Wapiskau River Trip
The Wapiskau River connects the waters of Brabant Lake with the Reindeer River and then continues on to join the Churchill River. The river is a series of picturesque waterfalls, 11 in total. There are only a few minor rapids to be run. The challenge of this river is primarily in the approach to the portages. Sometimes, especially in higher water, these portages are a little closer to the brink of the falls than one would like. Several new trails have been cut to accommodate the higher was we have had the past decade.
The route starts with a big lake paddle. Brabant Lake is a beautiful lake with a mix of massive rock outcroppings and sand beaches. The lake is interesting to geologists because many of the rock formations appear to have been melted by some cataclysmic event in the past. There are a few places where its fun to stop and explore.
The first lake on the river itself, Lavender Lake is also interesting. If the water is not too high and one is willing to search, there are beaches with lavender colored sand.
But this river, the Wapiskau is all about the waterfalls. Each is unique.
Trip at a Glance
Lakewater wilderness canoe trip
Length: 6 days
Skill Level: Intermediate
Dates: September 2 to 7
Trip Fees: $2195 CAD
Trip Rendezvous: Missinipe, Saskatchewan with shuttle service available from La Ronge
About the Trip
The Wapiskau River trip meets at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, Saskatchewan. We will overnight there, before heading by van to Brabant Lake (95 km) where the trip begins. The guides will review paddling strokes, canoe maneuvers and safety before we head out on the lake. At the first moving water we’ll go over river reading and route planning. Expect some portages each day at waterfalls. The all portages are less than 200m. On the last day, you’ll be picked before noon by float plane for our flight back to Missinipe. We can then drive those to La Ronge who are catching a flight to Saskatoon. Some in the group may want to stay overnight for a celebratory meal together.
The Wapiskau River flows through land that is typical of northern Saskatchewan’s Precambrian Shield. The forest is a mix of black spruce or white spruce, jack pine, trembling aspen and white birch. The forest floor is typically a thick layer of moss. The island filled lakes give area an intimate feel. The granite of the Shield country is everywhere. The water in Brabant Lake and the Wapiskau River is clean and warm, typically reaching temperatures of the low 20s C by mid summer.
Brabant Lake is a unique lake. In many places the shoreline is high and rugged. Exploring the rock formations in many of these places shows some cataclysmic event in the past melted the rock. In other areas the high shoreline gives way to sandy beaches. There are many great places to camp.
The Wapiskau is a unique river. The river is a series of 11 waterfalls. Each is unique. Each has a beauty all it’s own. Between these falls is sometimes lake and sometimes river. The falls always show a Precambrian Shield type rock outcropping. But between these falls the river tends to flow through lower more marshy landscape. It is a beautiful trip.
Because there are 11 waterfalls, there are 11 portages. Most are very short, less than 100 meters. There are two that are closer to 200 meters. The total trip is about 70 km.
The trip ends as the river flows into the Reindeer River at Steephill Lake.
Day 1 Wednesday, September 2nd, 2021 - Travel to Missinipe, SK
- Flights from Saskatoon to La Ronge, CRCO shuttle pickup at the airport to Missinipe (80 km).
- Pre trip meeting, gear check, dinner, overnight at CRCO in Missinipe
Day 2 - Breakfast, van ride to Brabant Lake (95 km)
- Canoe skills review, paddle, set up camp
Day 3 to Day 6 - Paddle the Brabant Lake and Wapsikau River
- The unspoiled crystal clear waters of Brabant Lake and Wapsikau River tumble over numerous waterfalls. Each portage brings a new vista as one looks back at the falls just portaged around. Each night, we will camp at a new site, surrounded by ruggedly beautiful scenery.
Day 7 Monday, September 7th, 2021
- The trip ends at Steephill Lake on the Reindeer River. A float plane will transport us back to Missinipe.
- Optional Group Dinner and overnight in Missinipe (own expense) or mid-afternoon departure from Missinipe to the La Ronge airport. That shuttle to La Ronge can also go the next day.
- Overnight in Saskatoon (own expense) or flights home
What is Included in the Price
•Overnight stay at CRCO in Missinipe on September 2nd
•Guides - 5:1 ratio
• Excellent meals from Day 2 lunch to Day 7 lunch
• 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
• Transportation from Missinipe to Brabant Lake to start the trip
• Charter flight from Steephill Lake to Missinipe, Saskatchewan
• Transportation to and from the La Ronge airport and Missinipe
• Transportation of guides, group gear, canoe etc to and from trip
What is not Included in the 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 - La Ronge, Saskatchewan
• Accommodation in Missinipe SK after the trip (approx $60 per person based on double occupancy)
• Any meals in Missinipe 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 Wapiskau River has had a very quiet life. At present it sees a few canoe groups every summer. In the past it was ignored by the fur trade because of the number of portages. Trappers didn’t like the area because trapping is done in winter. Since the river is waterfalls and moving water, much of the river doesn’t freeze well enough to make travel safe. In spite of that, the area is part of several family trap lines.
Brabant Lake has had a different history. It has been part of the summer and winter route between Stanley Mission and the Churchill River and Southend on Reindeer Lake. Before the roads this route was travelled by people from either of those communities to keep in contact. Until the mid 1970s a dog sled with mail and supplies would make the trip from Stanley to Southend and back weekly. Now a winter road goes through Brabant Lake to a gold mine south of the lake.
But for the most part. The area is quiet. You will likely not meet any other groups on this trip.
Any bird or animal that eats fish is common on the Wapiskau River. Loons, bald and golden eagles, osprey, grebes and merganzers are all fish eaters that live along this river. You may also see mink, otter, fishers and martin. And seeing a black bear is also not uncommon. You are more likely to see moose on the Wapiskau than many other areas. You may also see lynx or wolf. You see evidence of these animals often, but they are too shy to show themselves. Fish is the only easy food. And there are lots of fish, mainly walleye and northern pike and some lake trout on Brabant Lake.
Your 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!
The Wapiskau River region often has idyllic summer temperatures, but not always. Expect temperatures in early September to range from 10 C to 25C, but averaging from 25 - 20 C. A good rain suit is a must, along with some warm clothing for cool days and nights. The water temperature in early September is usually about 18 C.
The Wapiskau River trip meets at Missinipe, Saskatchewan. You can drive to Missinipe. Or there are daily flights from Saskatoon to La Ronge via Transwest Air. From La Ronge we will arrange a shuttle to Missinipe. You should arrive in Missinipe on Wednesday, September 2nd and can depart on or after Monday, September 7th, 2021. Churchill River Canoe Outfitters is located in Missinipe. CRCO has cabins and a hostel to rent. The town has a restaurant, a small convenience store and float plane base. We will reserve a cabin for you for Night 1 on us. We can also reserve a cabin for you for Night 8, the cost will be approximately $60.00 per person.
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.
This Trip is rated Novice/Intermediate Skill Level - Previous experience is necessary.
This trip is best for paddlers with canoeing experience the want a trip where whitewater skills are not necessary. Experience in lake paddling is certainly an asset. You will learn a lot on this trip. There are 11 mandatory portages. Some of these can be in poor condition, and will undoubtably have poor footing and mud. You should be prepared to carry your share of the group’s load. The pace will be fairly full but there will have time for instruction and coaching along the way. At the campsite everyone pitches in with setting up tents, collecting firewood, preparing meals, telling stories etc. The guides coordinate things and are always ready to assist you in any tasks. On the river they will provide expert coaching and lots of personal attention.