BWCA Wabakimi route planning - first timer Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wabakimi
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      Wabakimi route planning - first timer     



04/05/2019 11:32AM  
We have a group of four experienced canoe-campers heading in to Wabakimi on July 28. We are looking to fly in and paddle out for a train pick-up. We are at the point of route planning and I am looking for advice and suggestions. We would like to travel slow, spend a lot of time fishing, and avoid interaction with power boats and resorts. One of our group is coordinating with an outfitter who has suggested a couple options... I wonder if the outfitter is avoiding the "train pick-up" idea because it would make the outfitter less money(??). Or maybe that was not put out as a requirement of our group.

Anyway, I am looking for suggestions from the group here. Any advice is appreciated.
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distinguished member(2469)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/06/2019 09:47PM  
I'm no Wabakimi expert, but since noone else has answered I'll give it a shot. I believe when I checked into the train, the eastbound train went by in the middle of the night, often some hours late, so it wasn't a practical way to get back to Armstrong. That may have changed. Perhaps someone with more knowledge will chime in. That's more likely the cause of the outfitter's suggestion than them trying to make money.

I had my car spotted at my exit point for my one trip up there...I carried an inReach and was able to communicate when I was exactly coming out. I exited on Bukemiga (via the Kopka River) which was very cool. We saw some people, boats and cabins around the train tracks at Schultz's landing, but then didn't see a soul or a boat until Bukemiga three days later. You could also paddle out to little Caribou though you will see boats on Smoothrock and Caribou (and that section will probably take you two or three days). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of other options will chime in.
04/07/2019 11:00AM  
Check with Via Rail regarding train schedules, reservations, etc. East bound CN passenger trains are daytime trains, west bound are night trains. We caught the westbound 10 pm (scheduled) train at Armstrong in July 2017 at 130am when it actually came in. It dropped us and others at Allenwater Bridge at 3 am. We paid Johnny Jelinski at Allenwater Bridge Lodge $20.00 to sleep in a cabin for few hours before starting our trip.

Our trip was 19 days from Allenwater Bridge to Lake Nipigon. We took our time and had two layover days at nice campsites. We met two guys from Toronto who did the same trip in 9 days ending at Hwy 527 about one day from Lake Nipigon. They were traveling light and fast single portaging. They had Mattice Lake Outfitters pickup (from Armstrong train stop) and hold their truck at their facility and then spot it at the Kopka River bridge on Hwy 527 the morning of their arrival day there. So their transportation costs were minimal. As I recall the train fare was $14.00 CAN/person and the canoe/gear was $100.00/CAN. I am not sure of Mattice Lake Outfitters charge for handling the truck but it probably was in the $200.00 range.

Don't know what outfitter you are talking too but you can probably plan this trip yourself at minimal cost. A very popular Kopka River trip is training into the Aldridge Lake route from the rail line (mileage marker 32.3) down to the Kopka River, which takes 1 1/2 days. You actually get off the train at Beagle Lake which is above Aldridge Lake. This route is maintained by the park all the way to the Hwy 527 bridge. This trip ends at the First Nations campground at the southeast end of Bukemiga Lake which has bush road access so you can arrange an outfitter pickup there. This trip could be done in a week or quicker if you want to travel faster.

The Kopka Rv provided us with great fishing on our July 12-Aug 1 trip. My recall was 9 nights of walleye dinners. They were easily caught by fishing the eddy line late afternoon/early evening below any drops.

I can strongly recommend Don Elliot's Mattice Lake Outfitters located just south of Armstrong ON on Hwy 527. They are 150 miles north of Thunder Bay. Be sure to check the Friends of Wabakimi website for map booklets covering the greater Wabakimi area. All info (campsite locations, portages w/distance in meters noted) on them has been field proofed and is accurate.

