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2015 Kazan River trip
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Author:  Allan Jacobs [ April 25th, 2016, 9:25 am ]
Post subject:  2015 Kazan River trip

2015 Kazan River Adventure

This slide show (link at very bottom) is a day by day chronicle of a 41 day, 1,374 km, canoe trip from Hidden Bay on Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan, to the community of Baker Lake, Nunavut. The participants were Joe Beynen, Steve Foley, Murray Muir and Les Wilcox. Joe, Murray and Les are old hands at these adventures and had previously paddled the 1,500 km from Yellowknife to Baker Lake via the Hanbury-Thelon route. It was Steve's first big canoe trip. The river, the land and the wildlife are the backdrop for their journey.


L to R – Les, Murray, Steve, Joe – photo Miriam Koerner.

They'd spent the winter researching, planning and preparing for the journey that involved 2 provinces, 2 territories, 4 rivers, 3 watersheds and a lot of big windy lakes. Each had their own MEC Lightfield 2 tent with additional cord loops for rocks where pegs wouldn't work. The group had three sets of 1:250 topos, 1:50s and Google aerials for the tricky bits, compasses, 2 Garmin GPS map units, a SPOT Locator and a satellite phone (some guys just have to call their wives) which made up the navigational gear. Joe had a small, custom made, stainless steel fire grill. Murray had a “Little Bug” stainless twig burner. Steve and Les each had a one burner Colman Peak stove. Murray brought his favourite ax, Joe his favourite saw, Les his favourite Miro camp pots and Steve his favourite (big) frying pan. They carried 8 litres of stove fuel but the only place where stoves were used was at the canoe shelter in Baker Lake. The fuel had to be given away because it couldn't be taken on the plane. They'd packed food for 56 days because there's always a risk of being ice bound on the larger lakes like Yathkyed. This had happened on a previous trip. They didn't get ice bound but trips coming down the Thelon had to wait out the ice on Aberdeen. Joe's son Kevin, who was stationed in Rankin Inlet, was able to purchase fishing licenses preseason and email them. As you'll see, they caught lots of fish to fill that frying pan.

Excellent Kazan route descriptions by Bill Layman and Allan Jacobs (with GPS coordinates) were downloaded. From Paws & Paddles Outfitters, Murray got a copy of the Little Partridge River Route description by Andy Breckenridge which was crucial for this trip. Route information for the beginning of the trip came from books like No Man's River by Farley Mowat, Sleeping Island by PG Downs and From Reindeer Lake to Eskimo Point by Peter Kazaks. In the Baker Lake airport, on a previous trip, Murray and Les had met Miriam Koerner and Quincy Miller, who own Paws & Paddles Outfitters in Air Ronge Saskatchewan. Their business was perfectly situated for shuttling between Wollaston Lake, Saskatchewan and The Pas, Manitoba, where Miriam picked up the group with Joe's 150 at the end of the trip. This was after a grueling ride on the “Muskeg Special”, from Churchill to The Pas, which took 30 hours. At the beginning of the canoe trip they could smell the smoke and see the haze from a distant Saskatchewan forest fire. At the end of the trip they learned that Paws & Paddles had lost their outpost cabin and all of their dogsled trails to the fire.


There was no set departure date. The NASA Worldview website allowed them to watch the ice melting on Wollaston Lake. They finally hit the road from New Liskeard, Ontario, on June 15th. . Miriam dropped them at the Hidden Bay dock on the afternoon of June 19th. Two old 17' ABS canoes, Joe's Swift Albany and Murray's Scott Missinaibi, were their transportation. Each had their own favourite paddle and a spare plus 3 packs, totaling nearly 200 lbs (800 lbs total). The canoes weighed about 85 lbs each. The weather turned out to be generally on the cool side allowing for long sleeves and legs which, combined with a little insect repellent, kept the bugs at bay.

Murray was the only serious photographer in the group. He took 899 shots with his Nikon D80. All of the numerous “flower” pics are Murray's - so much colour in a barren land. Joe took 236 shots with an Olympus 8010. Steve took 197 shots with a Nikon Coolpix S32. Les took 299 shots with a Nikon Coolpix L32. The 1,631 photos have been collectively edited down to 574 and chronologically sequenced for this 57 minute, fast paced slide show. The video footage was shot by Steve. The sound track is upbeat and heavy on Canadian content.

