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!

All images enlarge with a click or two; blue text leads to more info with a click.

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 two other canoeing parties – two paddlers at the portage into Hatchet on Day 1 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 two parties of three canoes each 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

Tramping Lake, MB picto of human figure

Dewdney 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 right.  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 five 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.

x-rock-island and rapids

X-Rock-island and rapids

Shortly before seven we floated down a Class 1 set of rapids and approached  the island. It sits in the middle of the river with a set of Class V rapids on either side.  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.

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.

W26 camp set up

W26 camp set up

As luck would have it, a few days later during our  flight from Bloodvein First Nation  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 /Island campsite – the view from our de Havilland Beaver – upriver is at the top

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

Next Post: Canoeing The Bloodvein Day 9 – X-Rock Island to just before Goose Rapids

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