Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kayaking the Little Saskatchewan River

My hubby and oldest daughter headed out on what was supposed to be a 2.5 to 3 hour kayak adventure on the long weekend. He GPS'd the distance and said that it was about 13 kms as the crow flies, what he did not take into account was how this very old river meanders.

I dropped them off at the bridge on hwy 354 and was to pick them up 3 hours later at the first bridge along hwy 250 just south of Sandy Lake. Despite the weather being somewhat inclement, they decided that yeah, they were going to do the river and just hope it didn't pour on them. It was drizzling when they left. I had my doubts about this but I was just the driver and just needed to be there when they finished. I didn't want to drive all the way back to Clear Lake so invited a good friend along, reassuring her that hubby said it would only be about 3 hours maximum.

While they navigated the wilds of the river, my friend and I went exploring ourselves. We went into the small community of Elphinstone where we discovered a mid-sized home with a small wind turbine and solar panels that were obviously being used to supplement power for their home. I was tempted to knock on their door to ask them questions about it and hopefully get a tour of how it operated but unfortunately I held back and just paused on the road for a few moments before we drove on. This is a very tiny community with some lovely gardens and lots of trees.

We then continued down the road and went off to the community of Sandy Lake. It is located in a beautiful rolling landscape that boasts a fair-sized lake and gorgeous golf course. I don't know the population of this lovely little town but it is small and like many others in rural areas, it's numbers have declined over the years.

We discovered a new shop called "Generations" while there that had recently opened up mid-summer. It turned out to be lovely. It serves coffee, tea, and lunches that are to die for. Besides being very reasonably priced, the cinnamon buns are exceptional and their wraps are huge and everything is made from scratch! The ambiance factor is also delightful and there is much to discover and purchase, should one desire. It turned out that I knew the owner, Carrie, and we were pleased to compliment her on how much we enjoyed her shop. We will definitely make it a destination for a lunch or a shop later in the fall!

We couldn't dally too long at the shop because time was catching up to us and we still had to get to the bridge on highway 250. Never having been there, I was uncertain how long it would take us to get to our destination. As it turned out, it was actually just a spit away and we were there before we knew it. We found a scenic little spot beside the bridge to park and wait. The day was much improved from earlier and we enjoyed our break. And so we waited, and waited, and waited some more and soon realized that it was well after 5pm and they should have been back already. We had no cell phone reception down in the valley and could not contact them, even when we tried. We thought maybe if we headed back up the hill we could get reception and sure enough, we did. We could not contact them, just others. So down the hill we went again to see if they were at the bridge. Still no kayakers.

Time was beginning to stretch, so we pulled out some binoculars and watched a beaver swim around and several small birds and a large hawk flying. Time was stretching even further and around 7pm we were starting to get a little concerned as it had been 5 hours since we dropped them off and it would be dark in just over an hour. We weren't sure what to do so headed back up the hill and into Sandy Lake to see if any of the locals would know anything about the river. No such luck, everything was closed up tight for the evening. We headed back to the bridge and on the way there stopped in at a farmsite at the top of the hill hoping that someone was there and knew about the river. We were fortunate enough to meet the owner and I think his son and explained our predicament. They were more than generous and hopped on their quad to a lookout point further down that overlooked about 2-5 miles of the river. We told them we would head back down to the bridge. They left and we headed down the hill again. It was already 6 hours later and 8pm. It was now definitely dusk and darkness was falling. As we crossed over the bridge to turn around, we caught sight of the kayakers about 100 feet down the river. I laughed with relief and turned around. We pointed out the best spot to climb up the rather steep bank. They came up jubilant but exhausted. Mr. van Damme came down the hill on his quad when he spotted them and we thanked him once again for his efforts to help us. It is nice to know that there are such generous people in this world.

Not surprising, there is a moral to this story which is not to believe everything the GPS shows - many of the loops, etc in the river were not even on the map that was displayed because of the constantly evolving nature of the river. The reading of their trip on the GPS looked like a twisted piece of yarn that turned back on itself numerous times. What we thought would be possibly about 15 kms or so turned out to be about 30kms, double the distance and double the time.

The upside is that they had a wonderful adventure and saw a part of the river that very few people ever get a chance to see. They saw many beaver, an old log cabin, lots of birds and found several very old bones and unique limestone rocks that had holes worn right through them. As the driver, I found a lovely gift and luncheon shop that my friend and I will visit once again. It was a good day for everyone!


  1. HA! I could have told him that a GPS will try to murder you at the first opportunity. Mine once tried to make me drive the wrong way down a one-way street.

  2. I guess paddling a kayak for 6 hours or so isn't as bad as going down a one-way street the wrong way - at least you know you will come out of it alive. Technology is sometimes next to useless.