Horton River--Horton Lake to Arctic Ocean 2016

CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesArctic
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Brian Johnston
Trip Date : 
July 2016
Additional Route Information
600 km
26 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
0 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

We flew commercial flights to Yellowknife. Overnighted and then we flew to Norman Wells. Canoe North Adventures provided accomdations. Air charter to and from the river was by North-Wright aviation. 

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Horton River 2016

It's Canada Day. I'm on a great Canadian Far North River and it's happy hour. My canoe tripping/paddling partner is mixing up our daily rum ration—3 oz. of overproof 151 rum with lemonade and line juice.

The site is impressive. Sparse dark green conifers stand tall here and there. That's unusual for us. Trees. We are used to barrenland travel but this year we have opted for a western river, almost a mountain style experience or at least a good introduction to continuous flowing rivers with gravel bars and the like.

A more mountain than tundra river 1 250 000 map image

We also feel the presence of the party of four we shared our twin otter air charter with yesterday, as they are camped within sight of us across the river. But it's only our second night so I'll pass judgement on sharing the river later. I know, we too are on the river and thus we are part of the problem. They are sharing it with us and we with them. All good. But most often we never see any other paddlers on our Far North trips. 

I've waited until today to begin my journal. For several reasons, I have not yet felt the urge to write. In fact, I've written little over the winter, which is unlike me. But I heard a couple of statements today that heeded my desire to capture they.

We need four to seven days to shake off everything that you brought from the outside world to be engaged with the here and now. Enjoy the here and now and what we do, being on trail, or on the river. With time, you get to a state when you truly leave the rest of the world behind and that is imperative.

Full immersion. That is the experience we seek to recharge and I'm in need of recharging.

We teamed up with a party of four to achieve the critical mass of six canoeists and three tandem canoes for a twin otter. But our joining is not without issues and concern. First off, it started with an April fools' joke of telling us via an email message that the trip dates were charging—necessitating rebooking flights at a cost—Ha ha! Then the week of our scheduled departure there was the bombshell of a weight limit. We were close but definitely overweight. There was a mad rush to re pack to reduce our weight but in all cases, all three canoes teams were failing to meet or achieve a sufficient weight loss to meet the maximum allocation. More email messages and phone calls finally resulted in an increased limit.

Departure time. A very smooth transition. I met my paddling partner in Winnipeg, overnighting. We were up at 5 am and off to the airport. Although it took longer than expected to move through the check in process we boarded the plane on time. The rest of the journey to Yellowknife was uneventful.

It was a drama-less day of travel, flying to Calgary, Edmonton, and onward to Yellowknife. We stayed at the Explorer's Inn and we had supper at the Vietnamese Noodle House.

Likewise, the next travel day was also uneventful—just the way we like it. We flew to Norman Wells and North-Wright aviation shuttled us from the airport to their base operations hanger to complete paperwork and payment. Then, via the Northern Store for naphtha fuel, margarine and onions, to the floatplane lake. Our 3 pm flight time was advanced—all good news.

There we met Lin of Canoe North Adventures. She was concerned about our canoe choice—a Pakcanoe—it would not be suitable for the Horton and its canyons. I was not worried because I’ve been using Pakcanoes for about a dozen years in the Canadian North. It’s all about the canoe, as there is a thrill in the skill. 

It was approximately 90 minute to fly the 175 miles to Horton Lake. I slept a bit, as did my trip mate. We flew low, or at least not high. Overcast skies. No ice in sight. A little snow remained of drifted snow banks.

With ease on the first pass we landed and beached on a small sanding shoreline, unload and watched the plane depart. We are on Horton Lake. 

It was the first time to erect my new Hilleberg tent as well as a new MEC Mantis shelter. Then we assembled our Pakcanoe. Next was happy hour and dinner. The other group did the same, having fresh lake trout and grayling that they had caught.

I was amazed at their gear from little things such as camp slip on footwear to the four large tent structures. They had three tents, two 4 person and one 3 person, plus a mammoth group shelter that would be more at home at a base camp of a mountain climbing expedition. Other large and heavy items included propane, three 10 pound bottles, and a two-burner stove complete with a piece of plywood to rest on. Their fold out spice kit was the size of a small briefcase. Even the shear number of MEC Slog bags, in every size 30, 50, and 100 L, was impressive.

July 1, 2016

Our first full day on the river. Up to the same SE wind and partly cloudy skies of yesterday. We both slept reasonably well. Breakfast was oatmeal and the warmth was welcomed in the coolness of the morning.

We loaded up and pushed off, bound for the RR side of the river exit from the lake to fish for trout. Caught several big ones from the shoreline, deciding to release them, hoping for a smaller trout. Slowly we continued to move and fish downstream.

At one point we heard the other group sound an air horn and wave a paddle. I reciprocated the paddle wave and we walked upstream to investigate what we assumed was an emergency (three blasts of the air horn—SOS). Upon closing the gap we could see someone walking with my paddling partner’s orange camera box, which had been left in one of their two canoes. They had signalled before we ventured around the point and lost sight of us. That’s a highly uncommon occurrence for us, misplacing something. 

With the Pelican case in hand we continued downstream, enjoying the swift current and fishing here and there. We did indeed land a suitable pan-sized lake trout, which was filleted and bagged for supper. Lunch was a short hike to a hilltop for the view and wind—no bugs.

Lunch view image

The tailwind continued all day until we camped RL. Within half an hour our camp was made. We had a leisurely evening and a big fish feed. By supper time the sun was out and later the wind lessened a bit. I wrote this journal until 9:30 pm while the solar panel charged a camera battery.

July 2, Saturday

A hard and heavy rain beat down on us while we were in the tent sleeping. Once up I poured off deep pools of water from the Mantis shelter, which was laid down for the night before erecting it for breakfast.

We left camp into similar weather as per yesterday—SE winds and partly cloudy. The current and wind both pulled and pushed us downstream. The sights were nice.

Lunch was RL at noon, including solar charging my iPhone, followed by an easy afternoon with some fishing and drifting. Slowly the cloud cover lessened the heat of the day warmed up, a little too warm for us. Saw a red fox, bald eagle and an old nest on RR.

Camped RR. We were warm and getting beat down in the heat of the day and the hot sun. The wind was keeping the temperature at bay provided you were not working to hard.

Mantis shelter, tent and then we both bathed and washed our shirts. 5 pm writing our journal entries and thinking about cooking up the two grayling that we kept. We released the large Lake Trout that had been caught on the first cast.

We are fortunate to have ideal weather conditions at the start of our trip. The river water level is also still high, and into the shoreline willows but it’s well below spring flood levels.

Fish fry and potato soup is done and we are over heating, eating and cooling off outside of the Mantis in the wind. The sun, even at 8 pm, is baking us.

July 3 Sunday

Rain. It's 7:30 pm and a little rain has started. We love it. My trip mate is out for a quick wash while it's thundering load overhead. Before supper another storm passed us by to the other side. We are on the edge of this one so we don't expect much in terms of rain but we do have high hopes for cooler temperatures.

