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Canadian Canoe Routes

Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++
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Author:  Ivan_norway [ November 21st, 2007, 11:03 am ]
Post subject:  Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Hi everybody.

I'm new to this forum so let me briefly introduce myself; My name is Ivan and I am from Norway. The summer of 2009 or possibly 2010 I am planning a canoing trip in Canada and would greatly appreciate any input any of you have on my planned trip.

I have over the last few months spent countless hours pouring over trip reports from participants of this forum. Some of the trips leave me breatless. Canada never seize to impresse me!

My planned trip is a long one so i dont expect anyone to have done it, but I am sure many of you have done parts of it and can therefore give me the benifit of your knowledge.

I will briefly give you the outlines of the plan, i have prepared a more detailed document which is for a Norwegian wildlife magazine but I have not translated it to English yet.

Trip part 1. Ingstad Creek->Snowdrift River->Siltaza Lake -> Murphy lake->Knox Lake->Sparrow Bay-> Nonacho Lake.


240 km. Time estimated 16-26 Days

Part 2.
Nonacho Lake-> Talston river-> Talston Lake-> King lake-> Lady Gray Lake


140 Km Time estimated 7-13 Days

Trip Part 3.Lady Gray Lake->Talston River-> Benna Thy lake -> Fort Smith


250km Time estimated 22-26 Days

Part 4. Fort Smith-> Slave River-> Fort Resolution


300Km Time estimated 8-14 days

Kind Regards Ivan

Author:  Otter Mel [ November 21st, 2007, 12:20 pm ]
Post subject: 

Try to get a hold of Peter Browning's book. He did parts of Talston and Snowdrift Rivers in 1960's and describes them in his book.

Peter Browning
The Last Wilderness: 600 Miles by Canoe and Portage in the Northwest Territories
Paperback: 179 pages
Publisher: Great West Books; 2 edition (June 1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0944220037
ISBN-13: 978-0944220030

Author:  jmc [ November 21st, 2007, 4:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hello, Ivan -

In this older thread in the NWT routes section (also from a Norwegian, that Helge Ingstad really started something!), there are some things that might help you. ... hp?t=11425

In here you will find a post from, and contact information for, Rob Kesselring. He has paddled the Snowdrift from its headwaters in Sandy Lake to Siltaza Lake and also, I believe, followed your intended portage route to Nonacho. A report on the Snowdrift may also be found here: ... wriver.pdf

HOOP, who also posted in that thread, has I think paddled the Taltson as well. If he does not see your post and respond, you might condsider sending him a private message (PM).

If you would consider an alternate portage route between the Snowdrift and Nonacho Lake - specifically from the Snowdrift to Noman Lake and Nonacho's most northeast bay - there is a description of that route here in the article begining on page 18. ... LID=184775

I have myself only paddled the Snowdrift between the Eileen River confluence and a point some 20 km above Siltaza: it is sandy and easy.

I met, last summer, a young couple from Ft. Smith doing an extended loop trip from Fort Smith which incorporated Sections 2 - 4 of your proposed route: i.e., the Taltson downstream from Nonacho, the portage across to the Leland Lakes - Dog River section and back to Ft. Smith, and the Ft. Smith to Ft. Resolution sections. I will send you contact information for them via PM, as I am hesitant to post it on a public site without their prior consent. If you can get in touch with them, I think it will be a great help to you.

On a negative note, you should be aware thay there were a number of fires in the upper Snowdrift valley last summer. It shouldn't affect your travel, but it may be less scenic in places than you had hoped.

Best of luck with your proposed venture,

- jmc

Author:  Ivan_norway [ November 22nd, 2007, 5:11 am ]
Post subject: 

Hi and thanks for the replies.

Otter Mel, I will certainly get hold of the book, both for research purposes and just for what I am sure is an exciting read. Thanks for the tip.

As I mentioned earlier I have already been pouring over this forum for a few months. (I always prepare well for trips, overprepare to the extent that i drive my partners mad they claim! heh) I have therefore already read SteinE's forum thread. The thread is over 2 years old now, so I doubt i would be able to get in touch with him to see if he actually did the trip. (I will send him an PM to check though) They werent all that experienced it seemed so its anyones guess if it actually came off. I also know of another Norwegian who traveled from Great Slave's east arm and up to Ingstad Creek and back to Great Slave. His path differs from my intended path however. I have also visisted a web page made by someone called Tundra Tom who has trips to the area, it basically seems that the snowdrift river is a shallow one, which needs to be padled during the Ice melting. This is why i want to start there, and as early as possible.

One element of the trip is to start while Ice is still to be seen, or even covering parts of the lakes and to continue the trip untill again winter can be felt or even seen as snow etc. I am thinking of starting sometime around early june if the snowdrift river begins to open up at that time. I would like to finish sometime in late september when the onset of winter can be seen.

In my research so far the one area I have discovered very little is the beginning of part 3 and also the Slave river from Fort Smith and down to Fort resolution. This stretch of river seems to be easy (based on maps) but I have so many times been surprised that I dont want to take anything for granted.

