Kazan River

Submitter & Author Information
Route submitted by: 
Nicolas Perrault
Trip Date : 
Mid July - Mid August 2017
Additional Route Information
1000 km
29 days
Loop Trip: 
Portage Information
No. of portages: 
Total Portage Distance: 
4500 m
Longest Portage: 
1700 m
Difficulty Ratings
River Travel: 
Lake Travel: 
Background Trip Info
Water Levels: 
Route Description
Access to Put-In Information: 

Kazan River

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

-Start of the trip: Kasba Lake; mid-July 2017.

-End of the trip: Inuit village of Baker Lake; mid-August 2017.

-Number of days: 29 (including 4 days lost to the wind).

-Approximate length: 1000 km.

-Water level: High.

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. Our canoe was sent back from the village of Baker Lake to a town near Montreal via Desgagnés cargo boat.

In Canada’s Central Arctic we have successively paddled the following rivers: Kazan : 2004, Back : 2006, Thelon : 2009, Kazan : 2014, Dubawnt : 2015, Kazan : 2017. In decreasing order of difficulty are the Back (most difficult) followed by the Dubawnt, Kazan and Thelon.

The Kazan River is very isolated and should be attempted only by experienced canoeists. Solid lake and river paddling skills must be combined to sound judgment to ensure a safe trip.

For river paddlers who like long trips and do not mind many hundred kilometers on lakes the Kazan River makes for a memorable trip. The following comments will succinctly point out the main features of the Kazan River as we recollect them. The paddlers must remain vigilant as we cannot guarantee that the following comments do not contain mistakes or oversights. All geographic references are from Google Earth.

1) We started from Kasba lake lodge on Kasba Lake. Paddling along the west side of the lake in a northerly direction will bring the paddlers to a “narrow” at 60 deg. 26’ 25’’ N. 102 deg. 19’ 08’’ W. From there it is possible to cross the lake following an easterly direction by hopping from one island to the next. After having reached the east side of the lake, the location where it empties into the Kazan River is not far. We would have liked to follow this course but judged that it was too windy. Instead we kept to the West and eventually paddled around the northern section of the lake and finally reached the Kazan River.

2) The only rapid of note between Kasba Lake and Ennedai Lake runs along dense vegetation and forested lands. In high water the rapid could not be scouted from the bank as the vegetation was too dense. Hence we opted for a portage. On the left side we found to our delight an old trail. This portage was not very long. (No other trail was found during the rest of the trip but the vegetation thereafter became too thin to be much of a hindrance.)

3) The rapid encountered at some distance from Dimma Lake (61 deg. 28’ 56’’ N. 100 deg. 34’ 17’’ W.) can be navigated on the right close to the bank. A back ferry toward the right bank kept our canoe away from the big waves to our left. We would not have attempted this rapid along the left bank.

4) The first rapid of note after Lake Angikuni (62 deg. 15’ 23’’ N. 98 deg. 44’ 39’’W.) is a ledge that is portaged on the right. The portage is short.

5) Soon thereafter (62 deg. 15’ 05’’ N. 98 deg. 43’ 29’’W.) there is a long and at times tumultuous rapid. It is a must-see place that we enjoyed by walking along the right bank. Starting from the same bank, we portaged the full length of the rapid by cutting across the river’s bend. A compass was used to progress in the desired direction. The portage is about 1500 meters.