All day we paddled and moved slowing, wishing for some sun respite. The light tail wind and the intense hot sun made for a very hot day. Lucky we stopped for lunch along a steep outward bend with a couple of white spruce trees that cast a bit of a shadow. That combined with the light wind made lunch pleasant.

At times we slowly drifted with the current and wind. It kept us from exerting too much physical effort and generating body heat.

We saw several bird nests—all unoccupied. Also alone the cliffs were cliff shallow nests, something we are not used to seeing on our summer canoe trips.

The river continues to be an easy introduction to mountain style rivers or even Far North rivers, mind you, our trip is still young and much can change. The first half of the Horton would be ideal for fishers seeking good Lake Trout and Grayling fishing, swift current, easy swifts, no portaging, gravel bar camping, etc. provided you fly out at the midpoint before the canyon whitewater and murky and colder Arctic coastal environment and conditions.

The light filtering through the red outer tent fly and then the inner yellow tent creates an interior light experience we are not yet fully accustomed to. Red colours appear orange. The iPad screen blue.

Boy, it is still hot in the tent.

Supper, curry with rice, our first without fresh fish, brought on a sweat even though we were already sweating. And the sweat continues. Last night we both fell asleep after reading, laying on top of our Therm-a-rests. It was not until into the wee hours of the morning that the temperature dropped enough that I pulled out my sleeping bag—using it like a blanket.

Before supper, after happy hour, we hiked to a cliff I spied while returning from a bath and clothes wash. It was excellent to stretch our legs. This is our first night with a bit of tundra at hand. The bugs were okay on the short hike. It was an interesting small limestone canyon with a pool of water and a large bird nest, again, not active.

While returning we saw two canoes paddle past.

4 July Monday

It was a warm evening and night in the tent. I read, starting a new book, having finished Suzanne Martel's The King's Daughter. By 11 pm I had put down Dogsong by Gary Paulsen, but the temperature remained uncomfortable hot until after 1 am.

Books image

Once again it was still and warm in the morning. We woke at 7 am to a warm tent, warm enough that we were happy to pack up and exit.

After a granola breakfast I did my daily exercises and we pushed off into current and then we sponged bathed our upper bodies. On shore, the lack of wind resulted in too many bugs for a quick bath.

Not too long after we arrived at the other canoeists’ camp and briefly visited with everyone. Their highlights were a herd of musk oxen and of course, lots of fish.

All day we paddled, coasted, and watched the surrounding hilly and open country. Lunch was RR in the shade of some white spruce almost overhanding. That shade combined with the upriver wind made all the difference—we enjoyed our lunch food, the rest and coolness.

Back on the river we drifted more than we paddled. Our leg stretches included walking the upstream end of the island to assess it for camping—it was pretty good. We also stopped at several riverside cliffs sites and saw several large bird nests but we have yet to find or see one in use. Overhead a lone bald eagle soared.

Having our daily distance behind us we camped RR close to where one of my canoe tripping friends camped in 1997. Their pace was faster, it being their third night compared to our fourth. They were 19 days on the river whereas our schedule is 26 days.

Bath, then tent, then another bath, then Mantis for happy hour. The bulldog flies have been numerous in the Mantis as well as under the tent fly and in the vestibules.

Our late afternoon and suppertime were borderline for heat—we kept wondering about having another cool down bath. Dark rain clouds and thunder was still close but at bay for hours, finally after 7 pm it started to rain. We quickly packed up our outfit, dropped the Mantis and retired to the tent to journal and read.

We had this idea that we need a reflective Mylar sheet to cover over the sunny side of our tent to reflect the hot penetrating ray of the sun. We come up with the idea of sewing reflective emergency sheet to a tarp outfitted with tie on system to the tent and or Mantis.

Wolf tracks along the shoreline in the sand.

I read in the tent for a bit before napping and then getting organized for the night finally reading another couple of short chapters before calling it a night. Again, around 1 or 2 am I pulled the sleeping bag out.

5 July Tuesday

Up to the usual weather, still, sunny and warm. After breakfast of granola I did my exercises.

We paddled slowly on the water, constantly dripping my hat, drinking water and drifting—we were tiring hard not to overheat.

We hike a RL hike. It was good, before the heat of the day and it would slow our progress—no point getting our milage in early because it's too hot to stop and camp in the heat of the day. It’s cooler on the water than the land. 

Lunch was RL in the shade of some trees on a short but steep bank. The river continues to flow and is dropping and exposing vast gravel bars.

Gravel bar image

At some point we passed some nest sites including a peregrine falcon nesting site. Overhead we saw two bald eagles and one golden eagle. Sik sik sightings on the water as well as on the hike.

Stopped on RL to check out a possible campsite and within seconds the heat generated thunderclouds let go a driving rain. We sheltered ourselves standing next to a few short white spruce trees. Once the rain lessened we put up the Mantis and of course it became hot so we bathed. I went in for a full but short swim and rinsed my clothes. Next was the tent. With time on our hands I solar charged my iPhone, iPad, and then a cameral battery. We read in the shade of the Mantis. I also walked the high water mark.

This is an excellent campsite, the best we've had for tenting. Mark it on the map! I'm truly amazed at the high water driftwood above our camp along the short white spruce. Dry twisted silver trees and branches. This site offers good flat tenting with good ground for tent stakes/pegs.

7 pm, Happy hour is almost over and supper is on. It's almost too hot to be in the Mantis. Only in here to cook and entertain the numerous bulldog flies. Mosquitoes and black flies not too bad.

6 July Wednesday

Wow, I could call it musk ox day or Arctic char day but I will not as it must be called Thunderstorm day. We had another great but hot day and had camped RL. The kitchen Mantis shelter was put up, as was our big red, the tent. Then we both bathed and washed clothes. For me it was day two for full immersion—the deep shoreline made it easy but it was cold enough that I quickly scrubbed and returned to shore. 

For days now, the intense heat has created late afternoon thunderstorms. Most days we have already been in camp and the worst has missed us—a little rain here and there. Yesterday we got rained on hard when we pulled off the river to camp—we took shelter standing next to a small group of short white spruce trees. Well today the thunderstorm let loose on our camp and us.

My trip mate was holding down one end of the tent while at the other end a peg let go and wind blown rain dampened some of the inside of the tent.

In the Mantis it was holding on for dear life. As I looked around there were many items out and about inside but I was busy holding down the windward side. Heavy winds and rain. Water was pouring off the Mantis. The downward side was in the air several feet. In reality it did not last that long and the interior of the Mantis only got misted with moisture.

Backtracking to the other events of the day we saw approximately a dozen large bird stick nests but no young. We did see bald and golden eagles including two at once soaring high but we don't know if they were a nesting pair.

We caught an Arctic char at a leg stretch and bathroom break. The location had ice-cold ground water flowing out of the large riverside ridge.

