Planning the 2016 WCPP Canoe Trip



The time is here. Time to plan another canoe trip into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park (WCPP)! This year is going to be a bit different for me. I'm planning to fly into the central area of WCPP with my 15 y.o. son and spend 9 days canoeing down from Know Lake to the Glenn Lake area before meeting up with the rest of the group for the second week of canoeing.


UPDATE May 22 2016 : Wildfire is currently raging through the bottom 1/3 of WCPP! Around May 6th a fire started on the Manitoba side of the park and on May 12th it suddenly flared up into a pretty respectable wildfire and quickly consumed many thousands of acres in WCPP. Thankfully nobody has been hurt so far, but several buildings have been lost and many decades of portage trails must be rebuilt. For updates on the fire conditions in WCPP check here and here. For updated fire forecasts and areas affected by the burn click here (don't forget to click the "today" link to make it current). Our plans will definitely have to change because of the fire, as our planned Edge Route goes right into the heart of the burn around Talon River / Lake. Until the fire is under control, there is really no reason to do detailed planning of the second week. Of course, fire is a natural and necessary component of the ecosystem in WCPP but selfishly I am mourning the loss of several Manitoba access points to WCPP and some gorgeous forests around Donald and Talon Lakes.


UPDATE June 08 2016 : Thankfully, the wildfire has been out now for a week or so. Damage assessments are being conducted and we might be OK to travel through some sections of the park near Leano Lake. We'll find out soon and I will update the plans accordingly.


UPDATE June 14 2016 : We have updated our route to eliminate any travel in the recent burn area. See below for details.


I will include all my planning here for overall trip planning information, but for folks who are interested in only the 2nd week (i.e. the group trip), you can click here to skip to that section.


Week One - Vern and Niko


Niko and I are doing a fly-in, drive-out route as a special father / son canoe trip in 2016. This is going to be a two week endeavor where we meet up with a second group after 10 or 11 days traveling by ourselves first. Our first plan was to try a southern loop through Landing Crane, Sylvia and Talon before looping back up to Leano this year as this is the only part of WCPP that we haven't done yet that is realistically accessible for a 6 day loop from the Leano Lake parking lot. This is also known locally as the "Edge Route" because it follows the southern boundary line of WCPP exactly. Due to a wildfire (see above), our plans had to change for the second week to a more central aspect of the park.


A more central park trip suited me fine, since this is the part of WCPP that I haven't explored yet and paying for a float plane isn't cheap. Might as well make it worthwhile! :) After some deliberation I settled on flying into Knox Lake and following the Bloodvein River for a bit through Murdock before dropping down towards Poodle Lake and part of the Minjim Route towards Constellation and Royd. From Royd we'd take our time through Gammon and the Gammon River, possibly taking a day to venture into Haven (I've been dreaming of the Walleye there for a while now!) before continuing through Hanson and Glenn where we'll link up with the second group and finish our trip through Optic, Telescope, Embryo and the Johnson Lake egress. 


After severely injuring my foot 2 weeks before our departure date (making me seriously wonder if we should even bother going!) we changed our plans yet again, on the morning we left Calgary. Instead of flying into the park, we would now be departing from Onnie Lake, just in case my foot couldn't handle the portages - at least we'd be close to the road. The updated route would be two loops, the first around Onnie. Telescope, Hatchet and Douglas back to Onnie and the second from Optic to Glenn, Hanson, Rostoul, Haven, Wrist and Mexican Hat back to Glenn.


Overall Route - Niko and Vern 14 days

[135km of WCPP goodness! Our overall route. ++]

Day 1 - Onnie Lake


Leave Kenora at 6am, get to Red Lake around 9. At the Onnie Lake put-in at noon. We have 8+ hours to get 2.5km and this will test the foot right off the bat.

Total Distance 2.5
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 1005m (350, 30, 625)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike



Day 2 - Onnie to Telescope


With a west wind, this will be an 'interesting' day. Definitely should be ready for a very early start. There are pictographs between Onnie and Telescope in the unnamed (Hjalmar) Lake about half way down the lake on the north shore.

Total Distance 14km
Portage Count 4
Portage Distance 625m (150, 125, 150, 200)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike



Day 3 - Telescope to Glenn


Glenn is pretty large - depending on conditions try to paddle west on the lake before setting up camp. Great fishing, lots of interesting terrain. If the foot is really bothering, this will be where we start to change plans.

Total Distance 14 km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Walleye, Lake Trout, Pike

Can easily add some distance and a few more portages, even all the way to Hansen if things go a bit smoother than predicted, because we will be back in Glenn later in the week.


Day 4 - Glenn to Hansen


A fairly short day, depending on weather and the foot we can either push it to Rostoul or even take a rest day already. The portages were a little messy last time through. There are pictographs on Hansen on the rock wall before the portages leading towards Wrist.

