Into the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

 

A few months back, I wrote a post detailing my plans for a trip into the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park. Originally, the plan was to spend a total of 10 days paddling around the park. We would cover a handful of different lakes, fishing for big pike and Lake Trout the whole way. Plans never go as smoothly as originally laid out, and this was no exception.

woodland caribou

Packed and ready to launch

A Well Laid Plan Falls Apart

Our Woodland Caribou Park trip was originally to be a day after I got home from my Rabbit River trip. Over the last few months I had spent a lot of time (and money) buying and dehydrating food. If we were going to be out for 10 days we would need food that was light and wouldn’t spoil. I had purchased a solar charger for our camera batteries, we had test-packed our gear in the kayaks, and our route was plotted out in the GPS. Everything was set.

A few hours before leaving for the Rabbit River, I had sliced my toe open pretty badly. That injury was a major factor in us returning a night early. Letting my toe dry out and heal up a little bit also lead to a delay in leaving with Colin for the Woodland Caribou. It also cast some uncertainty on my ability to be in the bush for 10 days straight. After all, if I suddenly got an infection, or somehow made the injury worse, I did not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere. In the end, we decided to head into the park and only spend a few days there. We would only go as far as a single day’s travel from the launch point.

Away we go

Into the Woodland Caribou Park

Our launch point was Wallace Lake.  Our kayaks packed and ready for a few days of fishing.  We headed out across the lake and quickly made our way into Siderock. From there we entered the Wanipigow River system. The river itself was scenic, wide, and easy to paddle for the most part. It was a fair bit of time before we came to our first real portage, and then the fun started.

Portage number 1, a bad sign of things to come

As it turns out, the kayaks that I have are really not meant for portaging. There is no good way to lift them up and carry them, they simply aren’t built and balanced for that. The best wheels I could find for them just flat out didn’t work on anything but smooth flat gravel or rock. For every single portage, we ended up having to carry our gear over first, then come back and drag the kayaks behind us to get them across. This was exhausting, especially when most of the portages were uphill, overgrown, and not clearly marked.

By the time we struggled through all the portages and paddled our way into Crystal Lake, the entry point for the park, 11 hours had passed. We set up camp on a small island that still had some tree cover, ate a quick cold meal, and went to sleep. The trip into the park was by far the hardest backwoods trip I have done yet, and we were both exhausted.

There was a lot of walking through rapids and rocks

 

Crystal Lake, Beautifully Disappointing

Crystal Lake itself was incredibly interesting to camp on. On some shores there was rolling hills and cliffs of bare granite. Others were covered in thick stands of dead pine trees. A wildfire had raged through here a couple years ago, affecting a huge area of the park. It was a stark contrast between the burnt out areas and the ones that were still lush and green. Finding a campsite was difficult. Most of the pre-existing ones had been burnt out. Our home for the night was on a small island with a nice rock shore and some beautiful views of the lake.

Comfy, scenic, hard to complain

Fishing was disappointing, however. We spent all day paddling the entire length of the lake and back, searching for Lake Trout. The park website had said they were there. Unfortunately, we found that the lake averaged about 20 feet. Far too shallow for Lakers. We ended up catching only pike the entire day. As much fun as pike are, and we did have fun catching some big ones, it was a disappointing day of fishing overall. After all, one of the deciding factors for making the trip that far into the bush was the chance to fish for Lake Trout.

Camp was quite nice while we were there

With an excellent meal of venison steaks on the cast iron skillet, we spent the evening relaxing and shore fishing, where we caught a few more pike. We had some discussion and decided that with no lake trout around, that neither of us was all that eager to spend another full day here just catching pike. Early in the morning, we packed up our camp and began the long trip home to search out some better fishing.

We enjoyed our view of the lake both nights we spent there.

The Long Trip Home, Final Thoughts

Overall, the trip was challenging but fun. Our trip back out from the park was much easier and a few hours shorter than going in. We made it home with a little bit of daylight left, physically drained but satisfied that we had made the trip.

Tough trip, but lots of great sights along the way

With the fishing being fairly disappointing, and the difficulty of entering the park where we did, I doubt I will be back that way anytime soon. One great lesson I’ve learned is the limitations of my kayak. I now have plans to buy a proper canoe for areas that require portaging. When that happens, I may return to the Woodland Caribou Park, push deeper into it, and perhaps find those elusive Lake Trout.

Enjoying the scenery as we pass by

 

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