|Canadian Canoe Routes
|Pelly River: Faro to Fort Selkirk/Minto Landing
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|Author:||Allan Jacobs [ February 18th, 2009, 8:44 am ]|
|Post subject:||Pelly River: Faro to Fort Selkirk/Minto Landing|
Ed note: Many thanks to erich for this report. I just posted it.
His contact information: Erich Volkstorf email@example.com
In the summer of 2007, six people in three canoes paddled 356 kilometers of the Pelly River. The trip began at the town of Faro on July 19, 2007 and finished at the abandoned settlement of Fort Selkirk on July 29, 2007.
Originally planned was a trip on the Spatsizi-Stikine Rivers of Northern British Columbia. However, high water had washed out the Klappan River bridge, eliminating easy access to the Spatsizi River. The high water had also increased the difficulty of the Stikine. Several of the participants were novice paddlers, so an easier trip was necessary. The second choices considered were the Blackstone-Ogilvie Rivers, and the Big Salmon River. Extremely low water in the Peel drainage eliminated the former, while high water on the Big Salmon dissuaded the party from the latter. Finally, the Pelly was selected for the following reasons: a relatively easy river with few rapids, optimal water levels at the time, possibility of dry, settled weather due to the location in central Yukon, and a number of historic sites. Additionally, a relatively easy and cost effective shuttle made the trip attractive.
It should be noted that 2007 was an unusual year for the Southern Yukon Territory and Northern British Columbia. Heavier than usual winter snows, and a late spring combined to create unusually high water levels on both rivers and lakes in the area. The settlement of Carcross was partially flooded. The Yukon River remained high throughout most of the summer, and peaked for a second time that year, after heavy rains in late July and early August.
The following are trip notes detailing the journey on the Pelly River.
River: Pelly River, major tributary of the Yukon River.
Take-out: Fort Selkirk (Minto Landing).
Participants: David Berger (Seattle), Ken Kamber (New York), Alan Torontow (Ottawa), Elaine Torontow (Ottawa), Erich Volkstorf (Seattle), Ned Volkstorf (Seattle).
Dates: July 19, 2007-July 29, 2007(10 days).
Distance: 360 Km (app).
Difficulty: Class II (Class III at higher flows).
Hazards: Sweepers, logjams, dead heads, shallow braids in spots, cold water, rapids to Class III.
Portages: None on route described, at least one on upper river (Hoole Canyon).
Hiking: Limited to a few trails along the river and occasional bushwhacking along the river. Notable trails are RR above Big Fish Hook Rapid, RL from the mouth of Needlerock Creek, and RL north of Fort Selkirk to Victoria Rock.
Rivers of the Yukon Territory, Pelly River, by Mike Rourke,1983. Revised 1995. Rivers North Publications. Scale App.1:65,000. Note that as of 2007, the river created a number of new channels. These are detailed in the daily notes.
Tay River 105 K
Glenlyon 105 L
Carmacks 115 I
1. Report on an Exploration in the Yukon District, N.W.T and Adjacent Northern Portion of British Columbia, 1887, by George Mercer Dawson. Geological Survey of Canada.
2. Rivers of the Yukon Territory, Pelly River, by Mike Rourke, 1983. Revised 1995. Rivers North Publications.
3. Campbell of the Yukon, by Clifford Wilson, 1970, The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited.
4. Through the Subarctic Forest, A Record of a Canoe Journey from Fort Wrangel to the Pelly Lakes and Down the YukonRiver to the Behring Sea, by Warburton Pike, 1896. Edward Arnold, London and New York.
5. Part of the Land, Part of the Water, by Catherine McClellan, 1987. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, Canada.
Mad River Explorer (Kevlar), Swift Dumoine (Royalex), Hemlock Eagle (Kevlar).
Shuttle services, put-in:
Scott McDougall and Joanne McDougall
PO Box 31149
Shuttle services, take-out:
Big River Enterprises
PO Box 127
Closed as of August 1, 2007, but Heinz (who now lives in Faro) may know someone else who can do the shuttle.
Day 1: Thursday, July 19, 2007. Km 356.5 to Km 333 (23.5 Km).
