Hood River

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295 km
16 days
Loop Trip: 
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0 m
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Access by float plane from Yellowknife
Start at Lake 414
Section 100 km in length ... long, narrow lakes

Lake 414 - 34 km long
Stretch 5 km long - rapids and falls
Lake 385 - 10 km long
Large rapid at outlet of lake
Lake 371
Two rapids - each 400 m long
Lake 365 - 11 l, ;long
Lake 356 - 24 km long (north then east)

River section - end of interconnected lakes - 195 km long

4 km stretch of river
Class V rapid - portage on right
2 km stretch of river
Long class III rapid - portage on right
5 km stretch - fast water
Class V rapid - P 1,000 m R
4 km stretch of river
2 chutes - portage on right
25 km stretch of river - slow water
past confluence with Wright River
16 km section of river - swifts and small rapids
Class II rapids
Large class III rapid - P on left or CBR
Past confluence with Booth River
Section of swifts, class I and class II rapids
Wilberforce Falls - take out on left before rapids
P 4,000 m on left
Few sets of class II and class III rapids
P left around falls
Past confluence with James River
Slow, silty section
Final rapids 10 km from end - ledges
Last 3-4 km - shallow with sandbars

Finish trip at Baillie Bay

Maps Required
Topo Maps (1:250,000): 
Takiuyak Lake 86 I Kathawachaga lake 76L Mara River 76 K Arctic Sound 76 N


Post date: Thu, 02/07/2008 - 15:32



Every degree of accuracy possible has been put into this work by the author. It is emphasized, however, that subtle changes occur in topography year by year and that major changes can occur on a daily basis in water levels and conditions on rivers everywhere. The running of rapids, white water, or moving water, by people in canoes, kayaks or rafts can be considered as a high risk activity and specifically in the N.W.T. and Nunavut where remoteness and cold water add another dimension to the risk. Therefore neither the author nor publishers can be held responsible for errors in judgement leading to injuries or fatalities. Persons attempting to paddle the Hood River must accept personal responsibility for their actions and must be warned that there is no substitution for personal scouting or inspection of every rapid being attempted. It is strongly recommended that dry suits or wet suits be part of the equipment list.

George Drought

This description is based on completing four canoe trips down the river (1990, 91, 92 and 1998) at all water levels.
The canoeing season on the Hood is not long, there being a time gate of five to eight weeks depending on ice and weather conditions. The earlier the canoeist can fly in, the better will be their trip. At this time most of the wild life is down in the valleys. For every week past 1st July there is a decrease in their chances of seeing that wildlife. The muskox move into the high country and the caribou continue their migration south. The predators of course follow them.
All distances shown on the map are in kilometres and start at the headwaters of the Hood river at the western end of Tahikafaaluk Lake . The first 100 kilometres of the river is a series of long narrow lakes usually not more than one or two kilometres wide but occasionally as much as three or four kilometres. The lakes are named but not all the names are official, so in addition to their names they are referred to by their heigh t in metres above sea level. e.g. Lake 414 etc.
Because of the lack of current in the lakes, they tend to retain their ice longer and it is not uncommon to find them ice locked into early July. Canoeists need to be wary of this and ensure that the pilot lets them down where shore leads are significant enough, not only for a safe landing, but also where they continue far enough to ensure fairly uninterrupted paddling.
The highest point on the river is Lake Tahikafaaluk (414). There are some smaller lakes further on, feeding into Lake Tahikafaaluk, but they are insignificant. It is due west of Bathurst Inlet and just north of the Arctic Circle. Lake Napatulik (Takiyuak), just SW of Lake Tahikafaaluk, is often thought to be the start of the river but there is no connecting river or link at all. (In fact it flows to the Coppermine).
If the plane is able to land at the western end of Lake Tahikafaaluk then it is a great hike to Lake Napatulik and back
Hiking on the river is fabulous but this guide does not reflect many of the best hiking areas simply because the location of wildlife tends to affect a persons perspective on the quality of a hike. Besides Wilberforce Falls, the Wright River does rate an honorable mention in the area of hiking.
The river can be paddled in two weeks but a three week trip allows for much more hiking and observation of all the land has to offer.




LAKE TAHIKAFAALUK (414) meanders through high rocky tundra for 34 km until it ends abruptly at Ptarmigan Rapid.

PTARMIGAN Portage R. Gr 2 km 34
Scout and run R. This rapid is very shallow and rocky. It is easy to get hung up at the start.

DE COCCOLA Portage L. Gr 3 km 34
This rapid is short and dramatic with a hydraulic and big waves at the end. Run tight L and eddy L. In LW the approach is from the R. and stay R of the hydraulic.