After lunch we also stopped to watch and photograph a lone male musk ox. He was content to let us take many photographs.

It's fish fry time as we enjoy our evening cocktail. We suddenly sight a canoe landing so we venture out to investigate—to say Hello. We invite them for Arctic char. Of course they accept.

Fish in the pan image

In the Mantis we eat, visit, and share tales. They have seen a lone male caribou and had fish for every supper, even leftover fish for breakfast. Their routine is mostly floating and fishing as well as checking out things like bird nests. The other canoe is on its way, somewhere upstream but it's been hours since they saw them last. Also upstream is a tandem kayak bound for the rivers' mouth and beyond to Paulatuk.

After finishing supper the other canoe arrives. They are proud of a jack fish that was caught. We are surprised that there are such a species in the Horton River. They also had two grayling. We of course offhand mention the Arctic char feast we had—they are in disbelief.

More talk of our travels and they push off at 8 pm in search of a campsite. After we clean up and pack up camp for the night I hike through the open forest and can see their big red kitchen shelter on the downstream end of the island around the point. Down to the water's edge for another bath. The wind is up and the odd little raindrop falls. At 9 pm we turn in for the night, first writing our journals before reading. Last night I finished Dogsoug so tonight I'm starting another book by Gary Paulsen called Hatchet.

7 July Thursday

Up at the usual time to yet another hot clear sky day—a week of unbelievable hot weather with a tail wind every day. Even at 9:40 pm when I start to write my journal it is too hot in the tent.

Today we meet the tandem kayaking team Peter and Julian that they other canoeists had mentioned. While we were finishing up lunch I saw movement upstream, which in time was apparently kayaking paddles. Anyhow, they spoke of taking the temperature and recording 29 and 30 degrees Celsius at 11 pm. Continuing with our riverside visit, they flew in from Inuvik on the North Wright 206 Cessna for under $6000 and are heading to Paulatuk on the Arctic coast via their tandem Feathercraft kayak. Nice guy and a great idea to finish their trip at a community.

Our day started with a short paddle across the river to the Eastside where we hiked about 2 kilometres to a small limestone canyon with spires. The route there was mostly open forest gaining altitude. It was an interesting experience. Merlins spent much time making noise. I assume they were nesting there. Nests were seen but we did not figure out if they were in use.

Out hiking image

Back on the river we plan on gaining some miles after our 3 hour hike. Near by the other canoe partly was noticed with their three tents and big red kitchen Taj Mahal. We assume they were also off for the hike as no one was out and about—it was noon-ish. Because accessing their camp required wading the shallow gravel bars we passed without stopping.

In two places we run out of water depth and had to walk our canoe due to shallow gravel bars. Overhead once again we watched eagles soaring, bald and golden.

Unlike the past several hot days, no heat generated thunderclouds developed and the intense sun all day and evening blasted us.

We did little drifting today after spending several hours hiking. The stronger tailwind kept the temperature okay for active paddling helped by frequent hat dunking and lots of drinking water.

We camped late but were not in a rush to get everything done. The tent was up and then we both bathed and washed clothes. Next was a run and lemonade with a spicy salty snack. Once well rested we cooked a hearty soup and bannock, wrapping up the kitchen after 9 pm.

At 10 pm we are outside the tent in its shade writing and reading—that's how hot it is. I finally looked up in the camera manual how the Wide mode works.

I spend some time thinking about the vastness and inter-connectiveness of the Far North…contemplating linear and non linear routes, connecting watersheds, etc. There is no limit of options available—route choice abounds. 

8 July Friday

The bake oven was hot. We slept in. What saved us was the high RR ridge to the East across from our campsite—the sun had to rise above it before radiating its rays on out tent.

Same as last night, we had an outdoor or open-air kitchen. Breakfast was delightful in the warm sun and light breeze.

Today is the first time this trip that I feel my face—thinking that last night's open-air evening was too much sun without having sunscreen or my hat's sunshade down.

For the morning we paddled and drifted, dunking our hats on a regular basis, successfully staying cool enough to not overheat. We are still being pulled by the current and pushed along by the wind.

The wind also carried the human sounds of Julian and Peter, who were catching us from astern. We drifted and once they were side by side with us we conversed for some time, until we broke away to lunch in the shade of overhanging shoreline tree shade on RL.

I was surprised they had not passed us before we rose late. My thinking is that they will stay ahead of us. Kayaks are pretty fast water craft. Faster than canoes. 

The afternoon, similar to the morning, we tried to keep out body temperature down by paddling slowly and drifting. Around 3 pm we were approaching 30 km, passed our 25 km daily goal, with excellent camping opportunities so we called it a day and camped RL. We are at the same site that my friends had annotated on their 1997 maps, which we are using for our trip.

This is the second day in a row with an afternoon thunderstorm.

Not only is the take-out good, the tenting flat and ideal low ground growth covered sand tundra, but there is also a small clump of trees—shade.

Camp with a view, shade trees image

We relaxed in the shade and headed off for a hike. A ridge spur provided up and downstream views. I took several panorama and wide-angle photographs. The ridge top was covered with rock, much of it showing crystals from the limestone deposits. One could use more geology knowledge.

Returned after 5 pm and our evening was as per usual—pre dinner drinks and snack, supper, followed by a cup of tea. By 9 pm we had the tent up in the shade but were both still outside reading and writing our journals.

9 July Saturday

Across the river, with a high ridge to the East, our tent stayed out of the sun so we slept in. Similar to last night, the small cluster of white spruce provided shade on the backside.

Again, taking advantage of the cool shade we enjoyed a double round of our morning coffee and tea.

Again, we are hot. In fact, today it either hotter or drier, as after hat dunking it was drying so fast. And again, we are enjoying a tailwind.
By lunch there were clouds forming that provided some respite from the hot mid day sun.

On a spur of the moment decision, we fish at the creek entrance on RR. In no time we caught a pan sized grayling, which was hooked in the eye so we kept it—gutting and bagging it for supper. While cleaning the fish I notice all the fish in the creek outflow. We believe they were there to enjoy to colder water inflow. Their appearance got us fishing again, casting and catching grayling, trout, and char. Unfortunately, one char was hooked bad and bleeding. We kept an eye on it and decided that it was not going to survive well so we ending up with too much fish.

Thus we paddled across the river to RL where I spied some shade and I cooked up grayling for lunch, our first noon-hour fish meal.

The afternoon was easy going until we started to look for a campsite. With the hot temperatures and intense heat we wanted a campsite that offered the usual flat tenting but also shade. Unfortunately, 6 pm came without such a site so we stopped for a shoreline supper and I cooked up three frying pans full of Arctic char.

Fish steaks on the paddle & fish in the pan image

Back on the water we slowly continued our way downstream stopping every once in a while to check out possible camping sites. At 8 pm we stopped at an otherwise poor site but it was cast in shade by the tall ridge rising behind the shoreline.

