Afternoon on Antelope Lake
New water. How I love paddling a stretch of water for the first time, testing myself and my kayak. Antelope Lake lies about 22 km north of the Gull Lake intersection with #1 Hwy. I met Barbara, my best paddling bud there on September 18. She travelled from Calgary. I drove the truck loaded with two kayaks, Joy and Bubba,from Sask Landing.
We had no trouble finding Antelope Regional Park, and the boat launch access. The smell of rotting vegetation hit me as I arrived. Weeds from the lake lay brown drifts along the west shore, covering the rocky base. To the east the receding water left reeds and grasses exposed. The smell of their decay overpowered the dry prairie air.
The forecast called for intermittent clouds, with 20 km winds from the west. The lake stretches in a gentle curve from west to east and I hoped for quiet waters. I was told it was approximately four miles by five miles in size, spring fed and stocked with fish. However, we discovered weeds covered almost every inch of the bottom, rising to the top of the water in many places. I would think running a motor boat through them would be quite a challenge. I wouldn’t swim here.
By the time we launched the wind was gusting 35 k. We had to paddled south and east around a large peninsula of grass and rock. The wind caught our sterns and pushed, making paddling a chore rather than a pleasure. Bubba’s rudder gave Barb better control than my skeg.
I no sooner launched and started paddling away, than a man on a riding lawnmower, arrived at the launch. “You can’t leave your truck there,” he called across the water. There wasn’t another boat or vehicle in site, it was early Friday afternoon, and chances of one showing up were minimal. But back I paddled, and moved the truck onto a grassy stretch thirty feet away.
The man told me there was a dance hall on the north side of the lake, only accessible by vessels with a shallow draw. So, we aimed in that direction, and after about thirty minutes paddling closed on a grey building low on the lake shore, surrounded by trees. Weathered, with a screened veranda and closed entry, it looked more like an early farmhouse. No other building appeared. Even in our kayaks, we could not maneuver through the grasses along the water’s edge for a closer look.
Reversing direction, I hugged the west shoreline and kept to the glassy strip of protected water, generally no deeper than eight inches. Birds were migrating and we saw clusters of cranes and Canadian Geese, red-eyed Grebes and what we think were Coots, their short wings slapping the water into silver bursts, as they fled before us, never quite taking to the air.
Ghostly bushes rose from the lake bed forming a passage into sheltered waters. We drifted through the leafless branches and found a quiet place out of the wind to eat our lunch. The sun shone brightly, and as food always tastes more delicious eaten from the cockpit of a kayak, we dined in style.
After lunch and a floating visit, we headed south past the launch and paddled the west side of the lake to the end. The occasional small building, sheltered by looming cut banks, hugged the shore, begging the question, where they old cabins, or early homesteads? An abandoned rowboat melted into the earth.
Although we managed to stay in fairly quiet water, by the time we turned at the end of the lake the wind was gusting 50 km – our good old prairie wind, always teasing anyone on the water.
We returned to the launch, had no trouble landing and loading. After a drive around the park, we headed for home, taking the memory of our Antelope adventure with us.