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HART RIVER: The Hart River is right at the top of the list of Yukon’s finest wilderness paddling rivers: wild, remote and inspiring.
The Hart is one of our favorite mountain rivers, yet it is lesser known and lesser traveled than the other major eastern Peel River tributaries — the Wind, Snake, and Bonnet Plume. This is surprising because it offers incredible variety and inspiration in both paddling and scenery. It is easily the equal to its better-known sisters in all aspects.
You’ll paddle from a very small meandering creek at the headwaters through wider braided sections of fast-flowing river and on into canyon country with awe-inspiring peaks. Rapids are mostly class I and II but there are a several larger sets in one short section of the lower Hart and in the last 18km of the trip on the Peel River. Ours will be a moderately paced trip. We will have some full days, some relaxing days and we’ve also planned a three layover days to hike (or simply sit and enjoy the sites) along the way.
The Gwich’in name for the Hart is Edriinjik, meaning “Heart River” named after a heart shaped mountain in the middle section of the river near Michelle Ck. Other sources say it is named after Howard Hard a prospector who found gold on the nearby Forty Mile River in 1886.
The total distance of the trip is about 294km from Elliot Lake off the upper Hart to the Canyon Creek take out on the Peel River. We will fly in and out of our trip by bush plane from Mayo having been driven there by van from Whitehorse, the trip meeting location.
(Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary)
Recommended Arrival in Whitehorse one day (min) before trip start by 2 pm. We will do our shuttle to Mayo this afternoon to facilitate early flights into the river.
Day 0: Free morning in Whitehorse, afternoon shuttle to Mayo where we will spend the evening. The drive is breathtaking in it’s own right. 5 hrs.
Day 1: After breakfast, we’ll board our charter aircraft and take the short (40min) bush plane flight into Elliot Lake in the upper reaches of the Hart River. If flights proceed as planned we will load up and start off down Elliot Creek for a half day. The creek is small and will involve some wading and lifting over beaver dams.
Day 2: We’ll continue the descent of Elliot Ck (23km in total). Depending on water level and conditions (weather, log jams, beaver dams) the Elliot Ck descent can be relatively benign paddling with some small rapids to somewhat of a slog wading through Shallows. We hope that the water is in our favour! Our plan is to push right through and make it to the Hart by the end of the day.
Day 3: Our first day on the Hart is a relatively easy one. The current is gentle at first and gradually becomes faster. Soon it will be whisking us a long at a rapid pace. We should make good distance with minimal effort, easily traveling 30km or so.
Day 4-5: This our second and third day on the Hart proper will be ones of great fun and fast paddling. Early in the day we’ll encounter several bouldery class 2 rapids followed by a heavily braided section approaching the Taiga Valley and the Taiga Mountain Ranges at the West Hart River. There is strong current with continuous swifts and Class 1 rapids all through. We’ll spend two days floating along in this section enjoying the stunning mountain scenery, with high cliffs, and one beautiful canyon. We’ll likely put in 80 to 90km between the two days with little effort.
Day 6: R&R/Hike Day, Mt Netro. For those wishing a climb there is excellent ridge hiking in this areas once you make the effort (2-3hrs) to climb up.
Day 7: We’ll continue our paddling and floating through the Tiaga Ranges. Paddling another 40km to the area of Mount Bruno
Day 8: R&R/Hike Day, Mt. Bruno area
Day 9-10: Mount Bruno to Peel River. (77km) We’ll go slowly in this section as this is where the bulk of the Hart’s Rapids occur. There are about 11 sets in total. 7 are class 2 and the remaining 4; depending on water levels can be class 2+. Most rapids are caused by ledges but chutes and breaks provide ways through. (A day off may also be possible in this section). The final 15km to the Peel contain no rapids of significance.
Day 11-12: Peel River Confluence to Canyon Ck, (The final 18km on the Peel). This final section of the river, while out of the Mountains is in some ways the finale to the trip. The Peel rapids with it’s larger volume are more powerful and we treat them with care. There will be some fun whitewater paddling but also likely some lining and some lift-overs or short portages for the bigger sets.
Day 13: Flight out from Canyon Creek (am) to Mayo and return drive to Whitehorse (pm).
Flights home: Flights home can be booked for midday on the next day.
Meeting Location: Whitehorse, Yukon
Meeting Date: Recommended evening of July 15
Return Home July 30 midday
July 16, 3 pm Shuttle from Whitehorse to Mayo in the afternoon.
July 17, fly via bush plane to Elliot Lake (Hart River) (first flight is 7 am)
July 17-29 on trip
July 29: Fly out from Peel to Mayo,
July 29, return drive to Whitehorse
July 30, you can book your flights home.
* Please note: It is the nature of northern travel that such factors as weather, pilot judgment, fire, mechanical problems etc. can dictate the schedule of flights and cause delays. Wanapitei cannot control these factors and accepts no responsibility for lost time or extra incurred costs.