The Snake, the Bonnet Plume, and the Wind Rivers

by John Blachford

I’ve had the great fortune of paddling the Snake, the Bonnet Plume and the Wind Rivers in the Yukon Territory. Although they are very different as far as difficulty, the Wind being easy and the Bonnet Plume a challenge, they pass through magnificent country with wide valleys in some sections and mountains starting right at the river’s edge in others.

The hiking on all three is great, because the ground is dry and free of alders and small trees, and, of course, once you are high the views are incredible.

Campsites are plentiful and beautiful, often with many different kinds of flowers, especially mountain avens. The view is incredible, with the river twenty meters away on one side and a spectacular mountain rising up a few hundred meters on the other.

All three rivers flow into the Peel River, which itself is very attractive, with sections where there are high cliffs on both sides.

But there is a fourth river that I wish I‘d canoed. It is the Hart River and flows into the Peel a little west of the others. After Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, paddled it he wrote: “The area is beautiful and wild and unblighted by the disastrous footprint of our presence. To lose it to any form of development would be to give up on yet another pocket of our natural world, a tragedy of such magnitude that cumulatively it qualifies as terminal, that is, it will kill us.”

When I read that I immediately thought of what Margaret Atwood had written in the wonderful book CPAWS compiled, The Three Rivers, The Yukon’s Great Boreal Wilderness; “For many Canadians, the North is part of the imagined body. It’s an extension of the self, not the rational self but the self that feels. When the North is damaged and we hear about it, we hurt. The twenty first century will tell us – once and for all, I suspect – how much of ourselves we’re prepared to destroy.”

CPAWS has done so much over the years to protect the precious Peel watershed. That is just one of the many reasons why I am very proud to be a staunch supporter of CPAWS.