The Back River – 1998

No Easy Paddling

The 974 km long Back River has its beginnings in Aylmer Lake in Nunavut where it flows northeast into Chantry Inlet on the Arctic Ocean.

The Back River is a challenging river for canoeists replete with numerous rock strewn rapids where lining and portaging are mandatory. Our 10 day trip would begin about two hundred km’s upstream from Chantry Inlet near the Meadowbank River.

In a July 24, 1998 memo to the canoe team, chief navigator Ted Johnson reminded all members to bring “a tent, gloves for lining, bailing buckets and lining ropes for each canoe and lawn chairs”. We sensed that our paddle down the Back was not going to be a piece of cake.

Kotcheff, Macfarlane and Silcox were once again dragooned to provide their usual Michelin standard cuisine along with a selection of fine wines.

Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock was our newest recruit who was lured by the prospect of an escape from parliamentary pandemonium to the peace and quiet of the barren north. Did he achieve his goal? Read his story below.

At the time, we were unaware that this would be our final major Arctic adventure. Here are stories from Ted Johnson and Allan Rock.


johnsonThe Mighty Back by Ted Johnson

By the mid nineteen nineties, we felt (perhaps a bit arrogantly) that we had done pretty well all the significant rivers of the barren lands. All, that is, but the might Back River. The Back is significantly different from the others; longer, more isolated, more powerful, tougher. More


Canoeing the Back by Allan Rock

We put our canoes into the Back River at a spot almost 3,000 km from Ottawa. It took us two days of travel and many complicated logistics to get to that remote shore. But to me, that was just the point. We were truly “getting away”. More…


On the Back River – August 1998

Group Back

Back L-R: David Silcox, Craig Oliver, Peter Stollery, Allan Rock, Bill Williams. 
Front L-R Eddie Goldenberg, Ted Johnson, George Falconer, John Macfarlane, Tim Kotcheff.

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