Total Distance 12km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 410m (60, 300, 50)
Fish Types Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye



Day 5 - Hansen to Rostoul


This should be a delightful day. It's very short and Rostoul is a gorgeous lake with great fishing. Could push on to Cyclops or even Haven if we really wanted to or if it makes sense with the weather. This is where I have to seriously assess the foot before possibly doing the route down to Jigsaw and Wrist or staying around Rostoul / Hammerhead / Gammon which has less portaging and more paddling.

Total Distance 7.5km
Portage Count 1
Portage Distance 275m (275)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike



Day 6 - Rostoul to Haven


Depending on the weather and conditions and my foot - we can stay on Rostoul or move to Haven and set up camp there. Haven is supposed to be a pretty magical place and has a TON of camp sites.

Total Distance 5.5km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 805m (150, 80, 575)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike


Day 7 - Haven Lake Rest Day


Day 8 - Haven to Jigsaw


This is where I need to be really honest about my foot. Worst case scenario we turn back to Rostoul at this point. This day is pretty short distance-wise. If we feel really good we could push to Wrist. Jigsaw looks like a really cool lake so I would rather stay here than even in Wrist.

Total Distance 6.5km
Portage Count 2
Portage Distance 875m (300, 575)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike



Day 9 - Jigsaw to Wrist


This is a short day with one long portage and a kick ass camp site on Wrist. Depending on conditions, if we really think it's necessary we can push on to Mexican Hat, but I'd rath

Total Distance 4.5km
Portage Count 1
Portage Distance 825m (825)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout


Day 10 - Wrist to Mexican Hat


Another pretty short day and we could probably take another rest day on Wrist if we wanted to. Depending on conditions.

Total Distance 12km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 695m (100, 70, 525)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout


Day 11 - Mexican Hat to Glenn


This day can be split into two days, we can camp either at the eastern or western end of the lake or use it for a rest day if we know the following day is much better since it's a rest day anyway. Lots of good fishing and camp sites on Glenn.

Total Distance 10km to 15km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 300m (60, 150, 90)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout

Day 12 - Glenn Rest Day (Meet with other group)


PreambleWeek Two - Group Trip

Just like last time we planned a trip, there are many of us (most!) coming from out-of-town. This means we have to be fairly organized ahead of time. Please do take care of anything you can ahead of time so that we're not scrambling last minute with fishing gear, licenses etc, any more than we have to.


Obviously everything listed here is simply a suggestion, or proposal. Routes, gear, food can all be negotiated either ahead of time or on the water to some extent. We're all fairly experienced in the group this year, but I believe it's been a while for Jon and Dylan and WCPP trips are always a bit more 'out there' than some of the ones we've done in the past.


Canoe Partners

Partners for 2016 will be;

  1. Harold | Bill
  2. Vern | Niko
  3. Jon | Dylan



If you have incurred trip expenses (gasoline for the truck, propane for stoves, reservation costs etc) PLEASE keep track of these and bring them along on the trip. The last thing we do on the way home is calculate final costs per person and if you don’t have your costs we can’t include your portion for the group. This keeps things fair for everyone. The following is a cost estimate per person;


Cost Item Comments
$ Canoe Rental Kevlar w/ paddles & life jackets. Harold will pay up front through RLO.
  Canoe Shuttle To Leano from Red Lake. Harold will pay up front through RLO.
$35 Fishing License Order ahead of time - if possible. Individual. Can be purchased at RLO too.
$60ish Day permits (camping) Harold will pay up front through RLO.
$50-75 (estimate) Travel Expenses Gasoline / Costs
$125 (estimate) Food Food should either be done individually or offline with your canoe partner.
TOTAL: $    


Trip Resources

Following are some trip resources, links, documents etc to help with planning.


  • Lakes and Fins (PDF) - A list of fish species by major lake in WCPP.
  • Campsites in WCPP (PDF) - An approximate marking of some camp sites in WCPP - note that these are random sites, not necessarily well used.


Before the Trip

Please try to take care of the following items before the trip. We are all spending considerable amounts of money and time to go on this trip and to wait while a guy spends an hour buying fishing tackle, picking up some booze and/or buying last minute groceries is going to get old really fast... ;-)


Item Comments

Ontario Fishing Licenses

This can be done online - make sure you do this early enough to allow for mailing etc.

Snacks / Drinks / Perishables / Cigars Some of us may have to purchase this the week before or when we fly in.
Food This is a big one. Shared food between canoe partners is up to the canoe partners to arrange who will buy / package what.

