*Please note that the order of activities/events is subject to change depending on weather and other factors beyond our control. The start and end location of the South Knife river portion also depends on weather and water levels.
Day 1: Overnight in Winnipeg
Be sure to arrive in Winnipeg this day to ensure a smooth connection and early arrival in Churchill the following day if possible.
Day 2: Churchill - Lazy Bear Lodge
Our adventure begins in Churchill, Manitoba. Which is a great opportunity to fine tune the kayaking skills, get a full trip orientation and meet the group and your guides on the water. In the evening we get together for a welcome dinner, then get a good rest before we set out in the morning. After dark in the later days of summer, there is a chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
Day 3, 4 & 5: South Knife River - Wilderness Camp
After a hearty breakfast we board our flight or helicopter to our river launch spot at Matonabee Creek in the rich, boreal forest of Northern Canada. We take some time to explore the woods around the Creek, discover the local flora and fauna, and savor that first impression of the northern wilderness. You may feel as if you are in a high mountain location as the climate here is similar.
Our next three days take us away from the normal comfort of civilization. This is like taking a trek back in time when the early explorers such as Sam Hearne and his trusted guide Matonebee spent two years walking across these same barren grounds to the Arctic Ocean carrying only the tools they needed to survive on their backs. They were employed by the Hudson Bay Company to “make peace and to make trade with the Indians.” Hearne became the first of his race to cross Canada’s barren grounds by foot and the first white man to see the North American moose and the Canadian musk ox. His exploration took him from Fort Prince of Wales in Churchill to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and back to Churchill. With a population density unchanged since Columbus came to America, the region you are entering remains much as he saw it over 230 years ago.
We set out at the South Knife River and launch our kayaks, catching the flow. The current in the South Knife river is about 8 knots, moving in our direction of travel, and for the next three days we will be covering about 100 river miles (which is about 50 air miles) from our put in to the delta. There are occasional, but thrilling, sections of moderate whitewater rapids (depending on water levels) on our route. Our gear and food will accompany us as we make our way into the wild.
After each a day on the river, we make camp in the wilderness. There is an abundance of wildlife here, including predators, and every trip is accompanied by an armed guide. You will be briefed on safety procedures to follow in the wilderness.
After each night we break camp, we slip our kayaks back into the river, continuing our wilderness journey. We paddle with dense forests on either side and open plains of arctic tundra. Our noiseless kayaks will allow us to pass through the wilderness surrounded by the sounds of the forest and the plains, without disturbing the natural beauty. Wildlife thrives here in this unspoiled territory. Keep a sharp-eyed lookout, you may catch sight of moose, black bear, or even wolf. Fish such as grayling and brook trout are abundant here (depending on water levels) in the clean, cold waters of the river.
We travel the last miles of the river to reach the delta. The exact distance we navigate into the shallow and rock-strewn waters of the delta will depend on the tides. A jet boat will be waiting in true ‘James Bond Style’ to carry us the remaining distance to Churchill. Weather and variable water conditions make this section of the Hudson Bay too hazardous for kayaking.
Our boat delivers us to the town of Churchill, where we check in once again at the Lazy Bear Lodge. Located on the main street of town, but still fortified against the local wildlife, the Lazy Bear Lodge is the largest handcrafted log building in all of Manitoba. Over 1,000 logs from trees harvested after a forest fire were hauled to town and trimmed, and the oddly twisted logs enhance the lodge’s frontier character.
Tonight we feast on indigenous foods of Manitoba at the Lodge. Local preparations such as Caribou Steak, Bison Pot Roast, and Arctic Char will grace our table (vegetarian and American options are also available).
Day 6: Churchill
Prepare yourself this morning for another truly one-of-a-kind kayaking experience! If you are up for a more relaxing style of kayaking this is your time to spend up close with pods of beluga whales—very friendly and welcoming. You also have an option to don a dry suit and snorkel among them (extra charge for snorkeling). A short kayak trip down the Churchill River takes us into the Bay and into the midst of hundreds of these intelligent arctic creatures.
The beluga whale population numbers close to 60,000 off the west coast of Hudson Bay. The whales congregate in the Churchill River estuary to feed on capelin and to give birth to their calves. You might see these three to four foot long “kids” alongside mom, acting just a wee bit careless. These whales come up very close; the distance they put between you and them is often measured in inches. You have an invitation to don a dry suit, grab a snorkel and go underwater to meet these gentle mammals face to face. They are so curious about us, that when we snorkel in the water with them, they often swim just underneath, investigating, and then come and look you right in the eye. This incredible experience is an option and is provided at an additional charge.
In the evening we return to the Lodge for dinner and a chance to relive the highlights of today’s watery adventures.
Day 7: Cultural & Heritage (town and area) Tour
Churchill is accessible only by train or plane, which makes this town a place that is a little on the wild side. Living in Churchill is a lot like living on an island in a sea of wilderness. There are no billboards, no chain restaurants, no traffic jams and no street noise. The city has plenty of history to share, and a unique culture shaped by its remoteness from crowded cities and towns. Churchill was settled over 300 years ago, as an outpost for the Hudson Bay Company, so there is plenty of history to this frontier metropolis.
Our tour today includes a visit to Historic Cape Merry and to the Polar Bear Jail, which is used to protect polar bears from the influences of downtown living. As you may have heard, Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world, and stories of bears in town are told often. When someone spots a polar bear too close to town, the bear is humanely trapped and placed in the Polar Bear Jail until he (or she) can be safely transported back to the wild. You'll see the jail firsthand and learn its history, to better understand the challenges of living on the frontier of a wilderness.
Day 8: Polar Bear Trip to Seal River
In the morning, we board a jet boat and head for the mouth of the Seal River. The crossing through the bay gives us about an hour and a half to look for beluga whales in pods and family groups. At the river mouth we leave the open waters of the bay and re-enter the wilderness that surrounds the little urban oasis of Churchill. The Seal River is considered one of Canada’s wildest wilderness rivers, tossed by rapids and white water, flowing through spruce forest and tundra. Named for the harbor seals that swim far into the river in search of fish, sometimes found as far upstream as 100 miles, the waters support a vast population of animals in the summer months: wolverine, herds of caribou, beluga whale (as many as 3,000) and polar bear come here to share the good times of late summer.
Polar bears leave the floe ice sometime near the middle of July as it melts away. Sometimes in summer, you can see a polar bear swimming near a large pod of beluga whales out in the Hudson Bay. They can get lucky and feast on a ringed seal or a beluga whale, both of which are on the polar bear summer menu. They also wander out of the icy waters and into the tundra regions outside of town. Besides polar bear, the wildlife viewing area we explore is home to arctic fox, arctic hare and other birds and animals of the sub-arctic north. Bring your binoculars and your camera. This excursion includes a bag lunch and as much fresh air as you can absorb in six hours!
Day 9: Beluga Whale Boat Tour
Enjoy a day to relax and check out the Eskimo Museum, Canada Parks Museum and various gift shops in town. You will also go on a 3 hour Beluga Whale Boat Tour to see our friendly Beluga Whales and the Prince of Wales Fort. In the evening we will celebrate our amazing adventure with a cheerful farewell dinner.
Day 10: Winnipeg
After your fun packed adventure it is time to check out of the Lazy Bear Lodge today and head back to Winnipeg. You can stay in Winnipeg longer or depart Winnipeg the following day for your journey home to tell of all the stories and share pictures of your wonderful adventure!