Canoeing down the remote Snake River

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 29-June 4, 1997
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Canoeing down the remote Snake River

Canoeing down the remote Snake River
Question: We're planning a trip for next year to the Snake River, which borders the Northwest and Yukon Territories. We want to use inflatable canoes and are wondering what's available. The trip will take two weeks and all of our supplies need to be fit in the canoe. There are a couple of stretches of Class II-III rapids and the rest of the river is pretty calm. Thanks for your time and suggestions.

Pete Jones
Carmel, CA
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: According to Hector Mackenzie, who claims he's the first person in modern times to canoe the river, it takes 10-12 days to canoe the Snake from the put-in to Fort McPherson. So if you're allotting two weeks to be on the river, you'll have plenty of time to "goof off" as Mackenzie puts it. With wild sheep, moose, caribou, and grizzly bears, you'll have ample opportunity to see wildlife, too. Be very careful of the bears — for the first few days on the river, there are no trees in which to hang your food.

At this stage in your planning, you should be aware that the Snake River is wilderness in the old-fashioned sense of the word, meaning that it isn't even managed. You should have quite a bit of experience to attempt this trip because there are no radios, no roads, and no cabins if you run into trouble.

You'll be able to get most of your provisions in Whitehorse, and then you'll have to arrange transportation to Mayo (four hours north) where you'll catch a flight to Duo Lake, which is 2 miles from the river. You'll portage everything from there.

Knoe People (403-668-4899), in Whitehorse, can arrange most everything for you. They have Mad River canoes to rent for $35 per day. They don't rent inflatables for two reasons: The storage space is very limited, plus, if you're planning to paddle on the Peel River toward the end of your trip, the winds are fierce, and an inflatable "paddles like a balloon." Knoe People can also arrange flights and car transportation to the river for an estimated cost of $2,000-$3,000. Grocery and outfitter stores in Whitehorse can provide you with maps and whatever freeze-dried or fresh food you need.

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