This summer I decided I would do more day tripping. I wanted to explore some new places and revisit some old. Most of these trips were done solo or with one vehicle so out-and-back trips became the rule. Many of the smaller rivers are not ideal for paddling later in the season due to low water levels, but with careful weather and flow gauge watching, a keel-less canoe, and a 12-foot stick, those shallow haunts are still open for adventure.
The following are the rivers and creeks I visited over the past summer. I wanted to provide a quick feel for the places that I went rather than writing a longer piece on one location – I thought that pictures and videos, along with a few short notes, would best capture what I wanted to convey. Mostly the trips were less then 20km, many were not really day trips at all – just a morning (or afternoon/evening) outing. A couple of day outings ended up closer to 30km by the time I returned.
You can find an interactive map with the approximate starting points following this link: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1gDALGe_RhvPIvplFsx-szdcuPMI
Start at the old Dawson Rd crossing and head north to the campground. The campground has offered to shuttle paddlers upstream, making a car shuttle un-necessary. Over the last few years I have often gone poling on this section between August and October, but this year I joined some friends to do the one-direction trip. With the current it was an easy 4-hour paddle. Most people in the paddling community know about Cook’s and Farmer’s but fewer realize that the Whitemouth south of the Trans Canada is a jewel to be paddled. There are some very simple moving water sections but most of the trip is an easy wilderness day.
The creek is a very nice morning or afternoon paddle from Hwy 44 to the East Selkirk Fire Station. The water levels are pretty variable so you might want to check the flow over the riffles on the east side of the 59 crossing. If you don’t see any rocks or other things sticking up - some haystacks are fine - you are likely good to go. If it is shallow, expect to wade, and bring a plastic boat to slide over the rocks. I hadn’t been on the Creek since the early 1980s so I decided to give it a try again (three times).
A number of friends have paddled the Birch River over the last few years but until this summer I had not been able to tag along. Generally the Birch is considered navigable only in the spring or higher water periods, but on a beautiful summer day I dropped in near Prawda and poled upstream to the Trans Canada and then had a nice float back. There are some easy rapids and a few ledges to cross. I was not able to pole up one of these because the base was smooth rock and I couldn’t find footing for my pole. I had to make a short portage.
On the way back I was able to stay in the canoe over everything. I did have a small concern right near the campground – the tubers had strung a line across the river that I wasn’t sure I could get over (or under).
The Roseau is a wonderful river to paddle, it has many basic moving water sections allowing for some practice. Later in the summer most paddlers head elsewhere, but I have found this river provides an excellent opportunity to go poling when it is too low for paddling. This summer I dropped in at the old ford and went upstream past the Sinkew Bridge. On the way back I met a number of people tubing and taking a lazy float down the river. They were curious about the guy standing in a canoe with a pole.
I had read about the Maskwa River several years ago but had problems with the location. This fall I took a more determined look and discovered a jewel that shouldn’t be missed. It provides some lovely paddling with beautiful scenic falls and rapids. The portages are a little difficult to find around a few of the rapids. I expect this is due to the ease of running the rapids down stream. Take care to scout everything ahead of time since there are several falls that would be an unpleasant adventure. Above one set of falls there is a sign indicating a low bridge ahead, and to take the ‘marked’ portage. If you start by heading upstream you will be able to locate the portage but if you are heading down stream from the Translicense road, the start of the portage is hard to find (there is access right by the sign).
The Channel is one of my favourite locations for paddling at any time. The dam at Pinawa ensures that the flow is fairly constant throughout the seasons. It provides beautiful scenery, a few simple sections of moving water, and some small lake paddling. The ‘lake’ section is really just a wide section but it is filled with wild rice and sometimes it can be difficult to find the correct channel. The channel is one of the great paddling places in southern Manitoba. There is something for everyone including the end in a historic park.
La Salle River
The La Salle River has a wilderness feel, slow current, and ample protection from the wind, making this a perfect evening place to paddle. Although this summer I limited my day or evening trips to just a few places, the La Salle can be paddled from near its source (near Portage la Prairie) back to the Red River at St. Norbert.
Every Wednesday evening Paddle Manitoba ran a drop in paddle for meeting other paddlers, getting in some practice, or just hanging out. Heading upstream or down from the park provides the opportunity for seeing eagles, deer, and the occasional fox.
I headed up stream from the Collegiate in Sanford where MPC has maintained a floating dock for several years making getting on and off the water much easier. It is a nice local paddle.
I dropped my canoe in at the boat launch, just west of the rail bridge and headed downstream for a bit where I found a scenic bridge and a large riffle structure. Once there, I turned around and went upstream through the residential portion of the town and then through the golf course and beyond.
Tulabi to Elbow
Apparently the Bird River, in Nopiming provincial park, is one of the favourite paddling destinations in Manitoba. I think this was my longest day trip this summer as I spent time exploring the creeks that feed into the river, walking the falls, and doing some exploring at Elbow Lake. This is a beautiful river with a several sets of rapids and falls. Each of the moving water sections has easy-to-find, well-maintained portages. Unfortunately popularity has its problems, I took a large garbage bag of cans and pop bottles out with me this year. It was a long day trip to get from Tulabi to Elbow Lake but it is well worth it.
