Trail Cafe: Trip report - Nahanni Day 10-11 Lafferty Creek to take out


Title: Nahanni Day 10-11 Lafferty Creek to take out
Trip type: canoeing
Summary: Paddle from Lafferty Creek, through the splits, to Nahannie butte (twn), then on to Swan Point on the Liard River.
Author: M. Tanton
Date of Trip: Aug 2004
Country: Canada
Province: NWT
County/City/national park/etc: Nahannin National Park - Liard River
Location Route: Nahanni/Liear Rivers
Distance: 95km during a long day
Weather Conditions:Day one good, some wind. Second day rain on and off
Directions to Set in or Trail head: See Day 1
Directions to Set in or Trail head: Paddle to the Blackstone landing (park).
Partners: G. Watson, R. Barrow
Group experience level: Intermediate
Author's Experience level: Intermediate
Water Flow Rate: typical Aug.. fairly low.
River grade: Grade I+ - Novice With some obsticles or grade II rapids.
Rapids and Hazards:
Hazards indicated, some are described below
easyest route:
Description: The primary hazard here are sweepers, and getting seperated in the splits. The mosquitoes are nasty.
Authors Trip Rating: Over all V. Good.

Map is Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved.
map from the website

The Trip Report:

Long day Lafferty Creek to Swan Point, to avoid stopping in the splits, this was a 95km day longer than our two previous longest days added together. For much of the day, on a river that was slower than the previous parts of the trip. Have your mosquitoes repellent handy.

Glen heading out after Lafferty rapid. Glen heading out after Lafferty rapid.
Today starts with an 9:00 start on the water! Miracles do happen, but then we all know we have a long day in store. First things first - We need to deal with Lafferty's Rapid. Glen of course is keen to run, so we put him solo (with all my gear), and Rich and I head out first. We skirt the rapid, getting a few waves, but missing the most part. The plan is to get ahead, and if required rescue Glen. Glen takes the a bit more aggressive, but not through the worst, and is fine.

Kraus' Cabin at Kraus hot spring Kraus' Cabin at Kraus hot spring
Not long after Lafferty's rapid comes Kraus Hot springs. We pull off the river, to check them out. The reek of sulfur, and the 'muck' of the springs does not make it to appealing. The campsite is currently a no camp zone, I forget why. The grass is long, we walk through it to check out Kraus' cabin. I seem to recall that it too was full of paddles, and a plaque to a poor fellow who had a heart attack on the river earlier this year. Although I may be confusing it with Pattersons cabin. This cabin and Patterson's cabin are very simple affairs, and small. But the back yard, and views are fantastic. I could live there, at least in the summer, with lots of deet.

There is about 22km before you get to the splits, and about 2/3rds of that is still fast water, running around 7-10km per hour. Right around the park boundary it then drops to 4-5km per hour.

The Splits are where the river starts breaking into multiple channels. Full of islands, as the river winds its way to Nahanni Butte. It may be be worth noting that my GPS track shows us moving through areas that are not marked as channels on the toporama maps. We ended up in one of the smaller channels, on purpose, to check it out. A minor mistake, as it really slowed to nil current, and we had to paddle to make head way. The Splits are totally different from the upper portions of this trip. You are not surrounded by cliffs that are just at waters edge any more. The river is often shallow.

Glen in or near the splits Glen in or near the splits
Glen had the map, and mentioned 'we are about to enter a big meander'... then a 'that was not it' . About 2/3rds of the way through again he made the same comment. In a flash of stupidity, with Rich sleeping in the Bow, I padded to a side stream to 'cut off' the big meander. Problem was Glen was out in the main channel. Our channel ended up running parallel to Glens, As streams flowed from the main to ours and out, I could see Glen. We were keeping pace. However we ended up in slow water, and Rich had to get up to paddle. For a km or so we did not see Glen. We then came out to the main channel. with a good view both up and down stream... no Glen.

So now what? we are split up in the splits, yes I realized at that point what a dummy I was. I figure we would have seen Glen if he was on the main channel, we were pretty sure this was the main channel. I figured he was behind, Rich though he would be ahead. We decide to paddle up to the next bend, where we had a fairly long view ahead... No Glen. So we floated, dead adrift for about 20 minutes. Glen did not catch up. Now the debate resumed. Would glen have stopped to wait, or have continued on? He knew we were going to Nahanni Butte for the next planned stop. Rich knowing Glen better than I figured he'd gone on. "So now he must be way ahead, we put down some steam, and eventually came to a point with a long view ahead. no Glen there, we raced on... Another bend were we had a long view. No Glen. After that we decided, that well, he must be behind, and we drifted for over an hour. No Glen. During our drift however we do run into a boat going up river. Unfortunately they just got on the river from a camp over the night. They did not see Glen, we ask if they do see a lone canoeist to tell stop and tell him we are going on to Nahanni Butte. With that we decide to get to Nahanni Butte and wait there, wondering if Glen was enjoying a burger by now.

We eventually come to 'the big meander. where the river takes a jog towards Nahanni butte (mtn), then away for a few km, and back again. On the final approach to Nahanni Butte, there is a 7km or so stretch of strait river. The wind is picking up, and we are running strait in to it. Glen's going to have trouble. He is not on the river in front of us.

