You have entered the Canoe Saskatchewan suite

Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Route

Canoe Trip 43


Lac La Ronge - Wapawekka Lake - Deschambault River - Ballantyne Bay

Length of Trip: 169 kilometres (105 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: seven to nine days
Number of Portages: 17


Warning:

Water levels and canoeing conditions on many Saskatchewan rivers and lakes vary from time to time, causing changes in the appearance of the various landmarks described in this booklet, as well as the presence of hazards not described herein. It is the canoeist's responsibility to proceed with caution and alertness, using discretion and good judgment at all times. The information in this booklet is intended to be of general assistance only and the Government of Saskatchewan assumes no responsibility for its use. Canoeists are reminded that they travel at their own risk at all times.

Access to Starting Point:

The starting point of this canoe trip is the town of La Ronge, situated 240 kilometres (149 miles) north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and served by Highway 2. Vehicles may be left at one of the outfitter's camps in La Ronge or other private arrangements made for the safe parking of cars during the canoe trip.

Maps:

Hydrographic Chart No. 6281 Lac La Ronge, 73-I Wapawekka, 63L Amisk Lake.

About the Trip:

This is not a canoe trip for beginners. There are three big lakes to cross, numerous rapids and some long and difficult portages. Nevertheless this is a very interesting trip for the persistent and experienced wilderness canoeist. Some of the attractions include the beautiful sand beaches along the southern shores of Lac La Ronge, the view of the Wapawekka Hills from Wapawekka Lake, the isolation and true remoteness of parts of the Deschambault river and the variety of big lake and river travel.

The fishing is good at certain river mouths along the south shore of Lac La Ronge and Wapawekka Lake, and also below the rapids in the Deschambault River. Good natural camping spots are common, especially where canoe travel is on the big lakes.

This canoe trip ends on the east side of Ballantyne Bay at Mile 146 of the Hanson Lake Road, Saskatchewan, Highway 106. The trip ends at the dock of a private resort operator (cabins, restaurant and gas station). There is also a public telephone available at Mile 146.

Other possibilities canoeists should consider in conjunction with this trip are to extend it to Pelican Narrows or even to Denare Beach on Amisk Lake with the aid of canoe trips number 13 and 14. Still another interesting possibility would be to make the trip into a large loop trip returning to La Ronge via Deschambault Lake, Pelican Narrows, Wood Lake and the Churchill River. Information describing the route and portages between Deschambault Lake and Lac La Ronge via the Churchill River route is available in Canoe Trip No. 7. The trip would have to be made in the reverse direction from the way it is described. This would not present any serious drawbacks however.


The Canoe Trip:

Canoeists are advised to follow a route skirting around the entire south shore of Lac La Ronge. This is a lovely trip in itself past many fine sand beaches and offers quick access to shore if the weather suddenly turns bad.

The Fox Point - Wapawekka canoe route printed on the Lac La Ronge hydrographic chart is the most direct route, but it is much too exposed and potentially dangerous for recreational canoeists.

There are good fishing opportunities at the mouths of the Bow and Meeyomoot Rivers.

Travel to Nipekamew Bay on the east side of Lac La Ronge.

Portage No. 1:

Connecting Lac La Ronge with a small lake leading to Wapawekka Lake. Approximately 1,700 metres (1859 yards) long and in good condition.

From the east side of Lac La Ronge this portage starts on the southeast side of Nipekamew Bay about 180 metres (197 yards) east of an open muskeg area.

The portage ends at the west end of a narrow, man-made canal leading 90 to 140 metres (98 - 153 yards) to the grassy northwest shore of a small lake close to the northwest shore of Wapawekka Lake. This canal may not be deep enough to float a canoe.

Canoeists should paddle across this small lake to its outlet stream on its east shore.

Portage No. 2: (Not shown on maps 73-I or #6281)

Connecting the small lake leading to Wapawekka Lake with the northwest shore of Wapawekka Lake. Approximately 90 metres (98 yards) long and in good condition.

From the east shore of the small lake leading to Wapawekka Lake, this portage starts near the outlet stream at the end of a short, straight, man-made canal. The portage ends conspicuously on the northwest shore of Wapawekka Lake.

Wapawekka Lake has many islands along its northern shores and in its eastern half. A nice view of the Wapawekka Hills is offered along most of the route travelling east on this large lake. There are a few summer cabins, sport fishing outcamps and commercial fishing camps on Wapawekka Lake.

The south shore of Wapawekka Lake has some lovely secluded sand beaches. Fishing is especially good at the mouths of some of the rivers and streams along the south shore.

The western half of Wapawekka Lake is open and exposed to the sweep of the wind. It can become very rough and canoe parties should be prepared to wait out such storms.