So Get yourself a glass of wine or cup of tea, put on the headphones or hook up some good speakers, sit back and take a vicarious journey as they travel down the Cochrane River encountering their worst portage at Big Stone Rapids; 3.6 km, grown in, mid section burnt, lots of blow downs, took 6 hours. They paddle and portage through the “Little Lakes” to the Thlewiaza River and Kasmere Lake with it's abandoned fishing lodge. Joe walked into a mother bear and cub on the Kasmere Falls portage (they ran away). Next the guys trudge up the Little Partridge River where their old canoes took so much abuse that it was decided to give them away in Baker Lake. Bush crash portages take them through Roosevelt Lake, several ponds and a downhill run on a mostly navigable creek to Kasba Lake, the headwaters of the Kazan River. J.B. Tyrrell's portage, north out of Roosevelt Lake, was still in good shape. From here they head down river to Ennadai Lake where a night paddle ends in a morning hike up Halfway Bluff. Then on to Dimma Lake where they get wind bound for a sunny afternoon on a sandy beach.

Overall they got lucky with the wind which offered several opportunities for paddle sailing as well as becoming still for the longer crossings. There were only two campsites where the weather forced them to spend a second night. Many of the camping and rest spots they picked turned out to be traditional native sites. And there were lots of beautiful sandy beaches, some still covered with the winters snow. Can you find the wolf pup (hint: esker hike, vertical pic, dead centre, Murray points the way)? A stormy morning paddle on Angikuni ends at a sunny riverside camp. Next day they camp at the end of the portage around the magnificent Cascades. Two days later they're at a still very cold Yathkyed Lake. At Forde Lake they encounter the only other canoe group they saw on the trip. This international group was outfitted with folding PAKBOATs. At the beginning of the Kazan they'd encountered some fly-in fishermen from the Kasba Lake Lodge.

There's a calm paddle and a sunny campsite on beautiful Thirty Mile Lake. Before arriving at Kazan Falls they encounter a herd of about 30 muskox. They'd also encountered a small number of moose and caribou and a porcupine. A fast and scenic river run below the falls leads to Baker Lake where a midnight paddle gets them into town by noon the next day. To avoid the long distance crossings and the Thelon delta sandbars they did an island and point hop around the west end of Baker Lake. The longest open crossing, 4 km, was from the north tip of Nicholls island to the airport landing west of the town of Baker Lake (Canada's geographic centre).

At the airport Joe arranged for stand by flights (by far the cheapest) to Churchill, via Rankin Inlet, for the next evening which gave the guys a day to cruse the town. At the canoe shelter they met girls and boys canoe trips from Minnesota's Camp Widjiwagan (also with PAKBOATs) who had come down the Thelon River. These kids were competent, helpful and polite. The shot of the grave (in rough shape) in the Baker Lake Cemetery is that of Art Moffatt, whose death is documented in the legendary tale Death On The Barrens. Of the 41 days, 39 were travel days and, for the days traveled, the average distance was over 35 km/day.

The Kazan, a National Heritage River, is a beautiful canoe trip. It's relatively easy to do with very few portages considering its length and drop. Average whitewater skills, good preparation, careful scouting and a cautious approach will get you to Baker Lake. Unless you're really adventuresome, you might want to begin by flying into the Kasba Lake Lodge directly from Winnipeg.

Sound Track:
01 Beatles – Here Comes The Sun **
02 Gordon Lightfoot – Whispers Of The North *
03 Glen Reid – Heritage River *
04 Wade Hemsworth – Blackfly Song *
05 Steeleye Span – Jigs: Brides Favorite/Tansey's Fancy **
06 Bare Naked Ladies – If I Had A Million Dollars *
07 Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi *
08 Dixie Chicks – Wide Open Spaces ***
09 Steeleye Span – Cannon By Telman **
10 Glen Reid – Lifeline To The Heartland *
11 Bruce Cockburn – All The Diamonds *
12 David Laronde – Back To Here *
13 Glen Reid – Circle Of Song *
14 Steeleye Span – Reels: First House In Connaught/Lady Of The House **
15 Sarah McLachlan – Ordinary Miracle *
16 Stan Rogers – Mary Ellen Carter *

* Canadian Artist
** British Artist
*** American Artist

Note: This slideshow has been posted, by webmaster Jody Bigelow, on the new Nastawgan Trails website which is still under construction.

Run slide show

Author:  kinguq [ April 26th, 2016, 2:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

This is magnificent. I am spending hours watching the slide show and following their route on the map. Much respect to Joe and his companions.