Make sure you go over the gear lists and buy everything you need ahead of time including fishing gear, rain gear and general camping gear. Just like last time, we do not want to be shopping for gear the day we drive to Red Lake. Being prepared ahead of time makes things go a lot smoother!


Don't assume that someone else will be bringing an item like camp stoves or cooking gear - ask the group via email before assuming anything.


Gear List

Following is a recommended gear list based on many past canoe trips. Obviously YMMV, but this a good place to start.


Gear List Comment Who's Responsible?
General Gear   ind = everyone for themselves.
Map / Compass No need to buy if you don't have one. We can pick a map up in Red Lake if you want one. Vern / Harold
GPS / Batteries I have this with the route plugged in. If anyone else has a Garmin GPS I can send you the route. Vern
Sunglasses   ind
Sunscreen   ind
Head lamp Much better than flashlight but both work. ind
First Aid Kit I think we have enough of these - maybe bring a small one if you have it. Harold
SPOT Transceiver I will also have a satellite phone from my trip with Niko. Vern
Toilet Paper I would bring two rolls in case Jon does any of the cooking. :-) ind
Matches   ind
Fire Starter Fire logs or paste works great. ind
Knife   ind
Insect Repellent   ind
Water bottles Bring two so that you can always be treating one while drinking from the other. ind
Camera / Batteries   ind
Lenses w/ Covers   ind
Notebook / pen If you want to journal. ind
Sandals Work better than flip-flops unless you're Jon... ;) ind
Runners / Boots For long portages or around the fire - keeps the bugs out if they're really bad. ind
Soap Biodegradable if possible ind
Camping Permit Outfitter is supplying these ind
Camp Saw / Ax Ax is good for splitting wood, saw is quicker for cutting logs. Vern, Harold
Bear Spray For Rod when he's grumpy in the morning... ind
Clothing Make sure you put all clothing in waterproof sacks in your backpack.  
Socks 4 pair ind
Sleep wear   ind
Base Layer T-shirts (2) (quick dry if possible) ind
Mid Layer 1 Fleece Jacket ind
Shell jacket Rain gear ind
Shell pants Rain gear ind
Underwear 1-5 pair (!!) ind
Shirts 1 long sleeved for bugs. ind
Pants Convertibles work great 1 pair is good enough. ind
Shorts / Swim Trunks 1 pair ind
Towel 1 quick dry ind
Bug shirt / mesh May be nice to have - at least some netting for around your face. ind
Take-out clothes For the ride home. ind
Backpack 60-90 liters if possible, the less 'loose stuff' the better and easier it is to do portages. ind
Tent 3 man is nice for every 2 guys. Vern, Harold, Jon / Bill
Sleeping pad   ind
Sleeping bag   ind
Tarp / Rope 1 / tent Harold, Jon, Vern
Large Tarp / Rope We should bring at least one extra 8x10' for the group to huddle under in heavy t-storms! Jon?
Rope 100 feet each should about cover our needs. ind
Stove / Fuel 1 stove and about 8 propane canisters. I'll have my white gas stove and another emergency backup for Niko and I. I think we only need one more camp stove. Harold, Vern
Frying Pan Two should be plenty. Vern, Harold
Pots 1 medium and 1 small per stove. Vern, Harold
Water Treatment Every canoe should have their own. I recommend the drops you can buy at MEC. Iodine is nasty - I would avoid it. Jon, Vern, Harold
Utensils Spork / Knife is good enough. ind
Bowl Plastic ind
Cup Insulated works well. ind
Toothpaste / brush   ind
Deodorant NOT OPTIONAL ANYONE :-) ind
Rod Two piece is nice. 6ft medium action. ind
Reel Spinning / bait casting - I recommend spinning with 8-10lb test line if you're only bringing one. If you're bringing two (and you should), I personally go with a light spinning system with 6lb line for walleye and a medium weight baitcast system with 20lb spectra. ind
Backup Rod / Reel If you're paranoid about breaking a rod or a malfunctioning reel, you should bring a backup rod / reel or a different rod for pike / walleye fishing. ind
Jig heads Your favorite variety, we've had great luck with pink 1/4 and 1/8 ounce. Bring at least 12-24, you will lose some. ind
Jig tails Your favorite variety, we've had great luck with flavored white. Worth the extra $$$ for flavored and / or salted. ind
Spoons For pike / trout. Bring around a dozen of these. ind
Crank baits Your favorite, we've had some luck with larger blue Rapalas with catching Lake Trout. ind
Tackle box Remember, you have to carry all this stuff! I use a thick see-through dry bag for mine - easier to carry than a tackle box and I can see where that stubborn hidden lure is! ind
Ontario fishing license Get this before the trip - online. ind


Food List

Obviously this will vary for each canoe partner pair. Following is an idea of what I'm bringing for 14 days for Niko and I.


Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
7/2/2016 N/A PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Smokies, Cheeze, Wraps. Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/3/2016 Bacon & Eggs Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/4/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/5/2016 Bacon & Eggs PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/6/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/7/2016 Bacon & Eggs Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/8/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/9/2016 Bacon & Eggs Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/10/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/11/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars PB & J (Flatbread), Granola Bars Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/12/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/13/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/14/2016 Pancakes / Breakfast Bars Grilled Cheese (Flatbread), Granola Bars Freeze Dried, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/15/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J Wraps, Fish, Soup Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy
7/16/2016 Instant Oatmeal / Breakfast Bars Soup, Granola Bars, PB & J N/A Chips, Beef Jerky, Candy


Overall Plan

Our original plan was to complete the so-called "Edge Route" of WCPP along the southern border of the park before looping up through Talon Lake and then back through Dragon and Kilburn to Leano. Thanks to the wildfires of 2016, we had to change plans. Rather than deal with the recent burn area, we decided to completely avoid the areas around Leano Lake and instead take advantage of having two vehicles (since Niko and I are heading up there earlier) and do a route from the Onnie Lake access point to the Johnson Lake access.


Detailed Route Plan

Here’s some more detailed distance and route information for each day of the trip.


Overall Route - Group Trip


Day 1 - Onnie to Telescope


This is going to be a very long day for the folks driving up from Manitoba. I'd recommend waking nice and early (03:00) for the drive as with most years. Getting to Red Lake around 10:00 is a good thing as you want to be putting in at Onnie around 11:00 if possible. (Don't forget to pick up my truck on the way through Red Lake and drop it off at the Johnson Lake parking area!! :)


Don't forget to look for pictographs in the unnamed lake between Onnie and Telescope on the north shore about half way along the lake.


The real challenge on Day 1 isn't the distance (only around 10km) but rather the portages. A mile of portages is long, but energy levels should be high and 1000m are done within the first few hours. Fishing should be an excellent distraction. :)

Total Distance 10km
Portage Count 7
Portage Distance 1630m (350, 30, 625, 150, 125, 150, 200)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike

Another option is to stop in Hjalmar and save two portages for early in the day on Tuesday. If the weather is good I'd suggest pushing it on Monday.


Day 2 - Telescope to Glenn (or Optic)


The longest paddling day of the trip, setting us up very nicely for a casual rest of the week, with an option to stay in Optic Lake instead of going all the way into Glenn.


Glenn is a fairly large lake, I would suggest that Niko and I set up a nice camp somewhere on the eastern end of it so that when the group comes through the nice falls section our camp is close enough to fish that part in the evening. Part of me wonders if it's worth camping in Optic and just portaging empty canoes into Glenn on Tuesday afternoon / evening for supper / fish fry and then heading back up the falls to camp in Optic? Optic and Glenn have fantastic fishing.

Total Distance 17-20km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Walleye, Pike

There is an option to make this day a bit easier and stay in Optic Lake. Setting up camp here in early afternoon and then descending the Gammon to Glenn Lake for an evening excursion / fish fry wouldn't be too bad! Otherwise we just need to reverse our route back out of Glenn the very next day...


Day 3 - Glenn to Optic or Telescope


We have options around this day. We can either explore Glenn and / or Optic and keep our camp on Optic if we decide to stay there, or move it from Glenn to the upper reaches of Optic or even Telescope to make subsequent days easier. 

Total Distance 7km
Portage Count to 5
Portage Distance 500m (250, 250) or 730m (100, 60, 70, 250, 250)
Fish Types Walleye, Pike, Lake Trout


Day 4 - Optic to Upper Hatchet


A nice day with some great fishing on the way. We could start to run into boat traffic here but probably not a ton. Not a lot of campsites marked on the map but I think there's plenty of choices. These lakes aren't tiny, so I think we should be prepared to get up pretty early to avoid afternoon winds.


Anchor Lake would be a cool side trip which makes the day quite a bit bigger, but we could do it with empty (light) canoes after setting up camp. Maybe an evening excursion?

Total Distance 18km
Portage Count 5
Portage Distance 880m (70, 60, 100, 200, 450)
Fish Types Pike, Walleye, Lake Trout



Day 5 - Upper Hatchet to Onnie


Another day that involves some pretty large lakes and very good fishing. We will probably see other boats on Douglas. There's a ton of camp sites on Onnie.

Total Distance 18km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 630m (450, 150, 30)
Fish Types Lake Trout, Pike, Walleye



Day 6 - Onnie Egress


This will be a relatively energetic exit with a few longer portages - but the gear should be light at this point... :)

Total Distance 3km
Portage Count 3
Portage Distance 1005m (625, 30, 350)
Fish Types Pike, Walleye