Bird River (upstream to Hammerstead Falls (Canyon))
Until this summer I had not paddled any of the lower Bird. I decided to go exploring and dropped my canoe in at the boat launch in Bird River and headed upstream. I discovered what appeared to be a portage on the south side of the first set of rapids only to find it ended half way, along. I had to ferry across the rapids to the north shore where I saw an ATV trail coming down to the water. I wandered around the numerous trails until I found one overlooking the canyon and stopped to take pictures and have lunch. The ‘Canyon’ is not passable in an open canoe but it is used by the white-water kayaking crowd. Eventually I found a trail that took me above the rapids allowing me to continue upstream. When I returned home I found a description of the portage in John Buchanan’s book. I think people take this section of the river more often down stream since his only comment about the bottom section of the rapids was running them out – nothing about going up.
Tantalum mine to Hammerstead Falls
This year I joined the Wilderness Committee on the Lower Bird starting just below the rapids where the road to the Tantalum mine crosses. The Wilderness Committee has been working to have this section of the Bird protected from mining and other development and over the last three years they have organized an educational paddle to highlight the river. This section of the river is beautiful to travel with long sections of flat water, some easy moving water, and a set of falls to enjoy.
I spent a day in late September poling upstream from McKellar’s Bridge (Hwy 346) to Hwy 10. This is another river that is usually only considered for paddling (downstream) early in the paddling season. With a little homework, and some local advice, it sounded like a perfect river for poling. The shale bottom and easy rapids provided an excellent place to pole with a few sections that were deep enough to paddle comfortably.
I joined the president and past-president of Paddle Manitoba to explore the Rat River starting near the confluence at the Red River (St. Mary’s) and traveling upstream to Hwy 311. It is apparent that this little river is only open for paddling when the Red is running high and water is backed up. We came across a number of significant log jams with only a bit of water to meander through in the trees
Another popular paddling destination in Winnipeg is the Seine River. I always feel like I am in the wilderness when paddling the Seine through St. Vital and St. Boniface. The river is fairly narrow so falling trees can block the whole river – bring a saw or be prepared to tip-toe over the occasional downed tree. There are lots of sections of the river that can be paddled, although later in the summer some parts start getting a little shallow. There are numerous riffle structures which help stabilize the river level and provide paddling opportunities throughout the season. I drop my canoe somewhere on the Seine about once a week. My current favourite places are upstream from John Bruce, and upstream from the Perimeter Highway.
I took a trip down memory lane with a friend traveling from Maple Grove to the Forks. I grew up in Ft. Richmond and bought my first canoe the summer I turned 15 when I regularly walked down to the river for an evening or daytime paddle. The Red is relatively large, often with larger boats and less protection if it is windy.
Because of the size many people are hesitant to paddle on the Red but for most of the summer it is quite safe. The hardest part is finding a place that you don’t have to walk (or sink into) the wide mud bank when getting out for a paddle.
The Brokenhead is another great local paddle that I re-discovered through Dusty Molinski’s fine book ‘Through Field and Forest: A Canoe Companion for the Brokenhead’. Most people only paddle early in the year or when there has been recent heavy rain but the Brokenhead also makes a fine poling river. This summer I took the opportunity to pole near Nourse or upstream from the Green Bay bridge.
I have paddled and explored Netley Marsh but I have wondered about the creek upstream from Petersfield. I went with a friend to explore the creek starting at Hwy 9 and continuing up through the golf course as far as the culverts at Schmid Rd. I realize that this only crosses the diagonal between the mile roads but it was relatively slow going and we were limited to a morning outing. I think coming downstream in slightly higher water would have been more enjoyable since we had to wade through a number of riffle structures through the golf course. It was a beautiful paddle with many different bridges. Upstream from the culverts looked promising as there are fewer riffle structures or low spots (apparent on google maps satellite view) but we were limited by available time.
Frances Lake (Hanson’s Creek).
This is a pretty route through extensive fens ending in a pleasant secluded lake. On a Saturday early in October I paddled up to Frances Lake for lunch.
There were four very short portages and only four beaver dams. I expect some years there would be many beaver dams but the creek was obviously running a little high since I could just paddle over a number of dams.
The sign at the start says 13km to Frances lake but my GPS said just it was just under 12. I expect there might be some variance in the measurement due to the channel which winds a fair bit. The sign also indicates 6 hours (one way), this might be the case if the water is low or there are a lot of beaver dams but my return trip was just over 5 hours.
I did get to practice turns a significant amount through the fen sections but the channel is fairly deep and easy to follow. In one place I did have to look at the map since there is a split and it was unclear which ‘creek’ to take (I stayed left going in to Frances Lake). In another place there was a long (100m) blind channel that I mistakenly took (it was also to the left on the high side of an old beaver dam).