Arctic Land Expedition

By Paul VanPeenen

arctic1Maple Ridge photographer and Arctic paddler Paul VanPeenen will be heading off on another two-month Arctic Land Expedition supported by Western Canoeing & Kayaking. Last summer, Paul paddled solo for 58 days and over 1,000 km through the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in a 14-foot Clipper Prospector.

arctic2Paul retraced part of John Franklin’s 1821 expedition starting at Fort Enterprise, 250 km north of Yellowknife. From there he paddled and portaged upstream to Point Lake on the Coppermine River. Point Lake was still frozen but rapidly deteriorating which meant there was no time for dawdling. He travelled the 120 km long lake in four days, paddling and dragging the canoe. After two days rest and a resupply at a fishing lodge at the west end of Point Lake, Paul set off down the flooded Coppermine River to the Arctic Ocean, often camping in the same places and on the same dates as Franklin had done180 years before. After 40 days travel, Paul arrived at the town of Kugluktuk on the Arctic Ocean where he resupplied before heading east along the coast of Coronation Gulf.

Bad weather, grizzly bear encounters and spectacular scenery marked this part of the journey. At Galena Point in Bathurst Inlet, a three-day storm pinned Paul in his tent on a small island. Once the weather cleared he was able to resume his trip into Bathurst Inlet to the mouth of the Hood River. arctic3Another grizzly bear encounter was the deciding factor in ending the trip just 40 km short of the goal of Wilberforce Falls on the Hood River. Besides, after two months solo travel, he was ready to go home. This year’s expedition will begin in early June at Old Canoe Lake, south of MacKay Lake and Camsell Lake in the Northwest Territories. From there, Paul will spend about a month threading his way northeast into Nunavut through several river systems and countless lakes to Contwoyto Lake.

At the south end of Contwoyto, Paul will cross the height of land into Nose Lake, the headwaters of the Mara River. There he will be joined by three paddlers from Prince George who have paddled with him on previous expeditions. The foursome will descend the Mara, which flows into the Burnside River, all the way down to the Arctic Ocean to the settlement of Bathurst Inlet.

arctic4They will then paddle north into Portage Bay to do a few days of hiking around the Wilberforce Falls area on the Hood River before returning by float plane to Yellowknife in early August. The expedition will be using a 16-foot and a 17-foot Clipper Prospector from Western Canoeing & Kayaking outfitted with spraydecks. In the fall, Paul will again be presenting slide shows of his expedition throughout British Columbia. Stay tuned for more information.


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