Eniwa has always been rather close to our hearts, in a we-always-drive-through-it-but-never-stop-there way. It is on the way to Chitose, and it does have a nice michi-no-eki local food store and road stip. So when I saw the write-up of Lake Eniwa in one of the old canoe touring guidebooks, we figured we’d give it a go. We met Jacob at the dam, and then drove from there to the other end of the lake. We were happy to see that the lake wasn’t too low – we’d been expecting much worse considering the lack of rain we’d had of late.
A bridge indicated on the map in the guidebook is no longer there, but there’s now a gravel access road to the end of the lake, apparently used by construction personnel to extract gravel from the riverbed. We parked up just up the road from the entrance to the gravel road, and started the 500m portage down to the river. It felt a long way…
Mercifully, the river/lake-bed up this far on the lake was not too muddy. The clamber down the bank to the river bed was sketchy though, and required some careful side-stepping. Once on the riverbed we were pleasantly surprised by how pristine the Izari River was. Ultra clear and cool. Overall a pleasant start to the trip despite the tedious portage and muddy/dusty approach.
Once we were on the lake proper, we battled a strong headwind and side wind for about 15 minutes. The wind seemed very localized, whipping around the spurs and valleys along the lake. We paddled for a bit in the middle of the lake before taking relative shelter along the steep shoreline. Along this northern shoreline there’s nowhere to land for about 2km.
After about 30 minutes of paddling, we arrived at a marshy landing near the driftwood fence at the dam end of the lake. We spent about 20 minutes wandering around looking at what there was to see. Grass, waterfall, moss, lizards, and fish jumping. Not a bad wee spot, but plenty of small mosquitoes which made standing still for any amount of time not very appealing. I imagine the flat area we landed on would be submerged if the lake level was a little higher.
After the wander we got back in the boats and carried on to complete the circumnavigation, skirting along the driftwood fence as we went. The highlight of the return paddle was a small waterfall about 200m or so upstream from the driftwood fence.
The wind was whipping up and around on the return paddle also, particularly at the river end of the lake. Here it was very shallow, and we had to choose our lines carefully to avoid getting beached. When we put in, we were able to put in quite high upstream in the Izari River, but we opted to take out a little further downstream on the return. This meant traipsing through about 5cm of estuary-like mud on the surface of the gravel. Not ideal, and a little disconcerting – was I about to step into quicksand?!
The portage back to the car was longer this time too, of course. My shoulders were feeling it towards the end.
Overall, however, this was a nice enough blat on what may be the closest lake to where we life. Less than an hour’s drive. In autumn it should be stunning with all the red leaves, and in spring, the rocky hills should be more visible without the thick foliage. Of course with a little more water in the lake, there’d be less muddy portaging to be done too. I get the feeling we may be back here again at some stage for another paddle. I’ll just bring someone else along to carry the canoe!