On day 45 we had our first official portage. Having conquered Lake Winnipeg, PACT was in fine paddling form ready for our next challenge- paddling upstream on the Winnipeg River. There are a total of eight dams on the river, all smaller than the three previous gargantuan hydro dams we were escorted around, but still big in their own right. PACT was ready to portage.
We portaged these dams with four crew members- two at the bow and two at the stern. One of our major concerns on our first few portages were our baby deer legs that we had acquired from sitting for the 10-12 hours per day for the first portion of our journey. Our legs were seldom utilized or excersied and getting scrawny. For the first two portages we had four paddlers on the boat and the other two with packs ready to tag in at any moment or for extra support. It didn’t take long before we were very comfortable with utilizing only four people and the other two to begin the gear transfer. Most of the portages were along wide trails, side roads and across paths leading just around or right though the property. The distances usually ranged from about 400 meters to just over one kilometer. With very aggressive wet weather in northern Ontario, all of the dams were wide open and lots of water was flowing fast! More water made paddling right up to the start of the portages a little more challenging at times or added a few 100 more meters to the length of some others.
The most memorable portage occurred at Pointe du Bois. Our research informed us that this was a very straightforward and short portage, even being described as “easy” in one report we researched. However, while the previous paddlers who portaged this dam were correct, what was not taken into account was the current revitalization project occurring at Manitoba’s oldest hydrological dam. There was a 24-hour per day, multi-billion dollar project, which was giving new life to this historic dam. Due to the construction, we could not get anywhere remotely close to the portage. Thus began our first relatively large portage of our journey- an over 3km detour through the streets of the vacated ghost town of Point du Bois, up a highway and around the construction site, eventually back onto the river. It was an adventure of a portage, which caused some tender shoulders, but more importantly would help us to prepare for what was to come in the near future.