After a quick bath and shirt rinse the tent was up and we got to work on our maps and journal writing. Before 10 pm we even had time to read.

10 July Sunday

Oh Oh, the sun is coming out from behind a cloud. It's 9 pm and I just entered the tent, but it's too hot with the sun on it. And so goes another day on the Horton River—overly hot temperatures continue.

We dashed out of camp this morning after waking to a hot tent at 7 am. I suggested we depart and cross the river to the gravel bar that was in shade for breakfast. We agree.

The river continues to be kind to us with outstanding views, high cliffs, numerous large stick bird nests, soaring bald eagles, swift current, easy navigating and once again, a shady site for lunch. Our noon hour break included a half an hour nap on the sloping riverbank. Not the most comfortable rock resting place but we thoroughly enjoyed our long break from the intensive heat of the day.

Saw one caribou on the forested island that we passed during the afternoon.

Near our planned daily mileage of 25 km we looked for the tent rings and stone fence mentioned in the McCredie book without success. Even after re-reading the book entry and walking twice along the shoreline bank we could not find any signs. A fire scar was seen while searching for the tent rings, as well as many silver trees—dead dried spruce. We did walk into the floatplane lake that North-Wright uses to drop off and pick up paddlers, near the Whalemen River entrance.

Our campsite is up the bank with a commanding view. The feature that sold us was the trees that we sat, cooked and eat behind—Shade, oh so welcomed. There is a fire scar at our site as well. A lone caribou is walking downstream across the river along the shoreline. The mosquitoes were indeed pesky, which is why I moved into the tent, albeit premature accordingly to the heat.

I feel like another bath. Today's body and clothes rinse was okay in the warm sun and light breeze. The mosquitoes and horseflies/ bulldogs were okay. Unfortunately all evening the light breeze lessened to nonexistent.

11 July Monday

Guess what, it's hot inside the tent and we are stirring quickly to wake and exit—hopefully it's cooler outside.

We ate our last granola breakfast and all of our oatmeal is gone. The only two breakfast left in food pack #1 are two slow cook breakfast, which are usually saved for cold weather bound days—lots of cook time, or cold hard working days when we need calories.

All morning we paddled and drifted. In short order we passed the Whalemen River entrance. It flowed in at the island but because our maps are copies of copies, and in black and white, I had placed it a little further north.

Around the big bend and southward we canoed. Nesting sites, several peregrine falcons and easy current. Photographs of Arctic terns hawking—stalling out in the air over the river to hunt for fish.

At the beginning of the first canyon there were two musk oxen on RL. Even with the wind in our favour they moved off quickly. Nevertheless it was a nice sighting. When scouting rapids or during our leg stretch shoreline breaks we have been seeing fossils in the rocks.

Scouting rapids image

We run the first set of rapids and then paused for lunch RL in the shade of the tall river sidewall. It was a nice spot to stop, with good rock for our noon hour break.

The next couple of rapids were also easy to navigate down the edge, running outside lines and riding out the edge of the wave train and staying out of the slower eddy currents.

Upon exiting the canyon we stopped to bath and wash clothes RL at an excellent site—flat rock. While there we watched grayling and Arctic char slowly swim upstream.

Next was finding a campsite, although it was still early, our mileage was done. Several hundred metres downstream we eddied out and hiked up the shore and found an ideal campsite, with shade trees and okay tenting.

After resting in chairs facing the river we hiked back upstream after a caribou almost walked into our camp. The views and walking were both good. On the way back we swung inland keeping high for easier walking and in the light airs.

Caribou image

Once back in camp we served up happy hour and dinner followed. Again another caribou almost walked into our camp. At 8 pm we decide to write and read more before putting up the tent in order to figure out the best shade tent site near to 9 or 10 pm. We both sponged bathed to cool off. Surprisingly without wind the bugs are pretty tolerable. There are mosquitoes, black flies and horse or bulldog flies—Only the odd deerfly. We are not used to seeing dragonflies in the North but every once in a while we have been seeing them.

12 July Tuesday

My tripping partner had me look up the definition of stroppy, which has been used several times in his book, the fourth in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

stroppy | ˈstrɒpi |

adjective (stroppier, stroppiest) British informal

bad-tempered and argumentative: Patricia was getting stroppy.

We awake at the Bones campsite. Last night I tied three wolf bones together in line and hung them from a tree branch overlooking the river.

It was our first slow cook breakfast of the trip, in part because it was all what was left in our first food pack. Plus it was a good enough site with some tree shade. Instead of cooking it all up, which would have required much more work to burn off the calories than our planned day's paddle, we decided to split the hash-brown potatoes into two meals. So to work I went frying up half an onion and half a box of hash-browns. Next I added a package of crystal dried eggs and pepper. Once done and served, we heated pre-cooked bacon. Of course, it was two cups of tea morning as well.

Today was an easy paddle downstream with several sections of tall walled riverbanks. We saw several birds, including peregrine, rough legged hawk, sea gulls, ravens and numerous cliff swallows and ducks. We audio recorded several times. Once we recorded birdcalls echoing off the canyon wall.

It was also hot from the moment we woke. We did an outdoor kitchen, similar to the past several days. The bugs were okay. At times bothersome. Other times more manageable.

The consideration or noteworthy river profile today was first and second canyons. We ran all the rapids with ease, scouting in part to stretch our legs. We also passed the Delease River junction.

Lunch was about 1 pm on RL, in the shade of the tall shoreline on the outside of a big bend.

Throughout the morning we could see bits of clouds ahead and then storm clouds behind us. We decided we were keen to paddle more mileage today, such as finishing the third canyon, as this would be us in a better position to allocate two hiking days (smoking hills and the DEW line station), as well as arrive the day before our scheduled floatplane pick-up. Although that was our plan, I jumped ship upon arriving at the third canyon. The thunderstorm clouds were near and it was a fantastic location to camp—view, tent site, bathing, canoe landing site, and so on.

Camp with a view ww image

And so it was. We put up the tent and then bathed and washed our shirts. With mostly dried shirts we made up our happy hour drinks and entered the tent without a salty snack.

Not that long later the wind picked up and the rain came down. It may have started light but it gained strength in velocity and volume. At one point it was hailing marbles. We tried to capture the moment on our cameras in both still and video modes. It was an unrestrained rainfall.  

Next we napped for half an hour before we jumped to investigate hearing a noise. Nothing was seen.

Out to cook up a spaghetti meal—it's always a filling meal and the reason why we skipped the salty snack earlier. For supper we put up the Mantis, which for days has been dry bag bound.

Once the kitchen was packed up for the night we hiked to scout the canyon. The clouds are clearing downstream and the bugs were out more so and pestering us. Saw a red fox. By shortly after 9 pm we had our teeth flossed and brushed and entered the tent to write and read. Slowly the sun shone on the tent. Some of the cloud cover has moved on.

