Fond du Lac Trip
The Fond du Lac River is one of Northeast Saskatchewan’s gems. For many it is a favourite Saskatchewan river. It’s a clear, wild river, rushing 270 km northwest from its headwaters on Wollaston Lake to Lake Athabasca. Large falls and rapids drop through gorges and over large granite boulders. And then other parts of the river flow through limestone canyons. It has incredible scenery with some very picturesque waterfalls. There are quite a few rapids that you can run, and several that you cannot. It is an excellent river for photography, from exciting whitewater shots of canoes crashing through large waves, to fantastic landscapes. This ‘Land of Little Sticks’ will always surprise you; around the next corner you may find a perfect crescent beach, or a wonderful camping spot on an open jack pine bench. You may see others on the Fond du Lac, but it is unlikely as few people paddle the river. Bald eagles, black bear, moose and possibly caribou can be seen. Eagles, osprey and loons fill the skies. The trip begins/ends with charter flights from Points North.
Trip at a Glance
Whitewater and lakewater wilderness canoe trip
Length: 11 days
Skill Level: Intermediate
Dates: July 8 to 18
Trip Fees: $4995 CAD
Trip Rendezvous: Points North, Saskatchewan
About the River
The Fond du Lac is a river that is unique in Saskatchewan in that it flows through an area of limestone gorges. This makes for well worn rapids of limestone ledges. It also make for beautiful camping places of open jack pine benches that could camp far more people than you want on your trip. The forest is predominantly open spruce or pine. The forest floor is covered with yellow and white lichen. Jack pine is found in the drier areas and birch in old burns. Lowland areas often have stunted black spruce or tamarack.
In general, the Fond du Lac’s flow peaks in late June or early July, so we do not have to worry about water levels. The Fond du Lac maintains its flow throughout the summer. The average difficulty of the rapids is grade II. The rapids are not overly long, but they are steep and larger volume can make swamping an issue. Hydraulics are also a factor as the river gains volume. There are at least 2 mandatory portages.
There are two main waterfalls on the portion of the river being paddled on this trip. Manitou Falls is the one most photos of the Fond du Lac show. It is a amazing waterfall that cut it’s way through a limestone gorge. It is said if you lay on the rock near the falls with your ear to the rock you can hear the spirits speak to you. Burr Falls is the other waterfall on this portion of the river. It is certainly worth the hike to see these falls.
Fond du Lac Trip Itinerary
Day 1 Thursday, July 8th, 2021 - Travel to Points North, SK
- Flights from Saskatoon to Points North
- Pre trip meeting, gear check, dinner, overnight at Points North (own expense)
Day 2 - Breakfast, charter flight to Waterfound Bay on the Fond du Lac River
- Set up camp, canoe skills review
Day 3 to Day 10 - Paddle the Fond du Lac River
- The unspoiled clear waters of the Fond du Lac River flow over several waterfalls, through limestone gorges and over numerous rapids. There are many fun runnable rapids, and a few falls that you will have to portage. Each night, we will camp at a new site, surrounded by ruggedly beautiful scenery.
Day 11 Sunday, July 18th, 2021
- Charter Flights from the Fond du Lac River back to Points North
- Optional Group Dinner and overnight in Points North (own expense) or mid-afternoon departure from Points North to Saskatoon
- Overnight in Saskatoon (own expense) or flights home
What is Included in the Trip Price?
•Guides - 5:1 ratio
• Excellent meals from Day 2 lunch to Day 12 breakfast
• 17’ Prospector expedition canoes
• Paddles, PFD, helmets (you may bring your own)
• Throw lines and other safety accessories
• Camping Equipment:
• Tents - free standing custom expedition dome tents - 2 per tent
• ‘Kitchen’ - tarp, fire box, cooking stoves, utensils, dishes, etc
• First aid and repair kits, communications equipment (satellite phone)
• Canoe rescue gear
• Return charter flight to and from the Fond du Lac River from Points North Saskatchewan
• Transportation of guides, group gear, canoe etc to and from trip
What is not Included in the Trip Price?
