The Kesagami River Solo Episode 15 Finding Drinking Water

The Kesagami River Solo Episode 15 Finding Drinking Water


Knowing I’d need extra bottles to hold fresh water when I reached James Bay, I brought along two 1.5-Liter Nalgene water bottles, plus two additional 1-Liter bottles. I wish I’d brought more.

I’d only arrived at the Netitishi Point because the tide receded and left me there. The tide had barley let me travel 10-kilometers that day, it turned out to be a blessing. Looking at the map I saw that Netitishi Creek pours into James Bay near Netitishi Point. Another thing that makes the area a bastion for comfortable camping between the Harricana Estuary and the Moose River. Everywhere else along this stretch of coast is wet, swampy and very hard to find fresh water. Feeling parched the next morning, I set out with my empty bottles to find the creek. I hoped it would be a quick mission as the tide was coming in, and it doesn’t wait for anybody.

Here are some important tips for finding and treating drinking water:

• When you know you’ll be in an area where fresh water is in short supply, bring a plethora of containers, and make sure they don’t leak.

• If taking water from a creek that pours into the sea, try to take it where it’s moving. Due to the tides and the slope of the land, many creeks feeding James Bay get backed up with salt water at high tide making them brackish. Taking moving water in an area that’s otherwise swampy and stagnant is your best bet too.

• If you’re really thirsty, and your quest for water could be lengthy. Stay calm,  and don’t rush. Working up a sweat will just make you thirstier.

• Don’t get lost while you wander away from camp to find water. Bring a map and compass with you.

• All water tabs are not created equal. Use the ones where you just drop a tab into your untreated water and leave it for a half-hour. 1 tab does 1-Litre, I put 2 tabs in my 1.5-Litre Nalgene bottles which is no problem. A good brand is Katadyn Micropur. Make sure you read the expiration date on the tabs before leaving for your trip. Storing your tabs in small hard case to keep them from crushing is also a good idea. You’ll notice in the video that some of my tabs are pretty beat up.

• A water filtration pump is also an effective way to treat water, but it’s more labour intensive than the tabs. Make sure you use a pump with a filter that’s small enough to remove the giardiasis parasite. Katadyn and MSR both manufacture good models. Do not suck up sediment when you’re pumping water. Take water in a pot and let it settle before you pump. And/or wrap a coffee filter around the intake with an elastic band before you pump to keep out sediment.

• Other water treatment options include the Life Straw, gravity feed filters, ultraviolet treatment such as the SteriPen and more. I find that water tabs an a filtration pump works best for me.

• If you run out of tabs, and manage to break all your other water treatment gear, just boil your water over the fire or stove. A steady boil for 1- minute will kill giardiasis which is the only real concern in most of the Canadian wilderness.

Worried I’d only be able to make it another 10-kilometers, I carried my outfit 250-meters out onto the flats to catch the incoming tide sooner. I still had 40-Kilometers to go before reaching Moosonee, 20 of those alog the coast. But at least I wouldn’t go thirsty…not for the time being anyways.

Heading for the Moose River with the seemingly endless skies of James Bay. Photo: Jim Baird
Heading for the Moose River with the seemingly endless skies of James Bay. Photo: Jim Baird


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Jim Baird is an Adventurer, videographer, writer, photographer, and talent. His previous rolls include extensive work with a map company as well as guiding and prospecting. Jim has shot video for Cineflix productions, BBC Worldwide, 13 Minds, and The Weather Network US. He's produced video series such as “The Kesagami River Solo” and “Lessons From The Trail with Jim Baird”. Jim’s content has also appeared in print for several publications that include Explore, Canoeroots, Real Fishing, Ontario Out of Doors, Outdoor Canada, Canoe & Kayak, and Field & Stream magazines. Jim is an expert woodsman, white-water canoeist, survivalist, and a bold wilderness navigator. His expedition experience includes a solo trip down the canoe eating rapids of the Kesagami and then along the tempestuous James Bay coat, an 800-mile snowmobile expedition across the Northwest Passage, 300miles above the Arctic Circle. A month long descent of the Northwest Territories Kuujjua River in the Arctic Archipelago, followed by 120-kilometers of paddling on the Arctic Ocean. He's also completed a 33-day canoe expedition via four rivers including the Adlatok in northern Quebec and Labrador.