Canyon scouting image

13 July 2016 Wednesday

I wake. It was about 7:30 am and the temperature was still cool enough to sleep. My trip mate woke before me. 

Breakfast was another slow cook—a repeat of yesterday. We had put up the Mantis last night because of the rain so we used it this morning. Overhead it was overcast—solid grey skies.

We left later than normal as a result of frying onions and potatoes and cooking eggs and bacon.

The third canyon rapid was right at our put-in when we shoved off shore and into the current. We had scouted but the ease RR line had bigger than excepted waves especially when we passed the large in current rock in the main channel. The result was positive albeit two waves in the bowman’s lap. Next time we would have skirted up at least the bow cockpit.

Next up was a very short line RR over a rock lip that had a little water flowing over it. The vertical drop was steep and fast to line as it fell several feet over a shorter vertical than horizontal distance. The main current had a good-sized drop with several powerful and huge waves.

After a front ferry to RL we scouted the next rapid. We ran the RL side of the main flow, eddied out before the rapid, which we lined RL and then did a very short front ferry to avoid the current that was piling up on the current rock. The ferry was all of one stroke, one critical placed and timed paddle stroke. The waves were pulsating and a little boily and not that small. We were concerned but confident.

Rapids image

The rest of the morning through the remaining canyon was very scenic. We moved slowly. Fish were spotted in the water. The rock walls and spirals, etc. kept our interested. Happy we were that we did one day each for the canyons to savour the scenery.

Lunch was RL in the shade of the tall riverside. All morning the cloud cover has been replaced with mostly clear blue skies.

Blue sky image

Saw an eagle soaring high. Also saw two chicks in a nest, the first of this trip. Of all our Arctic canoe trips, this river has had the most large stick bird nests but also the most inactive nests as well as the biggest nests.

High on the RL ridge I spotted a herd of musk oxen. Unfortunately they were some distance away and the terrain was bushy without clear tundra for walking so we watched and floated downstream.

I climbed to a large nest.

We camped a little earlier than expected. The afternoon temperatures continued to rise and we stopped at a pretty good place to camp. It featured an expansive rock to bath from and to walked about on. It was mostly bug free expect for the large biting bulldog flies. Had we left earlier or not had to scout the rapids we would have paddled more mileage but this spot was close enough to our daily rate.

We bathed and washed clothes. I tried out the Scrubbed clothes washing dry bag and I thought it worked pretty well. The wash water was dirty from washing my wind-shirt. Next time I need to open or loosen the cuffs so that they get a better wash. Also I solar charged camera batteries. We pulled food from #2, moved it to #1, and did the same with #1, moving some items into pack #2. We sat on the rock and drank rum lemonade while snacking on a spicy mix of nuts and corn. We even emptied the canoe and turned it over to examine the hull for leaks. Time seemed to pass without notice or effort.

When looking to see if there was any shoreline shade I noticed crystals inside the hollowed out areas in the rock bank. One of the caves was breathing, pushing cold air out. It was an interesting thing to stumble across.

Overhead storm clouds were building and moving in so we put up the tent and kitchen shelter. By the time the tent and Mantis were erected the clouds were less threatening and the temperatures were back climbing high—it was hot. It was also approaching 8 pm so we started making supper preparations—lentil soup.

Now at close to 10 pm all is done. Mantis is pegged down for the night—lying on the ground. Maps annotated and the map case is prepared for tomorrow. Journals are written. We are reading. I started a new novel by Wally Lamb, I know this much is true.

14 July Thursday

We woke to a warm tent but not a hot box. Breakfast was granola inside the Mantis. Camp packed up, teeth cleaned, tundra/bush bathroom, exercises, canoe packed and off we paddled under a thin haze like cloud cover. I paddled the stern position for the last two days because of the whitewater so today I’m back in the bow for a day. We normally switch paddling positions each day. 

Less current, great scenery. Lots of gravel—beaches, bars and islands. We took all the right channels and made all the right navigation decisions. Saw a caribou trotting along the near RR shoreline before lunch. Unfortunately we did not find a good shade spot for lunch so we ate on shoreline rocks in the upstream breeze.

The day was hot, too hot most of the time, including at 7:30 pm as I write in the shade of the Mantis shelter but the headwind meant it felt a little cooler than past days.

Saw another lone caribou RL after lunch as well as a dead one in the water at the corner with strong current. Bald eagles in the distance, peregrine falcons close making much noise. Terns, sea gulls, several ducks with young.

We camped RR in the open, no shade, but the outlook ahead was not great, our mileage was just over 30 kilometres and the site was open to the wind, flat, few black flies or mosquitoes (albeit numerous dull dog/horse flies). Bonus, two small garage pills of metal—snowmobile parts and pieces, leg traps, radio, Coleman stove lid, fuel cans, grease lid, canned meat tins, numerous cans, etc.

In camp we did a circle hike up onto the ridge and back to camp. We accessed the base of the ridge by following a mostly dry creek bed. Wolf tracks of several sizes as well as caribou and musk oxen were recent in the mud. Up top, when we reached the most downriver lookout before descending to the river, there was a tent ring. Made of smaller rocks and well worn into the ground but definitely an old tent ring. On the route back we also saw older bear prints.

Bath and clothes rinsing. I did a full immersion swim. Not the best site, shallow shoreline and we stirred up sediment as we waked in.

Heard a small plane, our first of the trip. Also a jet, which we have seldom heard this trip compared to other routes. And a sundog this morning was seen. Our first real change in wind direction. After two weeks of SE winds, today's wind was in general out of the West or northwest—a headwind for us.

Today’s quirky trivia. Today we were the Horton River. Our bodies’ fluid/water is 100% water from the Horton River/it's watershed. We had replaced all that we brought with us from the outside. We are now one with place.

Becoming the Horton River image

I'm looking forward to 1 am went it's cool enough to sleep.

My right Kokatat Nomad boot is leaking. Not impressive for my easiest trip sans portaging and ice walking.

15 July Friday

I woke to my tripping partner wrestling his gear. I was still asleep.

It was overcast. The wind was up from the NW. Surprisingly there were mosquitoes out and about. I cooked up oatmeal; we packed up and departed into the wind.

Wow, it was slow and wavy. We took one or two splashes over the bow. The temperature was cool compared to all the heat we've had. It was the first night that I used the zipper on my sleeping bag. Two weeks of crazy warm weather for Arctic river travel. 

As the river bent and narrowed the wind was less of any issue. In fact, all day there was only a couple of times that we paddled directly into the headwind without the assistance of current.

Can you find the Horton River on the map image

Lunch was RL on a gravel beach. Even facing into the wind there were a few mosquitoes.

We saw a female caribou right after lunch and then a bull caribou shortly thereafter. Also watched a golden eagle fly and perch.

At 3 pm with 30 km done looked at the island for camping. It was poor. Downstream some more and we rechecked the island. We figured Julian and Peter, the dual kayak had camped there on the beach. Not to our liking so we investigated the gravel beach across the river, walking its entire distance. It was doable but neither of us like such a site—beach camping. Next was checking further down the island and it became home for the night. Kitchen on the gravel near the water, tenting up top on the island.

