Wabakimi Canoe Trip- From Flindt Landing To Collins Via The Flindt, Ogoki, Palisade, Grayson, and Boiling Sand Rivers – Intro, Logistics, Maps

Table of Contents: 

Introduction

Our Flindt To Collins Itinerary

Maps and Related Resources 

The Ride There and Back – The Train From Toronto

Put-in at Flindt Landing – VIA Stop and  Lodge on Heathcote Lake

Day-by-Day posts – detailed maps, rapids, portage info, campsites

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Introduction:

If you really want to get away from the crowds, then Wabakimi Provincial Park in NW Ontario is an obvious choice.  For every hundred paddlers churning up the waters of Algonquin or Killarney or Quetico, there are maybe one or two in Wabakimi. But for us, there is a price to pay- and that is the time needed to get there.  I should add that we live in southern Ontario (London and Toronto)  so Armstrong Station is a long way; if you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Thunder Bay the park is almost on your doorstep!

Take a look at the Google map below to see where Wabakimi Provincial Park is in the bigger picture.

Our 2010 visit to Wabakimi Provincial Park very definitely gave us every reason to go back for more and that is what we did the next year.  (Check out our trip report “Discovering Wabakimi: Paddling to the Center of the Universe for more info.)

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Our Flindt to Collins Itinerary:

Flindt Landing – Flindt river – Wabakimi Lake – Kenoji Lake – Palisade River – Grayson Lake – Whitewater Lake – Smoothwater Lake – Boiling Sand River – Collins

  • July 23 – we left Toronto Union Station at about 10 p.m. (Note: In 2019 the schedule was changed: the train now leaves at 9:30 a.m. twice a week. Due to the COVID epidemic, it is not running during the 2020 season.)
  • July 24 – spent all day on the Via Canadian train and got to Flindt Landing around midnight

heading for the portage trail at dusk on the Grayson River

  • Day 1 – 25 km – from Flint Landing cabin to campsite on a bay off Flet  Lake
  • Day 2 – 26 km – from Flet Lake to campsite on Flindt River by portage on NE end of Big Island
  • Day 3 – 20 km – from lower Flindt River camp to Wabakimi Lake west end
  • Day 4 – 23 km – to River Bay South shore after an encounter with a park ranger
  • Day 5 – 24 km – to the start of Palisade R. after paddle up to turn-off to Slim Lake and back (9 km)
  • Day 6 – 33 km – to a campsite on Grayson River before Whitewater Lake
  • Day 7 – 9 km – a small island at top of Whitewater just to the west of Porter island
  • Day 8 – 22 km – to a sand fly-infested beach on the south end of Best Island on Whitewater Lake –
  • Day 9 – 22 km – halfway down Lonebreast Bay to Bussey Island campsite (one with memorial)
  • Day 10 – 11 km – to island at the north end of Smooth Rock Lake
  • Day 11 – 25 km – to campsite down near the south end of the west arm of Smoothrock Lake
  • Day 12 – 19 km – to Boiling Sand River campsite across from Mattice Outfitters Lodge
  • Day 13 – 8 km – to Boiling Sand River  after Gnome Lake
  • Day 14 – 3 km – to Bath lake just before the portage over the railway tracks
  • Day 15 – 5 km to Collins and board the east-bound VIA Canadian train  8:50 a.m. CT

Aug 09 – the Via train pulled arrived at Toronto’s Union Station at about 10:00 a.m.

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Maps And Related Resources:

Federal Government 1:50,000 Topographic Maps

Natural Resources Canada

The Federal Government 1:50000 topos 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 website and print them out yourself.

Clicking here will take you to the 052  folder where you will find all of the following 1:50,000 topos in either the J or the I sub-folders.  Each map folder contains three choices; I download the prt.tif file. Do note that a few of these maps are in black and white.

The maps below are the ones you’ll need –

  1. Seseganaga Lake 052 J 01
  2. Wilkie Lake  052 J 08
  3. Neverfreeze Lake 052 J 09
  4. Wabakimi Lake 052 I 12
  5. Burntrock Lake 052 I 13
  6. Grayson Lake 052 I 14
  7. Goldsborough Lake 052 I 11
  8. Onamakawash Lake 052 I 05
  9. Armstrong 052 I 06

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David Crawshay’s Topo Canada App for iOS

David Crawshay’s Topo Canada iOS App for iPhone enables you to download all of the above to your iPhone. While leaving the iPhone on all day to use as your primary GPS device would eat up battery power like crazy, it is very useful to make a quick confirmation that you are indeed where you think you are! Download Crawshay’s app here.

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Toporama Canada Online Map:

Toporama is NRC’s modern version of the archived topo sheets.  It is essentially a seamless map of the entire country and allows you to extract from and apply to the map all sorts of additional information and features. Click here to access.

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None of the above provides detailed information about rapids, portages, and campsites. For that, you will need to turn to sources like the Friends of Wabakimi.

Wabakimi Project Maps

volume-three_v1To get a handle on possible routes, campsites, 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.  The $40. 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.

