Entering the Canadian Shield Country

Paddling up the Taltson River has gone well so far. The current is not very strong and the water level is low. We have witnessed a change in the landscape as we have traveled south. The in the delta of the Taltson, the banks were lined with mud. The farther upriver we go, the more rocky it gets. Granite dominates the landscape, along with lichen, moss, and Jack Pines. We have entered the Canadian Shield.



The Canadian Shield covers about half of Canada. Also called the Precambrian Shield or Laurentian Plateau, it is igneous and metamorphic rock that was formed in the Precambrian era, 500 million years ago. The landscape has been sculpted by the ice sheets of the last Ice Age. The ice sheets carried away much of the soil and scraped out numerous lake basins.

The weather had been really warm and sunny until a few days ago. Then, a wind from the north picked up and we experienced several days of clouds, rain, and even snow. The cold weather was welcomed, because it toned down the mosquitoes, and we didn't really break a sweat while paddling and portaging. Fennel seemed more perky in the cooler weather too.



Most of the portages have been at small rapids and we have been able to carry our stuff across the exposed granite rocks and ledges pretty easily. Where the river funnels down into a gorge, we have longer and more difficult portages. The most brutal, so far, was a mile-long portage. We began by hiking through a tangle of down trees and thick underbrush, the results of a forest fire. It got better as we worked our way along the rim of the gorge and we were thrilled when we found a rough, old trail. We still have a lot of food, so we had to shuttle everything across in two loads. It was a slow, time-consuming process.

Yesterday, we had to think creatively as we approached the Twin Gorges. There is a hydroelectric dam here, producing power for Fort Smith, Hay River, and Fort Resolution. Several sets of rapids lie downriver of the dam. We had several mini portages and then waded in the river and lined through slower, shallow rapids. We finished with a portage up to the top of the dam. This process took hours and while we were working, the sun came out, along with the black flies and mosquitoes!

We were welcomed warmly at the top by the power plant operator. His first question was, “how did you guys get here?” He raised an eyebrow and smiled when we had come from downriver and were working our way upriver. After a tour of the area, we showered, ate pizza for dinner, and chatted until dark.


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