The eastern half of Wapawekka Lake is more protected and filled with islands. Soapstone deposits occur at certain locations on the south shore and southern islands in the eastern half of the lake. This soapstone varies from greenish to greyish in colour and is composed principally of talc. The occurrence of soapstone has been known to local Indians for many years and has provided material for carving pipes and art objects.

Portage No. 3:

Connecting the east end of Wapawekka Lake with quiet waters of the Deschambault River below the first rapids. Approximately 80 metres 87 yards) long and in good condition.

From the extreme east end of Wapawekka Lake (Horn Bay) this portage starts on the southeast or left side of the outlet stream immediately above the fast water and rapids.

Below these rapids there is a small "L" shaped lake, actually a wide place in the river which narrows to the east and more rapids occur. Depending upon prevailing water levels and canoe expertise, these short rapids may be run after looking them over from shore.

Portage No. 4 (optional):

Around moderate rapids in upper Deschambault River. Approximately 140 metres (153 yards) long and in poor but passable condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the south or right side at a small break in the trees 10 to 15 metres (11 - 16 yards) above the rapids. The trail is indistinct in places with several sharp turns. It ends at a rock on the south side at the base of the rapids.

More severe rapids follow shortly and almost all canoeists will decide to portage around them.

Portage No. 5:

Around rapids in Deschambault River. Approximately 65 metres (71 yards) long and in fair condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the southeast or right side immediately opposite the start of the rapids and ends in a little cove just south of the base of the fast water.

There follows a quiet pool, a stretch of minor intermittent fast water and then the river opens out into a very small lake. At this point the river then swings north for a short straight stretch followed by rapids which experts may decide to run after careful examination from shore.

Portage No. 6 (optional):

Around rapids below north-flowing straight stretch in Deschambault River. Approximately 180 metres (197 yards) long and in poor condition but passable.

From the upstream side this narrow portage starts vaguely on the east or right shore in willows and ends below the rapids.

Shortly more rapids occur. These might be run by whitewater experts after careful scrutiny from shore. The description of the optional portage around these rapids follows:

Portage No. 7 (optional):

Around moderately severe rapids in the Deschambault River. Approximately 270 metres (295 yards) long and in poor condition but passable with effort.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the east or right shore as a small break in the trees with some blazes. The trail starts opposite fast water well above the bad part of the rapids. This trail for the most part is just a line of scattered blazes with some cutting at difficult spots. The trail crosses an old mineral survey picket line and ends in fast water below the bad part of the rapids.

There follows a quiet pool on the left and then more rapids. These can be run by most canoeists after looking them over. The river course then widens out and swings to the east or right.

A minor riffle follows and then more rapids which most canoeists will portage depending upon their skills and prevailing water levels.

Portage No. 8:

Around rapids in Deschambault River. Approximately 230 metres (251 yards) long and in poor but passable condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the right or east side well above the rapids. The trail is little more than a line of blazes and ends inconspicuously in fast water below the rapids.

After completing portage no. 8 canoeists should immediately cross the river to its north side and land on the east shore of a small cove above the next rapids.

Portage No. 9:

Around rapids in Deschambault River. Approximately 170 metres (186 yards) long and in poor but passable condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts from the east side of a small cove on the north side of the river. The trail ends in a tiny pocket, overgrown with cattails at the base of fast water.

A good natural landmark in the quieter waters below the previous rapids is the entrance on the north or left side of a tributary stream. This tributary is shown on map 63L.

There follows shortly a whole series of intermittent rapids over the next kilometre. These are by-passed by a long and difficult portage which swings completely away from the course of the river. The individual canoeist must decide for himself in the light of his canoe skills and all other factors whether to cope with running rapids, wading, lining and possible short- 8 - portages through the bush or one, long, hard, 800 metre portage.

Only a walk along the riverbank surveying the rapids at prevailing water levels can help the canoeist decide whether to stick with the river or make the long and difficult portage.

Portage No. 10 (optional):

Around a long series of intermittent rapids occurring in the Deschambault River shortly below the entrance of a tributary stream from the north. Approximately 800 metres (875 yards) long. Trail is indistrict in part, wet in places and overgrown, but it is passable with perseverance.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the south or right shore at a small break in the shoreline vegetation above the start of the fast water. The trail swings somewhat indistinctly away from the river at an angle for the first 120 metres (131 yards). Then the trail skirts a muskeg for about 90 metres (98 yards) at which point it intersects a rough mineral survey road at approximately right angles. Portage south (turn right) on the mineral survey road for 70 to 80 metres (76 - 87 yards) and then turn east into thick young spruce. Look for several blazes to mark the turn off into the thick spruce. This part of the trail is very overgrown, narrow and indistinct. It continues for about 550 metres (601 yards), crossing a mineral survey picket line and several wet spots. The trail improves somewhat towards its lower end at a hole in the willows at the base of fast water.

