A Winnipeg man says he is lucky to have survived a canoeing accident in a Yukon lake, but he is also devastated that his best friend did not make it.

Ben Shedden and his friend, Matthew MacIntyre, were visiting the territory when the rented canoe they were in capsized in Fish Lake, near Whitehorse, on Thursday.

Shedden told CBC News he swam in frigid waters to a nearby island, but MacIntyre did not get to shore with him.

"That was the closest shore that we were aiming for, and if he wasn't there, something else must have happened," he said in an interview Wednesday.

Yukon RCMP later recovered MacIntyre's body from the lake.

RCMP have said the pair were on the lake when the wind picked up and the lake became choppy.

Shedden said at one point, he stood up in the canoe to stretch his legs when a big wave came up and knocked him off balance, causing the canoe to flip.

The two tried to swim to shore, but Shedden said he and MacIntyre became separated along the way.

"I just remember yelling back to him and trying to see what was wrong," he said.

"He was not giving me any verbal indication except for some moans and some groans."

Shedden said once he arrived on the island, he was able to light a fire that he said kept him alive overnight.

"I was freezing cold," he said.

"All my clothes were completely saturated in icy cold water, and the wind was probably about 50 to 70 kilometres an hour at that point, so it was cutting through all my clothes."

The next day, he swam and hiked to his car, then drove to Whitehorse and called for help he said.

Shedden said while he is fortunate to have survived the accident, he has been a wreck over the death of MacIntyre, who he described as being like a brother to him.