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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


The Mountain River
Friday, July 24, 2009

In August 2009, I have the chance to canoe down the remote and beautiful Mountain River in northern Canada. I will film this amazing journey for a forthcoming canoeing DVD. I hope to make a 30minute documentary about the trip.

The trip is a 2-week adventure organised by Blackfeather – the wilderness adventure company. For over 30 years, Black Feather adventurers have paddled untamed rivers, hiked amidst glacier-capped mountains and sea kayaked through sparkling ice fjords. The director of Blackfeather, Wendy Grater is one of the guides on Justine’s trip. Wendy has been canoeing and guiding for decades. Easygoing, yet committed to excellence, her energy and enthusiasm for sharing her love of the wild is contagious.

The Mountain River is visited by less than 150 canoeists every year. It's considered Canada's best wilderness river by the Blackfeather guides. To get there is an adventure in itself – from Edmonton we fly with Canadian North Airlines to Yellowknife, which I always thought was very remote, but that is just the start! From there, Canadian North takes us even further north to Norman Wells, a small town with no road access. In Norman Wells, we meet the group, and take another plane – a Northwright Air float plane this time – to Willow Handle Lake at the start of the Mountain River. Northwright will land the float plane on this beautiful lake – surrounded by mountain peaks.

For the next 12 days, we’ll canoe 370km down the fast flowing Mountain River to where it empties into the Mackenzie river about 80km north of Norman Wells. The river drops over 1200metres in elevation, with large volume rapids, fast currents and five beautiful canyons. We start in the MacKenzie mountains, a northern extension of the Rocky Mountains which reach heights of 2700metres. They dominate the background with rock colours of bluff, grey, cinnamon, green and maroon. They are home to many types of big game, including caribou, moose, Dall’s sheep, wolves, wolverine and grizzly bears. The river flows in constant meanders with grade 2 and 3 rapids that can change drastically due to often rising or falling water levels. With spraydecks on our canoes, we should be able to run them all. We’ll take some time out to explore and hike. It’s possible to ascend rocky slopes and ridges to get great vistas of the surrounding wilderness.

Lower down, the Mountain river runs quickly through sandstone and limestone mountains, with interesting tufa formations and even a natural spring. The canyons offer some challenging paddling – third canyon requires some tricky manoeuvering as there’s a ledge in some water levels and big standing waves. By now we have dropped 1000 metres in height and the vegetation is lusher with thick stands of black spruce and aspen crowding the banks. In a couple more days we burst into the wide Mackenzie Valley lowlands and continue to the confluence with the Mackenzie river. A chartered boat takes up upstream up the wide river, back to Norman Wells.

I should just mention the food!! I have a copy of Blackfeathers camp cook book
Even looking at the pages made my mouth water and I know I’m not going to be losing any weight on this trip!!


Thank you very much to the sponsors who have made this trip possible. Blackfeather have given me a reduced price trip & Wendy has helped greatly with logistics. Canadian North has donated my airfare from Edmonton to Norman wells and Northwright Air have sponsored my float plane journey to the start of the river. Sanoodi have provided a high tech rechargable battery and solar panel so I can recharge my camera batteries and record a GPS route of our journey, which I'll upload to the internet once I get back.

I'm really excited about this trip.... now I just have to pack!


Anonymous Les laxson said...

so no more Sea kayaking DVD's?

4:32 pm  
Blogger Justine Curgenven said...

I will make another sea kayaking DVD, but probably not for a couple of years. It might be 'This is the Sea 5', or something a bit different. It might even have an instructional element to it, using all the great expedition footage that I have got to share knowledge about trip planning, skills and seamanship.

6:29 pm  

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