superiortrailsgranite lake in wabakimi Park
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Wabakimi Fly-In Canoe Trip: Chance Lake - Brennan Lake - Allanwater River

wabakimi granite lake

In 2005 I partnered with John Fox, whom I had initially met a few years ago at Madison's Canoecopia Paddlesport & Canoe Expo. John is a veteran of many trips in the Boundary Waters as well as Ontario's Woodland Caribou Canoe Park. Wabakimi would be a new experience for John and for me it would be an opportunity to tackle some more challenging routes with a very experienced partner.

We researched a number of trip options, both on the Internet and talking to Bruce Hyer and Bert Zwicker of Wabakimi Wilderness Outfitters. Doing a whitewater trip down the Allanwater River was an attractive option, but we eventually passed on it due to its popularity. One of John's goals was to escape as much as possible the more traveled routes. Because Allenwater is a terrific trip, it naturally attracts more interest. (I hasten to note that relative to the BWCA or Quetico, a popular trip in Wabakimi remains quite isolated). I wanted some good scenery and fishing. We ended up settling on a fly-in trip to either Sandison or Uneven Lake on the Kopka River system. We'd get some great river canoeing, off the beaten path, some terrific waterfalls, and good fishing. A week or two before our trip Wabakimi Outfitters had another party doing the length of the Kopka from the Allanwater Bridge so we'd get some good current information on portage trails, camping, and navigation.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had a different plan. The night we arrived at the lodge we discovered a forest fire had been burning north of Sandison Lake. We were advised to consider an alternate route in case the Forest Service enacted a travel ban on the Kopka River. Out the window went the culmination of months of planning, emails, and phone calls paring down trip options to one that would best meet our collective interests. While Allenwater and some other options would have been a good second choice, they involved using the train on the front part of the trip. Yet the train only runs westbound into the park three days a week and the next day was not one of them. Post trip commitments prevented us from extending our trip by a few days. And our budget included using a float plane only for one leg of the trip.

Our decision came via an option where we could share a flight with another party who were beginning an Allanwater - Ogoki River trip at the north end of Granite Lake. We would fly into Change Lake and then paddle and portage our way to Brennan Lake and then follow the Allanwater River to the NE arm of Granite Lake where we would rendezvous with the plane dropping off the other canoeing party. Change Lake is on the short cut route from the Nemo River to the east end of Brennan Lake.

Wabakimi Wilderness Canoe Outfitting Services

Views of Change Lake from our island camp site > > >

chance lake wabakimi wilderness park chance lake wabakimi wilderness park
A nice level, spacious tent site > > >
chance lake wabakimi wilderness park  

Our campsite was on the large island near the eastern arm of the lake on the route from Dagger Lake. We fished that arm, around the islands near the center of the lake, and around our island. No Luck.

Day Two

The next morning we headed north, portaging into and through Jeep Lake on our way to Brennan. None of the portages were particularly difficult. A couple were essentially lift overs. High water makes the route easier.

Chance Lake - Wabakimi

The next leg of our paddle and portage was fairly easy. As we entered Brennan Lake, there was a strong wind coming from the NW so we elected to take a SE channel heading towards the outlet, instead of going out into the main portion of the lake where we'd get the full brunt of the wind.

We elected to paddle and portage through the Allenwater River outlet of the lake which took us through (around) a class 5 rapids, a class 2-3 rapids, and Brennan Falls. A much shorter and less time consuming portage around the rapids and falls is available by going due East in a little finger of Brennan Lake, but I wanted to show John the falls and had my eye on a campsite on the lake below the class 5 rapids that I had stayed at a few years ago. So we toughed out the long portage.

As the Allenwater empties Brennan Lake, there are a series of rapids and very fast water that eventually culminates in a roller and a haystack > > >

I read on the Internet an account of some brave souls who tried to run these rapids. They had taken on water in the upper part even before they got here. At the roller they and their canoe parted company and they were swept underwater and bounced along the rocks and eventually ejected at the end. Luckily no one was hurt and in addition they had portaged their gear prior to the experiment!

brennan rapids allenwater river brennan rapids - allanwater river

Being of sounder mind, and in my case an older body, John and I elected to portage around these rapids. It is a fairly long carry, maybe 600 meters, but a good trail. It ends in a harbor that is below the haystack but off the main channel of the river. After loading the canoe, we pushed off into fast water and trailing rapids that turned out to be much easier to negotiate than it looked.

