At the next LCCC potluck dinner meeting, June 13, ’09, Lee Sessions will share a digital slide show of his trip last summer on the Hood River, Nunavut Territory, Canada.
The Hood River is one of the Canadian Arctic’s premiere scenic rivers with plenty of challenging whitewater paddling and excellent wildlife viewing. We arrived in early July, and worked our way around ice covered lakes for the first few days. Fishing was fantastic, and wonderful wildflowers dotted the tundra with abundant color. The main draw is Wilberforce Falls, the tallest falls in the circumpolar Arctic. These drop twice the height of Niagara Falls, where the river churns through a deep gorge before placidly flowing to Arctic Sound on the Northern coast of Bathurst Inlet. In addition, there are a number of other big drops, each spectacular in its own right and ample whitewater. It is no wonder this was legendary paddler and filmmaker Bill Mason’s favorite river. Due to its remoteness, it is difficult and expensive to get in and out by charter aircraft. It has become increasingly popular with outfitters accommodating the demand. We were on the river with three different groups last summer, but still enjoyed the remoteness of a wilderness untrammeled by the masses. The river also has some interesting history being the site of one of Sir John Franklin’s many disastrous expeditions to find the Northwest Passage. The river is named after one of Franklin’s men, Lt. Robert Hood who was murdered there in 1821.
Lee is preparing for a trip this July on the Mara River, flowing into the Burnside River just South of the Hood River.
HOOD RIVER, NUNAVUT
July 5-26, 2008
The Hood River is one of the Canadian .Arctic’s premiere scenic rivers with plenty of challenging whitewater paddling and good wildlife viewing. The main draw is Wilberforce Falls which are the tallest falls in the Arctic, dropping twice the height of Niagara Falls. Due to its remoteness, it is difficult and expensive to get into by plane. It has become increasingly popular with outfitters accommodating the demand. We were on the river with 3 different groups last summer. The river also has some interesting history being the site of one of Sir John Franklin’s many disastrous expeditions to find the Northwest Passage. The river is named after one of Franklin’s men, Lt. Robert Hood who was murdered there in 1821.
Crew Members: Lee Sessions, Bob O’Hara, Conrad and Alex Schiebel, Credence Wood, Brian Arquila
Start: Lake 373 (Cave Lake) End: Arctic Sound Distance: 155 miles (217 km)
Note: Usual start point is Lake Tahikafaaluk (414) at the186 mile (300 km) mark but this is determined by lake ice cover and weather.
Elevation drop: 1,214 feet (370 meters) to sea level
Access: Flew by Twin Otter (Air Tindi) from Yellowknife, NWT with 2+ hour fly time to touch down after searching for ice free landing spot. Pick-up was 2 miles (3 km) upstream from river delta on mud flat on river R. Return flight time 2½ hours.
Egress Options: If you do not plan to paddle to the river mouth, there are two options to end at Wilberforce Falls. Option 1 is to be picked up on an esker
0.6 miles (1km) west of the top of the falls. Option 2 is to head east overland for 6.6 miles (11 km) to Portage Bay and then paddle to Bathurst Inlet Lodge which receives regular plane traffic.
Maps: Dept. Energy, Mines & Resources 1979 (1:50,000)
In sequence downstream: 86 I/9, 76L/12, 76L/11, 76L14 -16, 76K13-15,
76N/2 (Wilberforce Falls), 76N/6 (Baillie Bay)
Trip Goals: slow descent of river to take advantage of excellent hiking, sightseeing, and fishing opportunities.
River Characteristics: Trip begins on large open tundra lakes above tree line. As it above the Arctic Circle, late ice breakup calls for flexibility in start dates and drop off sites. Once through the lake system, the river begins its drop to the Arctic Ocean. Expect constant stops to survey rapids. We opted to line most class 2+,3 rapids or found sneak routes along the shore for safety reasons added to the fact that heavily laden boats handle poorly in whitewater. The river winds through wide valleys with numerous shallow, braided areas and boulder gardens dispersed amongst gentle flowing stretches. At several points along the route, bedrock seams straddle the river forming magnificent drops and scenic gorges which are mandatory portages. As the river nears the ocean, it takes on a different character with high eroded silt banks that could be easily mistaken for a prairie river. Up to this point the water quality has been clear but here the water starts to get silty. Fill water jugs before Ragged Rock Falls as you will likely have to take advantage of occasional melt water streams spilling off the tundra after this point. There is no shortage of hiking and exploring options along the way as the topography is generally hilly and transected by numerous eskers providing great vantage points.
Main Swift Water Features: Kapolak Rapid) – 2 sections (Class 2),
Skull Rapid – Class 5 (portage R), Black Rock Rapid (Class 3),
Mason Rapid –Class 5 (portage L), Kingaumiut Chutes – Class 3 (portage as poorly suited to rescue), Kingaumiut Falls(25m) Portage R – O.6 miles (1 km),
Richardson Rapid – Class 2, Boulder Rapid – Class 3, Caribou Rapid – Class 3-5 (portage L), Wilberforce Falls – 184 feet(56 meter) drop over two separate vertical drops (portage L- 5 miles (8km)), Ragged Rock Falls 30 feet (9 meter) high ledge – Portage R, Hepburn Rapid – Class 2-3 (Standing wave on ledge). Note: Many of these names are unofficial
Wildlife encountered: Stragglers of the Bathhurst caribou herd, unexpectedly few muskoxen, wolves, grizzly bear, red fox, seal, Richardson ground squirrel(SikSik), False-Palmated plover, ptarmigan, Golden eagles, Peregrine falcons, Bald eagles.
Fishing: Large Lake Trout numerous along the entire route, Arctic Grayling caught but not common, Arctic Char and Flounder caught off sand bars in salt water in river delta.
Highlights: Icebreaking on the lakes, watching a wolf chase two caribou past camp several times while we were having breakfast, the caribou salute really works, vistas on hikes, watching a Grizzly hunting SikSiks , wolves going about their business, red fox kit antics, finally getting a musk ox herd sighting, magnificent Wilberforce Falls, side canyon swimming hole, camp sites that went off the 10 scale, cold beer on day 7, unbelievable big fish that unspool your reel in seconds, thrilling whitewater moments and living to tell about them.
“Mandatory” Disclaimer: this is a difficult river to travel requiring whitewater paddling experience, excellent outdoor skills and good equipment. Given the rivers remoteness, the group must be able to handle all emergencies efficiently and have communication capabilities to affect a rescue. Also, river conditions and features are continually changing so instructions for river running and portaging included here and in other travelers notes may be incorrect. There is no substitute for good scouting and cautious risk assessment.