Winnipeg brothers ride Mackenzie River on makeshift raft

Two brothers from Winnipeg have reached the end of a journey straight out of Mark Twain, reaching Inuvik, N.W.T., after paddling a homemade raft more than 1,100 kilometres down the Mackenzie River.

Mike and Aubrey Krahn left nearly 2 months ago, rode river for about 1,100 kilometres

Two brothers from Winnipeg have reached the end of a journey straight out of Mark Twain, paddling a makeshift raft about 1,100 kilometres down the Mackenzie River.

The pair's trip began at Cameron's Point, 120 kilometres north of Wrigley, N.W.T., with the goal of riding the Mackenzie all the way to Inuvik. The duo arrived in the territory with little more than an idea. However, they corralled the help of some locals, who helped them locate plywood and other supplies at the local dump, and set off in late June.

'The thing was a work in progress the whole way down,' Aubrey Krahn writes. (submitted by Aubrey Krahn)
"I've done canoeing and other outdoor stuff before, and I thought you know, I could probably build a raft," said Aubrey Krahn, who made the trip with his brother Mike. 

"We could have a floating camp, we could cook on it, we could relax. And I figured, yeah, let's go for it.

What did local people make of the idea? 

"I think there was some doubts," said Aubrey, of when they set out.

"The raft wasn't completely finished yet. But people were incredibly helpful to us, the whole way along."

"The raft has been getting better ever since we've been moving," said Mike.

"It's been a work in progress, the whole way up the river."

The brothers' two-month journey took them through multiple N.W.T. communities, and past plenty of other Mackenzie River travellers. Without functional paddles and relying on the current for speed, though, they were often left in the dust.

"I think we were the first ones on the river, but as soon as we built the raft, everybody passed by us," said Mike, with a laugh.

"We got to see a lot of them again in Tsiigehtchic, on the ferry."

The Mackenzie River is known for some rough waters, but unusually low water levels in the N.W.T. made this season a calm one. 

"At the first set, Sans Sault rapids, there was so little water we actually got stuck in the channel," Aubrey said. "We had to get up and push ourselves off. And for the ramparts [near Fort Good Hope], we saw some big water but we went around all of it." 

The brothers covered about 1,100 km of the Mackenzie River, from just north of Wrigely to Inuvik. (CBC)

'For the adventure, I guess'

The Krahns' decision to raft the Mackenzie was an innocuous one: Aubrey pitched the idea to Mike last winter, who thought the idea "beat working."

'I've done canoeing and other outdoor stuff before, and I thought you know, I could probably build a raft,' said Aubrey Krahn. (submitted by Aubrey Krahn)
"Why do we want to do it?" said Mike. "For the adventure, I guess. Why not? It's fun."

The brothers arrived in Inuvik last Saturday, and say that their trip was a memorable one: during their journey, they saw forest fires, tried caribou ("my new favourite meat," said Mike), and saw plenty of local wildlife, including a muskox.

"Being from Manitoba, we'd never saw that before, so we were quite excited," said Aubrey.

Now that the rafting portion of their journey has come to an end, the Krahn's plan to hitchhike down the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Whitehorse. Their grandfather built part of the road, "so we want to kind of see what he did," said Aubrey.

Reflecting on their journey, Mike said that "it's really nice to finally be done." 

"There's a big sense of relief, and a little bit of sadness too, seeing that we've come this far on the raft, and now the journey's done."

And as for tips for other would-be Huck Finns: "I would bring a chainsaw next time," said Aubrey, laughing.


  • This story has been edited to clarify the distance travelled.
    Mar 06, 2018 10:24 AM CT


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