choice since the river turned right just upstream. Christy went inland looking and I waited before playing Marco Polo to guide her back. She hacked and I sawed and soon we had a decent path around that rock pile. It was short, too short it turned out.

Back on the water we round the bend to the right and find another one. Easy wade again, which is what I did as Christy walked the sloping rock shore. She noticed a potential clearing just back from the bank and then joined me at the top of the swift.

The satellite photo's did not show this, but when looking closely later we could see some of the rocks so the picture had to be taken during higher water. At some point someone had cleared this one out creating an easy run down the west side. We found that again further upstream and figured that maybe it was FN to move cargo easier, or when they first started to log the area and it made it easier for the river men to get the timber downstream.

We carried on.

Stunned silence when we got to 4. Oh crap. How are we getting up this? It was long, high, rocky as hell and had trees stacked like cord wood in all the wrong places. Rock hopping would be required at the bottom which we did after beaching the canoe to go explore. Wading, rock hopping and then walking up the slope to the top where there is usually water. I did notice the prominent oak tree at the opening to the clearing but it was getting to be later in the day and we needed a campsite.

Once again I won out, which is unusual, so rather than humping gear over all the boulders we went back to #3 and checked out the little clearing. Moss, grass, nice spot. Funny how it is ringed with oak trees.

There is a nice large erratic on the upstream side of the site.


I did my chore which is set up camp while Christy got the kitchen set up down on the rock by the river. The space as it is would hold a couple small tents or our Wanderer 4.
A little more clearing and it would fit several tents. Where I set up would be perfect for a canvas wall tent. It is a south facing exposure and protected on 3 sides.


We were both a tad weary at this point having spent 6 hours going 4km but it had been a satisfying day or achievement which would only improve.

Although we had the perfect spot for a campfire, we could have it beside the river and just push it in at the end, we adhere to the Provincial Open Fire Ban between April and November. A rock ring is an open fire although if it is an emergency it is permitted.

Besides, we were worn out.

I spent the early evening penning the journal entry while Christy cooked then another tick check and hashing out the day's events and plans for tomorrow before fading into a 10 hour sleep.


Saturday morning found both of us groaning with aching muscles and no desire to move right away but Christy found the energy to go start the coffee. We had brought the single burner propane stove and it is just so convenient other than packing the little bottles of fuel in and out.

While she was doing that, I fired up the GPS again to check the time and poke around with it and the maps. While doing so I found that from the start of the portage we cut yesterday to where camp was set up was a straight line. So I went behind the tent and found what looked like a old path. After breakfast I showed Christy since she could not see it, I walked down into the bush and found myself at the blazes she had cut where the path went left to the river. It took no time to cut it out so it came straight into the back of camp. 140 paces right into camp.


Good start to the day. With that bit of work taken care of, we planned a simple fishing day and threw appropriate gear into the boat to go up and fish the pool below #4.

It would turn out later we had far less gear than was necessary as we extended that excursion. After only finding snags below the falls we walked up with rods and tried the top. Nothing much happening there either so I walked over into the bush with the GPS and started looking for other oak trees. We found the top of the path fairly easily then started working downhill.

The high water mark here was a fair ways up the slope and based on the wood pile at the bottom we knew we had to back in the bush a bit away from the edge. So we started from an oak tree and tried to work down in a reasonably straight line. Each time we stopped there was another oak and I would way point it. At one point Christy headed off uphill a bit figuring it had to go that way as I waited, and I turned around to find an oak tree behind me. We eventually just followed the oak line and have a path of way points for a future trip to cut out the port. It will be mostly uphill but shorter than #2.


Looking down from almost the top of #4

Found a few of these, old log flume maybe


With that done, we lined and waded the boat to solid ground and portaged over the exposed rock to the top to go find #5. Due to my map running out a bit upstream I had put a flag on it with the accumulated distance and along with a printer malfunction so I could not read the text, I had assumed that flag was where the next port was. Not so.

We paddled a long time, it seemed long since the scenery never really changed, just trees and bush. We did spook something large in the forest and crashed away a short distance before silence, likely a moose. Mostly just birds and one buzzed me. I heard it and Christy said it was a green hummingbird.

Getting close to an hour and still no sign of the rapid and were considering turning around when we heard some quads in the bush. I remembered the old road came right alongside #5 and sure enough, around the next right turn it was there. Turned out that it was about 4 km upriver from #4.

Oak trees on the left bank but we did not explore at all since we had no tools with us. Again though this rapid had been cleaned out of rock so it would be a straight shot down the center in higher water.


Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 10:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

On the return trip, for fun, I pulled out the GPS to see our speed. We had a serious headwind and little current but still managed a top speed of 3.7mph without much effort. Then we carried on relaxing and fishing along the way but a break in the blazing sun with a little sun shower. It was refreshing but did not last long. As we came upon a right turn it began again in earnest and then the single dark cloud opened up on us. We turned the corner and could see down the stretch raindrops bouncing off the river surface. I pulled on my rain jacket but Christy had not brought hers so we pulled in to the bank to try to get under some foliage. As I was hunched over in the bow seat for protection, I suggested she step out to get under the bush cover and when she did she sank almost to her knees in the mud.

Between her being buried and the pounding rain it was hilarious. We just waited for that cloud to pass before she worked to extricate herself. She needed to sit in the boat and slowly pull her feet out to keep her runners on. Gobs of mud in the boat despite her efforts to be rid of it.

