Day 1: Meet the Canadian Whitewater

By Lucas Knowlton

Day 1 startled everybody when they crawled out of their tents. One word: mosquitoes. They didn’t give up even when the DEET came out. We had spent the night in Bissett, Manitoba, a small village about 150 miles east of Lake Winnipeg.

We took full advantage of a nearby playground. Eating breakfast on the  swing set and walking around brushing our teeth were a couple of the many ploys we used to avoid the mosquitoes.

Everyone took down their tents as the excitement for our journey grew. Quickly enough, camp was gone and we were ready to go.

We pulled up to the Blue Water Aviation’s takeoff point at roughly 5 a.m. The pilot already had three of our five boats strapped onto the floats.

Chet, Steve, Emily Dech and Claire boarded the plane for the first of two trips into Artery Lake. The rest of us stood and watched the massive float plane take half of our group out of sight.

Joe, Aaron, Emily Nagel, Brad and I eagerly waited the expected hour for our turn. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we saw our pilot come back into sight.

We jumped on the plane and off we went. It was a 12-minute flight into Artery Lake in which we got a whole different perspective on the type of wilderness we were getting into.

After a smooth landing we hopped off and unloaded the last half of our gear. We waved our pilot goodbye along with the last sign of civilization for 11 days.

Chet and Steve were quick to reassemble the two 17-foot canoes in which we had nestled the 16-footers for the plane ride. We were ready to hit the water. Ahead of us we had 150 miles, or, as we would measure, 220 kilometers, to our final destination.

Our first day we scouted many of the rapids we came across, because for some of us, this was the first whitewater seen in a canoe. We ran three Class 2s where Brad and I jumped in and swam the rapid — the first of many. Steve and Emily also both caught northerns here.

We hadn’t tried much fishing before lunch, but we did more after. Good thing we did, because we found out how amazing it was. Almost every cast, you could catch a walleye that was big enough to eat. Chad, Brad, and Steve kept four walleye for a fish fry that night. The rest decided to hold off on a fish fry for the next night.

After fishing, we got back to paddling. Roughly five miles later we came to our first campsite. It was a very nice, elongated site with great water access and amazing views. Everyone was relieved to get out of the canoes. Tents went up quickly and dinners were made.