Saturday, May 21, 2022

Devil's Lake

We popped out to Devil's Lake out by Onoway last weekend. It was a gorgeous day and the lake was good. The boat launch (below) was in good shape. It was a bit busy when we arrived around lunch but there was plenty of parking. The lake was about the same level as last fall but, according to one fisherman, several feet below last spring?

We paddled along the north shore towards the outlet into the Sturgeon River.

There was lots of room to go under the bridge (not so last spring, said the fisherman). 

We floated maybe a kilometre downstream past beaver dams and such. Lots of ducks and shorebirds and red-winged blackbirds.

There was evidence of beavers but none to be seen. We did find a muskrat back in the lake.

And two pelicans, some marbled godwins (not pictured) and a lot of ducks and coots.

Overall, a super nice day with no wind.

Definitely worth the trip if the weather is good. A few more weeks until the trees are fully leafed out,

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Muir Lake

We've been paddling on the Sturgeon while we've waited (and waited) for the ice to come off the lakes. We snuck out to Muir Lake on Tuesday night after dinner.

The birds were incredibly active, pairing up and nesting on the island. We saw a huge number of loons plus what I think was an Osprey overhead carrying a fish.

There were a few folks out finishing but we mostly had the lake to ourself.

It was a bit cool as the sun started to set but very happy to be back on the water.

I'm hopeful the weather will cooperate and I can get out to Johnny's Lake next.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

First paddle of the year

I got out on the Sturgeon on April 4. Not quite the earliest paddle ever, but close. I put in at the Riel launch. It was muddy and quite slippery (and I almost dumped!) but was otherwise fine.

There was lots of water this year (unlike last year) and the sun came out intermittently.

The river was open up to Big lake (which still had ice) but I went downstream.

Lots of early birds but no muskrats yet. No one else on the river at lunch time.

The shore was pretty drab but will brighten up in the next couple of weeks. The beaver dam that blocked the river at the children's bridge last summer was underwater, with only one stick poking up above the water.

The Mission launch was also good to go.

There were a couple of places where there was still an ice pack (e.g., the south channel by the beaver lodge) but it was easy to avoid.

Overall, great to back on the water. The launches on the North Saskatchewan are opening up and Laurier was clear on Thursday. If the weather cooperates, I will hit that before the run off starts.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

End of Season

I wrapped up the 2021 paddling season with a couple of trips on the river (the last being November 5) before the frazil pan got too thick. 

The Emily Murphy launch was open again (albeit a much crappier entry point now) and other than having to chop through some ice to get out, it was a nice way to end the year (rescued a traffic cone that was accessible with the water being low).

These last few mid-day paddles saw me have the river to myself, which was lovely. I also managed to rescue a can of booze floating downstream (Watermelon flavoured hard seltzer--yuck).

The late paddling saw some interesting ice formations (frozen spring below).

The muskrats were happy to sit up on the ice and there was some interesting slush to plow through.

Overall, this was a great year. I paddled 45 times and we visited 14 new lakes/creeks. 

Looking forward to trying some new lakes south and north of town next year. Also hoping to take another trip into north Saskatchewan.

Happy new year!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Kettle Lake (?)

In mid-October, we hauled back out to the Chickakoo Nature Reserve to paddle a lake that runs along the north side of the reserve. It doesn't appear to have a name but looks like it was once part of Kettle Lake (which is due south) so that's how I titled this post. The link above goes to google maps but, since access is tricky, I screen shotted a portion of the map.

So the best access we could find is on the east end of the lake, right where Range Road 12 intersects Township Road 540 (yellow arrow). There is a "dead end" sign (below) and 15 feet to the east of that is a culvert that brings the lake right to the edge of the ditch. We just parked on the shoulder.

The bank is pretty steep and then you get to make an exciting DIY entry. We had to bum scoot the boats about eight feet before they floated free. The lake level is up quite a bit due to beaver activity so you then need to navigate a small forest to get out on the the lake properly.

