Canoeing in Canada
The Nahanni, the Tatshenshini, the Bowron Lake Circuit, and the Mackenzie River that connects Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake offer the best northern wilderness canoeing in the world whether your love is seeing see a grizzly roaming freely, thousands of caribou on the move, or watching a bald eagle or Peregrine Falcon soaring high in the sky. Each of them offers unique opportunities to fall in love with the wilderness and some of the most experienced outfitters and guides in the world! These devoted wilderness enthusiasts have well learned canoeing, kayaking and rafting skills, emergency first aid training and wilderness survival knowledge They know the folklore and history of the area. They can tell you where to catch a fish at every cast while watching a moose go by, or drift by a fishing hole frequented by grizzlies They can show you which fishing fly will work best in a given location or give you the adrenalin rush of facing down a giant brown bear with only a camera in your hands and a stun gun on your belt in case something goes wrong. Whether you want to kayak among the glaciers, photograph Dall sheep or white water raft down heart pounding rapids as they swirl through painted canyons you can find the perfect trip on the great rivers and lakes of Canada.
The Nahanni and Tatshenshini are two of the most breathlessly beautiful wilderness paddling and kayaking rivers in all of Canada. Whether you are inspired by the spectacular and ever changing northern lights, giant glaciers wrapped around alpine peaks or you want to stand on top of a mountain at the great divide and not see another soul for hundreds of miles, you can find the perfect trip for you.
The Nahanni was one of the world’s first four natural UNESCO World Heritage sites named in 1979 for the spectacular glacier and icefield landscapes as well as for the importance of grizzly bears, caribou and Dall Sheep habitat. It is also a Canadian Heritage river and was also a favourite of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, an accomplished wilderness paddler, an early environmentalist, and one of Canada’s most loved prime ministers.
The Tatshenshini is rated as one of the top ten paddling and rafting rivers in the world and is located in the largest contiguous preserve in the world (and we thought they were all in Africa) which consists of Glacier Bay National Park, Tatshenshini Provincial Park, Kluane National Park and the Yukon Game Preserve. It is also part of the largest non- polar ice field in the world and runs through an iceberg filled lake with spectacular calving glacier photo opportunities Alsek Lake. As recently as 1852, Alsek lake was 100 kilometres long and about 100 metres deep as a result of a giant glacier blocking it runoff, making it larger than Kluane Lake. When the ice dam finally broke, it sent a gigantic wall of water down the Alsek River drowning the communities along its shore. The glaciers last major surge was in 1997 and 1998
The Great Mackenzie River is Canada’s longest river from the headwaters of the Peace and Athabasca, through Great Slave lake and north to Great Bear lake at the edge of the arctic circle then on to the Arctic Ocean which flows into the Beaufort Sea. Along the way, it scrapes the rocks and then deposits its heavy load of sand and silt into the channels further north. Millions of migrating birds swoop down its valleys where it starts in the south and many follow its comparatively warm waters to the north where seals, otters and porpoises abound and it feeds its nutrients into the ocean to support the flora and fauna that supports the arctic char, salmon and krill eaten by the Orcas, grey whales and humpback whales. Its watershed is1.8 million square kilometres in size and drains one-fifth of Canada’s land mass yet few Canadians have ever seen the Mackenzie. Even today, as its inhabitants, the Dene, Métis, Inuvialuit (Inuit) and non-aboriginal inhabitants contemplate their river’s future, the Mackenzie remains one of the most undeveloped, sparsely populated, and intriguing rivers.
In contrast the Bowron river circuit in northern BC is famous for its challenging canoe circuit, which encompasses a 116-km chain of lakes, waterways and connecting portages where you can test your white water skills and endurance. from mid-May to early October, depending on ice and snow conditions.
Wilderness and fishing lodges can be found throughout British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories and offer great canoeing, kayaking and white water rafting excursions with plenty of salmon, arctic char and wildlife everywhere. It is hard to communicate the thrill of paddling pods of Grey whales, Orcas, porpoises, seals and countless sea birds and viewing some of the most spectacular glaciers in the world. There is something for every level of expertise with the relatively easy paddling of the Mackenzie where the water is wide, flat and protected, to the class five white water channels where there is also no shortage of adrenalin rushes for even the most experienced paddler to experience a once in a lifetime memory.
Generally, lakes in the region are ice-free from May through November. From May through June, the water is high, fast and travel is easy. Mountains are usually still snow capped, making for beautiful photo opportunities. Daylight hours are long. July can be the wettest month of the paddling season and is usually the buggiest. In August, the bugs are usually gone and the water is low, revealing lakeside beaches and good swimming opportunities. Daytime temperatures remain warm, but evenings are cooler.
By September, most canoe routes are quiet. There is less traffic, no bugs, and the fall colours are a spectacular sight. The Northern lights are best at the spring and fall equinox.
Complete listings of canoeing and kayaking outfitters across Canada:
Canoeing in Northern Canada, Canoeing in Western Canada, Canoeing in Central Canada, Canoeing in Eastern Canada, Kayaking in Northern Canada, Kayaking in Western Canada, Kayaking in Central Canada, Kayaking in Eastern Canada, Canoeing & Kayaking in Canada