Sea Kayaking Mackenzie River & Arctic Coast

Down the Mackenzie River & Along the Arctic Coast

Northern Paddling Adventure #4

36 days, 1,175 miles, Jun-Jul 1997

Ray & Jenny Jardine

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Under construction

1997-07 Sea Kayaking Arctic Coast

Three trips in one: Canada's Mackenzie River, 200 miles of Arctic coastline, and the Thelon River. 1997 Ray & Jenny Jardine

18 days kayaking the Mackenzie River (Fort Providence Canada to Inuvik) 975 miles in 24 days; 200 miles of Beaufort Sea Arctic coastline in 12 days to Tuk


1977 Paddling Adventures

The Mackenzie River by kayak

975 miles in 24 days

(Fort Providence to Inuvik)

kayaking the Arctic coastline

200 miles in 12 days

The Thelon River

575 miles in 24 days

Trip total: 1,750 miles in 54 days

Ray Jardine

1997 journey part 1
The Mackenzie River
975 miles in 18 days


1997 Jardine, Mackenzie River

Our trip begins on the Mackenzie River, Canada's largest. In this photo we see the kayak that Jenny and I built the previous winter, our third such project.

We can also see a platform for the tent that Jenny and I have leveled and covered in reed stubble. The season is early and the river is very high, meaning that places to camp are few and far between.

We flew to Yellowknife June 12, rode the bus to Fort Providence, and started down the Mackenzie River June 14.

We floated the Mackenzie River 975 miles nearly to its terminus at the village of Inuvik. This part of the trip took 18 days.

12 days kayaking the Arctic coastline, Nunaluk to Tuk, 1997 : Ray and Jenny Jardine

Landing at a place called Nunaluk on the Arctic coast


In Inuvik we hired a float plane to carry us to Nunaluk, the sandspit marking our farthest east point the previous summer. Nunaluk is just a place name, situated on the Arctic coast in the Beaufort Sea. It is about 12 miles west of Herschell Island..

In the above picture the plane has landed in the lagoon behind the sandspit.

1997 Jardine, lead in pack ice terminates

After paddling the length of the lagoon we are forced into open sea, which in the vicinity is still covered in Polar ice pack. In the photo we have reached the end of a shore lead, and are about to portage 1/4 mile into another ice free lagoon. They are not visible in this photo, but the ice is covered in hundreds of seals.

1997 Jardine, the Arctic Ocean

For the next week we struggled with unremitting headwinds and stormy seas, following the Beaufort Sea coastline to the Mackenzie Delta. In this photo the onset of yet another gale has forced us off the water. That is Herschell Island away to the north. The following photo shows another gale in progress.

1997 Jardine, the Arctic Ocean

We traversed the Mackenzie Delta by paddling up the Reindeer Channel and down the East Channel back to the ocean. From there we paddled along the coast to the village of Tuktoyaktuk, where we arrived July 14.

At the Coast Guard station in Tuk we examined the latest satellite photos which showed the Polar ice pack jamming the entire length of coastline ahead. A very bad year for ice, they all said.

We seemed to have three options. One, we could toss in the towel and return home. Not a chance on that! Two, we could hang around for a few weeks hoping for a southerly wind to blow the ice away from the coast, opening a shore lead. Such a wind seemed unlikely, and Tuk was not a good place to hang out. Or three, we could return inland and paddle one of the remote and truly rugged rivers, something we had always wanted to do.

The paddling season is short this far north, and we felt the need to take advantage of every minute of it. So we decided on the inland river option. Which river we were not sure, but meanwhile we loaded the kayak on a barge back to Inuvik, and flew there ourselves.

1997 journey part 2
A section of Arctic coastline
200 miles in 12 days

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