The Gulf Lake or Artiwinipec has the form of an isosceles triangle. The base on the south is 19 miles (30 km) long, while the perpendicular to the northern apex is 23 miles (37 km). It is surrounded by high hills. On the west, sharp cliffs, formed by the broken faces of the Manitounieck rock, which dip towards the sea, rise in places 1,200 feet (365 m) above the water. The south and east sides are bounded by lower rounded hills of Laurentian and Huronian rocks in part flanked by beds of limestone, sandstone and trap. These hills vary from 400 to 800 feet (122 to 244 m) in elevation. The surface of the Lake is broken by a number of high rocky islands, three of which are of considerable extent.
Small black spruce trees grow along the base of the hills, in the low valleys between them and on many of the islands. Everywhere else the rocky surface is partly covered only with a low arctic flora. On the higher parts of the hills numerous patches of snow were seen at the end of August. The water of the lake is deep and clear, and probably abounds with fish, judging from the presence of large numbers of seals and gulls which feed upon them.
In a small lake, which lies in a depression of the hills between the Gulf Lake and the coast and empties into the lake, the Esquimaux (now known as Inuit) catch large quantities of a small species of salmon which never exceed 10 lbs in weight. The rise of tide in the east bay is about 20 inches (50 cm)."Yes, the tides push in and out of the gullet pushing ice flows in and out at speeds greater than we can ever hope to paddle. Obviously, the Gullet is only one of the remarkable features that you will encounter on this “adventure-of-a-lifetime”. The area is soon to become a National Provincial Park.
The Richmond Gulf abounds in beluga whales, seals, eagles, cormorants, ptarmigan and even some black bears. We will likely see them all on this 7-day trip in this remarkable region. We will paddle up tributaries to see the spectacular waterfalls on the Rivière du Nord, Clearwater (Eau-Claire) River and the 350 foot (107 m) Katattulialuk Falls on the Wiachtiwan River - which to the Cree means “bright falls” (Rivière des Troyes).
We will hike the “cuestas” on the western shore, visit an abandoned Hudson Bay Post which is still quite livable, and view several late-Dorset subterranean dwellings that are surprisingly well-preserved for being over 1,000 years old. We might even meet Willie Tukaluk who was born in one of these dwellings in the Richmond Gulf – a dwelling with a roof of seal skins held up by whale bones. Yes, Willie now lives in Umiujaq and works with an archaeologist from Avataq during the summers.
The weather should be good on the east side of the Richmond Gulf with temperatures in between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. Night temperatures could occasionally go below freezing. Strong north westerly winds could bring in bouts of fog. A word about Pakcanoes: Pakcanoes are stable, light and packable. They pack into a 35 x 15 inch duffel bag that you can check as regular baggage on a plane. Portaging is easy since they weigh a mere 50 lbs compared to an ABS Old Town Tripper at 95 lbs. Joel and Bev Hollis reported on a trip they took on the Kuujjua River in Northern Quebec with an inflatable canoe, an Old Town Tripper and a Pakcanoe.
Here is part of what they had to say: “The inflatable canoe developed leaks in the bottom and floated very low because of the heavy load of gear. The Tripper did okay, but most of the vinyl outer layer wore off, and the Kevlar bang plates were badly ground down. The Pakcanoe developed some minor abrasion on the keel strip, but it was easily patched and it seemed to float higher than the other boats, which made it easier to drag in shallow rapids.”
The legendary Cliff Jacobson, after observing a group of Norwegians descending some serious rapids on the Hood River in the Northwest Territories which he had chosen to portage said he would never again thumb his nose at folding canoes. Pakcanoes enable one to travel on commercial air lines to remote locations that would be totally impossible or prohibitively expensive with ordinary canoes.
Day 1: We will meet at the Air Inuit counter at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal no later than 7:00 hours for our flight to Umiujaq. We will have breakfast on the flight. We will stop at Kuujjuarapic on our way to Umiujaq. If we are not fogged out we should arrive in Umiujaq at 12:30 hrs. We will load our gear onto a truck for transport by our Inuit partners to the Richmond Gulf a distance about 10 km (0.6 miles) on a rough road. We will assemble our canoes and may set up our first camp here. Some of us may wish to climb onto the plateau to the east or west of our campsite.
