Great Slave Lake?

-- Last Updated: Oct-12-13 10:22 AM EST --

I am having trouble finding any trip reports for Great Slave Lake other than John Lockwood's on the Pygmyboats site. (None that I could find on West Coast Paddlers Forum.)
I did find the outfitter in Hay River, NT, and he says he's got a book about the East Arm.
Any PNetters paddle the Great Slave Lake? If so, I have a few questions, and I would like to hear about your trip!
Can the East Arm be paddled safely in a canoe or is a kayak strongly preferable?
(I emailed a woman with the Chicago Area Sea Kayakers Association who recently did a solo trip on the East Arm, but I got no reply.)
Thanks, all!
G in NC

Strongly suggest you go to CCR forum

– Last Updated: Oct-12-13 4:56 PM EST –

You will find very knowledgeable and experienced paddlers involved in trips in that area. I know that many locals from Yellowknife do family canoe trips in that area. One very nice lady that I rented canoes from a few years back told me that they took a short flight to the east end, spent a week, and hired a float plane to pull them out every year. If you are thinking about using an outfitter or need a float plane contact me via e mail.

I paddled it.

– Last Updated: Oct-12-13 12:24 PM EST –

I paddled it solo as part of a 2-month trip to the ocean. I use and paddle a decked canoe which is a hybrid canoe/sea kayak. Like ANY paddling you just have to be prepared for it. The lake on the south end is shallow thus gets very warm in the summer with 3-months of continuous sunshine. Basically bath water along shore. I paddled from Ft. Resolution to the west entrance to the Mackenzie River. Lots of beatiful camps, rocky beaches and tons of bleached driftwood which you have to be very very very careful if you have a camp fires......since the entire shore under the stones are centuries of buried wood.....probably 20 feet deep for hundred plus miles....thus if you build a could cause the wood below to catch fire and get out of hand. I had two friends in the 70's build a fire next thing you know the entire ground for hundreds of feet below the stones was burning and they spent nearly 8-hours trying to put it out...
I was windbound in Hay River for 2 days while a huge storm blew inwith 10+ ft sea and 60 mph winds. A good time to chill out and rest.
I think you are fine in a canoe, just stay close to shore and bail out if it gets different than paddling anywhere and in any conditions apply.
I rigged a sail (first time I ever sailed in my like and covered about 50-miles one day without ever putting the paddle in the water.
You can resupply at Hay River, Ft. Resolution etc Laundry, internet, and otther services at Hay River too.
IF you have specific questions drop me an email via my email link.

brief report here of my trip
in addition to above here is from pnet of my report

also check out the best Canadian message board at My Canadian Canoe Routes dot com!!! Many paddlers on there have done GSL.

Thank you both!

– Last Updated: Oct-12-13 1:57 PM EST –

Rpg and Paddletosea, great advice! I will check out that CCR forum, also your trip report Paddletosea..
My canoe partner doesn't much like kayaks, so it would be better if we could paddle the lake in a canoe rather than a tandem kayak. We know to get off the water when squalls come.
I had NO idea about the hazard of igniting buried wood. A fire pan would make sense then.
Thank you both for helpful responses.
G in NC

Postscript: have now read Paddletosea's excellent trip report. Just great!

yeah a fire pan would be great, an old grill bottom or large pan for sure. There is plenty of drift wood for fires.

If you send me an email with your email i will mail you some photos etc of the lake. Its nice to paddle 30 feet from shore…lots to see and look at.


These might help with info too

East arm paddle
I chartered a fishing boat to drop me off in the East arm, and kayaked around just east of Redcliff Island for about 1 week. Decent campsites were not easy to find in some places, and when you did find one, there was often a lot of garbage there. Beautiful country and water, but if the government is going to a make a national park in that region (“planned”, apparently) they will need to have a cleanup! If you have a folding kayak, can fly to Lutselke (formerly Snowdrift), but the water is a bit less protected there. Email me if you would like more info.


Why is it hard to find decent campsites?

Sounds like you had a good trip, though trash would drive anybody crazy.


landing and campsites

Despite how it looks on google maps, in many places in the East Arm, the shoreline has steep smooth rocks rising out of the lake, which makes landing a kayak difficult (I think it would be a little easier in a canoe). But the islands are beautiful, with some scenic open hiking along some of the taller ones.

If you have hardshell boats (as opposed to folders), a charter boat ride is probably the best way to get right into the islands for paddling. Some tips from my experience there:

  • Bring a satellite phone.
  • the fishing is excellent
  • but practice proper bear safety, as bears (good swimmers) are very common on the islands. We shared a small island with a mother and cub until they got bored and swam off.
  • be prepared to paddle very early in the morning (3 or 4 am) in order to avoid thundershowers
  • bugs were variable (in our case, bad in am, non-existent in pm)

    Cheers, Northyak

From Long Haul Site
From Long Haul Folding Kayak’s promotional literature:

Two guys paddle a folder down the Peace and MacKenzie Rivers, including a stretch through Great Slave Lake. They encounter terrible winds that give them some trouble:


They were not in the east arm
From what I can interpret from their account, these paddlers were not in the East arm of the lake. If you choose the right spot, there is substantial shelter from wind amongst many islands.