• Saskatchewan tax: 11% of the trip fee
• Personal clothing and gear - a recommended clothing & equipment list will be provided
• Travel between your home and the trip rendezvous - Points North, Saskatchewan
• Accommodation in Points North, SK (approx $150 per person based on double occupancy)
• Any meals in Points North before or after the trip
• Any additional expenses or costs incurred as a result of delays to the trip caused by factors beyond our control - i.e. wind, waves, unsafe paddling conditions, forest fire, pandemic, etc
• Any costs associated with your emergency evacuation from the trip - please contact us at CRCO for more information
• Gratuities - we recommend $12-$15 per day per guide
The Fond du Lac River and Black Lakes are the territory of the descendants of a group of Dene once referred to as “the Caribou Eaters”. They carried on a traditional way of life during the fur trade, following the barren ground caribou throughout the year as their ancestors had. Most went north in the summer to the edge of the barrens, and wintered in the Black Lake area. Traditionally, the Dene did not travel the rough sections of the Fond du Lac River, but had always hunted the bounty of the river and surrounding forests from lake routes. These lake routes allowed the Dene to access the river to hunt, fish and trap in the area, but avoided the gorges and canyon of the river.
Both the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company explored this river during the fur trade. They were looking for a quicker way into the rich fur area of Lake Athabasca. Both companies abandoned this route, not because the Fond du Lac was too difficult, but because the lakes: Reindeer, Wollaston and Athabasca were not free of ice until well into June. Other routes were open in early May. It is fascinating reading both Peter Fidler’s diary (Hudson Bay Company) and David Thompson’s book (Northwest Company) of their explorations of this river in the late 1700s.
Overall there are fewer species reflecting the harsh climate and lack of diversity in the vegetation. Although the barren ground caribou sometimes come this far south in the winter, you will not see them in the summer. Moose and black bear are the most common ‘large’ mammals. Bald eagles and osprey are a typical birds. There is also a healthy population of otter, mink fisher and martin. You’ll can find northern pike, walleye and arctic grayling. Blackflies can be voracious this time of year, so make sure to bring a bug jacket, bug hat and repellant.
Churchill River Canoe Outfitter guides are exceptionally qualified. Each principal guide has an extensive outdoor background, formal training and leadership experience. On most expeditions there will be an assistant guide. The guides are always ready to provide coaching and helpful advice on any aspect of the trip and will attempt to maximize the spirit of adventure for each individual. Your safety is their prime concern and your guide will make decisions with this in mind. We must stress that listening carefully to instructions given by the guide is your responsibility and in the best interest of you and the group. Each group member is encouraged to contribute to the tasks of the canoe trip and your guides will act as helpful resource people. Lastly, as this is your holiday, the CRCO guides have a real sense of fun and excitement, and will help to make this your trip of a lifetime!
Our menus are delicious and nutritious. Everyone helps out cooking meals over a wood fire or camping stove from a combination of fresh, dried and freeze-dried products. Breakfasts consist of cereal, fruit and a main course such as blueberry pancakes or eggs and bacon. At lunch you will enjoy a selection of breads (rye bread, bagels, tortillas) with cheeses, sliced meats or veggies ... and of course, good old peanut butter and jam, followed up by cookies or fruit. Dinner consists of hors d’oeuvers, a main course then dessert. Entrees include chicken stir fry and pesto / pine nut / red pepper pasta. Perhaps we’ll have a salad and finish up with brownies or a lemon desert. On cooler days, a hearty mug of steaming soup is always available, along with tea, coffee, hot chocolate or cold drinks. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions you should contact our office. You will be required to assist in your menu preparation. We don’t want anyone going hungry or reduced to eating boring food!
Even though the Fond du Lac region is cooler than most of northern Saskatchewan we are getting there in the height of summer. The area gets most of its annual precipitation in July so agood rain suit is recommended. Expect temperatures to range from 10 C to 30C, but averaging from 15 - 25 C. Water temperatures in early July tend to be around 18 C. Bring along some warm clothing for cool evenings.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Fond du Lac River trip meets in the ‘community’ of Points North, Saskatchewan (YNL). There are daily flights from Saskatoon (YXE) to Points North via Transwest Air. You should arrive in Points North on Thursday, July 8th and can depart on or after Sunday, July 18th, 2021. Points North is not really a town, just a jump off for exploration and mining. It has a small ‘hotel’, restaurant, small convenience store and float plane base. We will reserve a bed for you for Night 1 - the cost will be approximately $150.00 per person and the price includes dinner and breakfast.
YES, we highly recommend you to purchase 1) Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance, 2) Trip Interruption Insurance and 3) Trip Cancellation Insurance. Many credit card companies offer limited interruption/cancellation insurance, so please consult with yours before you book your trip to ensure you are adequately covered. Please also note that some types of insurance are only valid if they are purchased within a short time of making a non-refundable payment towards a trip. More information about these can be obtained through your preferred insurance provider. Prior to confirming your trip’s departure, we will ask you to sign a waiver stating you have either purchased adequate insurance or that you will be personally responsible and financially liable for any costs incurred as the result of any delays/cancellations/evacuations to you on your trip.