James Swan and 6 friends to paddle the adventure of a lifetime

James Swan and six friends are preparing to paddle more than 1,400 kilometres, across some of the most remote wilderness in Canada.

Group to travel through grizzly and polar bear territory along 1,400 kilometre journey

James Swan and six friends take off on their canoe adventure in July. (supplied)

Their families think they're nuts but that's not stopping seven Manitobans from paddling more than 1,400 kilometres across some of the most remote parts of northern Canada.

On Sunday, July 3, James Swan and his six friends will set off for northern Saskatchewan. From there, they'll paddle through Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and back into Manitoba — finishing where the Seal River meets Hudson Bay, north of Churchill.

As far as the group knows, they're the first people to paddle these waterways in this order. Swan said the trip began with an idea of paddling the Seal River — which he describes as one of Manitoba's last, great un-dammed rivers — and grew from there.

"I sat down with a bunch of maps and some route logs and Google Maps and I figured out where water connected and we figured out this route," Swan said.

In addition to the pleasure of being in the wilderness — Swan said he "recharges" on canoe trips. The team will also be gathering information for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Manitoba and are being supported by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. 

To call the route remote is an understatement. Swan says the closest they'll get to a community, Tadoule Lake, is about 100 kilometres.

The group is made up of students, recent graduates and a school teacher (Swan). But they're all experienced paddlers.

Swan and his partner Augusta Stobbe paddled the Bloodvein River, east of Lake Winnipeg last year. And Paul Schram and Hadley Burns recently paddled all the way from Thunder Bay to Manitoba as Path of the Paddle Trail Ambassadors.

The rest of the team has similar experiences.

Still, they're not taking any chances.

The team has packed ten extra days of food, notified local RCMP detachments about their itinerary and are carrying the latest in satellite communications equipment — a donation from one of their sponsors, InReach Canada. The team is also being supported by local businesses including Wilderness Supply and Gorp Bars.

That doesn't mean Swan is totally at ease.

He said they're going to be in grizzly bear territory for most of the trip and then they'll have to watch out for polar bears.

There's also some pretty intense weather to worry about, he said.

"We're kind of nervous about those harsh winds that come up, and you're windbound," said Swan.

"I was reading one account of someone who wasn't able to paddle for up to eight days just because the winds wouldn't allow them to get back on the water."

Regardless of the butterflies in his stomach, as he prepares to leave, Swan said he can't wait for the adventure to begin.

James Swan talks about the canoe adventure with CBC Information Radio's Marcy Markusa

7 years ago
Duration 3:56
Their families think they're nuts but that's not stopping seven Manitobans from paddling more than 1,400 kilometres across some of the most remote parts of northern Canada.