Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 8 – “Moosebone” Rapids to “X-Rock” Rapids

Previous Post:  Canoeing the Bloodvein Day 7 – Artery L. to Moosebone Rapids 

DAY 8 BASICS:

looking back at our Moosebone Rapids campsite

looking back at our Moosebone Rapids campsite – the Fineview!

distance: 32 kilometers

weather: a great day to be on the river

rapids/portages:  rapids W15 through W26 on the Wilson maps.

campsites: many to choose from – we were headed for the island portage at X-Rock Rapids (W26)

The Bloodvein from east of Bushey to X-Rock Rapids

The Bloodvein from east of Bushey to X-Rock Rapids

Our goal for the day was the island in the middle of the Bloodvein at what Wilson called X-Rock Rapids.  He had labelled the campsite a classic and we liked the sound of that! A Canadian Canoe Routes forum contributor (jjoven) had also posted an account of his 2004 trip down the Bloodvein from Artery Lake (click on the blue to access!)  and had mentioned camping at X-Rock. His experience left us thinking it was a popular spot and that we might meet some fellow trippers already camping there.

Eight days into the trip and we had said “hello” to three other canoeing parties – two paddlers at the portage into Hatchet on Day 1,  a party of eight guys in three canoes heading off to do some fishing in what they called Scout Lake, and the couple paddling east on Artery Lake in the pouring rain.  We had also seen perhaps five fishing boats – all in all, not a lot of people. (During the next ten days we would meet only one party of three canoes and two fishing boats near the end! The Bloodvein is not a busy river!)

This day was one of those when we postponed breakfast until we were a bit down the river and the sun was really up. After  paddling through the rapids marked #15 in the Bloodvein chapter of Wilson’s book Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba,  we spent 15 minutes on a river right portage at W16.  We were getting used to and expecting the orange tape to provide the heads-up – and, true, enough, there it was.  Thanks to whoever refreshed the markers earlier this year! Next up was Nutcracker Falls (W18), a ten-minute carry on river left.

Bloodvein Nutcracker Falls W17

Bloodvein Nutcracker Falls W17

W18 P85 "Nutcracker"

W18 P85

Now we were on Bushey Lake and looking for a breezy flat space for our breakfast stop. We found it about half way down on the west side of the lake.  This spot would also make a decent multiple-tent  “fair weather” campsite but it is quite exposed. Luckily there are lots of other more sheltered sites  available if you keep paddling.

Bushey Lake campsite on west side of lake

Bushey Lake campsite on west side of lake – lots of room on mostly flat rock but little shelter

Below is a shot of Bushey Lake I fluked on our flight back to Red Lake from Bloodvein village ten days later. It was only later when I looked at the flight path and gps info that I realized that I was looking at Bushey Lake. It is about 2.5 kilometers from one end of the lake to the other.

Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein River system

Bushey Lake on the Bloodvein River system – we crossed the lake from  middle left and exited middle right after a breakfast stop down from the point in the centre of the image

W19 P90 "Bruiseasy" Falls

W19 P90 “Bruiseasy” Falls

After our usual breakfast – that would be our oatmeal concoction and large mugs of filtered coffee – we were off again. There was a pictograph site coming up – but first we had to deal with what Wilson nicknames “Bruiseasy” Falls. Doing a fifteen-minute version of our  “beast of burden” routine got us to the put-in spot below the rapids.

Bruiseasy Falls - W19

Bruiseasy Falls – W19

Around the corner from the rapids on river right was the pictograph site.  In terms of the number of images or markings, it would rank third of all the sites we were able to find in our trip down the Bloodvein.

As we paddled away from the put-in we headed for the rock face on river right and followed it down, scanning above the water line for traces of ochre. Here is our first reward- three sets of vertical marks all by their lonesome.

the first pictographs below Bruiseasy Falls

the first pictographs below Bruiseasy Falls

three sets of vertical lines - below Bushey Lake siteWith Bruiseasy Falls still visible in the photo above, we stopped to take a close-up of our first pictographs of the day, knowing all the while that this was not all there was to it!

Still recognizable are three sets of vertical lines – a set of four on the top and two sets of three below that. Tally marks of some sort – days fasted, moose killed. Or maybe  levels of attainment within the world of the Midewiwin? Who can say for sure?

We paddled on and came to the main site as pictured below.

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake

looking back up to the Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake

getting closer to Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake

checking out the Dewdney sketch of the Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake

We had with us selected bits of the writings of Selwyn Dewdney, whose visits to the many pictograph sites in the Canadian Shield in the 1960’s had initiated the systematic recording and analysis of these mostly Anishinaabe cultural expressions. Of this particular site, he wrote in a pamphlet  [Stone Age Painting click on title to access)]  published by Manitoba’s Department of Mines and Natural Resources in 1965 -

dewdney on Bushey Lake site:Stone Age Painting. 1965.

Bloodvein rock paintings below Bushey Lake - close up on panel

Bloodvein rock paintings below Bushey Lake – close up on face A on the left and face B on the right

Dewdney -  sketch of site below  Bushey Lake

the sketch that Dewdney refers to as Figure 14 in the quote above

Dewdney makes an interesting point about the image he names “the bow and arrow on Face B” (but note – according to his own sketch he meant Face A). The point is that it might be used to date the painting to pre-contact times since it depicts the bow as symbol of power.  This assumes, of course, that it actually is a bow. It could be a turtle!

Dewdney's "bow and Arrow on Face A"  at the site below Bushey Lake

Dewdney’s “bow and Arrow on Face A” at the site below Bushey Lake

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- - different angle of rock face

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- – different angle of rock face

DewdTramping Lake human figureney refers to the human figure below as “the bird man” and compares it to a similar image from Tramping Lake that you can see on the left.  Its colour is not the same as that of the other pictographs, probably because a different formulation of ochre and fish oil was used in its making.

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- human figure with outstretched arms

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- human figure with outstretched arms

For some reason Dewdney does not comment on the two crude figures at the bottom of Face A.  A cross and a thunderbird perhaps?

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- cross and thunderbird figures

Bloodvein pictograph site below Bushey Lake- cross and thunderbird figures

That was it for the site.  We continued on, totally taken in by the beauty of the river and the day itself.

Bloodvein River paddling - truly beautiful

Bloodvein River paddling – truly beautiful

a stretch of the Bloodvein before Stonehouse Lake

a stretch of the Bloodvein before Stonehouse Lake

Shortly before entering Stonehouse Lake we passed yet another pictograph site – our eighth since Red Lake.  While none of them are as awesome as the one at the east end of Artery Lake with its shaman and bison figures, they all elicit a sense of wonder and an appreciation to be able to paddle by and  see them.

Bloodvein Pictograph Site about 1.7 km up from Stonehouse Lake

Bloodvein Pictograph Site about 1.7 km up from Stonehouse Lake

pictograph site just above Stonehouse Lake on the Bloodvein

pictograph site just above Stonehouse Lake on the Bloodvein

Bloodvein Pictograph Site about 1.7 km up from Stonehouse Lake - detail

Bloodvein Pictograph Site about 1.7 km up from Stonehouse Lake – detail

Bloodvein Pictograph Site about 1.7 km up from Stonehouse Lake - different angle

Bloodvein Pictograph Site – different angle

essential reading                                                                   Perhaps more time spent with Grace Rajnovitch’s book  will help me make some sense of what we were looking at here. The white granite face certainly provides a striking “canvas”. On the left is what seems to be a thunderbird; the H figure with the line across the top could be a version of the “bird man” that Dewdney identified at the  site a few kilometres upriver.

pictograph site at the north end of Stonehouse Lake

site at the north end of Stonehouse Lake

Next up was what should have been our ninth pictograph site –  it is apparently located at the bottom (ie. the north end)  of Stonehouse Lake.  We paddled down the right side of the lake all the way to where we thought we’d see some ochre.  No luck.  We continued another 200 meters but came up empty.  Turning south and rounding the point to enter the channel leading to our next portage, we figured lunch was in order. After all, it was 2 o’clock! An hour later we got back to work, and over the next four hours we dealt with four portages that brought us to our campsite at “X-Rock” Rapids.

chart of Bloodvein portages before X-Rock

the bottom of Bloodvein Rapids #21

the bottom of Bloodvein Rapids #21 – See Wilson’s drawing for the rock on the middle left edge!

Max firing up the ol' Etrex Legend at the put-in at Bloodvein W23

Max firing up the ol’ Etrex Legend at the put-in at Bloodvein W23

W24 portage

W24 portage

W25 P255

W25 P255

W24P180 C3

W24P180 C3

looking down from W25 portage trail

looking down from W25 portage trail – dramatic! It reminded us of the Bad Medcine Lake portage on the Pikitigushi.

