Arctic Expedition Opens Door to New Big Trip

By Lindsay Wiebold

he Mountain River is a swift-flowing sub-Arctic river nestled in the snow-capped Mackenzie Mountains of Canada’s Northwest Territories. This summer, a group of Ogichi LDACs will paddle down it.

Kooch-i-ching has a long tradition of taking “big trips” to Hudson Bay, an area that Ogichi has yet to venture to. But the 6 North of 60 Arctic expedition in 2017 provided an incredible opportunity to scout new rivers in the Mackenzie Mountains and expand our wilderness program into territory unexplored by either camp.

The headwaters of the Mountain River are just 90 miles northwest of the Keele River, where the 6N60 trip started. Two members of that expedition—Emily Spangler and myself—will lead six incoming high school seniors on this summer’s exploratory “big trip.”

The trip will begin on July 11 when a float plane picks us up in the town of Norman Wells and drops us into Dusty Lake. Just one portage, and we’ll be in the silty turquoise waters of the river.

Over the next 20 days, the magnificent waterway will tug us through six jaw-dropping limestone canyons, providing numerous opportunities for river reading, rapid scouting and risk-focused decision-making. We will also spend time hiking through the surrounding rugged mountains.

The Mountain River is on the bucket list of many experienced canoeists, and we are beyond excited to honor Ogichi’s unique path and tripping style by exploring the region.

Advanced wilderness trips, whether summer-long Arctic expeditions or three-week big trips, have become an important tradition at Kooch-i-ching and Ogichi. We are fortunate to have a community that encourages staff members to venture into new areas, acquire new skills and knowledge, and bring it all back to where the dreams begin: camp.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of Songs of the Paddle.