For 2005 Hanbury & Thelon Trip Coverage Tune into to the Town of La Ronge

Canoe Expedition 2004 - Paddling the Dubawnt and Kazan

This year's trip route starts in northern Saskatchewan, passes through the North West Territories and finishes in Canada' s spectacular new territory, Nunavut. Tune in and follow Bill and Lynda, as they make their way from Selwyn Lake down the Dubawnt River, then east from Carey Lake to the Kazan River to finally finishing well above the tree line in Baker Lake - about 6 weeks and 700 miles later. The complete trip is made solo in a single unsupported canoe.

Bill will once again be sending us daily updates, with photos, directly from the north, via his Globalstar Satellite phone. You'll find our Calendar and Route Map just below. Click on each day as the reports are posted.If you have tuned in a little late watch for our weekly synopsis to get up to speed. You should also have a look at our Resources section at the bottom of the page for links to Bill's equipment sponsors, along with previous expedition web casts and features from Out-There.

To follow the trip click on each days posting on the calendar below the route map.
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat

To follow the trip click on each days posting on the calendar above. If you're joining us a little late, have a look at our weekly synopsis section below. These summaries will allow you to get up to speed and begin following the expedition on a daily basis.

Synopsis - Week 1

After a tough drive to Stony Rapids along one of what, are loosely called roads in the north, Bill and Lynda visit with Father Jean Megret who traveled with the Dene when they were still nomadic. Then it's off on an uneventful flight to their put in. On the first day out they encounter many signs of the caribou hunt. They come across a guide who is a descendant of one Louis Naygli who appears in P G Downes Sleeping Island. They set up their tents at an old Dene camp. The abrupt requirement for extended paddling is taking it's toll on Bill and now it's time for a heavy duty portage into Flett Lake. Lynda, as always, is a trooper. Bill is still feeling the impact of all the paddling and as he lolls about camp he reminisces about Tyrell, the first white man to see the portage and about the fact that the Dene have have no sovereignty or legal rights to large parts of the NWT and Nunavut. On day six Bill seems to have gotten his wind and he talks of the ghost of the Dene and the shaman Erelkal. Bill and Lynda are now settling into that comfortable inner peace that they find in no other place but in the the Dene's Land of Little Sticks" and the barrens.

Synopsis - Week 2

Bill recounts some of the broad history of the area, from the first white explorers to the trappers who moved into the north in the depression era. They come upon a cabin where one of their friends spent part of his youth, his father a barren lands trapper. Bill compares the trappers' life to our modern existence and longs for a simpler time. Throughout Bill's musings references are constantly made to the natural surroundings and the wildlife they encounter. Piece by piece an intriguing portrait of the north is emerging. Bill finally rigs his fishing rod and quickly catches lunch. After almost ten days of good weather a storm over takes them and they are forced to lay over. During their day off they they come across "The Home Depot of the Ancients, a huge quartz boulder that hundreds have cleaved chunks from to make tools." After a day and bit of paddling and portaging they find themselves storm bound once again.

Synopsis - Week 3

The week begins with a series of portages in miserable weather conditions which makes for slow going. Bill gets spun around in circles by the windy gusts as he portages the canoe. Fortunately, while it wears them down it's not dampening their spirits for the trip. The weather is improving as they cross the boundary into Nunavut from the Northwest Territories. The find an excellent camp spot on Kamilukuak Lake where they are visited by a lone caribou. Now it's time for a major lake cross on Nowleye Lake which goes without incident. They are now into Angikuni Lake which is over half the way to their destination. They find the remains of an Inuit camp and Bill relates the story of Anotelik and his sister Kukwik which were saved from starvation by the trapper Charles Schweder, who agreed to adopt them and take them back to Windy River. Confined to camp by the weather Bill gets lost in a reverie and serves up images of Inuit appearing in Kayaks on every turn of the river.

Synopsis - Week 4

Once again Bill and Lynda come across an Inuit camp but Bill rather than being excited is saddened by the passing of this life style. During the days paddle, Bill once again dreams of seeing the kayaks. After seeing one last inuksuk on Angikuni Lake they are back on the river and running some serious whitewater. At noon Bill finally finds his kayak in the form of several pieces from an Inuit's skin boat. They are now lining up for the Three Cascades which involves portaging, lining and paddling some wild sections of tricky whitewater. A herd of 27 Musk Ox are spotted along the shore watching the canoe in keen interest. Bill marvels at the areas natural features and how they were formed, he then relates the amazing story of Kakoot and his walk back to Ennadai Lake from Yathkyed Lake. Bill lets us in on an inside joke between himself and Lynda on how "Knife on Head Hill" got it's name (See Day 26). Two more rapids and perhaps the highlight of the trip a visit with another herd of Musk Ox, one of which clambers up on a small rock in the water to pose for the camera. They encounter another canoe with two paddlers from Germany, Marcus and Michael who marvel at our country.

