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Canoe with muskox and wolves on this Arctic expedition | CA-JT1201

This sanctuary is the most remote location on the North American continent


This 170 mile long canoe trip on the Clarke and Thelon Rivers lies inside the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary and almost dead-centre in the Barren Lands (mainland tundra). This sanctuary is the most remote location on the North American continent and was the last significant part of the continent to be "explored" by Europeans (1899 and 1900).


  • Thelon River, largest river on the tundra
  • Wide assortment of spectacular wildlife at Thelon
  • Clarke river
  • Barren Lands
  • John Hornby's cabin, and graves

The Clarke River flows through a deep, lush, little valley, spattered with clumps of big white spruce trees and flanked on either side by miles of big, treeless tundra hills. There are spectacular monster eskers, huge sand hills and sand dunes, and even some badlands. Clear-water feeder creeks gush into the Clarke through narrow canyons and over waterfalls. And on the river itself are sandstone cliffs and canyons in places, guarded by peregrine falcons. There are lots of fast and easily runnable rapids and probably more peregrine falcons than anywhere else on the tundra.

The Thelon River country is beautiful, but in a different and less dramatic way than on the Clarke. What the Thelon does offer, more than anywhere else in the Barren Lands, is a wide assortment of spectacular wildlife. The Clarke and Thelon Rivers has always been a great trip to spot tundra wolves. Sometimes, they will walk into your campsite with 10 or 20 feet of us, just to check us out! 

  • Personal Experience
  • Trusted Tour Operator
  • Local Guides
  • Small group
Availability June - Sept
Duration 12 days
Departs From Fort Smith, NT
Difficulty Moderate
Group maximum 10
Meet on Location Yes
Pick Up No
Region Northwest Territories


7 322
  • Best Price Guarantee
  • Toll Free number in N. America: +1 888 285 1676
  • International number: +1 780 414 1676

Availability (2023):
July 2-13
Price: $11,550 CAD per person

Alternative trip for 2023 also available:
Upper Thelon
July 13-24
July 24-August 4
Price: $10,910 CAD per person

What's Included

Find out what is included and what to bring.


  • Expedition-quality tripping canoes and high quality paddles, and other safety equipment
  • Lifejackets (you are free to bring your own)
  • Group gear for each expedition (tarp, kitchen equipment, utensils, water filtration, etc)
  • First aid and kayak repair kits
  • Communication devices (satellite phone and Garmin Inreach)
  • Expedition-quality tents
  • A detailed check-list for recommended personal clothing
  • Accommodations are in tent camps along the lake. Hotel accommodations in Fort Smith are an additional cost.
  • All meals

Suggested Clothing & Items

  • Outer layers designed to keep you dry when paddling during the day and in the rain
  • Warm clothes to wear under layers and while at camp
  • Fishing gear and license
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with extra batteries
  • Pen, paper, journal and lighter
  • Matches/extra rope of cord 10’ – 25’

What to bring

  • Sleeping bag and pad (required)

Contact us for more Information about this tour


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Find out more details about the tour and its highlights


Kids canoeing

Moose are a common sight on this trip, as well as red fox, arctic hare, weasel, wolverines, and otters. There is also the possibility to see muskoxen on the Clarke/Thelon River. In fact, a herd of Muskoxen was spotted by a group on this river in 2018 just before they flew out on the float plane. This area was an old Muskoxen stronghold where they survived the slaughters elsewhere in North America of the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is also a wonderful trip for birds. Birds of note include jaegers, merlins, bald eagles, osprey, many species of ducks, large numbers of molting Canada geese, and several species of loons.

You'll also find good fishing on this route in a few places, especially in the uppermost Clarke River. Lake Trout and Arctic Grayling are found on both the Clarke and Thelon Rivers. 

The Barren Lands are the largest wilderness left in North America. At some one-half million square miles, they are twice the size of Alberta or Texas. Hundreds of rivers and hundreds of thousands of lakes are still unnamed. Almost dead center in the Barrenlands lies the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary and its oasis, which makes this location the most remote place on the North American continent, and as remote as any location on the high arctic islands of Canada. The nearest communities to our canoe route are also hundreds of miles away in every direction.

There are also many archaeological sites on the Clarke and Thelon rivers where ancient hunters waited for the Beverly caribou herd to cross these rivers on their summer migration. It is illegal to remove any of this material so we will take only photos and leave them as they lay. We'll also visit late in our trip John Hornby's cabin, and graves. Hornby, his 18-year-old nephew, and another young man died of starvation here in the winter of 1927. The three graves, marked by crosses, are beside the cabin.

