Day 1
  Day 2
  Day 3
  Day 4
  Day 5
  Day 6
  Day 7
  Day 8
  Day 9
  Day 10
  Day 11
  Day 12
  Day 13
  Day 14
  Day 15
  Day 16
  Day 17
  Day 18
  Day 19
  Day 20
  Day 21
  Day 22
  Day 23
  Day 24
  Day 25

Canoeing the Kazan River

Kasba Lake to Baker Lake

Northern paddling Adventure #7

25 days, 560 miles, Jul 2001

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2001-07-10Kazan River trip page 1 of 25

The Story of Ray and Jenny Jardines' canoe trip down the Kazan River, summer 2001, paddling 560 miles in 25 days Across the Barrenlands of sub-arctic Canada. A key feature with these trips is the urge to explore and discover, traveling day after day without seeing another person. The beauty of the Barrenlands, its lakes and rivers are incomparable. We love the feeling of openness that goes on and on for hundreds of miles. The feeling that we have practically the whole river - all 560-miles of it - to ourselves. Every stopping place is new, different and fresh. What a privilege to have so much land to explore and enjoy.

See our route along the Kazan River. (click this link and open with Google Earth)

Day 1

Our Kazan River trip began with a three hour flight from Winnipeg, northwards over flat, tree and lake-studded land and an almost complete absence of civilization. Finally arriving at the Kasba Lake Lodge at 10 am, we stepped off the plane and reveled in the phenomenally fresh and crisp air.

Our first glimpse of the Kasba Lake lodge, from the airplane. Note the landing strip behind the lodge.

The remote fishing resort Kasba Lake Lodge features little more than a main dining house surrounded by a modest retinue of rustic cabins. The friendly staff recognized us right away and greeted us cheerfully. For in fact we had spent a week here the previous year, waiting in vain for favorable weather for a trip down the Kazan River. But for various reasons, we had arrived much too late that year, and the weather had already switched into early-winter mode with the prospects of stormy and frigid conditions. Realizing the futility, and in fact the danger of beginning an extended trip so late in the season, we had returned to Arizona with plans to try again the following year - which this now was.

Arriving at the lodge, we are loading the canoe with our river gear

Outside the boat shed we found our familiar Old Town canoe waiting for us, so we carried it to the water's edge and loaded our supply of food and gear, which we had brought with us. The staff generously offered us a free lunch, but having endured a week of storms here the previous year we were not about to waste one minute of this gloriously warm weather. So with due thanks we purchased four liters of stove fuel, along with a pair of Nunavut fishing licenses at $42.50 Canadian each, and at 11:30 am set off into the great unknown.

Kasba Lake is one of many hundreds of extra-large lakes dotting the far north. And like its cousins, it is so large that standing on one side, you cannot see the other. The sky meets the horizon as though you were looking out across an ocean void. Our first task was to paddle some 25 miles of this lake to its outlet, and the beginning of the mighty Kazan River.

About to set off on our grand adventure.

The Old Town canoe was somewhat smaller than the Colemans we had paddled on our two previous trips. It wasn't as roomy and did not afford as much freeboard. A 10 knot breeze was throwing up a bit of chop out of the Southeast, and the canoe did not afford quite the security we were used to. Strange though the canoe felt, we still found the paddling natural and instinctual. Pulling out of the small, protected cove, I surprised myself by making a couple of corrective J strokes without thinking. What a contrast with our first couple of paddling trips - in Upper state New York and on the Thelon River, when we experienced grave difficulties trying to make the canoe go even reasonably straight. And how humorous to think that we had paddled the entire Thelon river stern-first, because we had been unable to determine which end of the Coleman was meant to be the bow.

About a mile into our journey we filled our water bottles directly from the lake, since we had decided against bringing a water filter on this trip.

Shore break

Keeping generally to the west bank, we spent most of the afternoon paddling point-to-point off shore. And thankfully by the time we reached the island crossing, where we needed to cross the lake, we had gained more confidence in the canoe.

