Briana Mackay

Originally a city girl from Montreal, I found a love of the wilderness through summer camp, and the wonders of a family cottage as a youngster. A two-week trip paddling down the Coulonge River in western Quebec at 13 years old was probably one of the most pivotal moments of my life to this day! I spent every summer after that exploring different eastern river corridors, teaching paddling, and introducing others to the simplicity and magic of wild spaces. Even after I finished a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, I wasn’t quite ready to give it all up.

I started working at an international wilderness education non-profit, and what was originally a two-year plan to travel and explore new rivers in different parts of the world, somehow turned into a thirteen-year career – woops! I got to canoe, raft, sail, hike and explore in parts of the US, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, India, and Mexico. I was also introduced to Northern Canadian rivers in 2006, and eventually made the Yukon home as I moved into managing the school’s Yukon base and programs in 2013. I like to think that I was contributing to changing the world for the better by being part of others finding value and connection to wilderness environments, but I was also just really lucky to get to learn, see and smile so much!

In 2018 I tried to ‘retire’ from the business in hopes of having more time for personal expeditions, learning to fly planes, doing more pottery, and working a more typical, 9-5 job that I wasn’t so passionate and consumed by. It was a short-lived retirement though (more like a backwards-sabbatical?!) as the draw of this community is hard to give up.

After working my first trip for NRA/CRE 2018, it wasn’t a hard sell when I was approached a couple of years later about working in more of a year-round capacity for the company – overseeing operations and still getting out on the rivers to guide in the summer. Apparently introducing others to wild places and creating space for them to be inspired and want to protect and advocate for wilderness is still what I want to do for the rest of my life!