BWCA First Timer Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wabakimi
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PompousPilot1
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10/15/2012 10:57AM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
New to this section of the site today!
Love Wabakimi and am looking forward to a trip there someday soon.
The "wild" factor is the draw for me. Still working on skills though!
 
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paddlefamily
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10/15/2012 07:28PM  
Welcome to the forum. Is it true (according to your profile) that you haven't paddled the BW or Q? Where do you like to paddle?

Yes, Wabakimi is a 'wild' place, however there are fishing lodges throughout. When you plan a trip try to stay on smaller lakes and rivers, it will keep you further away from motorized boats and fish camps. There are planes that regularly fly in people, making some routes feel a little less remote.

Let us know when you begin making plans. Many seasoned Wabakimi paddlers here. Me, only once so far. :)

 
PompousPilot1
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10/15/2012 08:50PM  
I live in Michigan now and paddle lakes and rivers here, as well as Eastern Ontario (Algonquin and the like).
I lived in the cities about 20 yrs ago and spent a lot of time in Duluth, Two Harbors, Tofte, but... never got into the park somehow :(
Now I can't get enough and am trying to make up for lost time.
Really want to do a Wabakimi trip. Unfortunately, it's a 20 hr +/- drive for us from here, so it's going to take some serious planning.
 
10/16/2012 08:43PM  
I believe that Wab is worth the drive. One thing that surprised me was that we actually saw 3 or 4 motor boats while we were in the park. But they were small fishing boats and did not really disturb our canoes. You do want to research the portages. They can be tricky to locate.
 
Longpaddler
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10/17/2012 06:43AM  
quote jcavenagh: ..... You do want to research the portages. They can be tricky to locate."


Agree totally w/ Jim. Other issues are access and campsites. There are few access points to enter the park....the best way is to fly or train in, both of which can add some excitement to the trip as well as cost$$$$. I've taken the train in from the east side (Armstrong) and the west side (Savant Lake) and reco the east side. Coming from the west, the train leaves later at nite and you exit the train on a CLASS IV drop into darkness. Train leaves Armstrong early morning and you have a lot of daylite to get situated and comfortable.

Maps were basically nonexistent when we first went in....looked like they were drawn free-hand while someone was sitting on the john. They've improved a lot in the past 5 years. Campsites were always an issue when we were in. The ones that were "marked" on the maps often did not exist or required a bush hog to make usable. These are issues you will face when tripping in a more primitive wilderness. Hopefully these issues have been addressed since last i was there....I only point them out for you to be aware.

All this being said, they were among the most memorable and enjoyable trips I;ve taken...and well worth the extra drive time.
 
PompousPilot1
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10/17/2012 09:38AM  
Yeah, I figured that it would be an out of this world experience!
What's the story with the train leaving you out on the "side of the road" in the middle of the night?! That seems a little wacky(!) especially if you are not allowed to camp in the immediate area.
At any rate, I would use an outfitter to fly one way or the other and use the train for the other.
Also on the list (and a few hours north and west) is WCPP. OMG, what a place!
 
dentondoc
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10/17/2012 11:06AM  
I'm no expert on Wabakimi, but you might find the

Wabakimi Project

site useful. And it is possible that Longpaddler visited a while back. I believe they changed the Via Rail schedule about 3 years ago and the departures area just about backwards ... you leave Armstrong heading west in the late evening (~11:00 pm) and you leave Savant Lake in the morning. Also note that this is not a daily service (they run 3 times a week).

While most paddlers seems to use a couple of popular drop-off points, (e.g. Allanwater Bridge and Collins area), there are actually a number of places where the trail will stop. However, you (or the outfitter, if they arrange rail service) will need to identify the "mile marker" for drop-off ... the site listed above also indicates the distance from Armstrong.

The land where you are dropped off is railroad right-of-way and the rail folks don't want to camping on their right-of-way ... safety thing, I suspect. In addition, in places like Allanwater, there is privately owned land adjacent to the rail line (some of which is owned by lodges which are generally willing to let you camp overnight there for a fee).

dd
 
10/17/2012 03:49PM  
quote PompousPilot1: "Yeah, I figured that it would be an out of this world experience!
What's the story with the train leaving you out on the "side of the road" in the middle of the night?! That seems a little wacky(!) especially if you are not allowed to camp in the immediate area.
At any rate, I would use an outfitter to fly one way or the other and use the train for the other.
Also on the list (and a few hours north and west) is WCPP. OMG, what a place!"

