Jonathan and Kirti Walpole's 950 km canoe journey across Northwest Territories and Nunavut in July and August of 2014

Day 12

Weather: Warm, sunny, light wind, smokey behind us
Distance: 55 km
Location: Latitude:63.85861, Longitude:-104.07407 at 07/24/2014 18:22:41 PDT
Map link: Click here

Today was the day we completed the Hanbury River portion of our expedition. Shortly after 10 am we reached the Hanbury-Thelon junction. The Thelon River is very wide and shallow at this point, with extensive gravel bars. It is not easy to determine which of the many wide, shallow channels actually goes through with enough water to float a canoe. The river level feels very low.

We spent the next hour or two guessing (usually correctly) which channels had enough water to float our canoe, and covered the miles down to The Gap. We had a very gentle current assisting us, and a very slight tailwind, which was just strong enough to keep the bugs around our heads. Behind us a large bank of smoke loomed and seemed to hover just behind us all day, being pushed down the Thelon by the wind. We tried to stay ahead of it because it was much nicer having clean air to breath and good visibility, rather than the smokey conditions we had endured the past few days. The Gap looked like a great place to hike, but we decided to keep floating because of the imminent smoke and the fact that we were glad to be on the water after the past few days of brutal portaging.

Grassy Island, immediately downstream of The Gap, was spectacular. It felt like we were at the coast, in the estuary of a large river. The sand banks were extensive and low lying. It made it hard to see where the water ended and the land began. This area has a very different feel to it than the Hanbury. We saw a moose here, which seemed out of place for a tundra river. The Thelon isn't really a tundra river here though. This is the Thelon Oasis. The banks are densely forested and brushy for miles.

Eventually the river narrowed and we spent many km searching for a good camp spot. All the places we examined had recent grizzly bear activity, so we kept moving on. We finally stopped, exhausted, on a beautifully level, grassy sand bar. After setting up our tent we noticed that it too had grizzly bear signs. We stayed, but I half slept all night, with one hand on the bear spray. At 2am we were woken by loud crashing in the bushes. Fortunately, whatever large animal it was making the noise seemed more startled by us and was running away. We left early!