Horton River, to Paulatuk

CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesArctic
Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Allan Jacobs
Trip Date : 
Route Author: 
Freda Mellenthin
Additional Route Information
728 km
27 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
4000 m
Longest Portage: 
0 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Not applicable
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Technical Guide: 

Gravel bar about 50 km below Horton Lake, Horton River, Franklin Bay of Amundsen Gulf, Langton & Tom Cod Bays, Foothills Creek, Tasseriuk Lake, Argo and Darnley Bays of Amundsen Gulf, Paulatuk

Trip Journal/Log/Report/Diary: 

Editor’s notes:
Canoe travel on Amundsen Gulf cannot be recommended.

Title: Tundra Farewell

Route: Gravel bar about 50 km downstream from Horton Lake, Horton River to the mouth, Franklin Bay of Amundsen Gulf, Langton and Tom Cod Bays, Foothills Creek, Tasseriuk Lake, Argo Bay of Amundsen Gulf, Paulatuk.

Year travelled: 2007

Distance, duration: 714 km, 27 days

Author: Freda Mellenthin

In July of 1999 Ted and I had done our first canoe expedition into the tundra together. Both single and in our early sixties, we had met ten months before and had decided to canoe the Hanbury-Thelon River, starting in Warburton Bay on MacKay Lake, and finishing six weeks later in Baker Lake. We had fallen in love with the tundra and with each other. The same year we got married.
Every summer since then we have canoed a different river in Nunavut or the North West Territories, almost always by ourselves. Now in our early seventies, we think it is time to say good bye to the land of the midnight sun. The Horton, a river north of the Arctic Circle, will be our farewell trip in the Arctic. One last time we want to take upon us the hardships of the north, the battle against strong winds, myriads of insects and dangerous rapids, but also the rewards of being part of the vastness of the tundra, of the rolling, verdant uplands and lowlands, and of the crystal clear lakes and rivers. Further south, in the boreal forests and alpine meadows other challenging rivers are still waiting for us.

Friday, July 6

We had arrived in a sunny and hot Inuvik on July third after being on the road since June 28. It was hard to believe that a year had passed since we had paddled the Mackenzie Delta. This year we would paddle with two other women, Geraldine and Catherine, to help us share the cost of flying into the very remote area of Horton Lake. Already in Whitehorse we had run into them. They had also left from the Fraser Valley on June 28. During the months of preparation we had found one more person, Ed, over the internet. He also wanted to fly in with us, but then paddle by himself. Strangely enough, we met him in Whitehorse as well. Ed had already been on the road for seven days, driving from Chicago.
Today was the big day when we were scheduled to fly into the wilderness. We all met at 9 a.m. in front of Aklak Air to oversee the loading of the three canoes and everybody's camping gear and food barrels. At 10 a.m. everything was stowed in the Twin Otter and we were sitting buckled up in a row one behind the other, looking forward to the take-off and this year's canoeing adventure. I was happy that we were finally on the way after so many months of preparation, but also a bit apprehensive. A number of conflicting thoughts went through my head:
-What would it be like to share this trip with our two canoeing partners?
-How would they respond to a stressful situation? They were both inexperienced canoeists and had never been in the Arctic.
-What would the rapids in the Horton River canyon be like? How will Geraldine and Catherine cope there?
The tundra below us seemed to be boundless and devoid of any living creatures. The many lakes and puddles glistened in the sun like polished jewels. Some of them were still covered in ice. After almost three hours in the air a very natural urge announced itself and I did not know how long I could still last before an embarrassing disaster would happen to me. Ted behind me had already helped himself discreetly to the bailing bucket. In the distance I could see some steep grey hills. Good, that must be the embankment of the Horton River! Yes! There was Horton Lake, still partly frozen. Not far from the lake's exit the paddles of four canoeists sparkled in the sun, as they were gliding through the crystal-blue water. Here we would land soon. The pilot was aiming for the large gravel bar beneath. But no, he only touched with two wheels and then decided differently, cranking up the plane to higher altitude again. He tried it a second time on a different gravel bar with the same result. Touching down and then rising again was not very pleasant and caused butterflies in my stomach. How often would we have to go through this ordeal? Now the pilot turned around and announced:
- I cannot find a spot to land here and have to fly you fifty km down the river to a larger gravel bar.
At 1:30 we were finally safely landed. Catherine and I ran for some low shrubs immediately while the others started unloading the gear. Everybody gathered up their camping things and we started loading our canoes. It was too early for us to settle down here. Only Ed stayed to camp.
What a pleasure to glide through the crystal clear, fast flowing water! Green hills, stands of spruce trees and rocky embankments passed by, as a slight breeze caressed our faces. At six o'clock we found a rather swampy peninsula in front of a steep rock wall and set up our first camp of the trip. Soon the three tents, - Geraldine and Catherine each had their own tent, - were up and added some bright colour to the otherwise subdued northern landscape. 20 km

Saturday, July 7

We woke up from our first tundra sleep to a sunny and warm day. Everybody was ready at 10 a.m. Great that nobody had to wait! After one hour of paddling we stopped at a perfect fishing spot on the mouth of a creek. Ted caught three arctic graylings, but a big trout got away with his spoon. Geraldine and Catherine also brought a fishing rod, and after Ted had shown them how to use it they each caught a grayling as well. We ate Ted's fish at lunch time. It was delicious! I had to remind Ted that we can't stay and fish here forever, but have to move on.
The sun was scorching us as we paddled down the river, around many bends and over miniature rapids. At six km/hour we drifted through stretches of very deep, transparent water alternating with shallow spots over gravel bars. The Horton has carved its bed here through steep, rounded tundra hills, often bordered by thin stands of spruce trees above the dwarf alder on the water's edge. A lonely caribou tried to run away from the approaching canoes on the narrow, stony ledge bordering the steep cliffs above it. The clicking sounds of its hooves were the only interruption in an otherwise silent world.
At five o'clock we found a rocky, grass-covered platform where we set our camp. Behind the tents a green slope rose to the edge of a forest. Arnica, lupine and vetch were growing here, lending their yellow, blue and pink colours to the green slope. We had camped unusually early again, which was great, but I suggested that from now on we need to paddle at least 30 km per day. Cathy seemed to frown at this idea, but one never knows what weather conditions are still waiting for us. Today we had time to go for a hike after supper. Geraldine stayed in camp because she was terrified of bears at the beginning of the trip; she became a lot less fearful later on. The rest of us climbed up through the insect-infested forest to the high, rocky mountain slopes beyond. From there we had a splendid view of the river valley and the many lakes far and near that can't be seen from the boats. - There was enough dry wood at the forest's edge to make a camp fire which kept the mosquitoes at bay. 25 km