Author:  Oldand Fat [ April 26th, 2016, 3:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Joe's physical ability has always impressed me BUT the picture of him carrying the canoe in the rock garden is a WOW. This man gets a cheque from the government every month. In fact it looks like only Steve does not get the cheque. These guys are tough.
Fishing was good.
Great trip Guys.
i am going looking for 13 Glen Reid – Circle Of Song * good one
Stay Safe

Author:  scouter Joe [ April 27th, 2016, 6:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

The Kazan River is a great trip . The challenging part was the Little Partridge river and crossing the height of land to Kasba lake . So if you are up for a challenge start at Wollaston Lake . If you just want a beautiful trip with out the heavy going fly to Kasba Lake Lodge from Winnipeg . There are several large lakes to cross so if you do not like flat water paddling this trip may not be for you . I really enjoyed it though . The portage with the rock garden was not even a required portage . The map showed a narrow channel which did not pan out . The correct route would have required quite a bit of paddling so we chose to carry over the rocks .
Actually I was the only one getting a government cheque every month .One of the others was close but not there . scouter Joe

Author:  duNord [ April 27th, 2016, 10:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

The trip report said "At the airport Joe arranged for stand by flights (by far the cheapest) to Churchill...."

Does this mean you didn't make flight reservations prior to the trip?

Our group of six is planning to paddle the Kazan this summer (2016). We need to get back to Winnipeg from Baker Lake at the end of the trip. The normal airfare is about $1500 each. We're keeping our eyes peeled for fare sales, but I'm wondering if just showing up at the airport with a wad of cash and negotiating once we get there may be an option. But I'm worried this could backfire, because at that point they know we're desperate and it may end up being even more expensive than the advance price of $1500. What have others done?

We'll be six people with Pakboats.

Author:  Ralph [ April 27th, 2016, 10:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Really enjoyed the slide show and music. Thanks so much for posting.

Author:  jmc [ April 28th, 2016, 12:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Agreed, great photos and music. Brought back some good memories. Thanks for posting.


Author:  scouter Joe [ April 28th, 2016, 4:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

We had checked on flight costs and what not but did not make any reservations . We had no way of knowing if the bigger lakes would be ice free when we got to them or how many days we would loose because of wind . Remember we took enough food for 56 days and ended up taking 41 . That's 15 days and hanging around for that long did not appeal to us . Stand by ended up costing less than the best deals that we could get by booking in advance . There are flights every day to Rankin and then on to Winnipeg if the weather is OK . scouter Joe

Author:  Allan Jacobs [ April 28th, 2016, 6:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

In 2003, we had reserved flights from Baker Lake to Winnipeg,
There was hardly anyone but us on the first leg (to Chesterfield?; gettin' old is the $%^&).

I recommend highly a stop-over in Winnipeg, solely to visit the Hudson Bay Company Archives: many original documents, easily available for viewing. Downtown Wpg was plain dead after 5, hardly a place even to eat (this in 2009).

Author:  Les W [ May 2nd, 2016, 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Glad folks like the slideshow. I can identify with Allan's comment (gettin' old is the $%^&). These days I find myself saying each trip is probably my last, but I might be good for one more. What I really like about the PAKBOAT is that, according to the info, a 17 footer weighs only 56 lb. I've rounded up all the info for the Dubawnt, from Black to Baker, but I presently have this filed under fiction/fantasy. We'll see.


Author:  Allan Jacobs [ May 3rd, 2016, 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Selling my PakBoat (which I loved) was the goodbye to my tripping days.
As someone here said, better to regret what you did do than to regret what you did not do.

Author:  kinguq [ May 31st, 2016, 8:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Listened to this CBC radio show about a trip on almost the same route done in 1987 by a group from Camp Wanipitae in Temagami. They started at Reindeer Lake. Took them 56 days, they were late getting out and a search had started by the time they reached Baker Lake. ... -1.3301346

Some photos and a map on the site as well.

They seem to have encountered a lot of problems with headwinds on the trip. Interesting story and a good listen.


Author:  Paddle Power [ June 1st, 2016, 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

I still need to watch the slideshow.

I think you must have finished around the end of July.

We paddled into Baker in early August, on the 10th and there were two Widji girl groups at the campground.

Les W, re your Dubawnt River plans/for your information, I published a book, On Top of a Boulder: Notes from Tyrrell's Cairn, about the Dubawnt cairn at Carey Lake. I still have several copies available in case you are interested.
See ... =S011378CE

Author:  canoeguitar [ June 1st, 2016, 6:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

A real meat 'n potatoes trip for sure. I've read P.G. Downes' "Sleeping Island", and it was nice to get a visual of some of his route during the earlier part of your trip.

Congratulations to the group for executing this ambitious trip. Lots of time, planning, energy, and preparation are required to put a trip like this together.


Author:  Les W [ June 1st, 2016, 6:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: 2015 Kazan River trip

Murray and I just entered the 15 km White Bear Challenge canoe race which is a part of the Temagami Canoe Festival on July 16th. If I survive this I'll think about the Dubawnt for next year. And I'd need to round up a used 17' Pakboat or another regular give away canoe. I fired off an email to Paddle Power (the slide show has a nice sound track to carry the 574 pics) about the book.


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