It had been a long day and the 32 km we had knocked off were more than double the distance we had done the day before – even with the two hours added to deal with the portages.  Still, it had been an A+ day of scenic river paddling with a couple of bonus pictograph sites thrown in.

X-Rock IslandShortly before seven we came to the island  which sits in the middle of the river with a set of Class V rapids on either side and a Class 1 entrance to the portage  take out spot. What we found is a site that could host a canoe trippers’ convention! There is room up on the flat top of the island for fifty tents. Of course, we had the entire site to ourselves and made ourselves at home.

W26 campsite

our campsite on the island at X-Rock Rapids.

W26 camp set up

W26 camp set up

As luck would have it, a few days later during our  flight from Bloodvein Village on Lake Winnipeg to Red Lake, our de Havilland Beaver flew over the island and I got this shot -

X-Rock Rapids and Island campsite

X-Rock Rapids and Island campsite – the view from downriver

Wilson and Aykroyd attached nicknames to some of the rapids they sketched and described in their guide-book.  We did puzzle over the name “X-Rock” for this location but had that “Aha” moment during our post-supper ramble around the perimeter of the island.  Down below at the start of the river right set of rapids we saw this -

The X-Rock at W26 - where the name comes from!

The X-Rock at the top of the right channel of W26!

The campsite capped off a terrific day on the Bloodvein.  We counted ourselves fortunate to be there.  The next day would present us with another great day which would make us question our grading system.  Where do you go after A+?

W26 falls on river left

W26 – the falls on river left

Looking down the Bloodvein from  X-Rock Island

Looking down the Bloodvein from X-Rock Island

Coming soon … Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein – X-Rock Island to just before Goose Rapids

Canoeing the Bloodvein Day 7 – Artery Lake to “Moosebone” Rapids

FIRST POST: Canoeing The Bloodvein River System: Introduction, Planning, and Map Resources.

PREVIOUS POST: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 6: Barclay Lake to Artery Lake

Artery Lake – the ultimate pictograph lake – sits on the Ontario side of the border in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park with just a bit of it in Atikaki Park on the Manitoba side.  For canoe trippers doing the entire length of the Bloodvein, it represents both an end and a beginning.

our route from Douglas Lake off Red Lake  to Bloodvein First Nations village on Lake Winnipeg

our route from Douglas Lake off Red Lake to Bloodvein First Nations village on Lake Winnipeg – Artery Lake sits right on the Manitoba-Ontario border. Click on the image to enlarge!

It is the end of the headwaters section of the Bloodvein River.  We had spent almost a week paddling across Woodland Caribou Provincial Park from Douglas Lake. The six kilometers or so of portaging in the first three days and a wind that was often blowing east meant we had paid some dues to get to Artery. The hours spent on some very scenic flat water stretches had been our reward and paddling by two major pictograph sites of the entire Canadian Shield was an appreciated bonus.  But now we were in for a different trip.

Bloodvein - looking down W27 rapids

Artery Lake is also where the Bloodvein as a river, as opposed to a series of lakes joined by the occasional narrow channel,  begins. From Artery Lake to Bloodvein Village there are 80 sets of rapids to deal with.  Sloping or vertical granite rock face lines the shoreline – sometimes on one side and occasionally on both –  and creates that closed-in feeling that makes river paddling special. As for portages, we would do half as much during the ten days from Artery Lake to Lake Winnipeg  as the six kilometres we did in the first two and a half days of the trip through the headwaters. We were looking forward to the change!

DAY 7 BASICS:

distance: 15 kilometers

weather: cloudy with a wind from the NW in the  morning with a bit of sun later on

rapids/portages: W10 (the marine railway!)  through W14 (“Moosebone” Rapids)

campsite: above W14.  We called it the Fineview; it was our best campsite so far.

Artery Lake to %22Moosebone%22 Rapids (W14) In the original plan Day 7 had been set aside as a spare/rest day on Artery Lake.  We decided that instead of sitting around for the day on Artery we would put in a leisurely day on the water and see how far we got.

Before we headed downriver we had one more Artery Lake pictograph site to visit. We paddled up the north arm of the lake about two kilometers, passing a battered cabin on the east shore -

cabin on north arm of Artery LakeAs we looked up the lake shoreline we were not seeing much of that essential ingredient of any pictograph site – a bit of a rock face!

looking up the north arm of Artery Lake

looking up the north arm of Artery Lake

We had the location for the site – taken from the Wilson map – entered as a waypoint on our gps units.  We eventually did paddle up to a section of rock that definitely stood out from the reeds and otherwise flat shoreline.  Scanning along the rock we did notice the following -

Artery Lake north arm pictograph rock

Artery Lake north arm pictograph rock

A bit closer and it looked like we had found what we were looking for. To the right of what almost seemed like an entrance into the rock face for the maymaygwayshi who were believed to live there, were a few ochre markings. The images were barely discernible  – see below for what looks like a crudely drawn thunderbird (?) and an overturned canoe.  There were a couple of other vague marks but that was it.

pictograph site on Artery Lake - north arm

pictograph site on Artery Lake – north arm

This humble site was more in line with the sites on Red Lake and at the east end of Murdock Lake that we had seen earlier in the trip. We didn’t know it at the time but the site we had visited the day before – see here for some pix and discussion – would be the #1 site of the trip.  This makes it that much more of a “must see” for those canoe trippers flying in to Artery Lake for the beginning of their down-the-Bloodvein adventure.

Artery Lake North Arm rock face sans pictographs

Artery Lake North Arm rock face sans pictographs

Wanting to make sure we hadn’t missed something, we did paddle another half-kilometer up the arm,  checking out a couple of other rock faces but we came up empty. Then it was time to paddle back down the shore across from where we had camped the previous night and on to the Ontario/Manitoba border as it crosses Artery Lake.

pictographs at Artery Lake central

pictographs at Artery Lake central

canoe pictos below two most visible ones

canoe pictos below two most visible ones – click on images to enlarge

close-up of pictographs at Artery Lake Central location

close-up of pictographs at Artery Lake Central location

As we rounded the corner and headed west we noted the vertical granite on our right and remarked that this would make a much more obvious – and dramatic – place for someone to place a pictograph than the dead-end north  arm of the lake we had just checked out. Sure enough – we paddled by the rock paintings you see above. Perhaps the small stick figure represents a maymaygwayshi? The very common canoe image is faded but visible, even if half the canoe seems missing!

W10P50Three hundred meters further on we came to our first portage of the day – W10.  We had been curious about exactly what the fifty-meter marine rail involved and now we got to make use of it.  In a little more than a minute we had dragged our canoe over and were on the west side of the island. In the lake on the other side of the rapids were a couple of fishing boats.  We waved as we paddled by but they were some distance away. They were probably staying at the Jackson’s outpost about 2.5 kilometres further down the lake which we paddled by a half-hour later.

W10 - the marine railway - the view from the bottom

W10 – the marine railway – the view from the bottom

rapids to the north of the island with the marine railway

rapids to the north of the island with the marine railway

Having always thought that a lake is defined by, among other things, a single water level for all parts of it, I am left scratching my head about why the water below the rapids is still considered Artery Lake. The Topo Canada 4.0 map installed on my Garmin Oregon compounded my confusion by labelling as Artery Lake the water above the rapids (W08 and W09) which lead into Artery Lake. (The Wilson map calls the water above W08 Mary’s Lake, although the name does not appear on any of the Federal Government-generated topos.)  The Garmin map also gives the same elevation of 329 meters for the water above W08 and W09 as it does for the water below W10. Either something is not right or this is a classic example of me having way too much time to think about stuff while working the water with my bent-shaft paddle!

Atikaki sign on the ON:MB border

Woodland Caribou Park sign

Jackson's Lodge on Manitoba side of Artery Lake

the Jackson’s outpost on the Manitoba side of Artery Lake

W12P250

W12 P250

We relied on the Wilson/Aykroyd maps for all of our rapids/portage info. As I have noted elsewhere we’ve numbered the  rapids the way they appear in the Wilson book (that is where the W comes from).

Also appreciated on the entire Manitoba stretch of the river was the orange prospector tape which indicated 95% of the upcoming take-out points.  While the Wilson book provides the info and it was usually pretty obvious, it was still reassuring to know that we were on the right track.  We were not offended by these little strips of tape.

