Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-07-22 page 17 of 40

Day 17 - Lockheart River

Stormbound until afternoon.

Although last night's weather had showed signs of the storm finally passing (warmer temperature, sky clearing, wind calming), during the night the wind backed into the northwest, the temperature dropped again, and this morning the water is just as white-capped and tumultuous as ever.

About noon, though, we noticed a marked reduction. By 1:30PM the conditions looked like we'd be able to get away. After another 45 minutes we decided "yes." The conditions were not calm, but just enough to allow us to depart. So we packed up and launched into the surf at 2:45PM.

After being stormbound for two and half days, we were eager to shove off.

We rounded the broad headland of the peninsula, then paddled one mile across to the mainland, then followed the coast north about three miles before our temporary lull ended. A huge rain cloud moved across from the west, dumped some rain although most of it missed us to the south.

Once that had passed, the northwest wind resumed in earnest. We pulled in for a rest behind a cluster of islands at the south end of the big knob that sticks out. The surf crashed against the shore the whole way. We found one small lee where the surf only glanced.

Conditions were so wild that we landed ashore at 4:45PM. I scouted far up the hill, hoping for a view of the conditions up around the other side of the knob, but the knob was much too large to see around it. I did spot another pullout about one mile ahead so I returned to Jenny and we decided to continue on and see if we could reach that next pullout.

Paddling directly into the wind now, we barely made headway. I took one greenie into my cockpit, I didn't have my spray skirt fitted around me properly. Jenny's rain jacket was bagged out in the wind, looking like a parachute, and her spray skirt looked like a giant red marshmallow with her stuffed inside it.

We inched our way around the knob, whitecaps covering the lake, it was probably equivalent to what we had been sitting out for the past three days. But we knew that if we could get into the Lockheart River our troubles with wind and waves would be over.

At the north end of the knob we short-cut half a mile across a bay in very rough water. Then we continued following the coast north. Primarily I could only paddle on the right side, the leeward side, in order to keep the bow from falling off. When I switched to the other side I could either hold the bow up, or paddle hard, but not both. So my right arm got a good workout, as did Jenny's left arm.

As we were approaching the the Lockheart River, a Golden eagle seemed to accompany us, as if to show the way, guiding us. The presence of the eagle and a handful of seagulls generally announces the proximity of fast flowing water where the fishing and feeding is good.

Eventually, at 7:00PM we reached the mouth of the Lockheart River. We pulled in behind a couple small islands and that was the end of the big waves. Fortunately the wind against current was not kicking up. We paddled upstream to the right bank and had to line a 100-foot stretch. Then we were into the wide basin. We paddled along the left bank. Where the river constricts, we went from one side to the other, keeping to the inside bend.

Note: From Pikes Portage to the still discant Lac de gras, we were going up-hill, padding up the rivers.

About two-thirds of the way along the river there was a cluster of make-shift cabins, caribou fences, and upside-down skiffs on the beach. It didn't look like anyone was there and we certainly did not stop to investigate. We actually paddled up a tiny rapid on the left side. On the east bank we spotted a large caribou with a large rack.

Just before reaching the marked southernmost rapid, we hauled out on the right bank at 9:45 pm. This rapid would be Class 4 - a big long sluice with souse holes and haystacks galore, maybe 100 yards long. But again, we were heading up-river, against the current.

Camp #17 on the Lockheart River.

We made camp 30 yards up from the river, with the sky showing real signs of improvement. The wind has stopped and the night was quite cold, probably low 40s.

x miles, 7 hours. Camp #17: UTM 13W 0374539 7042458 Map 75O (75 Oh)

The story has 40 pages. This is page 17.
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