We were the first Canadian outfitter to offer trips on the Soper River, beginning in 1993. After 25 years on the river we have run dozens of very successful trips down this stunningly beautiful barrenlands river.
The 100 km long Soper River, known as the Kuujuaq by the Inuit, winds its way from the highlands of Baffin Island’s Meta Incognita Peninsula to the salt waters of Pleasant Inlet on the island’s south coast. Two years afteer we began running the river the entire area surrounding the Soper River was protected through the formation of the Katannilik Territorial Park Reserve (1,500 square km) in 1994, and the river itself has been chosen as an outstanding river and designated as a Canadian Heritage Waterway. Waterfalls splash down the steep valley walls; flowers, lichens, mushrooms and berries abound on the tundra. Animal and bird life is plentiful in the valley and includes caribou, Arctic and red foxes, wolves, Arctic hares, lemmings, peregrine and gyre falcons, rough legged hawks, snow buntings, horned larks and plovers, guillemots, turns, murres and ptarmigan
For many centuries, Inuit people have hunted caribou in the Soper River valley for use as food, clothing and shelter. Traditionally, the Inuit from Lake Harbour have traveled north through the valley by foot or dogsled to rendezvous with Inuit families living in the caribou calving grounds to the north. As a result, the area is rich with Inuit lore and artifacts.
The trip also offers opportunities to experience modern Inuit life. In Iqaluit, “the place of fish”, there is an Anglican church with a Narwhal tusk cross and sealskin covered pews. After seven days on the river, we will arrive in the village of Lake Harbour, home to an estimated 365 people and famous for the soapstone carvings that are created here. We’ll arrange a dinner of Arctic char, caribou stew, bannock and salad with some of the local residents. Weather permitting there is also an optional boat trip out into the fjord where one can hopefully view icebergs, seals, perhaps even whales.
The Soper River offers fast current with many easy swifts and class 1 rapids and several larger Class II rapids. There is only 1 easy portage. Days on the water will be short, leaving plenty of time for hiking and relaxing at the campsite. We use foldboats on this trip.
You can expect air temperatures to range from 0 to 20°C, with a daily average of 10 to 15°C. This means your sleeping bag should be rated to 0°C, and if you tend to get cold while sleeping, and then bring one rated for -5 to -10°C. Water temperatures on the river are very cold, usually about 5°C. However, the whitewater is straightforward and the river is quite shallow in most places. As a result, the likelihood of taking a swim is minimal and it is not necessary to bring a dry or wet suit. If you feel uncomfortable about the possibility of swimming in cold water, you may want the extra security of a lightweight (3 mm), farmer john style wet suit.
There are regular flights to Iqaluit from Ottawa and Montreal, costing between $900-1100. Participants are responsible for their own transportation arrangements to and from Baffin Island. You should plan to arrive at least a day or 2 before the trip and leave on, or after, Day 9. Please let us know your flight details once you have booked your flights.
(Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary)
Participants mshould arrive in Iqaluit at least a day before the trip starts. Many participants choose to meet in Ottawa or Montreal the night before the trip and fly up together.)
Our flights are booked for the morning to give us the best chance of reaching Mount Joy that day. Iqaluit often experiences frequent flight delays, but if all goes according to plan we will be on the Soper River at Mt. Joy by mid day. . We land on the tundra near the spectacular Mount Joy and set up camp at the scenic campsite next to the confluence of the Upper Soper River, Panorama and Veil Creeks. (Please note that the trip portion of the itinerary is one possible scenario only. Conditions and group interests vary from trip to trip so we may not follow this example exactly. Camping spots for individual days often change, we may also experience flight delays in getting in.)
Today will be spent hiking Mount Joy and the surrounding hills, and enjoying the beautiful views of cascading waterfalls and a small lake perched on the side of the mountain.
We begin our descent down the river on Day 3. In the morning, as the river makes its way down and around Mount Joy, we will encounter some small rapids. In the afternoon there are several small Class II rapids and the current increases as it passes through narrow gorge-like sections. There is a long enjoyable set as the river approaches Cascade Creek. Camp will be made here. There will be time to hike the ridges around the spectacular waterfalls and to explore the wildlife around Cascade Creek. We continue our descent of the river on
On the fourth day we pass a number of lovely small creeks cascading into the river. There are several small rapids and the current is light in this section of the river. We will camp at the confluence of the Livingstone and Soper Rivers known as katingnuk to the Inuit, – “where two rivers meet”. Here we will see ancient rings of rock used to anchor the skin tents of the Inuit.
Today we will hike past the magnificent Livingstone Falls on our way up the Livingstone River valley. Well-worn caribou paths can be seen crossing the river, leading to and from the calving grounds to the north.
After paddling a short way downstream, we reach Baffin’s famous “Willow Grove” where the largest (and virtually only) trees on the island exist. This is a lush little valley with few of the trees being more than 3 metres in height. We will paddle wonderful class II rapids in the morning. Camp will be made relatively early to allow a short hike to explore mica and lapis lazuli deposits.
A short paddle brings us to Fleming Hill. Here we will take a couple of hours to walk up the hill and enjoy the spectacular panoramic view over Soper Lake and out to the coast. A few hours of paddling below Fleming Hill will bring us to the impressive Soper Falls. The falls are actually a large unrunable rapid, rushing between high marble-like cliffs. We will bypass the gorge by way of an easy portage. We’ll set up camp near this spectacular gorge.
From Soper Falls it is a two-hour paddle across Tasiujajuaq, or “Big Lake”, to the landing, however we may spend some time exploring the lake, including a detour over to the famous reversing falls for lunch before heading to the landing. It’s a 3 km hike into the village of Lake Harbour (our gear will be shuttled!). We’ll camp just outside of town (within walking distance). You will have time to explore the town and hopefully purchase some of the world famous carvings produced here. In the evening we will enjoy a local home cooked meal prepared for us by the local residents. There may be the option of an add on boat tour of the spectacular Kimmirut fjord.
Lay over day to be used somewhere on the trip in case of weather, or simply as a hiking day relaxation day.
Flights home or other Nunavut adventures. Participants are responsible for their own flights from Kimmirut to Iqaluit and any lodging needed.
* 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.