A Place Apart

Paddling Canada's Subarctic Rivers
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There is a great untamed expanse of land in the central arctic that is still much as it was when the glaciers retreated centuries ago. This is a land of musk oxen and caribou, wolves and arctic foxes, grizzly bears and wolverines. It is a land of soft green rolling hills and bright yellow sand eskers, a land of limitless blue skies and cold clear lakes, a land of rock and tundra peat fields. This land is called the barrens.

The daughters of the barrens are its rivers—swift, clear, and cold. Long known to the Dene and Inuit, these rivers—the Kazan and the Coppermine, the Thelon and the Back, the Thlewiaza, the Dubawnt—still excite adventure-seekers as much as they did the explorers and fur traders a hundred years ago.

My paddling partner, Lynda Holland, and I were drawn to these rivers by the stories we read about the early explorers and the Inuit and the Dene. And we sought the promise of traveling in solitude through a land so little changed. No sooner have we finished one summer's trip than we are back tracing the thin blue lines across our well-worn maps looking for another river to explore.

I hope that time is gentle to these northern daughters that we have learned to love, that they don't lose their beauty and mystery, and that in years to come they can still seduce the hearts of those who, like Lynda and I, are wearied by our urban existence.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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