WARNER Portage L. km 35
Unrunnable but the setting is picturesque and beautiful

WILDERNESS Portage L. Gr 2 km 35.5
This rapid is fairly simple. Scout and run L.


Section 1 Portage L. Gr 4 km 36
Section 2 Portage L. Gr 2

The first section of this rapid should be walked. The second section however, though tricky, is runnable. Start R of centre and then keep R through the boulder garden and stay R through the run out.

WOLF Portage L. Gr 4 km 37
A bad ledge near the end of this otherwise reasonable rapid should make this a mandatory walk.

THE LEDGE Portage L. Gr 4 km 38
Definitely walk this one. In low water however we found that with careful scouting we could run it at river left of centre.

WOLF LAKE (385) This lake is 10 km long.

BLACK FEATHER Portage L. Gr 4 km 48
This is a mandatory portage. Though again in very low water we found that we were able to run the bottom half of the rapid. It required ferrying from the left bank out to the centre of the river and then turning and running the balance of the rapid at river right heading slightly to the centre toward the end.

CAVE LAKE (373) is the widest of the lakes, being almost four kilometres wide at one point. Towards the end of the lake on the north shore at kilometre 58.5 is an interesting cairn or fox trap. It is on a high hill and not visible from the river. Underneath it with its entrance on the east side of the hill is a small cave which has either been used as a food cache or shelter in the past.

WILLOW Portage L. Gr 1 km 62
An easy rapid. Scout and run L.

LENTZ LAKE (371) is the shortest of the lakes being only seven kilometers long.

KAPOLAK Portage L. Gr 2 km 69
This rapid is in two parts, each about 400 m with about 300 m between them.
The first section needs to be run L and there are some fairly big waves. The second section is a shallow boulder garden and should be run R. High water could make this rapid more difficult and challenging.

KAPOLAK LAKE (365) is eleven kilometres long. Three kilometers from Kapolak Rapid is the first real evidence of a change in topography. A large esker runs east and west on both sides of the river.

SWIFT No portage. An easy run.

ESKER LAKE (356). The river does its first major change in direction on this lake and heads due north for sixteen kilometres before turning east again. The lake is twenty-four kilometres long and is the last major body of water on the river that can be considered a lake. At the end (km 105) there are some truly massive eskers that are shown on the map by contour lines but no esker symbol.

SKULL Portage R. Gr 5 km 107
This is a mandatory portage.

EASY No portage. Gr 1 km 109.5
As its name implies this is an easy Gr 1.

BLACK ROCK Portage R. Gr 3 km 112
This is a long and difficult Gr 3. Start R of centre and then working slightly to the R look for a distinctive black rock about half way down and go just R of the rock. As the river turns to the R start moving L before the turn, then run out the rapid just R of centre to avoid the big waves. High water makes this rapid a Gr 4 and should not be attempted. Low water conditions change the situation again and the river can be scouted and run down the left side. Eddy in when reaching the turn to the right. Look down the rapid carefully and then eddy out and run down RR avoiding the large waves at the bottom as much as possible.

After Black Rock Rapid there are some swifts running in channels between gravel beds. These gravel beds can change from year to year so there is no preferred route.

MASON Portage L. Gr 5 km 119
The scenery at this rapid is superb, but it is a mandatory portage. If the authors recognition of rapids is correct then the bottom portion of this rapid is shown on page 92 and 93 of the book Wild Waters edited by James Raffan and published by Key Porter Books. Don't try what Gilles Lebreque is trying unless you have comparable skills.

KINGAUNMIUT Portage R. Gr 3 km 122
These are two chutes 200 m apart. Though these two chutes are definitely runnable, do not try as it would be extremely difficult to effect a rescue before canoe and people would be swept towards Kingaunmiut Falls.

KINGAUNMIUT Portage R. km 123
The beauty of these 25 m falls is breathtaking - just don't go over them.

THE WRIGHT RIVER has its confluence at km 140. It is worth stopping and hiking here. There is evidence of Inuit tent rings on the plateau to the SW overlooking the confluence. There are also some interesting geological formations at the falls on the Wright River.

AT km 147 the river current increases and a series of swifts and Gr 1 water occur until km 165. These then turn into a series of Gr 2 stretches and special care needs to be taken at km 170 and 172 where some of the maneuvering becomes more technical and the waves become a great deal larger.

RICHARDSON No Portage. Gr 2 km 173

This rapid is difficult to read from the river, and it appears that the L route is best. THIS IS NOT SO. Go R and there will be no problems.
It is here, on 23rd Sep. 1821, that the Franklin 1st Overland Expedition probably crossed the Hood to continue their starvation journey south.