LP hasn't visited the park for a couple years I would guess. The train has now switched and it is the westbound train that leaves you trackside at around 11-12 at night.
The eastbound train comes through the park twice a week in the early morning 8-9 am or so. We took that train out on a Friday morning and it dropped us in Armstrong around 11:30 am.

Fly-in to a northern or western lake would be your best way to start and then you can paddle south and/or east and catch the eastbound train on Friday a.m.

For Wabakimi paddling contact WildWaters. www.wabakimi.com. They'll set you up. Burt and Brenda are really nice folks and are great to work with. They work with Mattice for the airlift portion of the trip.

We used the maps provided by Wildwaters and also the Wabakimi Project maps. Together these were very comprehensive and showed pretty much all portages and campsites. We stayed in the Caribou-Smoothrock part of the park and the campsites were plentiful, easy to find, and useable without too much brush clearing. BUT, remember, if the campsite needs a little clearing, then you are not likely to be seeing any other folks for quite a few days.
 
PompousPilot1
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10/22/2012 02:28PM  
JC, that's very useful information, thanks.
I contacted the Wabakimi Project and am going to get maps and any other input I can from them. I like your idea of flying in and paddling south and east to the train on the return.
Have not contacted Wildwaters yet regarding routes and the like, but plan to this week...
 
dentondoc
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10/22/2012 03:47PM  
quote PompousPilot1: "I like your idea of flying in and paddling south and east to the train on the return."

As long has you are coming out in a southeasterly direction, there is one other option you might wish to consider. There is a spot on the south end of Little Caribou Lake (which is under 5 miles NNE of Armstrong) that some use as a pick up/drop off point. There are those that even have their own vehicle delivered there by their outfitter the day of their departure so a quick get-away is possible.

That area is technically outside the bounds of Wabakimi by a couple of hours of paddling, so one should expect more signs of civilization.

"Uncle" Phil Cotton, head of the Wabakimi Project, is usually present at Canoecopia in Madison, WI in early March ... if you can get yourself there. Last year his booth was in the main hallway rather than the main exhibition floor. (And, of course, they have maps at the booth.) He is also an occasional presenter/speaker there. It might even be worth going to pick up more info on Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. At least one of the major outfitters and the park superintendent are typically present.

dd
 
yellowcanoe
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10/22/2012 04:40PM  
I have been on the Wabakimi Project like some others.

Lots of time went into mapping out the campsites and portages so the price of that information is well worth it. Nothing was left to guesswork.

I recommend and use Mattice Lake Outfitters. They are a fly in service but also do car shuttles (do NOT leave your car at the foot of Little Caribou). And they have VIA mileage.

Aggravatingly VIA does not have the mileage post of each lake that you can get to via a trail (its a requirement that there is a trail away from the tracks..they do not throw you off the bridge). But Annette and Don Elliott of Mattice Lake Outfitters do. When making your VIA reservation you would think VIA would know the milepost. But noooo, they ask YOU!
 
10/23/2012 09:17AM  
quote dentondoc: "
quote PompousPilot1: "I like your idea of flying in and paddling south and east to the train on the return."

As long has you are coming out in a southeasterly direction, there is one other option you might wish to consider. There is a spot on the south end of Little Caribou Lake (which is under 5 miles NNE of Armstrong) that some use as a pick up/drop off point. There are those that even have their own vehicle delivered there by their outfitter the day of their departure so a quick get-away is possible.

That area is technically outside the bounds of Wabakimi by a couple of hours of paddling, so one should expect more signs of civilization.
dd"


Yes, we entered at the south end of Little Caribou in 2011. If you exit there you probably want to spend your last night right at the mouth of the Caribou River and then have your outfitter pick you up in the mid to late afternoon. The park boundary is at the mouth of the Caribou River.

