This July my brother and I spent seventeen days canoeing the 350 kilometres of the Bloodvein River system. We started in its headwaters east of Knox Lake in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park just west of Red Lake, Ontario and ended up at the Bloodvein First Nations community on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. The verdict – the river is the most beautiful one we have ever paddled.
our route from Douglas Lake off Red Lake to Bloodvein First Nations Village on Lake Winnipeg
The trip was really made up of two separate sections:
1. The Bloodvein River headwaters in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.
This section involved lots of lake paddle. After portaging in from Trout Bay at the west end of Red Lake, we paddled through Douglas Lake, Hatchet Lake, Crystal Lake, and Indian House Lake on the way to Knox Lake. Then It was on through Murdock Lake, Larus Lake, and Mary’s Lake to Artery Lake and the Ontario-Manitoba border. Along with some backbreaking portages, the first week on the headwaters offered two of the finest pictograph sites we have ever visited, as well as a few other minor ones that were worth the detour.
2. The Bloodvein River in Atitkaki Provincial Park in Manitoba
West of Artery Lake, the Bloodvein truly becomes a river – a more intimate one framed by stretch after stretch of vertical granite rock face along its shores. The rapids (some eighty by Hap Wilson’s totally accurate count!) are of the ledge type, making most necessary portages short and easy. One memorable campsite would be bettered by the one the following day, and it in turn would lose its rank the day after that.
While we are not keen on repeating the 4100-kilometer road trip by car to Red Lake and back home, we are very glad we did it this once. It has replaced the Missinaibi on the top of our own Canoe Hall of Fame as #1 in the river category!
Given Hap Wilson’s comprehensive trip report of the river (see here), the world is hardly in need of another one. However, over the next few weeks I will upload a few posts which will add some visuals and other info to Wilson’s beautifully detailed maps and sketches of the river . They may be of use to next year’s paddlers as they work out their own versions of our Bloodvein trip.
(Update: see the end of this post for links to more detailed posts on our trip, including a couple specifically on the two major pictograph sites.)
In the meanwhile, here are a few pix which will find their way into the eventual posts.
Car and canoe at the Super 8 in Red Lake after our 2000 kilometre ride up from Toronto
canoe ready for the water shuttle to Trout Bay from Red Lake’s town dock
bush plane central – the town dock at Red Lake
and so the adventure begins!
a cloudy morning on Red Lake
Harlan’s buddy Keeto as we approach a small pictograph site
Harlan dumps us off at the start of the portage into Douglas Lake. Given the 80 lbs. of food we started with, portaging on the first couple of days were the worst since we were at our heaviest.
the other end of the first portage – Carrying the canoe was the easiest since it only weighs 42 lbs!
portage markers – tree blazes …most portages were easy to find
Max entering a gps waypoint at the start of a portage trail
Day One Campsite on Crystal Lake island …
early morning mist on calm water
Day Two Camp – ready for rain
the muddy portage into Knox lake – a 1600 meter slog with the first 500 m the worst ever!
Knox Lake portage – dragging the canoe through the mud, definitely a first for us
Day Three- approaching Murdock …signs of recent fires
Murdock Lake east pictographs – our campsite was 100 meters away
Max enjoying a Murdock Lake sunset
Murdock Lake sunset
breakfast spot on the way to Larus – we sometimes just pack up and go early in the morning and have breakfast a bit later when the sun is really out
our island bkft stop after the storm
the pictograph site east of Larus Lake – next to the Artery Lake site it is the most dramatic
max scans the rock face east of Larus on the Bloodvein
shaman holding otter skin medicine bag (or infant?)
the Larus side of the 750 m portage from Murdock
the waves on the east end of Larus Lake – whitecaps meant our day ended a bit early
looking at some scratches and scrapes for possible patch-up jobs
sunset on Larus Lake
bkft stop after crossing a calm Larus – we got up at 4:45 and were paddling by 5:30
moose sighting on the way to Barclay Lake – the previous night we had been visited by a bear!
moose closer up
campsite south of Barclay Lake – up just in time for the downpour
heavy sky foreshadowing more rain the next day
Max -Artery Lake – where he spent his 60th birthday!
east end of Artery Lake pictograph site – the Bloodvein’s #1 site
Artery Lake bison panel
Max and the granite face of the Bloodvein’s #1 pictograph site on Artery Lake
the two most famous Artery Lake panels – shaman panel and the bison panel
on the provincial border – from one park to another
lining a set of rapids
the jumping rock – Anishinaabe legend has it that young men would jump across the gap
up close and contemplating the jump
view from the top of “the Jumping rocks”
canoe done for the day at Fineview Camp
the rapids near camp
the patio at Fineview
portage time on the upper Bloodvein
campsite on X-Rock Island..room for at least a couple of dozen tents!
X-Rock Rapids and Island from above – an aerial shot taken during our flight back to Red lake
River Left rapids at X-rock
The X in X-Rock! The name is one given by Wilson in his guidebook
Max on river left studying a set of rapids – we did the carry!
Day 9 Campsite (before W29) – the W refers to Wilson’s map of the Bloodvein
Day 9 ends
checking out the trapper’s cabin
the river view from Day 10 campsite on the Bloodvein (W36b)
inhaling the negative ions of the Bloodvein
sunset by W36b
the red veins in the rock – the bloodveins!
foam and ripples at a set of rapids
the boreal forest floor
Day 12 Campsite – just before W56
Day 12 sunset
Max checking the maps
Missing is another week’s worth of pix – they will appear in the final trip report.
Bloodvein Village – waiting for the Viking Outpost Beaver to fly in from Red lake
the old Anglican Church at Bloodvein Village
bog from 3500 feet above
island in Red Lake
approaching Red Lake town
the yellow Viking Beaver
at the Viking landing dock
emergency supplies already loaded for the next flight into WCPP
Keeto, Harlan Schwartz’s husky, chillin’ at the Red Lake Outftters’ store in downtown Red Lake
A month has passed and I’ve written some text to go along with the pix. I’ve also included some maps of the route with portages and campsites and pictograph site locations indicated. If you’re interested in seeing more, start off with the post below –
The specific posts on the headwaters section of the Bloodvein in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park starts with this post:
The Manitoba section of the trip – the downriver part – starts off with this post –
The two specific pictograph-related posts are these: