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Saskatchewan Documented Canoe Route

Canoe Trip 44

Amisk Lake - Sturgeon-Weir River - Namew Lake - Cumberland House

Length of Trip: 80 kilometres (50 miles)
Time Required to Complete Trip: 3 to 4 days
Number of Portages: 1 to 3 portages


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 causing hazards not described herein. It is the canoeist's responsibility to proceed with caution and alertness, using discretion and good judgement 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 for this trip is the Saskatchewan Government's South Weir campground which is located at the outlet of Amisk Lake, at the southeast end of the lake. The South Weir campground is 49 kilometres (30 miles) south of Creighton on highway 167 (paved and gravel).

NOTE: It is not advisable to leave vehicles unsupervised for long periods of time at northern campgrounds. Arrangements could likely be made to leave vehicles at an outfitter's camp located a short distance north of the campground, or at Denare Beach, Creighton, or Flin Flon, Manitoba.

This canoe trip could also be started at Denare Beach. Starting at Denare Beach would involve 30 kilometres (19 miles) of additional paddling down the exposed east shore of Amisk Lake.


63-E/16 Cumberland House, 63-K/4 Namew Lake, 63-K/5 Goose Lake, 63-L/1 Archibald Lake and 63-L/8 Leonard Lake

If the alternate starting point of Denare Beach is selected, map 63-L/9 Denare Beach would also be required.

About the Trip:

This is not a trip for beginners. Between Amisk and Namew Lakes, on the Sturgeon-Weir River, there are many rapids. Depending upon prevailing water levels, more advanced canoeists will run most of these but the less experienced canoeist could get into trouble.

From Namew Lake to Cumberland House the canoeist is travelling on medium sized to large lakes. These lakes are characterized by being shallow, weedy, and with few islands. During strong winds, these lakes can become extremely rough.

This canoe trip could be ended at the Community of Sturgeon Landing at the point where the Sturgeon-Weir River empties into Namew Lake. Sturgeon Landing is accessible by gravel road connecting to Manitoba highway 10. At Sturgeon Landing there are overnight cabin accommodations, a general store and radio-telephone service.

At Cumberland House, the ending point of this trip, there are road connections to Nipawin via highways 123 (gravel and paved) and 55 (paved). There are also a variety of stores, accommodations, communication services, an R.C.M.P. detachment and Saskatchewan Government offices.

This canoe trip is along the historic trade route linking the Churchill and Saskatchewan River systems. The character of the country through which the route passes is quite different from the pre-Cambrian shield country further north. Limestone is the dominant rock type throughout this trip. There are some impressive examples of limestone outcroppings at the central narrows on Namew Lake.

Fishing is good on this trip, particularly below most rapids in the river.

Good island campsites are not readily found on this trip, but there are numerous attractive spots along the river banks, and the shores of the larger lakes.

The Canoe Trip:

There are rapids at the South Weir campground, at the outlet of Amisk Lake. If these rapids are to be run, canoes can be launched above the remains of an old bridge at the campground. Less experienced canoeists should not attempt these rapids. Those electing to run the rapids should survey them carefully from shore and should also watch for old bridge cribbing in the channel.

Those canoeists who decide against running these initial rapids can launch below them. In this case turn left, or south, off the main road into the nuisance ground, shortly before reaching the South-Weir campground.

Portage Number 1 (Optional):

Around rapids at South-Weir campground at the outlet of Amisk Lake. About 300 metres (328 yards) long and in fair to good condition. This portage bypasses a Class 2+ rapid.

The upper end of this portage trail starts from the edge of the south side of the nuisance grounds (Grid location 834358 - Map 63-L/8). The entrance to the nuisance grounds is about 180 metres (197 yards) east of the South-Weir campground on the south, or left, side of the main road.

About one kilometre (2/3 mile) below this rapid, minor rapids occur which can be readily run by most canoeists (Grid location 831337 - Map 63-L/8).

Soon thereafter more severe rapids occur where the river turns left into a narrower channel. Less experienced canoeists should not attempt these rapids. Those electing to run the rapids should survey them carefully from shore. If in doubt, the rapids should be portaged.

Portage Number 2 (Optional):

Around rapids in the Sturgeon-Weir River. About 375 metres (410 yards) long and in fairly good condition. This portage bypasses a Class 2+ rapid.

From upstream, this portage starts on the southwest, or right, side of the river at an obvious break in the shoreline of a quiet cove about 125 metres (137 yards) above the start of the rapids (Grid location 833332 - Map 63-L/8). A short trail leads up the bank to an old hauling road which parallels the river bank. The lower landing is at the end of a short side trail leading off of the old road and ending in a quiet cove on a big limestone slab below the rapids.

