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