We get to the campsite at Nahanni butte. It is a maintained campsite, although not recently. We pull off on a mud flat and walk up to shore. The mosquitoes do not seem that bad... on the mud flat. We walk up the bank, and to the site, in 1.5ft tall grass. After about 30 seconds we are running full speed for the Boat. The mosquitoes are INSANE here. Rich is wearing shorts, with near panic shouts of "paddle! Paddle" as we shove off. He is standing in the canoe trying to get his pants on. I'm trying to paddle, brace, and swat at the same time. Finally Rich gets his legs covered, on finds the stashed away deet, and we are mostly protected. Richard is wearing a neoprene wet suit. On his back are literally thousands of mosquitoes, probably 10 per square inches.

We hear later that the mosquitoes are really bad this year, even for Nahanni Butte, one of the locals tells us that it flooded in June, and stayed very wet. He did say it was getting a bit better now, but that almost made him wish for winter. After the trip, Glen tells us he heard the mosquitoes killed two dogs this summer. I can believe that.

A little beyond the campsite is the town site. There is a dock, and a boat just pulling in. they are unloading stuff, and moving it to town. We pull in, the only canoe there... no Glen. hmm. Well it turns out it is Sunday and the local restaurant is closed. We were looking forward to a burger. oh well. We chat with the two guys unloading the boat. The unlock what looks like the community center and let us stay a bit to wait for Glen. Its approaching dusk, and they are not willing to run up into the splits past a certain point as the river gets shallow. We wait for 1/2 an hour. I walk out to look around, and find Glen walking up the dock. I'm more than slightly relieved, and immediately apologies for being such a dolt.

Rich and I've washed up, and used the bathroom... Glen does the same. Glen tells us that he stopped to wait at a channel he thought we'd pull out of, but he'd stopped upstream from the one we actually did. He waited for some time, and finally was just heading off when, a boat pulled up and told him we were on the river. He did mention that he had trouble with the wind. I'm not surprised, he'd had a long day solo (about 80km). There is no way we are staying at Nahanni Butte campsite due to the mosquitoes. Swan point is about15km further on, and we know it is a very large bend with sand, and likely the best place for lack of mosquitoes. So off we go. Glen is tired, and we put rich in solo.

We see a couple boats running up to Nahanni Butte. On river right we see a large animal on the side of the river. At first I think it is a bison, but as it gets up and crashes into the trees, I'm not so sure. Looks like a Yak (Do Yak's liver here?), maybe it was a harry big cow. Further down stream on river left there is a large shape that does look like a Bison standing drinking water. It is far away, it is twilight, and hard to see. It does not seem to move as we get closer. It is huge, and I come to the conclusion it must just be a large rock out near the waters edge. Just then it decides to turn around and walk back towards the trees. Wow, bison are really big.

Speaking of Big, the Liard River joins the Nahanni. The Nahanni was already the biggest river I've paddled on , Bigger than the North Saskatchewan in Edmonton. The Liard is much bigger than the Nahanni, Big enough that the fetch from the width, and a light breeze is enough to generate some 12inch waves. We are all tired, at least Glen and I are, Rich is solo, and doing well. We manage to keep a 8-10km pace as we plod on to Swan point.

Swan point is a Massive bend in the river, where the bank is all sand. probably a km from the tree line. Currently it is larger than the 1:50 topo map shows it. My way point is 1km out into the water. (yes the map shows the river over a km wide here, and it is typically over 1/2 a km wide). As we approach our destination for the night we drift... and listen.
There is a buzz, a low level drone really, coming from the far bank. It is quite dark now. The mosquitoes are out in force, to be on the south bank would be a nightmare based on the sound coming off it. In fact in drifting we came within 20m of the nice quite North shore, and were jumped by a small horde of mosquitoes and had to head further out.

We pull into swan point, and even in the sand walking around is stirring up mosquitoes. I made another minor mistake, I took off my river shoes (and neoprene socks) to change into my dry shoes. The mistake was taking both shoes off first before putting the dry ones one. After getting a sock and shoe on, I looked at my other foot, and went to wipe the sand off. Only it was not sand, it was covered in mosquitoes. I suspect I broke the record for mosquitoes kills in one swat in Neil Hartings book, but I did not count.

I get my tent setup, which consists of setting up the tent for a minute, running away from the mosquitoes cloud, getting back and working a few minutes. We seriously debate if it is worth trying to cooks supper, of if we should just sleep. Hunger wins out over fear of blood loss. I go to bed, and spend 20 minutes killing mosquitoes before going to sleep. But still need to kill a dozen or so of the plump red ones in the morning.

The weekend after this trip I was at a family reunion of sorts, which was held in Swan Hills, Alberta. Many of the people there were complaining about how bad the mosquitoes were... with out a word of a lie, I had not even noticed them.

The next day Mosquitoes in the morning were nearly nonexistent. The rest of the paddle consisted of another 15-20km paddle to Blackstone landing. This was an easy paddle, although a storm threatened to over take us. We did get rained on, but not bad. I'd marked a way point for Blackstone river, We did not take the book out and nearly paddled up the river a bit. But figured out that was wrong and went to the 'park landing' way point.

There is a real campsite, at the take out. It has a visitors center, I think I ate 1/2 their cookies. A nice place to sit back, watch a video on the region. check out the displays, etc. A few hours later, and our taxi picked us up and drove us back to Ft. Simpson.

I took some talking but, we convinced Rich that we needed to stay at the hotel and get a shower, rather than the town campsite.


Glen heading out after Lafferty rapid.

Kraus' Cabin at Kraus hot spring

Glen in or near the splits

Content Copyright M. Tanton 2006

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