Fin + Bone 4: Four ways to Experience the Whiteshell this May long weekend

Written by Marney Blunt, Experience the Whiteshell editor, for Fin + Bone 4:

Finally it is here! The May long weekend. The start of another season of summer time lake living in the beautiful cottage country of the Whiteshell Provincial Park. Whether you’ve been coming out to the lake all winter or you’re just opening up the cabin for another season, here are some things you can do to kick off the season. I recently wrote my top four picks of things to do on the May long weekend for Fin +Bone magazine. Have a look here and have a great May long weekend:

Glassy calm waters, echoing loon calls, eagles soaring overhead, towering pine trees, the eerie howls of wolves in the distance: These are just a few of the enchanting sights and sounds that many lucky people have experienced in the Whiteshell Provincial Park over the summer season.

Glad to say I’m one of those lucky people. Growing up with a cottage in the beautiful Canadian Shield terrain of the south Whiteshell has given me plenty of opportunities to venture throughout this gorgeous part of our province.

The older I’ve gotten, the more time I’ve spent in the Whiteshell during the ‘off season’. Truthfully, I love the Whiteshell in all four seasons, 365 days of the year. I honestly couldn’t think of a time I haven’t been excited to head down Highway 44 towards the lake. But growing up, the May long weekend was always an extra special time. While I was in school, the May long weekend was always the official start of another summer season of lake living. It meant school was almost done, and it was a taste of a few of the fun and exciting adventures I would get to do all summer long.

So to give you a taste of a few great things to do during the spring and summer season in this magical land known as the Whiteshell, here’s four ways you can experience the Whiteshell this May long weekend:

McGillivray Falls.

McGillivray Falls.

Hike the Whiteshell

One of my favourite things to do in the Whiteshell during the spring is hike the McGillivray Falls trail. McGillivray Falls is a self-guided, glacier-formed trail that is potentially one of the best trails to hike during the spring season as the rapids are rushing down from McGillivray Lake into Caddy Lake. The trail is located off Highway 44 near the Caddy Lake turnoff. The trail also features a shorter 2.8 km loop or a longer 4.8 km loop.

Mild temperatures and no bugs make the May long weekend one of the best times to hit up the hiking trails of the Whiteshell, and there are several other trails you might want to check out this weekend. Another great hike is the Hunt Lake trail, which is a 12.6 km trail that edges along the outskirts of Hunt Lake and the east side of West Hawk Lake, heading north towards Indian Bay. My favourite time to do this trail is at sunset, you can get a stunning view of the sunset over West Hawk Lake from the top of a tall cliff on the east shore. Another great one to do is the South Whiteshell trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. Last August, a new portion of this trail opened up leading from the causeway (near the Falcon Lake Marina on the south shore of Falcon Lake) through the woods behind Falcon Lake and into the secluded and picturesque High Lake.

Hunt Lake.

Hunt Lake.

Cast a line in the Whiteshell

I’ve always loved fishing at the lake, as I little girl I mastered the art of catching tiny smallmouth bass in our boathouse at Star Lake. That was really all I knew, and it was all I needed to know to have fun. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was shown the ropes of fishing that I became, excuse the cheesy pun, completely hooked on it.

Although I still have a lot to learn, I can say one thing for sure: The May long weekend and walleye fishing just go hand-in-hand. Nothing says the start of opening fishing season like jigging for that huge master walleye or just heading out on the water to catch dinner. With a healthy population of beautiful fish, Falcon Lake is a walleye angler’s paradise. Last year, a lot of walleye were in the 23-27” range… So maybe in coming years the lake will be filled with masters, just saying. walleyeCheck out the Whiteshell Fish Hatchery

The Whiteshell Fish Hatchery is an amazing combination of history and fishery conservation. I had the awesome opportunity to tag along with some of the hatchery staff last year while they collected eggs and tagged walleye on Falcon Lake. The walleye eggs are then taken back to the hatchery where they will remain in incubator containers for about 21 days before reaching the eyed-egg stage, which last about six to ten days for walleye. The eggs then hatch into tiny fish referred to as ‘fry’, at this stage the walleye are stocked into the lakes. The survival rate for young fish at the hatchery can be 80 per cent, whereas in the wild the survival rate is one per cent.