Here are the mileages that we calculated before our trip:
Paddling Distances
Little Caribou - 11km
Across Caribou to mouth of Caribou River (south of the islands) – 8.5 km
Across Caribou to mouth of Caribou River (thru the islands) – 10.1 km
Across Caribou to mouth of Caribou River (north of the islands) – 9.8 km
Caribou River to Funger Lake - 8.8 km
Across Funger Lake to Caribou River – 2.2 km
Caribou River, Funger to Smoothrock – 13 km
 
wabakimimaps
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12/11/2012 01:18PM  
quote yellowcanoe: "Aggravatingly VIA does not have the mileage post of each lake that you can get to via a trail (its a requirement that there is a trail away from the tracks..they do not throw you off the bridge). But Annette and Don Elliott of Mattice Lake Outfitters do. When making your VIA reservation you would think VIA would know the milepost. But noooo, they ask YOU!"

Neither the conductor nor the ticket agent are expected to know the locations of insertion/extraction points along the right-of-way. It is the responsibility of passenger(s) seeking an unscheduled drop-off or pick-up to provide the mileage of the location to the nearest tenth of a mile. While it’s true that, for liability reasons, VIA Rail reserves the right not to permit passengers to disembark unless there’s visible evidence of a trail or shoreline landing, this rarely happens.

Mileages between Armstrong and Savant Lake are listed on the Access page in the Wabakimi & Beyond section of The Wabakimi Project website. Use the link provided below.

The Wabakimi Project strives to provide complete and accurate information for paddlers and welcomes the addition to, or correction of, these mileages by readers. Thanks in advance.

Wabakimi & Beyond - Access
 
12/11/2012 09:31PM  
The nice thing about the Wabakimi Country and most of the Near North is that if a route is logical, there are portages. They might well be tough or just a step up from a bushwhack, though. We always used the 1:50,000 scale maps and marked the portages as we went along.


Same with campsites. The same places that attracted travelers to a site to stop for the night a thousand years ago will still be attractive today, for the most part. Just don't expect the well-used, sometimes manicured sites of the parks farther south.
 
12/12/2012 09:45AM  
Another resource we found helpful is the
LIO Make A Map Tool
 
yellowcanoe
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12/12/2012 10:12AM  
quote arctic: "The nice thing about the Wabakimi Country and most of the Near North is that if a route is logical, there are portages. They might well be tough or just a step up from a bushwhack, though. We always used the 1:50,000 scale maps and marked the portages as we went along.



Same with campsites. The same places that attracted travelers to a site to stop for the night a thousand years ago will still be attractive today, for the most part. Just don't expect the well-used, sometimes manicured sites of the parks farther south."


I wouldn't count on it. More than once I have had to bush a campsite because older sites now had massive blowdown or forest fires. But you mentioned sites that attracted travelers a thousand years ago. Many of them are not what we would deem a campsite today. Being used for hunting, they are sometimes very well screened. Natives did not favor a water view.
 
12/12/2012 06:10PM  
In the southeastern area of the park campsites are not hard to find. They may not be beaten down like you will find in places like Algonquin, Quetico or BWCA, but you can generally see them from the water. And old established fire rings were found at all sites we looked at.
 
12/13/2012 11:32PM  
quote yellowcanoe: "
quote arctic: "The nice thing about the Wabakimi Country and most of the Near North is that if a route is logical, there are portages. They might well be tough or just a step up from a bushwhack, though. We always used the 1:50,000 scale maps and marked the portages as we went along.




Same with campsites. The same places that attracted travelers to a site to stop for the night a thousand years ago will still be attractive today, for the most part. Just don't expect the well-used, sometimes manicured sites of the parks farther south."



I wouldn't count on it. More than once I have had to bush a campsite because older sites now had massive blowdown or forest fires. But you mentioned sites that attracted travelers a thousand years ago. Many of them are not what we would deem a campsite today. Being used for hunting, they are sometimes very well screened. Natives did not favor a water view."


Natives around here absolutely favored a water view, to avoid being surprised by their enemies. For various reasons, not every site used in the past is still used today, but breezy points and nice island sites where insects were fewer were just as important in ancient times as today, at least during the summer months. I've found artifacts in the far and near North on these types of sites indicating their use.
 
wabakimimaps
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12/14/2012 11:53AM  
quote wabakimimaps: "The Wabakimi Project strives to provide complete and accurate information for paddlers and welcomes the addition to, or correction of, these mileages by readers."

When I made this statement earlier, I had no idea I'd be the first person having to make corrections to information provided on The Wabakimi Project website. These corrections relate to the weekly rail passenger service schedule in the Wabakimi area.

