By Mel Baughman, Hayward, Wisconsin
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Crew: Mel Baughman, Bob Bruininks, Judy Geck, Hugh Hallgren, Guy Mueller, John Quaife
It took our crew 12 ½ hours to drive from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to Riverton, Manitoba on the west side of Lake Winnipeg. We stayed overnight in a motel and early the next morning took a 50-minute flight to Waupaskapek Lake on the Gammon River. After our departure, Northway Aviation shuttled our two vehicles about 100 km north to Matheson Island. For the flight our crew was divided between a single-engine Otter and a Cessna 185. The pilot dropped us at the dock for an outpost fishing cabin. Over a seven day period, we paddled 95 ½ miles to the mouth of the Bloodvein River on Lake Winnipeg averaging 13.6 miles per day. At the end of our final day of paddling, we arrived at the Cree village of Bloodvein where we found a native who agreed to transport all of us in his boat across Lake Winnipeg to Matheson Island for $10 apiece. Although we had considered paddling 10 miles across Lake Winnipeg, this crossing can be dangerous if there is a strong wind producing high waves. From there we drove to Riverton, spent a night in a motel, and then completed our drive home the next day.
The Gammon and Bloodvein dropped three feet per mile in the first 40 miles and two feet per mile over the next 40 miles. Along the route we passed through 50 rapids–mostly bedrock ledges with flat-water between ledges. We portaged or lifted over approximately half of these rapids and ran or lined the others. This was a fairly strenuous trip because of frequent portages. Although most portages were less than 50 yards, a few exceeded 200 yards.
There were frequent rocky cliffs often rising 40 feet high. These were quite picturesque and along with the many bedrock ledges creating rapids, the scenery was excellent. This is a Canadian Heritage River for a good reason.
The river was forested with spruce, jack pine, and pockets of aspen. Blueberries were ripe and abundant at several campsites. Tree cover was too dense to permit hiking.
Insects, Fish & Wildlife:
Mosquitos were a nuisance in the evening, but overall insects were not a significant problem.
Fishing was mediocre, perhaps due to the unusually high water level from heavy summer rains. We caught walleyes, northern pike, channel catfish, one rock bass, and two mooneye. Other canoe parties have reported excellent walleye fishing.
Wildlife included eagles, osprey, otters, beavers, black bear, geese, and ducks.
We found some beautiful campsites on bedrock or on adjacent beds of moss at rapids. Most campsites had seen previous use. At one we found beaver skin stretching hoops.
Canoes and Equipment:
We paddled two Old Town Discovery 174s and a Dagger Venture. Canoes had lining ropes, but no spray skirts. We pitched a rainfly to protect our cooking area from rain, but could have used a larger fly.
Topographic Maps 1:250,000: 62P Hecla, Manitoba, 52M Carroll Lake
Float Plane Service: Northway Aviation Ltd., Box 70, Arnes, Manitoba R0C 0C0
204/642-5631 (It no longer provides a plane at Riverton, which is the base from which our plane originated)
Riverton Motor Inn: Box 28, Riverton, Mb R0C 2R0, Canada; 204/378-5118