Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-17 page 12 of 40

Day 12 - Pikes Portage

We slept in until 7 am, until the heat of the sun drove us out of the tent. We set off at 7:30 am. The morning was again beautiful, lots of blue sky and 10 knots of wind out of the northeast. The first task of the day was to find the start of the next portage. The map does not show this one. We landed at the most likely looking spot which was just left of what the map shows as an outlet, but in reality we did not see an outlet even after a bit of searching on land.

I went for a recon and eventually found the portage trail. Turns out, we had landed in just the right spot. We were glad to have our waders because this trail was boggy in places. It was about a quarter mile long, and took us to the shore of Kipling Lake. We made this portage in two carries - same with all the portages today.

7:17AM Returning to Acres Lake after our first carry.

7:37AM The trail leading to Kipling was boggy in places.


The portage between Kipling and Burr Lake was not one but three. It started with a climb to reach a very small like. Five paddle strokes could almost have got us to the next take out. It probably would have been quicker to portage around this first little lake. The next carry took us to another small lake, then another carry down to Burr Lake. This lake was strange in appearance; the water was clear, but pitch black.

During one of the portages to Burr Lake we were hiking under the canoe through extensive bogs in our waders. Suddenly my leg sunk in calf deep in "quick-mud." My leg was stuck and would not come out. Unfortunately Jenny didn't stop, so the momentum knocked me over. There I was with one foot caught in the mud, laying on the higher bank of the bog, with the canoe on top of me. It took quite a bit of pulling to get my foot out. It was quite amazing how strong the suction was.

From Burr to Toura Lake the trail climbed; we had changed into our running shoes for this portage. It was a beautiful hike.

These lakes were much too small and before long it was time to start the next portage. Each portage was very strenuous because we were doing them in only two carries. But mainly because we were out of shape for portaging.

8:46AM Climbing a hill on the way to Toura Lake.

9:14AM Second carry.


The next lake beyond Toura is unnamed on our map, and the portage trail was virtually non-existent for most the way. We imagined it was because everyone goes a slightly different way. It is a straight shot up a draw. There were two extra large cairns at the top, built fairly recently.



10:53AM Spruce tree growing on the on the portage trail.

The trail along Pike's Portage is very well defined except for a few anomalies such as this one. A spruce, estimated at 50 years old judging by its whorls, growing directly on the trail, and no hint of a side path going around the tree. This suggests the trail is very old, but not much traveled in the last 80 years. The reason the trail persists is ground compaction by the peoples who walked it, probably for thousands of years, the permafrost lying but a few inches below the surface, and the overall extreme environment of the far north. In terms of the Connection with ancient peoples, I had not hiked a trail that exuded this much power. It was an amazing experience.

These old portage trails are immensely interesting when one considers the history behind them. It was a real privilege to travel them and see them firsthand.








5:40PM It's been a long day!

6:21PM Artillery Lake.

When finishing a portage, we leave the pack together for the next portage. We simply pile the loaded packs into the canoe. That means that on every other portage, we carry the canoe first. When carrying the canoe, we couldn't see where we were going. So as we carried the boat toward the unnamed lake, I was bumbling along in the lead under the bow with no trail to follow. I could see only about 10 feet in front of me. Therefore I was very pleased when I walked directly to the shore of the lake. There in front of me was water. I lifted the canoe off my head and was surprised to see it was only a small pond. Oops, not the right water. Fortunately, the real lake was not much further on. From the unnamed lake the trail climbed and then finally descended to a smaller lake which we paddled and then made the final portage down to Artillery Lake.

All of these portages were one-half to one mile in length. When portaging from the unnamed lake we were both extremely tired and experiencing some difficulty carrying the canoe. At one point we lost control and fell into a heap for no apparent reason.

Reaching Artillery Lake was a major milestone, because it meant that we had completed Pike's Portage. The wind was blowing fresh out of the northeast as it had been doing off and on all day. On the lake, this meant headwinds.

7:02PM Reaching Artillery Lake, we had completed Pike's Portage.

We stopped at 7:50 pm on the first small island shown on the map, and made camp.


We desired fish and I threw out the lure but it was too late (8 pm) for fishing and not a good spot. My spoon lure snagged the bottom, so I went out in the boat and retrieved it.


x miles, 11 hours and 20 minutes. Camp #12: UTM 12W 0628938 6972780 Map 75K
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