Using the Wilson drawings of the various rapids as a starting point and adding our own assessment of the situation after a quick look, we came up with one of three or four answers; at one end was  “let’s run it” ; at the other was “let’s hoof it”. Lifting over, lining, running/lining and other combinations filled the in-between options. After the first three days in WCPP it was mostly a piece of cake.  (Spoiler alert: we would make a lazy call a week later at W84 and get to test our new Kokatat life jackets, as well as the “waterproof” pack liners and Pelican cases!)

down the Bloodvein - lining W12

down the Bloodvein – lining W13

Near the end of this day’s paddle we approached “The Jumping Rocks” on river left. It is a 15-meter high rock face with a vertical split separated by about 3 meters of empty space. According to Wilson’s trip notes, there are Ojibwe stories of people jumping the gap. Maybe a test of manhood in the tradition of bungee jumping in Polynesia? Maybe just stories told for whatever reason?

the split rock

coming up to the split rock

approaching the split rock

approaching the split rock with the gap visible

looking back upriver through the gap

looking back upriver through the gap

ooking downriver from the top of Split Rock

looking downriver from the top of Split Rock

the view  west from the top of the rocks

the view west from the top of the rocks

W14 P50

W14 P50

Not long after our brief pause to take in “the Jumping Rock” we were back on the river for the last stretch of paddling. Fifteen minutes later we pulled up to the take out spot above the set of rapids you see in the pic below. Our first day in Atikaki was done and it had turned out to be a nice day after a not-too-promising start.

The excellent campsite (we called it the Fineview for the vista it provided) sits on the flat top of a hill and is a 40 meter walk along a trail above the rapids named “Moosebone” by Wilson/Aykroyd.

Moosebone Rapids (W14) on the Bloodvein

Moosebone Rapids (W14) on the Bloodvein

Since we had stopped in the early afternoon we had lots of time to scamper about and point our cameras in different directions. A few of the shots can be seen below.

Fineview Campsite

Fineview Campsite

checking out the view from the campsite above W14

checking out the view from the campsite above W14

the patio at Fineview

the patio at Fineview- looking down the Bloodvein

W14 rock and rapids

Moosebone Rapids (W14) …rock and rapids

canoe at rest at Moosebone Rapids on the Bloodvein

canoe at rest at Moosebone Rapids on the Bloodvein

Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 8 – Moosebone Rapids to X-Rock Rapids

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 6: Barclay Lake to Artery Lake

Previous Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 5: Larus Lake to Barclay Lake

my brother Max - 60 years young on this day

my brother Max on July 13… this is where he got to celebrate his 60th birthday!

From Barclay Lake to Mary's Lake

From Mary's Lake To Artery Lake (central)

DAY SIX BASICS:

distance:  27 kilometers

weather: the worst so far – intermittent rain and a north wind put an edge on things!

rapidsportages: W08 …125 meter carry

campsites: a decent one on a point at the center of Artery Lake

The plan had been to paddle up Barclay Lake and the Musclow River to the pictograph site near the top of the river; it was ten kilometers from our Day 5 campsite. A morning drizzle and spit which became rain with some North wind thrown in for good measure is what we had to deal with as we broke camp at the start of Day 6.

We decided to pass up on the Musclow  Barclay Lake upriver to Musclow Lake Picto Sitepictograph site  and the twenty kilometer   detour it would have required.

Dewdney drawing of Muslcow moose

 

 

Included in our photocopied pages of Selwyn Dewdney’s book was a drawing he did of the one pictograph at the Musclow site – that of a moose.  Given the weather and given the meagre reward, it seemed like a long way to go. Instead,  if we just kept paddling down the Bloodvein we would be at the #1 pictograph site on the entire Bloodvein system in a few hours. So off we headed for the famed Artery Lake pictograph site.

Reported Pictograph Sites on  Artery Lake and Mary's lake

Reported Pictograph Sites on Artery Lake and Mary’s lake

The Bloodvein took us southwest from Barclay Lake. The wind and drizzle hit our backs as we made our way to the bottom of the “U” that would take us back up to Mary’s Lake and then, after a short portage, into the narrow stretch of river leading to Artery Lake.

But first another decision – yet another pictograph site!  In a bay in the NE corner of Mary’s Lake, the Wilson map indicated a site of interest.  Four kilometers up there on some pretty open water with rain and  NW wind … We took a gorp and Bloodvein Nouveau break with Max kind enough to let me make the call. My good Roman Catholic upbringing reinforced with OCD did serve up a generous serving of guilt about not getting done what I said I’d do – that is,  seeing every single rock painting on the Bloodvein!  However, I turned around and said, “How about we spend some quality time at the big site coming up ahead instead of paddling 8 km in bad weather to see a very minor one?”  You can see his response in this post’s first image.

As for the Mary’s Lake pictographs, I have since learned that there is one to be seen.  Hap Wilson describes it this way -

Hap Wilson quote

Maybe next time!

W08 P125

W08 P125

There was only one portage to do this day – that around W08.  The pictograph site was another two kilometers down from there.  But first – the portage.  Max put the video mode of his camera to use to show  a real “pro” getting the job done. I know for a fact that the guy carrying the canoe (it weighs all of 42 lbs.)  was just worried his L.L. Bean boots would slip on the moss-covered rock!

 

As you will have noticed if you watched the video clip, the rain had stopped!  In fact, except for the occasional drizzle it was mostly dry for the next four hours – long enough for us to visit the famous pictograph site, search for a second one,  and get up our tent and tarp. First  we paddled up to the imposing rock face pictured below -

Artery Lake Pictographs - looking south to Face II

Artery Lake Pictographs – looking south to Face II

Artery Lake Face III - shaman panel with buffalo panel

Artery Lake Face IV – shaman panel with buffalo panel

While the pictograph site between Murdock and Larus Lakes had been impressive (see here for some pix), this stretch of vertical granite  at the east end of Artery Lake has one of the more famous pictograph faces of the entire Canadian Shield.  The image above shows two of them side by side;  Selwyn Dewdney  labelled the one on the left  “the Bloodvein shaman” and the one on the right “the Bloodvein bison”.

Appreciating the turn in the weather, we spent some time here taking in the images and trying to figure out what they all meant. Without a doubt these images had a spiritual significance to those who put them there. Just as clear is that our paddling up to them three hundred years later elevated our canoe trip for a while to another level.

I’ve created an entire post which looks at this Artery Lake rock painting site in much more detail. If you’re interested, just click on the title below -

Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites On The Bloodvein – The Artery Lake Site 

We moved on a half-hour later, heading for the NE arm of Artery Lake and a reported pictograph site there. The pic below was taken from the point on the east side of the narrow entrance to this arm – we had pulled in there to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat.

Break Time - Artery Lake

Break Time – Artery Lake

Up the arm we paddled, not really sure about what we’d find. On the west side of the arm we paddled toward this rock face, thinking that it might be one that would meet a shaman’s requirements for a spirit rock where he might petition the maymaygwayshi (the underwater spirits who made the rock their home) for the medicine or other favour he needed.

Artery Lake NE Arm rock face

Artery Lake NE Arm rock face

There really wasn’t another rock face like this on the west side so we were sure we were heading in the right direction.

part of Artery rock face we scanned

part of Artery rock face we scanned

As at the main Artery Lake site we had been at a couple of hours before, there was evidence here of the flaking off of the surface rock face.  What we didn’t find was evidence of ochre on rock. Perhaps any pictographs that had been here were on those pieces?  The fact that  someone had chosen this spot to scribble down their “I wuz here” notices (I think I am reading the numbers “1973” and “1993”) would seem to be an indication that there was something else here – i.e. a pictograph or two.

"Leroy wuz here" - writing on a Artery Lake rock face

“Leroy wuz here” – writing on a Artery Lake rock face – two different handwritings

One of the weird things that happens if you stare at rock faces enough in search of pictographs is that you start seeing them everywhere.  We called it “picto fever”; I’ll admit that I seemed to have a worse case of it than Max, who more than once went along with a detour knowing full well that there was nothing there that wasn’t a geological feature!  Here is natural streak in the rock face that caught my eye from about forty feet away – I could have swore it was a human figure with outstretched arms!

an example of  what "picto fever" can create meaning of

an example of what “picto fever” can create meaning of

To make sure we hadn’t missed the actual site, we did end up paddling another 700 meters to the end of the arm but came up empty.  Back down the west shore we paddled, checking other rock faces as we did so. No luck!  By four our campsite located on a point was up; it sat almost at the middle of an Artery Lake which branches out in all four directions like a crucifix.

We had just gotten the tent and tarps up, when the rain started again. The reprieve of the past four hours was over. Now it came down steady and strong for the next few hours.  From under the “dining room” tarp we watched as a couple, the first canoe trippers we had seen since Day 1,  paddled east towards the pictograph site. If they got there without pulling over first to get out of the rain, their experience would be very different than ours. We had not really noticed any potential campsites as we had paddled west to our spot and we hoped that their outfitter had applied some accurate and nearby campsite markers to their map.

Time to celebrate a birthday! Out came the bottle of brandy; combined with a Harvest Foodworks “Blueberry Crumble”.  Bro, may you paddle ’til you’re 100!

