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

This Thelon wildlife sanctuary is the largest wildlife refuge in Canada

Overview

THELON/CLARKE RIVER

This 170 mile long canoe trip on the Clarke and Thelon Rivers lies inside the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary and is almost dead-center 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).

UPPER THELON RIVER

We’ll be paddling the upper part of the The-lew-dezeth (Thelon River), the largest river in the Barren Lands and easily the most magnificent. The Thelon is, without question, the most remote and the most pristine wilderness river of any considerable size left in North America. Our 120 mile (193km) long route is 80% river paddling. There are eight rapids along our route but no portages at all.

Highlights

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

 

 

 

Thelon/Clarke River

The Clarke River has always been one of Alex Hall’s best kept secrets. It 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 boasts open tundra views and good wildlife viewing. There are several tundra wolves dens on this route, nestled into the sides of striking sand eskers. Moose are a common sight on this trip, as well as red fox, arctic hare, weasel, and otters. This area was an old Muskoxen stronghold where they survived the slaughters elsewhere in North America of the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Thelon Game Sanctuary. In 2019, a herd of muskox forded the Clarke River in front of our campsite and ran through our camp!

This is also a wonderful trip for birds, including jaegers, merlins, bald eagles, osprey, many species of ducks, large numbers of molting Canada geese, and several species of loons.

Upper Thelon River

Our entire route is on the tundra, south of the Thelon Wildlife Sanctuary, and is one of the most remote places left in the world.

Big treed sandy eskers are prominent topographic features along our Thelon River canoe route. They stand out many miles away and greatly enrich the landscape. Scattered along these eskers are spike-shaped spruce trees and below their sheltered flanks grow stands of robust spruce and tamarack. Exquisite aquamarine ponds and kettle lakes with beaches all around are almost everywhere you look. The scenery along these eskers is so extraordinary that it seems to belong to a surreal, fairy-tale world.

There’s a good chance of seeing a few tundra wolves on this Thelon River canoe trip. About 80% of tundra wolves are white in color, so most of them are highly conspicuous against the green summer tundra. Sometimes, they will walk into your campsite within 10 or 20 feet of us, just to check us out! Of course, normal, healthy wolves are completely harmless.

 

Muskoxen and moose are large animals we can count on seeing on this canoe trip. Most herds consist of 10 – 25 animals. Often a grizzly or two or three is spotted and occasionally, a wolverine or two. This is also a wonderful trip for birds. Birds of note include jaegers, merlins, bald eagles, osprey, many species of ducks, large numbers of moulting Canada geese, and several species of loons.

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

From

8 214
Per
Person
  • Best Price Guarantee
  • Toll Free number in N. America: +1 888 285 1676
  • International number: +1 780 414 1676

Availability (2023):

Thelon/Clarke River
July 13-24
Price: $11,550 CAD per person

Upper Thelon
July 24-August 4
Price: $10,910 CAD per person

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What's Included

Find out what is included and what to bring.

Included

  • Charter flight from Yellowknife to the Thelon River, return
  • Shuttles from the airport when in Yellowknife, NWT
  • Certified guides with a maximum ratio of 5:1
  • Royalex expedition canoes and knee pads
  • Werner paddles, PFDs, and throw bags
  • Group gear for each expedition (tarp, kitchen equipment, utensils, water filtration, etc)
  • Personal watertight barrel or drybag
  • Expedition first aid kit and canoe repair kit
  • Emergency satellite phone, two-way radios for guide staff
  • Expedition tents by Mountain Hardware
  • Hearty and nutritious meals including snacks while on trip
  • Group will be limited to 10 participants + 2 guides

Suggested Clothing & Items

  • Sleeping bag and pad (required)
  • Outer layers designed to keep you dry when paddling
  • Warm clothes to wear under layers and while at camp

What to bring

  • Sleeping bag and pad (required)

Contact us for more Information about this tour

TOLL FREE NUMBER IN N. AMERICA: +1 888 285 1676
INTERNATIONAL NUMBER: +1 780 414 1676

You can also send an email to info@adventures.com, or use the contact form here below.

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Itinerary

Find out more details about the tour and its highlights

Information

Moose are a common sight on both trips, as well as red fox, arctic hare, weasel, wolverines, and otters. There is also the possibility to see muskoxen on the Clarke/Thelon River and the Upper Thelon tours. 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.

Transportation: Trips originate and end in Yellowknife Northwest Territories. The package includes flights between Yellowknife and the put-in points on the river (float plane air charter). Yellowknife is accessible by air from Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver.

Restrictions

Upper Thelon: While paddling experience is an asset, this trip is suitable for whitewater canoe beginners – with the support of our experienced guides. However, participants should be good flat-water canoeists, particularly when in the stern. The back-country camping experience is required as this is a remote wilderness trip.

Thelon/Clarke: 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 an asset but not a prerequisite. However, participants should be good flat-water canoeists, particularly when in the stern.

Day 1

We'll start this canoe trip on the Clarke River, where we will land on 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.

Days 2-7
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 a 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 Clarke's junction with the Thelon, stands of spruce trees become larger and more frequent.

Days 8-11

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 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 was created as "the place where God began". For Alex Hall, he considers it Eden.

Day 12

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

DAY 1

We'll start this canoe trip on the Thelon River, where we will land on 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.

DAYS 2-6

The Thelon is a big, shallow, clear-water river. We'll be canoeing its upper reaches but, even here, it's a big river that is very wide. The upper Thelon is easy to canoe because it's a mostly fairly fast river with very few rapids. Most of the lake paddling occurs on the first few days of the trip. After that, it's nearly all swift-flowing rivers with only the occasional easy rapid.

DAYS 7-11

The topography along our canoe route is hilly in most sections. The landscape is very scenic and is dominated in place by several spectacular sandy eskers, up to 200 feet in height. These are some of the very largest eskers in the Barren Lands. Spruces are most numerous in sandy areas, especially along the eskers, where some trees reach three feet in diameter and may be close to 1,000 years old.

Day 12

Our float plane arrives around noon to take us back to Yellowknife. We say goodbye to this highly unique place of rich wildlife. Back in Yellowknife, 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 rivers

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 90 days before trip commencement.

Cancellation Policy & Details

The balance of your trip fee is due 90 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 will be refunded for any cancellation up to 91 days prior to departure.

For notice given:

  • from 41-90 days, we retain 50% of the fee
  • from 25-40 days, we retain 75% of the fee
  • from 0-24 days, we retain 100% of the fee