Let me know if I can help with any other info.
04/09/2019 10:03AM  
The train schedule reversed about 10 years ago.
Eastbound trains come through the park generally speaking in the morning hours.
In 2011 we got picked up at Shultz's Trail around 9am.
The Friends of Wabakimi maps show the location of fishing lodges.
Campsites are little tents and lodges are little cabins.
You are likely going to see motorboats on the lakes with lodges, e.g. Smoothrock.
But it really is a very minimal presence.
I have done 3 trips, all crossing lakes with lodges.
I have seen 3 or 4 motorboats over all those trips and only saw them for about 10 minutes each.
Mattice Lake Outfitters or Wabakimi Wild Waters should be able to help with train tickets, parking, and shuttle service from Armstrong.
Also, Mattice Lake does fly-ins.
member (49)member
04/11/2019 10:00AM  
Not sure if the train schedule will change before your planned trip in July, but I have a train in train out trip planned for end of May and the train drops off (westbound) around 9am and picks up (eastbound) around 11am. Again, I would check via Rail for you specific dates, but I was happy to hear of the time changes for drop off as these used to be in the middle of the night.
Trip suggestion: Fly in to Lower Wabakimi lake and paddle down the Flindt river system. There are three lodges along this trip (two on Wabakimi lake proper and one on Tew lake) As mentioned in a previous post the presence of these lodges are really minimal to the isolated experience of Wabakimi. I would take them over the throngs of canoeists in the Boundary waters. I did this trip in the opposite direction a few years back. I guess the one draw back to doing it North to South is that you will be going against current.
04/11/2019 01:39PM  
We are thinking of flying in so that we don't have to take the "night train" into Wabakimi. I think the schedule is still West in the Evening and East in the Morning.

It's good to hear that lodge lakes are not too active with boats. We had an encounter at Woodland Caribou on day 3 of a trip. And there were so many motor boats at one portage landing that we had to walk across boat seats to launch the canoes.

An outfitter has recommended flying into Lower Wabakimi Lake. I didn't realize it would be an uphill trip from there. How big an issue or degree of difficulty is that? Maybe an overnight at Allenwater Bridge Lodge is worth checking out?

Thanks for the ideas!
member (49)member
04/13/2019 11:26AM  
If you do the flindt river system I don't recall the current being a big issue. That being said I was going with it as I mentioned. I know the allenwater river is best done south to north to go with current. I'd look at the overall number of portages on your proposed route and decide based on that. Generally lots of portaging equalling lots of current.
member (49)member
04/13/2019 11:33AM  
If you do decide to take that route, I'd be happy to send you my maps before your trip for background info. I usually take some notes down on campsites etc., but then never seem to take the same trip twice, so at least they'd be put to good use.
04/13/2019 10:00PM  
Just checked website and westbound trains are scheduled to depart Armstrong around 2130pm, eastbound trains are daytime. Further, by late July and early August much of the flyin fishing trips are done so not as many motor boats as earlier in the season.
04/14/2019 09:43AM  
Since we are going into Wabakimi on July 28, we may be dealing with more bugs than motor boats!

One of my tripping partners has been in contact with an outfitter and they are working on a route. Granite Lake to Redhead Lake and then a train back to Armstrong has been suggested. Any feedback on that route?
04/14/2019 10:52AM  
Bugs by late July/early August shouldn't be too bad, maybe just mosquitos at dusk. We (Wabakimi Project) were on Granite Lake the first week of August last year and we experienced no bugs.

We stayed near a closed/boarded up outpost cabin located on the south end of Granite on a short peninsula. Plenty of flat tent sites and a great sand beach on the north side of the peninsula. There is an active outpost cabin in the mid section of Granite and we saw boats several times daily but they always stayed well to the north of our campsite. We had absolutely no fishing success which probably explains the cabin on the south end appearing to have been out of use for some time.

Exiting Granite to the south for your proposed route would take you into Ballast Creek where we were never able to locate the supposedly existing portages. But you could probably wade the creek pulling your boats the maybe two kilometers to get to Otter Bluff Lake. From there you would go into Snake Lake where one of the best campsites in the Wabakimi area exists on a rock point on the west shore of Snake. Each side of the point has thick mossy tent sites and both sides of the point offer great sand beaches. But again in early August 5-6 years ago we had no fishing success on Snake Lake but this was offset by the great campsite which were featured a fantastic full moon rise every evening in the east over the lake. From there the Nemo River takes you down to Redhead Lake. Some sections of this route are covered in Volume Three of Wabakimi Canoes Routes Maps booklet. This booklet is available from the Friends of Wabakimi website.

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