A good way to plan for a river trip is to read about other travelers experiences. We've collected some narratives of river trips in the Mackenzie River Basin. If you have one to add, please email , and we can either post it directly, or link to it.

  •  I arrived in Hay River, NT on July 18th excited to begin my river adventure. After getting a camp site at the town camp ground (28.00 CDN / night, for both tent and RV sites), I drove over to Canoe North to arrange getting the canoe and other supplies I needed. Doug wasn't there when I first arrived, but I talked with his business partner, Bruce, who was extremely helpful. Doug arrived shortly thereafter and I was soon equipped with food barrels, river charts, and bear bangers. 

    [For my fellow Americans: bear bangers are a type of pen flare that fires an explosive charge approximately 40 yards in to the air and then goes off with a sound similar to an M-80. They're not readily available in the US, but they work as intended and mean you don't have to deal with the hassle of crossing the border with a shotgun. 

    I used the Mackenzie River Guide Book written by Doug's daughter Michelle as my primary reference on the river, The book is worth the cost and it makes river charts mostly unnecessary, although I think that had I made it to the delta I would have been glad to have the Canadian river charts with me.

     I started paddling on the 19th of July form Hay River. Please learn from my mistake and pay whatever Doug wants to get taken to Fort Providence to start your journey (I believe it's a quite reasonable 350.00 CDN, I would now happily pay three times that to never paddle those lakes again!). While beautiful, both Great Slave Lake and Beaver Lake are large, prone to waves and are just depressing to paddle against a headwind. 

     Overall I had a headwind most of the five days I was on the river which made for slow going on the lakes. It wasn't miserable because they are both a birder's paradise with mature and juvenile bald eagles, wood cranes, swans and ducks everywhere. Also the camp sites listed in Michelle's book were all quite pleasant and I was able to collect a great amount of dry driftwood for fires on the beach at each one.

     By day four on the lakes the paddling had aggravated an old back injury and I decided to call the trip when I reached Fort Providence on day five. I called Doug when I reached Fort Providence and was picked up the next day by his son Brian who gave me and the canoe a lift back to Hay River. Great service all around and I highly recommend Canoe North to other travelers.

     For future travelers, especially from the US:

     -Stock up on bug spray before you leave, 100% DEET is no longer sold in Canada and the bugs are bad.

    -The only town on the river I visited was Fort Providence, and while everyone I met was extremely nice and the Snowshoe Inn was both clean and reasonably priced, based on what I saw in the one market (The Northern Store) I'd prepare to do the trip completely unsupported and then you'll be pleasantly surprised if any stores you stop in have what you need.

    -Canoe North has literally everything you need or can get anything you need for your trip and the prices were fair.

    -I did not bring a tent and slept either under the stars when it was sunny or under a tarp when it rained. This worked great for me; I used a bug shirt and liberal coatings of bug spray and slept like a baby

    -Booze is expensive in Canada so bring whatever the duty free amount is (if you drink) and if you smoke a pipe like I do bring tobacco with you as well as I couldn't find any pipe tobacco in Hay River.

    -People you'll meet are all extremely friendly and helpful.


    Definitely a great trip and when my back heals up I'll be back, but starting in Fort Providence next time!

    Michael - USA




  • The Mackenzie River Trip, by Roland Gussafsson. In the summer of 1992, Börje Johansson and Arne Hyckenberg got the idea of building a raft and floating down the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories of Canada. The trip took place in August of 1993.