Arctic River Trips
The Nowleye & Kamalukuak River
Nowleye River started in a low, marshy, mosquito infested
bog and finished in the same kind of terrain. We did get to some
higher ground in between, but the whole trip was pretty buggy.
The area we traversed had been heavily used by the Inuit and
we found numerous camps, caches and artifacts almost everywhere we got off
the water. These rivers are not traveled
much by recreational canoeists, but were very interesting, both
in their beauty and their history.
The Big Picture
The Horton River is in the far west but the other
rivers that we traveled were in the Barren Lands.
If you look just south of the Thelon Wildlife
Sanctuary you will find Dubawnt Lake. A little south and
east of the lake you will see Noleye Lake. The Noleye River ran into the
lake from the south. We got
windbound on the isthmus between Noleye Lake and Kamilukuak Lake. A short
ride in Bob's Beaver
got us to the top of the Kamilukuak River and then to Dubawnt Lake.
We flew from Winnipeg to Kasba Lake in a nice old
Convair. Bob Hutika picked us up there in his
red and white Beaver and flew us to the first place he could land on the
Nowleye River. We are looking
at Snowbird Lake which was south of our starting point on the Nowleye.
Bob landed in the first big pool he could find on the
river, pushed our stuff out of the plane, helped
us untie the canoe and left. This was one of the buggiest places that we had
visited. We immediately
packed up and headed downriver in a huge thunderstorm. This was a good way
to start the trip.
In the first thirty minutes we were cold, wet and swarmed by black flies and
We were not quite out of the trees but would be soon.
The upper river was very boggy, wet and
We paddled through some bigger lakes with the wind
always in our face. We were going in a generally
northwest direction and the prevailing winds seemed to be from the
Here we are on another big lake and the wind is down
but Paul's headnet is up. The bugs were
still following us.
The terrain got higher as we went downriver but the
bugs stayed with us. This was one of the
buggiest trips that we took.
There were numerous small rapids that were always
filled with fish. We ate a lot of fish on this trip.
They were easy to catch and we always fished before we got off the water.
We even caught fish in the lakes. We tried not to get
fish on when we were paddling but once in
a while we would get one and if it was too big, we would beach the canoe to
deal with it.
A few days after starting the trip, we were well out
of the trees and started to see tent rings, inuksuit,
and abandoned food and tool caches.
Here's Paul hiding from the wind on a little island in
a big lake. We waited there for ten to twelve
hours and then made a dash for the west shore in high winds and big waves at
the darkest part of
the night, which was bright twilight.
This was our sheltering west shore after we made the
crossing. It never looks as windy and
wavy once you get to shore, but that was a hard, wet paddle. We were glad to
This was the same no name lake the next day. I think
it finally looks windy in the picture. We
hiked around the area and generally had a day off of the water. We found old
gear and other detritus left by whoever preceded us. It was a good
camping spot and had
been used heavily by the Inuit.
As we went further down the river, we found more and
more inuksuit. Sometimes they stood alone
as this one is, and sometimes they would be lined up in long rows, ending at
a food or tool cache.
They were always on the ridgeline and could always be
seen from the water.
We often stopped to look at the inuksuit, and we
usually found the remains of old camps nearby.
The camp sites were always in the open, away from the brush and in
The old constructions were a constant reminder that
many people had lived here and were now off
This was a bug free day and might be the only picture
that I have of Paul without his headnet on.
He's smiling. We did have fun.
There was a tool cache under the boulder. These things
were typical of what we would find in the
caches. There is a scraper made of a bone scapula, a wooden stake, an old
Hudson Bay porcelain
bowl, a short wood pole, and a couple of unidentifiable objects of unknown
We left the big windy lake in the middle of the night
and scratched our way to the end where the
river continued north. It was cold and rainy all day. We stopped above a long rapid, too tired,
wet and exhausted to go on. We piled into the tent and slept for several hours.
When we woke up,
and tired, the storm was over.
The low sun came out and lit up the camp in gold and
orange. When we looked around, we found
ourselves in an old Inuit camp. There were tent rings everywhere and we found
tools and discarded
items wherever we walked. I found a place where people had been knapping
quartzite. There were
tools and pieces of broken tools in piles scattered all around. It was a
Tools like this knife, spear point and scraper were
lying all over the camp.
The next morning, dry and rested, we took on five
miles of bad road. We had a long, shallow stretch
of nearly continuous rapids to negotiate.
