SK Historic Canoe Route 39
SOUTHEND, REINDEER LAKE - REINDEER RIVER - CHURCHILL RIVER - SANDY BAY
Length of Trip: Approximately 201 kilometres
Time Required to Complete Trip: 8 to 12 days
Number of Portages: 9 - 13
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:
This trip begins at the lake access from Highway 102 about 216 kilometres north of La Ronge near Southend, Reindeer Lake.
64D Reindeer Lake South and 64M Pelican Narrows.
About the Trip:
The first part of this trip down the Reindeer River is relatively easy. The few portages required are easy to find and well used. The last part of this trip down the Churchill River is quite strenuous with many rapids and portages. This trip is for experienced canoeists.
Fishing for northern pike and walleye is good throughout the trip, especially below falls and rapids.
The Canoe Trip:
The canoeists should travel east and south past the settlement of Southend. Watch for rocks and obstructions at the narrow entrance to Marchand Lake. Travel southeast to the outlet of Marchand Lake and the Whitesand Dam.
Portage No. 1 - Around Whitesand Dam: (Not shown on map)
Connecting Marchand Lake to Fafard Lake. Approximately 90 metres long and in good condition.
This portage starts around the southwest end of the dam. Hug the south shore on approaching the dam to avoid being drawn into the current flowing through the dam's gates. This trail is covered with pole skids for the hauling of boats. Exercise caution in the waves below this portage.
There is a safer, longer alternative portage around Whitesand Dam.
Alternate Portage No. 1A - Around Whitesand Dam: (Not shown on map)
Connecting Marchand Lake to Fafard Lake. Approximately 250 metres long.
This portage starts on the north side of the dam at a small beach 180 metres above the dam.
Travel to the southwest end of Fafard Lake to above Devil Rapids. These rapids start immediately after making a sharp turn to the right. These rapids can be run by expert canoeists but should be approached with great caution.
Portage No. 2 - Around Devil Rapids (optional): (Not shown on map)
Connecting Fafard Lake to the upper Reindeer River. Approximately 240 metres long in poor condition.
This portage starts on the west shore about 450 metres above the sharp bend immediately preceding Devil Rapids.
Below Devil Rapids canoeists should travel down the river and down Royal Lake to the east side of Steephill Lake where the outlet is located.
Portage No. 3 - Around Steephill Rapids: (Not shown on map)
Connecting Steephill Lake with the Reindeer River below Steephill Rapids. Approximately 160 metres long and in excellent condition.
This portage starts as located on map 63M near the island on the north or left side of the outlet at the southeast shore of Steephill Lake. The landing is sandy.
The character of the trip changes travelling down the Reindeer River. The current is negligible and the width of the river makes it seem like a lake much of the time. The next portage occurs after about 50 kilometres of downstream travel at Atik Falls. There is no settlement at The Two Rivers.
Portage No. 4 - Around Atik Falls:
Approximately 210 metres long for long trail and 90 metres long for short trail. Both are in good condition.
The portage around Atik Falls, which is actually more of a rapids than a falls, starts on the west side and not as shown on map 63M. There is a portage landing on the west shore about 150 metres above the rapids. About 125 metres closer to the rapids and after passing through some fast water with rocks, at a location about 25 metres from the start of the rapids, a second short portage trail starts. This shorter trail has skid poles laid down for dragging boats across. Both the short and long trails join together and have a common ending about 65 metres below the rapids.
Canoeists should travel on downstream to the junction with the Churchill River and turn east into Iskwatam Lake.
The two sets of rapids encountered upon entering the west end of Iskwatam Lake are no problem. The two sets are a few hundred metres apart. Canoeists should stay to the right or south side.
Travel east on Iskwatam Lake staying south of the three large islands. The set of rapids shown south of the big island on which the word "Lake" is printed on map 63M are only fast water. The first real rapids are between the most easterly of the large islands on Iskwatam Lake and the south shore.
Portage No. 5: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 20 metres long. This is not a real portage trail but just a carry along the shore rocks past the worst part of the rapid.
This portage starts on a rock on the left or north side about six metres above the small drop. Experts could run these rapids after looking them over.
The next rapids are a series about 800 metres further down. After looking them over experts may decide to run these down the left or north side. Others should line and wade past them along the north shore.
Within about 275 metres a more severe set of rapids occurs which must be portaged over shore rocks.
Portage No. 6: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 40 metres long and over shore rocks.
This portage starts at any safe landing spot on the north or left shore above the rapids.
The next moderate rapids are split by an island. The more cautious will lower their canoes through several small rapids and channels in the protruding rocks along the northwest shore. The more experienced canoeists will decide to run the chute close to the island.
Within another 275 metres the canoeist comes to the next set of rapids. After looking these over they can be lined on the left or north shore or they can be run.
The set of rapids shown on map 63M as occurring south of elevation spot 1039 are not evident.
