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GrassRiverRecreation

Sites with Sound
As you travel the Grass River canoe route, you will be accompanied by
the haunting call of the loon, one of Canada's most graceful and
emblematic water birds.

Canoeing a Land of Lakes
As you paddle east through Reed Lake, on your way from Flag Lake, First and Second Cranberry Lakes (or Simonhouse Lake), Elbow Lake, Iskwasum Lake, and Loucks Lake, and enroute to Tramping Lake, Wekusko Lake, Pakwa Lake, Setting Lake, Philipps Lake, Paint Lake, and Split Lake, you may have to remind yourself that you are canoeing the Grass River.

 

In its upper reaches, the 570-kilometre waterway that begins at Simonhouse Lake, roughly halfway between The Pas and Flin Flon (a day's drive north of Winnipeg), follows a jagged, up-and-down course through a lengthy chain of oddly-shaped lakes. The directional flow of the upper river is somewhat fickle, first heading east and southeast, before veering sharply to the northeast, taking another slight dip to the south and east, and climbing steadily northeast to its confluence with the Nelson River.

 

It is the lake chain of the Grass River that is most likely to put your advanced canoeing skills to the test; on larger water bodies, such as Reed Lake and Wekusko Lake, winds can be strong and storms can develop suddenly. The river itself is generally small, and of moderate difficulty; most rapids and waterfalls require portaging, and there are only a few stretches of runnable whitewater. The combinations and contrasts of the Grass River waterway give it an overall "intermediate" canoeing classification.

In the days of river highways, the Grass Route was favoured by hunters, fishers and fur traders. Today, it is a popular and well-documented recreational canoe route. Although much of the waterway retains its wilderness character, with long stretches of secluded, undeveloped shoreline, canoeists are never far away from road access or essential services. There are several convenient put-in and take-out points along the route, and an ample supply of serviced campground and designated backcountry campsites at Grass River Provincial Park, Wekusko Falls Provincial Park and Paint Lake Provincial Park.

Planning Your Grass River Canoe Trip
If you are going to follow in the footsteps of the fur traders, all the way from Cranberry Portage to Split Lake, plan to spend about 3 weeks on the Grass River. Many canoeists choose a shorter section for their trip: 2 weeks are likely to get you 370 kilometres from Cranberry Portage to Paint Lake, just southeast of Thompson, while 1 week will take you from Cranberry Portage to Wekusko Lake, a challenging, scenery-packed trip of 190 kilometres. Count on several portages (at least 8 to Wekusko Lake, about 23 to Paint Lake), with an average length of 200 metres. (Canoiests paddling through Tramping Lake, on their way to Wekusko Falls, will be treated to the sight of the Tramping Lake petrographs, one of Manitoba's most significant aboriginal rock painting sites.) If you are planning to paddle the Grass, you will require topographic maps for each lake and community on the route; detailed canoe route guides for the river are also available.

Grass River Waterfall Walks
During your camping vacation in one of the Grass River's provincial parks, or your holiday at one of the area's lakeside fishing lodges, take time to view the natural wonders of the waterway's highest waterfalls. The river's sudden and dramatic drops can be seen -and heard - at three spectacular locations:

 

Wekusko Falls - Just 27 kilometres east of Grass River Provincial Park, as Tramping Lake gives way to Wekusko Lake, the Grass River plunges 12 metres through a series of falls and rapids. Follow the walking trails close to the falls, and feel their spray as you cross 2 swinging footbridges over the rushing water. Camp near the roar of the river at the Wekusko Falls Campground, part of the the Wekusko Falls Provincial Park. The falls are located east of Flin Flon, and northeast of The Pas on Highway 392, between Highway 30 and Snow Lake.

 

Pisew Falls - Can you hear the hiss of the lynx? First Nations hunters of long ago named these falls for the spine-tingling sound of the sleek and secretive wilderness feline. At Pisew Falls, the Grass River drops 13 metres, changes directions and thunders down through a rocky gorge. A short boardwalk along the top of the falls leads to 3 observation platforms. For a closer look at the water, follow the .5 kilometre walking trail to a recently-constructed and impressively-engineered suspension bridge that spans the Grass River below the falls. Pisew Falls are easily accessed by road, just off Highway 6, between Wabowden and Thompson. The site is about 70 kilometres southeast of Thompson. You can camp nearby at Paint Lake Provincial Park.

 

Kwasitchewan Falls - At 14.2 metres, Kwasitchewan Falls are Manitoba's highest waterfalls. Reaching them requires a 6 - 8 hour backcountry hike through spruce, pine and tamarack forests on the 22-kilometre hiking trail from Pisew Falls. Plan to camp overnight at the far end of the trail - a designated backcountry campsite is available for long-distance hikers. Waterfall enthusiasts should keep an eye on local recreational developments: a challenging but short 6-kilometre trail connection between Pisew Falls and Kwasitchewan Falls is in the works.

 

Trophy Sport Fishing on Grass River Lakes
Reed Lake, Tramping Lake, Paint Lake, and many lakes in between - the clean, cold water bodies of the Grass River waterway are well known for their dependable trophy catches. Walleye and northern pike are the big winners, often ranking high in official tallies, but rainbow trout, lake trout and brook trout are also big and plentiful. Comfortable, well-equipped fishing lodges are located on the systems' major lakes; most provide ATV or fly-in access to remote backcountry lakes where the fish vastly outnumber the fishers. Count on a catch-and-release trophy trout catch at a specially-stocked trout lake.

Grass on Ice: The ice fishing season in northwestern Manitoba is extra-long, extending until the end of April. Any drill hole in the thick ice of Grass River lakes is likely to produce a satisfying catch of walleye, lake trout or northern pike (bet on Reed Lake for a trophy fish). Road access to Grass River ice fishing sites is good; some lodges stay open year-round, offering, winterized cabins as a comfortable and convenient ice fishing base.