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Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Route

Canoe Trip 51


SANDY BAY - SOKATISEWIN LAKE - GUILLOUX LAKE -PAULINE LAKE - SCIMITAR LAKE - MOKOMAN LAKE - GILBERT LAKE - REINDEER RIVER - SOUTHEND, REINDEER LAKE

Length of Trip: 187 kilometres
Time Required to Complete Trip: 7 to 9 days
Number of Portages: 21


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 the presence of hazards not described herein. It is the canoeist's responsibility to proceed with caution and alertness, using discretion and good judgment 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 70 kilometres northeast of Pelican Narrows at the end of Highway 135. An alternate starting point for this trip is at Mile 29 of Highway 135 where the Mukoman River enters the southwest end of Sokatisewin Lake.

Arrangements for the safe parking of vehicles can likely be made with private outfitters in the community of Sandy Bay.

At Sandy Bay the starting point of this trip there are two stores (The Bay and on privately owned), a Saskatchewan Parks and Renewable Resources office, telephone communications, post office services, motel and a gas station.

This canoe trip can also be made in the reverse direction starting at Southend, Reindeer Lake which is located 215 kilometres northeast of La Ronge on Highway 102.


Maps:

63-M Pelican Narrows and Canada Army Survey Establishment Map 63-M Pelican Narrows (shows Sokatisewin Lake more accurately), Canada Army Survey Establishment Map 64-D Reindeer Lake South, Edition 2.

About the Trip:

This is a long and quite difficult trip through remote country. There are no dangerous rapids which must be run, but many long, hard portages and considerable upstream travel. It is not a suitable trip for beginners, but one for experienced or very determined intermediate canoeists in top physical condition, prepared to persist despite obstacles.

Experience in wilderness navigation is also essential because the route is sometimes unclear and canoeists must be competent with map and compass and able to detect the faintest signs of previous human passage along vague trails and obscure waterways.

In return for the expenditure of considerable energy, this trip offers entry into some remote wilderness areas, rich in big game, furbearers and waterfowl. Good fishing and wilderness camping opportunities abound throughout this trip. Travel is on two big rivers - the Churchill and the Reindeer - plus remote beaver flowages, meandering streams and isolated small lakes.

This trip can be made into a much longer loop trip by returning to Sandy Bay via the power Reindeer River and the Churchill River. This different return route is described in detail in Canoe Trip No. 39.

This canoe trip can also be made in the reverse direction, i.e. starting at Southend, Reindeer Lake and ending at Sandy Bay. With this possibility in mind, portage locations are described from both ends.

At Southend, Reindeer Lake, the end point for this trip, there is a general store and radio communications are available.


The Canoe Trip:

Launch canoes from the dock or beaches at Sandy Bay and paddle north and then west (upstream) toward the base of the powerhouse.

Portage No. 1:

Connecting the Churchill River below the dam with the northeast end of Sokatisewin Lake above the dam. Approximately 300 metres long and in good condition.

From below the dam this portage starts on the west shore about one half kilometres below the powerhouse. Canoeists must paddle up through some fast water to get to the start of this portage. At low water conditions canoes may have to be portaged along the shore. The start of the portage shows as a break in the shore vegetation between two rock outcroppings.

From the Sokatisewin Lake side this portage starts about one half kilometres northeast of the powerhouse at an obvious grassy landing in a cove by the remains of two old barges. A power line crosses the portage landing area.

Navigation on Sokatisewin Lake is confusing. Existing maps do not always accurately represent shore contours at prevailing water levels. The Army Survey Establishment map is more accurate on Sokatisewin Lake. The main route of travel on the lake may be marked by white barrels. Canoeists will have to paddle hard or even line up against the current of the river in the areas of Mukoman Rapids and Mussena Falls. These rapids and falls are no longer evident since the building of the dam at Sandy Bay.

Navigate carefully to locate the narrow outlet at the south end of Guilloux Lake. Paddle northeast up this lake. The small but spectacular falls entering Guilloux Lake on the east side near the north end is well worth visiting.

