Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hay River to Fort Simpson

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.

Hay River to Fort Providence: June 24-30, 2015

The sun peaking out from the smoke
We took two layover days in Hay River, washing the mud out of our clothes and eating fresh vegetables. By the end of the second day, we were anxious to get back on the water and paddle. We left Hay River the morning of the 26th. Great Slave Lake was windy and we saw plumes of forest fire smoke rising from multiple fires. The smoke stuck with us until we were well past Fort Providence. For 5 days we didn't see the sky- just the river, the shore and smoke. We called a wildfire hotline some nights to check where fires were, they were never very close.

Sandhill Cranes at the mouth of the Mackenzie
On the evening of June 28th, we reached the Mackenzie River. It was a stunning evening with calm weather and lots of wildlife. We watched bald and golden eagles fish. A pair of cranes watched us nervously, as we pulled up to shore to set up camp.

The tranquility of the river was abruptly ended by a swarm of mosquitoes and sand flies in camp. We have had buggy nights on the trip, but nothing on this scale. Hundreds of thousands of flies followed us as we set up our tent. There was no dinner this evening. The flies stuck with us until we reached Fort Providence. We are grateful for our bug shirts!

The current was slow and the air was hot and muggy. Paddling was monotonous. We felt unmotivated. On June 30th, we woke to rain. We were overjoyed, as it hadn't rained in weeks! As we packed up camp, a solitary caribou walked into our camp. She was startled to see us, and ran away. When she was a safe distance, she turned to watch us for a while. Our spirits were lifted and we paddled on to Fort Providence.
Smokey sunset over the Mackenzie

The view from our tent

Nick sailing during a short lived tailwind

Fort Providence
Wonderful wild strawberries!

Fort Providence to Fort Simpson

Breakfast at Fort Providence was fried eggs, potatoes, and (all-you-can-drink) coffee at the local cafe. It was a nice break from oatmeal and grape nuts and a great way to celebrate Canada Day (July 1).

Full from our morning feast, we set out for Fort Simpson. After two days of hard paddling into head winds the river narrowed and the current picked up.  Motivated by the fast current, we paddled on to the community of Jean Marie.  Jean Marie is home to about 50 people. When we arrived the community was completely empty.  Later we learned that the people had voluntarily evacuated due to fire danger.

After a breakfast visit from several overly friendly hornets, apparently nesting nearby, we shoved off from Jean Marie. We saw the first black bear of the trip, on the shore 7 miles down river. The inevitable stiff afternoon headwind slowed us down, but we were able to make it to Fort Simpson that evening.

In Fort Simpson we met a friendly man that showed us the moose he killed earlier that day on the Nahanni river. It was a lot of meat. We set up camp just before a strong wind and a heavy rain came through. We settled in to rest before our next push to Norman Wells.

Narrow river, fast current

Moose meat

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