I have infact concidered going off the snowdrift and into Nonacho lake at Nonacho's most northern point. It is an alternative route to be used if, either the snowdrift is proving to be to much of a hassle to paddle or if we simply want a change of scenery. The route I have outlined is in no way final, and will most likely not follow the dotted line all the time. The main focus is to have a route which is possible to do in the timeframe I have.

I have noted down the names of Rob Kesselring, HOOP thanks for those Jmc!

The couple who did parts 2-4 would be very interesting to get in touch with thanks again!

I was not aware of the fires in the upper snowdrift valley but I'll be sure to note it down. I am aware however that there are fires in some parts pretty much every year. In the event of those fires, what is concidered the wises course of action?

Thanks for your help. Its much appreciated.


Author:  island_dave [ December 1st, 2007, 2:06 am ]
Post subject: 

I spent about 3 weeks in the Taltson drainage last fall as part of environmental assessment work I was doing for the Taltson Dam. I was surveying a number of sections of the river and lake outlets from Grey Lake below Taltson Lake. I wasn't really looking at the river from a canoeists perspective so I don't have a lot of specific details. For sure some of the lakes are big. In general, the section from Nonacho down to below Taltson Lake is pretty flat, with short rapids every once and a while. They shouldbe obvious on satellite images or maps I would think. I don't know whether you can run some of the rapids or whether you would have to portage them. At the Taltson Dam, I think it would be easier to portage around the dam tailrace rather than going around from the spillway (a lot less portaging as I think several of the rapids would be unrunnable). Also, the outlet of Tsu Lake is not navigable.

It might be worth checking in with NWT Power or Rescan Environmental. The work I was doing with Rescan was to develop a hydraulic model for the entire Taltson Watershed. They may have some useful info.

Amazing area. It would be a great place to spend some more time there.

Author:  Ivan_norway [ December 1st, 2007, 7:05 am ]
Post subject: 

thanks for the info,

I assume the powerstation inlets are well marked on the map and not something that will come as a big suprise? I've heard of one or two canoeist that have had bad experiences with those dams.

Is the landscape after/before the dam affected by it? i.e Raised/lowered water levels?

Author:  HOOP_ [ December 1st, 2007, 1:57 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi Ivan

I paddled the Taltson (solo) in 2003, from Coventry Lake way up at the headwaters, down to Kozo lake a couple days upstream from the Dam north of Fort Smith. So I covered some of your route. That was a 35 day trip. I would have to consult my notes to see how many days it was from Nonacho to Kozo. I have not written up the trip yet (I wish I had – I am so lazy!). Lots of rapids and portages on my route, but all straight forward. It was very high water when I did the trip mid-summer (started somewhere around July 6-10, and ended 35 days later). The rapids and falls were huge, and some which were documented as runnable were not, with water literally in the trees on shore. No problem portaging however. The occasional bushwhack but the forest tends to be open. I cut a new trail around one big rapid.

It is the land of fire. I encountered some in progress, and was shrouded in smoke for a day, and saw several fresh lightening started fires the day after the storm went over. You can get caught, but the smoke and ash falling out of the sky like snowflakes will warn you in enough time. I have never had to break camp to escape an oncoming fire, and hopefully won’t ever have to. The big hot fires can kill you easily. They rain embers and can jump across lakes. Islands will not necessarily save you. But its all part of the adventure. You just keep your wits about you and you will be fine.

Above Nonacho the landscape is taiga with several open eskers for hiking. But at Nonacho and downstream the forest becomes denser (northern boreal) and the eskers thin out, so the character of the trip changes and the hiking opportunities disappear.

For air charter, I highly recommend Northwestern Air Lease out of Fort Smith They were formerly Big River Air, but it’s the same excellent, super-professional outfit. I have used them for 3 big trips and they served me well. They mailed me a Taltson River trip report from an older trip, and with that info, I was able to figure everything out, except for one critical portage to bypass a huge waterfall series, which took me half a day to find.

Since I don’t have my trip written up, it would take a long time to document rapid by rapid, portage by portage. Instead, I recommend to people if they ask me for route info, to send jpegs of the topo maps, which you can download for free. (I can’t provide the link at present because the Fed’s website is down. You link through the Geogratis Canada website I think). I could mark the portages on the topo jpegs and email them back, if you can send me the maps. One of these days I am going to have to write that trip up.

Author:  Ivan_norway [ January 31st, 2009, 6:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Hi again.

This trip has been put to the year of 2010 now, and all is in place if i get the financial aspect sorted. Challenge!

I have been pondering the route and I am getting more and more worried about the time aspect of things. My plan/hope for the trip is to fly out in the last stage of winter. Then setup a basecamp and wait for the breakup of ice and then start down river as soon as it opens up. I have a great desire to experience this amazing nature phenomenon.