It was chilled in the morning and pulled out my fleece at lunch. Once camped and in the Mantis it warmed up and I was down to a T-shirt. It's now 8 pm, supper is done. We go out beach walking to cool off.

During the evening twice we watch lone caribou meander along the gravel shore across the river from us. We agree, beach sites make for better wildlife viewing than camping. 

16 July Saturday

Woke late at 8:30 am. Surprising because we have been bedding down after reading by 10:30 pm on purpose not staying up late. There were some stronger winds late last night so we closed the vestibule door. It cooled off but still not zipping up our sleeping bags.

Cooler again this morning, with the same sky cover—grey overcast.

It was a bit later when we pushed off into current and the wind. All morning there were strong gusts. Lucky for us that the river current is still flowing. There were a couple of sections of wind driven current waves. By noon the sky had opened some and the wind gusts were gone.

Lunch was RR at an excellent little oasis of tundra, which is in short supply near the river. The take-out was questionable but worked very well. The bank climb steep and falling into the river but we made it up and enjoyed the view and soft tundra ground to sit on, a nice change from previous noon hour of sitting on rocks.

Lunch with a view image

Three eagles, many terns, some ducks. Only seem a few geese all trip. All day when we stopped on beaches or gravel shorelines there were animal tracks, caribou, wolf, bear, etc.

The clouds regained complete coverage—back to overcast skies. Cool enough all day for a fleece and happy to be moving and generating heat-warmth.

We paused to hike up top to the plateau to see the tundra polygons marked on the map. The hike and river views were good but viewing tundra polygons from the ground is not great—best left to air viewing.

Camped RL on some hard-to-find-along-the-shoreline tundra! The take-out is a little soft and muddy, and it was shallow for getting water and landing the boat. But otherwise great to camp on tundra—the ground we are familiar with and like. While getting camp organized we picked the odd blueberry. Thin pickings but ripe.

The wind is down, the mosquitoes are out. Having hot drinks and dried smoked tofu. It's so quiet, not a sound at times.

We talk about being back in Yellowknife at the brew pub, thinking about the trip, being one with the Horton but knowing that we are slowly replacing the Horton fluid in our bodies with life outside of it, with craft beer.

17 July Sunday

It's a mosquito day—right from the get go. The wind is so light it is swinging around from different directions.

Up to overcast skies. It's warmer than yesterday, maybe like the day before.

The river water level has dropped a bit overnight. Off we go after all the usual morning camp routine. We try to brush the mud off our boots as we push off and step into the canoe.

A pair of swans guide us down the river, which makes following the deep water a little easier. With the light wind, mosquitoes also follow in our lee. With current our headwind is strong enough to keep the fliers in our lee. Without current the biting bugs are bothersome.

We stop and walk to the forest edge to check out an old log cabin. It has vertical log walls. All the logs had the bark left on. There are also bear scratches on the living trees—marking their territory. We see bear hair left on the tree bark and in the sap that ran out and down the tree after the bear tore off the bark and scared the tree.

As we slowly paddle along we spy two bear cubs and then the light brown mother grizzly. She stands tall a few times trying to scent us. We continue to drift by in current.

Bear image

Lunch was RR on an exposed gravel beach. The clouds were looking a bit like misting—upriver there was precipitation. We had to speed up our noon hour meal and don on rain gear before resuming our paddle. It never did rain on us, only some on and off drizzle.

We seem to take our time today, take it easy and paddle without effort. That maybe in light of yesterday's more physical paddle into headwinds. In the calmness I could clearly heard the gurgle of the canoe's stern. It was that quiet.

Same as yesterday, we started to look for a campsite earlier than later. The RR bank across from us had one spot that might of worked but that side of the river became silty as we were looking for camping options. The shoreline rocks have an orange tinge to them. Up close, in places the shoreline rocks are almost metallic in colour and shine. An acid wash appearance? The mud and silt shoreline sections mean we sink and get muddy. But it's also good for animal tracks—wolf, caribou, etc.

In the end we settle for a beach like camp. Not a favourite style of camping for us but our mileage is done and the downriver shoreline is not suggesting we are approaching other promising sights.

Of course, the take-out and walk up the shoreline rise is not without its mud and silt but we manage pretty well. We select the most flat and vegetated upper beach area for the tent, second best for the kitchen site. Once both shelters are up and we fetch water and both nap.

Up at 5 pm to a warm tent. A small bright spot in an otherwise overcast sky warmed up the tent. Thunder is heard off in the distance. Mosquitoes are still plentiful. This little creek we are camped at on the upstream edge has a slight flow of clear water but its channel through the gravel beach is coloured something yellowy orange. We take our water from the river proper upstream of the current outflow.

18 July Monday

I woke to rain last night and closed the vestibule door. It was a good hard rain but its direction was from the West and the door was open to the East so all was well. In fact, our camp location had some willow shrub/tree protection to the West, which turned out to be ideal given the weather that past overnight.

It was still blowing in the morning. After breakfast we decided to move on based on the concept that the river was turning north and it was a west wind. We expected some lee from the surrounding high hills. Once loading the canoe down at the river's edge I was surprised at the wind force. But all was for not as the paddling went well.

After turning north the wind was hardly noticeable. In short order we pulled ashore. In the near hills there was smoke. It was hiking time to explore the smoky hills this river is known for.

Our walk was about a hour round trip. The open tundra was okay for walking. Some short dwarf birch and small polygon hilled ground made for slower hiking than traditional tundra.

The small area of burning was impressive. We could see some orange and red rock and much black rock or more mud like substance. You get an idea of how this, the burning sulphur, is heating the land and it's running down towards the river, finally making the river silty.

Back to the canoe and downstream until we turned west into the headwind—a perfect spot for lunch, an exposed gravel shoreline. Lucky for us it was fine gravel and not orange coloured from the sulphur. We relaxed and enjoyed a slow paced lunch. The view is so vast and extensive. It's mind-bogging the large scale of this river valley.

After lunch we paddled and drifted a little before looking for a place to camp. After checking out the outside of the bend in the river we decided to ferry over to the inside side for better water quality, and camped on the upper section of the beach.

Within minutes we had the tent and Mantis up, and we were ready for a nap. A light rain was falling.

River view with canoe image

19 July Tuesday

The weather turned. What can I say—It's the day after and I'm writing my journal entry. We woke to a wet day. On and off rain all day. Our day was spent cooking and eating, resting and napping, and reading. My tent mate finished his second book and is reading my copy of The King's Daughter.

In the early evening at about 8 pm we had a short riverside visit with our shared air charter party. They had spend 3 hours just upstream drying out and warming up in their Big Red kitchen shelter. Now they had rounded the corner and were into the wind and falling moisture. They had their work cut out for them.

