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Perfect time for a canoe trip

Cooler temps are ideal for flat-water voyages

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As the days get a wee bit cooler and the mosquitoes disappear, the time is perfect for a flatwater paddling trip.

The best array of multi-day options can be found in the interconnected maze of lakes east of Lake of the Woods, a recreational paddling region that covers hundreds of square kilometres south of Highway 17 and east of Highway 71, including the entire Experimental Lakes Area.

As of this moment, there's no guidebook to the region. Readers often query me about potential routes.

Here are some of the most popular and most spectacular. Before you head out, make sure to buy or download the topographical maps -- and pack a compass.



Stewart Lake Loop

Access/egress: Pine Road at Lower Stewart Lake

Chain of lakes: Lower Stewart, Geejay, Manomin, Winnange, Upper Stewart and Lower Stewart.

The goods: Two relatively easy portages takes you into Manomin Lake, where there's an excellent rocky campsite in northeast corner, as well as secondary island sites.



Stephen Lake loop

Access/Egress: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake

Chain of lakes: Kakagi, Cedartree, Flint, Stephen, Cameron and Kakagi.

The goods: The pictographs on Stephen Lake, located just to the east of the sole campsite, are worth four portages on the way in. This is also reintroduced-elk country. There's a demon of a portage between Cameron and Kakagi -- and plenty of open water on Kakagi itself-- but the effort is worth it.



Teggau Lake loop

Access/egress: Pine Road at Lower Stewart Lake.

Chain of lakes: Lower Stewart, Geejay, Manomin, Winnange, Eagle (west arm), Teggau, Eagle (west arm), Crabclaw, Winnange, Upper Stewart and Lower Stewart.

The goods: Teggau Lake, the deepest in the Experimental Lakes area, is the destination on the trip. The spectacular campsite sits at the tip of a peninsula that juts out from the east. Consider spending two nights here. Also camp on Manomin and Crabclaw or Winnange. There are steep portages at Buzzard Falls, which sits between Winnange and Eagle, as well as between Winnange and Upper Stewart Lake.



Dryberry Lake loop

Access/egress: Highwind Lake Road

Chain of lakes: Highwind, Hillock, Dryberry, Point, ELA No. 322, ELA No. 313, Teggau, Eagle (west arm), Winnange, Manomin, Geejay, Fish, ELA No. 109, Porcus and Highwind.

The goods: Dryberry Lake, one of the largest in the canoe country east of Lake of the Woods, is a wonder on a calm day and a terror in high winds. Paddle this route counter-clockwise to increase the chance of being aided by prevailing westerlies. Highlights along the route include a spectacular rockfall near the portage north out of Point Lake and Teggau Lake (see above).



Pipestone Lake loop

Access: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake

Egress: Nestor Falls, Ont.

Chain of Lakes: Kakagi, Osipassini, Sandhill, Schistose, Pipestone, Slender, Kishkutena, Wigwam, Pinus and Kakabikitchiwan.

The goods: Although this is a loop, you'll have to shuttle at least one vehicle between the Kakagi Lake public dock and Nestor Falls, which are 12 kilometres from each other. The big attraction is long and secluded Pipestone, separated from Highway 71 by many, many portages. You're going to work for this one.


Eagle Lake to Kakagi Lake

Access: Vermilion Bay, Ont.

Egress: Highway 71 at Kakagi Lake

Chain of Lakes: Eagle, Piskegomang Brook, Goose, Hawkcliff, Stoat, Fisher, Populus, Atikwa, Waterfall, Rupert, Eliza, Caviar, Flint, Cedartree and Kakagi.

The goods: If you're looking for a long flatwater paddle, this is your trip. Seldom-visited Hawkcliff Lake is a stunner. The waterfall west of Atikwa Lake will demand a two-night stay at the small campsite on the opposite side of Waterfall Lake. A rocky island site on the north side of Kakagi is among the best in the area. Pack light!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2014 C12

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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