The following is a tentative agenda and has been designed to allow for exploration of this northern alpine river. Your guides will adjust the schedule to make the best use of river and weather conditions. The fast draining basin can cause water levels to change rapidly with rain events.
Trip length: 11 river days
Breakfast = B | Lunch = L | Dinner = D
Day 1 (D) Mountain River Flight
This is the first day listed for your trip.
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.
Please plan to arrive in Norman Wells on the mid-day flight or earlier.
Norman Wells is a small community on the Mackenzie River. It’s accessible by air from Yellowknife. This picturesque town is nestled between the Franklin and Mackenzie mountains and dates back to 1919 when Imperial Oil set up a small refinery.
One of your guides will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the floatplane base for final preparation before the trip. There will be a place to leave clothing not required for the trip. There will be a chance for last minute questions concerning clothing, gear, packing and other details. Weather permitting, we’ll only be in town briefly so please don’t count on major purchases prior to the trip.
After loading the Twin Otter aircraft, you’ll be flying westward over the dramatic Mackenzie Mountains. Be sure to keep your camera handy! This is one of the first of many great highlights of the trip.
The Twin Otter will rendezvous with the helicopter at Willowhandle Lake. From here we’ll make the dramatic helicopter portage to our camp at the confluence of the creek with the Mountain River. Be sure to watch for Mountain caribou and Dall sheep.
Day 2 (B/L/D) Whitewater, Fishing & More
Embarking on the river we enjoy exciting wave trains as we navigate the braided channels. The gradient increases through the day with exciting haystacks. This day, as on others, there are chances to fish for trout and grayling in the clear mountain water. Keep your eyes peeled as locations such as Grizzly Meadows will live up to their name.
Day 3 (B/L/D) ‘Moonscapes’ & Mineral Springs
The spectacular mountain backdrop has dominated the scenic panorama. Now it’s time to get up close and personal with the geology. Visiting “The Moonscape” mineral springs and “Fountain of Youth” reveals the dramatic and beautiful creations of geothermal springs. These spots are often frequented by Dall sheep. Stopping at Cache Creek we can enjoy a mineral spring shower!
Day 4 (B/L/D) Battleship Rock & Canyon Beauty
Entering the first of the canyons we enjoy an exciting run and more displays of geological features. The day continues with lively wave trains, more spectacular views and eventually brings us to Battleship Rock and the mouth of Second Canyon.
Day 5 & 6 (B/L/D) Confluence at the Stone Knife River
Second Canyon competes with the First for excitement. Challenging corners, holes and rebounding waves dominate all of the Mountain River canyons. At the confluence with Stone Knife River the volume doubles and the action continues.
Day 7 (B/L/D) Third Canyon
After negotiating the rapids of Third Canyon, the river continues to wind through the mountain valley, dropping at a steep gradient. Moose, Dall sheep and grizzly inhabit the shores.
Day 8 (B/L/D) Fourth & Fifth Canyon
After Fourth Canyon the valley begins to broaden, but the current persists. The ridges take on a new shape, providing diversity for the eye. Camp is in the vicinity of Fifth Canyon.
Day 9 & 10 (B/L/D) East & West Mountains
Paddling into the Mackenzie Valley, the landforms continue to change. The secret of the river’s name becomes clear. Early travellers on the Mackenzie River would have recognized the mouth of this tributary by the presence of East and West Mountains that overlook the junction.
Day 11 (B/L/D) Mackenzie River Valley
The river slows considerably and the surrounding mountains meld into the Mackenzie River Valley. The surrounding environment changes dramatically as the confluence with the Mackenzie nears. Paddling a short distance up the Mackenzie brings us to a beautiful river beach – beachcombers paradise with large driftwood logs (certainly not from around here).
Day 12 (B/L) Onward to Norman Wells
We’ll be met at our camp by a power boat to take us on the 3 – 5 hour ride back to Norman Wells. Late in the afternoon you can settle into your hotel room (not included) for that long awaited shower and prepare for the evening. The group may want to gather at a local eating establishment (not included) to recount tales of whitewater and canyons.
Day 13 Homeward Bound
After goodbyes and a last look around Norman Wells, we’ll head for home with a cargo of spectacular memories.