2011 Wabakimi Canoe Trip- From Flindt Landing To Collins

Related Post: Smoke Over Wabakimi – Canoeing In A Season Of Fires

2011 Wabakimi Route Overview

2011 Wabakimi Route Overview

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Our 2011 Wabakimi Itinerary:

  • July 23 – we left Toronto Union Station at about 10 p.m.
  • July 24 – spent all day on the Via Canadian train and got to Flindt Landing around midnight
  • July 25 – 25 km – Day One on the water- from Flint Landing cabin to campsite on bay off Flet  Lake
  • July 26 – 26 km – from Flet L to campsite on Flindt River by portage on NE end of Big Island
  • July 27 – 20 km – from lower Flindt River camp to Wabakimi Lake west end
  • July 28 – 23 km – to River Bay South shore after encounter with park ranger
  • July 29 – 24 km – to the start of Palisade R. after paddle up to turn-off to Slim Lake and back (9 km)
  • July 30 – 33 km – to campsite on Grayson River before Whitewater Lake
  • July 31 – 9 km – small island at top of Whitewater just to the west of Porter island
  • Aug 01 – 22 km – to sand fly-infested beach on the south end of Best Island on Whitewater Lake –
  • Aug 02 – 22 km – half way down Lonebreast Bay to Bussey Island campsite (one with memorial)
  • Aug 03 – 11 km – to island at the north end of Smooth Rock Lake
  • Aug 04 – 25 km – to campsite down near the south end of the west arm of Smoothrock Lake
  • Aug 05 – 19 km – to Boiling Sand River camp site across from Mattice Outfitters Lodge
  • Aug 06 – 8 km – to Boiling Sand River  after Gnome Lake
  • Aug 07 – 3 km – to Bath lake just before the portage over the railway tracks
  • Aug 08 – 5 km to Collins and VIA train  8:50 a.m. CT
  • Aug 09 – the Via train pulled in to Toronto’s Union Station at about 10:00 a.m.

Maps:

volume-three_v1To get a handle on possible routes, camp sites, and portages we purchased Volume 3 of the Friends of Wabakimi (formerly Wabakimi Project)  Canoe Route Maps series. We already had Volume 1 from the previous summer’s Wabakimi trip and had found those maps quite useful.  While the maps I’ve included below will give you the general idea of the route, the $30. for the Wabakimi Project maps is an investment – and not a splurge!  It will get you the campsite and portage information you need;  it will also help this volunteer organization to pay for the cost of flying in people who give a week or two of their time in the summer to clear and mark the portages, create the campsites, and do the mapping work that makes the route maps possible.

Do not set off only with the Wabakimi Project maps! The Federal Government 1:50000 topos will provide you with greater detail and more context of the route to go along with the Wabakimi Project maps.  You can find the topos you need at the Federal Government’s Natural Resources Canada  map website and print them out yourself.  Clicking here will take you to the 052  folder where you will find all of the following 1:50000 topos in either the J or the I sub-folders.

  1. Seseganaga Lake 052J01
  2. Wilkie Lake 052J08
  3. Neverfreeze Lake 052J09
  4. Wabakimi Lake 052I12
  5. Burntrock Lake 052I13
  6. Grayson Lake 052I14
  7. Goldsborough Lake 052I11
  8. Onamakawash Lake 052I05
  9. Armstrong 052I06

The Google Earth app provides revealing views of the route and it is worth spending a bit of time getting the satellite perspective.  As well, the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests has its own online map service (see here) which provides more up-to-date and detailed maps than the Federal Government’s maps listed above.  It is worth looking at them too – and even printing out certain sections.

Finally, we had a Garmin GPS unit (an Etrex) along for the ride as back-up and occasional solution to those head-scratching “where-the-heck-are-we?” moments!  We also used it to record our daily track and features like potential campsites  and outposts and rapids.

