Missinipe, Saskatchewan: Churchill River Canoe Route

Escape time as you glide through an endless chain of connected lakes.
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Escape time as you glide through an endless chain of connected lakes.

This Texas-size province north of Montana and North Dakota is known for its prairies, but more than half of it is actually a forested canoe kingdom (think Boundary Waters on steroids). Canoes are to Canada as covered wagons were to America, and they remain one of the best ways to experience Saskatchewan’s wild country.
For the area’s best soltitude, rapids, and 300-year-old voyageur campsites, splurge for a one-hour float plane ride from Missinipe to sprawling Black Bear Island Lake. Then take four days to boat your way 56 miles back to town. In between long lake crossings, you’ll hit 20 class II-IV rapids. Portage any you choose, and scout everything. (Cheaper: Add at least three days and begin from one of the mostly unmapped car-accessible put-ins on SK-102 north of Missinipe.) Visiting is easy: No reservations or permits needed.
After getting dropped near High Rock Narrows, investigate ochre-colored Ojibway pictographs on a south-facing cliff in the narrows. Then canoe east across Black Bear Island Lake, past Pine Island, to map-marked campsites just beyond your first whitewater at Birch Rapids (class II, mile 14.2).
Day two, paddle northeast across Trout Lake, through four rapids near Stack Lake, to tree-shaded rock slab campsites just beneath Rock Trout Rapids (mile 29). Next morning, cross Mountney Lake, then whoop it up on two miles of class III rapids (most have easier sneak routes) to a 5.5-mile crossing of Nipew Lake to campsites near Selby Peninsula (mile 43).
On day four, complete your journey by crossing Hayman Lake, then turning south at the entrance of Burgess Bay down the continual, easy rapids of Donaldson Channel, through Barker and Devil Lakes, to finish in the powerful waves of Otter Rapids (class III), four miles north of Missinipe.
Maps GoTrekkers Churchill River, Sandfly to Trout Lake and Trout to Otter Lakes ($20CAD each; gotrekkers.com)
Guide Churchill River Canoe Outfitters; (877) 511-2726; churchillrivercanoe.com
Plane Osprey Wings Aviation; (306) 635-2112; osprey-wings-air.com
-Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 90.1

Waypoints

CHR001

Location: 55.635605, -105.69199

Get dropped off by float plane at High Rock Narrows. Scan the walls for rock art.

CHR002

Location: 55.627182, -105.414769

Pine Island Resort

CHR003

Location: 55.660074, -105.25546

Fur trade outpost ruin

CHR004

Location: 55.700552, -105.207327

Trout Falls

CHR005

Location: 55.709537, -105.195687

Keep left to sneak around Little Trout Rapids.

CHR006

Location: 55.702202, -105.168631

There are three channels around this island, and all of them are good. Tip: The right channel is the most scenic.

CHR007

Location: 55.705074, -105.155207

Campsite below Rock Trout Rapids

CHR008

Location: 55.708809, -105.127017

Large group campsite (with tarp poles) on Mountney Lake

CHR009

Location: 55.725273, -105.107446

Here, you'll find some cool marsh paddling up the northeast arm of Mountney Lake.

CHR010

Location: 55.68853, -105.112061

Swift channels between Mountney and Nipew Lakes

CHR012

Location: 55.678688, -105.107884

Chief Rapids

CHR013

Location: 55.664722, -105.092868

Excellent campsite

CHR014

Location: 55.688846, -104.966089

Excellent campsite

CHR015

Location: 55.686182, -104.819954

Turn right/south down Donaldson Channel.

CHR016

Location: 55.677995, -104.822616

Tip: The left-hand channel, dubbed "Chicken Out Creek," avoids a powerful rapid.

CHR017

Location: 55.675187, -104.827063

Donaldson Rapid

CHR018

Location: 55.672867, -104.822525

At the Corner Rapid, sneak far right.

CHR019

Location: 55.671628, -104.821526

Good campsite

CHR020

Location: 55.663473, -104.800947

Murray Rapid

CHR021

Location: 55.662639, -104.799267

Good camp on the northern end of island

CHR021

Location: 55.647764, -104.736002

Otter Rapid. The Portage Trail begins on river left.

CHR022

Location: 55.643474, -104.733885

Otter Rapid Portage Trail ends here.

CHR023

Location: 55.644896, -104.734439

The route ends at Otter Rapids Campground (you'll get cell coverage and your shuttle pick-up here).

CRCO office in Missinipe

Location: 55.600901, -104.772212