Monday, August 4, 2008

Wabakimi Update

I leave this Friday, 08-08-08, for a two week wilderness canoe trip to Wabakimi Provincial Park.

The park sees considerably less people that Quetico.

I’m going with three other guys who I’ve never met until yesterday. Pete Sukontaraks, from Kansas, stopped by my place and dropped off his canoe and pack. He needs to take care of some business in the area before he picks me up on Friday.

Pete and I will drive up to Thunder Bay and visit Ostrum’s and hook up with Dick Beamish from Maryland. On Saturday we will drive up to Armstrong, Ontario where we will meet Dave Phillips. Dave is from Virginia. Dave is already on a trip in Wabakimi . He’s on the Wabakimi Project.

If the weather is favorable he will fly back to Armstrong on Saturday. Our trip begins on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Dave and Pete did a trip to Quetico. I believe it was two weeks. Then Dave immediately went to the Woodland Caribou for a solo trip.

I was planning on doing a solo trip to the Woodland Caribou toward the end of June, but I decided to do the AuSable Canoe Marathon.

We take the train to our put-in, paddle for two weeks, then fly out.

Here is a little info:

Kopka Waterway Park: Adjoining Wabakimi’s southern boundary, the Kopka is a picturesque river of whitewater and scenic waterfalls, interspersed with sizeable lakes, which terminates at Lake Nipogon.

Brightsand Waterway Park: An excellent canoeing river, the Brightsand adjoins Wabakimi Park (and the Allanwater River) from the south, and is accessible from the Graham Road, which runs north from Highway 17 near Upsala.

VIA Rail will transport passenger’s equipment and canoes along the Canadian National Railway line (at the south end of the park). Contact VIA Rail Canada 888-842-7245to get the latest on train schedules and procedures. ARMSTRONG STATION TO ALLANWATER BRIDGE SIGNPOST STOP. VIA Rail currently offers service from Armstrong westbound and eastbound three days per week.

The summers of Wabakimi are hot and dry. The average July daily temperature is 18.4C (65.1F). By contrast, the winters in the Armstrong area are cold and clear with an average temperature in January of -20.4C (-4.7F).Canoeing season is from mid-May until mid-September. Early and late season canoeists may experience widely variable weather, from summer-like conditions to snow showers, with afternoon temperatures typically less than 15C (60F).

Visitors to Wabakimi must be fully prepared for independent wilderness travel. Emergency assistance may be available only by attracting aircraft in the area. Make sure that you include in your pack a complete first aid kit in the event of a mishap. Whitewater canoeing skills are necessary on some routes.

Canoe Route Caution:
Wabakimi Park is a big area. Not all canoe routes are maintained and some areas receive less frequent maintenance than others. Note that maps and park information may be wrong for a variety of reasons. Campsites and portages are not signed. Natural circumstances may have changed the configuration of waterways, landscape features and portage routes. There are no signs showing the location of portages in the park, and trail conditions may vary considerably. On some routes and portages, navigation can require skill with map and compass. Canoeists travel these water routes and follow the route descriptions at their own risk. Additional information on waterway and portage conditions can be obtained from outfitters in the Wabakimi area.

Canoe Trip Itinerary:
The plan should have a description (color/ make) of your canoes, tents, vehicles and vehicle locations. In the event of an emergency, the trip plan information can be forwarded to the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Armstrong (phone 807-583-2394).

Wild Fire:
Wild fires play an integral role in the life cycle of the Boreal forest. Wabakimi Provincial Park has a wilderness wild fire management philosophy. You may be traveling in areas where wild fires are not suppressed. Your safety and well being may depend upon your ability to assess potential respiratory or visual problems associated with thick smoke, ash and haze, as well as your selection of travel routes to avoid narrow waterways and portages near fires. Check with the Ministry of Natural Resources office or your outfitter regarding the status of wild fires in the park and the fire weather indices. Consider wild fire contingencies during the planning of your trip.

Thunder Storms:
Severe summer thunderstorms are common in Wabakimi, with lightning and strong winds being a particular hazard. In an approaching storm, get off the water and avoid prominent exposures and tall trees.

***Snow and Wind Damage Update
While most visitors to Wabakimi will not require a snow shovel, nobody should be surprised by a late season snow squall. Last fall took this concept to new depths. On October 24, 2001, about 18" of heavy, wet snow fell in the park followed by high winds. This storm caused extensive blowdown over a very large area. Work crews are being planned for spring and summer portage maintenance. The potential impact of this storm on campsite and portage conditions should be factored into all trips. Watch for 'snagged' tops and sweepers, weakened and leaning trees, and be prepared for some portage challenges. Be aware of the potentially increased forest fire hazard associated with having new fuels at ground level.
The park office and your outfitter will be able to provide additional information on specific areas.