The river course soon widens and flows past a low willow-covered island before narrowing again above the start of Crooked Rapids (Grid location 853316 - Map 63-L/8). More experienced canoeists will usually run these relatively short, Class 2+ rapids after studying them from shore and checking the river below the blind right turn. If canoeists are unsure of their skills, or the safety of the water levels, the old hauling road which parallels the west shore of the river can be used as a portage trail.

After a further 2 kilometres (1 1/4 mile) of swift, straight travel more rapids occur at a left bend in the river (Grid location 857295 - Map 63-L/8). These rapids can usually be run with caution after looking them over from shore.

Within one kilometre (2/3 mile) another minor rapid occurs which most canoeists will run without problem.

Shortly, a willow covered island close to the left, or north, shore marks the start of a wider, lake-like portion of river.

After passing a trapper's cabin on the left shore, a 3-part rapid occurs over a distance of 500 metres (547 yards). The middle portion is only a riffle. The entire set can usually be run after looking them over from shore.

There follows more riffles, minor rapids and fast water, all of which can be readily run at high water levels.

A good landmark which helps the river canoeist pinpoint his location is the entrance of a small tributary stream on the left, or northeast, side of the river (Grid location 916270 - Map 63-L/8).

Shortly below the tributary stream there is a timbered island which has rapids on both sides. The very narrow left, or east, channel can be run without difficulty at higher water levels. The main, or west, channel can also be run after careful advance study from shore.

Quieter water follows for about 12 kilometres (7 1/2 miles) below the timbered island.

At the end of this quieter stretch of river, more rapids occur near the sharp bend in the river at the northwest corner of the Sturgeon-Weir Indian Reserve (Grid location 122233 - Map 63-K/5).

These two-part rapids can usually be run after careful survey from shore.

After several kilometres of quieter going, minor rapids occur around some small islands. These rapids can usually be run without difficulty at suitable water levels.

Following shortly after the previous minor rapids, the river turns sharply to the right and major rapids occur. There are dangerous ledges in these rapids and most canoeists will elect to portage them. The right, or west, side may be run by expert canoeists at optimum water levels.

Portage Number 3:

Around major rapids west of the junction with Goose River. About 160 metres (175 yards) long and in generally good condition, though wet and narrow at the start then opening out onto flat limestone slabs and grass. This portage bypasses a Class 3 rapid.

From the upstream side, this portage starts on the left, or northeast, side 30 metres (33 Yards) above the head of the rapids at a small break in the willow/birch shoreline (Grid location 162222 - Map 63-K/5). Because of the closeness on the portage start to the head of the rapid, it is strongly recommended that canoeist who are not familiar with this portage land well above the start of the rapids and walk to the inconspicuous landing spot to observe the landing. It is recommended that, after looking the landing over from shore, canoeists mark the spot so as not to overshoot it when approaching it in the fast water above the dangerous ledges on the left side of the rapid.

The open grassy areas along the lower part of this portage offer the most attractive natural campsite encountered during this trip. Canoe parties should plan on spending at least one night at this beautiful spot.

A few hundred metres (yards) below the end of this portage, the Goose River enters the Sturgeon-Weir on the left.

After one kilometre (2/3 mile) more rapids occur as the river narrows again for its final rush down to Namew Lake. Rapids and intermittent fast water are the rule the remaining distance to Sturgeon Landing. All of these rapids can generally be run without undue difficulty, though caution should be exercised throughout. Remember that there is a foot trail back of the right, or west, bank which can be used as a portage if necessary.

There is a suspension bridge crossing the river immediately prior to the river widening at Sturgeon Landing. At this point the river is about 250 metres (274 yards) wide and quite shallow in most places.

Paddle in a generally southwest direction on Namew Lake through the central narrows towards the outlet at Whitney Narrows. Continue southwest on Cross Lake past Spruce and Budds Point to the southern shores of Cumberland Lake.

The easiest approach to Cumberland House from the east is to enter the Bigstone River just beyond the lookout tower (Grid location 793831 - Map 63-E/16). This is the end point of this canoe trip. Canoes may be landed on the south and east shore of the Bigstone River beside other boats and canoes belonging to Cumberland House residents.

It is just a few hundred metres (yards) from the landing on Bigstone River to stores, Saskatchewan Government offices and other facilities.

Canoeists interested in extending their trip a further 133 kilometres (83 miles) to The Pas, Manitoba should consult trip number 15 for details.

Saskatchewan River History
WRITTEN BY: Original script by Peter Gregg, reviewed in 1992 by Historic Trails Canoe Club.
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.

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Modified on 23 Jan 96