Bill Layman & Lynda Holland's 2001 trip, on the
Dubawnt River in the North West Territories & Nunavut.

Tuesday July 03 / Wednesday July 04 / Thursday July 05 / Friday July 06 / Saturday July 07 /
Sunday July 08 / Monday July 09 / Tuesday July 10 / Wednesday July 11 / Thursday July 12 /
Friday July 13 / Saturday July 14 / Sunday July 15 / Monday July 16 / Tuesday July 17 /
Wednesday July 18 / Thursday July 19 / Friday July 20 / Saturday July 21 / Sunday July 22 /
Monday July 23 / Tuesday July 24 / Wednesday July 25 / Thursday July 26 / Friday July 27 /
Saturday July 28 / Sunday July 29 / Monday July 30 / Tuesday July 31 / Wednesday August 1
Thursday August 2 / Friday August 3 / Saturday August 4 / Sunday August 5 / Monday August 6 /
Tuesday August 7 / Wednesday August 8

 
Tuesday July 24
I was up several times over the night to let down the kitchen tarp and to make sure the canoe was ok. Mostly I couldn't sleep as the wind mounted from the east. We had a 6 mile open crossing to do in the morning, and of course it was to the east.

When we got up the wind was medium and the sky was CAVU, as the pilots say.

 
The wind appeared to be steady with no huge storm in sight. We took a slightly modified course, tacking at 45 degrees to the wind, first to the south then to the north.

We ended the day with 20 miles of paddling, about 16 of which were the way we wanted to go. We were both exhausted after riding 3 foot roller coaster waves all day and fighting wind. Frankly, I feel sort of seasick.

Had trout for lunch, and a seagull got to within 10 feet as it watched us. Lynda adopted him and fed him some trout when we were done.

We were too busy watching waves to take any time to look for other wildlife. I wouldn't have felt good without our Northwater spray-cover and our Novacraft Prospector. You can handle a lot of water with an outfit like this.

We are 8 miles from the Tukto Outlet Bay camp and 18 miles from the river where it leaves the lake. As always, the trout fishing was awesome. We had one for lunch, and because we are having curried trout for supper, Lynda sent me off to catch another one. She said, "Bring back a 3 pounder." Well, it went like this. I caught a 12, a 1, a 15, a 6, an 8, another 12. Finally caught a 3 and lost it, so I caught a 5 and it will have to do. UNREAL here for fishing. Pity it is so darn far from anywhere.

We are camped in the coolest place. Sheer desperation forced us to it too. We rounded the last point for the day, just plain done in, and found a solid boulder shoreline, from house size to basketball size. There was NOWHERE to park a canoe. The hills are covered so thickly with the same mess that it is hard enough to walk, let alone camp. A look through the binoculars revealed that it went on the same way for miles. The only other choice was another 4 mile crossing. No way! So we followed the shore looking for anything. I spotted a piece of smooth bedrock with a little channel where we could park the canoe. I ran up the boulder scree field to see what was behind and I found just enough room to sort of get the VE 25 and the kitchen tarp up.

Too weird to be camped in the middle of an endless vista of Stonehenge size boulders. The rocks are all covered in pale green and black crusty lichens. Our kitchen floor is carpeted with caribou moss, miniature labrador tea and cranberries. Some of the latter are covered with tiny pink white flowers while some others still have fruit from last season. I am nibbling on it. The labrador tea is covered in tiny white flowers and this is one of the nicest smelling kitchens of the trip. We are also being attacked by hordes of mosquitoes and blackflies again.

 
Wednesday July 25
What a day. We hardly paddled at all and still ended up doing 18 miles. We are now camped at the edge of the first rapids after Dubawnt. The blackflies are back to plague proportion. As well, the midges are hovering in columns along river's edge and they are so thick that it looks like the tundra is on fire. Gorgeous hot sunny day. The wind was moderate and mostly helped us along.
 
The reason we hardly paddled is that we stopped at Tukto's Outlet Bay camp. What a GREAT bunch of folks Bob has working there. Big hellos to Murray, Mike, Annie, Aggie, "Indian Joe", Cory, Dave and Brad, who is the Otter Pilot whom I kept calling Fred. Turns out that Joe and Murray used to work in Stony Rapids. They know all sorts of people we know. Brad grew up in La Ronge where we are from. Dave trained a pal of

mine, Caesar a.k.a "Moose," in Stony on floats. THANKS, folks, for all your help, stories and the apple pie for dessert. And Cory made me promise to say hi to his mom, Cathy, back in Ontario. Cathy, you tell Cory that, as far as those blue flannel Tukto shirts go, if I can still get two of them for the deal he was offering me at camp when I get home, I wear whatever size Joe wears and Lynda wears Annie's size. I just didn't want to carry them all the way to Baker Lake. It was a welcome break to "gab" with people and eat some food at a table in a building for a change. We might meet some people on the river as a group of 6 American YMCA paddlers are ahead of us. They left from Boyd Lake so it appears they are travelling a little slower than us. It's funny how a single canoe can always outpace a group.