Got up by 07:00, having spent the night in Carmacks. Loaded the three vehicles and drove north on the Klondike Highway to Minto Landing. Met with Heinz Sauer of Big River Enterprises who would shuttle us via riverboat from Fort Selkirk to Minto Landing at the end of the trip. Prepaid $600 Cdn for the six of us, including gear and canoes for this service.
At about 10:00, driver and van arrived from Kanoe People to shuttle us to the put-in at Faro. Loaded gear and headed back down the Highway to Carmacks where we stopped for a quick bite, then up the Robert Campbell Highway to Faro.
Had another quick bite of food at put-in, loaded boats and headed out. On the water at 15:15, Km 356.5. River very silty, as expected. A lot of wood, both jams, and piled up on Faro Bridge supports. Recent slides on hoodoos, and fresh wood on jams, are evidence of recent very high water.
At Km 341, there is a possible camp on RR at sharp left hand bend. Heinz Sauer has a line cabin in the woods near a small stream. Poor landing, and we were not able to find the cabin; it was later reported to be 100 meters into the bush.
Stopped at site of Oliver Rose’s cabin on RR. Very overgrown. Could be a possible camp. Continued downstream several hundred meters to gravel bar on RR. Good high water camp just upstream from gravel bar. Two cabins owned by MacMillan River Outfitters. Large open area for a number of tents. Weather warm and sunny. Saw one riverboat and camp near Faro. Some light rain late at night.
Day 2: Friday, July 20, 2007. Km 333 to Km 278 (55 Km).
Awoke at 07:00. Overcast, but warm, but most clouds dissipated by 09:30. On the water by 10:15.
Some wind, current good, perhaps 3-5 Kmh, average. Stopped at 12:30 for lunch on gravel bar RL. At app. Km 319 map shows S turn to left and then right. At first turn to left, river has cut new channel that eliminates S turn. Latter will become oxbow lake except in high water. New channel passable, but many trees and debris anchored in main channel.
At app. Km 290, stopped at Joe Ladue’s cabin site. Several decaying structures. Rhubarb in abundance, as well as some chives. Anvil Creek just upstream is good source of clear water. Pelly remains very silty, but good current continues.
At app. Km 285.5 ran Little Fish Hook Rapid. RR has some rocks and standing waves, RL is preferred route. Good camp on RL below Little Fish Hook Rapid..
At Km 278, Glenlyon River enters on RL. GREAT low water camp just downstream of confluence on RL. Large Gravel bar, clear water on Glenlyon River. Some good fishing for Arctic Grayling at mouth of Glenlyon River.
Day 3: Saturday, July 21, 2007. Layover day.
Awoke at about 08:00. Some light rain had fallen during the night. Sun and warm temperatures quickly dried tents. Good swimming at downstream end of the gravel bar just at bend of Big Fish Hook Rapid. Caught and released large Tizra (whitefish) in pool at Rapid. Ferried to RR and climbed high cut bank above Big Fish Hook Rapid. Ripe raspberries on bench below cut bank. Evidence of old burn on RR. Game or First Nations trail on top of cut bank. Was unable to find old cabin site on RL above the confluence of the Glenlyon River and Pelly. Gravel bar has extensive field of White Dryad (Dryas octopetala).
Day 4: Sunday, July 22, 2007. Km 278 to Km 225 (53 Km).
Awoke at 07:00. On the water by 10:00. Big Fish Hook Rapid consists of some choppy water, fast current and a couple of boils to avoid. At higher flows difficulty would be greater. Pelly is fairly pushy here. In higher flows, route on RL would avoid most boils.
Stopped at mouth of Tay River. Reported to have nice canyon upstream several km, but Tay River is shallow with extensive rock gardens for at least two hundred meters above confluence.
Little Sheep Creek enters on RL at app. Km 255. Good camp on downstream side of confluence. Creek has clear water. Pelly continues silty but flow is still good for most of the day. Some headwinds. Storm clouds start to gather over mountains to SE by mid-afternoon, and move NW.