Maybe it was ten miles of bad road. It would have been
easier if the river had been deeper and the
rapids bigger. We had to scrape and scratch our way through a long stretch
of hard water.
This was Nowleye Lake and the end of the Nowleye River for us. We had a
long crossing to make to get to the
isthmus which separated this big lake from Kamalukauk Lake, the inland sea
that Mowat had referred
to in his book. We stood on that shore staring at the lake for quite a long time
before starting across.
We made a big scary crossing to get to the isthmus and
found the Nowleye leaking across it into
Kamalukuak Lake. Farley Mowat described the isthmus and the caribou hunting blinds that
Inuit had built here in one of his books. We wrote to him before the trip and he responded describing in great detail
what we would find here.
The isthmus was was just as he had described in his letter to us.
These rocks were lined up and formed a big V. Grass
was placed on top of the rocks by the Inuit
hair and make them look like people. The caribou would walk through the V
and bunch up at the
narrowest place on the isthmus were they were killed. We found everything
that Mowat has described.
This was a copy of Mowat's letter to us describing the
isthmus. He included a map of the area
and a very accurate description of all of the artifacts on the isthmus. We
had a few days to check
it out as the wind that make our crossing spooky increased considerably once
we made shore and
kept us from starting across Kamulukuak.
That's me taking advantage of one of our many wind
bound days. There weren't any bugs and
you lay around without getting eaten up. The bugs couldn't be out in forty
We waited for several days for the wind to go down but
we couldn't get on Kamulukuak
Lake. The winds continued from the West and we were on the open end of the
lake at the
end of a very long fetch. The lake looked like the North Atlantic. Bob's
fish camp on Dubawnt
Lake, our destination, was less than 100 miles line of sight from our
position and Bob flew
over us on his way to dropping off some fishermen at the camp.
We contacted him on our goofy satellite e-mail gadget
and he stopped by a couple of days later and
jumped us across the big open part of the lake. We'd probably still be
sitting there if he hadn't
This was our camp at the head of the Kamalukauk River.
It was an old Inuit camp.
There were tent rings, food caches, tool caches, sleds
and all of their leftovers everywhere. There
were more than fifteen tent rings. This was a big camp.
Paul is standing next to a disassembled sled and
holding a fox trap that was tucked away in a tool
cache. There were many food and tool caches at this camp.
This was something we couldn't identify. We think it
was a gadget to walk a line under the ice to
set a net. There was quite a lot of evidence of the netting that had taken
place here. The numerous
rapids and pools were full of fish.
Another set of long hard rapids. We were pretty
careful not get too aggressive. If we upset and
lost some of our gear it would become pretty unpleasant pretty quickly.
There were a lot of fish in the river. Even I could
catch fish at will. We caught some grayling but
mostly lake trout. That's what Paul is holding up. Nice fish.
The Kamalukuak River was not a big river but it did
have long stretches of rapids. We scouted almost
all of the rapids we paddled and we walked or lined around the bigger sets.
It slowed us down but
it was warm and it felt good to get in the water.
This was the Garmin GS1000 gps and e-mail gadget that
we brought. I rigged
up a solar panel to supplement the batteries. It was marginal. We had to
for a satellite to get above the horizon before could send or receive
We did get a few e-mails out and we did receive a few. Get a satellite
They work great.
That's me with a nice little lake trout. They were
everywhere on that river. We usually cut them
up and threw them in the soup. Fish stew is always good.
We found things like this all the way down the rive to
Dubawnt Lake. We think that these were
used to set or hold nets with. They were always found right next to the
And more of them. They were carried there and came
from somewhere else. There were no trees
for many miles. We were now far above the tree line.
Another pole next to the water. If anyone knows how
they were used, let me know. We can only
The river dumped us out into a little bay on Dubawnt
Lake, but it was still pretty big water. Our
destination, Bob's fish camp was one long portage and a day away.
This is Bob's fish camp on Dubawnt Lake. It was a real
pretty spot. Paul and I took one Bob's
boats out and went fishing. We caught a fish as big as me on every cast. It
was shocking. We don't
carry much tackle and we have always taken the barbs off of our hooks. It's
easier on us and easier
on the fish. We never worried about losing fish. There's always another one
One of Bob's pilots showed up a couple of days later
with new guests for the camp in Beech 18
on floats. How cool is that? How many times do you get to ride in a twin
engine float plane? We
loaded our gear and got a ride back to Kasba Lake where we had started.
We spent a day at Kasba Lake and got a ride back to
Winnipeg on the old Convair 580. The trip was
over. We had fun.
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