Next Post: Day 7 – Canoeing the Bloodvein From Artery Lake to “Moosebone” Rapids

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 5: Larus Lake to Barclay Lake

Previous Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 4: Murdock Lake to Larus Lake

The Bloodvein Larus to Barclay

Bloodvein River - barclay lake area

DAY 5 BASICS:

distance:  26 kilometers over 7  hours

weather: morning sunshine; afternoon rain and thunderstorm; evening overcast and threatening to rain

rapids/portages: 1 set of rapids -W07- which we portaged 135 meters

campsites: a nicely sheltered one on a point just below the entrance to Barclay Lake

We got up at 4:45 this day.  While we had both gotten some sleep, the bear was still on our minds. So too was the wind; we did not want to be windbound for a second day.  We were off by 5:30 with plans on having breakfast after dealing with the 3.5-km. open stretch of Larus.  The water was still very calm and the paddling went easy.  We agreed we should be doing this more often!

cabin complex on point at west end of Larus

cabin collection on point at west end of Larus

looking back after dealing with the open stretch of Larus

sun rises as we look back after dealing with the open stretch of Larus Lake

There are many great things about paddling in the early morning – that coolness, the stillness and tranquility, and that chance to catch a view of some of the locals getting a bite to eat. This moose just stood there and watched as we paddled by shortly after sunrise.

moose sighting on the way to Barclay Lake

moose sighting on the way to Barclay Lake

moose closer up

moose closer up

post-burn birches along the Bloodvein

post-burn birches along the Bloodvein

We stopped for breakfast a bit after seven at the top of W07, our only portage of the day.  By now the sun was more than up –  as the following pic shows -

sun up on the Bloodvein from W07 Rapids

sun up on the Bloodvein from top of W07 Rapids

W07P135

W07 P135

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in the morning as we neared the channel going up to Sabourin Lake we met our first fishermen of the trip – a couple of boats which had come down to the Bloodvein from the lodge on the lake.  We left them behind and headed for the next target – Barclay Lake. The plan was to find a Day 5 campsite on spitcampsite on Barclay – the map above has a number indicated – and then head up to Musclow Lake the next morning to see the pictograph site.  We never did get that far.  We could definitely feel something coming in so at about two when we passed the spit shown on the map to the left we decided to stop paddling and start putting up the tent and tarp right away.  We passed up on some beautiful fair-weather tent spots on top of the hill, instead taking advantage of the shelter that some trees and the hill itself provided down in the suburbs! The tent was barely up when it it started pouring. We watched as a couple of fishing boats raced by; we wondered how long it would take them to get to the lodge on Sabourin Lake – if that is where they were indeed going. In any case, there is no way they ended up being anything other than totally soaked.

campsite south of Barclay Lake

campsite south of Barclay Lake

This had been our easiest day of the trip so far with one easy and short portage and some nice paddling.  We’d also been lucky to get off the river when we did; Barclay Lake could always wait until tomorrow.

foreshadowing tomorrow's rain

a sky full of clouds foreshadowing tomorrow’s rain

 Next Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 6: south of Barclay Lake to Artery Lake 

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 4: Murdock Lake to Larus Lake

Previous Day:  Bloodvein Headwaters Day 3: Knox L.  Portage to Murdock Lake

approaching the Murdock Lake pictograph site

the Murdock Lake pictograph site at the east end of the lake – campsite is on the point to the left

One last look at the small pictograph site around the corner from our campsite on the point and we were off at 7:15.  The goal for the day was to paddle through Larus and find a campsite a few kilometres further downriver. The highlight promised to be the pictograph site on a narrow stretch of the river as it flows from Murdock to Larus. And while there was a portage this day, we knew that the worst of the hauling was done.

Day 4 - a

Bloodvein Canoe Trip Day 4 -b

Images expand with a click or two;  blue text leads to more info with a click.

DAY 4 BASICS:

distance: 20 kilometers over five hours                       Bloodvein W04 to 06  P850

weather: overcast; mid-morning thunderstorm;

then sunny with a worsening west-north-west wind

rapids/portages:  three sets of rapids W04, W05, and W06.  One portage of 850 m  dealt with all three rapids. (A reminder: the W refers to Wilson and the numbers are based on his rapid numbering system for easy cross-reference.)

campsites: a good one at the end of the spit on the east end of Larus Lake

This day was one of those when we just broke camp and did some paddling before having breakfast.  We covered a bit over ten kilometres to the north end of Murdock Lake,  looking for a nice spot to pull over. The flat rock and potential campsite on the shores of a small island we were approaching were just what we needed as we heard the sound of thunder in the distance. We soon had the tarp up and the food bag out. We used the butane stove to boil a liter of water, enough for the usual oatmeal and the mugs of filtered coffee. In the hour that we were there the storm blew over and when we left it was sunny and a bit windier than it had been.

breakfast stop with lightning and thunder as a back drop

breakfast stop with lightning and thunder as a back drop

The beautiful light that bathed the lake after the mini-storm gave me every reason to haul out the dslr and frame a few shots of the scene.

looking south on Larus after the storm passed

looking south on Larus after the storm passed -

taking advantage of the light on Lake Murdock after the storm

taking advantage of the light on Lake Murdock after the storm

We then paddled along a stark shoreline lined with blacked tree trunks which had seen a major fire three years ago. What we saw was the result of 2011’s massive Red Lake Fire #124 in the Murdock/Larus area illustrated by the map below.

Murdock Lake - evidence of fire...and new growth

Murdock Lake – evidence of fire…and new growth

Bloodvein Headwaters Fire History Map

Bloodvein Headwaters Fire History Map – see here for the  interactive version you can zoom in on

Another map which illustrates the extent of Red Lake #124 can be accessed here.  Already the new growth blankets the area and you can see that a new cycle has begun.

Fire 124 impact on the west shore of Murdock Lake

 Red Lake 124 impact on the west shore of Murdock Lake

At the very top of the lake we headed west and ten minutes later we were face to face with one of the more dramatic single  pictograph sites we had ever seen.

Here are a couple of the pix we took during the time we spent scanning the vertical granite rock face for any ochre-coloured images put on the rock  by Anishinaabe medicine men and  still discernible after 150 or more years of exposure to the elements.

Bloodvein Pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

Bloodvein Pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

human figure holding small human(?)  in oustretched right arm

human figure holding small human(?) in outstretched right arm

If you’re interested,  I’ve put together about twenty images in the sequence you would see the various pictographs if you were paddling down the river.  I have also included some related material (text and drawings) by Selwyn Dewdney. Click on the title –  Anishinaabe Pictographs On The Bloodvein: the Murdock – Larus Site – to see the post.

W04 take-out on the Bloodvein River

W04 take-out on the Bloodvein River

one empty canoe waiting to be portaged!

the start of the day's one portage

the start of the day’s one portage

After our time with the pictographs we continued on. The pics above shows the take-out of the one portage of the day, an 850-meter carry which would take us around three sets of rapids. The photo also shows me standing next to our empty 42-lb. Swift Dumoine. I would leave it there while I did my first carry – one of the Hooligan packs, a duffel and the paddles- half way across the portage.

Max carrying his 90 lb load to the other end

Our Dumoine on the loose!

Our Dumoine on the loose!

Unfortunately, deadfall across the trail meant a need to get out the Sven saw and do some trail maintenance. It was a while before I got back to the canoe.  The Garmin in my pocket graphically captured the WTF moment when I returned to get the canoe! It had floated up river about thirty meters and I waded out to fetch it, feeling pretty stupid – and very lucky – at the same time.

a cross-river view from the portage trail

a cross-river view from the portage trail

The portage done by one, we had a leisurely lunch at the put-in point below the Class IV rapids nicknamed “The Cauldron” in Wilson’s book.

W07 - lunch at the end of the portage - notice the burn

lunch at the end of the 850 meter portage – evidence of  Red Lake Fire #124 all around

the bottom of "The Cauldron"

the bottom of “The Cauldron”

The 1:50000 topo has a water level of 339 for Murdock Lake; at the bottom of W06 (“The Cauldron) and the start of Larus Lake it is 331 meters. An eight-meter (26 feet) drop in less than a kilometre of river will definitely remind you that you’re paddling a river and not just a series of interconnected lakes, which I’ll admit is my overriding impression of canoeing in Woodland Caribou Park.

the wind and waves of Larus

the wind and waves of Larus

Indulging in a noontime cup of filtered coffee, we noted that the west wind had continued to pick up; noticeable on the Larus were whitecaps as the waves came rolling in to the east shore.  Lunch done, we set off – as the day’s maps show, we really didn’t get very far before deciding that doing a four-kilometer crossing of  Larus to the west end could wait until the next day.  We ended up at a campsite – in a sheltered bay on the tip of the spit just a kilometer from our lunch spot –  that Wilson had recommended  if the wind on Larus was of concern.