Enter the spruce-lined river on the west side of the north end of Guilloux Lake and paddle up against a slight current. During periods of low water a rock ledge may be exposed which will have to be carried over.

Portage No. 2:

Around the lower double rapids in the stream flowing into the northwest end of Guilloux Lake. Approximately 140 metres long and in fair condition.

From the downstream side the start of this portage is obvious on the east side at the base of the rapids.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the east side of a beaver dam at the start of the rapids.

After paddling a little less than a kilometre up the weed-filled river, canoeists reach the base of a small rock-strewn rapid.

Portage No. 3:

Around a small, rocky rapid in the river between Guilloux Lake and Pauline Lake. Approximately 115 metres long and in fair condition.

From the downstream side this portage starts 10 metres from the base of the rapids on the west side (left side for upstream travel).

From the upstream side this portage starts at an obvious grassy landing on the south side a few metres before the start of the rapids.

After more quiet paddling for about one and one half kilometre, a short double stretch of fastwater occurs. These two stretches can be lined up or waded up.

Portage No. 4:

Around rapids in the river between Guilloux and Pauline Lakes. Approximately 90 kilometres long and in fair to good condition.

From the downstream side this portage starts on the west side in thick alders 20 metres below the base of the fast water.

From the upstream side this portage starts at an obvious rock on the south side 15 to 20 metres above the first fast water. Look for blazed spruce. This rapid is at a bend in the river which explains why the trail starts on the west side but ends on the south side.

Portage No. 5:

Around the last rapids in the river before reaching Pauline Lake. Approximately 190 metres long and in fair to good condition.

From the downstream side this portage starts at an obvious landing on the northwest shore 25 metres below the base of the rapids.

From the Pauline Lake side, this portage starts 50 to 75 metres northeast of the start of the outlet from Pauline Lake. Look for blazed spruce and birch at start.

Portage No. 6:

Connecting the west side of the eastern half of Pauline Lake with the narrow meandering stream leading to the western half of Pauline Lake. Approximately 265 metres long and in good condition. This trail is steep at its east end and traverses a semi-open poplar ridge. Watch for blazes.

From the west central shores of the eastern half of Pauline Lake this portage starts on a birchy slope on the northwest side of the in-flowing waters. This portage starts several hundred metres northwest of in-flowing stream.

From the east end of the meandering stream connecting the west and east halves of Pauline Lake this portage starts on the east side of the stream and obstructing beaver dam. Note: There exists a longer and poorer portage trail on the opposite side of the stream from portage No. 6 described above.

After less than one and one half kilometres of paddling against a moderate current, haul over a beaver dam and after a bend in the river the canoeist comes out on to the west part of Pauline Lake.

Paddle to the west side of the west part of Pauline Lake.

Portage No. 7:

Around the lower of the two rapids separating Pauline and Scimitar Lakes. Approximately 365 metres long and in poor but passable condition. Watch for blazes along trail. Trail follows old survey line in part near its west end.

From the west side of Pauline Lake this portage starts obscurely 180 or more metres northeast of the boulder-strewn, inflowing stream and about 10 metres northeast of rock outcrop.

From the upstream or west end this portage starts on the east side of the outlet 30 metres before it narrows into a chute of fast water.

Portage No. 8:

Around the upper set of rapids between Pauline and Scimitar Lakes. Approximately 360 metres long and in fair condition.

From the downstream side this portage starts as a break in the alders on the northeast shore 10 metres from the base of the in-flowing rapids.

From the southeast side of Scimitar Lake this portage starts as a break in the willows and alders on the northeast side of the outlet stream about 50 metres above the start of the rapids.

Paddle to the west side of Scimitar Lake.

Portage No. 9:

Connecting the west side of Scimitar Lake with the quiet waters above the rapids in the stream flowing in from Mokoman Lake. Approximately 420 metres long and in fair to good condition. This portage is over an old winter road in part.

From the west shore of Scimitar Lake this portage starts 35 metres north of the inflowing rapids.

From the upstream side this portage starts indistinctly 15 metres above a beaver dam and rapids on the north side of the stream.

