Northwoods Memories Multimedia Productions


Trips: French Lake, Pickerel River and East part of Pickerel Lake

Sunday, March 21st, 2010
submitted by: Bob Evans

In this section we describe a short overnight trip  into Pickerel Lake and the return for a few nights in Atikokan.  For beginners–the paddle through the Pickerel River is easy access to Pickerel Lake, a very large lake with lots of campsites and good fishing. We also relate our research time in the John B. Ridley Research Library ( ).  Of note, the Pickerel River and Pickerel Lake is very rich in history back to the time of the glaciers of the last ice age.  Receeding glaciers created the features of this area including the river itself and many of the features of the lake like the pines area and the glacial moraine visible there.  For excellent reading Jon Nelson, a former Ranger in Quetico and archaeologist there, has written a book, Quetico: Near to Nature’s Heart.  It is excellent reading and has a lot of information about this region of Quetico.  One paddling this area for the first time should definately read this book before going, and folks who have paddled it before should read about the region.  It will probably make them want to go again.  This book is critiqued in a blog posting of August 27, 2010.  We highly recommend the book as excellent reading about the entire Quetico experience.

Northwoods Pictographs Bulletins on this trip:  There are no known pictograph sites on the short trip we took here.

We traveled to the Dawson Trail Pavilion, where we checked in with the Rangers for our overnight permit.  We then drove to the parking lot next to the put-in area and unloaded our packs and canoe. This was an unusual trip for us for we had no real agenda.  Several years before we had traveled from this entry after flying in from Ely.  We paddled south through the park to exit at Prairie Portage.  On that trip we started behind schedule and paddled quickly through the first lakes.  Just south from the entry point, there is a short stretch of water, the Pickerel River.  We both really love paddling narrow rivers.  View the video clip below  of a small part of the Pickerel River.  On this overnight we planned to take time for taking some pictures and video.  Then we would find an early campsite, sleep the night and return in the morning.  In addition to taking some pictures the trip would fulfill the requirement for this entry point toward completing the Quetico Quest.

A short paddle took us to the River, and we traveled at a leisurely pace taking many still pictures, and lots of video.  Below is a short video clip of a section of Pickerel River and some still shots.  In the clip you will see fairly typical Quetico forest on the left of the river and the boggy area to the right.   During ancient times when the glaciers were receding to the north, the melting water from the glacier produced a much wider river.  Its banks probably extended to the areas where the tall evergreens are seen.  The shallower areas and banks are covered with a different kind of forest with many broadleafs and shrubs.  This land area emerged when the water flow decreased, leaving a narrower river.  The land underneath is made up of silt and gravel washed into the river bed by the flow of glacial waters.    While we like the large and small lakes, we have always enjoyed paddling these quiet rivers.    We then paddled on to a campsite in Pickerel Lake and set up camp.  A leisurely dinner and a good night’s sleep followed.

After a lazy breakfast, we broke camp and paddled back through the Pickerel River, taking some early morning shots. We then returned to our van in the parking lot.  After loading our gear, we drove to Atikokan to stay at the Atikokan Hotel ( ) for a few days.  Our stay was wonderful.  The proprieters are very friendly and provided a number of special services to make us comfortable.  We left a bottle of wine on the coffee table when we left the room to go to the library.  When we returned, the wine had been placed in a wine bucket on ice, and glasses were placed on the table beside it.  The dining room ( ) serves incredible food for all three meals. The service was great and the ambience very comfortable.

After checking in to the hotel, we returned to the Dawson Trail Pavilion.  The John B. Ridley Research Library ( is located in the basement of the building.  I had been there on two occasions in the past, each for a week’s time, researching projects in which I was interested.  (For information on the Library see blog post category “Resources:  The John B. Ridley Research Library”).   I am always looking for information about the pictographs in the park.  Additionally, Edwina and I were camped at the edge of the Falls Chain in 1995 when the Bird Lake fire burned through and we have some graphic video of the fire area the year following.  I have begun to edit that material (see gallery for some still frames from that footage) into a DVD feature which we hope to have completed soon.  I was able to gather a substantial amount of information about both the fire and area pictographs.  Andrea Allison, the Librarian, has always been a great deal of help.

A bonus was meeting and talking with Shirley Peruniak.  She was an employee of the park for many years and is very interested in park history.  She recently completed Quetico Provincial Park:  An Illustrated History, which is published by the Friends of Quetico .  Not only did she autograph our copy of the book, but we were able to visit with her for quite some time.

The next day our friends from North Carolina arrived in Atikokan to spend the night before we all left for Beaverhouse Lake Entry.  That part of the trip is the subject of part 3.  We met these friends in Sturgeon Narrows a few years ago as they paddled by our campsite and wished us a, “Happy 4th of July if you are Americans.”  We traveled the rest of that trip with them and have remained friends since.  This would be only our second trip with them.  We had a great time catching up while packing for the rest part of the trip.

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