Keele River | Mackenzie River | Great Bear River Great Bear Lake | Sloan River | Hook River Coppermine River
The Keele River, located in the Mackenzie Mountains of Canada’s Northwest Territories, is where we begin this epic canoe expedition. A float plane will drop us on its swift turquoise waters in mid-June, and we will spend two weeks paddling class II-III whitewater as we wind our way down to the famous Mackenzie River valley.
We’ll enjoy three days on the Mackenzie River, a water highway to the Arctic Ocean that is steeped in so much history one cannot travel to the North without hearing its name.
However, after only sixty miles we arrive at the confluence of the Great Bear River, an icy cold river and main western drainage of the Great Bear Lake. It is here that we begin our first trek upstream. Only the first five miles of the GBR are calm enough to paddle, so we will wade and line our canoes for ten days to cover the remaining seventy miles. This will undoubtedly be one of the most challenging parts of our adventure.
After completing the upstream section of the GBR we enter Canada’s largest inland lake, and the eighth largest lake in the world, the Great Bear Lake. We will spend twenty days on the lake, traveling 245 miles along the sharp cliffs, scattered islands and fjord-like bays of its southern and eastern shores.
Finally, to get to the last segment of our expedition we must travel over land and upstream again, using our skills of navigation and pothole portaging to make our way up the Sloan River. From there we hope to find water in the Hook River, a tributary of the Coppermine that may look more like a stream by the time we get there. What better way to finish this epic arctic voyage than to paddle the historic Coppermine River and relive the route made famous by early explorers Samuel Hearne and Sir John Franklin.
We will end in the Arctic Ocean’s Coronation Gulf next to the hamlet of Kugluktuk, where we will catch a flight to Winnipeg and drive back to Minnesota to be greeted by friends and family.