Frequently Asked Questions
Are you wondering about joining an expedition with Canoe North Adventures? Great! Here are our most commonly asked questions to help you along the way.
Q: Why Canoe North Adventures?
A: CNA is a family owned an operated company, and has been for over 30 years. We take a personalized approach to every single person who dreams of coming to the north with us. We make sure that all of our guests are treated like family! Many of our alumni paddlers have become our close friends after their experience with CNA. We believe every Canadian and every visitor to Canada should experience the magic that is alive in the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut. We care deeply about the north and protecting and preserving the incredible wilderness that we paddle through.
We also know tripping in northern Canada like no one else. CNA is one of the only Paddling Tour Operators to exclusively focus on rivers of the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut. Owner Operators Al, Lin and Taylor have collectively paddled over 100 000 km on northern rivers, and we work constantly with our guide team to impart on them this knowledge and expertise. Our guides are all hand picked, and seasoned professionals in their own right (see below). Since 2014, with the completion of our Outfitting Center and B&B in Norman Wells, NWT, we have continually and tirelessly helped develop and promote northern tourism around the globe, and have continually given back to the northern communities we operate out of.
Q: Can I really do this?
A: In short, yes! Many of our prospective trippers worry about the physical and skill requirements involved in joining one of our expeditions. We understand completely, and during the trip planning process work with you to match an appropriate route to your skill and fitness level. With over 11 different rivers to choose from, we assure you that there’s a CNA trip that will be a perfect fit.
Q: What if I have no previous experience? Can I still join an expedition?
A: The answer is still yes! We recommend contacting us about our beginner or novice expeditions, such as the Nahanni, Upper Horton or Yukon Rivers. If you thirst for a more wild adventure, there are always a few spots available on our more challenging rivers for intrepid beginner or novice paddlers. Our experienced and certified guide team and staff will do everything they can to make whatever trip you choose within your reach.
Q: Can we bring our kids along?
A: Our minimum age for our canoeing adventures is 14 years old, with a weight limit of 80lbs. For our Nahanni Rafting Adventure the minimum age is 10 years old, with a weight limit of 50lbs. We love having the whole family along for the ride, a wilderness expedition is an incredible experience for all ages. Contact us about our family package rates, and which rivers are appropriate for a family experience.
Q: How long are your trips?
A: A standard canoe north adventures trip is 12 days long, not including travel days. Some of our itineraries are slightly shorter or longer. Some can be customized if you have a group who is on a tighter schedule. Our longest expedition is 24 days in length!
Q: You mean we’re wilderness camping in tents?
A: Yes, and it’s awesome! We take comfortable full sized camp chairs, tables, spacious 3 person tents for 2 people and many other luxuries that make this a wilderness camping experience unlike any other you have been on before (we prefer to call it “Glamping”).
Q: How about the food?
A: We hold nothing back when it comes to our menu. The days of eating dehydrated mush huddled around a campfire are long gone! As most rivers we paddle require little to no portaging or carrying of gear, we are able to take coolers and as much fresh food as we can load in our boats. We also cater to all sorts of different dietary preferences and allergies, so whatever you need to keep you full and happy we have you covered. Please ask us about our vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options, we promise you wont be disappointed!
Q: How do I go to the bathroom?
A: You will be thrilled to know that our wilderness latrine takes the uncertainty and anxiety out of the phrase “when nature calls”. Our set up consists of a sturdy three-legged toilet seat and tidy hole with the most stunning views imaginable. Paper products are discreetly collected and burned.
Q: What clothes or gear do I have to bring?
A: Our comprehensive gear list will be provided to you upon signing up for an expedition. Time tested over 30 years, this list makes sure you are prepared for anything. Other than your personal clothing and footwear, all you need to bring is your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad (for rafting expeditions the sleeping pads are included as well) All other paddling gear and camping equipment is provided–we take care of the rest!
Q: How are the bugs?
A: This our most frequently asked frequently asked question!
For any expeditions that take place in the Mackenzie Mountains, we are happy to report that biting insects are not a problem. There is little or no standing water and so it is poor habitat for them to thrive. We do recommend that you bring a small personal bottle of your own bug spray, and if you are allergic to mosquito or blackfly bites to bring a bug jacket, but you probably will not need or want to wear it. We understand that this is hard to believe, but trust us, this is one thing you will not have to worry about!
For any expeditions that take place further north east on the tundra, such as the Horton or Coppermine Rivers, mosquitoes and blackflies are more prevalent, but are easily managed. For these expeditions CNA brings along a bug enclosure that is large enough to fit the entire group. We recommend that everyone bring a bug jacket that has a head covering. Every year the situation changes, and some years bug jackets and tents are simply not needed, while others it is a welcome part of our daily kit.