That was one of those bright spots that will be referred to again, as it hearkened back to the Marshall Lake trip where I had stepped onto the bank when needing to land a 37" pike and sank to my calves in the mud. That was a fancy dance as well.

We heard the quads again as we arrived back at the top of #4 and they seemed amused or amazed perhaps to see a canoe out there. The area is full of old logging roads which are all quad trails now. So as we prepared to port back down to the river, the twenty or so of them guzzled their beer as we deftly hand bombed the boat back down the rock spine. They continued to watch as we expertly lined and waded back out to open water.

I had picked up another tick but that was it for the day. Back in camp it was still threatening rain and was quite windy but we had dry clothes, wet stuff was drying and Christy put on a pot of coffee before making up fresh stew for dinner.

What we have found so far for campsites is, only at the portages are there possibilities. At 2 and 4 there are clearings on the left side which would work, #1 has nothing and 3 is excellent. Nowhere along the river between 4 and 5 is there anything and even at 5 there isn't a spot. The old road does come close there so a short walk may produce but we didn't look. Based on the satellite photo's there may be ample room at #6.


We had another 10 sleep night and initially had light cloud but the sun broke through during the day. We were headed out this morning and after coffee and fried egg sandwiches headed back out the new portage. We fished our way out all day and took our time.

#2 brought us back into serious tick country again. All that long grass must be where they lay in wait for long legged creatures to saunter by. Christy had suggested I video the portage like Robin does with his GoPro but I only had my p&s for that but gave it a try. The resulting video would give some people seizures due to the camera constantly adjusting focus but it was worth the try.


Top of the second falls looking down from the bridge

The falls

Looking downstream at the bottom

I took my time and got some photo's of the falls I had wanted which required rock hopping a bit since the trail stays away from the river. It was worth it and must be spectacular with more water.


More erratics at #1

Once we got below #1 we were back into civilization quickly since this portion is boat-able. Christy was dragging a jig along a weed edge when a large fishing boat and 2 jet skis came upstream so we just packed it in and boogied back to the project.

We packed up, picked ticks off and headed home. Back at home the gear went into the shop since there are likely hitchhikers on which can crawl off out there. Christy found 3 more ticks on her when she showered and I had 2 buried in me.

How many ticks is too many? 3 days out, I had 10 and Christy had 23. Usually I get more than she does but I treated my pants with permethrin last year so maybe there was still some effect even after being washed a couple of times, Christie's are untreated.

Nice to be home and recovering. Out this way the Province does nothing to open or maintain portages in wilderness areas like Atikaki or in this case, Crown Land. So it is only paddlers that take care of things. We do our fair share and enjoy the times we can open up new areas for others to enjoy responsibly.

I will be 56 next month and am a 40 year smoker. Christine will be 59 in September and had a heart attack 3 years ago.

The Wilderness Chicks, Christine and Karin

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 10:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Will see if the photo's still appear after Photobucket realizes I copied them.

Author:  Ralph [ July 3rd, 2017, 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Really interesting read and pictures. It would be interesting to see the river in high water.
Thank you for maintaining paddling routes. :clap:

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

The map for where we got to, only 9km up to 5. Port 15 is 28km up.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 11:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Thanks Ralph. We still enjoy what we do and will try to keep at it. Should only take about 3 years to open all the portages on this river.

I'll get some of the high water pics from Christy.

Author:  Marten [ July 3rd, 2017, 4:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Thanks for the report. From afar I have been watching the rainfall map and the fire danger map. I was disappointed that the water levels are that low. Nice to have a paddle like that so close to home. When those portages are cleaned it should make for a nice getaway.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 6:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Ok, so high water pics from the Falls at Port 2. I will try to sequence with what we saw and those from April 30th.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 3rd, 2017, 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Marten, you are choosing a tough time to take the Wanipigow/Broadleaf, it is hit or miss come Summer. Do you have a plan B?

Author:  Ralph [ July 3rd, 2017, 8:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Thanks for the high water pics. Quite a difference. Looks pretty wild. How hard was it to travel upstream in high water?

Author:  burchil [ July 3rd, 2017, 9:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

It is not high water but here is a short clip from my trip last year - this was posted on the Maskwa link elsewhere in the forum.

I went a few times last year.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 4th, 2017, 6:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Nice one Burchil. More water than we had. I'm thinking another trip or two this year to keep opening portages since looking at the satellite photo's #6 is a big falls as well. Maybe a Spring trip further up to get full flow over the various waterfalls.


Author:  Marten [ July 4th, 2017, 7:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Mihun09 wrote:
Marten, you are choosing a tough time to take the Wanipigow/Broadleaf, it is hit or miss come Summer. Do you have a plan B?

From what I saw last summer with fairly low water I plan on struggling through the shallow spots. The long stretch above Leaf Lake does concern me. I will be looking for any reports from trippers in the area. We will use the Obukowin Portages for in and out if its too dry. i plan on using them coming out to avoid the Leaf Lake rice.

Author:  Mihun09 [ July 7th, 2017, 2:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: No Pain, No Gain

Now I get to redo all the photo's since PB no longer allows third party hosting unless I pay $400 a year. Not!

Come to think of it, any trip report where I post photo's from PB over the past 6 years will need to be repaired. I'll just delete them all and cancel my PB account.

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