Passed possible camp on RL above confluence of Harvey Creek. Harvey Canyon pretty, some nice rock formations. Did not see evidence of old mining camp at app. Km 239 on RL. Some boulders in river, but easily avoided. Cut lines obvious on RL.
At Km 232 is island on RL. Upstream end of island has site for camp.
Above confluence with Earn River, ran reef on RL of center. One canoe ran RR of center and took on some water. Some rocks on RR. At 17:00, found good high water camp at app. Km 225 on RR, downstream from confluence of Earn River. Evidence of trail up bank about ten feet high. Storm overcame us and there was some rain and high wind, but most of the storm passed to N.
Extensive mushrooms and labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) in spruce forest behind camp.
Day 5: Monday, July 23, 2007. Km 225 to Km 165 (60 Km).
Awoke at app. 07:00. Loaded and on the water by 10:30. Weather settled, some clouds.
At app. Km 203, river has used old channel leaving small oxbow where river makes a hard right hand bend immediately after a high cut bank on RL and hard left hand turn.
Stopped for lunch at 13:00 at app. Km 201 on one of several islands downstream from new channel.
Stopped on RL at mouth of Tummel River. Downstream side of confluence was site of Tummel River Post. Very little remains, structures apparently washed away
At app. Km 183, Pelly has cut new channel on RR where it has formerly made a large U-turn to left. Reported by David Black, Whitehorse in early July 2007, to be Class III chute and ledge. Landed on island/gravel bar on RL of center to scout. Observed current flowing into new channel and around blind corner to left. Many dead heads embedded in river. Decided to use old channel due to blind corner and possible hazards. After rounding bend, was able to observe new channel from bottom. Ledge extending from RR exposed. Possible passage on RL.
Took RL side of Safety Pin Bend. River slowed greatly in this section. Found camp on RR at 19:00. High water camp up steep bank about ten feet high. Benches, fire pit and thunderbox. Appeared to be hunter’s camp. Many mosquitos.
Day 6: Tuesday, July 24, 2007. Km 165 to Km 123 (42 Km).
Started raining at about 04:00. Got up about 08:00. On the water by 10:00. After being a kilometer or so downstream, had to paddle back up to camp to retrieve towel. All for naught as towel had already been packed.
Moving in earnest by 10:30. Passed good camp on RL at Km 164, just before end of Safety Pin Bend.
At app. Km 140, stopped at camp on RR near small stream. Difficult landing, but great camp. Room for several tents, well protected, and clear stream.
Saw cow moose and calf on RR on gravel beach. Appeared to be drying off after morning’s rain. Cow anxious and growled. Also saw large black bear on RR not long after seeing the moose cow and calf.
At app. Km 141, head wind began to build. Stopped at a gravel bar about 16:00 to restand wait for wind to subside. Continued on at about 17:00. Found good camp on RL upstream of confluence with Macmillan River at app. Km 116. Selkirk First Nation hunting camp. Cabin, drying racks. Small marsh and snye on upstream side is OK for landing. In bed by 21:00. Some bugs, lots of bear scat, some grizzly, left chocolate and note of thanks in cabin.
Day 7: Wednesday, July 25, 2007. Km 123 to Km 93 (30 Km).
Some rain early in the morning. German couple in tandem canoe passed in early morning trying to make Pelly Crossing this day. On the water about 10:30. Difficult loading the boats because of deep mud in the snye.
Stopped at app. Km 104 on RR to review paddling safety before running Granite Canyon. Back on water at 14:00. Ran Granite Canyon slightly RR of center. Three sets. First two amounted to some choppy water. Third set had some Class II+ standing waves. Passed on RR of Needle Rock. Strong eddy below Needle Rock. Some boulders (very large) in channel. Most on RR, but easily avoided. Observed some fishing nets (gill nets?) in river.
At app. 15:00 arrived at Needle Rock Creek Camp. Old, deteriorating cabin, poorly built, privy leaning dangerously but usable. Room for several tents. Saw another canoe pass.
Walked part way up trail towards Granite Canyon, but trail is overgrown and has much blow down. Turned to ESE and climbed app. 100 to top of shelf. Nice views, worth while hike.