Sunday, July 8

Another sunny tundra day, and great paddling too! The river was very fast, sometimes at a speed of nine km/hour. The water was so clear that we could see the fish darting by. Ted caught a grayling that he ate for lunch. I stayed away from fish because my stomach was not quite in order. Geraldine and Catherine were paddling a good speed now. Ted made them practice some manoeuvring strokes and eddy turns. In the back of our minds all of us are thinking about the canyon and its rapids we'll have to face in a few days. Geraldine's eyes were badly swollen from mosquito bites. She had not been aware that she is allergic to them. It must be very uncomfortable, but she never complains.
We camped at five o'clock on a beautiful sandy beach. All of us took a bath, everyone hiding behind some bush. Yesterday I discovered that I have forgotten to bring a towel for Ted and me, so I gave him a dish towel while I had to contend myself with a face cloth and run for the tent to dry out. Ted and I had our traditional "happy hour", - tea with vodka, - before I made supper, potato soup and pancakes. This time all four of us went on a two-hour hike, climbing up to the mountain top over loose rocks and walking across tundra meadows. The view from above was most rewarding, looking back on the many river bends we had paddled today. 35 km

Monday, July 9

We are getting spoiled with the hot summer weather, and I am beginning to fear that we'll be punished for it later. The constant heat which does not relent during the night either, - the sun is still high up at midnight, - makes Ted and me very tired. We paddled from nine to five with a one and a half hour break, but when we landed for camping I was quite shot for a while.
Today the river widened from time to time forming two or more channels with large gravel bars in the middle. We often had to paddle over shallow bottom and even scraped the canoe once or twice. In the afternoon Cathy was trying to fmd a wolf den that a guide in Inuvik had marked for her on the map. Wolves usually dig their home in sandy slopes. Once we stopped and hiked over a marshy meadow and up a slope towards a sand hill that had shown a distinct animal trail from the distance. At close look however, it revealed itself as a caribou track.
In the evening we camped on a lush meadow full of yellow potentilla and pink vetch. After supper Ted and I climbed up a steep bluff to the high ridges. We had to scramble over loose rock where hardly any vegetation had a chance to survive. The view from here compensated us for the climbing effort. We had left the girls chatting in their mosquito tent, but coming down we met them on their way up. 43 km

Tuesday, July 10

This morning it was sunny again, but a cool breeze from behind relieved us from the brutal heat and left us more refreshed. We have not seen much wildlife yet. The large animals probably roam in the hills far above the river valley and are not visible from the water's edge. But a single swan fled panic-stricken when he saw our canoes, which might strike to him as two monstrous, bright green and red water birds.
The river is braiding quite often, and picking the right channel is difficult. Ted and I chose the wrong channel once and had to get out to push the canoe. Cathy and Geraldine, usually a fair distance behind us, often have a better chance to find the better route when they see our misery. The water seems to be low, for the shores display wide gravel bars in front of the sloping meadows. We must have missed the caribou herds by about a week when they were walking over these slopes on their way south.
In the afternoon the wind picked up, pushing vigorously from behind while some rain drops fell. Then it became a violent head wind that was hard to fight. We needed to find a campsite quickly, but could not agree on a suitable one. After some more struggling we found a great spot on a grassy ledge. A few hundred meters further down some other campers had put their tent on a very rough gravel bar. Geraldine and Cathy walked over while Ted and I had our "happy hour". It turned out that our neighbours were David and Janet from Ontario, a couple who had contacted us by e-mail when we were looking for canoeing partners. 45 km

Wednesday, July 11

This morning it was sunny and cool. We stopped briefly at Janet's and Dave's campsite to compare maps. They were a very good-looking, constantly laughing couple, but as they mentioned themselves, they had packed "everything but the kitchen sink" on their first tundra trip. In fact, their cooking tent was very large, and we were wondering how they could load all this on their canoe.
The wind was on our backs as we paddled through fast, clear water. Every pebble on the river bottom was visible. We passed many high cliffs on both shores and spotted several raptors' nests anchored on rock shelves. The rock walls had many holes, and the dropping underneath indicated that they were homes to small birds. A flock of ducks and a family of loons fled when they saw us approaching.
We had almost finished lunch on a bank of fine esker sand when Janet and Dave arrived in their heavily laden canoe. We only stayed briefly with them, since our goal today was to reach the entrance to the notorious canyon. Gradually the river widened and the high cliffs gave way to open, rolling green tundra. For a long time we paddled hard before we pulled to shore for a brief rest. Suddenly a Twin Otter from Aklak Air circled above us, - the first motor noise in five days! - When it finally landed on a long gravel bar in the middle of the river, we had already resumed our trip. Looking back over our shoulders we saw a large group of noisy, young people disembarking, probably a guided rafting tour, - there were no canoes. We hurried on to avoid the crowds, passing the mouth of the Whaleman River, and admiring the wide open landscape and the high esker in the background. Then the Horton narrowed again somewhat, flowing around several river bends. Before every turn we were expecting to see the beginning of the canyon and the first white water. We had read and heard so many conflicting reports about the upcoming rapids, and the anxiety was mounting:
-Is this the last gravel bar before we'll be swept away by the first rapid?
-What if we are unable to find a campsite once we are in the rapids?
Thoughts of this sort floated through our minds. Other people's reports can definitely confuse you and drive you crazy, especially if you feel responsible for the well-being of your inexperienced partners!
We did not dare to paddle further than the next gravel island which was quite rough, but had to do for the night. After supper the girls walked towards the end of the gravel bar, hoping to get a glimpse of the possible white-water around the bend, while Ted and I tried to do the same by climbing up into the tundra hills. But no one saw or heard the white water. It was windy and cool, and the sky had turned grey. What will the conditions be tomorrow? When we went to bed we felt like soldiers before a battle. 47 km