From this location on the river, probable camp sites of the Franklin Expedition can be plotted. Sir John Richardson’s Journals give the latitude and longitude readings for everyday of their journey. Their chronometers for longitude readings were no longer accurate so taking the known factors at Wilberforce Falls and calculating the error all the previous and subsequent readings can be adjusted.

BOULDER Portage R. Gr 3 km 176
This rapid though very technical can be run tight down the R shore in most water conditions. When the water is low it is possible to run it down the centre, but scout it carefully

AT km 177 There is a fairly easy Gr 2 rapid here and then the river returns to swifts and Gr 1 which continue on and off until km 221.

CARIBOU Portage L. Gr 3 to 4 km 221
This is a major Gr 3 bordering on Gr 4 rapid. In higher water levels it is a Gr 5 rapid. If it is to be run, it requires great care in scouting. It is important to back paddle and keep as close to the R shore as possible through the whole rapid.. Again extreme caution is advised if the decision is made to run this rapid.

From Caribou Crossing Rapid to the take out above Wilberforce Falls the river drops continually with numerous swifts, Gr 1 and Gr 2 rapids with the toughest stretch being between km 232 and 234. There are huge waves down through this section and it is very important to ensure that sprays skirts are fastened securely. Through the big waves at km 234 the best route is basically River L. Below km 235 the river starts dividing between huge gravel pans which it must be assumed are continually shifting and changing from year to year. So no specific route is recommended. The river also changes course at km 235 and starts its flow due north to Arctic Sound.

WILBERFORCE Portage L. km 247.5
The take out for Wilberforce Falls is 1 km south, at the south end of the last gravel pan on the L shore. Do not get drawn into the rapids at the top of the falls as they are at least Gr 4.

A lot of canoe trips end at Wilberforce Falls. Flight pick ups can be arranged on the large esker 1 Km to the west of the falls. It is also possible to arrange with Bathurst Inlet Lodge for pickup by boat at Portage Bay. This necessitates leaving the majority of gear on the esker for flight pickup and hiking about 11 km overland to Portage Bay. You will need to backpack necessary camping gear for camping at the Lodge.

WILBERFORCE Portage L. Gr 2 to 3 Km 251
This rapid can be scouted from the left shore fairly easily. The run is mostly down the centre. Could definitely be challenging in high water with big waves to contend with.

From Wilberforce Rapids to Hepburn Falls the river flows swiftly with shoal type rapids and some Gr 1 rapids. The biggest change is in the terrain. Good campsites are not nearly as plentiful as the coast is approached..

RAGGED ROCK Portage L. Km 262
The rock at this falls is very jagged and rough. Though Franklin in his overland expedition camped here in 1821, we found it most unsuitable. Instead we headed for the mouth of the James River, where the camping is better.

HEPBURN Portage L. Gr 2 to 3 Km 285
There is lots of flat rock at river left which enables paddlers to scout the rapid well. The first corner at the top of the rapid should either be carried around or lined. From the eddy below the corner the rest of the rapid can be run fairly easily.

From this point it is a straight forward paddle to the Arctic Ocean. If you are expecting a plane pickup in this vicinity. Do not paddle to the ocean as winds can delay pick up by days. Stay instead in the shelter of the river valley. There is a reasonable campsite at Km 287. If there is a real desire to see the ocean. Then a 2 km hike over the hill and down to Bailey Bay should fulfil this desire.


Central to the rating of rapids and hence rivers is the International River Rating Scale. However, it should be treated with caution as it can be very subjective and does not take into account such factors as remoteness, air temperature and most importantly water temperature. Nor does it take into account a paddler's individual skill.

Though not technically included in the International scale, the category of "swift" is a useful one that will be referred to frequently in this guide. A swift is fast water with some small waves but almost no maneuvering required. Generally easier than Grade 1.

Moving Water with a few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions.

Easy rapids with waves up to one meter high and wide, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering is required.

Rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping an open canoe. Narrow passages that often require complex maneuvering. May require scouting from shore.

Long, difficult rapids with constricted passages that often require precise maneuvering in very turbulent waters. Scouting from shore often necessary and conditions make rescue difficult. Generally not possible for open canoes. Paddlers in covered canoes and kayaks should be able to do the Eskimo roll.

Extremely difficult, long and very violent rapids with highly congested routes which nearly always must be scouted from shore. Rescue conditions are difficult and there is significant hazard to life in event of a mishap. Ability to do the Eskimo roll is essential for kayaks and closed canoes.

Difficulties of Grade 5 carried to the extreme of navigability. Nearly impossible and very dangerous. For teams of experts only, after close study and with all precautions taken.