Speaking of outpace, we had a laugh today about the trip a common friend of ours did on the Dubawnt years ago. Ivan Robertson went all the way from Black Lake across the "very long" Chipman portage to Selwyn were we started and to Baker in 26 days. His partner had never been on a trip before, and Ivan was going so hard that the other poor guy fainted halfway across a portage.

It was real neat to see some of the Tukto (Wilderness AIr) planes. Both the Otter and the Beaver were there. These are two of the nicest machines of their type I have seen in years,. and, after 20 years in the mining exploration game,

I have been in a few. If these old DeHavilland planes could talk, would they tell stories. Flying in them is to fly in a piece of aviation history that opened up the north. They are still the best planes around for bush work even today.

And as to stories ... well I've been telling you about the great fishing. Joe tells me that at lunch on the river, they threw in some Cokes to cool off. A fish came in to inspect the cans and they scooped it with their landing net, weighed it at 28 pounds, and let it go. You gotta' like it. He said a guide at Mosquito Lake caught a 47 pound trout and that they routinely catch 30 to 35 pounders every week at Outlet Bay on Dubawnt. "Say Bob, do you need a fat bald white guy to guide? I come with my own GPS and Globalstar satellite phone."

Tomorrow we portage at the canyon, so it will be a day of much walking and little trip mileage. I tried to do the Tom Sawyer on your staff, Bob, and get them to help with the portage but they mumbled something about having to roof some buildings ...

 
Thursday July 26
As expected, the day was spent almost exclusively on the portage around the Dubawnt canyon. This is truly a world class sight, and if there were a road nearby, it would be an end destination for people from all over the world. As it is, probably less than a thousand set of Anglo-European eyes have seen it. We have seen Kazan Falls and the Three Cascades on the Kazan River, Bloody Falls on the Coppermine River, Granite Falls of the Elk River and the Thelon Canyon, and although all are wonders unto themselves this is beyond belief.

he entire force of this huge river is confined into a narrow vertical walled canyon. The rock walls are reds and browns and ochres, and the river is a maelstrom of huge boiling holes that are easily 30 feet high in places. Wild sucking whirlpools are alive in every eddy, peregrine falcons wheel overhead, and the roar of the wild water can be heard for miles before you get to the canyon.

 
 
The canyon proper is probably about 2 kilometers long but the lead in and tail out are easily another 2. The river drops 50 meters from Dubawnt Lake to Grant Lake in about 14 kilometers.

The lead in rapids are huge and would be fun beyond belief in a kayak were it not for what follows. We paddled several rapids this morning, most of them easy, but hit one about a mile long that required lots of maneuvering from tight river right to center and back to river right as it wound its way around some corner drop ledges. The last rapid up to the canyon is runnable on river right, and then lineable about a half kilometer further around a right turn and past a cairn that marks a take out and portage head if you want to skip the corner run. The end of the portage is also variable, depending on where you want to hit the tail end rapids where they feed into Grant Lake.

There is a cairn at the first good put in at the end and that is where we will start from tomorrow. There is a tight right turn that needs to be lined and then it looks not too bad. Our portage was 2300 double paces = 3.6 kilometers = 2.25 miles. We had to make 3 trips each. I am sure that this must have been where Ivan Robertson's pal tipped over from exhaustion. Both Lynda and I are wiped and I was seeing double by the time I was done hauling the canoe.

We have the bulk of everything at the put in and are now camping at the 2/3 mark on a table top esker super highway beside a neat little sand bottomed warm water tundra pond. We listen to the roar of the rapids and look out over Grant Lake as we drink cold tea under the kitchen tarp. It is a gorgeous, hot, sunny day with a moderate south wind that helped to keep the blackflies at bay but made portaging the canoe sheer hell.

This is Inuit country now. It is pretty much the final edge of the Dene travels. Off in the distance on Grant Lake we can see a huge mountainous sand esker called Canoe Point. It will be so nice to be back in the water tomorrow.

The highlight for the day, aside form the rapids which I really liked, was setting up the kitchen tarp after our first two trips over the portage. I jumped into the pond to cool off and, as I sat under the tarp while Lynda bathed, a caribou walked to within 150 feet of us and stood there for 2 hours as we ate. He would lie down then get up and, to get rid of the blackflies, he would shake like a dog when it gets out of the water. He would lie down again, then wander about in circles for a bit. He was still here when we made our third trip but apparently the sight of me under the canoe got him a bit spooked. He left ... sort of. You could tell he just couldn't make up his mind whether to go or not.

They are such funny animals, and we both always thrilled to see them. When they are alert and acting like they are aware that there is danger, they all do the strangest thing. They kick one rear leg out at an angle and hold it rigid as if they are ready to bolt. Then they usually lie down or come closer to inspect you. They are so weird you feel like they are your pets.

There are some archaeological digs on Grant Lake. Lynda wants to try to find them and have a look tomorrow. She is fascinated by the pre-history of this area and I must admit that it is pretty overwhelming to think that there were people here thousands of years ago.

Pizza and Bear Creek Double Fudge Brownies for supper. Would all you folks mind eating some ice cream for us? We are eating really well, but the thought of a milkshake or a burger and fries or a cold Coke. or .............

 
Dubawnt River Map & Trip Outline
 
 

 

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