Dubawnt River

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Nicolas Perrault
Trip Date : 
July 15, 2015 to August 6, 2015
Additional Route Information
800 km
23 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
4800 m
Longest Portage: 
4000 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Dubawnt River

-One canoe, two paddlers : Laval Tremblay, Nicolas Perrault.

-Start of the trip on the Dubawnt River: July 15, 2015 from Hinde lake.

-End of the trip on the Dubawnt River: August 6, 2015 on Beverly lake (Thelon river).

-Approximate length of the Dubawnt River: 800 km.

-Water level: medium.

Logistics: canoe, gear and food sent from Montreal by truck and afterwards by airplane to  Kasba Lake lodge (Kazan river). We arrived by plane at Kasba Lake lodge at a later date.  From there a seaplane brought us to Hinde Lake (Dubawnt River). Our paddling trip ended in the Inuit village of Baker Lake. (Our canoe was sent back to a town near Montreal by boat from Baker Lake.)  

In Canada’s Central Arctic we have paddled the following rivers: Kazan, Back, Thelon and Dubawnt. In decreasing order of difficulty are the Back (most difficult) followed by the Dubawnt, Kazan and Thelon.

The Dubawnt River is very isolated and should be paddled only by much experienced canoeists. Solid lake and river paddling skills must be combined to good judgement to ensure a safe trip. 

At medium water level we ran the whole river conducting only 4 portages. Almost no lining was done. All portages have been conducted on tundra terrain devoid of any trail.

First portage: canyon between Lake Dubawnt and Grant Lake. Portage on the right side: 4000 meters. Long and violent rapids do exist along this un-runnable but beautiful section. It would be a pity not to take the time to visit this place.

Second portage : Just before Warthon Lake. Portage on the right side: 300 meters.

Note : to reach Lake Marjorie we chose the branch passing through 64 deg. 02’ 43.65’’ N ; 99 deg. 28’ 20.96’’ W as referenced on Google Earth. No portage (or lining) was necessary along this branch. We cannot express an opinion regarding the other branches. They may or may not be more difficult.


Third portage: Just after Lake Marjorie: Portage on the right: 100 meters. Some might choose to run this rapid. We judged that it was not worth the risk.

Last portage: Canyon between Lake Marjorie and Beverly Lake. Portage on the left: 400 meters, steep but short climb. It is possible to set many tents on the top of the hill where fine views are obtained. The bedrock can be flaky in the area. Therefore one should not get close to the edge defining the canyon’s bend. It is not advisable to run this canyon along the left bank as there is a huge and dangerous hole at the start. It might be possible to run the canyon from the right bank but we suspect this to be a dubious proposition. Portaging along the right bank seemed much longer than along the left bank.

To reduce to a minimum the number of portages the following trick proved as useful on the Dubawnt as on so many other rivers of the Canadian Shield. As a rule one should avoid paddling on the side of the river where the Canadian Shield (hard bedrock which is not easily eroded) shows on the surface. Choose instead the bank where sand, gravel or loose rocks can be found as the river’s slope shall probably be more even there. A “spiky” side appearing on the map is a good indication that the Canadian Shield will likely show on the surface thus creating ledges and potentially un-runnable rapids. Hopefully, the opposite side might not show the Canadian Shield and thus benefit from a more even slope.

Lake Dubawnt is enormous and very cold. One is likely (as happened to us) to see some ice floating here and there during July or beginning of August. Much ice could be encountered. Capsizing on Lake Dubawnt can easily mean death through hypothermia. One must be very careful to avoid being swept by the wind far from the shore.

To get icebound on Dubawnt Lake in July or August is possible. To avoid this we called Baker Lake lodge just before starting our trip in order to make sure that the ice breakup on Baker Lake was not unusually late. Had this been the case we would have chosen to paddle the Kazan River instead of the Dubawnt for fear of being icebound on Lake Dubawnt.