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An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

This is a guest post courtesy of Jared Nusinoff. He just launched a new budget focused road-trip experience travel company focused on Canada – OutHereTravel – to help folks venturing to amazing spots in Ontario, Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.  

I’ve spent over 500 nights camping in Canada’s wilderness, but the trip that took me and five buddies to the Northwest Territories this past summer was several levels above anything we’d ever done. We had dreams of getting to the NWT for years; all the work that went into saving and planning was totally worth it.

From Toronto, we needed three flights to get to the outfitter located just below the Arctic Circle, called Canoe North Adventures in Norman Wells. The mountain river we paddled is literally called The Mountain River. When the landscape is this remote and intense, exaggerating is not necessary and things are just called what they are: Canoe North Adventures, Mountain River.

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

Canoe North Lodge, Norman Wells

When we were there, sunlight lasted 24 hours. We were up north. Like it is on many trips we put our watches away, so as to fully disconnect. We only paddled when we felt like it, rather than by time. Since the summer sun was up higher in the day, we ended up paddling a lot at night, when the weather was cooler and more pleasant. And still very bright! Bring a sleep mask to cover your eyes when you need rest, because for two weeks that may be the darkest your world gets. Bonkers.

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT, NWT

Mountain River, NWT

The Mountain River is 400 kilometres of big, fast water that’s braided throughout. We ventured through six canyons, swam in hot springs, chipped ice to keep our food fresh, and drank water without filtering it.

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

No need to filter this water!

Safety on the Mountain River

A quick word on safety. We had all guided canoe trips for years in Ontario and Quebec. You need to know how to paddle rapids, and how to fast water rescue a boat and more. Al and Lin from Canoe North Adventures tested us over the maps and white water techniques extensively before agreeing to outfit us.

Safety for wildlife is essential too. We kept the smell of food away from our tent, motivated strongly after seeing grizzly tracks near the camp. The wildlife there was rich and varied; we saw eagles, elk, beavers, grizzlies, moose and more. So long as you’re versed in safety protocol, enjoy it all!

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

You’re in grizzly country here

Back to the trip.

We had to take two float planes, because the pond we landed in was too small to allow for a larger plane to land. When you touch down you look at your buddies, because you know that you won’t see anybody else for 15 days.

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

View from the float plane

As for the water, the river was stronger and more intense than anything we’ve ever paddled in Ontario and Quebec. Mighty and relentless. Huge standing waves and side currents. Really fun! But you must be balanced and safe. The water is cold, so don’t fall in on purpose or by accident. You don’t need to be underwater to experience the beauty of the rapids!

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

Canyon entrance on the Mountain River

If you feel like going on a hike, just walk up a mountain. Pick a peak and when you’re at the top, you know you’ve reached your destination. Being in a part of the world where nature just is – it’s wonderful. In wilderness this grand and remote the entire place is an untouched nature trail.

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

Pick a peak, any peak to hike

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

When you get close to the top the views are incredible.

Eating and camping on the Mountain River

You gotta eat well!  With the right planning and packing you can have great food every day on long trips into the woods. Be sure to set up your fire pit with an amazing view, and don’t forget to take it down when you paddle on. “No trace camping” means exactly that: you shouldn’t leave a scrap behind you. Keeps the woods pristine.

The campsites, too, are out of control. Each was incredible, and many had very unique features. We camped on a site with such a lunar landscape, the US could have filmed a fake moon landing. There were loads of gorgeous sites with the river flowing right beside you with natural spring waterfalls in the background.  

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

One of the most beautiful campsites of all time.  This is only a small portion of the view 

It was absolutely as special as could be. We’d all done multiple two-week trips on wild rivers in Central Canada, but going north like this was in its own orbit of beauty and intensity. The word gets thrown around a lot, but it truly was unforgettable.

When you get Out Here, be safe and enjoy!

An Unforgettable Paddling Trip on the Remote Mountain River, NWT

Enjoying a late evening solo paddle

More useful information to paddle the Mountain River

  • If you are looking for a map of the river with key details on great hikes, peaks, and canyon rapids – shoot Jared an email (jared@outheretravel.ca) and he will gladly send you a copy.
  • More on Jared’s company – They provide buses that get you to big cities and the good stuff around them, cool small towns, amazing national parks, with adventures and activities throughout. They also provide you with the flexibility to do what you like with multiple options each day. Their tours in the summer run from 14 to 25+ days. They spend more than one night in each location so that you can really experience it.

Keep in touch with Out Here on Facebook.

***All photos are those of Jared Nusinoff.


Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Nicola says:

    Leigh, Jared,
    I paddled the Mountain River with Canoe North a few years ago. What a river. What whitewater. A great and safe trip with Al and Lin. Six canyons, some of them a kilometre or more in length. What memories.

    • Leigh says:

      @Nicola I can see why you were well able to paddle the stern on the Keele.

    • Nicola – glad you were able to have an awesome time there! Al & Lin were super helpful outfitting us and showing us the ropes of Norman Wells!

      It really was an amazing trip, and recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to take advantage of it… or create an opportunity to head up there!

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