The Kazan river system is interspersed with a number of extra-large lakes. And so a voyage down this river entails both river and lake paddling in large amounts. Our first large dose entailed nine hours of paddling along and across Kasba Lake. That evening we made our first camp near the lake's outlet.

Two miles out onto the lake we reached a large, low lying island (seen in the photo above), and this we rounded to its southeast. Then another half mile of open water led to another island, where we stopped in its lee for a shore break.

A glacier-polished slab of rock inclines gently into the water like a boat ramp. The setting was stunningly beautiful, with green vegetation, and the clear, clean water. The sky, however, was smudged in ultra thick cirrus. All afternoon the wind had been holding a steady 12 knots. We were very tired from several days of traveling from Arizona, added to the day's paddling exertions. Still, we were determined to complete the lake crossing and reach its outlet. Especially since the sky portended deteriorating weather for tomorrow.

We finished the lake crossing with another mile's paddling due north to the "East Side Esker," and just around the corner we found some very pretty campsites. But wanting to get closer to the lake's outlet, we paddled on, now fairly dragging ourselves along. About half a mile from the outlet, fatigue suggested we pull into a small, sandy bay, and at 8:30 pm we made camp on its south side. Unfortunately the campsite was very well protected from the wind - meaning that the buzzing hoards of black flies and mosquitoes descended on us in their tens of thousands. For a while I tried eradicating them with an electric Mosquito swatter that I had brought as a test. With it I worked for 15 minutes and even though I was killing bugs by their hundreds, I might as well have been sticking my hand into the lake with the intent of making a hole in the water. The bugs were incredibly numerous. Whimsically, Jenny suggested that this was part of our initiation ritual - if we could survive this, we would be fine. I crawled into the tent with several hundred black flies in pursuit, and spent the next half hour eradicating and removing my assailants from our living quarters. Jenny cooked corn pasta outside, protected in her bug clothing, and of course when she finally came into the tent we had to begin another major bug clean-up.

Since we could not dispose of the electric mosquito swatter, it served as useless baggage for the remainder of the trip, such is the price of experimentation.

The evening camp

We had drank quite a lot of water while paddling, but still were fairly dehydrated. And despite the day's excellent progress, the exertion had us feeling rather like neophytes. Our arms, shoulders, necks and hands were quite tired from the unaccustomed paddling. We had brought only two water bottles, one quart and one half gallon, but now realized that we could have used an additional 2-1/2 gallon collapsible water jug (or even a 2 gallon water bottle) for camp use. When captive inside the tent by the bugs, we were loathe to go outside to fetch more water, and this meant more dehydration.

We were not accustomed to paddling below tree line, and the thick stands of black spruce, white spruce, alder and willow thickets seemed almost claustrophobic. They are very pretty and scenic, but to our minds, which were more accustomed to the Arctic where there are no trees, they were not ideal for exploring inland, nor for camping. Also the tree's diminutive height of only 10 to 15 feet often confused the mind when trying to judge distance. Nevertheless, we were in awe of the beauty of the land, the clean, crisp, fragrant and pungent air. In fact the fragrance was almost overpowering; so strong it almost gave us headaches. The lake water tasted a bit like lake water, but was clear, clean and cold.

Talk about a sudden transition in lifestyle! The moment we had sauntered down from the Kasba Lake Lodge to the canoe and began loading it, we had switched into trip mode. After a couple miles of paddling we joked that this is what life in the wilds is all about - a complete focus on the goal. Yes, paddling 'til your arms feel like they are noodling. But the sense of freedom was something phenomenal. Nothing but us and the pristine wilderness. Living on the ragged edge. Jenny commented that when taking a deep breath of this clean and crisp air you could almost feel the life force surging back into your lungs, unlike in the stuffy airports, motel rooms, and cities.

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