Coppermine River by Raft or Canoe

Trip Length
16 day(s)

Canoe, Raft

Skill Level

Rendezvous Point
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

$13,925 (CAD) 5% GST

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Flowing to the Arctic Ocean and near the Arctic Circle, the Coppermine River is famous for its nesting raptors including Gyrfalcons, Peregrine Falcons, Rough-legged Hawks, Golden and Bald eagles. Follow Franklin’s Footsteps to the “Polar Sea” and experience the wildlife and unequalled beauty of the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”

Trip Highlights

  • Cross the Arctic Circle by raft
  • Explore places with names like Bloody Falls and Rocky Defile
  • 14 days

Trip Details

On our Coppermine rafting or canoeing trip, we’ll cross the Arctic Circle and paddle to Franklin’s “Polar Sea.” Names like Bloody Falls and Rocky Defile foreshadow the adventure that awaits, and contrasts the abundance of showy Arctic flowers. The Coppermine River features spectacular fishing for Arctic grayling and char!

Rafting or canoeing (two-person canoes), we paddle the Coppermine over 17 river days, from Big Bend to the hamlet of Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine). Our journey is approximately 215 kilometres (135 miles) with an elevation drop of 280 metres (900 feet).

Please note that hotel costs and meals while in Yellowknife are not included in the trip fee.

While following our checklist in your Trip Details  package, please note the specific considerations for the tundra rivers. All tundra trips require good quality foul weather gear. Rubber boots make excellent footwear – if you’re unsure of what to look for, you’ll find good quality rubber boots in a sailing shop. Plan to err on the side of extra warm clothing. If you wish, the guides can help decide if anything should be left behind.

Skill Prerequisites: 



Trip Dates

August 2, 2024 - August 17, 2024 Book Now

Please contact our office

July 26, 2025 - August 8, 2025 Book Now

CANOE - 11 Seats Available

August 2, 2025 - August 15, 2025 Book Now

RAFT - 12 Seats Available

Additional dates may be available, please inquire.


The following is a tentative agenda and has been designed with much thought to capitalize on the most scenic and exciting parts of the river while making time on other sections. Your guides will adjust the schedule to make the best use of river and weather conditions.

Trip length: 12 days



Your journey north will be a refreshing departure from everyday life. You’ll fly over the largest expanse of wilderness in the world, pass through quieter airports, meet friendlier service personnel, and generally begin to immerse yourself in the wilderness experience that is about to unfold.

You should plan to arrive in Yellowknife, for our pre-trip orientation meeting which will be held in the Explorer Hotel at 6:00 pm. Please note that hotel costs and meals while in Yellowknife are not included in the trip fee.


8a.m. –  Meet in the hotel lobby after breakfast, (not included). Weather permitting we will board a chartered aircraft for the flight north over the tundra to the Coppermine River. After setting up camp and lunch, there will be plenty of time for our first hike in the surrounding hills to look at the wildflowers and the wildlife of the area.

Day 2 & 3 BIG BEND

We inflate and rig the rafts and canoes and start downstream. This is moose country and we keep a watch on the shore for these magnificent mammals. Tundra swans and many shorebirds and ducks can be seen in this section. As we approach Big Bend, the river narrows in width and speeds up. We pass the Hook River and an old portage to Great Bear Lake. It was here that Franklin had arranged with the local First Nation people to be resupplied on his 1821 expedition down the river. The absence of these supplies created his desperate bid for survival later that fall.


Back into the boats to Rocky Defile Rapids. This rapid runs through a 500 metre-long (1640 feet), 60 metre-high (197 feet) canyon. We stop here for the day. This is the start of some of the finest Arctic Char fishing found anywhere.


Back on the river, we drift down past the Kendall River where the Coppermine widens into several boulder flats and islands. This area is locally known as “the Splits.” From here, we get our first glance at the Coppermine and September mountains. Our destination for the night is Stoney Creek where we sometimes find the remains of winter overflow ice.


A day to look for copper in the Coppermine Mountains on a hike that will follow the footsteps of Franklin’s party. You may decide to stay closer to camp to photograph and enjoy some of the many patches of abundant wildflowers.


We start a long section that is sandwiched between the terraced hillsides of the Coppermine Mountains on one side and the barren sloping banks of the September Mountains on the other. At the Melville River, the Coppermine makes its final turn northward. It is here that the river makes its greatest drop, falling 152 metres (460 feet) in 72 kilometres (50 miles) over 30 sets of rapids. The thin cover of spruce that has been following the river finally dwindles away to be replaced by tundra vegetation. Steep cliffs and rock dominate the region making excellent breeding grounds for hawks, falcons and eagles. We drift down through Muskox and Sandstone Rapids.

Day 10 & 11 BLOODY FALLS

We drift downstream to Escape Rapids. Here the river flows through a high winding 50 metre (150 feet) gorge. The next 16 kilometres (10 miles) to Bloody Falls takes us through both marked and unmarked rapids on a fast downriver run to the boulder fan above the falls. Bloody Falls was named for the massacre of an Inuit camp by the Indians that were guiding Samuel Hearne in 1771. A hiking day will be spent around the falls and the portage will begin. You’ll get a chance for close up pictures of the Golden Eagles that nest here as well as hike to a local peak for our first look at the “Polar Sea.”


Only 16 kilometres (10 miles) of the Coppermine remain until it reaches the ocean. After finishing the portage around the falls, we will complete this remaining section of the river. We reach the town of Kugluktuk in the late afternoon and the rest of the day is yours to explore the town. We will camp near town and enjoy a final evening together as a group.


We return to Yellowknife on commercial aircraft (included).  You may opt to spend an additional day in Yellowknife or book your flights home for this afternoon or evening.


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