The Thomsen River – August 1985

They say the Thomsen on Banks Island is the northerly-most canoeable river in North America. We beg to differ. Our crew tackled the Ruggles River on Ellesmere Island in 1992 and it’s a lot further north than the Thomsen.

But the Thomsen is an extremely attractive, isolated, waterway and canoeing it is an Arctic experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s only accessible by air and runs north on Banks Island through Aulavik National Park and ends up at M’Clure Strait. It’s a virtual Arctic zoo, home to the largest muskox colony in the world – with the largest nesting population of snow geese in the western Arctic. Sightings along the river will also include rough legged hawks, gyrfalcons, Peary caribou, Arctic hare, and a variety of waterfowl.

Archaeological sites dot the landscape in the Thomsen River Valley used by ancient Inuit cultures for thousands of years so hiking is recommended. With little elevation, the river tends to move slowly so there’s not much in the way of rapids or whitewater. The paddling is quite easy.

But these are barrens – cold and desolate – with little cover from the driving winds which were always a factor during our trip. Here are stories by Ted Johnson and Tim Kotcheff.


johnsonThe Thomsen – Which Way Is North? by Ted Johnson

“We’re picking up a shit-load of ice, Ted,” our pilot Ross Peden shouted back over his shoulder. “I’m going to have to turn back to Inuvik.” It had been half an hour since our Twin Otter had left the Arctic coast. The wings were becoming visibly caked with white rime ice. More


Tackling the Thomsen by Tim Kotcheff

We loaded the plane and took off. But weather reports en route indicated a low ceiling and heavy fog at Sachs Harbour, forcing us to abort the flight and return to Inuvik. And, due to continuing adverse weather conditions, our departure from Inuvik was stalled for three days. More

On the Thomsen River – August 1985

Group Thomsen

L-R: Tim Kotcheff, Peter Stollery, Ted Johnson, Craig Oliver, John Godfrey, Denis Harvey. 

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