Canoe Adventures

Caribou and Muskoxen  770 Miles Across the Barren Lands

In the summer of 2010 Quincy and me set out on our first Barren Lands trip from Great Slave Lake, NWT. 770 miles later  (and about as many bug bites later) we arrived in Baker Lake, Nunavut. Our route took us across Pike’s Portage to Artillery Lake and along Trout Creek and a series of small lakes (and long portages…) to the headwaters of the Thelon River. Once there, we followed the river through caribou and muskox country to the Inuit community of Baker Lake.

We started our 770 mile expedition in Yellowknife, NWT, where we boarded the sched to Lutsel K’e. Dave from Hoarfrost River Huskies picked us up by float plane and sailed us to the east end of Great Slave Lake. What a way to start a gruelling canoe trip! Photo: Dave Oleson

Pike’s Portage lies hidden behind the idyllic beach. It’s not so idyllic anymore once you slugged 600 lb. of food and gear up the first three miles of the 25 mile route into the barren lands.

Okay, we never did make the first three miles in one go! Here we are sitting out the rain. If we’d known how bad the bugs get after the rain, we might have walked on…

Bug cereal for breakfast, bug soup for lunch, bug pasta for supper.

Sandy eskers where ever we go. The landscape is astonishing beautiful. The land far from ‘barren’.

We surprised these muskoxen (or better: they surprised us) as we were paddling around a river bend. We watched them swim across the river. The huge pre-historic creatures that went into the water emerged considerably smaller in appearance with their two feet long wet hair clinging to their bodies.

The landscape on the Thelon River is amazingly diverse. From tundra flats to sandy eskers, steep canyons and impressive water falls.

Too steep to carry the canoe! Portaging around the water fall.

Archeological tent rings scattered along the river shore connect us with the land and its people that once followed the same river we follow today.

‘Caribou are like ghosts,” the Inuit say. “They come from nowhere….

“…fill up the land and disappear again.”

A wolf in pursuit of the caribou. This one came too late. They had just crossed the river.

Muskoxen come to visit. Stormbound days were mosquito free wild life watching days. Often we didn’t have to walk far to come across muskoxen or caribou.

After 45 days on the land we arrived at the Inuit community of Baker Lake. Although many of the people told us about their ancestors of the Gary Lake and Thelon River regions, few Inuit today venture as far away from civilization as our trip took us.

We would like to thank Jonas from Classic Outdoors ( for his generous support. Although we really didn’t want to bring the Vital Stove, it’s the best thing we did! We’ll never go without one again! The Swift Yukon is the finest expedition canoe we paddled so far and we won’t look for another one.

Thanks also to Dave and Kristen ( for the warm welcome and the sailing trip to Fort Reliance.





Soon to come. Or eventually. 


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