Later in evening heard river boat going into Granite Canyon. Probably First Nations People checking on nets.
Day 8: Thursday, July 26, 2007. Km 93 to Km 37 (56 Km).
Awoke app. 08:00. More clouds, and colder than on previous mornings. One boat was on the water by 09:30, while the others were on the water by 10:20. Disappointed that the first boat would leave early and not wait for the others. Though the river was easy here, leaving before the others raised a potential safety concern.
Reached Pelly Crossing at app. 14:00. Pulled over on RL at a beach upstream of the Klondike Highway Bridge. Two people remained with the boats and ate lunch, while the other four walked into the settlement and purchased lunch at the store.
Back on the water by 15:30. Camp sites sparse. Active Selkirk First Nation fish camps along the river, mostly RR where there is road access. Numbers of fish nets in water (gillnets?).
At 18:00, stopped at upstream end of large island at app. Km 35. Made camp. This island is just upstream from Braden’s Canyon.
Observed several bald eagles.
Day 9: Friday, July 27, 2007. Pelly River Km 37 to Yukon River Km 128 (from Carmacks) (Km 41)
Awoke this morning at 08:00. Mostly cloudy, some rain. About 68 degrees F about 09:00. Consistent with the temperatures on rest of trip.
Was able to convince the party that paddling later would increase the possibility of seeing more wildlife. Lounged most of the day. Dried tents. Baked bannock.
On water by 15:30. Ran Braden’s Canyon. Nice spot where river narrows between two large outcroppings. Some chop. Would be more difficult in higher water. Saw bald eagle on gravel bar.
At 17:15 stopped at First Nations Fish Camp on RR at app. Km 26. Started a conversation with Brian Isaac and mentioned the chocolate we had left at the MacMillan River confluence camp Brian invited us into his camp. Met his wife, Elaine and saw their drying racks. Tasted some freshly smoked salmon and had some tea.
Back on the water by about 18:00. Saw small black bear on shore at RR. Startled by us, he bawled and ran up bank.
Stopped on gravel bar at RL app. Km 13. Ate some cold supper, then back on the water.
Saw large black bear RR. Unafraid. Behaved like mature adult male. Turned and walked slowly away.
Passed Pelly Farm RR. A number of RVs, some newer buildings. Appears to be some development. Possible small lodge or campground, not necessarily connected with farm.
Arrived at confluence of Pelly and Yukon Rivers. Attempted to begin crossing at Pelly RL behind island. at Km 0. Yukon River current pushing up Pelly. Paddled RR side of large island Pelly RL. Ferried downstream of islands on Yukon River to Yukon River RL. Current stronger than Pelly, perhaps 7 to 9 Km/h.
Arrived Fort Selkirk at 21:30. Storm clouds over hills to SE. Large rainbow. No rain. Great sunset.
Day 10: Saturday, July 28, 2007. Layover day.
Met Don and Audrey Trudeau, First Nations caretakers at Fort Selkirk. Other First Nations people were off work for several days. Usually there in summer restoring and stabilizing site. Don Trudeau is First Nations from Eastern Canada (Cree, Ojibway?) Audrey is Fort Selkirk First Nation and raised at Fort Selkirk.
Explored Fort Selkirk in morning. Several of the party walked to Victoria Rock about 3.5 Km downstream on RL. Later in afternoon used soopalallie berries (Shepherdia canadensis) gathered by Audrey Trudeau to make Indian Ice Cream.
Day 11: Sunday, July 29, 2007. Layover day.
Awoke about 08:00 and breakfasted. Two of the party were horsing around and one dislocated his shoulder. Bad dislocation. Could not reset. Don Trudeau offered to take the injured party member to the medical facility in Pelly Crossing. The injured member and one other left for Pelly Crossing in Trudeau’s skiff at about 10:30.
Heinz Sauer arrived early at about 11:00. The four remaining party members loaded all gear and canoes into Sauer’s riverboat, and headed up the Yukon River to Minto Landing; arrived at 13:30. Drove to Whitehorse, where injured member was in hospital. Shoulder was reset, but needed surgery.
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