McKenzie River, NWT

Planning on paddling from Hay River, NWT to Tuktoyaktuk on the McKenzie River with a possible side trip to Great Bear Lake. Two questions for those who might know: I plan on having my vehicle barged from Hay Rivier to Inuvik. Is the vehicle storage there secure? Second: Anyone flown out of Norman Wells to Deline with a folding kayak and all the gear? Appreciate replies and info. Thanks.

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We drove the Dempster highway to Inuvik planning on doing an out and back trip on the McKenzie, but the current was way to strong, (never researched it)
There was a First Nations camp ground there and we stayed there overnight before returning.
We drove around looking for a place to stay, but there was a big wig oil convention going on and the whole place was booked solid.
It looked like a safe place, but that was a long time ago
Jack L

Hey, thanks for taking the trouble.


Hard to get info on remote places. Maybe you can talk with some pilots or air taxi guys that know the country. Maybe a trading post. Good luck.

I paddled the Mackenzie back in 1998 solo, actually starting at Ft McMurray on the Athabasca then down the Slave etc. I think NTCL the barge company has a big fenced in storage unit when they unload boats etc. You should go all the way to Tuktoyaktuk and not stopping at Inuvik. So much more interesting things you would miss. The Pingos, Inuit cemetery with skeletons all over the ground, the mouth of the Mackenzie, The Ocean, Above Tree Line, Reindeer Station and Tuk. All that the last few more days if you proceed. You can drive from Tuk now FYI. So the barge would go all the way their. I had my boat shipped from Tuk to Calgary where I drove up in the fall. It only cost $75 dollars! I think I’ve heard of people flying out of NWElls. Its a major airport, so dont see issues with that happening. I flew out of Tuk to Inuvik then home. How are you getting from Tuk to Inuvik? I’d have your truck shipped all the way to Tuk.

@paddletothesea I enjoyed reading your trip report:

MacKenzie River Watershed in Northwest Territories |

Thanks. I had planned to go all the way to Tuk. I may make a side trip when I reach NWells and get flown in to Great Bear Lake and splash around there for a bit and then down the river to the McKenzie and continue. I use a folding kayak so it’s easy enough to schlep the gear around getting to somewhere.


Continuing the discussion from McKenzie River, NWT:

In July 2019 my wife and I just finished padding down the Yukon and decided then to go down the Mackenzie. We contacted 2 barge companys and they discouraged us stating they couldn’t guarantee when it would be shipped. So we drove to Inuvik and flew to Yellowknife with our foldable. If I were to do it again I would start in Fort Prov or Fort Simpson because of the wind. The lake from Yellowknife is very shallow and windy with lots of headlands sticking out. Hay River may be the same but maybe not as drastic. We were lucky and didn’t have any wind from Fort Prov to Jean Marie. We learned to get out of the sack by sunrise to have a few hours of winless paddling.
Have fun!

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Thank you very kindly for the information. I think I’ll just start in Yellowknife and fly back from Tuk with my folder. I’m a habitual 3 am riser and on the water before dawn to beat the wind.

A few things about our experience on Great Slave Lake. First of all we set paddle early August. Don’t know how much lower the lake is compared to earlier but the locals over on the Yukon, that spring, said the Yukon was the lowest it’s been in about 30 years.

We headed up the north arm in our heavy double foldable with tons of gear. Nice camping in the (rock) islands although we always had to use our mesh bags that we can put rocks in then attach them to the tent.

After crossing over the 3ish kilometer crossing the camping was fabulous for a couple of days. After that the lake progressively became shallower and difficult to get to shore. If the the lake was 15 centimeters higher it may of not been a problem.

But as far as paddling the shallowness extends way out from shore. Even from the headlands. As you know shallow combined with wind is not a leisurely paddle. I am now ‘rockanoid’, after my lake experience (afraid of rocks).

We took the the north entrance to the river and the last half our paddles were touching bottom. Very difficult camping on the east side from there until you get to Fort Prov.

If I were forced to paddle from Yellowknife again I would comptiplate drinking a bunch of bleach first.

Yes paddling before the sun comes up was great on the river. Truly magical.
Again have fun