The Spot Connect:

If you want to see the SPOT Connect waypoints of our trip click here to download the 266k file.   You’ll need  the Google Earth application installed on your computer to open the file and see  the GPS trail that the SPOT recorded.

The first few kilometers from Flindt Landing  down through Heathcote Lake are missing.  We were still learning how to use the thing!  I am really glad we brought it along.  It provided the folks at home real-time info on our location and the email messaging option came in handy for sending brief okay or more personalized notes back home at the end of each day (45 characters max) . It does this by pairing up with your smartphone (I use my iPod touch).

If you are interested in the SPOT Connect, check out this website for more info on how it all works.  Until we just bring our cellphones along,  it’ll do the trick. (Note: the Connect was discontinued in 2015. Used copies are still around! The InReach SE or Explorer or their updated versions would seem to be the way to go these days.)

the view from the outside of the train at Hornepayne

Stuff being uploaded from the baggage car at Armstrong Station- about two hours east of our exit at Flindt Landing.

We got off the train at Flindt Landing around midnight. The lodge owner was up but was not expecting us.   A confirmation call by me a day or two before would have been a good idea!  Someone cleared the cabin on the island quickly and we had our home for the night. At $80. – or was that $100.? – it was a bit steep for the ten hours we’d be there.  However, the alternative – looking for a place to pitch our tent at midnight either near the lodge or on the other side of the lake – was worse, especially since we had no information on actual camp spots that we could use.

flindt-landingvia-railcn-tracks

The route from our Flindt Landing cabin down Heathcote Lake to our first campsite on a bay on the west side of Flet lake

our canoe waits while we scout some rapids on the first day out.

my brother Max double-bagging it on the portage trail

rockin’ reflections in the mid-afternoon

the east side of Flet Lake at 8:00 p.m. from our campsite

our route on Day Two from Flet Lake to our campsite on the lower Flindt River a bit before Tew Lake

we got to share our portage trail with this local.

We did a bit of this during the trip- here is Step one! The new L.L. Beans boots passed the test as we lined our canoe.

It is great when there is somewhere to walk on the side of the river!

Almost through – although I need to pay more attention to my rope!

a portage trail that had that Lord of the Rings look about it

our Wanderer 4 tent in the background and our Woods Pack replacement, the Hooligan, in the foreground

our front yard at the end of Day Two on the Flindt River

Day Three- from Flindt River campsite to west end of Wabakimi Lake south side

Max reading the ripples while the canoe sits in a cove behind him

our canoe with Wabakimi Lake and the northern shore in the background

our Day Three campsite on the south side of Wabakimi Lake – see map above for exact location!

dusk view of a small bay from our campsite

our Day Four paddle across Wabakimi Lake to a campsite on south shore of River Bay

break time on the north shore of Wabakimi lake as we paddled through the maze of islands, using them as wind screens!

Max getting a handle on the best route through the tangle of islands on the north side of Wabakimi Lake as we deal with the impact of strong winds

very scenic stretch of Wabakimi lake on the north shore

a fishing lodge at the east end of Wabakimi Lake just as you enter Ogoki River Bay- nobody home!

our humble campsite on the south side of River Bay- see the map above for exact location

the woods behind our tent – lots of dead wood set for burning

It is almost 9 p.m. as we gaze westward towards the soon-to-be setting sun.

Day Five from Ogoki River Bay to the Palisade River

9:35 a.m. and the boys are having a Clifbar and some Gatorade while sitting on a rock on the side of the Ogoki River.

lunchtime – peanut butter on Wasa bread to go along with the Thai noodle soup and a cup of tea – on the Palisade at the spot  where we would later camp for the night

paddling alongside the wall-like edge of the Palisade River up towards the source of the smoke near Burntrock Lake…definitely worth the effort to see them

smoke is visible at this point on the Palisade- the next morning we would return to this point and turn east (right) into the channel in the middle of the picture

Our Epic Day from the lower Palisade River campsite to a campsite on the lower Grayson River

The first view of big smoke! We had just put up our tent on the SW corner of Arril Lake. Returning to the shore for the rest of our gear, we saw what you see.  See the section titled Smoke Over Wabakimi for all the details!

