Our guests keep coming up with new routes – or at least routes that are new to me. A group this past summer phoned and asked if I had any information on getting into the Clearwater River from Black Birch Lake. Well he had me there. First of all, I didn’t even know where Black Birch Lake was. So I immediately went to my computer and looked at the maps around the Clearwater River. It turns out that Black Birch Lake is the headwaters of the Black Birch River which flows into the Virgin River which in turn flows into the Clearwater River. It turns out they had an awesome trip and it also turns out this is a beautiful way to access the Clearwater River. But it is not for the novice. You can view the photos from their trip at http://www.dropbox.com/gallery/5222042/1/Roe%20to%20Contact?h=024f52
There are common ways to get to the Clearwater River. By driving you can get dropped off at either Lloyd Lake or the bridge at Wearner Rapids. Groups that are after a considerable challenge start at La Loche and do the Methy Portage (all 21 km of it)!
There are others who fly in either from Buffalo Narrows or Fort McMurray. There are several other innovative ways our guests have accessed the Clearwater, in addition to the above example. We occasionally have groups who fly in to Nyberg Lakes at the headwaters of the Virgin River. This route requires some good whitewater skills. This adds 47 km to the trip.
Other groups have started further up the Clearwater River from Lloyd Lake. Dell Lake has been the popular place to fly into. This adds about 49 km to the trip. I’ve never received good reports on this portion of the river. It is very swampy with hundreds of switch backs. It does not look interesting on the maps.
The Clearwater River remains one of the most picturesque rivers in the province. The past 15 years it hasn’t received near the attention it used to get. With La Loche Airways closing and with Clearwater Raft Tours shutting down, there are not near the number of groups on the river there once was. My fear is that with the tar sand mining moving further east, we may see the beginning of irreversible changes to this magnificent river. Paddle it now while it still remains.