The Back is one of the longest most remote Rivers in Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut flowing from west to east turning north and draining into Chantry inlet. A portion of the Back River borders the North Boundary of the Thelon Game Sanctuary. It is not uncommon to see plenty of the wildlife the arctic has to offer, which includes, Caribou, musk ox, tundra wolves, arctic fox, grizzly, wolverine, sik-sik (ground squirrel), willow ptarmigan, plover, molting Canadian geese, Laplander larkspur and bald eagle. The presence of the mosquito and black fly will not go unnoticed; however one will find some relief while on the river or when there is a breeze. Moraine Lake is the Headwaters of the Baillie River in the heart of the Arctic. The Baillie River is a hidden gem in the Barren lands. It displays a stunning arctic landscape, flowing along the western boundary of the Thelon Game Sanctuary as it winds its way in a northerly direction for 215 km to the Back River.
This as a remote river trip. The only access to this river directly is by Chartered float or tundra tire plane. A background in tripping and whitewater paddling is an asset for this sort of trip. The whitewater ranges from class I and II with some class III, most ranging at class 11. One will experience the typical large waves; downstream V’s, boils and boil lines along with strong current. There will be some ledge and boulder rapids typical of northern rivers. Some rapids, depending on the paddler’s ability would require boat or shore scouting,. The river boasts some braided channels and Islands which have to be carefully selected so one does not run out of water. The flow rate reached approximately 9 km per hour in some sections pushing us along rather nicely. That is not to say there are some slow sections. Fishing on the Baillie and Back is great with many opportunities for lake trout and Grayling where feeder streams come in or at confluence of a river. The Average daily daytime temperatures range from 10 to 23 C. The Average night time temperatures range from 3 to 10 C. Often we experience plenty of clear sunny dry weather with some intermittent cloudy days, of course cold and wet is possible, but the area is technically an arctic desert. We will have the canoes outfitted with a spray cover.
We meet in Yellowknife and fly north by charter float plane to the Nunavut Border and into the Bailey River.
Distance:………… 340 KM
Duration:………… 14 Days
River Travel:……. Intermediate
River Descent …… 500 ft total
(Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary)
Day 1: Float plane flight from Yellowknife into a small lake by the Bailey River, Nunavut. Campsite up at or near landing site.
Day 2: This section of no name river leading into the Baillie is shallow with boulders and short small rapids that are all runnable. Lunch likely at the confluence of the Baillie River. Great hiking and picture taking with many colorful arctic wildflowers coming into bloom and the shorelines adorned with paralleling eskers. Afternoon on the Baillie proper.
Day 3: The topography changes; rolling hills are more prevalent with erratics dropped here and there by receded glaciers from thousands of years ago. Today, between 25 and 30 sets of class 1 and 2 rapids are run usually with only a quick boat scout and little to no maneuvering. Hopefully we will have wildlife spottings. There are several great hiking opportunities that offer an elevated view of the vast winding river valley.
Day 4: Layover Day
Day 5: The beautiful landscape stretches infinitely with long eskers endlessly paralleling the river for miles and miles. As each day of the trip passes the blankets of wildflowers and arctic cotton will unfold before your eyes. The river gradually builds in strength and volume as you put km of distance behind you. The rapids become slightly more of a challenge in the context of larger volume waves.
Day 6 : The landscape opens to a broad flat valley typical of a desert, surrounded with low ridges and never-ending eskers. No trees. The river features and level of difficulty remained unchanged with large downstream V’s and waves that needed no more than a mere brace and forward strokes. Everyone enjoys the current as it swept you along at about 13 knots.
Day 7: The river widened and the gradient was quite obvious now, looking as though we were running downhill in this section. The river was sweeping us along quite quickly with easy running swifts and many class 1 rapids.
Day 8: The eskers and cliffs parallel the river with slopes of sand and sparsely growing tufts of willow bush. Musk ox may be spotted. As one approaches the Back River the topography becomes noticeably flater and the river widens to lake like proportions. It is mainly flat water paddling in this section of river. You’ll reach the might Back River on this day. The Back is deeper, wider and a much more significant river.
Day 9: The river widens dramatically at this point. The shore lines now take on a desert appearance with endless beaches of sand. The land is pancake flat, with many tundra ponds. Wildflowers and arctic cotton grow in what little soil they can exist. The rock is of a deep maroon scattered intermittently along the sandy shores. No rapids in this section but the current still pushes us along nicely at about 6 knots
Day 10: Campion moss blooms in small mounds along the sandy shores with bright colors of purple and white. Maybe you’ll see a Tundra wolf looking for a meal of goose. We often make good time in this section allowing time for campsite relaxation and even swims in the frigid waters along the beaches of the Back.
Day 11: Today the topography again changes about 10km above Hawk Rapids. The river winds and picks up some speed as it enters the canyon above the rapid. There are 4 to 5 easy swifts and the river slows again until the beginning of Hawk rapids proper. Hawk is a series of three rapids of which each section can be separately scouted and in most water levels paddled along the edge. There is plenty of calm water between each section. The final section of canyon walls str adorned with dark black and deep red stone. Though the current pushed you along rather quickly so its hard to take them in from on the water. We’ll camp not far downstream from this mystical area.
Day 12: Layover Day at or around Hawk Rapids.
Day 13: We’ll depart the canyons to begin the search for a suitable landing zone in preparation for the pickup. The normal landing area is 10-15km beyond Hawk Rapids.
Day l4: Charter Bush Plane pick up and flight to Baker Lake. Night at Baker Lake Lodge