Canada West-to-East Crew Finish Paddling Great Slave Lake

Nicolas Roulx and Catherine Chagnon are now nine weeks into their latest mammoth trip through the Canadian North. After a forced route change and a grueling paddle against the current on the Mackenzie River, they are now making their way across Great Slave Lake.

Their current route is part of a 2,800km canoe journey that comprises the most difficult section of their 6,500km west-to-east epic through Canada.

A map of the AKOR team route.

The full 6,500km route. The red line marks the canoe section. Photo: AKOR Expedition

A tight schedule

In our last update, we reported on a change of route. At the start of their paddling section, they discovered that the Little Nahanni River was still frozen. Because the team has to keep to a tight schedule (with members joining and leaving at specific points on specific dates), they didn’t have time to wait for it to thaw. Instead, they took to the Flat River with friends Mathieu Beland and Guillaume Moreau.

“We didn’t do much research on the Flat River. We paddled it for about a week, and fortunately, it was a little shorter than the Little Nahanni. This gave us a natural time advantage of a few days. We also paddled very, very fast,” Roulx told ExplorersWeb.

From the Flat River, they moved on to the Nahanni, then the Liard, which empties into the Mackenzie River. There, they struggled upstream for roughly 350km. Though a large river, they encountered shallow water and battled headwinds, making for a tough stretch.

“But we knew that the two other legs of our planned canoe route would be very hard too, so we were determined to get ahead of schedule, and it worked,” Roulx said.

Their timing turned out to be perfect. As they approached Great Slave Lake at the end of the Mackenzie River, there were still big chunks of ice around. “We couldn’t have arrived even a week earlier,” Roulx explained.

map of northern Canada

Map: Wikipedia

Great Slave Lake

Having successfully dodged the ice, the foursome arrived at the community of Hay River on the southern shore of Great Slave Lake on June 6. There, the team expanded to six with the addition of Dominic Roulx (Nicolas Roulx’s brother) and Laurence Garceau (Nicolas Roulx’s girlfriend).

In the two weeks since, they’ve been paddling across Great Slave Lake. After 400km, they arrived in the community of Lutselk’e early this week. They have averaged roughly 40km per day and only suffered four windbound days — impressive for such a big lake. This allowed them to keep ahead of schedule for the third paddling leg, a 45-day stretch to Baker Lake that they began on June 25.

Big portages to come

Roulx suffered a nasty leg break shortly after the group’s 2021 expedition and endured a long road to recovery. But so far, his leg hasn’t caused any issues.

“For now, my leg is holding up very well,” Roulx said. “Thus far, it has mostly been an upper body challenge, but the real challenge will be in the next six weeks. This section of the canoe trip will be hard on the lower body because we’ll have so many portages. Lots of elevation, hilly…it’ll be very rough.”

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.