You have entered the Canoe Saskatchewan suite

Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Route

Canoe Trip 47


Sandy Bay - Churchill River - Wasawakasik Lake - Loon Lake - Sisipuk Lake - Bonald Lake (Manitoba) - Pukatawagan (Manitoba)

Length of Trip: 107 Kilometres (67 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: 4 to 5 days
Number of Portages: 5


Warning:

Water levels and canoeing conditions on many Saskatchewan rivers and lakes vary from time to time, causing changes in the appearance of the various landmarks described in this booklet, as well as causing hazards not described herein. It is the canoeist's responsibility to proceed with caution and alertness, using discretion and good judgement at all times. The information in this booklet is intended to be of general assistance only, and the Government of Saskatchewan assumes no responsibility for its use. Canoeists are reminded that they travel at their own risk at all times.

Access to Starting Point:

The starting point of this trip is Sandy Bay, a small community in northeastern Saskatchewan located at the end of Highway 135 (Gravel) 121 kilometres (75 miles) northeast of its junction with Highway 106 (Paved). Highway 106 is also known as the 'Hanson Lake Road'. Arrangements for the safe parking and/or transfer of vehicles could likely be made with outfitters at Sandy Bay.

For those canoeists who may 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. They should also allow 6 to 7 days to complete it.


Maps:

63-M/9 Sandy Bay, 63-M/16 Loon Lake, 63-N/11 Pukatawagan, Manitoba, 63-N/12 Sisipuk Lake, 63-N/13 Britton Lake and 63-N/14 Llama Lake, Manitoba

About the Trip:

This is a big river and big lake trip along an historic travel route which is still used to a considerable extent. Although this trip is on the famous Churchill River, it is not a dangerous trip for careful canoeists of intermediate experience. Skilled canoeists travelling downstream may elect to make only two portages, but cautious downstream canoeists and those making the trip in reverse will make all five portages.

The duration of this trip could easily be increased by:

  1. Spending several days exploring the extensive shores of Sisipuk Lake before going on to Pukatawagan;
  2. Spending several days exploring the extensive shores of Sisipuk Lake and then returning to Sandy Bay; or,
  3. Completing Saskatchewan trips 46/47 which leave the southwest end of Sisipuk Lake and end at Tyrrell Lake.
As is the case with most northern Saskatchewan canoe trips, fishing and camping opportunities are excellent 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. Although most will choose to make this trip in the direction described because it is downstream all the way, this trip could be made in reverse with the aid of a small outboard motor or simply by a willingness to paddle against the considerable current of the Churchill River. For this reason descriptions of portage locations will be given from both ends.

At Sandy Bay, the starting point of this trip, there are a number of stores, a Government of Saskatchewan office, post office, motel, restaurant, gas station, air charter services and telephone communications.

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.


The Canoe Trip:

On leaving Sandy Bay and heading north and east down the Churchill River considerable current will be encountered before reaching the rapid at the southwest end of Wasawakasik Lake.

There are two routes past this rapid. The northern route involves a longer portage and it bypasses stretches of considerable current and the rapid. The shorter portage on the southern route bypasses only the rapid itself. At times of lower water the faster water separated by an island (Grid location 696584 - Map 63-M/9) becomes a Class 1 rapid which should be inspected prior to running.

Northern Route:

Portage Number 1A (Optional):

Connecting the waters north and east of Sandy Bay with the southwest end of Wasawakasik Lake. 235 metres (257 yards) long and in fairly good condition. This portage bypasses a Class 1 rapid.

From the upstream or southwest side, this portage starts on the east shore of a cove in the bay north of the rapid (Grid location 716595 - Map 63-M/9).

From the downstream or northeast side, this portage starts as a break in the shoreline vegetation of a shallow grassy cove on the southwest shore of Wasawakasik Lake (Grid location 718594 - Map 63-M/9).

Southern Route:

More experienced downstream travellers may opt to stay with the main channel and decide to either run this rapid after looking it over from shore, or to portage past it using Optional portage 1B.

Portage Number 1B (Optional):

Connecting the waters north and east of Sandy Bay with the southwest end of Wasawakasik Lake. 95 metres (104 yards) long and in fairly good condition. This portage bypasses a Class 1 rapid.

From the upstream side, this portage starts from a bare rocky slope on the right or south shore 5 metres (5.5 yards) above the start of the rapid (Grid location 717587 - Map 63-M/9).

From the downstream side, this portage starts on the left or south shore from a bare rocky slope at the foot of the rapid (Grid location 718588 - Map 63-M/9). On the south end of an island near the southwest end of Wasawakasik Lake (Grid location 733606 - Map 63-M/9) there is a small cemetery used by the residents of Sandy Bay.

