Ungava Bay Final Stage in the Hubbard and Wallace Saga
July 2008

(Click on image for larger view)


To see on a map where I was for each photo below, note the date of the photo and click here. This will open an on-line map of Google Earth, specific to the canoe trip. Click on the benchmark with the same date and it will take you to the point on the map where I spent that night and will be within a few kilometres of where the photo was taken. To keep the map available for immediate reference, leave it open as a second window on your browser.

July 14, 2008, 9:39AM Day 1: The Ossokmanuan Reservoir is located south of the Smallwood Reservoir. It was created as part of the Churchill Falls Hydroelectric project in the 1960s and covered up Lake Ossokmanuan. My canoe trip started where Trans-Labrador Highway 500 crosses the reservoir.

Robert Irwin dropped me off at the edge of Ossokmanuan Reservoir on his way to North West River for his trip up the Susan River (his trip is shown on the map above also). Trans-Labrador Highway 500 runs from Labrador City to Goose Bay via the town of Churchill Falls. The bridge across Ossokmanuan Reservoir is about 70 kilometres before Churchill Falls.

 

 

My plan was to canoe north to Ungava Bay, some 800 kilometres away. This would complete my retracing of the Hubbard and Wallace saga which took place in 1903 and 1905.

As can be seen in the map above, the canoe trip would also allow me to retrace the former shorelines of the historic Lake Michikamu, made famous in the Hubbard and Wallace saga, as well as Lakes Ossokmanuan, Gabbro and Lobstick. The lakes are now under metres of water but the hills and other features which surrounded the lakes are still visible. Ive superimposed the reservoirs on a map dating from before the Churchill Falls hydroelectric project.

 

 

July 14, 2008, 11:07AM: At 6 feet 4 inches, I dwarf my 14-foot canoe. Ive been doing long trips in it since 2004, although this one is several times longer. I had to increase the height of the seat and move it back in order to be able to paddle hard all day for days on end. The arrangement is more stable than it looks thanks to the heavy load in the canoe, the fact that the canoe is quite wide for its length and is a tumble-home design. The 800-kilometre end to the trip seems very far away at this point. Neither Robert who took this picture nor I are confident at all that Im going to make it.

July 15, 2008, 6:25PM: This is the end of the second day, after a hard struggle the first two days against a west wind.

 

 

July 16, 2008, 7:03PM: The campsite for day 3, having made the turn for the north on the Ossokmanuan Reservoir. The waves in crossing the width of the reservoir, propelled by the seemingly eternal west wind, were bigger than I expected. Thank goodness I had a spray deck. The life jacket in the tree was in order to make it easy to find the campsite in the forest as I carried things in from the edge of the reservoir. There was a violent thunderstorm during the night which didnt affect me at all thanks to being sheltered in the forest.

July 17, 2008, 11:17AM Day 4: Ive arrived at the northern end of the Ossokmanuan Reservoir. Behind me in the distance is the Gabbro Control Structure which regulates the flow from this reservoir into the Smallwood Reservoir. The ominous roar coming from it was a good reason to land well away from it.

 

 

The reason for the roar.

The structure is an automatically controlled gate.

 

 

July 18, 2008, 4:07PM: The ride downstream through the narrow channels below the control structure was likely to be a wild one, especially if the gate opened even further unexpectedly. Two very kind Newfoundlanders, Frank Barnes and Wayne Hart, took pity on me and gave me a lift to a point past the second major control structure, Lobstick, which feeds the Churchill River and the 3,600 MW power station further downstream.

The Lobstick Control Structure. It seems that people have been swept through them to their deaths.

 

 

July 18, 2008, 6:10PM: My starting point on the Smallwood Reservoir.

July 20, 2008, 10:31AM Day 7: Ive turned north again and in effect am travelling close to what used to be the western shore of Lake Michikamau. My strategy on both reservoirs was to travel island to island as much as possible and never be more than a kilometre from a shore line.

 

 

July 21, 2008, 5:35PM Day 8: Sometimes I had to camp in an exposed area, trusting that the cords on the top and sides of my tent will keep me from being blown away if hit by another thunderstorm of the kind experienced on July 16th.

July 22, 2008, 10:03AM: It is day 9. Im now nearing where the reservoir merges with Lake Michikamats.

 

 

Drama on the shoreline? A caribou track followed by a wolf track.