Guide information: 1:5 guide to client ratio. You will have a lead guide and an assistant guide on this trip. Guides are trained in wilderness first aid, sea kayaking skills and have extensive experience paddling in the Northwest Territories. Our friendly guides are there to keep you safe, and have a fun and exciting trip! All guides are local and live in the Northwest Territories. 

Restrictions: While paddling experience is an asset, this trip is suitable for whitewater canoe beginners - with the support of our experienced guides. The Clarke is a swift-flowing and evenly-graded river that is braided and shallow in many places. There are many dozens of Class I to II rapids on the Clarke that are fun to run. There are also three or four more difficult rapids that we'll line or wade our canoes short distances. So whitewater experience is certainly as an asset but not a prerequisite. However, participants should be good flat-water canoeists, particularly when in the stern.

Transportation: Trips originate and end in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. Package includes flights between Fort Smith and the Clarke/Thelon Rivers (float plane air charter). Fort Smith is accessible by air from Edmonton, Alberta. 

Weather: On previous years we have encountered some ice lingering on small lakes along our route, but the weather has usually been pleasant and warm. The sun will be in the sky for some 20 hours a day during our trip. Water temperatures will be ice-cold at the beginning of our trip, and warm up as we proceed down-river. 

Requirements: Sleeping bag and pad.

We'll start this canoe trip on the Clarke River, where we will land in our float plane on Day 1. We will not likely travel far, if at all, on the first day of this trip. We'll set up camp and begin to take in our beautiful wilderness surroundings. During this evening and others on this trip, participants will have plenty of time to pursue their interests whether they be photography, fishing, hiking, birding, swimming or just taking a nap.

Bear footprint compared to human

As we descend the Clarke River, we notice it's more like a mountain river than a barrenlands river. There are many Class I-II rapids that are fun to run. The Clarke River flows through rugged, scenic country that just begs you to go exploring. The hiking is wonderful with panoramic vistas everywhere you look. For the most part, the Clarke winds through a narrow, steep-sided valley with scattered clumps of spruce. Beyond the lip of the Clarke valley the tundra rolls on, seemingly forever. Approaching the Clarke's junction with the Thelon, stands of spruce trees become larger and more frequent. 

Musk ox

The Thelon is a big, shallow, clear-water river with a strong current but very few rapids. It's the largest river on the tundra, by far the easiest to canoe, and easily the most magnificent. The country along the Thelon differs markedly from the Clarke. It's a much larger river in a much broader valley. The scale of the country is huge! You feel very small and insignificant in this big landscape that keeps changing every day. The Thelon Oasis is legendary as a wildlife paradise, long known to Chipewyan Dene as "God's country" as "the birthplace of animals" and when the world as created as "the place where God began". For Alex Hall, he considers it Eden.

Our float plane arrives around noon to take us back to Fort Smith. We say goodbye to this highly unique place of rich wildlife. Back in Fort Smith, we meet up for a farewell dinner and cold beers (after hot showers)!

While on the canoe trip accommodations are in tent camps along the lake. Hotel accommodations in Fort Smith are an additional cost.

What will the food be like? Really good. We’ve fine-tuned a high-end, nutritious and well-balanced backcountry menu of unique and tasty dishes from years of expedition tripping – and look forward to sharing it with you. Our flexible menu can accommodate vegetarian and gluten-free preferences, and will be tailored in advance for participants on each trip. Guests are always welcome to join guides in cooking and learn to cook our authentic, backcountry recipes.

Breakfast will include fresh fruit and a main dish, like eggs and bacon or pancakes. Lunch features locally-smoked sausages, fruit, hummus, salads, breads and naan with a spread of cheese, jams, and a variety of nut butters. Dinner will offer an appetizer, main course, and dessert! 

Payment Details

Deposit and Taxes

  • Pricing does not include: 5.00% GST. 
  • A 20% deposit is required to hold your reservation. 
  • Balance of payment is due 60 days before trip commencement.

Cancellation Policy & Details

A 20% deposit is due upon booking to reserve your spot on a tour. The balance of your trip fee is due 60 days before departure. If you register for a trip and subsequently cancel: There is a $100 administration fee applied to any cancellation. The balance of your payment (to date) will be refunded for any cancellation up to 61 days prior to departure.

For notice given:

  • from 31-60 days, we retain 50% of the fee
  • from 15-30 days, we retain 75% of the fee
  • from 0-14 days, we retain 100% of the fee