For the next five hours we would paddle like crazy to put some distance between us and what you see in the picture.

an easy day’s paddle from the lower Grayson River to our island campsite across from Porter Island in Whitewater Lake

the end of day on our sheltered island campsite- time to look for Group of Seven photo ops!

dusk and we walk by a quiet little bay on our circuit of the island

a great day’s paddle from our island refuge on NW Whitewater to the South Beach of Best Island (“the place with the sand flies!”)

water is in short supply as we do that last stretch leading from Secret Lake back into Whitewater Lake

looking into one of the Wendell Beckwith cabins during our visit to Best Island…see the section titled Ogoki Lodge and the Beckwith Cabins for more photos.

A trail leads from this sandy beach to the Beckwith cabins. Apparently Beckwith himself died on this beach in 1980.

Near the beach is a fairly large flat area where groups of paddlers have tented. We decided to camp at the south end of the island instead.

The Caribbean-like sand beach goes on for a couple of kilometers on the south end of Best island. (Good luck with the sand flies if you decide to tent there!)  BTW it is a bit hazy because of a second fire – Thunder Bay 57 –  just west of our campsite.

our two-day paddle from Best island to Bussey island and then to a small island at the top of Smoothwater Lake

a late breakfast on a flat rock in the middle of McKinley Lake- we had left Best Island by 5:45 without having breakfast because of the sand flies – and also because we wanted to get past our new fire concern – the fire to the west of Whitewater Lake!

me getting instant feedback on a shot I’ve taken while sitting under the tarp at the end of the portage – this was the first canoe trip where we were happy every time it started raining!

This is what I was looking at in the above shot! I wasn’t sure if the rain drops would be sharp enough.

our camp site on Bussey Island- nicely tucked away and sheltered from the wind

the breakfast table on the beach- notice the coffee filters for the real coffee we brought along for the first time. From now on no more instant coffee!

a stretch of beautiful shoreline on Lonebreast Bay as we paddle south

a terrific campsite on a small island at the top of Smoothrock Lake

same spot- different angle!

the day’s paddle from Smoothrock Lake central to the south end of the west arm of Smoothrock Lake

we sit out an afternoon shower at our campsite on the west arm of Smoothrock Lake.

For a while the sky got very grey.

looking east from our island campsite on the west arm of Smoothrock Lake

a post-supper cup of tea on the rocks- the afternoon storm has come and gone

sunset on the water

more end-of-day reflections

a day spent paddling up the Boiling Sand River from our campsite on the lower west arm of Smoothrock Lake

With blueberries all around and lots of time to kill, we start picking- and eating.

lunch break on the Boiling Sand River- we had three days to do about twenty kilometers! Easy does it!

fresh coffee being made- in the evenings I’ll admit we used the de-caf beans

the evening view from our Boiling Sand River campsite just north of Tamarack Lake

our last three days were spent covering about 20 kilometres- we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the Monday morning train!

teepee poles on the side of a portage trail

We’re suckers for shoreline reflections.

morning on the Boiling Sand River

a public service announcement on a rock face near the boundary of the park

our second-last campsite

the bit of food we had left was up in the tree and down in the bay were the eight quarts of blueberries. We wanted to keep them cool- we just managed to get them wet!

sunset on the second last night

same sunset a few minutes later!

failed attempt at drying out 15 liters of blueberries- we would later dump them all into Bath Lake! It was a painful experience!

our handiwork on display- all for naught

the rail line runs past Bath Lake from Collins- we would portage over it the next morning. We should have just arranged to meet the train at the portage point instead of paddling to Collins!

the waiting room at the Collins unofficial I.R. VIA rail stop

Check out the other two parts of our  account of our 2011 Wabakimi Paddle. There is one post that focuses on the fires we paddled into- and another post that looks at (mostly) the Beckwith Cabins on Best Island and the Ogoki Lodge just to the south of Grage Island on Whitewater Lake.

