Length of Trip: 189 Kilometres (117 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: 7 to 9 days
Number of Portages: 13
Vehicles should not be left unattended at Tyrrell Lake campground for long periods of time. Arrangements for the safe parking and/or transfer of vehicles could likely be made with outfitters at Leaf Rapids, kilometre 270 (Mile 168) of Highway 106 (Hanson Lake Road).
For those canoeists who might wish to make this trip in reverse, Pukatawagan, Manitoba would be the starting point. Pukatawagan can be reached by VIArail leaving The Pas, Manitoba northbound three days per week. Schedule information is available from VIArail by phoning 1-800-561-8630. Those opting to do this trip in reverse should be prepared for some arduous upstream paddling, mostly on the Churchill River portion.
Fishing is good throughout the trip, but especially so below falls and rapids. Please note that a Manitoba fishing licence is required for the later portion of this trip.
Beautiful natural campsites abound so there should be no problem finding a place to camp.
Although most will choose to make this trip in the direction described because it is downstream all the way, the trip could be made in reverse with the aid of a small outboard motor or by a willingness to paddle upstream against the considerable current of the Churchill River. For this reason the description of portage locations is given from both ends.
At Pukatawagan, Manitoba, the end point of the trip, there are a number of stores, telephone communications, rail and air charter services, motel and restaurant. Canoes can be trucked about 11 kilometres (7 miles) to the VIArail station for shipment to The Pas, Manitoba. Southbound trains pass through Pukatawagan three times per week.
Travel in a generally northerly direction to the outlet of the lake at its northeast end. The short rocky rapid which obstructs passage can easily be passed by hauling canoes over a 6 metre (6.5 yard) log skid on the left or south side of the rapid.
There are cabins located on the south shore beside this rapid. Please respect the residents' privacy and property.
The portage skid starts on the left or south shore at the head of this very short rapid and ends at its foot (Grid location 868900 - Map 63-L/16).
Paddle for about 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) through reed and lily filled waters to the outlet of the small pond. At the outlet, there is a short rocky rapid and fall divided by an island. The left or west outlet is dry at all but high water levels. A rough log skid follows the course of this dry outlet.
From the upstream end, the portage starts at an old beaver dam on the left or west side of the most westerly outlet a few metres (yards) from the shallow and rocky outflow (Grid location 863915 - Map 63-L/16).
From the downstream end, the portage starts at a rocky landing on the right or west side of the most westerly inlet 10 metres (11 yards) from the shallow and rocky inflowing stream (Grid location 863916 - Map 63-L/16).
A few hundred metres (yards) below Portage Number 2, canoeists reach and pass by the incoming channel from Cotteral Lake. Paddle downstream in a northerly direction to the south end of Little Mari Lake.
The outlet of Little Mari Lake is located in a small cove opposite a sizeable island near the north end of the lake.
From Little Mari Lake, the portage starts from a grassy break in the shoreline vegetation 30 metres (33 yards) north of the outflowing stream (Grid location 877967 - Map 63-L/16).
From Mari Lake, the portage starts from a sharp break in the shoreline vegetation 20 metres (22 yards) north of the foot of the fall (Grid location 878967 - Map 63-L/16).
It is an interesting side trip to view this beautiful little fall, either from the portage and/or from the water below.
There is excellent walleye fishing in the waters at the base of the falls.
Travel briefly north, then south and then north again on Mari Lake for a total of about 45 kilometres (28 miles) to the rapids and portages leading to Jones Lake.
The overhead power transmission line between Island Falls generating station and Flin Flon, Manitoba crosses the water at the first narrows of Mari Lake (Grid location 094021 - Map 63-N/4).
Connecting the north end of Mari Lake with a long narrow pond between sets of rapids. 425 metres (465 yards) long and in poor condition. This portage bypasses shallow, rocky and impassable rapids and a small fall.
From the Mari Lake end, the portage starts at an inconspicuous break in the shoreline vegetation on the right or east shore a few metres (yards) above the start of the rapids (Grid location 882269 - Map 63-M/8).
At times of high water flow, a safer alternate would be from a very indistinct break in the alders to the right, or east of the remains of an old dock 50 metres (55 yards) above the start of the rapids (Grid location 882268 - Map 63-M/8). This alternate adds 80 metres (87 yards) to the length of the portage.
