Sand Flats to 3km Upstream of MacDonald Falls
Distance: 55km, Rapids 2+, Lining 1 – [cumulative total 799 km]
InReach: Day 42 Two rapids, lined one, ran second, fastest 2km we’ve paddled in a while! Saw number of caribou + cow & bull moose up close Distance 55km
Camp: 63.773°N 104.824°W
Another good day, blue skies, mainly fair winds and not too hot. Paddled out of camp before 8am with only a few kilometres to our first rapid for the day. We saw a small herd of caribou on a distant hill. The current gave us great assist. The rapid was not long however it had a number of tricky ledges requiring a tight right turn near the bottom with plenty of potential to go wrong so John decided to line it down the right side. The river continued to be narrow with lots of current and numerous sections of fast water. Before entering Hoare Lake there was a two kilometre section starting at the Environment Canada gauging station. This was a mixture of class 1 and 2 at our water levels. We ran it hard left at the top moving to centre right and then back to the left finishing in the centre. It involved some large standing waves and boulder dodging. We lunched at the exit from Hoare Lake and continued up a very narrow river with a swift current and many sections of fast water, some of these could be correctly classed as class 1 or 1+ rapids.
Just before the confluence with the Darell River we came alongside a mature male caribou resting on the beach then only minutes later we saw a cow moose. This was our day as just two or three kilometres on we saw a bull moose grazing in the river shallows. He allowed us to get reasonably close before running off. It was definitely our day for wildlife as we also saw a number of bald eagles, numerous Canada geese and three trumpeter swans. The area where we camped was more glacial out wash, the sand white and covering many acres, a flat white sand plain. It has been a long day but we travelled many kilometres with the assistance of a swift current and were thrilled by the wildlife, it is a good type of tiredness.
As regards caribou, had we done this trip 50 years ago we would have no doubt witnessed the migration of massive herds of caribou. Sadly today caribou numbers on the tundra are dwindling, with some herds declining over 95% since the 1970s. The reasons are not well understood but are believed to include excessive hunting, natural predation, reduced reproduction rates and climatic warming which increases the warble and botflies that torment caribou during the summer.