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Paddle Planner

Click on the header above to access the site.

In the decade since this report was written, a new source of canoe route info has appeared on the internet. What its creators have done is collate all the available information from the sources above – and from yet other trip reports and info submitted to them by fellow trippers.

It is the same approach used by the now-defunct Jeff’s Maps and the current Unlostify maps available for some Ontario destinations. Of the data, the Paddle Planner website includes this reminder:

Wabakimi is a real wilderness area and has the challenges that wilderness brings. Portages and campsites are not as well-maintained as in other canoeing areas such as the Boundary Waters. A route may not have been traveled for years, so portages and campsites may be overgrown, hard to find, and/or may not exist anymore. All locations are approximated.

Access the site here.

Note: there is a $20. cost to access all of the useful features of the site, a minor investment that will repay itself by having the most up-to-date info on what is coming up in terms of rapids, portages, and campsites.

If you access the old Paddle Planner website you can still get a full-page view no longer available for free at the new site. See here.

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Ontario MNRF:

Ontario MNR map website

As well,the Ontario Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests has its own online map service (see here) which often 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. If you go into Map Layers you can access their satellite imagery, which is often better than the one in Google Earth.

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Google Earth – Satellite View:

The Google Earth satellite view provides revealing views of the route and it is worth spending a bit of time getting the satellite perspective.  A web version can now be accessed within the Chrome browser.

Click here for the KML file (163 kb) of the every-ten-minutes-while-it-was-on tracks recorded by our Spot Connect during our two-week trip. Import the file into Chrome’s web-based Google Earth app as a New Project and you should see all 730 tracks. All that is missing is the first three hours’ worth – we were still learning how to use the device!

Garmin Etrex:

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.

Given all the digital and paper map resources mentioned above, a smartphone would be all you would need for the occasional GPS location reading.

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The Spot Connect:

If you want to see the SPOT Connect waypoints of our trip click here to download the 266k file.   You can import the file into Google Chrome’s web version of Google Earth and see the GPS trail that the SPOT recorded.

iPhone and SPOT Connect

I am really glad we brought the Spot 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 iPhone).

The Spot also provides excellent post-trip data, in particular the amount of time we spent in certain spots along the way. It records a track every ten minutes so if there is a one-kilometer distance between two successive tracks, you will know we were motoring. If you see progress in meters, it will mean some serious lining or portage is in progress!

Update: The Spot Connect was discontinued in 2017.  While ours had served us well, we ended up getting a Garmin inReach Explorer+ in 2018 because of its two-way communication feature. You can receive emails as well as daily weather updates on the inReach,  as well as do all the usual tracking and emergency contact stuff. It even has a basic mapping window.

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The Ride There:  A Day On The Rails!

Hornepayne, Ontario VIA stop

VIA runs Canada’s passenger train service on lines it rents its presence on the tracks from Canadian National Railways (CN for short).  The train is a great way to get to Wabakimi from southern Ontario if you are okay with the following:

  • the loss of flexibility with respect to the exact day when your trip ends
  • the good chance that the train will be quite late on arrival and return thanks to the fact that CN’s freight service takes precedence over VIA’s passenger service!

VIA’s The Canadian runs from Toronto to Vancouver two or three times a week. It is a 4 day 4500-km. epic train ride; the section to Wabakimi is about one-quarter of that. We left Toronto’s Union Station at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday; we got to Flindt Landing around midnight a bit more than a day later! Given the very poor on-time performance of VIA trains since the mid-2010s, we can actually be thankful to have arrived almost on time!

the view from the outside of the train at Hornepayne

VIA Schedule Westbound From Toronto:

the dome car- a great place to take in the passing Canadian Shield scenery

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

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Catching The Train Back To Toronto:

At the other end of the trip, the logistics were also a bit different.  Instead of ending the trip at Little Caribou Road about 6 km from Armstrong, we paddled to Collins at the north end of Collins Lake on the last morning and were at the railway tracks which pass through the non-reserve status Ojibwa settlement of perhaps 200 people by 8:30 a.m. waiting for the train’s 9:30 arrival.

the VIA stop at Collins

the eastbound VIA- just a little bit late!

We had arranged for the eastbound VIA train to pick us up on a Monday (August 8).  (There are three eastbound trains passing through the Wabakimi area each week- Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.) [See the new schedule below!]  Everything worked out just the way it was supposed to!  Within thirty minutes of boarding, we were in the dining car having a breakfast other than oatmeal for the first time in over two weeks. We were on our way home- and a day later we would be!

VIA Schedule Eastbound From Savant Lake:

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Flindt Landing – VIA Stop and Lodge

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’ were 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.

Note: With the revised VIA schedules you now arrive at Flindt Landing from the east in the morning (9:42) so the problem of accommodation is solved. You can paddle until you find a decent spot on Heathcote Lake. (See here for the new schedule.)

flindt-landingvia-railcn-tracks

a satellite view of Flindt landing and the Lodge on the north side of the tracks. The guest cabins are on the small island and are accessed by a wooden bridge.

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