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Rising between the Bonnet Plume Range (Selwyn Mountains) and the Backbone range (Mackenzie Mountains) along the Yukon/NWT border The Snake River of the Northern Yukon is a superb paddling river with much diversity and many moods. It is more than likely that in the space of two weeks on the river you will get to experience several of them during the same trip. The trip starts at the Duo Lakes, two small lakes nestled between snow capped mountains at elevation 4000ft. The upper river is small with technical shallow rapids and small canyons. Rapids are mostly class 1 and 2. The river quickly builds in size although most rapids still remain class 2, with the occasional larger set. The average gradient of the river is 20ft per mile with strong current of 8-12km per hr. It is not uncommon to travel 40km in a half a day. After this upper section the river slows only slightly and the mountains begin to fall away. It almost feels as if you are paddling a different river near the end. When the Snake enters the Peel River the elevation is only 300ft. A total drop of about 3700ft with only two portages (one from the lake to the river and one on the river). If you are looking for an intermediate, far north river fast flowing river, that starts in the alpine above the tree line and dances for 300 kilometers through rolling hills covered by pristine boreal forest, this river is for you. It can be the trip of a lifetime!
Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary.
Saturday Aug 3 (Meeting Day). We recommend arriving early and seeing the sights in Whitehorse. Remember airlines lose baggage and on day one of the trip there is no time to shop for lost gear. At a minimum you should be in Whitehorse in time not only for an orientation meeting the night before the trip starts, but also in time to hit the shops just in case one of your bags gets lost.
Whitehorse is a great place to spend a few extra days. The historic sites are interesting and there are day hikes, gold panning float trips through Miles Canyon and other outings in the region.
(Sun. Aug. 4)
We will have a quick early breakfast and then hit the road. Travelling by van we will make the scenic 5-hour drive to the end of the road at Mayo. Here we will transfer to float plane and fly the spectacular and remote 135 miles into Duo Lakes. This is truly a spectacular and remote part of the Yukon wilderness! Have your cameras ready!
Hike (& portage) We will spend the first two days of the trip enjoying the spectacular scenery around the Duo Lakes. There will be many opportunities to hike and explore up into the stunning Mountains that surround these lakes. During these days we will also take our canoes and any gear that is not needed at the campsite across the portage to the river.
We will make the portage with remaining gear from the lake into the river and then in afternoon begin our descent of the Snake. Where we enter the Snake it is a broad braided fan. Depending on water levels we may have to do some lining and dragging over gravel and rocks or we may be able to run the several km of boulder garden rapids.. Neoprene booties with tough soles or sneakers will pay off here. The current is swift. 4.5km down we enter the first 2.5km Snake Canyon, where we will encounter sharp bends with ledges and small drops. This canyon is normally a class 2 run but depending on water level can get larger (or smaller). Camp will be in the vicinity of Reptile Creek.
From our base camp at the beautiful creek confluence we will hike up the local ridges for spectacular views of the surrounding ranges and four drainage basins. Here the red ridges and peaks offer unusual and enticing opportunities for exploration.
Back on the river we will be treated to expanses of fireweed and mini canyons. The Bonnet Plume Range dominates the horizon with a good possibility of spotting Dall sheep, caribou and grizzly. After an exhilarating day of continuous Class II water, we will camp in view of the limestone peaks of Mount MacDonald. Glaciers dominate these peaks, and impressive panoramas are easily obtained from short hikes in the area.
(Mt MacDonald offers another possible very full hike day)
Today we encounter the canyon (km 96 which we can be portaged 500m on the left, but is normally a class 3 run. Over the course of the day there are many kms of enjoyable Class II rapids.
Today the river changes character and scenery! The Snake cuts through the mountain range in a fast, fun class 2-3 twisty roller coaster ride and enters a broad new valley. We will make camp in this new valley.
Today we encounter the Middle Canyon of the Snake: here the river cuts through a short narrow canyon. At most water levels this is a Class II run. A short portage is an option.
Hike Day (optional)
Optional group and conditions permitting we will plan another hike in the dramatic range overlooking the valley.
Today we say good bye to the mountains and enter an extended braided region of river as well as the lower canyons of the Snake . We’ll make a quick stop and take a short hike to up a beautiful creek to lovely pools and waterfalls. The current remains fast and picking our channel in this Maze can be quite a challenge.
The Splits finally do come together and the Snake starts to meander a little bit. There are fewer and fewer rapids but good current continues though higher cliffs cut by numerous small creeks. .
This is mostly a flat day although some current does remain. In the afternoon we will leave the Snake and the final big bends from which it earns its name. Here we enter the larger and faster Peel with high clay cliffs and aspen islands. Camp will be on the Peel River at the “Taco Bar”.
Safety Day (extra day in case of bed weather, plane delays etc etc
(Aug 18) (End Trip)
In the morning we will be met by the float plane that will take us back to Mayo. There we will be met by van and travel the Klondike Highway back to Whitehorse.! (Book Flights home for the next Day)
Note: Participants responsible for their own flights to and from Whitehorse, plus accommodations & meals in Whitehorse.
* Please note: It’s the nature of remote northern travel that uncontrollable factors like poor weather, pilot judgment, forest fires, and mechanical problems can affect our schedules and cause delays. We regret these situations but cannot accept responsibility for hotels, flight rebookings, and other costs you may incur.
Merrilyn Lindsay business owner
David Wilkie, DVM professor and veterinarian
Peter Milliken, PC lawyer and politician
Didier Maclaine Pont invester/paddler
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Chris Cunningham author