Barry Simon,
“We use Souris river 18' kevlars into Wabakimi. The reconnaissance efforts for these canoe last 12 weeks each year. Sure they get scratches and see all sorts of moving water, lining, hard landings etc. Make sure you do not mind wet feet exits and ports. Wabakimi is a boreal forest with many blow downs and muskegs to walk through. Solitude is un-believable. Portages are nothing like BWCA or Quetico since Wabakimi is mostly a pool and drop of no more than 100m across the entire length of the park. At most you will see a short cliff of 8m but then flattens out to the next lake. “


“I've taken several trips into train from Armstrong and the other from Savant Lake on the western side. I paddled out the first time, and came out by float plane the 2nd. Outfitting services are very limited and they take advantage of that (read:$$$$). “”The park itself is still very primitive and there were several times we had to cut our way thru the "portage". The 2nd time, I was doing a survey for the MNR so I had a decent map...but the first time in, the map I had from the outfitter looked like it was scribbled on toilet paper while sitting on the throne.””Campsites are limited and very primitive...there were several times I wished I had packed a weedwhacker .” ”Fishing: The good news is, there are sooooo few people in there, those fish act like they've never seen a lure. The bad news is there are no smallmouth if that's your fish of choice....too far north to breed or something. You'd have to "settle" for as many Walleye as your arms can stand pulling in :-).”

“I think the biggest difference between W and Q is ACCESS. In this respect, an outfitter can be a big help. They were very helpful in arranging our train pickups....very early from the east side (6 am)....very late from the west side (10 pm). “”First night coming in from the west side (Savant Lake) was tricky....its a class V put-in from the train...straight down the 55 degree grade from the built up train tracks to the water....and in total darkness. We actually got an overnight booking at a fish camp off the tracks located on Lake ??? (I'll have to look this one up)...and the proprietor was waiting for us at the mile marker to help us off the train at 10:30 pm. Spent the night in a very cozy fish cabin and walked all of 50 yards to the lake put-in the next morning. East side pickups are much easier from Armstrong. Pickup is early morning and, tho the put-in is still class V, at least you can see where you're going.””The next biggest difference is in campsites. No great Fisher Maps w/ the little red dots showing four-star campsites. There are much fewer campsites, and when you find one, grab it quick....we made a mistake bypassing one at 5 pm thinking another will be around the corner and didn't find one until after 11pm... in the the rain...ugly night.””I hope I don't put anyone off going to Wabakimi by these was a totally fantastic experience. Very different from "The Q" in that it is a HUGE park and you are much more ALONE. We didn't see another party the whole time we were in. When a float plane picked us up, we were told there were only 50-some people in the park....AWESOME. Extra caution should be observed in everything you is NOT just around the corner and you probably won't see another person for days.”


“I have been to both parks. WCPP I have paddled with Jerry R and agree with his assessment for the ingress and egress. I just got back from my second tour of Wabakimi doing survey and portage clearing for a project that a gentleman by the name of Phil Cotton is coordinating. I am doing the physical mapping of the canoe routes as the product of our work. Both parks are great but Wabakimi is more remote as far as access is concerned. There are a couple of YMCA groups out of Ely that have been in there this year and are planning to make Wabakimi an annual trip due to the fact the Quetico and BWCA are too crowded. One way to enjoy Wabakimi is to train in and paddle out. This can be done in a 12 day trip out of Allan Water to Caribou Lake. The further north of the Ogoki River watershed you go, the less people you will see thus flying in is a great option and paddle out to Caribou lake works well. Mattice Outfitters can help you out here. As for WCPP, good option as well but I wont re-state Jerry’s thoughts since he is bang on. Goldseekers is an excellent option especially with an overnight bunk stay before heading out. Great shuttle service if you need them.”

Here is our itinerary:

Follow the red line on the maps.



Chris said...

Best of luck Chuck, "Don't fall in"

CIIcanoe said...


I didn't see your message earlier. Normally when someone leaves a message it I will be notified by e-mail.

I'll check out your blog after I get back from my trip.

I read on another forum where the water level in Wabakimi is very high right now.

"Water levels are at near record highs. We saw islands under water with trees surrounded by water. Some portages were inaccessible as the high water made the risk of getting sucked into rapids too great, so we had to bushwhack in some spots to get around rapids.

The bugs are not bad, the two of us went through less than one can of bug spray. Mosquitoes are thick at dusk.

Enjoy your trip...."

I plan to do a trip report when I get back. I won't know how long it will take to write / post it. I'll probably post the narrative and photos on a new blog and link it to my current blog.