July 23, 2008, 11:26AM Day 10: Lake Michikamats is just ahead, but first there is going to be a struggle over slippery rocks and rapids running south as I leave the reservoir behind.

 

 

July 23, 2008, 9:14PM Day 10: Camped on Lake Michikamats. I had hoped to make it to Lake Adelaide and say that I had completed the 240 kilometres across the reservoirs in 10 days, but finally had to pull up three kilometres short.

July 24, 2008, 9:14AM Day 11: The connection to Lake Adelaide turned out to be very complicated. I was afraid at this point that a major portage lay over ahead over very rugged terrain.

 

 

July 24, 2008, 12:46PM: There turned out to be passages which one got through by a combination of furious paddling and pulling and pushing the canoe, although I finally did have to portage about 100 metres over slippery boulders.

July 24, 2008, 1:43PM Day 11: After some looking I finally found the connection to Lake Adelaide. The George River awaits ahead!

 

 

July 25, 2008, 3:18PM Day 12: Being swept into Lake Hubbard from Lake Elson after crossing the height of land forming the border between Labrador and Newfoundland, and Quebec. The water is now flowing north.

July 26, 2008, 5:53AM Day 13: Early in the morning after being forced off Lake Hubbard the day before by wind.

 

 

July 27, 2008, 11:06AM Day 14: The rapids start getting serious.

July 27, 2008, 12:04PM: The end of a bout of walking my canoe down a rapid.

 

 

July 27, 2008, 7:54PM: Island campsite safely hidden in the forest after a hard day with the rapids.

July 28, 2008, 9:03AM Day 15: A moment which I thought would never happen! There was a great splashing to my left. In front of my startled eyes all I could see were caribou cascading into the water. Up to this point in my years of retracing the saga I had seen a sum total of one caribou 400 metres away, mostly hidden by the trees and running away. I thought they would immediately rush off the lake and disappear the second they saw me. I nearly dropped my camera into the water in my rush to get a picture before it was too late! In fact they ignored me completely as they paddled by.

 

 

July 29, 2008, 10:04AM Day 16: It turned out that it was going to be my year for caribou! The next day, on Lake Resolution, as I looked for a way up the hill at Point Montagnais, low and behold I saw caribou, lots of them! They were swimming in groups from a point about 2 kilometres distant, to Point Montagnais.

July 29, 2008, 9:44AM: No comment required!

 

 

July 29, 2008, 10:01AM: Mamma and little one showed me the way up Point Montagnais.

July 29, 2008, 10:43AM: I landed my canoe a short distance from where I saw the caribou going ashore (I didnt want them clambering over it!) and headed up the hill. Half way up there was a crashing behind me as another herd arrived through the trees. I quickly got out of the way.

 

 

July 29, 2008, 10:43AM: They had a good look at me and then kept on going.

July 29, 2008, 10:48AM: My original reason for climbing to the top of Point Montagnais was to see if I could find signs of occupation by the Innu from the past. Mina Hubbard and Dillon Wallace both stopped here in 1905 to visit with the Montagnais. My picture taking was a bit tricky as it was drizzling rain the whole time.

 

 

July 29, 2008, 10:49AM: The traces from tepees, if they are here, are less evident than I later was to see during my stop at Wedge Point on August 7 and 8th. However, this clearly must have been an area chosen over the centuries by the Innu to keep watch for migrating caribou, as was the case at Wedge Point.

July 30, 2008, 8:45AM Day 17: The next day I arrived once again at the rapid where Wallace and Easton almost lost their lives in 1905.

 

 

July 30, 2008, 8:55AM: I walked my canoe down a rocky side passage in 2006. The side of the rapid above looked runnable and this year I decided to try and run it. I made it, although just barely as there is a violent eddy on the way down which whips the front of your canoe into the rocks at the edge, bouncing you backwards into the nearest standing wave.

July 30, 2008, 3:24PM: That afternoon I arrived at the Three Gorges. In 2006 I portaged on the opposite side where from this picture is taken looking north. The water leading to it was much higher than in 2006 and it was impossible to access the other side.

 

 

July 30, 2008, 3:44PM: The George River doubles in size at the outlet of the Three Gorges as a river from the east joins it. I had to get over the ledge above in 2006 and initially it looked like I would have to do it again.

 

To continue, click here.

 

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