20 July Wednesday—A group visit for Hot Drinks

We rose to a cold overcast morning. There was on and off driving rain and frozen moisture—small ice pelts. The hilltops were white with snow from last night.

After breakfast we packed up the kitchen but did not move. We were cold and wanted to wait out the falling snow. So we sat in the tent doorway for an hour to see what the weather conditions were going to do. Soon we were unpacking the tent pack to pull out sleeping bags for warmth. We continued to chitchat and wait. Nearing noon the snow had stopped and the wind was down so we fetched our lunch dry bag and had an early lunch in the shelter of the tent. At one point it exactly warmed up to the point that I took off clothing.

Out and down came the tent. We pumped out the rainwater from the canoe's stern and load up. Off we went into the headwind, bound for many kilometres downstream.

The first river stretch was demanding paddling, into a driving wind. After approximately 6 km we saw the other group's camp and headed in to shore to check in with them. In their Big Red we had coffee and tea and a warm visit. 

Out the door and back onto the water. The rain and snow had stopped and they too were going to pack up and paddle. We had some swift current and light winds when heading north. But we also struggled to make progress when going west into the wind and in places without current. At times there was a driving snow and ice pelts. So hard that I was almost laughing that this was some of the most demanding paddling conditions I have experienced. Freezing temperatures, horizontal snow and ice. Low visibility. At one point I thought of how nice it would be to use my clear map case as a face shield for the wind driven ice crystals. But through it all we were basically warm and dry.

Paddling into the snow image

We stopped to stretch and eat an energy bar and continued onward until after 6 pm and the 70 km to go mark. Finding a campsite took us a bit but once the decision to camp was made we were quick about getting the Mantis shelter up and hot soup, drinks, salad and dinner into us.

The tent was done last after eating. We are on the gravel beach, out first real tent and kitchen gravel beach site.

21 July Thursday

With our later tent entry than usual there was no novel reading last night. We both wrote in our journals and called it a night. Snow was falling and gathering on the tent and then making noise as it slide off the fly. The sound kept taking me by surprise or at least I could not instantly figure it out. By early morning the snow was replaced by rain.

Even fully dressed from head to toe I had cold feet when I woke up. After a quick pee break we were back in our sleeping bags and back to sleep foregoing our usual morning routine.

Finally we got up and made oatmeal with hot drinks. It was 11:30 am. One of us was keen to move on whereas one of us was happy to stay warm and dry. We held the opposite positions from yesterday. The cold and overcast sky and falling moisture did not look good. The wind was okay but the shoreline bank also protected us. Nevertheless, we agreed and we packed up in a little drizzle and started paddling with cold hands.

To our surprise, through raindrops on our glasses, we figured out that there were tents ahead, only a mile downriver from us. Julian and Peter, the kayak dual, said they had been staying dry for five days by not moving. Wow, if true that's a long time at one camp. The site looked good, with larger rocks to rock down tents and kitchen shelter. We had a short riverside visit. They were in good moods but they might pull the plug on paddling the coast to Paulatuk. We'll get an email update once we are out.

After two weeks of over 30 degrees Celsius we are now locked into several days of 30 degrees Fahrenheit. No snow on the water today but it mostly rained. Now the rain has stopped. I did not get out of the bow, pausing once to eat a bar. It was a get it done kind of day. 

The silty water makes it all but impossible to see the shallow sections. Twice we grounded out on gravel.

We camped at the first spot we stopped to investigate, after some 20 km. Mantis shelter and hot soup. Then we spent some time gathering rock, which were in short supply, to secure Mantis and tent pegs. Once the tent was up and drying out we cooked spaghetti, salad and hot rum.

The weather is looking slightly better with higher cloud but the wind is stronger and the temperature has dropped. It's cold with the windchill. In the tent early and under our sleeping bags. The rain has lessened.

50 km northward to go but we are only 5 km to the ocean coastline in an easterly direction.

At the end the river parallels the coastline 1 250 000 map image

22 July Friday

"Are you up" we hear as I'm rolling up my Therm-a-rest in the tent. It was 9 am and we were just about to exit the tent when the other canoe party called out. They had camped just upstream of us and were saying hello as they passed. We had a quick friendly visit out of the environmental conditions all six of us easily tucked into the Mantis. They were impressed at how quickly we put it up. They, like us, plan to paddle to the smoking hills site today.

Once they paddled on we got down to breakfast preparations and breaking camp. It was cold in the wind. A little mist made it a bit wet as well. We saw wolverine tracks at our site.

On the water we destination paddled all day, starting with headwinds. Current helped us, as did the lack of moisture. It rained and misted a bit early on but then the cloud cover was higher and drier. There were three red canoes stashed on RL downstream of our camp. We stopped a couple of times to eat energy bars. The end of the day we enjoyed and relaxed with tailwinds and current.

Tonight we are camped along with the other canoe party. We were very quick, our usual routine of Mantis shelter up and hot soup, then the tent, followed by hot rum and supper of salty snack, coleslaw and tonight, a one pot potato wonder main course. After cleaning up we made tea and went to visit in the their Big Red.

This is an excellent tundra site, without silt or mud! We aired out sleeping bags and dried out boots. The other group has spent the last couple of nights all sleeping in Big Red so they also took advantage of the site and conditions to put up and dry out their other three tents.

After two nights of cold feet I pulled out wool sock from the annex pack along with a puffy vest and jacket. It's still cold out even though the snow and rain are gone.

Tomorrow we plan to hike to the smoking hills across the river from us and see the ocean. I pulled out my over-pants and gloves—ready to hike here as well as to the DEW Line station the following day.

Smoking hills image

23 July Saturday

Musk oxen, ocean, sea ice, smoking hills, caribou, kayakers and foggy cold windy paddle to our finale destination.

I was slightly warmer last night—no cold feet. We started to stir at 8 am. The other group was already in full swing breakfast mode—big red was noisy with laughter.

We, of course, did our own thing, breakfast, hot drinks, packed up camp and paddled across to hike to the smoking hills. The other party was ahead of us up on the ridge to the South. We started on the South side of a re-entrant but I was keen to cross over as my friends’ maps showed smoking rocks to the North. Up on the ridge I spotted two musk oxen. Crossing over was a bit of a task, going down and up soft mud as well as a long way up a steep incline. With numerous rest stops we made it to the top. I was first and once over the crest is was cold—a strong cold wind was coming off the ocean. To my left were the two musk oxen. I laid down and slowly put on my coat for warmth and pulled out my camera. They were two males, one very large and the other not small. The two of them were patient and slowly continued to walk towards us. At one point I was concerned that they would get between us and run in my direction. After some time they turned and skirted the ridge and headed south passing below the other hikers who were trekking towards us.

Muskox image

After a visit and photos with the other hikers we headed for the smoke and they returned to camp. The smoke would move with the wind, sometimes rising up past us and blanketing us similar to being surrounded by fog. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Back to our canoe where we had lunch, our first lunch break in days. Then we pushed off into the current.