Paddle in a generally northeast direction to the outlet at the north end of Wasawakasik Lake.

Two options exist for travel from Wasawakasik Lake to Okipwatsikew Lake:

  1. Stay with the main, more westerly channel and either make optional portage number 2A or run the rapid after carefully studying it from shore; or,
  2. At times of higher water, follow the Stewart Channel and either make optional portage number 2B or run the rapid after carefully studying it from shore.
NOTE: At the time of this survey, water levels on the Churchill River were so low that the Stewart Channel was not navigable.

Westerly Route:

Portage Number 2A (Optional):

Connecting the north end of Wasawakasik Lake to fast water leading to the south end of Okipwatsikew Lake. 240 metres (262 yards) long and in fairly good condition. This portage bypasses a class 1+ rapid.

From the upstream or south end, this portage starts from a slight break in the shoreline vegetation near the centre of a grassy cove on the left or west shore 500 metres (547 yards) above the head of the rapid (Grid location 747690 - Map 63-M/9).

From the downstream or north end, this portage starts from an indistinct break in the shoreline alders on the left or south shore near the base of a large spruce tree 500 metres (547 yards) up a small stream which enters the Churchill River at the base of the rapid (Grid location 746692 - Map 63-M/9).

There is considerable current in the main channel prior to its entering Okipwatsikew Lake. This current could prove to be a distinct hindrance to the upstream paddler and may require the canoe to be lined.

Stewart Channel Route:

Stewart Channel is in part man-made. At times of high water, the current in this channel could prove to be a hindrance to the upstream paddler.

Portage Number 2B (Optional):

Around a short rapid in the Stewart Channel. 45 metres long and in only fair condition, it is an indefinite trail along the northwest shore of the channel. This portage bypasses a Class 1+ rapid.

From the upstream or south end, this portage starts at an indistinct break in the shoreline vegetation on the left or northwest side of Stewart Channel at the head of the rapid (Grid location 761684 - Map 63-M/9).

From the downstream or north end, this portage starts at an indistinct break in the shoreline vegetation on the right or northwest side of the channel at the foot of the rapid (Grid location 762684 - Map 63-M/9).

Paddle on in a generally northeast direction on Okipwatsikew Lake and through the narrows into the southwest end of Loon Lake.

Shortly after entering the eastern arm of Loon Lake, note the cut-line through the trees on the peninsula to the south (Grid location 876930 - Map 63-M/16) and on the island to the north. This cut-line marks the boundary between Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

On reaching the eastern part of Loon Lake, take the more southerly route around the large island. This route involves a single falls and portage, whereas the northern route around the island involves two sets of Class 2+ rapids past which no portage trail was found.

Portage Number 3:

Connecting the southeast end of Loon Lake to the northern part of Sisipuk Lake. 170 metres (186 yards) long and in only fair condition due to a recent forest fire. This portage bypasses a 1.25 metre (4 foot) fall.

From the upstream or Loon Lake side, this portage starts at a break in the vegetation back of a small sandy beach in a cove 100 metres (109 yards) to the right or south side of the outlet fall (Grid location 209908 - Map 63-N/13).

From the downstream or Sisipuk Lake side, this portage starts from the end of a shallow weed filled bay on the left or south side 500 metres (547 yards) from the base of the falls (Grid location 210909 - Map 63-N/13).

At the junction of the two channels there is considerable current which could be a problem for upstream travellers.

Canoeists here now decide on the options mentioned in the section titled 'About the Trip' at the start of this canoe trip description.

There are numerous campsites along the varied shoreline of Sisipuk Lake.

Within 3 kilometres (1.75 miles) of leaving the lake, the canoeist arrives 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.

Portage Number 4:

Connecting the outlet waters of Sisipuk Lake to Bonald Lake. 210 metres (230 yards) long and in fair to good condition, though very steep at the downstream end. This portage bypasses a 4 metre (13 foot) 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 5.

Portage Number 5 (Optional):

Connecting Bonald and Pukatawagan Lakes. 30 metres (33 yards) long and in only fair condition. This portage bypasses a class 2 rapid.

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).


WRITTEN BY: Original script by Peter Gregg, field reviewed in 1994 by Historic Trails Canoe Club.
Credits: The text for the numbered canoe routes is supplied by Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management, and authorization for the use of the text is given by the same department.

Return to Canoe Saskatchewan Home Page | Routes & Trips


Page creation by Rebecca Kennel Consulting
Send questions to the
Modified on 23 Jan 96