Portage No. 10:

Around small rocky rapids in the stream between Scimitar and Mokoman Lakes. Approximately 420 metres long and in fair condition.

From the downstream approach this portage starts at an open patch on the north side 30 metres below the inflowing waters. The trail starts on an old winter road and is indistinct at first but soon intersects an old portage trail which is in better condition, so follow the portage trail.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the east side above an old beaver dam on a semi-open birchy slope at the side of the fast water. The trail is indistinct at first.

Portage No. 11:

Around the rapids at the east side or outlet of Mokoman Lake. Approximately 200 metres long and in good condition but overgrown in spots. This portage trail crosses an old mineral claim line along its route.

From the downstream side this portage starts at a break in black spruce and tamarack on the northwest shore 30 metres from the base of the inflowing rapids.

From the upstream side this portage starts 70 to 90 metres north of a small cove on the east shore of Mokoman Lake from which the rapids start.

Paddle into the west central bay of Mokoman Lake and enter the weed-filled river. Within a few hundred metres haul up over the first of 3 beaver dams. Travel in a south or southwest direction in the beaver flowage after hauling over the second or third dam. Push through dense willows and look for signs of old axe cuts at thick spots. The channel becomes very narrow. Look for a rocky outcrop on the right or west side.

Portage No. 12:

Connecting the beaver flowage west and slightly south of the west central bay on Mokoman Lake with the southeast outlet from the lake west of Mokoman Lake. Approximately 1,250 metres long. Condition is highly variable.

Approaching from the beaver flowage west of Mokoman Lake this long portage starts 25 metres past the rocky outcrop previously described, on the right or west side. The trail soon goes along the open shore of the next beaver pond upstream. The trail is very indistinct at this point, but then angles away from the beaver pond and up onto a low rocky jack pine ridge. Watch for blazes. After angling over the jack pine ridge the trail crosses two wet muskegs before entering a strip of thick shore bush at the southeast outlet of the lake west of Mokoman Lake.

Approaching from the outlet at the southeast end of the lake west of Mokoman Lake this long portage starts at a break in willows and birches. The trail is generally quite straight and shortly crosses two wet muskegs. Then is crosses a low rocky jackpine ridge. An old trail swings to a beaver pond at the start of the ridge - do not follow it - but rather go up to the ridge, following the line of blazes until the trail becomes indistinct as it goes along the open shores of a beaver pond. Pick up the trail again in the bush near the outlet of the beaver pond and continue on below the pond. This portage ends 25 metres above a rock outcrop on the west side of a beaver flowage below the dam.

Portage No. 13:

Connecting the west shore of the lake west of Mokoman Lake with the northeast shore of the small lake lying to the southwest. Approximately 130 metres long and in good condition.

From the southwest shores of the lake west of Mokoman Lake this portage starts at an inconspicuous spot. Look for blazed birches on the southwest shore 200 to 300 metres north and west of a tiny outlet stream but before reaching an old beaver house.

From the northeast shore of the small lake lying to the southwest of the lake west of Mokoman Lake this portage starts several hundred yards north of the tiny in-flowing stream shown on the map.

For purposes of this description Gilbert Lake is considered as having three parts: an eastern part with a distinctive northern bay, a central or main part, and a smaller western part.

Portage No. 14:

Connecting the west shore of the small lake lying to the southwest, i.e. the small lake east of the east part of Gilbert Lake to the east shore of the east part of Gilbert Lake. Approximately 420 metres long and in fair condition but wet in spots.

From the northwest side of the small lake east of the east part of Gilbert Lake this portage starts 20 metres north of the outlet.

From the east central shore of the east part of Gilbert Lake this portage starts 20 to 30 metres northwest of the small inflowing stream at a break in the alders and willows by a big birch tree.

Paddle generally west across the east part of Gilbert Lake and enter the lily-filled outlet stream on the west side. After about one and one half kilometres of quiet stream travel the canoeist comes to the main or central part of Gilbert Lake. Paddle to the outlet on the west side of the main part of Gilbert Lake.

Portage No. 15:

Connecting the outlet of the main part of Gilbert Lake with the east shore of the west part of Gilbert Lake. Approximately 110 metres long and in good condition.

