Nistowiak Portage, Iskwatikan Lake - Trap cabin, Keg Lake, Churchill River
Distance 28 km [93km]
Fast Water 3
Woke to a beautiful blue sky – up breakfast and packed ready to start portage by 8.30. It took us till 10.30 to make the 5 trips necessary to move us, the canoe and all our gear and a further 15 minutes to load. This included a stop off to check out Nistowiak Falls [Saskatchewan’s highest falls]. They were nowhere as dramatic as 2010 but very impressive nevertheless plus there was a large area of icy snow on the far shore above the falls.
Once on the Churchill we made good progress to Potters Rapids where there is a good board walk portage around the main rapid and through the fishing camp, then we navigated a long section of fast water which took us into Drinking Lake but we were surprised at how benign it seemed compared to the high water year of 2010 when we were last through this stretch of the Churchill River.
We crossed Drinking Lake and then via a further lot of fast water above Healy Island into the Inman Channel. Here we struck our third section of fast water, one we were not expecting. The Channel was a nice paddle, because it’s fairly narrow so you can appreciate the clear deep water and beautiful rocky, tree lined banks.
John had incorrectly marked a portage around a set of rapids part of the way along the channel however we eventually did get to them. We elected to run them and they proved a good trial for our spray cover, they were only short but quite spectacular – the standing waves came completely over the bow and we certainly would have been swamped without the cover. What I hadn’t realised was John had not tied down the day bag which was resting on top of the spray cover so it fell overboard [possible points towards the wooden spoon] and when he retrieved it the canoe almost tipped over, again without the spray cover we would have been totally swamped. Unfortunately my camera was in the bag and it stopped working for awhile however fingers crossed it seems okay now. The awful thing was John’s camera started working intermittently earlier in the day so for awhile it looked like we might have been without a camera, however at the moment his is also limping along.
In the quiet water at the foot of the rapids we met three young Cree men from Stanley Mission, we had seen them earlier in the day but this time they stopped to talk with us. They told us that the rapid we had just come through was known as a “jumping rapid” due to the height and irregular pattern of the standing waves, they seemed impressed we had just run it without the aid of an engine. When they learnt we were on the lookout for a camp spot one of them suggested we use his family’s trap cabin which was about seven kilometres further up the lake. John showed him our map but it was obvious he was not into maps but he did describe the area. We set off and as it was obvious that camping spots were at a premium we decided to use the cabin. It was further than we expected and took us a bit out of our way, we were just about to give up when we spotted it and here we are!
It is a typical First Nations arrangement with a junk yard all around and a messy cabin however it is great to use the table and not have to unpack the tent etc. The cabin is old and unusual because rather than the logs being horizontal they are vertical. There are various types of animal traps out the back but it doesn’t look like anyone has done any trapping for awhile.