Great River Journey, a First Nations tourism venture that sold $1,000-a-day wilderness tours on the Yukon River, has been given more time to come up with a bankruptcy protecton plan.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower granted Great River Journey, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, 45 more days to work out a plan.

The company has more than $10 million in debts, and it is seeking $2.5 million to relaunch, president George Asquith said Monday.

"It's a very difficult situation to be in — and certainly not where I want to be — but that's where we are," Asquith told reporters outside court.

Tours still viable, president says

Great River Journey has been owned jointly by Great Northern Journeys Inc., a private company, and an aboriginal development corporation representing four Yukon First Nations.

The company charged $5,495 US for a five-day, four-night tour, and $6,495 US for a week-long tour, according to its website.

Asquith insisted that Great River Journey's Yukon River tours are still viable, pointing to glowing reviews in prominent and upscale travel magazines.

"I don't think you'd find anywhere that any company, in its first year, was 'top 50 trips of a lifetime' with National Geographic Traveler," he said.

In court, Asquith's lawyer said if the extension was not granted, there would be little the company can give to its secured creditors — and nothing for its 76 unsecured creditors, most of which are small Yukon companies.

Public, private funds spent

Great River Journey has gone through millions of dollars in federal and territorial grants and loans, as well as a number of private investments.

Asquith said most of the money was spent on staff training, as well as partnering and marketing. The three lodges the company built along the Yukon River are still unpaid for, he admitted.

Asquith added that Great River Journey actually had 60 clients booked by mid-winter, but their deposits have since been returned. For now, the company is in talks with several private investors, he said.

"There are no guarantees. We're just doing the best we can to put together some new investment and some  investors to join with us to go forward," Asquith said.

"We've got some really good interest from professionals and from folks outside, but this is a difficult situation we're in."