Rafting Manitoba’s wild whitewaters

By Derek Gagnon

rafting-293542Manitoba is known for its sprawling prairie, wide-open sky, tens of thousands of lakes and crazy weather. What many don’t know, however, is that the province holds a world-class resource just to the east of Lake Winnipeg: whitewater.

float-planes-are-the-only-way-to-swiftly-access-the-berens-river-whitewater-credit-blue-water-aviationBerens River is one of the best locations in the country when it comes to paddling over whitewater. It is one of the most remote rivers in Manitoba, hardly touched by roads or civilization. It stretches from Berens Lake in northern Ontario to the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba.

The river wasn’t always as isolated as it now is. Berens River First Nation remains as a settlement at the river’s mouth, but during the time of the fur trade in the early 19th century, the route was lined with trading posts. With the decline in the fur trade, so too came a decline in settlement in the area. Berens River, Little Grand Rapids and Pikangikum are the only settlements along the 148 kilometre route (92 miles).

The river drops 190 metres over its length (600 feet). The route is dotted with lakes, swampy muskeg, waterfalls and rapids, with several portages thrown in there for good measure. It’s wild, it’s rugged, and the only way in is by plane. Depending on how long you want your trip to be, Family Lake, Fishing Lake and Night Owl Lake are other possible drop-off points along Berens River.

Berens River has a rating of Class 1-2, and paddlers can expect 20 portages along the route. There are also a number of waterfalls, including Big Moose Falls and Sharp Rock Falls.