Thursday, May 28, 2015

1500 Miles in the Mackenzie River Watershed

by Taylor Fredin
The Crew- Nick Peterson and Taylor Fredin

     In 5 days, Nick Peterson and I will have finished packing our gear, measuring out food, and finalizing emergency plans. In 5 days, Nick and I will load the last of our packs into the vehicle and check to make sure the canoe is secure one more time. In 5 days, we’ll drive away from the Twin Cities and begin our journey North. Right now, it still doesn't seem real that we are actually leaving for a 70-day canoe trip in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

     This dream has been in the making for 3 years. Wanderlust set in for us both at the end of summer 2012, after we had guided Boundary Waters trips. It was tough to go back to school after being outside for an entire summer. So, to get through the day-to-day of city life, we began planning a big adventure. We both needed something on the horizon, something big, beautiful and wild. That desire for adventure morphed into this trip after reading about similar expeditions, including Eric Severeid’s famous excursion to Hudson’s Bay. 
Our route- over 1500 miles in the Northwest Territories

    Our trip begins in Fort Smith. The town is on the Slave River on the border of the Northwest Territories and Alberta, Canada. The town is just downriver from the Rapids of the Drowned- an infamous 19 mile stretch of roaring V and VI rapids. We hope to catch a glimpse of professional kayakers here.

     From Fort Smith we’ll paddle north on the Slave River. This river flows into Great Slave Lake. The river delta is supposed to be beautiful, and I’m excited to come out from the river onto the lake. 

     Great Slave Lake is about the size of Lake Erie and can be a formidable opponent to paddlers. Big winds and bad weather may make this part of our route time consuming and tedious. Nonetheless, there is something exciting about being on a big body of water, and we’re counting on a canoe cover, common sense, and a bit of luck to keep us safe here.
     After about 200 miles on the southern shore of Great Slave, we’ll reach the Mackenzie (Deh Cho) River. The Mackenzie is the longest river in Canada and its native name (Deh Cho) translates to “Big River.” The Deh Cho is 1080 miles long and its watershed covers 697,000 square miles. This river is massive and can even accommodate barge traffic. 

     The last leg of our trip is on the Beaufort Sea, a marginal sea on the Arctic Ocean. From the Mackenzie River delta, we will paddle to a small Inuvialuk hamlet called Tuktoyaktuk. We are excited to see the ocean wildlife (hopefully not polar bears) and nervous to be on such a  big body of water.
     We are both looking forward to hitting the road and beginning our big adventure, and are excited to share what we see along the way! We will post updates when we stop in towns with libraries. Follow our adventure as we post to Sustainable Commons under "Water & Watersheds."

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