Click to see the full picture

"Northern Lake", (1928) by A.Y. Jackson courtesy National Gallery of Canada.

La Ronge Detour (part 1)

By paddle: 90km; By air: 57.6km.

Satellite photograph of the La Ronge region including Stanley Mission on the Churchill River (courtesy NASA)

Scale: 1pixel=1km

Holiday Island, Iskwatikan Lake.

"Holiday Island", Iskwatikan Lake.

It's a perfect solution—a short detour off the Churchill gives us everything we want. La Ronge: it's small enough that you can actively participate in the community, but large enough that you just might have a chance of remaining sane over the long winter months; the bureaucratic baggage from being the "capital" of northern Saskatchewan ensures there's accommodation for rent; you can paddle into town and out again in spring—though it's not on "the route", a small tweak resolves that; and best of all, it happens to be on one of our maps so we can figure out how to get there!

With the decision made, it feels like we're on holiday: not far to go, and plenty of time to get there—so this is what canoeing should be like. A lazy one-eighty at Stanley Mission, slide back down the Churchill River to Jim's Camp and mooch up over the Nistowiak Falls. Say, let's take time on this portage; we'll linger awhile to talk with this school party and their guides. Now, let's stop early for the night on this small, pretty island...because we can. Even the sun and rubescent sky radiate a feeling of well-being.

Autumnal swansong, Stueck Island, Lac La Ronge.

Autumnal swansong, Stueck Island, Lac La Ronge.

But you still need to be careful, even when you're really relaxed and savouring it. First, a falling marine-railway boat ramp leaves a large lymph-filled lump on Abi's leg (we knew it was a stupid idea that would end in tears.)

Tip: Forget the trolley or railway...just do the portage.

And then the wind starts blowing, requiring a defensive wiggle through Lac La Ronge's drying brush stroke of islands. At its northern end, it's like Lake of the Woods with cabins instead of mansions, the water is cleaner and there are fewer bass boats—fewer people altogether. Doesn't anyone know how beautiful it is here? With less than a day's paddling to our winter home, a choppy two kilometre crossing halted us for the afternoon...and the evening...looked like we were going to be stuck there all the next day too. But a slight lull the following evening gave us the opportunity to bump riskily across. The next morning there was no wind and the lake was glass.

Tip: Don't struggle against the wind. Be patient—it will calm down.

Tip: Learn from your mistakes the first time around.

Our Itinerary

DateFromToDistance (paddle/air)
26 SepEast of church, Stanley Mission
(13 529420E 6141459N)
Small island, Iskwatikan Lake
(13 536734E 6136443N)
22.0/8.9km
27 SepSmall island, Iskwatikan Lake
(13 536734E 6136443N)
Small island between Rubin and Mullen Islands, Lac la Ronge
(13 520280E 6125056N)
21.0/20.0km
28 SepSmall island between Rubin and Mullen Islands, Lac la Ronge
(13 520280E 6125056N)
Stueck Island, Lac la Ronge
(13 499487E 6115835N)
26.0/22.8km
29 SepStueck Island, Lac la Ronge
(13 499487E 6115835N)
Flatland Island, Lac la Ronge
(13 495135E 6114179N)
5.0/4.6km
30 SepFlatland Island, Lac la Ronge
(13 495135E 6114179N)
La Ronge
(13 482151E 6106417N)
16.5/15.1km

All coordinates are UTM/NAD83.

Red sky at night...really red, Iskwatikan Lake.

Red sky at night...really red, Iskwatikan Lake.