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Rising at the top of the world just off Mac Pass the little known and rarely traveled Tsichu River starts at the Yukon/NWT border and flows nonstop down to where it joins with the Keele R. Continuing its rapid descent the Keele joins with the Natla and then the Twitya before finally emptying out into the historic Mackenzie River. Paddling right from the top down to the Mackenzie, and beyond, our trip will drop almost 3000ft over the course of the canoe trip.
We meet in Whitehorse, Yukon and end in Norman Wells, NWT. The trip starts with a drive from Whitehorse either up the Historic Canol Pipeline Road to MacMillan Pass or to a float plane base west of Ross River, Yukon at Finlayson Lake. If we drive it will be up the Canol Road to the end of the ‘passable road and then our gear will be shuttled the final 10km by 4×4 while we spend a half day hiking the Canol Trail. At mile 222 we will start our paddling journey on the very upper reaches of the Tsichu River. If we fly it will be by charter float plane into a small lake on a different tributary of the Keele.
In either case the river at the top, high in the mountains is a fairly small creek only 10ft or so across. As it moves quickly downriver its size increases.
During the 1st week that we will spend on the Tsichu we will travel down exciting narrow, steep and twisty class 2 (and some class 3) rapids, it will be a great fun ride! By the time we reach the confluence with the Keele the Tsichu is a fair sized river. After the confluence with the Natla the river again doubles in size. The next few days on the Natla/Keele are made up of fast current and enjoyable class 2 rapids down to the confluence with the Twitya. We will continue on for another week down the main Keele to the mighty Mackenzie through miles and miles of swifts, R1s and R2s. Once on the Mackenzie we will paddle a day and half down to the Dene community of Tulita where the paddling trip ends. Here we will be met by charter plane and transported to Norman Wells. (note: Pick up may also be at Mouth of Keele depending on timing)
(Note: this is a suggested itinerary only, conditions on each trip may vary)
Day 0. Arrival in Whitehorse, Yukon (you may want to arrive early to see the sights)
Day 1-2. We will depart Whitehorse for our shuttle to the Tsichu. We’ll travel on through the spectacular MacMillan Pass and reach the end of the Navigable Road. From here our gear will be shuttled by 4X4 while we hike to the Tsichu River. Alternate: Driver from Whitehorse to Finlayson Lake. Fly by charter Aircraft into small mountain lake on alternate creek tributary of river.
Day 3-8. On Tsichu. The first day will be very small with some possible wading and lining. The river volume soon increases and we will be paddling many steep fast flowing class 1, 2 and class 3 rapids.
Day 9-14. On Keele from Tsichu confluence past Natla Confluence to “Shell” Landing strip just above Twitya River. The river here is much bigger. Current is fast and rapids are wavy and fun. We’ll pass through a number of small canyons. We’d hope to take a day off in this section.
Day 15-19. Moving at 10-12 km/hr, the Keele river speeds along with plenty of swifts, class 1 rapids and fun wavy class 2 rapids on the outside of the bends. The scenery is stunning as we paddle down the Keele valley surrounded by multi-coloured mountains. The current is such that we can travel many km a day. We would plan to take one day off (or 2 half days) to hike, fish or simply enjoy the landscape. We would reach the Mackenzie on day 19 or 20. Depending on timing and weather we may continue the paddle on down to the village of Tulita a day and half down river.
Day 20. Extra Day
Day 21. We will get picked up by float plane at the mouth of the Keele and flown to Norman Wells. The afternoon can be spent exploring the Norman Wells’ Historic Centre while waiting for your flights home!
Flights Home from Norman Wells
* Please note: It is the nature of bush plane flights that such factors as weather, pilot judgment, fire, mechanical problems etc. can dictate the schedule of flights and can cause delays. Wanapitei cannot control these factors and accepts no responsibility for lost time.
I was hoping that you could thank [Brian and Matt] again for us and let them know what a remarkable experience they facilitated for my wife and I. We will certainly remember it for a lifetime. We had so much fun that we can hardly decide what trip to do next.Jeremy MillerThe meals!! Exceptional, varied, delicious and nutritious come to mind. Meals are never an ‘afterthought’ with highlights including such as sushi on the river bank featuring freshly caught Arctic char, cheese fondue, chocolate fondue ... each meal offers something to look forward to at the end of a hard paddling day.Merrilyn Lindsay business ownerI have known and paddled with Shawn since 1974. He is an amazing guide and canoeist and I have canoed with him from Northern Ontario to the far Arctic, east to west coast. I lead my own local Ontario canoe trips every year, but when I want a guided remote wilderness adventure, there is none better than Shawn and Wanapitei Canoe to take me there.David Wilkie, DVM professor and veterinarianI did my first big canoe trip with Wanapitei in 1980 and had a wonderful experience. I have done many since and always have enjoyed the good leadership, organization, and company on each one, not to mention the great rivers.Peter Milliken, PC lawyer and politicianPaddling the Hess River with Shawn this summer was a thrill and the adventure of a lifetime. The river, country, wildlife, and as important, the people on the trip were all a superb. The whole experience was first rate and an inspiration to do more.Didier Maclaine Pont invester/paddlerAfter not having canoed since my teen years, I was excited but nervous about taking up my paddle again in midlife. Shawn's skill and experience made my trip with him one of the best I could have imagined. I highly recommend his trips.James Gardner vp - marketingI had an incredible time—nothing short of amazing! I'll be back, as they say.Chris Cunningham author