Back in the day, I was a counsellor at Camp Stephens on beautiful Lake of the Woods. I spent summers swimming, sailing and paddling, and acquiring a love for water that has stayed with me ever since.
So when I got the chance to travel Manitoba’s Manigotagan River with Red River Outfitters, I was all in.
The Manigotagan is a fun and challenging whitewater canoe route northeast of Winnipeg. It originates in Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Park, flows through Nopiming and Manigotagan provincial parks, and discharges into Lake Winnipeg.
We entered at Quesnel Lake, which has road access off Highway 304 near Bissett, and spent six glorious days paddling west for 70 kilometres to a pick-up spot near the community of Manigotagan. It might be the perfect getaway for those who love the wilderness, but have limited time.
While the Manigotagan River is well-travelled, it remains pristine and gorgeous. It’s scattered with magnificent waterfalls and set of rapids from gentle Class I (swift water requiring little or no maneuvering) to scary Class IV (large waves, rocks, hazards and/or drops). All the big water has portage trails, so you don’t have to run anything beyond your comfort zone.
This region of Manitoba was the location of a gold rush during the 1920s and 1930s. Abandoned structures like an ‘alligator’ — a steam-powered engine used to haul freight down the river — can still be seen on shore. Varied topography ranges from rock faces topped with jack pine, to stands of poplar and ash, and is home to moose, bears, wolves and caribou.
We were fortunate to be visited by soaring eagles. We were not so fortunate to be the warm-blooded targets of the dreaded and notoriously ferocious Manitoba mosquito. I highly recommend a good supply of repellent, mesh-netted hoods, and even netted jackets and pants. There were billions of them, and they sure know how to spoil a good evening of sunset gazing, which is one of the most rewarding backwoods experiences.
Equally enjoyable is lounging beside — or in — surging water, and Charles Falls was my absolute favourite spot. This locale alone is worth the paddle in.
The massive waterfall has two separate drop zones and thunderous roar so loud you can’t even hear your thoughts. Being beside such an awesomely powerful place is mesmerizing and meditative.
Since it’s bordered by varying levels of flat rock, you can get close enough to feel spray coming off the water, and see rainbows that appear to the observant eye. It’s the ideal place for sitting around, lounging with a good book, or stretching out and watching clouds drift by.
If you’re brave enough to get even closer, Charles Falls has a natural spa-like slope where you can safely wedge yourself into perfect people-sized grooves carved into the rock. Here, cool refreshing water cascades over you, pools around you, drenches your body, and massages tired shoulders.
With the sun beaming down, and no mosquitoes to be found, it’s the ultimate in rejuvenation for body, mind and spirit.
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org