6) There is a very enjoyable river section starting from the end of the portage referred to in the previous paragraph and ending at a rapid located at 62 deg. 25’ 17’’ N. 98 deg. 14’ 54’’ W.  Depending on the side of the river the canoe might find itself on (and the water level) a few short portages may be necessary along this section.
To reduce to a minimum the number of portages the following trick proved as useful on the Kazan 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 impassable rapids. Hopefully, the opposite side might not show the Canadian Shield and thus benefit from a more even slope.
7) In high water, we had to conduct a short portage on the left to avoid the aforementioned rapid at 62 deg. 25’ 17’’ N. 98 deg. 14’ 54’’ W.
8) Very shortly thereafter another rapid presents itself at 62 deg. 25’ 26’’N. 98 deg. 15’ 02’’ W. We again conducted a short portage on the left.
9) The last rapid before lake Yathkyed that we did not navigate is at 62 deg. 28’ 42’’ N, 98 deg. 15’ 22” W. We portaged on the right. It is a short portage.
10) Yathkyed Lake marks the beginning of arctic tundra. It is a big body of water that will make one feel like paddling along some ocean shore. The paddlers must be very mindful of being swept by the wind away from the shore on big lakes.
11) Just before reaching the end of lake Yathkyed a long peninsula is found. It is possible to avoid paddling around it by reaching the river through a 350-meter portage. We started this portage at 62 deg. 52’ 33’’ N. 97 deg. 44’’ 51’ W. The route to be followed across the peninsula is obvious on the map.
12) We paddled and waded on the left the rapid located at 62 deg. 58’ 17’’ N. 97 deg. 38’ 05’’ W.
13) We paddled and waded on the left the rapid located at 63 deg. 00’ 56’’ N. 97 deg. 38’ 15’’ W. We kept quite close to the bank to avoid being insidiously deported to the center of this rocky rapid which ends by spreading like a fan.  The center of the “fan” is at once far from the shore and quite rocky. It would be a most awkward place to pin a canoe.
14) There is an island at 63 deg. 07’ 11’’ N. 97 deg. 31’ 06’ W. and some whitewater around it. We navigated the left channel keeping close to the left bank (of this channel) to avoid some whitewater that might render a portage necessary. From here the next lake is Forde.
15) Before Thirty Mile Lake a rapid is encountered at 63 deg. 38’ 34’’ N. 97 deg. 03’ 39’’ W. We portaged 300 meters on the right.
16) After Thirty Mile Lake a rapid is reached at 63 deg. 38’ 31’’N. 96 deg. 05’ 34’’W. We portaged 500 meters on the left. We found very many cloudberries at the end of this portage. Do not miss this gastronomic opportunity!
17) The next place of note is an area known as Kazan Falls which is undoubtedly the highlight of an otherwise very enjoyable trip. Along the right bank is a navigable whitewater section which ends at 63 deg. 42’ 36’’ N. 95 deg. 49’ 43’’ W. (Depending on the water level, the navigation of this section may nevertheless require a couple of short portages.) From that location, the canoeists must portage around a stretch of rapids, the falls proper and the canyon that fallows. The length of the portage is about 1700 meters. From the start of the portage, we walked straight to the big cairn (erected by the Canadian Government in July 1990) which is conspicuous from afar and stands at mid distance from the end of the Portage. The cairn is a visibly good place to leave one’s pack so we took a welcome break from our load there. Afterwards we backtracked to bring the remainder of our belongings to the cairn. From the cairn to the end of the portage we did not walk far from the rim of the canyon. In our experience, it is easier to portage there.

18) Near the location where the portage begins is a pile of rocks on which stands an ammunition box containing note pads in which you may scribble your “souvenirs de voyage” and read about the trips of your predecessors.

19) The falls and associated canyon are absolute marvels to behold. To gain a view of the falls one has to reach a small island by fording a narrow stream which is in reality a puny arm of the river.  In high water this may prove too dangerous. Should this be the case the small island may be reached by canoe from an area of flat water located immediately upstream.

20) The last 20 kilometers before Lake Baker are home to very strong currents in mid and high water levels. The experienced paddler will not find the navigation difficult. Nevertheless one must make absolutely sure not to hit a rock as this would almost certainly cause the canoe to capsize. Such a misfortune may well result in a long life threatening swim in cold water. Depending on the side of the river the canoe might find itself on (and the water level) a few short portages may prove necessary along this section.

21) To reach the village of Baker Lake, canoeists have to avoid difficult if not impassable sand bars caused by the slowing down of the current of the Thelon River. This is done by reaching Nicholls Island at 64 deg. 15’ 29’’ N. 95 deg. 58’ 43’’W. The canoe then follows the shore of Nicholls Island facing the village for about 2.7 kilometers. Having done this expect a 4.5 kilometers crossing to reach the village. It is unadvisable to attempt this if you have any reason to believe that the weather might not remain calm for the next couple of hours.