The hatchery raises both cool water fish (walleye, northern pike, and lake sturgeon) and cold water fish (rainbow trout, brook trout, brown lake trout, arctic char, and trout hybrids including splake and tiger trout). The hatchery has big outdoor tanks where you can see a brood stock that includes brook trout, brown trout, tiger trout, and even lake sturgeon. But why am I telling you all this, get down there and check it out for yourself! One of the friendly staff at the hatchery would be more than happy to give you a tour. hatchery2 sturgPaddle the Whiteshell

I once had the opportunity to see the Whiteshell via floatplane, and it was mind-boggling how many lakes there are so close together. The Whiteshell is an endless chain of lakes just waiting to be explored. There are so many opportunities for different canoe and kayak routes, with easy portages between them. A classic and one of the most well known canoe routes is probably the Caddy Lake rock tunnels. You can rent a boat or canoe from Green Bay Resort or Caddy Lake Resort and head out through Caddy Lake and into South Cross Lake, and then through South Cross through the second tunnel into North Cross Lake. Several camping spots are located along the way and there is prime fishing in all three lakes. There are also several other lakes that are within portaging distance of this canoe route. canoe

Camouflaged in the Woods

They are very hard to see this time of year but they are all over the Whiteshell: Thumping their wings together like a drum beat in the woods, slowing strutting out on the path in front of you with their neck puffed out, putting their head down and scurrying across the path in front of you, or waiting till you’re right beside them to jump up and fly to the next tree.

They are known as the ruffed grouse, a commonly sighted bird in the Whiteshell. Here are a few photos of these birds taken at McGillivray Falls near Caddy Lake:

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IMG_3002 IMG_3004 IMG_3005Photos by Marney Blunt, Experience the Whiteshell editor.

New Routes, New Challenges in the 2014 Swamp Donkey Adventure Race

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By Warren Blunt

Of my three years participating in the Swamp Donkey Adventure Race (SDAR), this year’s race was perhaps the most adventurous, challenging, and probably the longest course that I have been a part of. It was also the most fun because the course was mapped out so differently than in previous years, which had me really excited to get out on it. Some of the new territory for SDAR included Star Lake, Caddy Lake, South Cross Lake, McGillivray Falls, as well as a remote finish.
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Whiteshell Summer Bucket List

The ice is melting, the trees are budding, and the birds are singing; spring is here and summer is just around the corner. So are all the awesome summer activities in the Whiteshell. Summer is the most-happening season in the Whiteshell. Whether you want to explore the back-country of the Whiteshell or just relax and take in the scenery, the Whiteshell is the place to be in the summer. Here are the best ways you can Experience the Whiteshell this summer:

South Cross Lake - Photo by Marney Blunt.

South Cross Lake – Photo by Marney Blunt.

1 – Hike the Whiteshell – There are many different hiking trails to explore in the Whiteshell. Whether you want to climb the cliffs of the Hunt Lake Trail, take a casual stroll, or ride your bike through the South Whiteshell Trail, there are a variety of gorgeous hiking trails that will take you deep into the beauty and nature of the Canadian Shield. Some great hiking trails to check out include the Hunt Lake Trail alongside the east shore of West Hawk Lake, the McGillivray Falls Trail, the South Whiteshell Trail (part of the Trans-Canada Trail), the Mantario Trail, the trails at Falcon Ridge, and many more! Check out falconwesthawk.com for more information on these trails, and keep checking Experience the Whiteshell for articles and photos this summer!

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Wolves of the Whiteshell: Part iii

Photos & writeup submitted by Josh Dewitt.

Back on Thanksgiving Day, 2013, a friend and I were hiking the McGillivray Falls trail. It was getting late, so we figured we’d start heading back to Winnipeg. After about 5 minutes of driving, a big animal ran in front of my car. At first I thought it was just a white-tailed deer, but as it ran across the ditch, I saw its tail. I slammed on the brakes. I slowly got out of the car, and there it was, sitting on the other side of the ditch. He stayed around for at least 10 minutes, sniffing the ground, and wandering back and forth. He allowed many good pictures.

We were ecstatic! This is the first wolf sighting we’ve had in the park, they’ve eluded us for years. I myself have heard packs howling at Otter Falls, Big Whiteshell, and have found fresh tracks along the Pine Point Rapids trail several times.

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