Length of Trip: Approximately 169 kilometres (105 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: Seven to 11 days
Number of Portages: 12
The lake also receives the drainage from the Chipman, Porcupine and Cree Rivers.
Black Lake is connected at two points by a road from the settlement of Stony Rapids. The road forks at its southern end, reaching Black Lake settlement with the western fork, and two outfitter's camps are located at the outlet of the lake with the other fork. Stony Rapids is a small settlement of approximately 300 persons, located on the Fond du Lac River between Lake Athabasca and Black Lake.
The settlement is regularly serviced by Highline Airways Inc. from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and by A-Frame Contracting barge from Ft. McMurray, Alberta. Stony Rapids provides float plane facilities, a landing strip, R.C.M.P. post, Saskatchewan Parks and Renewable Resources office, Nursing Station, Hotel, a trucking service and Hudson's Bay Company Store.
Upon arrival at Stony Rapids, the canoeing party, supplies and canoes can be trucked to Black Lake.
In 1955 a party of six Americans left Black Lake to re-trace part of the route followed by Dr. Tyrrell, 1,280 kilometres (796 miles) across the barren lands to Baker Lake, North West Territories.
The canoeing party arrived at Baker Lake 12 weeks later, out of food, overdue and the object of an air search. A tragedy had occurred enroute; two of the three canoes had overturned in the freezing water and one member of the party died of exposure.
Chipman River enters the northwest corner of Black lake by flowing around a small island located at its mouth. The start of Chipman Portage is from a gravel bar located at the east side of the island.
Paddle up the river keeping a wary eye for rocks and unload directly onto the gravel bar on the east shore.
The portage passes through a line of trees, past a large well-blazed spruce visible from the lake, then runs parallel with the lake shore for approximately 400 metres (437 yards). Although this section of the portage is only a scant 15 metres (16 yards) from the lake, unloading anywhere along this shore is impossible due to the extreme shallowness of the lake at this point.
The trail heads northeast away from the lake and crosses a rocky ridge before an alternating series of short muskegs and sandy ridges. The latter, providing excellent campsites, are well treed with spruce up to 25 centimetres in diameter. The campsites (water available) are found for approximately the first two and a half kilometres (1.5 miles) of the portage, but the terrain then changes to muskeg for a further kilometre.
The portage climbs 4.5 metres (5 yards) up a stream bed in one place, then the muskeg continues until the trail makes a sharp turn up a rise then heads north.
The trail from this point is the old original Chipman Portage, the south end of which was abandoned when the new route was cut from the Chipman River.
Although the new route is approximately a kilometre longer than the original portage of four kilometres (2 miles), it is much the easier route.
From the merging of the two portages no further muskeg is encountered. In one place the trail forks then meets again, the west rail crossing a stream then climbing a steep bank, the top of which provides a good campsite.
The portage terminates about 720 metres (787 yards) further with a drop of about 5 metres to small lake "A".
Lake "A" is approximately 800 metres (875 yards) long and 90 metres (98 yards) wide. Loading is difficult here as the lake is very shallow.
A shallow ledge divides Lake "B" just south of the long bay to the west. Unless very low water conditions prevail, canoes can be paddled carefully over this obstruction.
For low water conditions, unload on the east shore of the lake just below where the brook enters. A trail from here leads to Lake "C". The loading spot on Lake "C" is a few metres down the east shore of the lake.
The portage is three chains in length.
The south end of the portage is rough but a number of campsites are available at the north end.
Shallow water makes loading difficult.
The short portage of about 45 metres (49 yards) drops over a rocky ridge to a very small lake ("E") about 5 metres (5 « yards) below.
The lake, approximately 180 metres (197 yards) across is skirted along the east shore by a portage trail, thus offering the choice of paddling or portaging.
Approximately 17 chains long and a drop of about six metres (6 « yards), the portage passes through a wood and is soft underfoot.
A campsite is available at the north end on a rise to the east. A very shallow lake edge makes loading very difficult. Lake "E" is also skirted by a portage around the east shore of the lake.
Chipman Lake elevation is 363 metres (397 yards).
The route heads north for a distance of two and a half kilometres (1 « miles) then turns northeast through Chipman Lake.
Watch for rocks in the narrows between the islands! Approximately half way along the length of Chipman Lake, good campsites are available on the narrows dividing the two main sections of the lake.
Leaving the narrows, the east side of the lake is sheltered by a high ridge running parallel for a few kilometres. River current is very slight until a moderate current is encountered when crossing through a muskeg for 400 metres (437 yards) to a ridge on the west side of the lake.
The river above here is actually a narrow lake until the first of the three portages to Bompas Lake is reached.
The 990 metre portage is dry but very rough at the north end. It terminates on a short shallow section of river with a moderately fast current. In low water conditions the shallowness of the river may make it necessary to only half-load the canoes and make two trips by water to the next portage.
The canoes may have to be poled up the first 45 metres (49 yards) of river, but the remaining 360 metres is over deep water. Watch for a submerged rock approximately nine metres (10 yards) from the landing!
Bompas Lake elevation is 387 metres (423 yards).
Approximately three kilometres (2 miles) up the lake at a narrows, a small rapid obstructs the paddler. This is a very shallow rapid, but a moderately deep channel on the extreme eastern edge enables canoes to be lined upstream.
A further three kilometres (2 miles) of paddling reveals another narrows through which a moderate current flows. The deeper water is again on the eastern side.
About one and a half kilometres (1 mile) from the portage is Selwyn Lake; a large island offers a more sheltered route up the west shore of the lake. This island is actually connected by a narrow strip of land crossing from the west shore of the lake to the northwest corner of the island thus making a very short portage necessary.
Campsites are very frequent in this area.
The portage appears as an opening in the bush and the west trail of about 180 metres (197 yards) ends on a small pond over which supplies must be paddled to the far shore.
The portage climbs a steep bank from the side of the pond then levels off and is rough but dry for the remaining 720 metres (787 yards) to Selwyn Lake.
Campsites are available a few metres to the west of the north end of the portage. Selwyn Lake elevation is 388 metres (96 yards).
Ninety metres (98 yards) from the portage a shallows obstructs canoe passage, but a deeper channel on the east side gives passage into Selwyn Lake. Twenty-two kilometres (13 « miles) up the lake an esker provides an excellent campsite and viewpoint.
The 60th parallel divided the Province of Saskatchewan from the North West Territories.
The 'Double Vee' boundary marker cut through the trees can be sighted on the horizon over the west shore of the lake. From this point, the lake spreads immensely. The canoe route follows the west shore of the lake through a maze of islands, across a 'Big Open' and into a narrows, the opening of which is obstructed by a cluster of islands.
Two groups of winter cabins are located on the west side of these narrows.
The drainage north of this portage flows by way of the Dubawnt and Thelon Rivers into Hudson's Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The drainage south of the portage flows through the Chipman, Fond du Lac, Athabasca, Slave and McKenzie Rivers to the Arctic Ocean.
Rough at both ends, the portage provides fair campsites about 115 metres (126 yards) in from Selwyn Lake and at the north end of Flett Lake.
The south and west side of Flett Lake is broken with numerous small islands and reefs, making navigation very treacherous in all but calm water. Avoid these shores if making arrangements for float plane landings.
Flett Lake elevation is 358.5 metres (392 yards). It is connected from the east shore to Wholdaia Lake through a maze of small islands and narrows.
An alternate and shorter canoe route crosses the narrow neck of land from the northwest corner of Flett Lake. This is the route used by Dr. Tyrrell on his original exploration.
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