Wabakimi’s Ogoki Lodge and the Beckwith Cabins: “All Things Must Pass”

Smoke Over Wabakimi – Canoe Tripping In A Season of Fires

We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about the logistics or whatever, suggestions on corrections we need to make, or general comments on what you’ve read. Best of all, we’d love to share a camp fire with you some time. In August of 2012 it would be in the Brightsand/Kopka River area. We’ve blocked out the 11th to the 25th for our trip that begins at Allan Water Bridge and ends twelve days later at the access road to Bukemiga Lake off Highway 527. We can only hope that the fire situation in 2012 is not a repeat of 2011.

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11 Responses to 2011 Wabakimi Canoe Trip- From Flindt Landing To Collins

  1. Fred says:

    Absolutely awesome blog!

    It’s always nice to read up on other folks experiences paddling through the waters of Wabakimi P.P.

    You can read our blog here:http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?32424-Journey-to-the-Centre-of-the-Universe-%E2%80%93-Wabakimi-Ontario-2010&highlight=wabakimi , if you’d like to?

    Thanks for sharing

    Fred & Kelly

    Elgin, Scotland

    • true_north says:

      Fred and Kelly, it is a bit late but…thanks for looking at the post! From the date I think I was on the trails of Patagonia at the time and somehow never got around to acknowledging your comment.

      BTW – I really enjoyed reading through your post on your trip to Whitewater and loved the way you made use of the topos in your write-up. Lucky dog! I also remember seeing your title and thinking that my attempt at coming up with something eye-catching was maybe not so original after all!

      I do hope your list of adventures has grown longer and that maybe northern Ontario is in your sights for another visit. Wabakimi has yet more to offer and the Bloodvein River system is a spectacular journey.

  2. Dan says:

    Your paddling adventures are always a treat to read and follow. I read your Bloodvein and Wabikimi trip reports, and used the Wabikimi notes for some of my Wabikimi trip last summer. Covered part of a route that you previously made: down the Allanwater to Wabikimi. From there, however, I went through to Lower Wabikimi to Smoothwater Lake, then Caribou and Little Caribou and out. I used some of your description and notes along the way.

    I plan to return to Wabikimi next year and take a different route, but end up at Bath Lake (or Collins Lake) to catch the eastbound VIA. Did you catch the VIA train at the town of Collins, or at the bottom of Bath Lake? My map (topographic 52 I/6) shows that Collins isn’t on the water. What would you recommend for the takeout?

    Keep up the great reporting. Cheers

    Dan

    • true_north says:

      Dan, it’s nice to hear that the canoe trip reports are useful.

      Re; Bath Lake versus Collins as a VIA extraction point.

      We ended up paddling to the Collins VIA stop because we couldn’t find out the mileage # for the Bath Lake stop. Dumb! Here is a link to the Wabakimi Project’s page on VIA access.

      http://www.wabakimi.org/park/wpp_access.html

      The Bath Lake mileage marker is 19.3. At the time I didn’t know where to look and the helpful VIA person didn’t have a clue either. He suggested I measure the distance from Vancouver myself! Since Collins is a known stop, I figured we would be best to go with that. It did require an extra portage and a 30 minute paddle to Collins VIA stop (and unofficial Native reserve). Spare yourself the extra work and get picked up at Bath Lake, having requested the stop when you buy the tickets a couple of weeks before.

      See here for a map of the Bath lake/Collins area. (The map has Collins marked in the wrong place!)

      My bro and I are mulling a return to Wabakimi next summer. We like the isolation and the relative quiet of the place – the few fishing boats on certain lakes excepted! The Coulonge River and its LaVerendrye headwaters is another possibility but it doesn’t offer what Wabakimi does.

