This May, a group will attempt to paddle 2,600 miles across Canada via the Northwest Territories. The route, never attempted before by anyone, will begin at the mighty Pacific and end beside the frigid waters of Hudson Bay.
According to their website, they hope to “raise awareness of the significance exploration and wilderness recreation can play in conserving our wilderness heritage.” But first, a route had to be determined. Pete Marshall, mastermind behind the expedition, began looking at maps, contemplating if there was a feasible route from west to east. “I’ve always known of several overland routes to some of the bigger lakes and waterways, but the mountains seemed imposing.” Familiar with other well-paddled routes, he began to to stitch them together, incorporating other waterways.
Called the 2012 Trans-Territorial Canoe Expedition, the crew will consist of four men who hail from St. Cloud, MN. Pete Marshall, Winchell Delano, Steve Keaveny and Matt Harren met each other in high school and began paddling together through a youth outdoor leadership program. Those summers have lead to bolder expeditions together as friends.
Weather depending, they will embark from Skagaway, AK, beginning with a hefty 33 mile hike over the Chilkoot Pass. Sending canoes ahead, their water journey will begin on the Yukon Plateau, a mountainous region that merges with boreal forest. Heading east, they will paddle the Nahanni RIver to the MacKenzie River where it outlets into Great Slave Lake— an area of patchy forest and flat land. Afterwards, they will encounter some of the only portages tackled during the entire trip, the longest being 2 miles. Crossing the height of land, they will enter the Canadian shield and travel the Thelon River whose banks are heavily forested but soon give way to the tundra. Finally, paddling towards Baker Lake, through tundra and habitats that support caribou and musk oxen—they will end at Hudson Bay.
In order to accomplish this, they will travel using Royalex canoes, which they will load with less than 300 pounds of gear. “We’ll use lighter gear as we have a small window of time to complete the trip before water begins to freeze over,” Pete says. In order to divy up the load, they will pause to re-supply every 20-45 days. In the past, they used traditional canoe packs, but felt the bulk and weight were not ideal when carrying tons gear over long, rough portages. This time they will utilize backpacking packs as they’ve found their more compact and comfortable. As a result, they hope to shorten each portage with only two carry-overs, saving precious time.
Thanks to these hardy guys, the paddling community will have additional route options for appreciating these lands. And, hopefully inspire good stewardship for future wilderness enjoyment.
Want to follow along? Watch for future updates or donate to their cause on the expeditions website.