I went on a very special trip this year, an 11 day, solo, Arctic Packrafting and Hiking Expedition in Tuktut Nogait National Park. Easily one of the most incredible places I have ever been to, it doesn’t even seem real when you are surrounded by the canyons. This is a very remote area, well over 200 km north of the Arctic Circle. To give you an idea of how few visit, in 2023, a single visitor permit was issued, and it was me. I worked with the park and researched for over 2 years to put this trip together. My mandate: I would traverse, chart, and paddle the Hornaday River through the Canyons to the Arctic Ocean.
Link to the detailed river map/gearlist/trip information: https://suluk46.com/arctic-canyons
I was flown in from Paulatuk to Uyarsivik Lake, compliments of Parks Canada, and spent the first 2 days at an Inuvialuit Camp where youth was being taught skills and history by their Elders – it was a very humbling experience to see how one can live off the land. It then took me 10 days to get from Uyarsivik Lake to the Arctic Ocean. There are 3 very long white water canyons spanning this section of river. They are highly committing, with the longest being the 3rd canyon – I spent almost 4 days making my way through it. Lots of scouting, consistent back to back sections of rapids and portaging is very difficult on the rock walls.
It seems that the animals do not fear humans here at all. There was wildlife galore, every day in the valley had Caribou around me, a wolf in camp, and a grizzly at the side of the river while I paddled (very quickly) by. He came to the rivers edge to investigate, and lost interest and trotted up the river bank.
A little history of the trip, I was scanning for canyons in Northern Canada on google earth and came across this park. It was clear there was a very aggressive and long canyon section cut right in the arctic tundra. I spent months researching and found that this section of river was first attempted in 1977 by Larry Osgood and his team. They were successful in paddling a good portion of the canyons, portaging out of the canyons when needed. I acquired a copy of his journal (54 pages) of this trip, and I can’t even imagine the challenges of such a trip with the gear that was available and the lack of maps and information that there would have been at that time. Then, in July of 1999, the Beaudry Team, comprised of professional kayakers along with Parks Canada, became the first and only full descent of the Hornaday Canyons. They successfully ran the entire river and their report, albeit much shorter, had very good data in terms of the canyon descriptions. This section of river then lay dormant for nearly 25 years….
That is…until me and my packraft made our way up there! I filmed and documented every rapid, portage, campsite and point of interest along the canyons. I created a map (which is too large to upload here but will be hosted on my website) so that others can have the opportunity to safely run this incredible river.
The video linked is the trailer for the multi-part series that is starting November 1st. If you have seen any of my other trip videos, this one will be the same, basic documentary style go-pro footage stitched together with some music here and there. I’m not a super fancy editor, priority is always the trip itself. Enjoy!