Day 43

MacDonald Falls to Start Dickson Canyon Portage

Distance: 6km, Portage 1, – [cumulative total 805 km]

InReach: Day 43 Portaged MacDonald Falls a spectacular multiple cascade Now camped N end Dickson Canyon – a ~4km portage Will just walk it tomorrow J&K

Camp: 63.751°N 104.747°W

Woke to a hazy blue morning with the promise of another warm day. Our first few kilometres were through amazing sand dunes. We let the canoe drift as we enjoyed the sheer beauty of the world around us until we met our first of several sections of fast water with some large standing waves. We then approached McDonald Falls. The only information we had on them was that they had a fifteen feet fall and the portage of about half a kilometre was reported to be on the right. Our plan was to be through for a latish lunch followed by a 600 meter paddle to the beginning of Dickson Canyon where we intended to camp and scout the somewhat notorious Dickson portage. So much for a good plan.

We put in on a small beach well back from the start of the rapid as it looked a likely place for the start of the portage. There was no sign of a portage or that others had been there nevertheless we decided to unload and John set off to scout for signs of a path with no luck. Several hundred meters on we reached a hill that gave a better view of the terrain along the river bank. After climbing down the rocks to the beginning of the rapid we decided to go back, reload the canoe and bring it down to a rocky put-in on the right near the top of the rapid. From there we did a 100 meter carry over on the rocky out crop and paddled about 300 metres down a small lake in difficult swirling current. We had though this rapid was it, and it was only when we reached this point we could see the river then split into at least four impressive cascades at differing angles and spilling into the lake below. Again there was no apparent place to get the canoe out so it was a long scramble over slippery boulders in knee deep water to reach the bank. After a bit of a search I eventually found the portage about 30 meters back behind the usual mess of alders, this was probably the portage we should have been on all along as it apparently went around the entire rapid. We completed the remaining 400 meter portage to a small lake below the amazing multi cascade McDonald Falls and directly opposite the landing for the Dickson Canyon portage. The strong wind made carrying the canoe nigh impossible so against his principles John dragged the canoe over the tundra.

After two really pleasant days the river today has been difficult and messy. I guess this is mostly because being on Plan B we often don’t have the normal detailed knowledge of portages and complex rapids like McDonald Falls so we spend hours trying to find our way. Instead of the morning this portage has taken the best part of a day and you just never get used to the heat and mosquitoes despite the wind. Tired and ready for a good wash we have elected to camp just behind the beach at the entrance to Dickson’s portage and spend tomorrow scouting it for cairns, water sources.

Very sandy country extends for many kilometres above McDonald Falls

A small portion of the multiple cascades that make up McDonald Falls