Canoeing Coppermine River & Pikes Portage

Yellowknife to Arctic Ocean

Northern Paddling Adventure #8

39 days, 960 miles, Jul-Aug 2005

Ray & Jenny Jardine

2005-08-05 page 31 of 40

Day 31 - Rocknest Lake

The sky was mostly sunny, the wind was blowing a bit. We set off at 8 am and paddled west along the shore. We had a nice, easy downwind run for a couple of miles, but as soon as we turned the corner to the north we had a strong headwind. These were kicking up a fair chop and that chop was smashing into a line of rapids that stretched across a gap, caused by a not so gradual decline in the river bottom.

From our vantage, and me standing in the boat, the rapids didn't look like much. Ignoring an easy out to the right, we ran the rapids. They were much bigger than they had looked. Three-foot waves that we barely avoided. Then it was strong current against strong wind, creating a gnarly chop, necessitating our steering for the right shore, several hundred yards away. We negotiated the remainder of the northward channel, mostly in strong headwind.

In Rocknest Lake the wind was northeast and variable in strength, most strong. The shores and hills were all spruce and willow and alder. The spruce is a genuine forest through here and the willow and alder understory is pervasive.

Just before exiting Rocknest Lake we stopped to burn our paper trash. (We use paper to wrap our provisions because we can burn it when no longer needed. And of course we carry the paper wrapped provisions in waterproof boat-bags.) We found a couple of dead spruce with lots of good twigs and sticks and branches. We built the fire right at the water's edge, kept it small but hot, and when we were finished we doused it with dozens of buckets of water, washing it all away.

The river began to pick up a little speed and with that we said goodbye to our last lake. At the first marked rapid we portaged the first one third of it on the right. This started in tall dense willow, but once through that the going wasn't bad at all. We put back on to the river and by staying to the right we managed to paddle the rest of this rapid without problems.

From there the river seemed to us to have rapids all along the way. Until we reached one monster which we portaged on the right, following a well-worn trail. In fact, it had very fresh boot prints which looked like today or yesterday. And Y group from Ontario, and they had started at Lac de Gras. They were taking a rest day today. They told us of another group thay had met from Japan who was 81 days out.

We paddled a ways farther and reached a large rock shelf on the right and did a short 50-yard portage on the river. This rapid had large, standing waves, the largest I have seen in a long while, since the Back River in 1999.

We put back in, in the calm water next to these waves and hugged the right shore, with no problems. The 4-mile section of rapids we found wide and shallow. We banged along the right shore for awhile but decided it wasn't worth it. We waded a short ways and then lined on the right. It was easy lining and fairly speedy. While lining, we walked by lots of wildflowers: cinquefoil, fireweed, buttercups, arctic poppy and spring beauties.

A couple hundred yards from the end we stopped at 7:30 pm for the day. I found a beautiful campsite on top of the bank overlooking the river.

Camp #31, after 11.5 hours of paddling and portaging.

30 miles, 11.5 hours. Camp #31: UTM 11W 0624845 7291674 Map 86G

The story has 40 pages. This is page 31.
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