VIA Rail has announced revision of its transcontinental passenger service. During the "winter season" (November 1 - April 30), service through Wabakimi has been reduced to two trains per week. This will probably not affect paddlers but changes to next year's "summer season" schedule certainly will. These changes relate to which week days service will be provided in each direction.

From May 1 - October 31, 2013, VIA Rail westbound service will depart Armstrong each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; eastbound service will depart Savant Lake each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There will be no service in either direction on Tuesday or Saturday.

Departure and arrival times remain unchanged. Westbound service will depart Armstrong at 9:31pm and arrive in Savant Lake at 10:18pm; eastbound service will depart Savant Lake at 7:07am and arrive in Armstrong at 9:48am. During the summer months, Armstrong is on Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDST); all points west of Armstrong are on Central Daylight Saving Time (CDST).

Information on The Wabakimi Project website will be updated shortly to reflect these changes.

Wabakimi & Beyond - Access
 
yellowcanoe
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12/14/2012 08:25PM  
quote arctic: "
quote yellowcanoe: "
quote arctic: "The nice thing about the Wabakimi Country and most of the Near North is that if a route is logical, there are portages. They might well be tough or just a step up from a bushwhack, though. We always used the 1:50,000 scale maps and marked the portages as we went along.




Same with campsites. The same places that attracted travelers to a site to stop for the night a thousand years ago will still be attractive today, for the most part. Just don't expect the well-used, sometimes manicured sites of the parks farther south."




I wouldn't count on it. More than once I have had to bush a campsite because older sites now had massive blowdown or forest fires. But you mentioned sites that attracted travelers a thousand years ago. Many of them are not what we would deem a campsite today. Being used for hunting, they are sometimes very well screened. Natives did not favor a water view."



Natives around here absolutely favored a water view, to avoid being surprised by their enemies. For various reasons, not every site used in the past is still used today, but breezy points and nice island sites where insects were fewer were just as important in ancient times as today, at least during the summer months. I've found artifacts in the far and near North on these types of sites indicating their use."

Not discounting what you have found, but with wabakimimaps team on several outings we had to search very carefully for one boat drag marks or ...junk..mostly wild rice screens..to find the camps.
 
mrcanoe
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12/15/2012 08:21AM  
Arctic,
Natives in the past may have created campsites with a view , but modern ones are probably more interested in keeping their hunting camps to themselves.
Phil and I found a hunting camp while looking for campsites on Miminiska Lake on the Albany. You can't see the site from the water, nor the water from the site.
 
mrcanoe
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12/15/2012 08:46AM  
Wow, I didn't know I'd have to continue on a different message. Anyways, from the photo you can see it's hard to spot the moose camp. We found several campsites like this that are just not visible from the water. This photo may show why they didn't want you to see what was there. Phil and I spent a half hour packing up all the garbage and putting it in bags. The modern natives think nothing of throwing their inorganic trash anywhere. The earlier generations however piled their junk carefully in the woods, off the main campsite.
 
yellowcanoe
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12/15/2012 09:32AM  
Brings back memories. We found one site just full of garbage.. pampers were the most disgusting. We had quite a supply of trash bags. We spent half of one day filling the bags.

There was a freighter canoe there all old and beat up. So we put the bags in the freighter canoe..Filled it all the way up and decorated the bow with a rubber baby doll head we had found.

But back to the OP. I don't want you to think all sites are like this.. They are not. But look on points and look near portages and look for thinner spots in the trees and old campfire rings. Sometimes the sites do not screech out to you and are more subtle. And some of the sites are actually shore lunch sites, bearing close inspection for discarded fish offal.
 
wabakimimaps
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12/15/2012 11:28AM  
quote mrcanoe: "Natives in the past may have created campsites with a view , but modern ones are probably more interested in keeping their hunting camps to themselves.
"

Privacy or secrecy may not be the issue. This photo offers a couple of other considerations as to why some of these sites are well removed from the shoreline and hidden from view from the water.

Many of these sites are used by area First Nation residents as 'hunt camps' during freeze-up and are accessed by snowmobile. Having a campsite sheltered by a thick line of trees provides protection from high winds and drifting snow.

The photo was taken during low water conditions but clearly demonstrates how many of these sites are located in low-lying shoreline areas. It could be that sites such as this are set well back from the shoreline where dry ground is to be found. Since these sites are not often used during the bug season, the need for an open, breezy space may not be a priority or even a necessity.
 
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