Canada’s Yukon Territory is known for its gold rush history and pristine wilderness. We explore the seldom-paddled Big Salmon River, a remote, wild tributary of the Yukon River where moose, beavers, Dall sheep, wolves and bears roam the land and trout, grayling, pike and migrating salmon swim the river. The Big Salmon traverses a spectacular valley between Mount Cyr and the Big Salmon mountain range.
Over ten days, we will paddle the length of the Big Salmon River. The river begins gently with a series of lakes and short streams that give us a day or so to perfect our paddling strokes before the current speeds up. Beyond Big Salmon Lake, the river is narrow and the water moves swiftly through tight bends that require some technical skill. The Big Salmon is clear and cold, with a winding and narrow passage of Grade I-II+. Difficulties include sweepers, logjams, a few tight turns and some exciting waves.. There is a one short portage around a logjam. Later the river widens, with long, quiet passages. The trip is suitable for intermediate paddlers with previous experience of Grade II who are keen to experience wild camping, paddling and optional fishing in the far north.
Along the way, we explore the landscape, abandoned gold rush settlements, a restored outpost, and the traditional territories of the Teslin Tlingit, Kaska Dena, and Little Salmon and Carmacks First Nations, while paddling through this pristine region.
We begin our trip at Quiet Lake, reached by a 230-km van shuttle along the Canol Road from Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city. Our first two days are spent paddling across three interconnected lakes. Surrounded by the rugged mountains of the Big Salmon Range, the small lake system makes us feel at home in the wilderness right away. We paddle to the confluence of the Big Salmon and Yukon Rivers, and on down the Yukon River to the village of Carmacks, where a shuttle will be waiting for our 200 km return trip to Whitehorse.
We provide high quality Hilleberg tents, all food, group equipment, dry bags, and canoes fitted for tandem paddling. All you need is your personal paddling gear, sleeping bag and camping mat.
Day 1: Arrive in Whitehorse, and transfer to our accommodations (we’ve found a great hostel that caters to adventure travelers.) We review trip program and go over gear to make sure everyone has the appropriate equipment for the trip. Pack dry bags. Free time in Whitehorse; last-minute purchases. Overnight in Whitehorse.
Day 2: We leave Whitehorse early and head east along the Alaska Highway, then north along the South Canol Road. This gravel road is all that remains of a 450-km pipeline built during World War II by the U.S. military to supply crude oil from the Northwest Territories. It was abandoned within months of completion. All that’s left are some relics of war-era machinery and a route into wild country. We arrive at Quiet Lake in the afternoon and assemble our Ally folding canoes. If time allows, we paddle to a campsite further along the lake, or stay in the territorial campground at our put-in and practice our paddle strokes.
Day 3: We paddle through Quiet, Sandy and Big Salmon Lakes to the entrance of the Big Salmon River where we set up camp for the night. Excellent fishing opportunities here. All of our camps will be beside the river on gravel bars and shorelines.
Day 4: We leave the lake country and begin paddling the Big Salmon. The river twists and turns through high country as it passes Caribou Creek, Gray Creek, and Scurvy Creek. The
Big Salmon Range rises to the west and Mt. St. Cyr and Tower Peak rise to the east, with peaks up to 2000 meters. We portage or line the canoes around log jams and sweepers. The riverbanks are overgrown by deep brush and forest, but it is possible to spot moose, bears, lynx, wolves, or even a grizzly bear, and often we catch sight of beavers and bald or golden eagles on the river. Dall sheep roam high on the mountain slopes. As we pass through the Big Salmon Range, we may have the chance for a hike up one of the ridges for panoramic views into the Pelly Mountains and the Tintina Trench.
Day 5: Paddling day. This and the sections to follow are some of the fastest on the river.
Day 6: Paddling day. Reaching Moose Creek, we navigate through some moderate rapids. The fast current on the Big Salmon River changes quickly.
Day 7: Paddling day. The mountainous scenery drops away as the Big Salmon traverses a wide, low valley.
Day 8: We paddle to the confluence of the Big Salmon and Yukon Rivers, and visit the deserted First Nations village of Little Salmon.
Day 9: Now we are paddling the muddy Yukon River. We camp at the confluence of the Little Salmon River.
Day 10: Paddling from the Little Salmon River to Carmacks where we may spend our final night. Carmacks was founded by Klondike Goldrush co-discoverer, George Carmack.
Day 11: Explore Carmacks this morning, or paddle from our last campsite to reach Carmacks in time for our shuttle. We meet our shuttle and drive back to Whitehorse, a journey of just under 3 hours, where we return for a no-host dinner and overnight in our hostel/hotel.
Day 12: Travel home.
Equipment: We travel in 17-foot Ally canoes, which hold two paddlers plus all necessary gear. The average day’s travel consists of 5-7 hours of paddling, depending on weather conditions. Because of the fast-moving current, we travel anywhere from 12-65 km a day with the exception of layover days. We use Leave No Trace camping techniques.
Weather: Temperatures in the summer can range from 0 C. in the evening to 25 C. during the day. Expect a variety of weather patterns, from hot, calm, summer days to rain, wind, and cold.
Fishing: The tributary lakes to the Big Salmon are great for Lake Trout and Northern Pike. The Big Salmon River is abundant with Arctic Grayling and in August, Chum salmon move up the river.
Price: 2400,- EUR
Included in Trip Costs
– Experienced river guides. Karen Jettmar & Roope Roine.
– All canoe equipment (canoe, life vest, paddle, dry bag).
– Overland shuttle to and from the river.
– Emergency equipment (first aid kit, throw bags, bear spray, emergency communication device).
– All meals and non-alcoholic beverages while on canoe trip
– Airport transfers in Whitehorse
– 1 night hotel accommodation in Whitehorse prior to trip
– 1 night hotel accommodation in Whitehorse after trip
– All other nights during canoeing in 2 person tents;
– 2-person tents, cooking/eating and shared camping equipment (stove, pots & pans, dishes, tents etc.)
Not Included in Trip Costs
– Meals while in Whitehorse, Carmacks or on the road.
– Transportation to and from Whitehorse.
– Fishing equipment and license.
– Alcoholic beverages.
– Sleeping equipment (Sleeping bags and mattress) and personal equipment
– Trip cancellation & medical insurance