The lake itself is quite nice. Iced tea water but no real smell. Lots of birds, though, with nesting boxes all around the perimeter.

The two halves of the lake are connected through a swampy narrows.

Some deadheads here plus a lot of muskrats. Nothing too difficult at this water level. I'm not sure it would be navigable at the normal water level.

The western basin is smaller but also pretty nice (below). There is a road along the north and west shores. You could get in at the west end of the lake, but the bank is steep. The north road is much higher than the lake so that would be a sucky (or extremely exciting, depending upon your perspective) entry.

The sun was beautiful while we were out and the kid showed off what she's learning in her botany class.

On the way back, we followed the south shore and found where the lake used to drain towards Kettle lake. The beavers have dammed this up and the lake is several feet above its natural level.

Overall, a fun paddle with a rustic entry and no one else on the water. The shoreline is about 4km around and took maybe 90 minutes without any hurrying. We did see some hikers from the Chickakoo trails plus some horses from a farm the juts out into the lake.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Chickakoo Lake

On the Thanksgiving weekend, we went out to Chickakoo Lake for the first time in years. We've walked around here but I don't think we've ever paddled. 

The place was hopping and we snagged the last parking spot by the boat launch but there was no one on the lake (lots of hiking and picnicking). Some other paddlers showed up just as we were pulling out.

There is a dock, boat launch (sort of), dock, and pit toilets and picnic table there. We had to push a bunch of logs out of the way to use the launch and the water was pretty green.

The lake was surprisingly small once we go out on it. Nothing wrong with it but you could paddle the perimeter in half an hour if you you really hauled. The map suggested we might get into Kettle Lake via a creek but that is not the case.

We had a pretty good time puttering around and playing in the aeration bubbles.

The sun came out at the north end of the lake, near the scout camp. I fished out a float, lure and 40 feet of line someone had lost.

There were lots of muskrats to watch.

Overall, this was a fine enough paddle but a bit shorter than I wanted. It wa sonly about 6 degrees when we started so Jess was perhaps happy to be done so quickly!

More interesting to me is the seemingly unnamed lake (perhaps once part of Kettle Lake?) that is immediately north of Chickakoo and runs east-west just south of Township Road 540.  It looked like there was sore access on the east end off the road.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Johnny's Lake

On the Thanksgiving weekend, I ventured out to Johnny's Lake, just west of Stony Plain. Access to Johnny's Lake is a bit tricky the first time so I have put a map below. You take Highway 16 west of town then turn south on Highway 770 (just past the big turn north to Whitecourt). 

Go south on 770 and then turn west on Township Road 530. After four miles, this road curves south and becomes Range Road 25. Alternately, you can come up Range Road 25 from the south (Star Lake). Range Road 25 is the north-south road on the right side on the map below. 

Turn into the community and drive to the red arrow, which is an unmarked lane that leads to the boat launch (green arrow). There is lots of room to park at the boat launch but no other facilities (nearest washrooms are at Star Lake to the south, I think).

The launch itself was a mixed bag. About an 18-inch drop down to a small shelf of soft weeds and mud. Then a very nice, shallow gravel bed under the water. But the water was very green. 

I was happy to get away with mostly dry feet. The water further out was iced-tea coloured with patches of green.

The lake was very pretty and I was the only one on the water. There were a couple of power boats at cabins on the south end but I don't see a public launch anywhere. Too many hazards for boats to go very fast anyhow.

The water was super calm so there were great reflections. The shoreline was shallow and weedy almost the whole way around.

But there are three big islands for interest and lots of evidence of beaver activity.

The geese and ducks were super skittish. But there was still some lovely fall colour to enjoy.

I found a couple of shells floating in the water, which might explain why the birds were ansty!

Paddling the perimeter is maybe 90- to 120-minutes. Lots of dead heads in places but a nice enough lake. I imagine there would be lots of birds to see in the spring. The lake is big enough (and open enough on the west) that it could get rough if there was a good breeze.