We camped on one of the larger islands in the lake below the rapids and were pleased to discover our island was covered in ripe blueberries. Sleep came easy that night as we had an active day of paddle and portaging.

Brennan Rapids & Falls - Wabakimi

Days Two & Three

The next day we returned to the area below the Brennan Rapids for some fishing (note: some maps identify this as a falls, but the falls are actually downstream below the unnamed lake where we were camping). It wasn't too long before John had one on and the fight began.
brennan rapids allenwater river brennan rapids allenwater river
After several minutes she was ready for me to make the attempt to grab her with my kevlar glove. Luckily I got her on the first try. . . and quite a trophy - 24" . . . We returned her shortly after the photo. brennan rapids allenwater river Walleye
Several more Wallies in the 16-20" range were boated and two of them came home for dinner. Erie-Dearies seemed to be the magic lure of the day. > > > brennan rapids allenwater river

We spent a second night at the same campsite, had another walleye dinner from our favorite fishing spot, and enjoyed some berry picking around the island.

In the evening of the last night at this spot, I donned the sacred headdress of Chief WhicheverWay to call out the mantra that would guarantee mild weather for our morning departure. > > >

allenwater river lake  

Day Four

The next morning, we headed towards the Brennan Falls and the portage to Granite Lake. At the outlet of the lake is Harbinger Rapids which I'd rate as 2 or 3 depending on conditions. Were the falls not immediately downstream separated by some very fast water, I might have been tempted to run it. But I wasn't in the mood to risk us or the canoe going over the falls. If you are tempted to run it, the far right side looks the best and would be the easiest to get to shore if you get swamped.

We were able to line the canoe down the rapids on the opposite side (left side downstream). Then once back in the canoe, you have to ferry to the opposite shore to pick up the portage trail around the falls. (see notations on the map) > > >

John checks out the top of the falls. It is apparent from the second picture why I had little interest in risking going over the falls either in or out of a canoe! > > >
brennan falls allenwater river
The weather cleared up and the wind cooperated as we headed towards the north end of Granite Lake. (near photo) > > >

We camped above Granite Falls. Before nightfall we fished above the rapids and found where the wallies were hiding. Had beautiful evening for sleeping but had some rain before morning.
granite lake allenwater river graniite lake allenwater river

Day Five

After breakfast the next morning, we broke camp at our leisure, waiting for the sun to dry out some of our gear. Our rendezvous was at 12:30 pm south of our campsite about a kilometer in the center of the northern portion of the lake, so we had some time to kill. About 10:30 we heard a plane flying low over our camp. Ten minutes later, a repeat performance. Huh, we thought must be looking for somebody; we hadn't seen another soul on Granite on our way to our site, curious. Then the plane returned and landed in our bay. A guy climbed out on the pontoon and yelled "Ross Reinhold?" It was Bert - two hours early. We broke camp in record time and paddled out to meet Bert and the Otter.

Turned out another forest fire north of us cancelled out the trip of the party who were to be on our shared flight. They had another pickup earlier that morning and took a chance they could find us - which they did. In the excitement and sudden exit, had no time to take pictures. Which I especially regret because we got to fly in a late model turbo prop Otter.


Wabakimi Links

Wabakimi & Kopka River Canoe Trip
Return to Wabakimi & Kopka River - Canoe Camping Trip
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing Canoe Camping trip, Granite and Brennen Lakes,
  Allenwater River
Wabakimi Fly-In Fishing & Canoeing Trip, Palisade River & Kenoji Lake
Wabakimi, Train-in, Fly-out Outpost Camp - Shawanabis Lake
Wabakimi, Fly-in, Fly-out Fishing & Canoe Camping - Chance Lake - Allenwater River   - Granite Lake

Resource Links:
Canadian Canoe Routes
Wabakimi Wilderness  Park
Boundary Waters  Canoe Area
Wabakimi Outfitters  Links




Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)

Research Report
Personality Type & Outdoor Recreation
(including canoeing)