The Kellett River, Nunavut. You’ve probably never heard of it! Apart from the local Inuit, most people have not. Remote, exciting, dramatic are a few ways to describe the Kellett. This will be our exploratory canoe trip for 2017. We regularly search out and paddle a rarely travelled river. Our last trip to the Amittaq-Hayes was such a success that we are returning to the same geographic area to paddle the Kellett.
Our trip will meet in Baker Lake, Nu. From here we will fly by charter single engine otter (DHC-3) on tundra tires 300km north to our ‘off strip’ landing site next to the river. We’ll land at approximately 67°N latitude, slightly north of the Arctic Circle.
On the river itself we will paddle approximately 250km north from our landing site to the Arctic Ocean at Pelly Bay, south of the Boothia Peninsula. At the mouth we will travel 30km up the coast to the Inuit Hamlet of Kuugaruk (formerly Pelly Bay). Our trip will end here (68.5°N Latitude).
Our landing site will be on an esker or the tundra beside the river near the source lakes. Since this is an exploratory trip, we do not know our exact landing site, and will have to search it out from the airplane. River elevation at the planned landing location is approximately 1200 ft. above sea level. We will drop the full 386m over the course of the trip to the Arctic Ocean.
It will feel like the top of the world at our landing site. The vista will provide new meaning to the word remote. It is a rugged, rocky, rolling landscape extending as far as the eye can see in all directions. You will be hundreds of miles in every direction from anything but beautiful wild nature, at a place where very few human beings have ever been.
The upper river is made up of small lakes broken up by narrow river sections. We expect current to be slow with gradual descent for the 1st few days. There will likely be a few small rapids in this section. Below the 350m-point the river picks up pace and starts to drop into a rugged valley. We will begin to encounter more whitewater. The dramatic valley will be several hundred feet deep and we expect quite spectacular. Sometimes narrow and canyon like, other times several hundred m wide we will likely move along quickly in the fast current. The 100 to 200 ft deep valley will have a backdrop of rocky hills rising another several hundred feet above the valley. The river will start small to medium volume, but it builds fairly quickly as other smaller rivers enter this major northward channel.
About two-thirds of the way along the Kellett we will encounter Curtis Lake, a long lake like twisty widening, that extends for 25km. Upon reaching the Arctic Ocean we will take several days to paddle north 30km up the arctic coast to the Inuit Hamlet of Kuugaruk (formerly Pelly Bay), where our paddling trip will end. We would hope to spend some time here getting to know the community.