      Maybe we’ll see each other next summer!

    • Dan says:

      Going to make my Wabikimi trip in a few days starting at Flindt Landing and then going up the Flindt River system to Wabikimi Lake, River Bay, the Ogoki River to Berg River and down to Smoothwater Lake, where I’ll do a lot of canoeing on both the east and west arms. I’ll come out at Bath Lake/Collins via the Boiling Sand River and assorted lakes. As usual, I’ll be using your notes on the sections that duplicate the trip you have already taken.

      Hope you enjoy your trips this summer. I’ll check back from time-to-time to see what you’ve accomplished. Good canoeing

      • true_north says:

        Dan, have a great trip.

        Nice to hear our exhaustive trip descriptions are being used! When we did it we paddled right to Collins since it is a designated stop on the VIA line. Had we had the mileage marker for Bath Lake we would have just got on the train there instead of spending the extra hour or two to paddle up Collins Lake to the Collins VIA stop.

        [I went to the wabakimi.org site and found the Bath Lake mileage marker – it is 19.3 Or you could just paddle right into Collins, a small community (not with official reserve status) that was just waking up the morning we portaged up to the CN rail tracks.]

        We hope to get back to Wabakimi next summer. This August our big trip is down the Coulonge River system. It is a 260 km run with lots of swifts and runnable rapids but it certainly would not have the isolation or wilderness feel that makes Wabakimi special.

        Enjoy this summer’s canoe tripping! We’ll compare notes in the fall. You’ll need to post an up-to-date trip report; ours is already five years old!

  3. Dan says:

    Well, I made the Wabakimi trip again this year, following your notes for the Flindt River starting point. They are/were very helpful.

    The trip from Flindt Landing to Wabakimi Lake went smoothly, but the campsites that I used on the Flindt River system and Tew Lake weren’ t marked on my maps (Wabakimi Project maps), while some that were marked on the maps weren’t there. I quickly learned that the best thing to do is have a destination area and campsite in mind, but if towards the end of the day you come across something, take it, because you never know what you will find. I did stay at the site where you camped at the north end of Smoothwater Lake, easily the most scenic and spectacular of the trip.

    Coming out of Tew Lake, I dreaded the paddle down Wabakimi Lake to River Bay, but fortunately the winds were calm and the paddle, while long (and longer) was uneventful.

    When coming out of the park at Bath Lake I decided that I would go all the way to Collins, as I was afraid that the train would go zipping by if I waited at the Bath Lake portage. As I had rented a satellite phone, I could have called in for a stop, but….While in Collins, I met Laurie Mills, who makes canoeing maps of the area. He and his friend knew you (or about you) when I mentioned your trip notes. He outlined several trips that he recommended for Wabakimi paddlers, including the Kopka River. I should mention that the First Nations band at Collins was very accommodating, allowing me to use one of the cabins at the reservation until the train the next day.

    I am planning a trip next year, and I’m considering the Kopka River, based on Laurie Mill’s suggestion. I would use your notes and excellent description. I have one question. It concerns day six, where it said you covered 47 kilometers. Is this a misprint or did you have strong winds at your back that day? All the pictures that you included in the report make this a trip to dream about over the cold winter months, so hopefully the summer will bring more Wabakimi.

    Again, your reports are a delight to read and an indispensable part of my times in the park. Keep up the good work .

    • true_north says:

      Dan, good to hear from you. Here it is harvest time and you are already planting seeds for next summer’s adventure!

      Your fear of missing the train was exactly how we rationalized the extra bit of paddling from Bath Lake! Your getting to use the cabin at Collins was definitely handy. We did notice a couple of cabins (or 3?) on the lake shore as we came up the Collins beach. Laurence Mills was my source for the Kopka trip back in 2012. I also contacted him for our 2013 ramble around the perimeter of Wabakimi and sent him some info on stretches he had no info on. BTW if you want his Kopka maps I would be happy to give them to you.

