Brightsand - Kashishibog - Kopka Rivers

Day 5 - Kashishibog River west of Kashishibog Lake to Kopka River north of Siess Lake (21 km) 

All maps shown on this page, unless otherwise stated, are provided courtesy of Toporama which contains information licensed under the Open Government Licence – Canada. I have made additional markings to show route information.

I slept through the night very soundly and woke up early. Upon climbing the ridge behind our site for my morning constitutional visit into the back forty, I quickly realized we were camping beneath a gold mine of a blueberry field. As far as the eye could see, there were bunches and bunches of blueberries. It was amazing. I went back up with an empty mug and filled it with berries to make some incredible blueberry-laden pancakes for breakfast.

We took our time breaking camp and leaving the site. The skies were mostly overcast when we departed, but the rain was holding off. I snapped a couple more pics of the area from below and above the chutes as we departed; it was so nice that I couldn't resist.  

Just after 11 AM, we paddled out into yet another widening of the river that easily could have been a named lake. It was a very late start to the paddling day, but we didn't care. We weren't in any kind of hurry and had no real plan to where our destination would be for the evening. We had been making very good time on the trip up to that point. We were just seeing how we felt and would try to find a nice site in the late afternoon when we became tired. 

The river veered to the north and we entered into the western reaches of Kashishibog Lake. Again, we were impressed with the rocky beauty of the shoreline on the Kashishibog system. We noticed a few nice campsites along this section of the route. 

As we moved northeast, further toward the main part of the lake, I made a bit of a navigational error. I misidentified where we were on the map and we ended up paddling too far to the west. Consequently, we had trouble finding the portage into Redsand Lake and ended up wasting a good 30-45 minutes before I realized my mistake. We paddled back to the west and easily found the portage. 

At 463 meters, it was one of the longer carries thus far on the trip, but not one of the harder ones. Despite being a height-of-land portage between two watersheds, it was relatively flat, open, and not within the confines of a thick forest. The trail was easy to follow and traversed through sparsely treed fields of brush, berries, and exposed granite.  

We found an 'artifact' on the portage that was a bit of a mystery to us. Approximately halfway across the portage, we noticed what looked to be a couple of axles from a rail car hiding in the moss under a tree just off the trail. What the heck were these heavy bits of metal doing way out there far from any tracks? Was there a rail line through that area in the past? If not, why, how, and for what reason would someone get these things way out in the middle of nowhere? A mystery, indeed.

We had some snacks at the put-in and then paddled north past a pretty island that separated the southeastern bay from the main part of Redsand Lake. We were now in the headwaters of the Kopka. No more upstream travel! 

There was a fishing lodge on the southwestern shore of the main bay but it appeared to be vacant at the time. 

There were some islands in the centre of the lake and one particular rocky island had some very aggressive birds that didn't seem very pleased about our presence near their home. They lost their minds and began flying in a very erratic pattern before collectively landing on the rock presumably in an effort to protect their young. If anyone knows what species of bird is in the following video, kindly drop me a line if possible.  (**Subsequently, a reader has responded by saying that these are Arctic Terns -- tenacious fellows that apparently hold the world record for longest bird migration. Click here for more info on these determined aviators.)

At the north end of the lake just as we turned to the southwest to get into the waterway that would take us to Siess Lake, I noticed a couple of black dots moving about on the far northeastern shore of the northern bay. It appeared to be a couple of bears, most likely a mother and her cub, most likely enjoying some berries at the water's edge. 

The passage to Siess Lake veered to the southwest and then north again through a shallow weedy channel. It looked like a prime spot to snag a pike, but the only thing I snagged was my lure on deadfall, so we abandoned the effort. 

A headwind came up a bit as we travelled north. It was enough to slow our progress somewhat but manageable; it didn't last too long. We enjoyed the scenery while emerging into Siess Lake. Though it was large, it had a number of rocky islands and shoals that made for very pleasant scenery. 

After emerging through a narrow channel that separated the lake into two distinct northern and southern sections, I spotted a cow moose standing on the shore of an inlet to our right. 

She saw us before we spotted her, yet she just stood there looking across the bay, seemingly unafraid. She then turned her gaze on us and we engaged in a staring contest for a while. I found it strange until I noticed that she was waiting for two calves to finish swimming across the bay to join her. They emerged from the water and then proceeded into the forest together; they were young and adorable. I attempted to get it on video; apologies for the shaky camera work, it was taken only a cell phone. 

Happy after that encounter, we made our way around the point and saddled up to a rocky beach where there was a rough campsite. We had our lunch wraps there. 

I'm not sure if it was because we were still feeling elated from the moose encounter, or if it was because we were getting a little bush crazy on Day 5 of our trip, but we decided to mug for a crazy-looking selfie and give our best "loony in the bush" look before continuing on our trip.

The wind was cool but not strong enough to slow us down much as we continued north. At the top end of Siess Lake, we came upon yet another vacant lodge on the northwestern shore. 

From there, the lake narrowed and began heading east; we knew we had finally entered the Kopka River. It was a good feeling to reach the waterway we had come all that way for. Little did we know at the time, but it would present us with considerable excitement and challenges over the next 6 days. 

After a couple of kilometers of heading downriver, the banks became rocky with gorgeously rugged cliff faces.  

This was followed by a widening of the river filled with a number of islands of flat rock and matchstick trees. It was 5:30 PM by this time, so we decided to make one of these islands our home for the night. 

We found a lovely, if not exposed, campsite on an island at the narrowest point of the river. The only issue was that there weren't any trees large or thick enough to support my hammock. Dad suggested looping the two trees that my hammock was tied to with a number of other nearby trees to hold my weight. It worked like a charm after an initial bit of concern. 

After a great swim and a little fishing, we enjoyed the rest of the evening in that ruggedly beautiful spot on the upper Kopka.