From the narrow pond, the portage starts from a definite break in the shoreline vegetation on the left or east shore 10 metres (11 yards) below the falls in the inflowing stream (Grid location 882274 - Map 63-M/8).
Paddle north to the outlet of the pond and the start of Portage Number 5.
From the narrow pond, the portage starts at a small break in the shoreline vegetation on the right or east shore immediately to the left of an old submerged dock (Grid location 879291 - Map 63-M/8). An alternate landing can be effected 10 metres (11 yards) below this point off the end of an old beaver dam.
From Jones Lake, the portage starts immediately to the left or east of the foot of the inflowing stream (Grid location 879294 - Map 63-M/8).
There are a number of outfitters' cabins located on Jones Lake.
Paddle 6 kilometres (3.75 miles) to the outlet of Jones Lake on the northeast shore and the start of Portage Number 6.
From Jones Lake, the portage starts at a distinct opening 30 metres (33 yards) to the right or east of the outlet stream which leaves the lake from the end of a narrow inlet on the northeast shore of the lake (Grid location 881348 - Map 63-M/8).
From the small pond, the portage starts from a small break in the shoreline vegetation near the mid point of the south shore of the pond (Grid location 882350 - Map 63-M/8).
There is a fork to the right near the end of this portage which bypasses the entire pond. This 600 metre (656 yard) trail ends on a sloping rock shelf 30 metres (33 yards) below the foot of the south falls. This trail is a fisherman's trail and it is not suitable for portaging canoes.
Paddle across this small pond to the outlet stream at its eastern end and make Portage Number 7 past a twin set of falls.
On leaving the pond, the stream splits into two channels each containing picturesque waterfalls.
From the small pond, the portage starts from an indistinct opening in the shoreline alders and willows 10 metres (11 yards) to the left or north side of the outlet stream (Grid location 884351 - Map 63-M/8).
From Kipahigan Lake, the portage starts from an indistinct break in the shoreline vegetation 15 metres (16 yards) north of the base of the most northerly of the two outlet falls (Grid location 886351 - Map 63-M/8). The shoreline rises steeply back of the narrow bush fringe of the shoreline.
Kipahigan Lake offers many fine natural campsites. There are also a number of private cabins and outfitters' out-camps on this lake.
Kipahigan is a large lake which can become quite rough in high winds. Special attention should be paid to navigation so as to safely reach the narrows leading to the northwestern part of the lake and the narrow outlet bay.
There is a small picnic and camping site located on the west side of the small falls at the outlet of Kipahigan Lake.
From Kipahigan Lake, the portage starts on the left or west side immediately at the head of the outlet fall (Grid location 837547 - Map 63-M/9).
From Chekuhikun Lake, the portage starts on the right or west side immediately at the foot of the inlet fall (Grid location 837548 - Map 63-M/9).
NOTE: In case of emergency, note that the extreme west arm of Chekuhikun Lake is connected to the settlement of Sandy Bay by a 5 kilometre (3 mile) dirt road. There are also a number of outfitters' out-camps on this lake.
The outlet of Chekuhikun Lake is at its extreme northeastern point. There are two sets of rapids and a major waterfall in the 7 kilometre (4.5 mile) outlet stream between Chekuhikun and Sisipuk Lakes.
From the upstream end, the portage starts at a grassy landing on the left or south side 45 metres (49 yards) above the start of the rapids (Grid location 880654 - Map 63-M/9). The trail is very steep and in part over bare rock sloping down towards the rapid below. Light loads should be taken over the portage first to enable the canoeists to familiarize themselves with the portage.
Blasting has served to create a rough rock dam at the head of the gorge through which the river flows.
From the downstream end, the portage starts from a grassy opening on the right or south shore 10 metres (11 yards) below the foot of the rapid and opposite a steep rock face (Grid location 877655 - Map 63-M/9). The trail enters an open birch stand and then angles up a very steep incline.
2 kilometres (1.25 miles) below Portage Number 9 the canoeist encounters the second rapid in this channel. Experts may elect to run this rapid after careful study from shore. Others will either make the short portage on the south shore or laboriously wade or line down the small channel along the north shore.