Thursday, July 12

Geraldine who seemed to be awake often and early said that it rained during the night. When we woke up the sky was grey and the air cool, but it was not pouring, thank goodness, for heavy precipitation would make the water in the canyon rise. Everybody tried to be cheerful, and Ted joked a lot. The girls were admirably calm on the surface, but how did it look inside?? We pulled out our spray covers for the first time and secured them on the canoes. Then we donned our survival jackets that would keep us warm and afloat in case of a mishap.
To our surprise we had to pass three more gravel bars before we hit the first set of three rapids. They were fairly close together and easy to negotiate. Steep ledges, extending from one side of the river to the other were creating four to five foot waves. It was fun as we ran them, first on the left, then on river-right, and then left again. Ted, as usual, steered our canoe through the highest possible waves for fun. Off course, I got wet. Geraldine and Catherine did fine, even though their canoe turned once and rode some waves stern first. Our canoe was close by, so that Ted could coach them and "straighten them out".
The rapids in the second canyon, approximately five kilometres down were much harder to run. It started out with a nice set of class one and two rapids, but when we approached the next one Ted shouted before we could recognize any danger:
-This looks bad. Let's get out and scout it!
It was a class three rapid with a difficult ledge ending at a big rock in the middle of the river. All this was hard to recognize from a canoe, but Ted knew how to read the water. We would probably have run it by ourselves, but for the girls' sake we all lined it on the right side. The rest of the second canyon was fun to run over high waves and around ledges.
Then we passed through a long stretch of gorgeous, fast river with grade one rapids and high waves. We admired ragged cliffs on both sides that had eroded over thousands of years to form bizarre shapes. I saw petrified women's torsos, high turrets and towering monsters. In the cavities bird nests were hidden, and once we observed two gyrfalcon taking off, obviously upset by our intrusion into their world. After a few kilometres a fairly large creek which flows out of Delesse Lake high up in the tundra enters on river-left. We stopped for a brief rest before tackling the third and most difficult canyon. But it was already 5:30 p.m., and Cathy indicated that she was very tired. No wonder! After all, she had concentrated for many hours on staying afloat and had done her job as a stern paddler very well. I knew that Ted would have liked to get the most difficult part behind him as soon as possible. When the girls tried to persuade him to stop he said to my surprise:
-I would like to continue, but I'll do what Freda says. I was touched!
So we stopped, ferried across the river and carried our camping gear up the steep embankment to a beautiful meadow above. It was evident that other paddlers had stayed here. The view of the river and the beginning of the next rapids was quite rewarding. This was also the spot where a group of canoeists we know had started their four kilometre portage around the third canyon. The climb further up and the walk on the uneven terrain with a full load must have been gruesome! We walked part of that trail along the ridge after supper, hoping in vain to get a glimpse of the rapids we would have to face tomorrow. 30 km

Friday, July 13

All night the sounds of the rapids accompanied us into our dreams. In the morning everybody was tense and apprehensive. Catherine approached Ted and asked if we could portage this whole section. Ted, refusing a long portage on such steep and difficult terrain, tried to console her:
- If you want to portage you are on your own and we'll meet you below the rapids. Just follow us closely and everything will be all right.
Secretly we were also worried, but we kept up a front. Shortly after ten all gear had been carried down from our perch and loaded into the canoes. The first set of three rapids below the three distinct canyon peaks was not too difficult. It was fun to run through the high pressure waves and negotiating the tight squeezes between ledges and rock walls. We ran them on river-right with the other canoe following and doing fine. Below these three rapids a three kilometre section of fast water with some grade one and two rapids followed.
Then we had to face the most difficult set of rapids on this river. On the left shore a huge square pillar stands out, shaping the rapid by forcing the whole river through a narrow gap of approximately seven meters. Below it a single drop of about two meters ends in a big hole. Seen from an approaching canoe it does not look too bad, so Ted wanted to run it without scouting. However, I persuaded him to scout it first. Now we saw that the waves in the gap were very high and irregular, folding over from two sides, which would have tipped us, for sure. We landed and walked around the towering, massive rock pillar which most likely is totally surrounded by water earlier in the season. The sun had come out and transformed the canyon into a magic landscape. A small creek was tumbling down through the cliffs. From here we had a good view of the ledge across the river around which the canoe could easily be lined. It was not scary at all! We ferried over and stopped above the table-like ledge, stepped out and lined the canoes around to the other side of it where we stepped back into them.
About 100 meters down the river we faced the last significant rapid, a solid grade three. Again, it consisted of high pressure waves created by a one meter high ledge. There was a nine meter gap to pass through. We wanted to run it through the middle, but the current pushed us to the left shore into a strong eddy. The other two arrived there shortly after, thinking that we had planned this eddy stop. We back-paddled out of the eddy to avoid getting too close to the undercurrent of the overhanging bluff. Now we were free to paddle through the high waves into the gap. But for no apparent reason a force from the left tilted the canoe suddenly to the right, pushing my paddle deep into the water before I had a chance to brace.
"Oh, Oh", I thought, "that's it, prepare yourself for an unpleasant swim"!
But miraculously, thanks to Ted's famous brace and an unexpected force from the right, the canoe rolled up again. After some anxious seconds we made it through the rapid into calmer water and watched the other canoe come out of the eddy. I heard Ted say: -Where is the throw-rope, they are going to tip if they take our route?
However, the current of the eddy forced them right into the overhanging rock wall that we had tried to avoid by back-paddling. We held our breath. Now they'll tip! But Geraldine had the intuition to push herself gently off the wall with her paddle. That freed them to head straight across the waves of the rapid into calmer water. - Hurrah! They had done so well! What a relief!
We found a sandy beach, bailed water from the canoes and had a well-deserved lunch. Unfortunately, Ted's digital camera, which had been hanging from a hook in the stern without any protection, got wrecked in the ordeal. He was able to save the memory card. The rest of the day we paddled along the decreasing canyon walls. This part of the trip is most enjoyable. You float through easy fun-rapids past all kinds of shaped cliffs such as castles, bridges, giant sphinx-like heads and elegant pillars rising out of the water.
At 5:30 p.m. we camped on a sandy beach below a small rapid. I did some laundry and cooked the grayling Ted had caught. Geraldine came to thank Ted and me for guiding her and Catherine unharmed through the canyon, a very nice gesture from her!
A change of weather was in the air. When we had just retired into our tents, the first drops accompanied by a rumbling in the distance descended upon us. We were very relieved that the canyon was behind us and settled down to a worry-free night. 30 km

Saturday, July 14

Despite last night's rain the day was sunny again. Towards the end of the last canyon walls we found the crystal caves that someone had pointed out to us on the map. Two of the three caves were big enough to sit in the entrance raised about two meters above the ground. The walls and ceiling were totally covered in yellow crystals. We all picked up one or two crystals lying on the ground. Slowly the landscape opened up into wide, green tundra hills on one side and high embankments on the other. The river often braided around large gravel bars, and picking the best channel was a matter of luck. It was very hot again. Twice we stopped to climb up into the tundra and walk high above the river. There were foot prints of moose, muskox, bear and caribou, but the animals were in hiding, maybe in a cool place under the sparsely growing clusters of spruce trees.
In the afternoon we spotted a tent at the far end of a huge gravel bar and a foldable canoe at the water's edge. Two Norwegians from Tromso who had seen us from far away came forward to greet us. Ole-Peter, an older medical professor and his young companion Randolph complained bitterly about the heat and the mosquitoes which kept them awake all night. They needed to be at the Horton's mouth in a few days, but could not bring themselves to paddle in this heat.
Around five o'clock we set up our camp for the night on a gravel island. After supper Ted suggested that all of us climb into one canoe and paddle across the channel to go for a hike. First we had to climb up a few hundred meters to the tundra plateau above. Our reward was a fantastic view of the river valley. A warm breeze kept the mosquitoes away from us as we walked for about an hour up there. It was difficult to find the spot where we had come up and where we would find the canoe to paddle back to our camp.

