Canadian Canoe Routes

Wood north of the treeline
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Author:  loonie2 [ December 1st, 2012, 3:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Wood north of the treeline

Wood (for warmth and cooking) to me is an essential asset while canoeing the north. But how far north of the official tree-line ... ne_map.png can we find any?

I would like to draw a line north of the official tree-line where wood may still be found. A line drawn out of written information, hearsay or own observations.

For a start on written information I have found for example:
The unexploited West : a compilation of all of the authentic information available ... as to the natural resources of the unexploited regions of northern Canada
chapter XX “Tree Growth and Timber Resources”

The Canadian Field-Naturalist – chapter “Regional Northern Limit of Spruce”

How about you folks out there with thousands of miles of first hand knowledge? Where north of the official tree-line did you see wood that would be good for a red man’s fire (e.g.: Red man makes small fire and keeps himself warm by sitting close to the fire. White man makes big fire and keeps himself warm by running for firewood).

If this topic gathers enough information I will transfer the information into a map and post it later on. Please share your knowledge of where (preferably latitude/longitude) and what kind of wood (spruce, willows, dwarf-birch,…) you did see or read about – may be even have pictures of.

Author:  recped [ December 1st, 2012, 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

That line would be going all over the place, many rivers flow well north of the tree line and in the barrens but for example the Coppermine, it's in a valley and you can find wood there, walk up on to the nearby plateau and you might not find anything.

For a "redman" fire all your need are a few stunted alders along the shoreline so many areas devoid of much growth can still provide sufficient fuel.

Author:  ricksanderson [ December 2nd, 2012, 9:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

On our way to the The Thelon via the Elk River we collected twigs until we reached Wardens Grove. Further down the Thelon we began to pick up driftwood from high up on the river banks. While stopping at the water survey cabin we realized there was an actual line of bleached driftwood visible along the river bank. Apparently it was deposited there when a massive ice jam backed up the Thelon and floated/flushed out the wood from the upstream forest. I expect that driftwood to be useable for some time to come - we were there in '98.
I'm guessing the forest in the Thelon River Valley and the amount of driftwood is quite unique.

Author:  loonie2 [ December 2nd, 2012, 11:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

Sure that would be a zick-zack line all over the place. This is the reason for me to seek support from the many folks canoeing the north. May be people depending on wood for cooking travel with more interest into combustible matter along the way than the odd MSR wisperlite chef. I am sure the former would be happy (and surprised as I was) to find very decent willows along Foothills Creek on Parry Peninsula.

For the Kazan River it seems to be that Yathkyed Lake is the last point with noticeable spruce clumps. But are there any useable shrubs on the lower Kazan?

And how about Dubawnt, Baillie, Mara or Burnside? The Back River?? Or in Quebec Riviere due Gue and Riviere aux Feuilles? Competently devoid of any wooden matter?

PS: alders are certainly fine too :thumbup:

Thanks for your observation about the Elk River. Were the twigs from willows, dwarf-birch or spruce? All dead or was there “living” wood around also? On which lake did you start and were the twigs available from the very beginning?

And yes – the Thelon valley must be very special in terms of tree growth. Who knows why?

Author:  Allan Jacobs [ December 2nd, 2012, 12:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

Special because of the valley below Warden's Cabin.
Lots of wood at the west end of Beverley (sp?) Lake; blew there from the Dubawnt I guess. Likely lots elsewhere on Beverley, likely also lower down, but we stopped at the west end.

We had snippers but gave up using them; too much effort for so little gain.

Some higher up (abandoned survey camp) but little farther down.

Can't remember.

Pockets only, here and there, definitely not everywhere; no line possible.

My Sierra wood stove (battery-operated fan at the bottom) worked well when we found twigs.
Still, takes significant effort even to make a cup of coffee.

Author:  ricksanderson [ December 3rd, 2012, 12:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

We started near the south end of Damant Lake. There is living and dead wood here - lots of spruce and willow. By the time you get to the Elk River the spruce are mostly in small pockets but it was easy to find enough dead wood for cooking on an open fire if you stopped near these pockets. I recall a number of willow thickets on the upper Thelon - one that sheltered us while we waited for a bit of nasty weather to pass. Lots of dwarf birch as well. We ran the Thelon Canyon but noticed it had fairly large spruce on each side. Had to go looking for small stuff once we were below Wardens Grove - in the area of Ursus Islands where it was flat- once the river narrowed with high banks we found the driftwood amongst the dwarf birch. Finished our trip at the west end of Beverly.

Author:  Peter K. [ December 3rd, 2012, 11:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

I was going to disagree with Alan because I seemed to remember a lot of willows on the Kazan, but I went back and checked my photos -- there were some, but many sites had nothing at all.

Author:  loonie2 [ December 3rd, 2012, 11:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

@Peter K.
some? even past Yathkyed Lake?

However - I have found quite a lot of articles by now (old and new). Quite a few people are investigating the transitional zone from forest into the treeless Barrens. An interesting field spanning from tree islands from way back in time to global warming nowadays. But the research is focussing more towards the forested edge (denser stands).

I was hoping here on myccr for sigthings of the very last stands of shrubbs or willows along your many miles into the north.

Author:  Allan Jacobs [ December 3rd, 2012, 12:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

I agree with Peter, I think.
I recall willows on the upper Kazan, certainly below Dimma Lake, where we got stuck for 3 nights.
I recall also that it was a lot of work to harvest firewood from them, for not much heat.

Author:  Paddle Power [ December 3rd, 2012, 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

This is an interesting post / topic.

It is also subjective because what one person thinks is a useable wood supply / availability another person might think it is not worth the time and effort to gather in such sparse conditions.

North of the treeline, I do sometimes have the odd fire, usually once or twice a trip and often it occurs when we come upon a supply of wood, such as in a rock pile at the high water mark (twig caught). Not something other parties could count on. A fine to time to cook fish over the coals. Otherwise, I use a stove.

And someone might point out that promoting wood north of the treeline is questionable. What is someone goes there with plans to rely on wood but not does not enough to cook on. What about the sustainability of the wood supply where there is so little and it takes so long to grown.

If you are seeking warmth, there are other ways to be warm.

Author:  david demello [ December 4th, 2012, 6:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

wood can easily be found on the sheltered bay near the north end of the pelly monument and on the many shore coves of the back r. but experience has taught me that sucking smoke over a wood fire is much over rated.

Author:  loonie2 [ December 4th, 2012, 8:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Wood north of the treeline

@ Paddle Power and david demello
Sure any observation shared here is far from hard facts but such an appreciated comment as from david demello to me is valuable.

If one reads the old trip reports wood and meat were always a main concern. Independence from oil-based fuel has been quite valuable for me since my first trip without a fuel stove down the Wind River (Yukon) some years ago. Sure it is more work to gather wood and handle a wood stove but it certainly is quite rewarding. Ok - so far I have been canoeing in the North-West and wood was hardly ever an issue. Now aiming way more east is presenting concerns - thus my interest.

I should also mention that I am carrying a small and lightweight stove + piping for my bug/weather-shelter and I recently bought a wood gas stove that works similar to the Sierra stove mentioned but without any batteries.
And if the supply gets really scarce I am planning on this one to get the cooking done cause it hardly needs any wood at all and may even burn on Caribou droppings.

For the sustainability I think the fact that only dead/dry wood is worth while bothering for usage relieves the conservationists pressure. For re-growth: global warming may support the extension of tree-growth into the Barren Lands anyway.

However – thanks for your appreciated comments. There is hope for more :wink:

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