Day 2: We will pack up and attempt to paddle about 4 km (2.4 miles) east to the rapids and falls tumbling from the Rivière du Nord into the Richmond Gulf. We may attempt to hike up the river a few kilometres since the rapids and falls are continuous for over 4 km (2.4 miles). We will set up camp back on the Gulf and should have time to explore the area near our camp.
Day 3: Today we will pack up our camp and attempt to paddle south 15 to 20 km (9–12 miles) to camp again on the shore in a sheltered area or on a point near Qurngu Passage.
Day 4: We will spend a day hiking 280 m (1,000 ft.) to the top of Kaamachistaawaasaakaaw Hill to get great views of the surrounding terrain and the Gulf. This is the highest point on the east side about mid-way down the Gulf.
Day 5: We will continue paddling toward the mouth of the Caribou River and then through Quarngualuk Passage to the mouth of the Clearwater River where there is good campsite beside its turquoise waters.
Day 6: We will hike up the Clearwater River to see the rapids and falls - or it could be a rest day.
Day 7: We will paddle to the mouth of the Wiachtiwan (de Troyes) River and hike to Katattulialuk Falls for some breathtaking views of water dropping 100 m in about 1 km (300 ft. in 0.6 miles). We will then continue paddling 10 km (0.6 miles) to explore the abandoned Hudson Bay Post (Kampanikkut Illuqarvinga) at the south-east corner of the Richmond Gulf where we will camp for the night. This is a good place to see beluga whales and seals.
Day 8: We will begin our paddle westward in the lee of Cairn Island where there was an earlier Hudson Bay Company Post and Richmond Fort (built in 1750). We will camp here and explore the archeological diggings and perhaps hike to the top of Cairn Island. Paddling distance will depend on the winds but we should try to do at least 16 km (10 miles).
Day 9: We should reach the Gullet today and set up camp among the archaeological remains from the Dorset period. We should have time to visit the remains of Inuit shelters from the Devonian period and to climb the 325 m (1,000 ft.) Presqu’ile Castle for views of the Gullet, Nastapoka Islands and Hudson Bay.
Day 10: A rest day at the Gullet with more hiking or canoeing in the area. We may decide to portage our canoes 1 km (0.6 mi.) across the Presqu’ile Castle to avoid a long paddle around it if we decide to paddle up the west shore of the Gulf on day 10.
Day 11: Wind permitting we may paddle through the Gullet and north up the coast of Hudson Bay or we may paddle north up the west shore of the Gulf towards Umiujaq. If we are lucky paddling on the Gulf we could camp at a sheltered site opposite Little Qurnquup Island where a short hike will take us to Pamtullagusiup Lake.
Day 12: This is a day reserved for the possibility of being windbound any where in the trip.
Day 13: We will paddle the rest of the way to the north end of the Richmond Gulf and camp there or continue up the east coast of Hudson Bay to Umiujaq and camp on our way.
Day 14: We will pack up our Pakcanoes, tents and gear and, if at the north end of the Gulf, wait for a truck to take us back to Umiujaq. We should arrive in time to catch our flight back to Montreal around 16:00 hours fog permitting.
Trip cost is $2,299 based on 5 people from Umiujaq payable to Bill Pollock by cheque or money order in Canadian funds and includes canoes, life vests, paddles, tents, all food and group gear. A gear list, application form and safety rules are available on our web site or call us. Costs of flight delays due to weather are not included. Our trip starts at the Trudeau International Airport in Montreal but does not include your air fare. You must book your own flight to Umiujaq. There are likely special prices for seniors (as much as 50% off).
- Subject to change due to wind, weather and the desires of the group. It is likely that we will be wind bound for one or more days. If we are delayed due to wind we will arrange for our Inuit partners to pick us up by freighter canoe
- Scheduled trips are on July 4 - July 15. Other trips can be arranged on other dates for a minimum of 5 people.
- From Umiujaq, QC. 20% required to register
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