Tent up and canoe put into use as a wind screen, we rambled around the spit. A bit of bushwhacking and we were on the east side of the spit with a view of where we had lunch a couple of hours ago. Looking back was also a last reminder of Fire 124’s impact on the area we had just paddled through. As the fire map above makes clear, while we would be seeing some more evidence of fire, Day 4 presented us with the worst of it.

The Cauldron as viewed from the Larus Lake spit to the west

The Cauldron as viewed from the Larus Lake spit to the west

checking out Larus Lake as the sun sets

checking out Larus Lake as the sun sets

Our evening on the spit on the east end of Larus Lake ended with our first bear sighting of the trip.  It was a bit after dusk when we heard a racket in the mess of deadfall down the spit a bit. I popped out of the tent to see a bear cub – but no mama – about twenty-five meters away.  A few shouts and hand claps and it was gone – hopefully scared after her first human encounter; to reinforce it, I fired off a Bear banger.  We’ll admit to sleeping with ears wide awake that night – but also on our minds was the west wind.  We hoped to get across Larus the next day nice and early.

looking west on Larus Lake at sunset

looking west on Larus Lake at sunset

Next Day: Day 5: Larus Lake to Barclay Lake

Anishinaabe Pictographs On The Bloodvein: the Murdock – Larus Site

Related Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 4: Murdock Lake to Larus Lake

The six  days we spent on the headwaters of the Bloodvein River system were highlighted by a number of Anishinaabe (that is, Ojibwe or Chippewa) pictograph sites.

As he had been on our visit to Cliff Lake/Pikitigushi River pictographs , Selwyn Dewdney would be our guide on the Bloodvein. Researched and written over fifty years ago, the first edition of his book  Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes (click on the title for a downloadable copy) was published in 1962. It included an account and drawings from his visit to the #1 pictograph site on the Bloodvein River system, the one at the east end of Artery Lake.

In the following four years Dewdney would continue to add to a growing collection of documented pictograph sites. By this time his reach had clearly outgrown the subject area of book’s title!  In the second edition of the book (1967) another sixty sites were added.  Included were his drawings and observations from his 1963 visit to the Bloodvein site which is the focus of this post.

Where Is The Site?

The Bloodvein River - Murdock To Larus

The site is located on the narrow section of the river which connects Murdock Lake to Larus Lake.  It is a kilometer west of the north end of Murdock and about three kilometers south and east from “The Cauldron”, the Class IV  set of rapids that tumbles into Larus Lake. (The “W” on the above map refers to Hap Wilson and the numbers – 04, 05, and 06 -refer to the specific sets of rapids he illustrates and numbers in the Bloodvein chapter of his essential “book of maps” for canoe trippers ( The Wilderness Rivers of Manitoba.)

Dewdney’s text notes – “About thirty-five miles upstream [from the Artery Lake site] just west of Larus Lake…” (p.118)  He then goes on to describe in great detail the site that is actually located east of Larus Lake!  In the summary list of all sites at the end of the book it is Site #154 and is correctly situated east of Larus Lake.

Given that three sets of rapids separates the site from Larus Lake, it is probably more fitting to refer to the site as a Murdock Lake site. To add to the potential confusion my Garmin Basecamp map above labels the water above the rapids as “Larus Lake”!  I’ll just label it the “Murdock-Larus site on the Bloodvein”.

The pictographs were on river left as we paddled west towards Larus Lake.  This is unusual since it means that they are facing north, as does the Artery Lake site.  Most sites face SE or S. Dewdney makes the following comment on this -

Dewdney Quote

While there are many spots along the river where the Anishinaabe shamen could paint his images, this section stood out as special. Higher, more dominating rock face, long stretches of white granite, and what could be interpreted as  underwater entrances to the rock face used by the resident water spirits (the maymaygwayshi) which the medicine men have come to acknowledge or petition.

We saw this as we paddled slowly along and inhaled the moment. When we reached the end we turned back to the beginning of the pictographs and took out our cameras to record some of what we saw.  The first pictographs we saw were a few meters before (that is, east of)  the main site.

Bloodvein pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

Bloodvein pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

The lowest figure – in a different pigment than those above – looks like a moose or caribou. Some indecipherable drawing sits above his pronounced ears. Above that seems to be a human figure with a central spine drawn in; he seems to be holding something in his stretched-out right arm.  Given the presence of a similar figure on another rock face meters away, it may be a shaman holding out his medicine bag, sometimes depicted as an otter skin.

Murdock-Larus pictos - different angle

Murdock-Larus pictos – different angle

Two caribou and shaman holding medicine bag?

Two caribou and shaman holding medicine bag?

And then we paddled back down a few more meters to the remaining pictographs were. They will appear here in the order one would see them if paddling down the river. At the same time, I will try to connect the various pictograph panels or faces to the comments which Selwyn Dewdney makes.

canoe image and tally marks

canoe image and tally marks

the main stretch of the Murdock-Larus pictograph site on the Bloodvein

the main stretch of the Murdock-Larus pictograph site on the Bloodvein

Bloodvein Pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

Bloodvein Pictographs (Murdock-Larus site)

Murdock-Larus Pictograph Face Ia

Murdock-Larus Pictograph Face Ia

human figure - Face Ia

human figure – Face Ia

Detail from Face III of Murdock-Larus Pictograph site

Face Ia

Murdock- Larus Pictograph Site - Face III and Figure with Outstretched Arm

Murdock- Larus Pictograph Site – Face III and Figure with Outstretched Arm

Face III - "The Hand"

Face III – “The Hand”

Murdock-Larus picto site up close

Murdock-Larus picto site up close

Murdock-Larus pictographs

Murdock-Larus pictographs – Face III on left

A figure which stands out, partly because of the different colour of the “paint” compared to other pictographs in the area, is the one you see below.  Of it Dewdney writes:

Dewdney quote 118-119

human figure holding small human(?)  in oustretched right arm

human figure holding small human(?) in oustretched right arm -

Bloodvein Larus Site - human figure holding something in outstretched arm

Next we come to a couple of images of canoes and smudges of ochre with tally marks or hands visible.

Bloodvein (Murdock-Larus site) detail

Bloodvein (Murdock-Larus site) detail

Murdock-Larus rock painting face labelled IIb by Dewdney

Murdock-Larus rock painting face labelled IIb by Dewdney

Murdock-Larus Face IIb

Murdock-Larus Face IIb

Murdock-Larus Face IIb - fox and human figure

Murdock-Larus Face IIb – fox and human figure

Face just before thunderbird and Face IV

around the corner from the main section of the Murdock-Larus pictographs

around the corner from the main section of the Murdock-Larus pictographs

Face IV of the Murdock-Larus site on the Bloodvein

Dewdney’s Face IV of the Murdock-Larus site on the Bloodvein

Face IV details of Murdock-Larus Pictograph site

Face IV details of Murdock-Larus Pictograph site

Face IV close-up of Thunderbird and moose

Face IV close-up of Thunderbird and moose

And then it was time to re-enter the mundane world, the world of canoe strokes and portages. The west wind had picked up as we made our way to the day’s portages which would take us into Larus Lake.

See here for a pdf file of Dewdney’s brief discussion of this Bloodvein site. It can be found in the second and expanded edition (1967) of his classic work Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes.

Next Post:  Day 5: Larus Lake to Barclay Lake

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 3: Knox Lake Portage to Murdock Lake

Previous Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 2: Crystal Lake to Knox Lake Portage

Day 3 - getting breakfast ready - tent spot was behind the canoe

Day 3 – getting breakfast ready – tent spot was behind the canoe

The empty area behind the canoe is where the tent had been; now it was tucked away for the day and the canoe was put into temporary service as a table.

Our breakfast is definitely low-fuss.  A serving of instant oatmeal, supplemented with cranberries, raisins, chia seeds,  hemp seeds, and walnuts – individual servings all prepackaged at home in small plastic zip-lock bags – is the daily fare.  While we’re taking down the tent we put a liter of water to boil on the butane stove. After the tent is down and packed away, one of us takes care of the breakfast – preparing the oatmeal and setting up the coffee filters and mugs for the main course!

Meanwhile the other person is getting the lunch bag ready – instant soup packages, Wasa bread, different spreads (peanut butter, dehydrated black or pinto bean spread, or mushroom pate). Also laid out on the table are the snacks for the day – a Clif Bar and another zip-lock bag with mixed nuts and fruits for each of us.  It means that during the day there is no need to go “furkling” (I should thank the mountain guides in the Canadian Rockies for teaching me that word!)  through every bag to find a snack or to put lunch together.