Sunday, July 15

It is hard to believe that we are in the Arctic! The heat is quite intense. Ted had a certain goal today: a mountain that looked interesting on the map. His idea was to paddle only until lunch and then go for a hike. As usual, it was further away than he had anticipated, and we paddled and paddled while our stomachs complained more and more. Our partners who followed at a rather long distance were probably wondering why we were starving them today, since Ted had not filled them in on his plan. I learned long ago not to interfere in such situations. As it turned out, the interesting spot was nothing but a giant cone-shaped sand pile of a mountain with no suitable camping spot below. When we finally stopped and explained the late lunch to Geraldine and Catherine, they were good sports and quite nice about it.
After a well-deserved lunch we continued along large green hills, dark spruce groves and steep shores. We stopped to camp at 4;30 p.m. So much for having the afternoon off! After supper we climbed the steep spruce-covered, insect-infested hill behind our camp and walked on the ridge, looking down to the river on one side, and into a wide, green valley surrounded by a range of mountains on the other. A wave of gratefulness swept through my heart: It was so good to be alive and able to do this wonderful Arctic trip! It had been a great Sunday after all, even if we did not have the afternoon off! 38 km

Monday, July 16

When we started paddling at 9:30 a.m. it was already hot. One and a half hours later we stopped at Coal Creek where the explorer Stefansson once had a cabin at the end of a gravel bar near a gorge, about one-hundred meters away from the creek's mouth. We set out to find the cabin, walking in the heat through the mosquito-infested bush. All we found was some old tree stumps that had been cut by an axe. In the heat, the walk was less than pleasant, especially since we did not find the cabin. It took us over an hour to walk through the dry creek beds and the spruce grove, and then back to the canoes. We all suffered from the heat and were relieved when we finally floated again. At least the forward motion created some air-current.
After lunch the sky became increasingly grey and dark and it was obvious that something was brewing up there. We heard a rumble in the distance, a dark curtain, heavy with rain hung from the sky in the west, and a sudden wind pushed us forward. Then a shower got us all soaking wet because nobody had their rain jacket handy.
The scenery had changed after Coal Creek: The landscape had opened up, the river had slowed down and braided a lot, and the water was not that clear any more. On one side the shore was displaying raw walls of black mud while on the other side wide green meadows almost reached the water.
Around camping time we passed a steep, vertical black dirt wall that released big clumps of mud with a thundering noise every so often. Some trees and shrubs from the top had already fallen in the water. A lonely caribou stood at the water's edge watching us. We camped on the gravel bar opposite the mud wall and were lucky that our tents were already up when it started raining heavily for an hour. We were resting on our sleeping bags and enjoying the splattering sound of the rain that lulled us to sleep for a while. At ten p.m. the sun started shining again. 36 km

Tuesday, July 17

During the night there were more heavy rain showers, and this morning the air was fresh and pleasant. It seemed to me that Ted did not paddle very hard, casting longing glances towards the hills from time to time. They were not as lush and green anymore, since we had entered an area known as the badlands. At 1:30 p.m. Ted suddenly announced:
-That's it, we are going to stay and camp here above the river, have lunch and go for a hike later on.
Before anybody could react, he had already pulled some of our gear out of the canoe and carried it across the slippery yellow rocks that used to be part of the riverbed in higher water. Everybody followed, schlepping their bags up the steep embankment to the tundra meadow. Geraldine was happy to be able to dry her laundry from yesterday. At first it was a bit strange to camp so early in the day in good weather, but then we realized that we did not have a single day off since we started paddling on July 6th. After lunch we all had a snooze, and Ted even slept till five o'clock.
Well rested we set out to hike up the 700 m high mountain ranges. First we walked through low, lush shrubs, and then up a steep, soft mountain of grey loose soil, following the tracks of bear, wolf and caribou. From the top ridge we looked down into the next valley of dry sloping badlands with hardly any vegetation. An unforgettable view unfolded before us! We admired the endless hills far and wide, and the winding Horton below us. Walking back over another ridge, we passed a mountain top of yellow and brick-red colouring. This was the first of the fire-baked hills called "bocannes" that occur in the Smoking Hills of the Canadian Arctic coast. There were many animal footprints, but no animals to be seen.
We had supper at nine p.m. in full sunshine. Later I washed some clothes and my hair in the river. The water is murky now, and not suitable to drink without boiling or filtering. In the badlands there are few freshwater lakes, and despite the rain yesterday, everything is bone-dry. The "free" afternoon had been a real blessing for us and we were all happy. 19 km

Wednesday, July 18

We had wind from behind for almost all day, sometimes quite strong. The river twists in large ox bows here. Often it is very wide and shallow, and we scraped our canoe bottom several times. Today's trip took us past long stretches of badlands, high steep hills made of grey soil where nothing grows. Between these barren mountain ranges there was sometimes a glimpse into a lush, green valley. All the small tributaries were dried out, and the animals have moved to better pastures. We saw two lonely caribou who must have been separated from their herd in the spring.
The famous area of the Smoking Hills lay before us, and already two columns of smoke were visible on a far away hill. The smoke is created by spontaneous combustion of pyrite-rich rock and organic matter, and often initiated by sudden landslides which expose these substances to oxygen. The expulsion of combustible gases produces visible plumes of smoke.
As the day progressed the sky became more and more menacing and sombre. We could see rain in the distance ahead of us, but it did not hit us until we had camped and were well settled. We fell asleep to the sound of rain pelting on the tent. But when I stepped out at midnight the sun was shining again. 41 km

Thursday, July 19

The sky was greyish-blue and did not look too promising. We had just finished breakfast in the tent, when it started thundering and then raining heavily. Geraldine and Catherine who had already packed their tents and stowed them in their canoe had to drag them out and put them up again. There was thunder and lightning from two directions for several hours. During a short interval our canoe partners suddenly felt the urge to rush out to wash their hair in the river, while Ted and I cuddled up in the tent and enjoyed watching the weather from our cosy shelter.
At 2 p.m. the worst was over. We packed and were on the go again. A dark, forboding cloud followed us as we paddled around another large oxbow along steep, barren cliffs, composed of rock and black soil. In many places the earth was loose due to melted permafrost. From time to time a large chunk broke off and fell into the water with a loud "plop". A caribou swam across the river to get away from the noise and find greener pastures. The scenery was grey and dismal most of the afternoon. At 5 p.m. the sun came out covering the whole landscape in a tinge of gold, and the world was beautiful again! We continued paddling until six when we found a campsite in a green meadow on top of a low mud bank. The rain had brought out all the insects, and a humming chorus of millions of mosquitoes accompanied us as we sat happily under our netted porch. After supper we donned our head nets and mosquito shirts to walk up the green hills at the far end of the meadow. 27 km