Synopsis - Week 5

Just short of Thirty Mile Lake Bill and Lynda find themselves wind bound and are forced to take the day off. The next morning sees no change, so they get out the quivvit (the soft under fur the musk ox shed) they gathered and started cleaning it. This is a welcome diversion and pacifier, and as Bill says "whatever we have knit will be something we will both cherish for the rest of our lives. It will be rich with meaning and memories."Back on the water again with a tough lake crossing. Next day still more wind and difficult paddling as well as a very tricky section to line, which fortunately goes without incident. Bill's descriptions of the natural setting are evocative and enticing and made more so by the ongoing sighting of both musk ox and caribou. After coming across another inukshuk Bill explores the deeper meanings of these northern route markers. More tales of the fur trade are interrupted by the experience of a lifetime as they find themselves standing in the middle of a huge caribou herd, the whole thing is overwhelming. The next day more caribou visit in the morning. In the afternoon they reach the extraordinary spectacle that is Kazan Falls. The lower river speeds them to Baker Lake and the inevitable thoughts of the approaching trips end. Just before reaching Baker Lake and the trips end, they meet up with Laval Tremblay and Nicola who are paddling thier old prospector canoe.


Background Bill Layman and Lynda Holland have lived in La Ronge, Saskatchewan in Canada's north for over 25 years. Bill's mining exploration company and Lynda's work as an educator put them in close contact with the Athapaskan Dene - the people who live along the edge of the tree-line. A fascination with the ancestral land of these ancient inhabitants has seen Bill and Lynda paddling by canoe each summer for the last decade into the so-called "Land of Little Sticks." Like the caribou and wolves that they see each year, Bill and Lynda's trips are now venturing out of Dene territory into the barrenlands of the Caribou Inuit.

Bill and Lynda are not what you would think of as typical expedition paddlers. They did their first trip of 3 days and 35 miles when they were in their early 40's. Bill's background as a whitewater kayaker and his years of working in the bush with Cree and Dene friends made the transition to canoe tripping relatively easy. Although Lynda's only real sports background was curling in high school they are now undertaking annual trips in the six week 650 mile range.

  Bill looks like what you would expect of a wilderness paddler - 6 foot, 195 pounds, and outdoor rugged. Meeting Lynda and seeing that she is 5 foot 4 and 135 pounds is a bit of a surprise.  For her, the first few days of the trip are 'training on the job' and she maintains that it's  

mental toughness and her stubborn nature rather than the physical strength that get her through.

They have now paddled into the Nueltin Lake area three times, down the Thlewiaza River to Arviat twice, the length of the Kazan River from Kasba Lake to Baker Lake, the Coppermine River to Kugluktuk from Lac de Gras, the Elk-Thelon Rivers from Rennie Lake to Baker Lake, the Porcupine River from Rennie Lake to Black Lake, along with several shorter trips. This year they are planning to paddle from Selwyn Lake down the Dubawnt River, then east from Carey Lake to the Kazan River, finishing in Baker Lake - about 6 weeks and 700 miles.


Bill writes for KANAWA magazine and Canoe & Kayak magazine about their canoe trips. Lynda has published several books about the Dene of northern Saskatchewan. The most recent are the two volumes in the Dene Elders Project and are published by Holland-Dalby Educational Consulting.

  • The Dene Elders Project: Stories and History from the West Side (ISBN # 0-921848-23-4)
  • They Will Have Our Words: The Dene Elders Project, Volume 2 (ISBN #0-921848-25-0)

For copies of either of these books you can contact Lynda directly at or PO Box 327, La Ronge, Saskatchewan, S0J 1L0

Bill has an article featured in the May 2004 issue of Canoe & Kayak covering a portion of his 2002 La Ronge to Arviat canoe trip. - Canoe & Kayak Website You'll also find several other articles on gear and expeditions written by Bill in Kanawa Magazine



Web Casts on

For 2005 Hanbury & Thelon Trip Coverage Tune into to the Town of La Ronge

Paddling the Dubawnt and the Kazan - 2004

Vermette Lake, NWT to Stoney Rapids, Saskatchewan - 2003

La Ronge to Arviat on Hudson Bay: 55 Days and 1000 miles - 2002

Paddling the Dubawnt River through the NWT and Nunavut - 2001

Paddling Canada's North - The Town of La Ronge - Visit the Gateway to Canada's North

Expedition Sponsors

Globalstar - Satellite Communications

Iowa Thin Film - Portable Solar Power

Mont-Bell - Outdoor Gear and Clothing

North Water - Paddle Sports Equipment

Nova Craft - Canoes

Socket Communications - The Mobile Connection Company

Tilly Endurables - Travel Clothing

Other Rivers

Coppermine River - Northwest Territories

Fond du Lac River - Saskatchewan

Kazan River - Nunavut

Thlewiaza River - Manitoba/Nunavut

Thelon River - Northwest Territories/Nunavut

Other Articles

Canoe Gear For The Subarctic

Other Features

Kanawa - Canada's Paddling Magazine

Canoe and Kayak - America's Paddling Magazine

Related Links


All contents copyright © White Cat Media 1995-2005.
Click here if you have arrived at this page directly from a search engine
and/or you don't see the navigation bar on the left