Length of Trip: approximately 160 kilometres (99 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: 6 to 7 days
Number of Portages: 13
Otter Lake forms part of the Churchill River system.
Accommodation, air-charter, food, gasoline and telephone services are available at Missinipe.
A point of interest along this trip is picturesque Nistowiak Falls. The canoeist leaves the Churchill River at Frog Portage, that important link connecting the Churchill and Saskatchewan River systems, and over which most of the famous explorers of the Canadian northwest have passed.
This trip is not strictly a wilderness trip in its entirety in that fishing camps will be seen along portions of the route. However, the opportunities for wilderness camping and fishing are extensive. Northern pike and walleye occur in all waters; lake trout are found in the larger lakes.
This trip is well travelled and trails are in good shape. The lakes are fairly large and sometimes quite rough. The use of larger canoes is recommended, and the use of a small outboard motor for auxiliary power might be considered by those so inclined.
Pelican Narrows has road connections with the outside via Highways #135 and #106. Accommodation, air-charter, camping, food, gasoline and telephone services are also available.
Numerous rapids and falls are encountered along this route.
At the foot of any rapid, it is far better to be sorry one did not run the rapid than to be sorry one did!!
From the Otter Lake side, this portage starts on the west shore of Eyinew Island about 45 metres (49 yards) above the head of the fall (Grid location 277563, Map 73, P/10). The portage can be seen from the water and appears as a break in the spruce and birch of the shoreline.
From the small lake between Robertson and Twin Falls, the start of this portage is at an obvious landing about 10 metres (11 yards) to the east of the most easterly part of Robertson Falls.
From the small lake between Robertson and Twin Falls, this portage starts at a small cove along the southeast shore about 45 metres (49 yards) west of a group of buildings belonging to an outfitter's camp. The portage shows as a break in the trees immediately east of two small islands (Grid location 280558, Map 73, P/10).
From the northwest end of Mountain Lake, the start of this portage shows as a break in the shoreline vegetation about 400 metres (437 yards) southwest of the falls. An outfitter's dock is located about midway between the falls and the portage.
The trip continues in a generally southeasterly direction past Amuchewaspimewin Cliff (Also known as 'Shooting-Up Place') (Grid location 283420, Map 73, P7) to the historic community of Stanley Mission, site of the oldest church in Saskatchewan. A wide variety of supplies is available at general stores in Stanley, as well as telephone communication and road access via Highways 915 and 102.
From Stanley, this trip continues in an east-northeast direction down the Churchill River for approximately five kilometres (three miles) to Stanley Rapids.
NOTE TO CANOEISTS TRAVELLING DOWNSTREAM: On approaching Stanley Rapids, stay close to the north, or left shore and to the north side of the island dividing these rapids so as to avoid the Class 3 rapid on the south, or right side of the island.
From Mountain Lake, this portage starts inconspicuously in the grasses on the north side of the northernmost channel about 90 metres (98 yards) above the rapid (Grid location 333427, Map 73, P/8). On the south side of this channel (north shore of the island), there is a shorter alternate portage trail with many crossed poles to facilitate the dragging of big boats around the rapid. Both trails are currently used.
From Drope Lake, this portage starts on the north, or right side of the rapids, on the west side of the lake immediately north of the island dividing the rapids (Grid location 334427, Map 73, P/8), and after paddling up through some fast water. Heavy boats may be hauled over the pole ramp on the north shore of the island dividing the rapids.
In Frog Narrows (Grid location 376415, Map 73, P/8), connecting Drope and Nistowiak Lake, the current can vary from moderate to fast, depending on water levels. Special care should be taken when paddling this section because of the eddies and current boils in the river. If in doubt, the canoes could be lined along the shore.
At this point, a side trip to view picturesque Nistowiak Falls is well worth the time. The trail to the falls starts at a fishing camp located near the inflowing Rapid River (Grid location 401393, Map 73, P/8).
From Nistowiak Lake, the start of this portage is unmistakeable as it starts at an outfitter's camp. Land at the dock and portage past the main lodge building to the dock below the rapids.
Because of the current below Potter Rapids, the use of this portage by canoeists travelling upstream is not feasible unless an outboard motor is used.
