Great Canadian RIVERS 


Cruise the Mackenzie River
Take a short boat ride from Inuvik to an authentic aboriginal fish camp, or make the full 10-day trip from Yellowknife to the northern Delta. Tour operators offer a range of Mackenzie River boat trips, including luxury cruises that stop at the historic communities of Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Fort Norman, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, and Arctic Red River. Some packages include a flight to Tuktoyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea.

Extreme Hiking and Biking on the Canol Heritage Trail
No campsites. No services. Frequent river crossings, tussock-strewn terrain, sudden snow storms, relentless mosquitoes and grizzly bears - lots of grizzly bears. The Canol Heritage Trail, stretching 350 kilometres from Norman Wells on the lower Mackenzie River to the Macmillan Pass, at the border of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, is no place for an inexperienced hiker.

Rising to the Challenge: But for experienced extreme hikers and mountain bikers, in top physical condition and well-versed in wilderness survival, this abandoned pipeline route from the 1940's offers the ultimate combination of physical challenge and stunning scenery. The trail passes through snow-covered peaks, tundra, forested taiga, deep canyons and rushing rivers. Along its path - which can often be determined only by official trail maps - hikers are likely to sight wolverine, Dall sheep, caribou and ample evidence of bears. They will also come upon rusting remnants of the ill-fated Canol Pipeline Project, including the collapsed remains of rickety wooden bridges once used by labourers to cross, ice-cold streams and rivers.

Planning and Preparation: Today's hikers must make many challenging river crossings, (most notably, the Twitya, Little Keele and Carcajun Rivers), without the benefit of bridges. They must be prepared for hazardous terrain with unmarked sections and frequent wash-outs. They must also make advance arrangements for at least 1 or 2 food drops. Although some hikers have made the trip in 2 weeks, without re-supply, even the most experienced trekkers can expect to spend at least 3 weeks to complete the entire trail.

The Canol Heritage Trail lies within the territory of the Sahtu Dene. Up to date information about conditions on the trail can be obtained from the Norman Wells Historical Centre in Norman Wells, Northwest Territories.

Festivals of Fish and Fur
Go wild! Catch the spirit of the land at these northern spring and summer celebrations:
Beavertail Jamboree - Mid March in Fort Simpson. Winter golf, snowmobile races, feast.
Caribou Carnival - Late March in Yellowknife. Championship Dog Derby, snowmobile races, Bush Gear contest.
The Muskrat Jamboree - Early April in Inuvik. Muskrat skinning, snowshoe races, dog sledding, tea boiling and log sawing.
Beluga Jamboree - Mid April in Tuktoyaktuk. Snowmobile races, log sawing, harpoon throwing and drum dancing.
Black Bear Jamboree - Early August in Norman Wells. Softball tournament and town party.
Ikhalukpik Jamboree - Mid-August in Paulatuk on the Arctic Coast. Celebrate the return of the Arctic Char with traditional games and drum dances.

Northern Pike and Arctic Grayling: Sport Angling in the Mackenzie
From the giant "lakers" of Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, to the tasty, diminutive Dolly Varden of the western Arctic, the vast Mackenzie River watershed offers anglers an opportunity to cast or troll for the best of the northern fish species:

Lake trout, averaging 13 - 18 kilograms, in the Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake. The largest "laker" on record was caught in Great Bear Lake, weighing in at 32.5 kilograms.

Arctic grayling, averaging .5 - 1 kilograms. Great Bear Lake also boasts the grayling record of 2.7 kilograms.

Northern Pike, up to 9 kilograms.

Walleye (pickerel), up to 3 kilograms.

Inconnu, in the Mackenzie Delta, averaging 4 - 9 kilograms

Dolly Varden, in the western Mackenize Delta.

Whitefish, up to 1.5 kilograms, throughout the Mackenzie watershed.

Frontier Fishing: For the ultimate in remote northern angling, fly in to Great Bear Lake, visited by less than 500 anglers a year. Contact camp operators and outfitters to plan your guided Mackenzie fishing trip.