The plan is then to explore the land untill the cold gust of autum takes hold. It a from breakup to freezeover kind of idea. I am therefore starting to think that perhaps it is a mistake to start the trip in the tundra. It is my impression that ice breakup comes about later there?

Initial idea has been to start on whitefish lake. I am now wondering if ice breakup would be conciderably earlier if I start in the south parts of NWT as opposed to the tundra. So there comes the question, would I get more time in the canoe if I start further south and how much would you estimate? Would starting south going northwards be a much better option than starting north and going south?

Any imput greatly appreciated.

Kind regards

Author:  jmc [ February 2nd, 2009, 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Ivan -

Here is the satellite photo indicating ice cover, from June 28, 2007. Obviously these things change from year to year, but it may give you some idea of what breaks up first.


Certainly the bigger Barrens lakes break up later. In this photo there is still ice in Whitefish and Lynx, and east in the Barrens. I was able to paddle through Whitefish and Lynx a week later with no ice problems.

I think your idea for the trip is a good one. Last summer some friends of mine flew in (on skis) to the headwaters of the Emile River (north of Yellowknife) for the spring breakup, then paddled south after the river broke up. They had some wonderful caribou and grizzly shots from the breakup period.

Perhaps you should focus on finding likely "caribou areas" to fly into on the ice, then work your route from there? See this map

for the Beverly herd.

Post again if you have more questions.


Author:  Ivan_norway [ February 2nd, 2009, 5:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Hi jmc

Thats an amazing image you got there, where did you get it from? I would love to have a look at more of those!

Most of my route follows the trail of the Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and I have a great desire to see a few of those area. It is my intention to make this trip into a book(norwegian) and Ingstad related material is ever so popular here so that makes an added bonus I suppose.

I have found a new route that I am considering and it is starting not to far from lake atabasca and then going north via tazin river, into talston, go upstream talston, into nonacho, and then finally make my way to the thelon and follow it downstream. It seem such a route would most definately take me through much of the cariboo treks which would be a wonderful thing to experience. I am however, starting to think much like you are. I want to find the starting place now and a couple of possible places to finish and simply work out everything inbetween when I get there.

I am still unsure as to what I will do, but I wish to be able to spend as much time as possible in the canoe and I think that starting in the woodlands further south will be a better option. I think i've done this trip about 50 times now in my dreams, its slowly developing into an obsession. As most of my longer trips tend to do during the planning :)

Kind regards

Author:  jmc [ February 2nd, 2009, 6:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Ivan -

The photo is from this site: ... /photo.asp

The archived data on the site is not so useful to you (all at a smaller scale), but you should watch this spring's melt to get a good idea - say starting the last week of May. Some days it is cloudy, or the satellite track is no good, but you should be able to get an idea of how breakup progresses.

If you are thinking of starting in Tazin Lake, did you know its outlet into the Tazin River is dammed? The water is apparently very low below the dam, although the route is still passable. This is one of northern Canada's less publicized river diversions.

If you still have the contact information for the couple in Ft. Smith I mentioned in my first reply to you (last year), note they travelled up the Taltson to the Thelon (at Lynx Lake) last year - you may wish to talk to them about the route.

I also found another individual who has travelled up the Tazin from Hill Island Lake to Tazin Lake and then to Lake Athabasca. If you would be interested in his contact information, let me know by PM.



Author:  Ivan_norway [ February 3rd, 2009, 11:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

I did not know it was dammed and that I think this could mean i will not go that way. Im quite unsure about how the route will end up so I will study the maps some more, look at the spring breakup this year and get some idea of things over time. I have no need to rush any decicions yet. Fortunately :) Im no stranger to flatwater paddeling from one water to another so I might do this and not use river if needs be.

I do think that I will adjust my original plans either way as it appears that the breakup start earlier a bit further south.

thanks for that link, i will certainly use this.

Author:  George Luste [ February 3rd, 2009, 12:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

Ivan_norway wrote:
Hi again.
I have been pondering the route and I am getting more and more worried about the time aspect of things. My plan/hope for the trip is to fly out in the last stage of winter. Then setup a basecamp and wait for the breakup of ice and then start down river as soon as it opens up. I have a great desire to experience this amazing nature phenomenon.

Ivan: Don't rule out 'canoeing' before, during and after breakup in the arctic. It can be warm and good fun. See 'Canoeing Great Slave Lake in June'

Author:  Ivan_norway [ February 3rd, 2009, 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

It's an interesting article thats for sure. I very much want to do a bit of this, because I wish to experience the change in nature as it happens. Its one of the most important aspects of this trip.

Author:  Peternorway [ February 14th, 2009, 5:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Snowdrift River, Talston River, nonacho lake, Slave river++

I am also from Norway, and new to this forum. Hope you will excuse my english!
I am going to Snowdrift river in august 2010. Starting point will be app 15 km down the river from Sandy Lake. We will make a stop and walk up Ingstad Creek, trying to find his Tundra camp from his last year in Canada (ca 1930) It will be hard to find, but we will try. I would like to get connect with Ivan.

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