Dubawnt River at Dubawnt Lake - Midway Point on Esker, Dubawnt Canyon Portage
Distance 30 km [784km]
Portage 1 
Very Fast Water 0 
Rapids 3 
We listened to Radio Australia’s news bulletin for 6am our time, such luxury.
The morning was cool and misty with threatening rain and swarms of black flies and mosquitoes. We were into our first rapid almost as soon as we left the island. It was between two and three kilometres long with a turn to the left. After scouting it we ran RR. It was very fast with big waves, good fun and possibly the fastest three kilometres we have travelled in a canoe. We continued hurtling down the fast flowing river until the last rapid before entering the Dubawnt Canyon however we were being cautious as we wanted to make sure we would be able to eddy out of the very swift current at the cairn which marked the beginning of the portage around the canyon. This last rapid was not as long but had huge waves and several rocky ledges requiring us to move from the centre of the river to a tight right before the big ledges on the right side. This rapid was made more difficult by the heavy mist on the water limiting visibility; also we were in the midst of a thunderstorm and had to contend with heavy rain.
It was a steep climb from the river to the head of the portage and we said a silent thank you to the Harmuth party who built this cairn in 1983 because it was not easy to see where best to eddy out before the canyon proper started.
The portage is just over four kilometres long and we only reached the esker about half way along before setting up camp. The day was extremely humid and the mosquitoes and black flies were in plague proportions. As we walked across moss and knee high bushes we constantly stirred them up. It was difficult walking as there was no formal portage and we mostly just followed animal trails.
We saw lots of fresh Musk Ox prints but unfortunately no animals. We did the carry in two sections of just over a kilometre each as the heat and humidity made it exhausting. The views over the river and across the canyon are spectacular. I cannot believe the power of the river as it roars through this awesome gorge, the waves are monstrous, certain death to any canoeist who strayed into the canyon.
We were both exhausted by the time we struck camp at 5.30 pm, and hot, sweaty and covered in bug bites and a mixture of blood and grease from the bites and many liberal applications of insect repellent which were washed off by sweat almost immediately after application. However we are camped on a beautiful open gravel esker with sweeping views up and down the canyon. We had just erected the tent when the skies open and the heavy rain started. It rained for hours and as it was too difficult and I was too tired to cook we made a meal of pilot biscuits, hot chocolate and coffee.
The night turned into a wild one, the wind strengthened to “gale force” and the tent flapped and shook but lived up the promise of being able to withstand high winds. Sometime about midnight, John, who had been concerned that for the first time in five years of canoeing we had not tied the canoe down and was waiting for a break in the rain to do so, heard the canoe flip over and take-off. We both flew out of the tent and rescued it before it got too far away. We had no way of tying it down so put it upright with the food drums to weigh it down. The wind was still crazy and John who couldn’t sleep sat up dressed and waiting to dash out. Eventually we both fell asleep.