This past summer, I drove to Hay River in the Northwest Territories (via the boreal forest of Manitoba and Saskatchewan), and then paddled the 1125 mile Mackenzie River, from Great Slave Lake to the Arctic Ocean. Using a satellite tracker, I laid breadcrumbs along my route:
This is the land of the Dene, Gwitch’in, and Inuvialuit First Nations, and they know the river by a number of names–Deh Cho, for instance–all of which translate to “Big River.” And big it is. The entire journey took 40 days, somewhere between 800,000 and 1 million paddle strokes; I had time to do the math. In some places, the river takes an hour to paddle across. In others, you can’t even see the other side.
I’ll be writing a book about the journey, and about Alexander Mackenzie, the Scottish fur-trapper who lent his name to the river, as the first European to travel its length. In the meantime–with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting–I’ve written a number of dispatches and articles about the trip, specifically about the people I met, and how climate change is affecting them and the land.
Dispatch #3 – The Best Place in the World to Set a Forest Fire
Dispatch #4 – Making Solar Energy Where the Sun Doesn’t Set
Dispatch #5 –The Warmest Beach in Canada