From the most easterly portion of Brown Bay, this portage starts in wet willows about 80 metres (87 yards) south of exposed rocks which mark the start of small rapids (Grid location 467408, Map 73, P8). This portage by-passes a small pond, and ends at the base of the fast water at the lower set of rapids.
From the head of a narrow, northward extending, bay on the west end of Drinking Lake, this portage starts on the south, or left, side near the base of the fast water below the lower set of rapids.
Near the east end of Drinking Lake there is a sizeable island (Healy Island) with moderate rapids on both north and south sides. Either side is passable but the north alternative is easier. If the left, or north, alternative is selected, descend generally in the right half of wide stretch of fast water. If the smaller right, or south channel is chosen, land and study the short Class 2 rapid before making the run.
About one and three quarter kilometre (one mile) below these rapids, the canoeist comes to the main falls at the extreme east end of Drinking Lake. The canoe route follows the five kilometre (3 mile) Inman Channel which detours to the north and northeast around Carr Island. A few hundred metres (yards) after entering the Inman Channel there is a narrow spot with mild rapids. Under normal conditions these can be easily run. Near the eastern end of the channel there is a small falls and a short portage.
From the upstream approach, this portage starts on the north, or left, shore to the northwest of a large rock outcrop about 70 metres (76 yards) above a small chute. An alternate portage for hauling heavy boats has been blasted through the rocks on the south, or right, side of the rapid. This alternate is shorter, but landings are tricky at both ends.
From the Keg Lake approach, this portage starts at a large flat rock near the foot of the rapid on the north, or right, shore of the Inman Channel.
On reaching the eastern part of Keg Lake, the canoeist should make sure to take the channel along the southwest shore of Greig Island. There is some fast water in this area.
After passing a small island, the main stream swings sharply to the right or southwest and a smaller stream from the east side of Greig Island joins the main channel. Immediately upon swinging right, the canoeist should move to the left, or southwest, side and enter a cove to the left of the start of the rapids.
From the east end of Keg Lake, this portage starts as a clear break in the shoreline vegetation about 20 metres (22 yards) on the left, or east, side above the top of the fall.
From the quiet waters above Grand Rapids, this portage starts on the east, or right, shore a few metres (yards) from the base of the fall.
A few hundred metres (yards) below this portage, there are some Class 1 rapids which are divided by an island. The safer course appears to be to hug the left side of the left channel.
From the Churchill River approach, this portage starts at a grassy opening on the south, or right, shore of the island filled narrows east of Trade Lake (Grid location 929399, Map 63, M/5).
From Lindstrom Lake, this portage starts at a steep but protected bank at the extreme northwest end of the lake.
The canoe route follows through Lindstrom and Pixley Lakes and into the north end of Wood Lake. Care should be taken not to enter the narrows leading to Manawan Lake by mistake.
At the southeast end of Wood Lake, the canoeist will come to the Grassy Narrows area and the Woody Lake Indian Reserve. Three small and closely spaced falls occur in the area about nine kilometres (5 1/2 miles) east-northeast of Grassy Narrows (Grid locations 228222, 229221 and 233219, Map 63, M/3).
About 165 metres (180 yards) below portage number 10, the canoeist approaches portage number 11.
Whether travelling downstream or upstream, this portage is easily found. It is similar to portage number 10 in being over a small island dividing the fall.
About 400 metres (437 yards) below portage number 11, the canoeist approaches portage number 12.
From the upstream side, this portage starts on the east shore about 45 metres (49 yards) before the start of the fall. From Muskike Lake, this portage starts on the northwest shore about 45 metres (49 yards) from the foot of the fall. About 2 1/2 kilometres (1 1/2 mile) below portage number 12, at the outlet of Muskike Lake, the canoeist approaches Medicine Rapids and portage.
From Muskike Lake, Medicine Portage starts on the northeast, or left, shore about 20 metres (22 yards) above the rapid.
From Chachukew Lake, Medicine Portage starts on the northeast, or right, side immediately at the base of the rapid.
After passing Medicine Rapids the canoeists should head in a generally easterly direction to the channel leading to Pelican
The end point of this trip is the community of Pelican Narrows. Pelican Narrows has road connections with the outside via Highways #135 and #106. Accommodation, air-charter, camping, food, gasoline and telephone services are also available. This canoe trip can be extended to several points along the Sturgeon-Weir River. Consult the index of available canoe trips for further information.
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