      Re: the 47-kilometer day. Pretty crazy, eh! Thanks to the weather – rain and wind – we had just had two way below average mileage days and the pressure was on to make up for lost time. So we did indeed move 47 kilometers through one lake after another that day, probably a twelve-hour day. No rapids, no portages, and a helpful wind also factored in. There is no need for you to repeat this!

      • Dan says:

        Thanks for the offer on the maps. As I haven’t yet decided (still dreaming) on next years trip, I will wait until later to see if I will take you up on the kind offer.

      • true_north says:

        I’ve also got three or four choices floating around in my head. It’s funny how one always bubbles to the top! In the meanwhile, keep on dreamin’!

  4. true_north says:

    I found this query in my series of posts on Quebec’s Coulonge River – Day 11 = and while I answered it there, I also pasted my answer below since it has to do with a Flindt River / Little Caribou Lake route that Jeff was wondering about.

    A group of us are planning a canoe trip in Wabakimi next August. We are all experienced wilderness travellers. We are thinking about the Flindt River to Wabakimi Lake and then out on Caribou/Little Caribou Lake. how many portages are there between Flindt River Landing and Wabakimi Lake. we want to minimize the number of portages we do.

    In reply to Jeff Ward in Vernon BC.

    Jeff, I just spent an hour going through the maps and counted 34 portages on your proposed route. BTW – you’ve come up with a great intro to Wabakimi; you may well be back for a second helping!

    Your single best resource for this trip – rapids indicated, portages and distances; campsites is

    Volume Three of the Wabakimi Canoe Route Maps

    vol. 3 cover

    It costs $30. (including shipping) and helps support the volunteers who not only put the maps together but first cleared the portage trails and campsites which the maps highlight. It is both an investment in essential information and helps pay the costs to have the crews do their work.

    It has all the possible routes you might consider to get from Flindt Landing on the Flindt River over to the take-out on Little Caribou lake (about 6 km by road from Armstrong Station) . A shuttle can be arranged with Clement Quenville or with Mattice Lake Outfitters.

    Here are all the possible portages you may face. As I mentioned, thirty-four in all.

    In listing them I am somewhat shocked because on paper it sounds like way too much carrying and no fun at all! It was not that bad. Most carries are short; a number are not necessary. It varies from year to year. The key thing is being organized and making your carries as efficient as possible. Given your experience I am sure you’ve got the routine down well.

    Heathcote Lake into Heafur Lake 50 meter portage

    North of Heafur Lake – three short portages – (25, 150, 35 m) you may be able to line on or two of them.

    Flindt River to Flindt Lake – two short portages of 66 and 125 m

    If you go via Flet Lake two portages of 220 and 170

    North end of Flindt Lake – 115 m portage

    Four more ports (85, 240, 90, 120) – before you get to the south end of Big Island

    North end of Big island – two ports – 50; 182

    About 2 km north of N end of Big island – three ports of 284; 259;55

    Just before you enter Tew lake – 4 (123; 335; 179; 31)

    From Tew Lake to Wabakimi Lake – four portages marked 164; 124; 99; 131

    From Lower Wabakimi into Smoothrock Lake – – portages of 233; 470; 251; 309

    From Smoothrock Lake (Caribou Bay) upriver to Caribou Lake via Caribou River – 46; 57; 66; 140

    From Caribou lake into Little Caribou – 254 m portage

    Little Caribou – maybe 2 km from the take out point – 50 m portage. You may be able to walk it through

    See the last couple of days of our 2010 trip down the Allan Water River and then back up to Little Caribou Lake for some specifics on the last two or three days of your route – there are also some useful links there to other trip reports including the one we found most helpful by Ken Kokanie.

    If you have any more specific questions feel free to email me. I may have the answer!

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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