As the northernmost of Manitoba’s great rivers, the Seal River flows freely, unhindered by dams and other developments. Its path spans 260 km from its source (Shethanei Lake) to Hudson Bay, yet it is roughly 200 km from the coast that the waters are first greeted by eager and unexpected ambassadors of the ocean: harbour seals. In this location, the river’s namesake animal likely strays further from their marine environment than anywhere else on earth. Carving a path east through untouched subarctic forest, the surrounding landscape plays host to black bear, wolf, fox and wolverine, as well as moose, beaver, otter, eagle, osprey and boreal songbirds. The scents of spruce and lichen mingle as the landscape transitions to tundra and to the peat rich soils of the Hudson Bay lowlands, North America’s largest wetland.
This trip is run in co-operation with Black Feather.
Trip at a Glance
Whitewater wilderness canoe trip
Length: 16 days
Skill Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Dates: July 1 to 16, 2021
Trip Fees: $7695 CAD
Trip Rendezvous: Thompson, Manitoba
Trip Departure: Churchill, Manitoba
Our trip on the Seal River will start with a charter float plane into Shethanei Lake. From here, we’ll head downstream, tracing the watercourse to Hudson’s Bay. We will encounter some rocky ‘pool and drop’ rapids, a number of small canyon sections and some longer rapids that are technical. As we will be paddling in early season, the water could be fairly high and cold. As we near the coast, the trees will dwindle, and we’ll enter the Arctic tundra. We also expect that there will be a healthy supply of mosquitos and black flies! At the coast, we’ll meet our boat shuttle across Button Bay to Churchill. During this ride, we’ll have our eyes peeled for Polar Bear and beluga whales. Once in Churchill, we’ll check into our hotel for a hot shower and enjoy a dinner and overnight.
Day 1 Thursday, July 1st, 2021 - Travel to Thompson, Manitoba
- Pre trip meeting, gear check, dinner, overnight in Thompson (own expense)
Day 2 Charter to Seal River
- Breakfast, charter flight to Tadoule Lake
- Set up camp, canoe skills review
Day 3-14 Paddle the Seal River
- The Seal River flows through a mix of boreal forests at the southernmost edge of Canada's tundra. Because it travels through this transition zone, the river travels through dense forests, as well as portions of the barren and rocky subarctic wilderness. The Seal River offers an outstanding wilderness white-water canoeing experience that only a small number of adventurers undertake each year. The challenging river trip includes cold-water lake paddling, long sets of rapids and a boulder-strewn tidal estuary. Hikes to the tops of eskers reward visitors with a 360 degree vista of a totally natural environment. We will camp each night on a rocky outcropping, or by a sandy esker. Finally, we will arrive at the tidal estuary, where we will meet our boat shuttle across Hudson’s Bay to the town of Churchill.
Day 15 Thursday, July 15th, 2021 - boat shuttle to Churchill, Manitoba
- Optional Group Dinner and overnight in Churchill (own expense)
What is Included in the Trip Price
•Guides - 5:1 ratio
• Excellent meals from Day 2 lunch to Day 15 lunch
• 17’ Prospector expedition canoes
• Paddles, PFD, helmets (you may bring your own)
• Throw lines and other safety accessories
• Camping Equipment:
• Tents - free standing custom expedition dome tents - 2 per tent
• ‘Kitchen’ - tarp, fire box, cooking stoves, utensils, dishes, etc
• First aid and repair kits, communications equipment (satellite phone)
• Canoe rescue gear
• Charter flight to Tadule Lake on Day 2
• Motorboat shuttle from the mouth of the Seal River to Churchill on Day 15
• Transportation of guides, group gear, canoe etc to and from trip
What is not Included in the Trip Price
• Manitoba tax: 12% of the trip fee
• Personal clothing and gear - a recommended clothing & equipment list will be provided
• Travel between your home and the trip rendezvous - Thompson and Churchill, Manitoba
• Accommodation and meals in Thompson and Churchill (Day 1, Day 15)
• Any additional expenses or costs incurred as a result of delays to the trip caused by factors beyond our control - i.e. wind, waves, unsafe paddling conditions, forest fire, pandemic, etc
• Any costs associated with your emergency evacuation from the trip - please contact us at CRCO for more information
• Gratuities - we recommend $12-$15 per day per guide
The Seal is one of Canada’s Canadian Heritage Rivers. It begins its course at Shethanei Lake, ringed by magnificent sand-crowned eskers, then passes through stands of black spruce and develops into a series of rapids and gorges. Beyond the boreal forest, the river flows into a transitional subarctic environment known as the “Land of Little Sticks,” and then through arctic tundra and boulder fields until it reaches the estuary on Hudson Bay.