It was strange, as we expected a west wind but all of a sudden we were having difficultly steering the canoe in the wind. We even went ashore to shift weight forward. I think the cold air off the ocean was powerful enough to surmount the hills and fell suddenly into the river valley, causing a forceful wind. Once we fought our way downstream a bit the wind returned to its westwardly direction.

We also saw and stopped in to visit with the kayakers Julian and Peter. We received with hesitation Six Four, a Japanese crime novel of over 600 pages. It's a big book—a massive size, much bigger than it sounds at 600+ pages.

The day continued to be paddling hard into the headwind but we saw 7 lone caribou mostly on RR, a good mix of males and females.

With the narrowing view that only approaching the ocean can yield, we grounded the canoe near the lat and long coordinates provided by the air charter company. We are done paddling the Horton River. The site is not outstanding for camping but it was time to unload and get on with making camp.

Last Camp image

With the Mantis shelter up we had hot soup, then salad, hot rum and a rice curry dinner.

After the tent was up I canoed over to the other side of the river to arrange with the other gang to hike to the DEW line station, leaving tomorrow morning.

It's after 11 pm as I finish this up. Time to rest the muscles after four tough days of canoeing. During much of our on the water time as of late, my eye glasses have been pushed into my nose by the strong headwinds. 

24 July Sunday

We were tired campers. I was anxiety and jumping out of bed as I had a big hike planned.

A slow cooked breakfast was on order. Onion, hash brown potatoes, eggs and cheese with a bannock and margarine and two cups of tea. Sure it was cool with a little ocean fog but I warmed up making and eating breakfast as well as making and packing a lunch and then organizing and packing a day pack and finally doing my daily exercise routine. By 10:30 am I was ready to trek but the other party was not. We had decided on 10-11 am but they arrived by canoe from across the river closer to noon.

While waiting the kayakers arrived. Julian and Peter scouted the area and chose to camp a little downstream of us. Thus the three groups are close but we each have our privacy.

Off we walked down the river shoreline to the mouth and headed west. The Old Horton Creek was easy to cross. I walked with my LL Bean Boots. The others changed into MEC Wellington’s wet boots and then back into hiking shoes.

Upwards we climbed 350 feet up the spur to the top of the ridgeline and followed it to the DEW Line station. We saw three caribou off in the distance and then another single male caribou soon after.

Nearing the gravel road we noticed an ATV trail or at least some tracks heading in our direction.

Once on the gravel road it was a steady slow rise to the weather station. Two matching white radar domes and one smaller but tall tower mounted white radar dome. The weather station building had a generator running. We ate lunch at the door sheltered from the wind in a bit of sun. The site was pretty clean.

There was a fuel line and a helicopter gravel site with lights. Down the road, a fox ran out from under a road culvert, passed the airplane runway and up to the DEW Line station buildings. Two generators in the shed and a huge fuel tank. The four Acco trailers housed the staff and crew and kitchen and everything else. The doors were all unlocked and we walked around. Books, linen, kitchen items, etc. were all present. Again the outside site was pretty clean.

We then headed back to the shoreline ridge and down the very steep cliff like slope to the two large shoreline fuel bunkers. Along the beach was a lot of sea ice. We collected melting or dipping water into our water bottles. Cold but no salt taste.

We walked the beach edge as well as the high tide line looking for any and everything. Many bear tracks, some caribou tracks and bird tracks, the odd wolf track. Lots of drift wood, little garbage.

We did see jellyfish and seals. The seals were near the sea ice edge some distance from shore. It looked like a gathering of smaller ringed seal and some larger beard seals.

Also along the beach were two cabins. One had the outside covered in tin, the other wood shingles on the walls and roof. It also had a staircase to the second floor. The base of the exterior corners were muddy from bears standing and reaching up to claw the edging—marking their territory. Out back there were two smaller old structures that had soil piled up on the edges, most likely for cold storage. What is the history...remnants of the whaling and fur trading era?

The rest of the walk back was along the foot of the shoreline hills back to the Old Horton Creek and the up overland back to the river and our camps.

DEW Hike image

I had a short visit and drink with Julian and Peter en route of our camp. Navy bean soup was supper. It included a rum and bannock. In the tent and out of the cold thin fog. It was an 8.5 hour hike. 10:45 pm, time to sleep.

25 July Monday

We had a lazy day starting with eggs, hash browns, fried onions and bannock. We read and napped and hiked up on the tundra beach behind our camp. Then we packed up and paddled downstream to a deeper drop off shoreline, which we hoped would be better for the floatplane. I did not like being further downstream than the air charter dispatch lat/long coordinates but their position had a very shallow shoreline approach.

There we dismantled the Pakcanoe and rinsed the components in the river water to lessen the dirt and silt and sand and gravel that had slowly accumulated. While it was laid out to dry we walked a short distance to eat lunch in Julian and Peter's Mantis shelter. Part way through lunch I hear the faint sound of a plane and moments later the twin otter flew past before turning upstream and landing downstream of us.

We packed up our lunch and hurried back to our gear pile. As the plane worked its way to shore and off of the shallows we rolled up the folding canoe. In short order our gear was stowed in the plane's tail section. The other party was still upriver breaking down the last of their tents. In no time they also arrived and the pilots loaded the canoes, gear and bear spray.

The flight was about 2 hours, mostly above the clouds. Norman Wells was wet with a light rain.

At Canoe North Adventures, we had booked rooms and meals. The place was overflowing with paddlers waiting to get out. Weather on the Mountain River was preventing one party of 8 from departing. Another group of 12 from Wanapitei was also waiting for their air charter. And a family of four was waiting out the weather before continuing their Mackenzie River voyage. With a full house we were bunked in the three staff platform tents.

After showers and putting a load of laundry in the wash we enjoyed a relaxed evening meal and visiting.

26 July Tuesday

We were scheduled to eat after the big party who hoped to fly out first thing. Again, it was a busy place as floatplanes were delayed due to weather. Slowly we reorganized our gear for commercial flights south. Canoe North coordinated dropping us of at the airport after lunch. Both owners Lin Ward and Al Pace were out guiding canoe trips on the Yukon and Keel Rivers.

In Yellowknife we walked to the NWT Brewing Company for supper and beers. We have started to replace the Horton in our bodies.

27 July Wednesday

After breakfast in the Explorer Hotel we walked around town stopping in at Overlander Sports and the Book Cellar. The hotel airport shuttle van dropped us off shortly after noon.

The flight home was uneventful, arriving a little late in Winnipeg after a change of planes in Edmonton.

We are already looking forward to our next trip….

Ocean image


Post date: Thu, 04/21/2022 - 10:30


Great trip, Brian. Easy to see why the Horton is so popular! In 1999, Kathleen and I paddled the Anderson River, to the west of the Horton, with similar characteristics. We saw only one other group of paddlers, from Denmark, in 557 km.