From the upstream end, the portage starts at a bare rock outcrop on the left or south side immediately at the head of the rapid (Grid location 857655 - Map 63-M/9). The indistinct trail goes over bare rock past the main part of the rapid, then through a dense growth of alders before dropping over bare rock to a small rocky cove in fast water at the foot of the rapid.
From the downstream end, the portage starts from a small rocky cove on the right or south side immediately at the foot of the rapid, and after paddling up a stretch of fast water (Grid location 856655 - Map 63-M/9).
A further 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) of paddling brings you to the last obstruction before reaching Sisipuk Lake and the Churchill River. There are remains of a sizeable man-made dam and a major waterfall at this location. Paddle to the right or east side where piles of broken rock from the work on the dam are still visible.
From the upstream side, the portage starts at a bare flat rock on the right or east side of the channel 40 metres (44 yards) to the right of the main drop of the fall and 20 metres (22 yards) to the left of the rock piles (Grid location 843663 - Map 63-M/9). The trail drops steeply to a rocky landing at the foot of the dam.
At this point, the underwater intakes for the powerhouse planned for this spot present a hazard for anyone who might fall into the water.
From the Sisipuk Lake end, the portage starts at a rocky landing 5 metres (16 feet) to the left or west of the two man-made channels flowing out from the base of the rock piles (Grid location 843664 - Map 63-M/9).
An old, barely discernable trail starts from a slight opening in the willows 15 metres (16 yards) to the right of the rock piles and angles steeply down to the foot of the dam over a distance of 90 metres (98 yards). This trail might have to be used at times of high water as the portage described above could be under water.
Sisipuk Lake is large and confusing. Navigation must be done carefully to safely reach the outflowing waters of the Churchill River at the lake's outlet.
Canoeists can now decide to explore the extensive shores of Sisipuk Lake or travel directly to the outlet on the east shore. There are numerous campsites along the varied shoreline of this large lake.
Within three kilometres (1.75 miles) of leaving the lake, the canoeists arrive at Bloodstone Falls. In this outlet channel, it is strongly advised that paddlers stay close to the right or south shore for the approach to this dangerous fall.
From the upstream or west end, this portage starts from a slight break in the shoreline vegetation back of a rock slope in a tiny cove on the right or south shore 100 metres (109 yards) above the start of the rapids leading to the fall (Grid location 375833 - Map 63-N/13).
Downstream travellers can avoid nearly half the length of this portage by carefully lining their canoes down to the start of a log skid used by motor boats.
From the downstream or east end, this portage starts at an obvious rock slope and log skid a few metres (yards) to the left or south of the foot of the fall (Grid location 376832 - Map 63-N/13). Loading, or unloading, of canoes is very tricky in the rough water at this spot. Watch for deceptive currents and large waves for several hundred metres (yards) below the falls.
Bonald Lake offers a number of natural campsite possibilities.
There is considerable current at the outlet of Bonald Lake, this could prove to be a problem for upstream paddlers. Stay to the right or southeast side while approaching the rapids at the outlet of the lake. Expert canoeists can run these rapids after careful study from shore. Others should seriously consider making optional portage number 13.
From the Bonald Lake end, this portage starts from a tiny cove on the right or south shore immediately above the start of the fast water (Grid location 485864 - Map 63-N/14).
From the Pukatawagan Lake end, this portage starts in a small sheltered cove on the left or south side a few metres (yards) below the foot of the rapid (Grid location 486863 - Map 63-N/14).
Upstream travellers will have to work up through considerable current in the narrows below the start of this portage (Grid location 494869 - Map 63-N/14).
The Indian community of Pukatawagan is located on the southeast side of a protecting peninsula (Grid location 540790 - Map 63-N/11). A fire tower located near the community is a good landmark for guiding the canoeist to its vicinity.
It is possible to reach the Canadian National Railways station which is located 10 kilometres (6.25 miles) east of the settlement without actually going into Pukatawagan by entering the bay north of the settlement (Grid location 543815 - Map 63-N/14). The railway station is located at the east end of this bay (Grid location 620816 - Map 63-N/14).
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