Friday, July 20

After four weeks of hot, arctic summer there is a change of weather. It cooled off considerably during the night, and this morning it was cold and miserable. Nevertheless, we set out at 9:30 a.m. while a wintry north westerly was blowing. Yesterday I paddled without socks and in summer gear. Today I had to dig out my fleece pants and toque. We were working our way down the wide oxbows of the Horton which flows more or less parallel to the coast of Franklin Bay here. In one of the turns another lonely caribou was standing on a gravel bar in the middle of the river. At 2:30 we were completing the big loop where the Horton flows closest to the hill from which the Arctic Ocean can be seen. The wind had increased and made paddling difficult and quite miserable. Therefore we decided to stop early and camp at the foot of this hill. After lunch we hiked up to the ridge to look down on the ocean. Contrary to reports of paddlers in previous years there were no icebergs in the bay. The water deep down below was shimmering in green and dark blue colours crested with white caps. What a view! In the distance to the north the Horton River delta was visible, revealing the brown shoals and channels the river had created at its mouth.
The view of Franklin Bay reminded us of the next hurdles we had to take: First to make it through the delta, and then the paddle along the Arctic coast and across Parry Peninsula to Paulatuk. What will await us in these waters and on our upstream paddle on an unknown river called "Foothills Creek"? How difficult will the portage into Argo Bay be? Two-hundred kilometres of rarely paddled, undocumented canoeing lay before us.
On top we found a little pond where we took some clear drinking water that looked a lot better than what the now very silty Horton River had to offer. Back in our camp, we settled down in the tents while the weather out there deteriorated more and more. The sky displayed the notorious grey rings in the northwest which indicated wind and miserable weather. 25 km

Saturday, July 21

We are wind-bound for the first time! It is bitter cold outside, but our tents provide us with the necessary shelter against the raging weather. Geraldine and Catherine are very quiet in their canvas homes, sleeping and reading. Ted and I have slept off and on since eight o'clock yesterday evening and until noon today. After all, this is the first full day of rest in fifteen days. We slept, talked, cuddled, ate and played board games like checkers and mill. Although this weather has to be expected in the tundra, Ted is already worried if we are going to make it. In such inclement weather conditions the spirit sinks easily, and silly thoughts such as: " Will the sun ever come up again, will the wind ever stop", are tormenting our minds. 0 km

Sunday, July 22

This morning it was so chilly in the tent that I could see my breath. Outside the green grass on the hill has turned brown from the cold. It is windy and nippy, and either raining or very heavy with moisture. However, in our two-man sleeping bag it is warm. I am staring at the bright-yellow and blue ceiling of our tent which reminds me of sunshine
and blue sky. We hear very little from Geraldine and Catherine. They are either sleeping or reading. Ted and I played some games today, ate, slept and talked. Time went by fast. 0 km

Monday, July 23

We stepped out of the tent into a cold, grey and dismal morning. The wind had relented a bit, so we decided to move on after three nights and two days of inertia, confined to a very small space. Our canoeing partners were still hiding in their tents, but were instantly ready to move on. They even ate granola instead of cooking porridge, so they would not hold us up, so far a very cooperative bunch!
At 9:30 we started paddling against a head wind until we had come around a river bend. After an hour we spotted a tent above the river and a Pakboat down by the water. It probably belonged to the Norwegians we had met before the thunderstorm; they must have moved here during the night. The river braided and was quite shallow in places. The wind picked up from time to time, but generally it was manageable. The cliffs in the distance were shrouded in fog, but when we drew closer their black mud faces looked ugly and depressing. In one spot close to the river's mouth plumes of smoke rose out of the rocky surface close to the shore. To the left we passed a wide meadow where most canoeists would camp before their chartered plane picks them up to fly them to safety. However, our trip was not yet over!
At 2:30 p.m. we reached the mouth of the Horton River where we stopped to collect the last fresh, but brown water. Then we paddled out into the delta. A startled seal dove quickly out of sight. Twice we got stuck on the shoals and had to get out to push or pull the canoe into a deeper channel. We needed to paddle at least two kilometres out into open water to avoid the sandbanks. That's why the only two people who had given us some information of their trip to Paulatuk had portaged over the Smoking Hills into the bay, a very strenuous alternative! - It was somewhat scary to paddle that far out, but it was the only way for us to reach the south channel that would lead us back to the west shore of Franklin Bay. The wind picked up again, and the weather was unpredictable. We were worried and paddled hard. Catherine and Geraldine were far behind, still struggling in the shallow water of the delta. Looking towards the shore a flock of seagulls sat watching us. Good, that must be the coastline! We paddled and paddled, fighting wind and fog. At last the light brown sand of the beach could be recognized, and we knew that we were going to make it! At 5 p.m. we landed safely in the sand, and ten minutes later the others arrived as well.
It is hard to believe that we are camped on the coast of Franklin Bay! Behind the narrow beach where we set the three tents, a wide swamp expands from here to the Smoking Hills. The abundant driftwood indicates the violent storms that must rage here in the cold seasons. Fortunately the difference between high and low tide is only fifty cm. We made a big fire and were all in good spirits, talking and drinking tea together. 38 km

Tuesday, July 24

During the night it was fairly cold, and in the morning it was moist and foggy. Most of the day we paddled along the approximately five-hundred-metre high Smoking Hills which rise out of the water without leaving any space to land on. On the seaside of the hills there are many more smoking spots than can be seen from the river. In some places large parts of the cliffs have broken off and have created new shelves, exposing the underlying permafrost. Where the fires have burnt out, they have left fire-baked hills of red and yellow colours. The narrow beaches in the small bays were covered with red pebbles born from the baked rock. It was quite choppy, and landing was difficult because of the high surf waves. One of them rolled over our canoe and almost tipped us. For a while two beluga whales accompanied us, and we could see their curving white backs as they played in the water.
In the late afternoon the sky lit up and the sun showed her face for half an hour. The water became smooth and paddling was easier. We have to get used to paddling on flat water, unassisted by a river current. Now it was apparent that Catherine still paddled inefficiently with a sweeping stroke, although Ted had tried patiently on three different occasions to correct her. That's why he is at a point now where he refuses to wait if their canoe is far behind. Geraldine who always paddles extremely hard is probably suffering, not being able to amend the situation.
All day we passed along smoking hills above high cliffs with almost no possibility to camp. Around five o'clock we had left the last high mud bank behind us. The landscape started to open up, and a wonderful vista of green, rolling uplands revealed itself to the right. We stopped to camp on a nice pebble beach below a vast tundra meadow. 24 km

