Mackenzie River Canoeists Rescue Stricken Man

Adventure travelers Jason Rowland and Chad Robertson this week saved the life of a man they found suffering from hypothermia on the banks of the Mackenzie River, about 30 kilometres downstream from Fort Simpson, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

It is not known how long the unidentified man was stranded or how he came to be there. The pair alerted authorities, which pinpointed their location using Rowland’s GPS tracking device and removed the man to safety.

Jason Rowland’s Facebook post

Just days before, in a CBC interview, the pair had expressed their surprise that wilderness travelers are no longer able to register their trips with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, following a policy decision a decade ago.

Rowland (32) from Brisbane, Australia and Robertson (27) from Belmont, Ontario left the Canadian Rockies town of Jasper in late May, hauling their 5m canoe laden with 70kg of gear and supplies 1,200km by bicycle to Hay River. From there, they began an 1,800km paddle down the Mackenzie, Canada’s longest river, to Inuvik.

The long haul. Photo: Jason Rowland

The pair met last year while cycling across Canada. Robertson was doing a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association called Ride for Hope, in memory of his older brother who passed away in 2016. Rowland was following his dream of riding cross-country from Toronto to Whitehorse in the Yukon. During that time, he thought an even better way to see Canada would be from the water.

“I’d been planning [this trip] with a German friend for about five months, but he pulled out at the last minute because he thought it was too risky,” Rowland explained. “I was considering doing it alone when Chad offered to join me.”

The pair had not intended to haul their canoe so far by bike but decided that it was safer after tipping in the floodwater rapids of the Athabasca River shortly after leaving Jasper. “We lost maps, guidebooks, shoes and dry goods after being sucked under a log,” Rowland said.

They have also overcome the theft of a month’s supply of food while resting in Fort Simpson and a dangerous crossing at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers.

“It was so intense it took us a whole hour to get across. When we made it to land we gave each other a hug and thought how in the hell did we manage to survive that,” Rowland exclaimed.

They hope to reach Inuvik by early August, where Rowland intends to cycle a further 100km to Tuktoyaktuk, to take a dip in the Arctic Ocean.