Bloodvein headwaters Canoe Trip Day 3 map

DAY THREE BASICS:

distance: about 17 km.

weather: sunny in the morning; noticeable WSW wind once on Knox lake

rapids/portages  3 – all portaged around + the one into Knox L; distance: 1935 m

campsites: our best one so far at Pictograph Point at the east end of Murdock Lake

In a few minutes we were at the start of the day’s major undertaking – the big portage into Knox Lake. We would spend two hours getting everything to the  Knox Lake side.  Our usually-efficient portage system broke down pretty quickly. The first 500 meters or so  looked pretty much like what you see in the image below – carrying a 60 lb. Hooligan pack and then a 30 lb. duffel on top of that was not possible, given the absence of any sort of predictable footing!  After about thirty meters we were down to one bag per carry – and even that was a challenge.

Knox Lake portage - the first stretch

Knox Lake portage – the first stretch

Eventually we got the packs beyond the initial muddy stretch.  That still left the canoe! Impossible to walk up the middle of the trail with it and impossible to walk along the side of the trail, we were reduced to dragging it through the mud.

hauling the canoe through the mud

hauling the canoe through the mud

The other two-thirds of the trail was quite walkable and helped us forget the mud pit we had just experienced.  At the end of the portage there is room of a couple of tents if a campsite is required for paddlers who took on the portage at the end of the day.

the put-in at the end of the portage into Knox Lake

the put-in at the end of the portage into Knox Lake

And then it was north to the outlet of Knox Lake and the first three of the eighty-nine rapids we would face for the rest of the trip.  The “89” comes from the Wilson/Aykroyd guidebook Wilderness Rivers Of Manitoba.  Their chapter on the Bloodvein is in the essential category for planning a trip down the river.  In it they identify 89 different sets of rapids that paddlers will face in getting to Bloodvein Village on Lake Winnipeg. For most of these rapids, they provide a grading system (using the Class 1 to Class V system), accurate drawings of rocks and channels to be dealt with,  information about what to look out for and what to avoid, as well as various portage options.

We’ve used their numbering system – and the names which they gave to some of the rapids – in our posts.  So – W01 125 refers to the first set of rapids described in the Wilson/Aykroyd guidebook.  We added our estimate of portage length at the end.  The length is in meters – one meter equalling 1.1 yards  if you want to make the conversion into a measure you understand better. For the Headwaters section of the river you can also find rapids/portage information on the official WCPP Map and on the Chrismar Adventure Map for the park.

the bottom of W02

the bottom of W02

We will admit to really liking the feel of being on a river, as opposed to paddling a series of lakes connected by portage trails, which is what the first couple of days  from Douglas Lake to Knox Lake mostly felt like.

the middle section of W03

the middle section of W03

Looking SW on the Bloodvein after W03

Looking SW on the Bloodvein from the put-in spot at the bottom of  W03

Lunch at the end of W03 and then it was time to move on. We had a stretch of actual river to paddle down – being able to see both sides of the river as you move down creates a sort of intimacy that you don’t get in the middle of crossing a big lake.

outpost:cabin on Murdock Lake

outpost/cabin on Murdock Lake

Coming out into Murdock Lake, we soon paddled by the outpost (nobody home!) on our left.  Our eyes were on the look-out for a pictograph site indicated in Wilson’s book. We realized later that he only provided a general indication of where they are.  The first one ended up being maybe 200 meters further south than we had estimated from looking at his map. Perhaps this is his way of making sure that everyone still gets to experience the thrill of discovery!

Outpost, Picto Site, and campsite on Murdock Lake

Outpost, Picto Site, and campsite on Murdock Lake

approaching the Murdock Lake pictograph site

approaching the Murdock Lake pictograph site – our camp site would be on the point to the left

Murdock Lake pictographs

Murdock Lake pictographs

Murdock Lake pictographs - the enitre panel up close

Murdock Lake pictographs – the enitre panel up close

Murdock Lake pictographs - two up close

Murdock Lake pictographs – two up close

We got to the point just south of the pictographs around 4. Thinking that it might make a good place to stop for the night, I scrambled up to the sheltered area above the sloped rock face on the shore. I found the best campsite so far! The significant SW wind that we’d have to deal with if we continued down Murdock Lake convinced us to call it a day – and take on the next stretch early and rested the next day instead.  it was an excellent choice.

Murdock Lake campsite - tent is up on the top

Murdock Lake campsite – tent is tucked away on the top of the hill

Day 3 camp on Pictograph Point

Day 3 camp on Pictograph Point

looking up Murdock Lake at sunset

looking up Murdock Lake at sunset

sunset on Murdock Lake

sunset on Murdock Lake

Next Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 4: Murdock Lake to Larus Lake

Anishinaabe Pictographs On The Bloodvein: The Artery Lake Site

Previous Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 6: Barclay Lake To Artery Lake

Paddling by the series of rock face with rock paintings made by Ojibwe shamen perhaps three hundred years ago, we seemed to slip into another dimension.  We weren’t canoe tripping anymore – maps, portages, campsite search, all forgotten.  Now we were pilgrims searching for meaning in the ochre images, hoping to hear the stories of those who came to this very same place in their birchbark canoes.

The highlight of our paddle through the headwaters of the Bloodvein River in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park was the time we spent at the various Anishinaabe pictograph sites.  Two stand out – the one between Murdock Lake and Larus Lake – and the one we came to as we approached the east arm of Artery Lake.

What we discovered was not a surprise. Many had been here before us and provided accounts in words and pictures.  Selwyn Dewdney, the man most responsible for the systematic recording and analysis of the pictograph sites of the Canadian Shield, had found his way here in the summer of 1959. He wrote:

The Bloodvein River site was one of those rare experiences that  are the supreme reward of pictograph-hunting.”  

Using the pictures we snapped during our time there – a Sunday morning in July of 2014 and my brother’s 60th. birthday no less! –  I hope to give some visuals for the notes and drawings which Dewdney made while at the site.

approaching the Artery Lake site from upriver

approaching the Artery Lake site from upriver

The first notable thing is that, like the Murdock-Larus site further upriver, this one faces north.  Wrote Dewdney -

The northern exposure was unexpected, and the question arises how the rock came to be lichen-free at the time it was chosen for a site.  Peter and I scrubbed off whole yards of the fuzzy green species that had grown over a good half of the paintings.

Look at some of the overview images I have included and you can see that “the fuzzy green species” is alive and well!  We did wonder if someone in an official park capacity should be doing what Dewdney and his son did and scrub the stuff or whether nature should just be allowed to take its course.  To what extent should the park staff get into site management? The current policy does not seem to go further than not publicizing the locations of the various sites for fear of vandalism.

The north end of the site – Face I in Dewdney’s organizational scheme – has a few fairly vague markings; the two following images show some of them.

Artery Lake Pictographs - Face I

Artery Lake Pictographs – Face I

Dewdney refers to the above images as “the two curious ‘wigglers'”;  they may be representations of the medicine serpent, usual depicted with two horns. In the Anishinaabe world view they were involved in the transfer of “medicine” or good favour to the shaman who has come here.

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face I ochre smudge

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face I ochre smudge

As we paddled on we approached the core of the site. First up was Face II, a five-meter stretch of rock face showing a significant amount of flaking.

Artery Lake Pictographs - looking south to Face II

Artery Lake Pictographs – looking south to Face II

Artery Lake Pictographs - Face II

Artery Lake Pictographs – Face II

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face II closer up

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face II closer up

The human figure with the outstretched arms is a bit reminiscent of the Murdock-Larus one holding out a smaller human figure. Perhaps it is a variation of the shaman holding the otter skin medicine bag? Also noted on Dewdney’s sketch is his indication of the crack which corresponds to the flaking.  One wonders if the piece was still attached when he was there over fifty years ago.

human figure

Artery Lake -Face II – human figure with outstretched arms

Face II - canoe with lone figure

Face II – canoe with lone figure

Artery Lake Face II pictograph detail

Artery Lake Face II pictograph detail

Artery Lake Pictographs. Face II detail - canoes and thunderbird

Artery Lake Pictographs. Face II detail – canoes and thunderbird

Next up was Face III  – at least I think this is Face III given Dewdney’s description of it -

Face III is a puzzling conglomeration of overpainting and abstractions in which little can be deciphered.  I would guess that the animal on the upper left is a porcupine.

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face II to III

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face III?

Dewdney Sketch of Artery Lake Face III

Dewdney Sketch of Artery Lake Face III

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face II to II detail of canoe

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face III detail of canoe

Somehow we did not get a shot of the entire face – but  here is the porcupine he refers to. From the details it looks like it was sitting just above and to the left of the rest of the “puzzling conglomeration of overpainting and abstractions”.    

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face II closer up - Face III?porcupine?

Artery Lake Pictograph Site-  Face III porcupine

And finally, the pictographs for which the site is best known. (I have labelled it Face IV, though the number is not mentioned in Dewdney’s account.) While the pic below shows me looking at the flip-out lcd screen – a newly-acquired approach to image framing for someone who has spent the past forty years staring into viewfinders! –  and focussing on Face III and one of the pix you see above, the main is event is to the right.