Wednesday, July 25

It was foggy when we started out at nine a.m., but the weather looked promising already. Ted and I paddled fairly fast, leaving the other two far behind. We were hugging the shore, staying within ten metres of the beach. Suddenly Ted exclaimed:
-Look, Freda, a bear. Get your camera quickly!
At the water's edge a big grizzly was busy digging in the gravel. Ted turned the canoe towards the beach and paddled closer.
-Wait, the lens is fogged up, I have to wipe it first.
Now the bear looked up and saw us. But instead of running away he jumped in the water and started to swim towards our canoe.
-Back-paddle! Back-paddle! Ted shouted nervously from behind.
Frantically, trembling with fear, we started backing out. The bear kept coming. But after some frightening moments he turned, swam back to the beach and ran up the high, grassy embankment disappearing from sight. We were still shaking as we continued. The bear had either only made a bluff charge to intimidate us, or he got scared himself when he saw what must have been to him a red, two-headed monster with two long arms. This was the first time that we have experienced a barren-land grizzly charging us. Usually they take off right away. Because of the fog Catherine and Geraldine had not seen our drama. Half an hour later we spotted another bear high up on the steep shore.
The sun had come out and the water became very smooth. It was warm enough to paddle in short sleeves, and Ted even bared his chest. All day we were looking for drinking water. There were many small creeks flowing down from the tundra meadows, but all of them carried muddy water that tinted the clear salt water as they entered the ocean. Our drinking water was running low, and a small lake we passed close to the beach carried bad-tasting briny water. In the afternoon we came upon a large snow bank where we could fill our bucket with the white stuff. After lunch we saw several beluga whales swimming at a distance parallel to our canoe. To the right, green, rolling tundra hills stretched towards the distant mountains. On their slopes melting snow patches were sparkling in the sun.
In the evening we camped close to the beach on the edge of a wide open tundra meadow. About one kilometre away was a small lake. The mud around it indicated that wolves, bears, moose and geese all came down here to drink. Geraldine found an old animal foot trap, which meant that this area must be known to the natives people for its abundance of wildlife. Behind our tent I discovered a pile of bear droppings. Ted detached his gun from the canoe and put it in our tent which he normally did not do, but one never knows! Let's hope for the best. 36 km

Thursday, July 26

This was not a very good day. In the morning it was windy and foggy, not at all as nice as yesterday. The surf waves were so high that we could not launch at 9 a.m. as planned, but had to wait for the sea to calm down. Catherine and Geraldine retreated into their tents, and Ted re-ignited yesterday's fire to kill some time. He told us that we would try again in an hour. But Ted, being Ted, got already impatient after twenty minutes, claiming that the waves had diminished already. So he "blew the horn" to break up camp, attacking anybody who was not hurrying. Since Catherine did not stir in her tent after several invitations Ted blew up, issuing a bunch of rough words. This did not help very much to create a good atmosphere and lift the spirits.
We did launch successfully at 10 a.m. in poor visibility and then paddled for three hours over big swell. When we wanted to stop for lunch it was hard to land in the high surf. I always have to jump out of the canoe first and pull it to shore between two waves, but my foot got tangled up in the cockpit under the spray skirt. While I struggled to free myself, a new wave swamped over Ted and got him soaking wet. Poor Ted let out a series of unrepeatable swear words, - (he should have worn his rain pants though!). After landing we made a fire from the abundant driftwood to warm up Ted, and our hands. He had to change from top to bottom. Half an hour after lunch when we stopped to find some drinking water, it happened again when we launched. Ted was already seated and I had to push the canoe out, but I missed the split second before the next wave rolled over the stem, and Ted got soaked again. This time he did not change for lack of dry clothes, poor guy, I felt so guilty! We had to paddle hard to get warm again. The fog had lifted a bit which allowed us to take a look at the sloping tundra valleys and the long stretches of desolate gravel beaches interrupted by high brown mud cliffs.
In the late afternoon we reached Langton Bay from where we had to make a three-kilometre crossing to the south west point of Parry Peninsula. Halfway through the crossing we could already see a line of whitecaps a hundred metres away from the coast, dancing up and down in front of a large sandbank. To get to shore we had to find a gap across the chain of high waves. They were quite irregular and came from two sides. One of them caught us as we were crossing, and got both of us wet. Our two partners were m luckier, but Geraldine fell out of the canoe when she prepared to land. She had been been smart enough to wear her rain pants. We camped in high dunes on wet sand. Poor Ted
stripped and crawled into the sleeping bag as soon as our tent was up, while I made tea mixed with orange juice crystals and rum to perk him up. Then I went to fetch water from one of the three little lakes in the dunes. When I came back Ted had made a big fire and put all our wet clothes around it to dry. 30 km

Friday, July 27

Today we had to travel north along the west coast of Parry Peninsula until we would reach the mouth of Foothills Creek. When we had studied the trip at home we had realized that we would either have to paddle the 180 km up the coast and then another 180 km down the other side if we wanted to get to Paulatuk, or we would have to find a way to get across the fifty kilometres of the peninsula. On the map. Foothills Creek, flowing from east to west out of Tasseriuk Lake, looked wide enough to be canoed, but how would it be in reality? Would the current be too strong for paddling, or the creek very narrow and overgrown? Soon we would have to face the truth! We also knew that east of Tasseriuk Lake there would be a two and a half kilometre portage over a range of hills. As we prepared to leave this morning, Ted and I were nervous and worried about the hardships we might have to face next.
Canoeing close to shore along the light brown sand cliffs was impossible because the water was shallow. We had to paddle three kilometres into the open ocean. It was cold and the sky looked threatening. The grey clouds increased which could mean an approaching storm. From time to time a cold north wind confronted us. Suddenly Ted called out:
What is that red thing there on the beach? Let's go and find out.
With some difficulty we all made it back to the beach, which was worth the effort. Buried in the sand was a red ABS Discovery 174 canoe. Should we dig it out? Maybe there was a body in it?? Did somebody lose a canoe on the Horton River, and it had drifted this far? We'll never find out. We took only the rope before we headed out again.
We stayed far out in the open for three hours, passing bay after bay, and always fearing that the wind could get stronger. Our stomachs began rumbling and we were ready for a comfort stop, but could not get to shore for the longest time. Finally we came upon a deeper channel that did bring us back to the beach. It was one o'clock. We were cold and wet, but Ted made a fire that warmed us again. On a sandbank not far away a sandhill crane issued its ridiculous gobbling sounds as he felt disturbed by us. After eating, the strangest sight could be observed: Four people stood by the fire, bent over, their fleece-clad rumps turned to the heat while their rain pants were dangling around their ankles. We were glad that nobody else was around.
After lunch we paddled out into Tom Cod Bay around several islands, since paddling close to shore was impossible. Ted guided us expertly from one island to the next, often a two-kilometre crossing. Some of the island cliffs had collapsed, and big clumps of black soil lay in the shallow water. We had to be careful not to get stuck in them. Around 5 p.m. we paddled around the last island and into the bay that led to the mouth of Foothills Creek. When we landed the sun came out for the first time today.
The river looked more like a lake. We landed on a green shore that showed a lot of human traces. Old pegs stuck in the meadow here and there, and several cooking utensils lay about. A broken toy, two rusty stoves and caribou antlers and bones were scattered. This must have been an old hunting ground where the Natives go when the water and the ground are frozen. Catherine found a sealed beer bottle with a message from a voyage the St. Rock had made in the year 2000 for the purpose of weather and water studies. There was a reply address and a questionaire for the finder to fill. She was elated and once again very communicative when we sat around the fire later on.
It was a great day! And I am glad that we have finished our ocean paddle on this side of the peninsula. At least we don't have to worry about fresh water anymore! 30 km

