From our start at Duo Lakes high in the alpine to the confluence of the Snake and the Peel Rivers, we travelled through an untouched wilderness. Experiencing this incredible region brought the ongoing efforts to protect the Peel watershed to the forefront of each of our minds.
Our first day on the river, we feasted our eyes on close to 100 Dall sheep, their white figures ranging from as close as the river bank to high rocky mountains. We revelled in their spritely movements; lambs springing behind their mother’s heels to cross steep scree slopes. Noble rams peered down on us from their riverside perches, inviting us to photograph their impressive, curling horns. The Snake flows through a steep mountain valley, and where we did not see sheep we continued to see their well-worn tracks wrap around the mountainsides.
The landscape was punctuated with signs of wildlife. During our riverside lunch breaks we investigated bear, wolf and moose tracks. As we approached the Peel River confluence we made camp across from steep cliffs where Peregrine falcons circled and called out as the midnight sun traversed the sky. Sunshine filled our tents as late as 11PM, when the sun, eventually, dipped below the cliffs.
The abundance and diversity of wildflowers were a highlight for many. Blooming Lapland rosebays, Arctic poppies and Dryas carpeted the landscape, vying for the attention of our eyes while hiking in the alpine—competing with and adding to the stunning mountain vistas.
Daily, the conversation turned to how few places like the Peel watershed are left in the world; watersheds free of development where rivers run free and grizzlies, caribou and Dall sheep reign. This awareness deepened our appreciation of the landscape we travelled through.
Most of our guests have travelled around the world, and this group was no exception. I heard from each of them how Canada’s Arctic had cast a spell and keeps them returning to travel another northern river each summer. As we each shared our personal highlights of the journey what hung in the air between each of us was the immense privilege of intimately experiencing one of the few remaining intact watersheds in the world.