From the west central shore of the main part of Gilbert Lake this portage starts on the northwest side of the small outlet stream at an obvious break. Canoeists can land either side of the two and a half metre high shore rock.

From the northeast side of the west part of Gilbert Lake this portage starts on the northeast side of the inflowing waters 30 metres from the base of the rapids.

Paddle west across the west part of Gilbert Lake to the outlet.

Portage No. 16:

Connecting the west part of Gilbert Lake to the lake east of the Reindeer River. Approximately 675 metres long and in good condition. The mid portion of the trail may be very wet and there is the possibility of paddling 100 metres across a pond rather than portaging around it.

From the west shore of the west part of Gilbert Lake this portage starts 70 to 100 metres south of the outlet at a break in the alders and willows.

From the northeast shore of the lake east of the Reindeer River this portage starts 200 metres southeast of the inflowing waters.

Paddle to the outlet on the west side of the lake.

Portage No. 17:

Connecting the lake east of the Reindeer River with quiet waters below the first rapids at its outlet. Approximately 310 metres long and in fair condition.

From the bay on the southwest side of the lake east of the Reindeer River this portage starts on the northwest side of the outlet immediately above a little chute at the start of the rapids.

From the west or stream side below the rapids this portage starts at an inconspicuous break in the alders and willows on the northwest shore 15 metres from the base of a small falls.

Portage No. 18:

Connecting the stream flowing into the Reindeer River from the east with the Reindeer River. Approximately 120 metres long and in fair to good condition.

From above the rapids this portage starts on the north side immediately above the start of the rapids.

From below the rapids this portage starts at a hole in the willows 20 to 30 metres north of the base of the inflowing rapids.

Travel north and west up the Reindeer River to the vicinity of Steephill Rapids.

Portage No. 19:

Connecting the Reindeer River below Steephill Rapids with the southeast end of Steephill Lake. Approximately 165 metres long and in excellent condition.

From below the rapids this portage starts steeply from a pocket on the north shore near the base of the rapids.

From above the rapids at the southeast end of Steephill Lake this portage starts as located on Map 653-M on the north side of the outlet at a sandy landing.

Paddle up the east shore of Steephill Lake through the narrows to Royal Lake. After Royal Lake the river narrows again for about 9 kilometres of upstream travel until it opens out into the small lake below Devil Rapids.

Portage No. 20 - Around Devil Rapids:

Connecting the Reindeer River with Fafard Lake. Approximately 425 metres long and in poor condition.

From below these rapids this portage starts from a cove on the north shore below the fast water.

From above the rapids this portage starts on the west shore about 450 metres above the start of the rapids.

Paddle north on Fafard Lake to the base of the dam on the west side.

Portage No. 21 - Around Whitesand Dam:

Connecting Fafard Lake to Marchand Lake. Approximately 90 metres long and in good condition.

From below the dam this portage starts about 75 metres south of the base of the dam at a small beach. On approaching the base of the dam, stay close to the south shore and land on the beach immediately above the large protruding rock. The trail is covered with pole skids and ends at the southwest end of the dam. Be cautious on embarking at the end of the portage above the dam as there are dangerous currents flowing into the dam's gates.

From above the dam this portage starts around the southwest end of the dam. Hug the south shore on approaching the dam to avoid being drawn into the currents flowing through the dam's gates.

There is a safer, longer alternative portage around Whitesand Dam on the north side.

Portage No. 21A (Alternative portage around Whitesand Dam):

Connecting Fafard Lake to Marchand Lake approximately 250 metres long.

From below the dam this portage starts at the base of the dam on the north side in relatively calm water. It is steep and passes the dam tender's shop. It ends at a beach 180 metres above the dam.

From above the dam this portage starts on the north side of the dam at a small beach 180 metres above the dam.

From above the dam travel in a northwest and north course across Marchand Lake and past the settlement of Southend. Then swing west past two rocky points to the dock and road access with Highway 102. This is the end point of this canoe trip.


WRITTEN BY: Peter Gregg
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.

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