The Whiteshell River is a great introductory river trip, or quick trip to do when you need to feel some current on your paddle. The Whiteshell is a small river, winding its way through Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba connecting the various lakes of the park along the way. The park's highway system parallels the river for most of the way making car shuttles very easy, and bike shuttles very possible.
The river passes many lakes full of cottages and runs under roads in several spots providing a multitude of put-in and take-out options so that you can easily customize the distance you want to paddle. Deep backcountry seclusion is probably not what the Whiteshell will offer you, unless you paddle with low water levels in the fall.
I've paddled the Whiteshell River a couple times, in various water levels. While the Whiteshell River has some rapids, most of them are unnavigable and unless you specifically want to try running the few that are, I would recommend taking a flatwater canoe. One that is capable of taking a few bumps would be best as you can then easily negotiate the swifts and class I rapids. On one typical August trip we hit low water which turned the rapids into long stretches of boulder garden that had to be carried over. On a late September trip, unusually large amounts of rainfall had swollen the river to levels more typical of spring, and we were able to run several of the class I+ rapids along the way.
A fairly easy trip is from White Lake downstream to Nutimik Lake where the Whiteshell River dumps into the Winnipeg River. The total distance for this trip is around 35 kilometres. The boat launch at White Lake offers ample parking to leave your car, and the Nutimik Lake Provincial Campground is another good place to leave a vehicle. I've also made a little shorter trip by using the parking lot where the highway crosses the stream coming from Heart Lake.
We usually turn this into an easy weekend trip where we drive out on a Saturday and begin paddling by noon hour, camping a little over halfway of the distance we want to cover, and then paddling the remainder of the trip Sunday to our previously parked vehicle. The Whiteshell River comes from the Caddy and West Hawk area so the trip can be easily extended by starting further upstream.
You can monitor water levels using the Lake of the Woods Control Board site at www.LWCB.ca. The Whiteshell River appears on the same chart as the Whitemouth River found on the Basin Data page.
Starting at White Lake
Starting at White Lake we paddled across toward the lake exit where the river took us towards its crossing with Highway 307 and we had to portage around the control structure under the bridge. Continuing on, the river meanders through low relief Canadian shield but the clear water offers views of the sandy bottom. A couple kilometers in, a few rapids are encountered, named Twin Falls. In high water, these are very runnable, but portages can be found for those who would prefer the safer route.
We were using Souris River Duralite Q17's and the water volume was sufficient for us to run these sets of rapids. The waves broke over the bow of these flat water boats and we ended up having to bail once we were through.
After crossing Betula Lake the water level control structure probably needs to be portaged, however, during high water we were able to slip the boats through the river left side without taking the gear out.
The remaining sections offer few rapids to run but you will find some interesting features including several water falls and the beautiful Pine Point rapids. Pine Point features a hiking trail in from the highway so in midsummer there will be many hikers using the picnic tables and possibly swimming in the rapids.
Eventually this section of the rivers ends and the river becomes very sluggish as it resists confluence with the Winnipeg River. The large boggy lake that connects to Heart Lake can be used to access the highway, or navigated through. You'll have to pick a route through the vegetation.
From here it is a flat water paddle to Nutimik Lake which is the end of the Whiteshell River. The Whiteshell is a great introductory trip for people just looking to try or get into river touring. It is easily accessible and the proximity of the highway offers an additional degree of safety, although this should not replace proper paddling and wilderness skills.