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face III overview

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face IV overview

The image on the left is known as “the Bloodvein shaman”. Dewdney explains the evidence that brought him to give the image that name -

Dewdney. shaman figure explanation.

Artery Lake Face III - shaman and  buffalo pictographs

Artery Lake Face IV – shaman and buffalo pictographs

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV pictoraphs above the bison

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV pictographs above the bison

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV  bison and canoe above shaman?

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV bison and canoe above shaman?

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face III shaman close-up

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face IV shaman close-up

Shaman Riding Thunderbird

Looking at the “power” or “interconnectedness”  lines coming out of (or into) the shaman’s head, I can’t help but think of Norval Morrisseau.  He is the Ojibwe painter who often used exactly the same visual vocabulary in his paintings. It is a recurring theme in his artwork. Also note that his human figures are usually painted in the same ochre colour as the pictographs!

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face IV detail below shaman

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face IV detail below shaman

In front of the shaman figures is what Dewdney interpreted as a porcupine – perhaps a clan totem or a symbol of fighting prowess. Below the war canoe – the number of people in it maybe a sign of great military strength –  we see a snake, often associated with Mishipeshu in pictographs elsewhere. (See Agawa Rock.)

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV Shaman figure

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV Shaman figure

And then there is the bison image.  It may be the single-largest pictograph we have seen. You are left to wonder – a bison? Here? Wrote Dewdney -

Dewdney buffalo explanation

Artery Lake buffalo pictograph

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face IV buffalo pictograph

Dewdney also made note of two particular features in the drawing. One was what he called “a vague indication of a heart”, referring to the circle on the bison’s body emphasized with extra paint by the painter.

Another detail has to do with the feet drawn in as ovals. By chance Dewdney had been looking at some of the Lascaux Cave paintings around this time and noticed a similar treatment.  Coincidence? Well, of course. The Lascaux Cave paintings date back 20,000 years. The Bloodvein bison is maybe 300 years old.  What else would it be?  You’ll have to read Hap Wilson’s chapter on the Bloodvein in his Trails and Tribulations: Confessions of  Wilderness Pathfinder to get another “take” on this.  (Open this link and click on p. 132 for the answer!)

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV  bison up close

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Face IV bison up close

Underneath the bison image is the one you see below. It appears to be a structure with a human figure inside. What comes to mind is the Ojibwe ritual involving the “shaking tent” into which the shaman would go for conjuring purposes.

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - Face IV detail below bison

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – Face IV detail below bison

Beyond Face IV

Beyond the shaman and bison images are yet more pictographs.  How could I have framed the  image below so that only the rear half of the moose figure on the right hand side is visible? That’s what zoom is for!

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Beyond Face IV

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- Beyond Face IV

Beyond the moose and fairly close to the water line is the following row of pictographs -

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- a collection of images south of Face IV (The Bison image)

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- a collection of images south of Face IV (The Bison image)

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- detail from  collection of images Beyond Face IV

sphere from collection of images beyond Face IV

sphere after Face IV

Dewdney sketch of sphere with rays

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- more detail from  collection of images Beyond Face IV

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- more detail from collection of images Beyond Face IV

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - approaching the south end

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – approaching the south end beyond Face IV

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - south end

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – south end

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- looking back up to where we've come from

Artery Lake Pictograph Site- looking back up to where we’ve come from

Artery Lake Pictograph Site - near the south end

Artery Lake Pictograph Site – near the south end

More questions than answers as we take in the images but it is undeniable that we felt something special as we paddled away from the famed Artery Lake pictograph site. During the first three days  on the Bloodvein headwaters we had joked that the aches and pains that come from doing six kilometres of portages at maximum travel weight to get to the pictographs was the price of admission. As we moved on to the next pictograph site we agreed it had been worth it.

Links To More Information:

Dewdney’s book on the pictograph sites of the Canadian Shield is available for online reading or download here. The Artery Lake site is discussed from pages 59 to 61.

Over the past 35 years Thor Conway has taken over the work of Dewdney to record and understand the pictographs, taking a special care to listen to the Anshinaabe elders and incorporate their understanding of their traditional culture and the place of the rock paintings in it.  His website and contact info can be found here.  Coming soon from Conway is a new book which will include a chapter on the Artery Lake site we have just visited.

If you click on  “Ojibwe Pictographs” on my site header, you find a few more posts I have put together on the pictographs of the Canadian Shield.  It all began about a year and a half ago as we were preparing for a canoe trip that would, among other things,  take us down Cliff Lake on the Pikitigushi River system. It turns out that Cliff Lake is one of the premiere pictograph sites on the Canadian Shield. Who knew! Certainly not me.   I was excited to have this additional element added to our adventure; I was also struck by how little I knew about those enigmatic rock paintings in a canoe country I have spent thirty years paddling and was keen on blowing away the fog of ignorance.  It has been an interesting journey but clearly there is a long way to go!

 

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 2: Crystal Lake to the Knox Lake Portage

Previous Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 1: Trout Bay to Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake early morning sunshine

Crystal Lake early morning sunshine

All images expand with a click or two: all blue text is clickable too!

Crystal Lake to Indian House Lake

DAY 2 BASICS:

distance: about 25 kilometers

weather: a beautiful sunny day in WCPP – lots of sunshine and no wind

rapids/portages: seven in all,  totalling about 2045 meters; also a beaver dam approaching Indian House Lake!

campsites: again, scarce and average at best.

We were on the water before 9:30 for what promised to be a big day.  We were hoping to be at the far end of the Knox lake portage by the end of the day.  By noon we were at the A09 put in and paddling across the small lake (mistakenly labelled “Indian House Lake” on the Garmin map) and Indian House Creek into the lake itself.

portage time - Max hauls a double load

portage time – Max hauls a double load a the start of A07, our first of the day

A08 P380

A08 P380

A07 P275

A07 P275

 

rock face on the shoreline as we approach Indian House Lake

rock face on the shoreline as we approach Indian House Lake

The pix above and below convey a little of the terrain as we approached Indian House Lake. As you can see the weather was our friend on this particular day!

beautiful easy paddling before Indian House Lake

beautiful easy paddling before Indian House Lake

one stern paddler - my bro Max!

one stern paddler – my bro Max!

like paddling in a dream - the south end of Indian House Lake

like paddling in a dream – the south end of Indian House Lake

Some distance up Indian House Lake on the west side of one of the string of islands that almost divides the lake in half, we pulled over and stopped for lunch.  While lunch is a hurried affair for some paddlers, we actually spend an hour and even take out the butane stove to boil up some water – water for soup and water for tea or coffee.  We also get the water filter out and refill the one-liter Nalgene container and then add some Gatorade.  Adequate hydration is key when you’re paddling.

A10 P105

A10 P105

A11 P160

A11 P160

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the end of A10 portage from Indian House Lake

the end of A10 portage from Indian House Lake – the water is flowing into Indian House

After lunch (3:00!) we continued to the north end of Indian House and Portage A10. I was surprised to see the small creek that the portage trail comes out at was running down into Indian House and not into the nameless lake we had just portaged into.  Looking at the maps that evening revealed that while Indian House Lake does indeed flow into the Bloodvein River system, it does not do so through Knox Lake. Instead,  its outlet is Indian House Creek just to the west of our lunch spot which then flows down to Murdock Lake.

IHL to KLP

A12P270

A12 P270

A13 P405

A13 P405

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we got past Portage A12 we briefly considered taking the time to paddle up to the actual headwaters of the Bloodvein River itself – it would have meant a three-kilometer detour.  In the end we agreed that we were getting a bit obsessive about doing all of the Bloodvein and figured that 99% was close enough!  So – off to the day’s final portage .  Given the aches and pains we were feeling for our first two days of paddling – but mostly from the hauling – we already knew we would not be sitting on Knox Lake at the end of this day.  The revised goal was a campsite near the start of the portage, which we would then tackle early the next day instead of late this one.

We did scout the south shore for a place to camp but, as the map below shows, we were coming up empty!  The third site we paddled by seemed to be the one we had taken from Harlan’s map at his front desk the previous morning – perhaps in our haste to to get going, we didn’t get it quite right. In any case, we paddled across the lake to the other shore and found a rock face backing up into some  sheltering trees that did the job. The Thermarest is the great equalizer when it comes to campsites!  Still, neither of the first two on our 17-day paddle would make the top 15 list!

looking for a campsite - fourth time lucky!

looking for a campsite – fourth time lucky!

Day Two camp set up

Day Two camp set up

We were feeling some aches and pains at the end of this day.  Advil time for sure!  Over four kilometres of portaging and 50 kilometres of paddling in two days. However, there was just one more portage and then we would be able to say that we’d paid our entrance fee to the Bloodvein River.  And what a last portage it would be – the 1500 meters into Knox!

