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Canadian Canoe Routes

Paddling the Barrens on a budget?
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Author:  Alan Gage [ January 25th, 2016, 3:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Paddling the Barrens on a budget?

Winter planning has my mind dreaming of a solo Barren Lands trip in the next couple years. Being a bit of a tight ass and preferring to do things on my own means I like to avoid being flown in/out. I'd rather take unpaid time off from work and paddle more instead of working more to pay for the plane ride. That worked fine last year when I paddled the Bloodvein River both ways to avoid flight/shuttle costs and I'm hoping to do the same on the Berens River this year.

But as I look at routes in the NWT, Nunavut, or even northern Manitoba it looks like something similar will be a lot more difficult due to lack of roads. Every time I look at routes on a map I'm amazed at the scale of things up there. Those are some huge distances! Thinking about paddling the Seal River and figured no problem, I'd just put it at Leaf Rapids and paddle and portage my way to the river. Then I realized just paddling across Southern Indian Lake would be about 100 miles. Which means if I figured out a loop trip to return to my car I'd have over 1 1/2 weeks just paddling that lake alone (both ways).

So I guess I'm looking for tips and experiences of some ways to do the Barrens on a budget. Any good routes where I could drive to an access and turn it into a loop? What about spots with drive-in access so I'd only have to pay for the flight back out?

Duration of trip would probably be 30-45 days. Not afraid of some hard work paddling and portaging.



Author:  Ralph [ January 25th, 2016, 7:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paddling the Barrens on a budget?

Since the people who actually know what they're talking about haven't responded yet, I thought I'd share my 2 cents worth.
I've only done one Barrenlands trip (Thelon - fly-in and fly-out) but I have spent considerable time looking at maps and, being frugal, I've looked at drive-in and drive-out options.
You might want to consider starting from Yellowknife and doing a loop up into the Barrens from there. I know there are people on myccr who have done trips like that.
You could consider driving up through Saskatchewan via Lac la Ronge and Points North to Lake Athabasca and accessing the Barrens from there.
A folding canoe would decrease costs as it can go as luggage on a commercial flight.

Author:  Paddle Power [ January 25th, 2016, 9:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paddling the Barrens on a budget?

Are you open to commercial flights or not? If so, with your 30-45 days you have many options in NU and NT.

If you require road access, there are still options, in northern MB, SK, NWT, etc. For example, have you read Sleepy Island by PG Downs?

What about motorboat shuttles, in or out? Such as you could hire a ride across Southern Indian Lake.

Author:  Alan Gage [ January 27th, 2016, 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Paddling the Barrens on a budget?

Thanks for the responses. Yellowknife does look like a good option. Looks like I'd have multiple routes to choose from and it sounds like a beautiful area too.

The thought of commercial flights in the north is a new one for me. I think of commercial flights as going from Minneapolis to Chicago. But after doing some more reading it sounds like a nice option up there and more reasonably priced. I'd rather not use a folding canoe but it wouldn't be a deal breaker. My dog, however, might be. Definitely something to keep in mind though.

As I research more the routes are slowly starting to make some sense. Reading trip reports and route descriptions is kind of like learning a foreign language since, at this point, I have no frame of reference for the place names. The shear number of lakes and rivers is a bit overwhelming.

Thanks for the PG Downes book lead. To be honest I've never gotten all that interested in the history of most places I've traveled but, for whatever reason, I'm feeling a little differently about the Barrens. I'll be getting some new reading material.


Author:  jmc [ January 27th, 2016, 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Paddling the Barrens on a budget?

There are certainly many options in the Yellowknife area for paddle in - paddle out trips to the barrens. But, those routes would all involve 20+ days of "tree time" on route to and from the Barrens. Your short time frame (30 days) would give you a fairly brief glimpse at the Barrens. Your longer time frame (45 days) would give you much more time to explore beyond treeline.

If you wanted to extend your "Barrens time" the easiest but not cheapest way would be to fly (air charter) one way, likely fly in paddle out.

At the upper end of your time frames, trips like Yellowknife to Coppermine, return by commercial flight become a possibility.

A pak boat would offer advantages travelling by commercial airlines, and would also give you more options with charter flights because you wouldn't have external load issues. Its advantages will depend very much on the kind of route you want to do.

As you do more research, and get closer to defining the kind of trip you want to do, it will be easier for others to provide you with more detailed route suggestions and advice.

A cautionary note: many of the routes north from Yellowknife / Behchoko
to the Barrens have been affected by fire in recent years, particularly the mammoth fire season of 2014.

Good luck with your planning.


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