Monday, November 9, 2009

Notes On Talk With Bob O’Hara

We met at his house in St Louis Park which is a museum of far north canoe trips. Photos, posters, seal skin models of kayaks, carved soapstone by Innuit natives. Books and books and books on canoeing.

Short version: he’s the go-to guy if you want info on canoe trips in northern Canada. He loves to tell stories and he loves to help.

General Info:

  • Get sat phone delv’d here. Use only Iridium. He’s used GMPCS several times for rentals. If you need to pay extra to get it delv’d a few days before you leave, it’s worth it.
  • He thinks PakCanoes are the wave of the future as far as fly-in canoe trips. The Canadians changed the law recently and now pilots can’t strap canoes on the outside of planes if they have passengers inside. So a folding boat can fit inside the plane and you won’t have to pay for two trips. He has two 17’ and they “work well” the 3 times he’s used them. There is another brand made in Norway and that is also good. He might be willing to rent his boat to us if he is not using it next summer. He recommends the spray cover for the boat. Doesn’t know any company currently that rents them.
  • He uses a bug tent from REI and the Cook lean 3 tent. But he loves barren lands canoeing and so needs the Cook tent for shelter from the wind. The Cook tents are hot if the sun is out. I told him that we had the MEC bug tarp and he thought that would be OK.
  • Venture Air is the only company to use out of Thompson
  • Plan your trip so you can buy bear bangers and bear spray in Winnipeg. You can take a shotgun into Canada – he’s done it 3x – but you need to prove you’ve had a gun safety course. Polar bears are more of a danger for rivers running into the Arctic and far north Hudson Bay. Not so much around Churchill and south.
  • Doesn’t think anyone in Thompson rents good canoes.
  • He uses small plastic barrels and fits two of them in a big Duluth pack
  • It’s a good idea to practice whitewater skills. Practice your bow strokes before you go. “I’m at expert at lining. But I need to polish my whitewater skills. I think the Canoe U classes are great.”

Info on town of Churchill

  • Churchill is a “nice town”
  • Several good places to stay – Churchill Inn, Aurora ($35-45/nite). Gypsy is “the only place to eat.”
  • Plan to spend an extra day in Churchill to go on a whale tour
  • Jack Bastone is the guy to hire if you want a shuttle
  • Plan to take the train on Thursday from Churchill. This will allow you get back to TC by Sunday nite.

Deer River

  • They ran the Deer this June 22nd. It never got above 37 degrees and rained a lot. There was ice on all the lakes and the river was so high, they couldn't;t use the gravel bars to camp and had to camp in the brush. “It was bad.” They planned on canoeing for 6 days but moved faster because of the weather and only spent 5 days.
  • They paddled across the inlet – about 1/2 mile – to the fort at Churchill. “Be sure you pay attention to the tides. Paddling when the tide’s out means you have to be 3-4 miles offshore.”
  • Deer is “nice little river.” “Stunted, smaller, intimate.” No fish on the Deer. Maybe fish on main Churchill. The Deer is not on the precambrian shield rock so it and the main Churchill river are like the MN River. Stunted trees and not that scenic. “This isn’t the BWCA.”
  • Can’t plan on the train’s schedule. Figure 10-12 hour delays into your schedule. They left Churchill so late that they got into Thompson at 8PM and stayed there overnite instead of driving home.
  • It cost them $500/person to do the Deer. But they stayed for free for 2 nites in Churchill. $90n for train ticket
  • Probably better to run the Deer in mid to late July. “Scratchy in August.” Can check the river levels online.
  • Plan on 2 weeks for the trip; 4 days driving; 2 days on train; 6 days on river and 1-2 days layover in Churchill.


  • 16 hour drive Mpls to Thompson
  • They usually camp about 1 hour north of Winnipeg and finish the drive the next day
  • They leave their vehicles at the fire station and pay $15 week. Never been vandalized
  • There is another good place to camp just south of Thompson at a park
  • Bring everything you need with you to Thompson

Little Churchill River

  • “Better scenery than the Deer”
  • Probably not good fishing
  • Jack Crowley used to run it all the time. He used to live in Thompson but has since moved. (I think he’s the guy who used to rent boats in Thompson.)
  • Check with that camp counselor whose trip report is at mycccr about more details.
  • Bob doesn’t know much about this river

Other rivers he recommended

  • God’s River 10 days to 2 weeks
    • “Pretty river, run it any time. Good fishing, gorgeous river”
    • Gets you to York Factory which is nice place
    • Fly from Gillam to God’s Lake; may be possible to have your canoes hauled in during the winter because there is a very fancy resort on God’s Lake that takes supplies in during the winter.
    • Return to Gillam or Thompson via train
    • Buy cheap canoes and leave them at York
    • They once went 110 miles in 10 hours on the God’s/ Hayes
  • North & South Knife – fly in river; 2 week trip
  • Bloodvein -
    • Great river in Fall
    • Good fishing in August
  • Seal River
    • run by lots of people locally
    • Better later in the season
    • need to take boat shuttle by Jack Bastone to Churchill
    • Seals in the river up to 100 miles upriver of Hudson Bay
  • Winisk, Fawn/Severn – good fishing

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