2012 – Horton River, NWT Canoe

In 2012 we joined five friends and one friend of a friend to canoe the Horton River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.  This was our third big canoe trip and, at 600 km, almost three times as long as our previous trips.  It was Manrico’s ninth and Liz’s tenth trip north of the Arctic Circle.

The Horton River is long and very remote.  On our entire 25 day trip we saw no other people or signs of any other people other than a few campfire rings.  Almost the entire trip is grade 1, gentle moving water with long sections of flat water.  There are a few short sections of grade 2 and 3 rapids at the about the midpoint of the trip.  (This is in July/August.  The river is much bigger and harder during the June flood.)

Near the end of the trip the river passes by the amazing Smoking Hills.  The sulfur-rich lignite in the ground auto-ignites when it is exposed to the air.  The result is big plumes of acidic smoke rising from the ground.  You might see some smoke from the river but it is best to take a day to hike to the ocean from the second last big river oxbow.  It’s an easy hike with good views of the ocean and the Smoking Hills.

The river water is crystal clear and drinkable for most of the trip.  About 130 km before the end the river passes by a deteriorating mud cliff and becomes very muddy for the rest of the trip.  We filled up our empty containers with water before that.

The river is normally accessed by charter flight from either Norman Wells or Inuvik.  We paddled the entire river from Horton Lake to just before where the river empties into the Arctic Ocean.  There is an option to fly in to the mid-point so you could paddle either the upper or lower half of the river.

We based our trip out of Norman Wells.  We rented canoes from Canoe North Adventures and stayed there overnight while in Norman Wells.  Canoe North does guided trips on the Horton and several other rivers in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.  We charted the flights from North-Wright Airways.

We had 20 separate campsites including one at each end of the trip.  We averaged 31 km per day with our longest day being 39 km.

Many thanks to Bruce and Brenda for organizing this trip.

Following is a video and a slide show of our trip.  You can see the video in full screen view and higher resolution by pressing the buttons on the lower right.

Now the slideshow. Press the white button on the top right to get a full screen view. Select the first photo and then click the arrows on either side of each picture to scroll through the set.