SK Historic Canoe Route 35
Brabant Lake - Wapiskau River - Steephill Lake -Reindeer River - Southend (Reindeer Lake)
Length of Trip: 112 kilometres
Time Required to Complete Trip: 5 to 7 days
Number of Portages: 15-16
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:
This canoe trip starts at Brabant Lake approximately 173 kilometres north of La Ronge on Highway 102. Canoes may be launched from the end of the short access road which leads east immediately after Highway 102 crosses the Waddy River. There is a radio station at this location. Vehicles can be parked there.
64D Reindeer Lake South and 63M Pelican Narrows.
About the Trip:
Although this trip is not too long, it is not recommended for beginners because it traverses a relatively wild river, the Wapiskau, with many rapids and portages. This area has been burned over, but has regrown to such an extent that it is quite attractive and very rich in wildlife.
The Reindeer River portion will seem relatively easy even though it is upstream and against a slight current in places.
There is good fishing for northern pike and walleye along this route especially below falls and rapids.
The trip can end at the town of Southend or at the dock (Reindeer Lake) at the end of Highway 102 about 216 kilometres north of La Ronge.
The Canoe Trip:
Starting from the northwest end of Brabant Lake, the canoeist travels south and east to the southeast part of the lake where the outlet is. This outlet which is at the northeast end of the most southeasterly bay of Brabant Lake is the start of the Wapiskau River.
As the outlet stream turns to the northeast a current becomes noticeable. Soon the canoeist enters a little fast water followed by a quiet stretch and then in about 800 metres the start of the first rapids. This should be surveyed carefully. The experienced may run them; the more cautious will portage.
Portage No. 1 (optional):
Approximately 15 to 20 metres long and over bare rocks. This very short carry is on the left or north side. About 800 metres further downstream the next rapids start.
Portage No. 2:
Approximately 35 to 45 metres and in fair condition.
This portage starts on the right or east bank in a shallow rocky area. Wading may be necessary to reach the start of this portage.
Next, the canoeist crosses a lake, working to its narrow outlet to the southeast and then travels east across a bay to the outlet on the east side. This requires eight to ten kilometres of paddling. In the outlet stream there is a minor riffle and then after about 800 metres the canoeist approaches rapids and a major waterfall.
Portage No. 3:
Approximately 125 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage trail starts on a rock on the north or left side of the main channel immediately above the rapids and bypasses the rapids and the five metre falls which follow the rapids. Within about 135 metres the canoeist passes the base of an in-flowing tributary stream and falls on the north side.
Two minor riffles follow within the next 800 metres and then in four to five kilometres a substantial rapid.
It should be noted that on map 64D the Wapiskau River appears to be blocked by land at this point. This is, of course, not the case.
Portage No. 4:
Approximately 40 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts at a small sand beach 20 metres from the start of the rapids and on the north or left side. This rapid is split by a small islet with the main flow of water in the north channel. Some experts may elect to run this rapid after carefully looking it over. Another course of action is to carry over the rock islet a few metres and then wade below the islet guiding the canoe through the shallows to deeper water.
Within 175 metres another rapid follows.
Portage No. 5:
Approximately 25 metres long and in good condition.
This portage starts on a rock landing on the north or left side about 20 metres above the start of the rapids which are actually a small falls. The trail has a rocky ending about 25 metres north of the base of the small falls.
Canoeists next travel east across a small lake and into a narrows to the next rapids and falls.
Portage No. 6:
Approximately 70 metres long and in fair condition.
To find the start of this portage travel 400 to 800 metres north of the rapids along the north shore to a small horsetail-filled cove. Push into shore weeds on the north shore near the easternmost extremity of the cove to find the inconspicuous start of this trail.
From below these falls, travel about one and a half kilometres east to the outlet. At the outlet there are small rapids which are in two stages about 25 to 35 metres apart. These can be looked over from the rocks on the south side and then run with caution or canoes may be easily let down over the rocks on the right side.
About 180 metres below this small set of rapids a falls occurs.
Portage No. 7:
Approximately 80 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts on the left or northeast shore 25 metres from the start of the rapids above the falls.
Roughly 175 metres below the falls there are more rapids in a double set. These should present no problems, but look them over before running them and if in doubt, wade down instead.
About 400 metres below these rapids there is another larger rapid.
Portage No. 8:
Approximately 20 to 30 metres. The portage is over bare rocks.
This portage starts on the southeast side close to the start of the falls and may require wading to get to its start.
After paddling about one and one half kilometres and passing a small rocky island the next set of rapids and falls are approached.
Portage No. 9:
Approximately 40 metres long and over bare rock.
The start of this portage is on the northwest or left side of the rapids above the falls. The actual start is reached after descending through some fast water at the first part of the rapids. This falls has an identifying distinctive rock shelf projecting in its centre.
About one and one-half kilometres below this falls the next falls occurs.
Portage No. 10:
Approximately 25 to 30 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts on the north or left side at a rocky landing at the start of the fast water.
Following this portage the river flows quietly for several kilometres, opening out into a lake and crossing to its outlet on the east side.
There are three falls in the next portion of river leading to White Lake.
Portage No. 11:
Approximately 70 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts about 30 metres northeast of the falls on the left side. The next portage is within 135 metres.
Portage No. 12:
Approximately 70 metres long. This trail is over open rock with some scrub growth along it.
This portage starts on the southeast or right shore on rocks at the start of fast water. The approach to the start of the portage is very shallow. The falls occurs in a narrow gorge only four to six metres wide in places.
Within a few hundred metres the last falls before White Lake occurs.
Portage No. 13:
Approximately 30 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts on a large flat rock on the south shore immediately above the falls. Stay close to the right or south shore in approaching the start of this portage.
The canoeist should now travel about five and a half kilometres in a southeast direction across White Lake to its outlet.
Portage No. 14:
Connecting White Lake to Steephill lake. Approximately 35 metres long for the shorter trail over pole skids and about 75 metres long for the longer alternative trail.
There is a short trail with pole skids to facilitate dragging big boats. This short trail starts on the rocks immediately to the right or southwest of the rapids. The longer trail starts on rocks 25 to 35 metres further back from the start of the rapids. It is, therefore, a safer landing than the short trail. Both trails soon join together and end on a flat rock west of the base of the rapids.
Canoeists should travel east and south across Steephill lake to its outlet on the southeast shore.
Travel in a winding course across Steephill lake to the in-flowing waters on the east shore north of the outlet. Paddle upstream on the Reindeer River until it widens into Royal Lake. After Royal Lake the river narrows again for about 14-15 kilometres until it opens into the small lake below Devil Rapids.
Portage No. 15 - Around Devil Rapids:
Approximately 425 metres long and in poor condition.
This portage starts in a cove north of the base of the rapids and ends about 450 metres above them.
Travel to the dam at the northwest end of Fafard Lake.
Portage No. 16 - Around Whitesand Dam:
Connecting Fafard Lake to Marchand Lake. Approximately 90 metres long and in good condition.
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.
There is a safer, longer alternative portage around Whitesand Dam on the north side.
Alternative Portage No. 16A - Around Whitesand Dam: (not shown on map)
Connecting Fafard Lake to Marchand Lake. Approximately 250 metres long.
This portage begins 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 the dam travel in a northwest and north course across Marchand Lake to the settlement of Southend. The trip may be ended at Southend, which has road access to Highway 102, telephone, food and accommodation services. Canoeists can also continue west past two rocky points to the dock at the end of Highway 102, there is a Government of Saskatchewan campground here.
WRITTEN BY: Original script by Historic Trails Canoe Club, Regina Revised by Peter Gregg.