Wabakimi Wilderness Park is an immense expanse of pristine wilderness exhibiting the best representation of boreal forests. Wildlife includes rare and elusive woodland caribou, moose, wolves, bald and golden eagles, otters, marten, fisher, wolverine… and the list goes on and on! Fishing is superb for walleye, huge northern pike, and trout…both lakers and speckled trout. It has copious amounts of canoe routes, both flatwater and whitewater. No matter your age or skill level, we can keep you in excellent new canoe routes for your entire life!
It’s been quite the active year in Wabakimi in 2018: flying, fishing, guiding (fishing, canoeing, moose hunts), dock construction, building and clearing canoe routes, paddling, trip planning for others (canoeing and/or fishing trips). Here are just a few updates from the past year.
I bought a newer and bigger floatplane, a Cessna 175 with a big engine. I don’t fly my guests (we use Beavers and Otters for that), but the Cessna is useful for flying staff and supplies. Most days it’s fun. Old Pilot quote: “It is better to be on the ground wishing that you were in the air, than to be in the air wishing that you were on the ground”. One flying challenge (besides weather, mechanical issues, maintenance, navigation, etc.) was the Wabakimi wildfires last summer. There is little doubt that climate change is having an effect around the globe, including in Wabakimi. Mind you, Wabakimi is huge (at 5 million acres twice as big as PEI or the state of Connecticut if you include all the contiguous waterway parks, Nature Reserves, and Conservation Reserves). So, even in a year with lots of fires, there are lots of canoe routes to divert to that are safe and mostly upwind of the smoke! But the flying was challenging at times, with the help of instruments at times to maintain altitude and heading. I am very glad that I took instrument and flight training years ago! The floatplane is useful for checking on canoeists and servicing our 6 remote outposts in and around Wabakimi.
We sold the 3 outposts east of Wabakimi. Long flights in the wrong direction. But we bought and are upgrading 3 more! Kawaweogama is south of Allanwater. Redman and Burntrock (unbelievable walleye fishing!) are way up on the northern edge of Wabakimi, near the Albany River. Windfall (small and rustic, but my fave!) is in the center of the park. Shawanabis is where I lived for two years in the mid-70’s (see “Small Boy’s Real Log Cabin”). So now we have 5 outposts accessible by floatplane or canoe. The sixth at Allanwater Bridge, is a historic “ghost town” accessible by either bush train or floatplane.
My big loves in life besides flying are family, music, wilderness, and paddling. When I feel bad, I go paddling… and I feel better. When I feel good, I go paddling… and I feel better! Last summer, Margaret and I spent a week with 2 friends paddling the entire Kopka River (southern boundary of Wabakimi). We cleared trails, updated notes, and had a great time. It is a wonderful fly-in/paddle out trip! This spring I plan to paddle the Palisade River from Burntrock Lake to Whitewater Lake and clear blowdowns, add campsites, and update notes and maps. Cliffs, caribou, pictographs… and lots of walleyes. Any volunteers to come along and clear trails?
When I set out in the mid 70’s to create the largest wilderness paddling reserve in the world, a large part of the goal was to protect one of the last herds of woodland caribou, threatened by proposed roads, logging, mining, and other human activities. Along the way I got a Master’s degree on caribou. It was 25 years of “Wabakimi Wars”. Now I am pleased to report that caribou numbers are increasing. My estimate is up from about 300 to about 500 animals. About half of our canoeists (the quiet ones!) see caribou. Wabakimi caribou have smaller antlers and bigger bodies (600 lb on some bulls!) than barren ground caribou. They calve on islands in May-June (canoeists: stay off those islands!), browse like whitetails until fall, and in the winter they dig down in the snow to eat ground lichens, along with the arboreal lichens (Old Man’s Beard) hanging off the trees.
The phone is ringing daily from folks wanting help planning canoeing or fishing trips. I am getting excited about Wabakimi 2019! Perhaps see you at Canoecopia? Mid West Mountain Expo in April? Or Wabakimi ?!