Q: What about bears and other wildlife?
A: CNA offers expeditions in some of the most remote, pristine wilderness areas left on the planet. These intact ecosystems are important refuges for a myriad of different species that call them home, including bears, wolves, muskoxen, moose and caribou. We are thrilled when we get the opportunity to respectfully encounter these incredible animals in their natural habitat. Unlike in southern parks like Banff and Algonquin, wildlife in northern Canada has seen few, if any, humans before. Therefore it is quite common that any wildlife we encounter is quite timid, including bears and wolves. That being said we treat bears especially with incredible respect, and CNA has many different policies in place for bear safety that will be explained to you in detail should you join an expedition. We do not carry or allow firearms on an expedition, however we do carry in case of emergency bear spray, air horns, and bear bangers.
Q: What’s the weather like? How hot/cold does it get?
A: Our operating season is from June until early September every year. As we operate in a sub-arctic and arctic region, average summer temperatures are between 15-25 degrees Celsius, but can occasionally vary higher or lower. In fact it is sometimes possible for the temperature to fluctuate drastically within the span of an expedition. However, as many of our rivers like the Keele, Mountain and Nahanni are in the rain shadow of the Mackenzie Mountains, weather is generally pleasant and fair. Expect tundra trips, and expeditions departing in June or near the end of August, to be slightly cooler with a higher likelihood of inclement weather.
Q: Are the guides qualified?
A: CNA’s guide team is an incredibly skilled and qualified group of professionals. Most have spent their entire adult lives exploring in the backcountry, and many have graduated from university in adventure tourism or outdoor recreation. Our guides bring a wealth of wilderness experience to each expedition and are all certified Moving Water Instructors, Wilderness First Responders and River Rescue Technicians. They enthusiastically share their extensive experience with their groups and entertain everyone with tall tales around the campfire! Each Canoe North Adventures leadership team is typically comprised of at least two guides; an expedition leader and assistant. Our minimum guide ratio 1:5, but we often have groups with 3 or even 4 guide staff.
Q: What are the main differences between a rafting and canoeing expedition?
A: Good question!
Canoeing puts you in charge of your own craft with one other partner, who may be another trip participant or a guide. We often divide our canoeing groups up based on skill and experience, at least for the first few days, to allow everyone to get “up to speed” on the technique of navigating a northern river. Our guides focus will be primarily on building on the group’s paddling skillset, and will lead the group down the river “ducky style”- one canoe in front of the other. It is recommended that if you are interested in signing up on a whitewater canoe trip, you are able to kneel for an extended period of time. It is an incredible way to experience the wilderness, and there is nothing quite like successfully paddling your own canoe down a wild northern river.
Rafting is a more relaxed way to experience a northern river, allowing for almost anyone to join in the adventure- kids included! A typical raft holds 5 people, 1 guide and 4 guests, and hours and hours of engaging story telling and conversation. Rafting allows you to sit back and relax and truly take in the wilderness around you as you float by. As it is not necessary to paddle, you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee as your guide regales you with tales of the north and the geology, flora and faun and history of the river valley. Usually there are 2-3 rafts per expedition, each having tons of space for stuff that a canoe simply doesn’t have the room for, such as large tables and extra thick sleeping mattresses we provide. Expect that rafting trips will have slightly more creature comforts than canoe trips.
Q: Are flights included in the cost? How do I get there?
A: Flights to and from the north are not included in the expedition cost, however we do have outfitter pricing with Canadian North available to our guests. Depending on where you live and your destination, there are 4 major southern hubs for travel to the Yukon and NWT, which are Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Each of these hubs has daily service to either Yellowknife, NWT or Whitehorse, Yukon. Our Yukon Territory trips begin and end in Whitehorse, however to reach our bases in Norman Wells and Fort Simpson it is another short flight from Yellowknife further north.
Q: Can I drive to the trip starting point?
A: For trips originating out of Ft. Simpson (The Nahanni Raft and Classic Nahanni Expeditions) or out of Whitehorse (The Yukon and Snake Rivers) it is entirely possible to reach where our expeditions start by car. For all other expeditions, which originate out of Norman Wells, a flight is required to our base as there is no summer road access.
Q: All of this sounds great! How come I don’t see a sign up button? How do I join a trip?
A: As mentioned above, we are dedicated to personalizing every single expedition to fit your needs, requirements and skill/fitness level. This means we want to get to know you, and your hopes dreams and aspirations! You can begin the process of joining a CNA expedition by calling us or emailing us. We prefer to speak with you by phone, zoom or skype. You can expect an in depth and heartfelt response from us when we do connect.
We are sure that’s not all your wondering about. If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to give us a call!
For questions surrounding COVID-19, Please see our COVID-19 FAQ page