05-Sep-2007 -- We had originally planned to attempt this confluence last year around the same time but inadequate planning and some logistical glitches got in the way so no attempt was made.
The maps needed to replicate this trip are 063L14 (VINEY LAKE), 063L15 (BIRCH PORTAGE), 063M03 (SANDY NARROWS).
This year we came more prepared. We planned three possible approaches to the confluence by canoe and came prepared to stay out for a period of up to 14 days.
The first two approaches were to cross Jan Lake into Wilkin Bay. The first of these was travel to the most northern point of Wilkin Bay and navigate a series of streams and small lakes to a position within approximately 1Km of the confluence.
On Sunday September 2, 2007 we started out from the docks of the Great North Lodge in Jan Lake on this first approach. The day was sunny, calm and warm. The scenery along the way was fantastic and we arrived at the outlet of the stream in good time. Unfortunately the stream was not navigable as it was only about 0.5m wide. This left us still about 3.5Km from the confluence.
After examining the topography and density of the bush we decided to abandon this approach as well as the second one which involved a similar stream and small lake leaving from the south end of Wilken Bay. Camp was made in Wilken Bay for the night.
On Monday September 3 we began the long approach. The success of this approach depended on the existence of two portages of which we had no knowledge and which did not appear on any map that we had looked at. Interviewing locals also had not proven fruitful. That being said, we are both experienced canoeists and are able to look at a map and guess where portages should logically be.
Monday night we camped at a well used spot near where Jan Lake and Pelican Lake connect.
Tuesday we paddled north to a narrow portion of land that separates the east and west halves of Pelican Lake. There were two spots about 0.5Km apart that could have a portage across them; we found the portage on the second, more northerly one (map 63M/03 13 U 624144 6101377). The portage was 143m long and in good condition with some overgrowth and single canoe rock landings at both ends.
Once across the first portage we felt more confident that the second one would also exist. We paddled southeast into a small unnamed bay that I felt would contain the beginning of the portage into Lloyd Lake. After searching for a bit I began to be disheartened as there was no portage in sight. On closer examination, however we located the portage entrance obscured by a fallen tree 84m from where I guessed it would be (map 63M/03 13 U 625418 6100014).
We landed, unloaded our gear and cleared the branches from the fallen tree to make it passable. It was getting late in the day and there were good spots for our Hennessy Hammocks just 30m down the portage so we decided to stay the night. We made a short excursion down the portage to see what condition it was in. We found it to be in surprisingly good condition and apparently well traveled.
Wednesday we began the process of hauling all our gear across the portage. As we were in day 3 after having started out with 16 days of food and supplies there was a lot to carry. We discussed leaving some things behind but the process of reorganizing and making those decisions was going to take longer than just hauling it across. We did leave a few items in a cache but they made little difference. Four trips were made across this portage, three to haul gear and one for pictures and video.
The portage is about 829m long and in good condition. There was some minor deadfall that had to be cleared and some slippery sections on moss covered rock. There is also some moderate climbing and descending. This portage is a nice hike in itself. There are open moss covered areas with more different types of fungi that I have seen in one spot before. There were signs of bear and wolf activity showing that we were not the only users of this portage.
The crossing took about three to four hours to complete.
At this point we started out for the southern shores of Lloyd Lake. Having found both portages we were feeling pretty confident of our eventual success. We knew that the confluence was only 200m to 300m from the shore of Lloyd Lake and there was plenty of daylight left.
After padding 4Km down Lloyd Lake we arrived at the point closest to the confluence. The GPS said it was only 259m away. On first examination the density of the bush looked ominous but we soon found our way in through a series of beaver drags. Thankful for nature’s engineers we pressed on.
We were making good progress weaving our way through the bush when we hit a wall…a rock wall about 3m high. There didn’t seem to be any way around so we had to scale it. The rock and earth wall was unstable and the grip of plant roots unreliable but we made it.
Arrival at the confluence occurred a short time later. I have to confess it felt a little anticlimactic. I was hoping for a nice clearing or something I guess. But the journey is indeed the thing so we carried on with the pictures and video of the confluence.
On the way back we got a little sloppy by not following our path out and ended up stuck in a swamp. Using the GPS and a compass together put us back on track. We paddled back against a high wind to a small island where we camped for the night.
Over the next two days we worked our way back to the community of Jan Lake. The high winds persisted and there were white caps on Jan Lake when we crossed making it necessary to take a longer route.
Overall it was an excellent five day trip with the wind and weather in our favor most of the time. This was the first time we had done a confluence by canoe and pre-planning separate food/equipment items for a confluence strike would definitely be an asset. This pre-planning could improve speed and reduce workload on the final approach to a confluence by canoe.