Friday, June 26, 2015

Slave River and Great Slave Lake

One of our camp spots- A sandy island that would be underwater in normal water levels
by Taylor Fredin and Nick Peterson

Deh Cho Canoe Expedition

Taylor Fredin and Nick Peterson are paddling 1,500 miles across the Mackenzie River watershed.  The canoe trip will take them down the Slave River, around the South Shore of Great Slave Lake, and down Canada’s longest river: the Mackenzie.  They will be exploring northern culture and environmental issues in and around the watershed. 

Slave River: June 9-14, 2015

Nick and I launched our boat from Bell Rock near Fort Smith, NWT. For seven days we paddled down the muddy Slave River. The water levels are down several feet due to drought and diversions for tar sand mining in Alberta. The low water allowed us to camp in areas that are typically underwater. Due to the drought, we saw smoke from forest fires every day. Fortunately, they were miles away from us.

A typical day begins at 7am. I take down the tent as Nick boils water for coffee and oatmeal. We load up the canoe and snap on the canoe cover for wind protection. The canoe cover is made by Cooke Custom Sewing and has been great on rainy, windy days. We usually begin paddling around 9. Lunch consists of peanut butter, cheese, nuts, crackers, and Nutella. We cook dinner in the evening and then paddle a few more miles before setting up camp. On average we paddle 25-30 miles per day.  We enjoyed seeing birds, beavers and lots of moose, deer, bear and wolf tracks.

Wolf tracks

Forest fires!

Enjoying an evening paddle

Fort Resolution and Great Slave Lake:  June 16-23, 2015

The Slave River empties into Great Slave Lake about 5 miles from the small hamlet of Fort Resolution.  A combination of low water and sediment flowing out of the river has resulted in a maze of shallow water and sand bars at the mouth of Slave River.  After a mile of pulling and pushing the canoe across sandbars we were back to paddling.  We arrived in Fort Resolution at midday. 

Calm water
Fort Resolution has a population of around 500 people.  The people we met were kind and full of laughs.  Our friend Glen Stewart let us take a shower and gave us a driving tour of the area.  After a day of rest we headed out onto the lake. 

Our first day of paddling on Great Slave Lake lasted for about two hours.  We found ourselves wind bound on a small beach.  Afternoon winds continued to slow us down for three days.  We paddled in the early mornings and evenings when the water was calm.  Two days of nice weather allowed us to reach Hay River on June 23.  Although the weather is sometimes rough, Great Slave Lake is great for bird watching.  We enjoyed seeing intense battles between Arctic Terns and Gulls, large flocks of Pelicans, and a variety of raptors.

Fort Resolution
View from the bow

Rocky Beach on Great Slave Lake
Rocky Campsite

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