After about one kilometre of river travel more rapids occur. Whitewater experts may run these after looking them over from shore.

Portage No. 11 (optional):

Around rapids in the Deschambault River. Approximately 90 metres (98 yards) long and in poor condition.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the south side, actually on the southeast border of a small cove.

After about 500 metres (547 yards) of quieter water the river swings into a northeast direction and more rapids follow.

Portage No. 12:

Around the last rapids in the Deschambault River before Oskikebuk Lake. Approximately 360 metres (394 yards) long and in fair to good condition.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the east or left side at a small break in the shoreline about 90 metres (98 yards) before the rapids. The trail ends in a quiet bay on the north side of the river below the fast water.

Below this rapid there follows a beautiful, quiet stretch of river for six or seven kilometres (4 miles) which then opens out to the northwest end of Oskikebuk Lake. There are some attractive natural campsites on the islands in the northwest part of this lake.

Travel to the outlet at the southeast end of Oskikebuk Lake. The rapids at the outlet are short, shallow and rocky. Depending on prevailing water levels, they can be run or run in part and waded the rest of the way.

After about 500 metres (547 yards) a small rapid occurs which can be run or waded depending upon prevailing water levels. This rapid is followed by a few hundred metres of quiet water and then a long series of intermittent rapids. Depending upon water levels and whitewater skills some expert canoeists may elect to run much of this series. In this event each rapid should be approached cautiously and considered individually. Most canoe parties will make the long but not too difficult portage around the entire series of rapids.

Portage No. 13 (optional):

Around a long series of rapids in the Deschambault River between Oskikebuk Lake and Merritt Lake. Approximately 1,500 metres (1,640 yards) long and in fair condition.

Approaching from the upstream side, this portage starts at a small break in the birches 70 metres (76 yards) above the start of the rapids on the south or right shore. This portage ends in a cove to the west of the base of the last rapids in this long series.

Below this portage there is a minor riffle and then the river emerges onto Merritt Lake. Merritt Lake is shallow and filled with aquatic vegetation which attracts numerous waterfowl and muskrats.

Paddle to the south end of Merritt Lake and the rapids at the outlet.

Portage No. 14:

Around rapids at outlet of Merritt Lake. Approximately 360 metres (394 yards) long and in fair condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the east or left shore 40 metres (44 yards) above the minor preliminary part of the rapids and ends at a break in the poplars in fast water.

After a few hundred metres of further downstream travel more rapids are met.

Portage No. 15:

Around rapids in Deschambault River between Merritt Lake and West Arm. Approximately 550 metres (547 yards) long and in fair condition.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the south or right side approximately 30 metres (33 yards) above the fast water at a break in the alders. The trail ends in a pocket on the west side in deep willows and alders at the base of the rapids.

About 500 metres (547 yards) below the end of the previous rapids more rapids occur which are divided by an island. After looking these short rapids over, experts may decide to run them.

Portage No. 16 (optional):

Around short rapids in Deschambault River. Approximately 130 metres (142 yards) long and in fair condition.

From the upstream approach this portage starts on the southeast or right shore 15 to 20 metres (16 - 22 yards) above the fast water at a break in the willows. The trail ends on the southwest side in alders 40 to 50 metres (44 - 55 yards) below the base of the fast water.

Below portage No. 16 there is a minor riffle and then in 400 to 500 metres (547 yards) a more severe rapid. Experts might run these rapids after carefully looking them over from shore.

Portage No. 17 (optional):

Around the last major rapids in Deschambault River before West Arm. Approximately 170 metres (186 yards) long and in fair condition.

From the upstream side this portage starts on the east or left shore at blazed trees immediately above the fast water. Trail ends on the north side in alders at the base of the rapids.

In about 400 metres (437 yards) fast water occurs which can be run or waded at lower water levels. The Deschambault River then opens out onto the West Arm of Ballantyne Bay.

There are attractive island campsite possibilities on West Arm near its junction with Ballantyne Bay and also along the northeast shore of Ballantyne Bay.

Paddle to the northeast side of Ballantyne Bay where access to Mile 146 of the Hanson Lake Road is possible at an outfitter's camp. The roof of an unused fish plant and other buildings furnish a landmark visible for four or five miles towards which canoeists may paddle. Mile 146 of the Hanson Lake Road is the end point of this trip.


WRITTEN BY: Peter Gregg.
Credits: The text for the numbered canoe routes is supplied by Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management, and authorization for the use of the text is given by the same department.

Return to Canoe Saskatchewan Home Page | Routes & Trips


Page creation by Rebecca Kennel Consulting
Send questions to the
Modified on 23 Jan 96