Grass River Trip

Tom Widney

LOVES Wooden Canoes
Grass River: Wekusko Lake to Setting Lake, our route was east of the “Grass River Provencal Park” in Manitoba Canada. The trip lasted six days and five nights and could use two days more for layover and wind.
Henry Kelsey was the first European in the area in 1690 wintering at The Pas on his way South and West of the Bay to promote the idea that the Indians travel East to York Factory to trade their furs. A chap by the name of Samuel Herne was the first sent by HBC to open their first inland trading post at Cumberland House with its gateway to the Saskatchewan River Delta at Pine Island, The Pas in 1774. Herne traveled with ten men by way of the “Upper Route” which includes the Grass River on his way upstream from York Factory.
Hey all,
I just got back from running the Grass River, located about a nine hour drive NW of Winnipeg Manitoba. It is a hidden jewel of a river and rarely run, even by the locals. The fire helicopter pilot said we were the first people he had seen canoe it for three or four years. It is located NW of Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba two or three hours and is located near Thompson, Manitoba. The gas stations are all a white knuckling distance apart. Along with a few Cree and fire fighters the locals mine for nickel and log for paper.

It a land of massive lakes and lonely rivers and the Grass is known for having one of the most beautiful chains of water falls in Canada. The river is an olive green, rich in organics for the basis of the little fishy big fishy food chain. For much of the river, Bull Rushes line the banks backed with an impenetrable forest of pine, with old growth Birch stands appearing towards the end days of travel. Otters, beavers and a very healthy Bald Eagle crowd were abundant and the fishing below the falls resulted in a Walleye in near every cast.

Basically a class one paddle for the most part, both entry and exit are across big open water with the possibilities of wind playing havoc... Gods were favorable for us however. The flat river that comprises the beginning of the trip offers little of the Granit shelf campsites of the Canadian Shield as the rivers lazy path flow through the heavy marshes and dense forests. “You takes what you can get for campsites” with clouds of mosquitoes as your constant reminder of your proper place in the scheme of things.

Things changed, however after a couple of nights, as the river flows eastward into the Shield on its way to Hudson's Bay and the tranquil river becomes punctuated with sudden drops in elevation with water falls to take you breath away with their soul. The smaller rapids were lined as the portage trails are non-existent. The falls however, all offered campsites and portages, while the Northern Lights traced their vivid pallet across the night sky in reds and blues….the mosquitoes were few and the fish fresh.

I traveled with an advance crew from Wilderness Inquiry, a nonprofit, looking for new trips to add to their offering. It was as diverse as a crew that I have ever traveled with, including two families. The father of one is a cofounder of WI and a genuine Artic explorer, his son is in love with the daughter of the other, a Norwegian family over on their second joint wilderness trip. All experienced trippers, the crew quickly blended in to make one large family with a healthy sense of humor.

Tom Widney


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Getting Around

Wow Tom, you certainly get around! Assembly in July and then remote Manitoba!

Thanks for the story and pics.