We, my brother Ron and his son Rett, who both travelled up from Texas, and my good friend Neil from Saskatoon, started out on our canoe trip on July 11. It rained most of the way from Saskatoon up to the town of La Ronge, 400 k. north. We stopped there to refuel, and then drove for an hour on a mostly rough, gravel road to the village of Missinipe, on the banks of the Churchill River System. We went into the office of the Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, paid for our canoe rental, and drove to Devil's Lake Campground on the shores of Devil Lake. The rain abated while we loaded up, but started again as we paddled across the lake, into a wind with waves white-capping slightly. Luckily, it didn't get any worse, as our canoes were heavily loaded down.
We portaged the 100 m. around Mosquito Rapids, and paddled up Barker Lake to Barker Island. Not many people there that day, a Wednesday, but by Friday it was much busier, with a whitewater course being run on the near-by rapids. On Thursday, we paddled over to a short portage trail on Barker Lake, came back to camp, and then about 2:30 we left "to see how far up-river we can get." Well, captain Neil just kept us going and going until we reached Sluice Channel, about 3 hours upstream. Most of the rapids were too fast to paddle up, so we lined the canoes up the sides. Coming back was exciting, as Ron and Neil tipped at Carla's Rapids when they thunked into a log, so loud that Rett and I heard it from 30 meters away. They swam their canoe to the side, and learning from their mishap, we avoided the log and joined them at the side of the rapids.
They lost their bailer, but nothing else. We continued on, and were lining down the side of the next rapids when Rett and I almost lost our canoe. It half-filled with water, and after a struggle we managed to empty it out. We continued on our way, reaching camp about 7:30, and finished our delicious meal of curried chicken just as the mosquitoes were coming out to have us for dessert.
Friday was a lazy day for Neil and I, but Ron and Rett went out for about three hours, paddling up and down the nearest set of rapids three times! Too much work for us elders.
It rained most of the night Friday, but quit just as we came out of the tents Saturday morning, and didn't start again until we were halfway back to Devil's Lake Campground. Having the current with us, and no wind to paddle against, we made it back in an hour and a half. What an amazing area this is -- so wild, and yet so accessible. A great trip with a great bunch.