This website describes our 2013 – 2014 journey by canoe from La Ronge, Saskatchewan to Baker Lake, Nunavut and our 2018 journey from Yellowknife NWT also to Baker Lake. The 2013 – 2014 journey was about 2000km, completed over two summers and took a total of 94 days. The 2018 journey was about 1500km and took 64 days to complete.
First Nations people undertook such trips as a way of life as did the explorers and fur traders who followed. Up until about 60 years ago the canoe was the principal means of travel in much of northern Canada. Inuit and Dene people followed the river and the seasons in pursuit of caribou while trappers endured the brutal winters in pursuit of furs. Today the land is almost empty. The Dene and Inuit people live in scattered communities and the trap cabins lie empty and abandoned.
Kate summed it up succinctly in her journal when we reached Baker Lake at the end of our second summer:
The country we travelled was magnificent. It was amazing to see the change from the typical taiga forests of Northern Saskatchewan with its park lands and sandy beaches through the gradual lessening of trees to the wide open space of the Barrens with its ‘bouldery’ expanses, raised beaches and glacial geology. The rivers were magical with their swift currents, thrilling white water, rugged banks, hills and gorges. The memory of paddling the length of the Dubawnt and probably being the oldest couple to do so is a memory we both treasure. I guess the only disappointment was the lack of wild life. That said we did see wolverine, Arctic wolves, caribou, moose, ground squirrels, a solitary musk ox and many water fowl. If you were to count insects as wildlife, (after all they drive you crazy), we have seen too much wildlife however we shouldn’t really complain as we knew they are a major part of the ecology here and apparently play a big part in feeding the fish.
There is something truly special about paddling 1200 kilometres in genuine wilderness. There are not many places in our polluted world where you could spend fifty days drinking water from the lakes and rivers without a worry. After Selwyn Lake, apart from the odd abandoned trap cabin there were no signs of human life, not even bush planes, just the occasional jet trail high overhead. Much of the satisfaction of wildness canoeing comes from having to rely on yourself, make decisions, trust yourself and feel confident that all your preparation will pay off. It is working as a team with total confidence in each other that makes an adventure like this so worthwhile. Hence the mixed feelings of relief at having made it without incident, pride in our accomplishment and sadness that we will most likely never see this awesome part of the world again.
On the website you’ll find the detailed account and photographs of our trip as described in Kate’s daily journal. For those contemplating such a trip we’ve included some detail about the history, plus lists and elaboration on gear, maps, navigation and earlier trip notes.