Saturday, July 28

Today we are literally "up the creek", that is, we are paddling upstream on Foothills Creek!
This morning everything was cold and damp, but at least it was not raining, or foggy or windy. The mouth of the river is actually a lake, and after an involuntary detour it took some skill to find the entrance of the river into the lake. Then we paddled "uphill" along gently sloping green tundra on one side and sand cliffs on the other. Often we got stuck on sand bars and had to get out of the canoe to push it across into deeper water. The river meanders in wide loops and the sand bars change sides so that it is a challenge to find the deepest channel around every bend. The current was moderately strong and manageable for a good paddler. We disturbed many ducks and geese who are very vigilant, taking refuge while we are still far away. Since they are in their molting stage and cannot fly, they run up into the tundra in single file, often a flock of ten or more. At lunch time a very regal looking male caribou visited us and retreated quickly when he saw us sitting close to his drinking hole. Later the current picked up and we had to use all our strength to make progress. The river became crystal clear and the sand bars on the river bottom had given way to clean beds of gravel.
In the late afternoon the sun had fought its way through the layers of grey clouds.
I took advantage of the beautiful sunny evening and had a refreshing bath in the clean crisp water, drying in the tent for lack of a towel. 18 km

Sunday, July 29

Another nice and sunny day! Soon after we left our camp we came to the first rapid, and later on across two more. We had to get out of the canoe and line it, walking along the shore over thick alder shrubs, grassy swamps or the dry edge of the tundra. Sometimes we lined the canoe for half an hour or more, since we could walk faster than paddle. The current was very strong now and our shoulder muscles were aching from the paddling we had to do between lining. Often we disturbed ducks or geese, and once we saw two white swans. Catherine and Geraldine saw a wolf, and Ted observed a fox sitting high on the shore watching us. In one spot parts of a skidoo and other human debris lay scattered on a hill in the tundra. The Inuit come here in the colder seasons for duck and caribou hunting. It is somewhat reassuring for us to see that signs of the Natives are visible here which means that we are not so remote from Paulatuk any more.
Around six o'clock we pulled onto a small slanted gravel beach and erected our tents above it in the tundra. The mosquitoes which had not bothered us for over a week came out in big numbers to feast. We were very tired from paddling, walking, wading and jumping in and out of the canoe for hours. 15 km

Monday, July 30

It rained during the night and was windy and cold all day, even though the sun came out. We had expected to line or pull the canoe, or to wade through a strong current on the last five and a half kilometres until we reached the source of Foothills Creek. But the current was only too strong in some places where it was easy to line. What a joy when the river opened up and we entered Tasseriuk Lake! It was lunch time as we landed on its south shore to eat.
Tasseriuk Lake is quite large, ten kilometres long with a long narrow sand spit that divides the lake in half, stretching from north to south with only one small opening in the middle. From far away we spotted a building which appeared to sit right behind the lake division. Of course we had to investigate, so we crossed part of the lake, paddled through the sand spit opening and landed on a shore of a hunting camp. There were several cabins, but no people, and the usual disarray of scattered objects such as old stoves, bones, boards, plastic bags, even an old snowmobile. Some cabins, however, were very tidy and cosy. The families spend time here fishing and hunting when the ground and the water are frozen and therefore more accessible from Paulatuk.
After satisfying our curiosity we continued on the other side of the lake which was more protected and not as choppy. As we were approaching the shore we were scanning the range of hills for a good spot to portage across to the east side of Parry Peninsula. In parts the embankment was steep, but a bit further south-east a flat meadow extended from the hills to the beach. Already at home Ted had marked a spot on the map and in the GPS where the contour lines were wide apart indicating a lower elevation. First we missed it by a kilometre and had to back-track, but then Ted found it. It was evident that the Inuit used the very same spot to cross over with their ATV s when they come from Paulatuk to visit the hunting camp.
Our next job was to unload the canoes and organize all the gear into manageable loads that could be carried today and tomorrow. Catherine and Geraldine were impatient to try the portage trail and took a load over while Ted and I had supper first. Then Ted fastened a set of canoe wheels under our canoe, put a few light things into it, tied one end of a rope on the canoe and the other end around his waist. We climbed up the rather steep hill while he pulled and I pushed from behind. Thus we mounted two hills, pulled through some patches of mud and slowly descended on the other side. What a thrill to take a glimpse of Argo Bay and Damley Bay from the second hilltop! The two and a half kilometre portage was not as difficult as we had imagined, and only took us an hour. On the beach in Argo Bay we tied the canoe to a stranded snowmobile where it could sit until we came back tomorrow with the rest of the gear. The walk back through the tundra hills to our camp was very enjoyable. A feeling of relief and happiness began to fill our hearts: the goal to reach Paulatuk was no longer a fantastic plan, but would become reality soon. 17.5 km