Paddling in the Midnight Sun
A Mackenzie River canoe trip may be the ideal outdoor adventure for habitual nighthawks: By July, near the Arctic Circle at Fort Good Hope, a full 24 hours of daylight makes round-the-clock river travel a real possibility.

Endless daylight isn't the Mackenzie River's only attraction. Its gentle, flat water character allows even modestly experienced paddlers to experience the thrill of following Alexander Mackenzie's footsteps to the Beaufort Sea. It will take the better part of month to cover the river's entire 1,480 kilometre length, from Great Slave Lake to Inuvik, but put-in points at any community along the route can shorten the trip.

Gauge Your Gear: With spring break-up occurring mid-may to early June, and freeze-up coming in November, the Mackenzie canoeing season extends from late June to September. Paddlers can expect temperatures ranging from night-time lows of 3 degrees Celsius in northern regions to day-time highs of 21 degrees Celsius in southern areas. Rainfall is generally light, with less precipitation near the Arctic coast.

A Mackenzie River trip is a genuine wilderness experience. Adequate gear and provisions are essential: With only 9 communities from Great Slave Lake to Inuvik, supplies en route are both limited and expensive. Campsites can be found on natural beaches, sandbars and islands, with driftwood available for cooking fires. The murky, sediment-laden water of the Mackenzie itself is not generally suitable for drinking; clear tributaries emptying into the river are a better choice.

Flora and Fauna: What can Mackenzie canoe trippers expect to see? Moose, black bears, beaver, muskrats , lynx and marten are likely to appear on shore, with snow geese, Canada geese, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, ospreys and bald and golden eagles passing overhead.

Although the vegetation of the river shoreline becomes shorter and less dense as the river flows into the taiga zone, the black and white spruce of the more southern boreal forest never completely disappear. The relative warmth and rich sedimentation of the Mackenzie Delta carries the forest northward, even as far as Inuvik, where trees as tall as 6 metres can be found on Delta islands.

Landmarks and Look-Outs: Wooded lowlands, dramatic gorges and breathtaking mountain vistas are all part of the Mackenzie River panorama. The most notable interruptions to the river's quiet, steady pace include:

Mills Lake - Just past the most southerly put-in point at Fort Providence, the river widens into Mills Lake. Paddlers should cross as quickly as possible to the Mackenzie's south shore to avoid dangerous winds.

Green Island Rapids - There's little sign of surface turbulence, but watch for swift currents about 19 kilometres above Fort Simpson.

Camsell Bend - The Mackenzie makes an abrupt turn to the north, as it meets the mountains about 5 kilometres below the mouth of the Nahanni River. Below the Bend, the river slows and widens to 3 - 5 kilometres, and several channels and islands appear. North of the mouth of Willowlake River, the Mackenzie enters a very mountainous region, with the McConnell Range to the east and the Camsell Range to the west.

Roche qui Temps a l'Eau - Just downstream of the village of Wrigley, look for the thermal springs around this 350 metre dome-shaped rock.
· Ochre River - At its mouth, bright red water spills into the Mackenzie in early summer.

Great Bear Rock - Native legends surround the oval shapes on this 45 metre cliff at Fort Norman, overlooking the entrance to Great Bear Lake.

San Sault Rapids - Below Norman Wells, the Mackenzie narrows to about 1 kilometre, and a rocky ledge extends into the midstream. Use caution, though a portage is not necessary.

The Ramparts - Just upstream from Fort Good Hope, canoeists must follow the channel markers through the Mackenzie's most spectacular gorge. The long, vertically-walled limestone cliff extends for 12 kilometres.

Little Ramparts - Above the settlement of Arctic Red River (Tsiigèhtchic), a 13 kilometre canyon with shale walls up to 90 metres in height narrows the river to less than a kilometre, but the current remains moderate.

Point Separation - About 24 kilometres downstream from Arctic Red River, the Mackenzie splits up into the channels and streams of the Mackenzie Delta.