Next Post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 3: Knox Lake Portage To Murdock Lake

 

 

 

 

Bloodvein Headwaters Day 1: Trout Bay to Crystal Lake

Previous Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein River system: Maps & Planning

Shuttle - east section

Trout Bay and First Two Days' Paddling

The first map shows our gps track from the Red Lake town dock west through Red Lake itself and past the pictograph island towards Trout Bay; the route continues on the second map and shows our round-about approach to Knox Lake.  (Clicking on maps and images will enlarge them!)  Also on the second map is an alternative approach via Pipestone Bay and then the portages to Lund Lake and westward towards Knox.

DAY 1 BASICS::

distance: 25-kilometer boat shuttle to Trout Bay portage into Douglas Lake; a 25-kilometer paddle  to Crystal Lake island campsite

weather: overcast and spitting in the morning and then improving; sunny in the afternoon and clear overnight

rapids/portages: no rapids but six portages in all totalling a bit over 2000 meters.

campsites: scarce and average at best, including ours on Crystal Lake

We were finally on the water!  The  2000-kilometer “Grande Portage” from Toronto to Red Lake done, we were looking forward to two weeks plus on the Bloodvein.  First, the shuttle to get to the starting point. We had opted for the Trout Bay entry via Harlan Schwartz’s brand new power boat and he was at the store when we dropped in at 7:00 to get things rolling.

Red Lake town docks

the morning scene at the Red Lake town docks – bush plane central!

We drove the car down to the dock and unloaded our now “used and abused” Swift Dumoine and the gear – the two Hooligan packs, the two duffel bags, and the two life jackets and four paddles.  Oh – and one camera pack.  I was trying something new this year. Instead of having my Sony A77 dlsr safe inside the Watershed duffel (itself inside a large M.E.C. duffel for extra abrasion protection), I decided to make it more accessible.  This meant getting a Pelican 1400 case for it and a few of my favourite lenses – and a lightweight rucksack to carry it on portages. Now I’d carry the canoe and the camera pack as one carry on portages.

bush plane and aluminum canoes at the dock at Red Lake harbour

bush plane and aluminum canoes at the dock at Red Lake harbour

I had always thought that Red Lake was nicknamed “The Norseman Capital of Canada” because of the number of Finns and Swedes who came through and settled here.  While there definitely are lots of signs of their influence, I found out that the name  is really because of a bush plane named the Noorduyn Norseman  It predates the de Havilland Beaver and has been on the job up in northwest Ontario since the 1930’s and the first years of the gold rush for which the Red Lake area is famous.

ready to go - the express way to Trout Bay

ready to go – the express way to Trout Bay … you could paddle from Red Lake in a day and a bit!

Keeto on guard in Red Lake harbour

Keeto checking out the scene in Red Lake harbour

It is a thirty-five kilometer boat ride to the portage trail in Trout Bay that leads to Douglas Lake.  It took us a little under an hour.  We did stop to look at the only pictographs on Red Lake itself.  The location was a bit of a surprise, having none of the rock face and dominating position on the lake that one usually associates with Anishinaabe pictograph sites.

Keeto eyeing the shoreline of pictograph island in Red Lake

Keeto eyeing the shoreline of pictograph island in Red Lake

pictograph Island on Red Lake

pictograph Island on Red Lake

Whereas many pictograph sites saw new rock paintings added or super-imposed over several generations, you get the impression that this humble site had a significance to a single person for whatever reason – a life spared, a bounty received, a spiritual connection made. One can only guess.  As for the pictographs themselves, two are easily seen but disclose little meaning to visitors. Between the two is another fading set of lines.

Red Lake pictograph site - overview

Red Lake pictograph site – overview

Red Lake pictographs - close up

Red Lake pictographs – close up

The cross figure below could indeed be a cross! If it is, it could be Christian-inspired; it could just as easily be a cross associated with the Medewiwin, the society of Ojibwe medicine men.  Then again, it may be a figure in a canoe with an undulating snake approaching from below. Or yet again, it could be a crude representation of the two-horned serpent associated with the “medicine” the painter of this image has come for.  There is a similar figure in NE Ontario at the Diamond Lake site in the Temagami area.  Lacking any context it is difficult to say much!

Selwyn Dewdney, whose book Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes,  initiated the systematic recording and analysis of pictographs in the Canadian Shield area, visited this site in 1960.  The sketch he made of the site show that the pictographs haven’t deteriorated very much in the past fifty-plus years.

Dewdney's sketch from 1960

one of the Red Lake pictographs up close

one of the Red Lake pictographs up close

As we approached the top of Trout Bay, we spotted a moose grazing in the reeds. As soon as it noticed us, it  was gone, seemingly melting into the woods in the way tha moose can. They may look awkward but they are the ballet dancers of the boreal!

Douglas Lake stream coming into Red Lake

Douglas Lake stream coming into Red Lake

Seeing the water tumbling down into Red Lake (357 meters a.s.l.)  was a reminder that Douglas Lake (376 m), as well as the next lake we’d be paddling up – Hatchet Lake (393 m) – both feed into Red Lake. As for Red Lake itself, its outlet river is the Chukuni River, which flows south into the English River a bit west of the hydro dam at Ear Falls.  Eventually, like the waters of the Bloodvein River system, Red Lake ends up in Lake Winnipeg.

from Trout Bay to Peterson Lake

From Peterson Lake to Crystal Lake Camp

it begins with a 880 meter portage!

it begins with a 880 meter portage!

A01P800

Nothing like starting off a canoe trip with a portage – an 800-meter carry!  However, you accept it because –  well, because that is the way it is! It is the price that everyone pays for access to some incredible canoe country.  At 4 lbs. of food a day and enough to last us for twenty days, our Day 1 portage meant eighty lbs. of food on top of the fixed weight of canoe, paddles, tent, and all the other stuff we consider essential. We are very conscious of weight and have pared it down to this – the 80 lbs. of food + + 50 lbs.  for the canoe and four paddles + 100 lbs. for everything else. It was a bit of a shock to realize that the empty packs and duffels themselves weighed a total of 20 lbs!   Total portage load to be moved from A to B for this trip on Day 1 = 230 lbs. or 105 kilos. Oh -add to that the pack with the Pelican case and my dlsr and lenses and filters etc. – another 12 lbs.!

Harlan played photographer and snapped a couple of shots of us at the onset of what we hoped would be yet another excellent adventure and then he and Keeto were off.  The gps track on the right shows the 800 meter path from Trout Bay to Douglas Lake and the sliver of a section of Woodland Caribou Park recently added. Around the corner from our put-in we would paddle by Viking island with the Carlson family’s Lodge on it – first opened by Art Carlson in 1947!

two Hooligan packs, two duffels - and one canoe

two Hooligan packs, two duffels – and one canoe

The rain and drizzle of the early morning had stopped and conditions would  steadily improve as the day progressed. The paddling was easy and the portage take-outs were  where the official park map indicated they’d be. Given that our route into to Knox could be described as “the road less travelled” the trails are not heavily used and sometimes in need of a trim but we were far from bushwhacking our way to the other side of the portages. We met one other canoe party at the portage take-out for Hatchet. Other than the four fishing boats we saw on the Bloodvein down from Sabourin Lake three days later and another canoe on Artery Lake,  they were the only people we saw in a week at WCPP.

A02P230

A02 P230  Douglas into Hatchet

A03 P320

A03 P320 – Hatchet into Peterson

start of portage into Peterson Lake (A03)

start of portage into Peterson Lake (A03)

entering the A03 waypoint!

Max the keeper of the waypoints – entering the data on his Etrex Legend!

A05 P370

A05 P370

A04P240 (Peterson_Page

A04 P240

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A06P155

A06 P155

After a stop for lunch at the Page Lake end of Portage A04, we pressed on.  The goal for the day was Crystal Lake. At the top of Page Lake we did Portage A05 into an unnamed lake and were rewarded with a 45-minute paddle south on a very pretty narrow stretch of water that brought us to Portage A06.  Before we had left Harlan Schwartz’s Red Lake store, we transferred some of his campsite info to ours – at least for the first couple of nights.

Now we headed to the first of them – the island site just across from the put-in from the portage from Bell Lake to Crystal Lake.  It was 6 when we pulled in to what looked like at most an “it’ll do”  spot for the night. However, it is not as if we had paddled by a lot of great alternatives in the hour or two before.

 

The two days of driving to get up to Red Lake combined with a solid Day One’s workload and what would end up to be one of the buggiest evenings of our trip meant that we took to the tent around 9 for a good night’s sleep.

Crystal Lake island camp

Crystal Lake island camp

While the sky was clear we weren’t taking any chances so we strung up one of the tarps over the tent just in case.

the uber-fly -  why we now bring two tarps!

the uber-fly – why we now bring two tarps!

Next post: Bloodvein Headwaters Day 2: Crystal Lake to the Knox Lake Portage