Thursday, December 09, 2004


Canoe The Bloodvein

CLOMP! My feet hit the floor. I struggled to focus on my watch in the dark and hit the illuminate button. Crap, 3:30am already. A few more groans and I was up, as I had a 5:00am trip to take 4 canoers and 2 canoes onto the Bloodvein River, dropping them at Artery Lake, just across the Manitoba border, into Ontario.

I was on the dock by 4:00am to check over the Otter and warm it up. I had tied the 2 canoes onto the airplane the previous night. They were using two 17' Old Town canoes, and for my money, these are the best all-around canoes made. They fly great, they are durable, they are stable, and they haul a great load. I have flown thousands of canoes, and these ones are good. Anyway, I warmed up my old beast, and shut down just as the canoers arrived.

Canoers always intrigue me. They aren't your regular "good ole boy" types. No, they are much more eccentric. They seem to feel they have to be one with the river or have something to prove to themselves or somebody else. Hard to put a finger on, but a noticeably different clientele. Anyways, we loaded up, took off, and headed across Lake Winnipeg for Artery Lake. We would be crossing Lake Winnipeg's east shore roughly a dozen miles south of the Bloodvein River Indian Reserve. We would pick up the Bloodvein River on the way so the canoers/eccentrics in the back could have a look at some of the white water on the lower portions of the river.

We stayed low and enjoyed the river, saw numerous moose and waterfowl, and some other canoers. Flying at 5:00am to me has always been so enjoyable, as the air is cool, the turbulence is minimal, the aircraft performs much better due to the lower temperatures, and the new rookie pilots with verbal diarrhea aren't in the air yet. Anyways, on we flew, past "The Knot", a stretch of river so named as that is what your stomach feels like taking off if the wind is wrong, past "The Big Bend", past Kautunigan, and past the Gammon River-Bloodvein River junction, into the vastness of Atikaki Provincial Wilderness Park.

Atikaki is the Ojibway word for " country of caribou ". There are a number of small stable herds in the park, and can be seen more readily in winter by following their tracks in the snow by air. We flew past Stonehouse and Bushey Lakes, beautiful moose habitat. We crossed the border and I greased the aircraft onto the water .

There are some beautiful red ochre pictographs the canoers wanted to see on the lake so I dropped them off as close as possible. I bid them adieu and 600 horses pulled the Otter into the air in a couple of hundred feet. Man, does this old girl perform well empty. Time to have some fun on the way back.

I stayed low and looked for more moose and wildlife on the way back, all along the Bloodvein. My mind wandered back to a purer time in history and in my mind's eye I imagined the trade and commerce that must've been conducted by the native people when transportation modes and methods were more primitive. I thought about how the river was named. Some will say it was named for the red granite that runs through the bedrock, others will tell you it was named after a battle when the local Ojibway and Cree battled an invading tribe and the river ran red with blood. I flew past a stretch of river where I have dropped people off in the past to fish and they have caught 6 different species of fish! Northern pike, walleye, channel catfish, rock bass, mooneye, and burbot! The river also holds sturgeon in the lower section.

The longing for the past just about had me until the radio brought me back to the 21st century. Some rubberhead on the radio was asking his buddy where he ended up the previous night, and then proceeded to give a position report every half mile. I climbed to 2000 feet and returned totally to reality. I looked at my watch. 6:30am. Yes, the rookies are in the air. Time to be vigilant.

By the way, the Bloodvein is one of 17 rivers nationally designated as an heritage river, it is unspoiled, and well worth an excursion by canoe! Adios

Fishing is always tremendous on the Bloodvein River, with catches such as these... Posted by Hello

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