Tuesday, July 31

During the night it was cold and windy, but very comforting to have a warm body beside you in the sleeping bag. We woke up at eight o'clock and Ted cooked the porridge as he does every morning. Then we dismantled our tent and packed everything into either the two portage bags or the two barrels for which we had harnesses. As we heard later, Geraldine had already got up before six to do a portage trip over to Argo Bay. She does not seem to sleep very much these days. Our first portage today was quite tough, as the load on our backs was heavy and we also carried something in each hand. It was still chilly, but we were sweating by the time we arrived on the other side. Walking back through the green tundra hills hand in hand with no load was a pleasure.
During our last portage walk we took our time, sitting down twice and admiring the pristine landscape. The first rays had just penetrated the grey clouds and the small lakes beneath us sparkled in the sun. We felt privileged to be here, but also a bit sad, since we were painfully aware that this was our last trip to the extreme north, our farewell trip of the tundra.
Ted, with his long legs, arrived first and came back to help me with the rest. We had a quiet lunch in the warm afternoon sun while we waited for the others to complete their portages. On the sand spit far away we spotted a blue tent through our binoculars, but we could not detect any movement there. What we did not know was that we were watched likewise from there.
The water in Argo Bay is protected by a long sand spit forming an island in the south behind which Darnley Bay stretches about twenty kilometres to Paulatuk. Geraldine's secret wish was to camp here because she was very tired; she was always awake before everybody else and had sometimes involuntarily scared us walking along the water with her mosquito net pulled over her head looking like a ghost. However, it was only four in the afternoon and the water was calm and clear beckoning to be paddled.
It was a beautiful afternoon, one of the few warm days left this year, as we paddled on blue ocean water towards the gently sloping hills. After an hour we saw a motorboat leaving from the island and coming towards us. The boat was occupied by Ray and his wife Bella, and two little girls. In true northern hospitality fashion they invited us for tea to their camp. We were delighted, since contact with the locals is always a highlight for us. At our arrival we were greeted by Ray's mother and several other related females who regularly spend the short summer out here together. They had a fire going, covered by a large grid on which the tea kettle boiled and freshly caught Arctic char was cooking. We were invited to share their fish and contributed bread, rice, sesame crackers and candies to the feast. The food was great and the company very friendly and interesting! Later on Ray Ruben, who is also the mayor of Paulatuk, took us in his motorboat to his fishing line along the northern part of the sand spit. He had not caught any new fish since this morning. He also told us that the caribou were late this year and had not yet come over the hills Ray invited us to sleep in the two big, empty tents, so that we did not have to put up ours. It was a most memorable evening! 7 km

Wednesday, August 1

We slept comfortably in the big wood-framed tent with a plywood floor on which a large foam mattress was laid out. In my sleep I sometimes heard the loud wailing of the seagulls, crying like babies. In the morning we first cooked and ate our porridge in the tent, then we were invited over to the big family tent where the whole extended Ruben family was waiting for us with breakfast. We had coffee, cereal and scrambled eggs, all cooked on a Coleman stove. Before we left we donated our last propane bottles to them, since their store in Paulatuk had run out of them. At twenty to ten we said good-bye and started the last leg of our trip, another sixteen kilometres.
It was sunny and very cold. Paddling in Darnley Bay east of the protecting island was very hard, since a nasty north-west wind tormented us. The water was choppy and shallow, and the waves hit us sideways so that our progress was slow, too slow for Ted, only three km per hour. We had to paddle quite a distance from shore which made us nervous. I did not wear my windbreaker and was afraid to put it on now, since I could hear Ted snorting in frustration behind me. Although he knew that we would arrive at our final destination today, he was frustrated and impatient. I did not dare to turn around and look out for the other canoe. Under these circumstances the beauty of the sandy beaches and the green rolling tundra hills above were lost on us. At noon we landed to have our regular lunch, a pumpernickel sandwich with salami and gouda cheese and hot tea. I climbed up the steep, sandy embankment to warm up and look out for the others. They were far behind and arrived fifteen minutes later, Geraldine working very hard as usual, and Catherine still with her inefficient stroke.
With new strength and a full stomach we continued paddling the last eight kilometres, focusing on the big white diesel tank visible at the airport of Paulatuk. Above the shore in the south-eastern part of the bay a truck arrived and two people, barely visible, emerged. That was probably Andy Thrasher, an Inuvialuit who was looking out for us, alerted by the priest we had befriended two years ago in Colville Lake. Yes, it was Andy and his wife waiting for us! Ray Ruben probably also contacted him by wire this morning. Andy was surprised that the old folks arrived way ahead of the younger ones. He advised us where it would be best to camp and invited all of us to come to his house for a shower and supper as soon as we were settled. We continued to paddle along the spit on which Paulatuk is built. At last we landed on the beach not far from the airport and within walking distance to the town. When Catherine and Geraldine arrived, we hugged and congratulated each other on a successfully completed trip after 26 days and 728 kilometres. Soon the three tents were up on the edge of a meadow, large enough to separate us from any local intruders.
Our two paddling companions did not follow the repeated, generous invitations of the Thrasher family or bother too much with the village. They were mainly concerned about flying their rented canoe back to Inuvik and went to the airport several times. Ted and I walked to the Thrashers' home where we had a shower and supper with whale blubber on the menu. Their house is cosy, but crowded, since they are sharing it with some of their children and grandchildren who are waiting to receive their own place. Minie Thrasher booked four seats for us on a scheduled flight for Friday.
For the next evening they invited all of us again to a barbecue with chicken, sausage, blubber and pasta salad; it was delicious! Our canoe partners did not want to come, but Ted and I were delighted to meet so many of Andy's and Minie's family and friends. When we arrived back in our camp, Geraldine's and Catherine's tents were gone, and a piece of paper towel on our tent informed us that they had taken the offer this evening to fly out in a freight plane. "See you in Inuvik or Vancouver"! - that was their farewell note. --
On the beach Ted and I made a fire from some driftwood and other scattered debris. We were enjoying to be by ourselves once more, the way we were used to on most of our northern trips. It was so good to reminisce in the warmth of the flames and watch the midnight sky and the tundra hills in the twilight of a fading summer. What a wonderful trip it was, and what a fitting atmosphere to sit by the fire on the beach of Paulatuk to say farewell to the high tundra! We felt so privileged to have experienced the Horton River, Franklin Bay, the heart of the Parry Peninsula and now this remote and friendly community.

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
96O. 97A, 97B, 97C
Special Comments: 

Editor's notes:
Editor’s Comments:
This trip was undertaken by Ted & Freda Mellenthin & the report, originally a personal account, was written & typed (by typewriter) by Freda Mellenthin & was not prepared specifically for posting at CCR; it was then scanned, digitized & submitted by Allan Jacobs in January 2008; as a result, some information is not easily available & some errors were introduced by the scanning process.

Many thanks to the Mellenthins & Allan Jacobs for their efforts!

There are 3 canyons, the third being the most difficult. It may be portaged on either river left or right. The portage on the right is a very arduous 4km. The portage on the left can be done in several stages. Ted & Freda did not take the portage.


Post date: Wed, 10/26/2011 - 15:46


An excellent trip report. In 1974, Don and Maria Scott (in canoe) and I (in kayak) ran the river but were prevented by solid ice in Franklin Bay from completing the trip to Paulatuk. By a stroke of luck, we were picked up at the end of our first day of a projected hike to Paulatuk by a helicopter from an ARCO drill camp in the Smoking Hills. It's great to have a good account of the section we failed to do.

Post date: Mon, 07/28/2008 - 16:25


Just returned from the Horton. My only comment is that there is a significant 4th drop in the first canyon that appears quite some distance after the first 3 drops. When paddling these canyons use caution - don't scout from the boat and don't rely on descriptions. The rapids in the 2nd canyon are significant. Best to stop on the left side and scout the whole thing from the top to be sure you have a plan. We had medium water and ended up working our way through the second canyon with a combination of paddling to ferry across the river here and there, some tricky lining, and two very short carries completed down in the canyon. It took all day. We were worn out at the end of it.