Shortly the river opens out and swings to the south with several islands in evidence. The outlet of this area is through a narrows to the northeast. Double rapids are indicated on map 63M at these narrows, but, in fact, there are no rapids at this location.
The next rapids are shown on map 63M as starting at BM 1048.
Portage No. 7:
Connecting quiet waters below series of rapids east of Iskwatam Lake with Wapumon Lake. Approximately 1,000 metres long and in good condition.
The start of this long portage is incorrect as printed on map 63M. The portage actually starts several hundred metres southeast and after passing through preliminary rapids, stay close to the left or north shore and make a sharp left turn into a rocky cove. The portage trail starts at an obvious break in the poplars along the shores of this cove. The portage ends in an extensive grassy area. It is worthwhile to take the time to walk to the gorge and see the scenery.
An alternative to making the 1,000 metre portage is to follow the course of the river to Wapumon Lake. This is somewhat dangerous and should only be considered by skilled canoeists. The choice of following the river's course to Wapumon Lake still requires making two alternate portages.
After descending down the rapids which pass the cove from which the long portage starts, stay close to the left shore and enter a quiet, willow-lined bay above the next rapids.
First Alternate Portage: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 80 metres long and in good condition.
This portage starts from the most easterly part of the bay and is approximately 350 metres from the start of the rapids it by-passes. It ends in a very narrow channel which leads to the main channel.
Canoeists should keep to the left side and cross a small bay approximately 90 metres wide and go to the east shore.
Second Alternate Portage: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 400 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts several hundred metres above the rapids (gorge) that it by-passes. It starts up a hill through alders and birch on the east shore of the bay and ends on a projecting rock ledge north of the base of the fast water. Below this ledge there is more fast water which can be run with caution.
There are good opportunities for fishing in the pools below the gorge and berry picking along its top in season.
Below the gorge there are several sets of rapids leading to the south part of Wapumon Lake. These can be run after looking them over or descended in stages, wading when necessary.
Canoeists should cross Wapumon to its outlet at the southeast side. The rapids between Wapumon and Wentigo Lakes are not serious and can be safely run by alert canoeists.
Canoeists should paddle across Wentigo Lake to the outlet on the east shore as shown on map 63M.
Portage No. 8 - at Outlet of Wentigo Lake: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 40 metres long and in good condition.
The first portage out of Wentigo Lake starts on the right or south shore in a cove 40 metres above the start of the rapids.
After this rapid the river course turns north for about one and a half kilometres and then swings sharply right or east and three more sets of rapids occur.
On approaching the first set, hug the right or south shore and slip cautiously around the first projecting rocky point into quieter water. Line down the south shore if necessary.
Paddle on for 360 metres and land on the upstream side of the second rocky point. Either line carefully around this point or carry about 40 metres over bare rock to avoid the second set of rapids.
Experts may decide to run both first and second sets, but must land immediately after the second set to portage around the third and most severe part of this series of three rapids.
Portage No. 9: (Not shown on map)
Approximately 30 metres long and in good condition.
This portage starts at a landing on the right side 30 metres to the side of the rapids.
Below this set of three rapids the route goes to the northwest end of Pita Lake. There is a turn to the right or east and rapids divided by a small island are encountered. Experts can run the northeast channel after looking it over; the more cautious should portage across the island.
Portage No. 10 (optional): (Not shown on map)
Approximately 35 metres long and in fair condition.
This portage starts on the northwestern shore of the small island on its upstream side.
Canoeists should cross Pita Lake staying north of the peninsula to reach the outlet on the east side.
The rapids at the outlet of Pita Lake are divided by a big island into north and south channels. The main volume of water is in the north channel which could be run by experts after carefully looking it over.
A safer alternative is to portage around the rapids in the southern channel.
Portage No. 11 (optional): (Not shown on map)
Approximately 25 metres long over exposed rock.
This portage starts on the south shore of the south channel on rocks immediately to the right or south of the rapids. This is the way boats are being hauled across.
Carefully navigate north and east across Pikoo Lake to its outlet on the east shore. There are no rapids between Pikoo and Sokatisewin Lakes.
Paddle north and east on Sokatisewin Lake to the general area of the dam and powerhouse at the northeast end of the lake.
Portage No. 12: (Not shown on map)
Connecting Sokatisewin Lake to waters below the dam. Approximately 300 metres long and in good condition.
This portage starts from a small bay about 400 metres north of the dam and powerhouse. The start of the portage is marked by the decaying hulls of two old barges. There is minor fast water below the portage enroute to the community of Sandy Bay.
Sandy Bay is the end point of this trip although it could easily be extended to Pukatawagan, Manitoba. At Sandy Bay there are two general stores, telephone and highway connections to the south. Arrangements could be made by radio from Sandy Bay to be picked up by aircraft and returned to the starting point of the trip.
WRITTEN BY: Original script by Northrock Canoe Trails Surveys; reviewed by Peter Gregg.