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DAY 17 BASICS:
- distance: about 8 kilometers
- weather: sunny and clear
- rapids/portages: W89 (swifts) ran
- campsite: by 9:30 p.m. a room at the Telstar Motel in Kakabeka Falls!
We left our Day 16 campsite at about 8:30 and a little more than an hour later we had paddled past the Bloodvein River Lodge on Kitchi Island on our way to the Bloodvein First Nation ferry landing and the end of the trip. [Note: On Dec. 12, 2021, the lodge was destroyed by what the local RCMP labelled a “suspicious” fire. See here for the initial CTV news item.]
Once at the ferry landing Max stayed with the canoe and gear while I went off in search of a telephone so that I could phone Viking Outposts Air and let them know we were ready to go. All we needed to know was where exactly the plane would be landing. For months before the trip I had assumed that we’d be picked up at the landing strip just to the east of the village – without thinking of asking to make sure.
Shortly before we left Red Lake Harlan informed me that we would have to make our way over from Bloodvein Village to Islandview on the ferry and then get ourselves and the canoe and gear over to Pine Dock Lodge where the pick-up would be made. I can’t say we were too happy with the news – but it was what it was! I had forgotten the name of the lodge and was now phoning to find out exactly where it was and how to get there.
After a short walk over to the corner store/restaurant , I was making use of the landline phone to contact Harlan Schwartz at Red Lake Outfitters. No answer! So I phoned Viking Outposts and got Craig Carlson on the line. He said he’d been expecting the call and had some news for me – the pick-up would not be taking place at the lodge near Islandview after all.
Apparently the new lodge owner had ended whatever landing arrangement the lodge used to have with Viking. The de Havilland Beaver would land right in front of Bloodvein First Nations and pick us up there. Alright! This was making a lot more sense! It meant that we could relax instead of jumping through a few extra hoops before actually getting into the plane.
Carlson figured the plane would be there in under three hours so we settled in for a bit of a wait in the shade of the “Welcome to Bloodvein…” billboard. In our rambles around the village we did chat with a few of the locals – a high school student, someone working at the Nursing Station, a local keen on information about moose numbers up river. Most people seemed to be driving up and down Main Street – still unpaved and very dusty but given the presence of a road construction crew soon be be covered with asphalt.
When I saw the old Anglican church just off of Main Street I thought about a Bloodvein trip report (perhaps jjoven’s) which mentioned that they had slept inside the church for a couple of nights at the end of their trip. The building is looking a bit derelict; services are now held in the building next door – the new Anglican Church! We learned that they made use of straw bale to construct it.
We watched the Edgar Wood ferry make a smooth stop at the end of the gravel ramp. It didn’t seem especially busy on this particular day. After the white truck in the photo below dropped off its cargo on the ferry, it went back to town.
Within thirty minutes the ferry had come and gone and we were left listening for the sound of a De Havilland up above. When we did, we hopped into the canoe and pushed off shore – obviously keen on moving the day’s proceedings along.
We couldn’t understand why the pilot – Mike, as we would learn! – kept on circling and not committing to a landing. It actually took him ten or fifteen minutes before he hit the water. We would later learn that landing in front of Bloodvein Village means a good chance of hitting badly-placed rocks! This would explain Mike’s deliberate approach!
Up in the air by 1:30, we would be in Red Lake before 3:00. (It is a 200 kilometer/125 mile flight.) On the way back we got to see – but not always recognize – bits and pieces of the river that we had spent the last seventeen days with. Here are some of the shots I took from my front-row seat with the window rolled down.
Wow – nothing like a bush plane ride! Even better, nothing like a bush plane ride after having earned the ride by paddling from one end of the Bloodvein to the other. Canoe and de Havilland Beaver – this was only my second ride, but I’m liking the combination a lot. Yes, it does free the bankbook of a bit of cash – but it also frees you from always having to plan your trip as a loop.
We came back from the trip totally buzzed by the experience – and by the river itself. A few weeks later when putting it all into words on a canoe forum it came out this way –
My brother and I have canoed a string of incredible rivers in the last few years. Our introduction to the Wabakimi area opened up a new world for us, focused as we had been on NE Ontario. While I am hoping that next year’s trip is still better, I think this summer we may have hit the jackpot. The Bloodvein River is the most beautiful river we have ever paddled down. We spent seventeen days – six on the headwaters in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in Ontario and eleven on the Manitoba side in Atikaki Provincial Park down to Lake Winnipeg – on a river system that has it all.
A couple of months later it still sounds completely reasonable. Stay tuned as we search for a new river which may take the crown away!