The Seal remains the largest undammed river in northern Manitoba and exhibits numerous glacial features such as 300 metre-wide eskers extending up to several hundred kilometres in a north-south direction. This challenging river trip includes cold-water lake paddling, long sets of rapids and a boulder-strewn tidal estuary.
The Seal River area played an important role in aboriginal hunting, fishing and travelling. There are a large number of prehistoric artifacts and archaeological sites in the area, with finds dating from the Paleo-Indian peoples of 7,000 years ago, to the Taltheili who existed from 1 C.E. to 1700 C.E. The river is also closely associated with the European explorer Samuel Hearne of the Hudson’s Bay Company who left Prince of Wales Fort, near Churchill, in February 1771 and followed the Seal River inland on foot to Shethanei Lake. Today, the Sayisi Dene, descendants of the people who assisted Samuel Hearne on his historic overland trek to the Arctic coast, continue their ancestors’ traditional use of and reverence for this river.
The river corridor provides habitat for approximately 30 plant species rarely found in Manitoba, as well as for wildlife such as moose, black bear, wolf, fox, snowshoe hare, ptarmigan, Canada goose, ducks, otter and beaver. Particularly notable species found in the area include wolverine, golden and bald eagle, osprey, beluga whale, harbour seal, barren-ground caribou and polar bear. The river’s estuary on Hudson Bay is the calving and feeding grounds for 3,000 beluga whales, one of the largest concentrations in the world. The river is named for the harbour seals (normally marine creatures) that are found up to 200 km upstream from Hudson Bay.
Our menus are delicious and nutritious. Everyone helps out cooking meals over a wood fire or camping stove from a combination of fresh, dried and freeze-dried products. Breakfasts consist of cereal, fruit and a main course such as blueberry pancakes or eggs and bacon. At lunch you will enjoy a selection of breads (rye bread, bagels, tortillas) with cheeses, sliced meats or veggies ... and of course, good old peanut butter and jam, followed up by cookies or fruit. Dinner consists of hors d’oeuvers, a main course then dessert. Entrees include chicken stir fry and pesto / pine nut / red pepper pasta. Perhaps we’ll have a salad and finish up with brownies or a lemon desert. On cooler days, a hearty mug of steaming soup is always available, along with tea, coffee, hot chocolate or cold drinks. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions you should contact our office. You will be required to assist in your menu preparation. We don’t want anyone going hungry or reduced to eating boring food!
Your Black Feather and CRCO guides are exceptionally qualified. Each principal guide has an extensive outdoor background, formal training and leadership experience. On most expeditions there will be an assistant guide. The guides are always ready to provide coaching and helpful advice on any aspect of the trip and will attempt to maximize the spirit of adventure for each individual. Your safety is their prime concern and your guide will make decisions with this in mind. We must stress that listening carefully to instructions given by the guide is your responsibility and in the best interest of you and the group. Each group member is encouraged to contribute to the tasks of the canoe trip and your guides will act as helpful resource people. Lastly, as this is your holiday, the Black Feather and CRCO guides have a real sense of fun and excitement, and will help to make this your trip of a lifetime!
The weather is affected by it’s proximity to Hudson Bay, and the area gets most of it’s annual precipitation in July. Expect temperatures to range from freezing (0 C) to 30 C, but averaging from 15 to 20 C. A good rain suit is recommended along with thermal protection, paddling suit, wet suit or dry suit.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Seal River trip meets in Thompson, Manitoba and ends at Churchill, Manitoba. There are daily flights from Winnipeg to Thompson via Calm Air. You should arrive in Thompson on Thursday July 1st, and can depart on or after Friday, July 16th, 2021.
This trip is rated Intermediate/Advanced Level—Previous experience is required. The trip is best for paddlers with previous whitewater canoeing experience. You do not need to be an expert. Yet you should be familiar with all whitewater maneuvers and safety. The rapids range from easy swifts and short rapids to more challenging sustained whitewater with rocks, ledges, drops and large waves. There are some monitory portages. These can be in poor condition, and will undoubtably have poor footing and mud. You should be prepared to carry your share of the group’s load. The pace will be fairly brisk but we will have time for instruction anc coaching along the way. At the campsite, everyone pitches in with setting up tents, collecting firewood, preparing meals, telling stories, etc. The guides coordinate things and are always ready to assist you in any tasks. On the river they will provide expert coaching and lots of personal attention.
YES, we highly recommend you to purchase 1) Emergency Medical/Evacuation Insurance, 2) Trip Interruption Insurance and 3) Trip Cancellation Insurance. Many credit card companies offer limited interruption/cancellation insurance, so please consult with yours before you book your trip to ensure you are adequately covered. Please also note that some types of insurance are only valid if they are purchased within a short time of making a non-refundable payment towards a trip. More information about these can be obtained through your preferred insurance provider. Prior to confirming your trip’s departure, we will ask you to sign a waiver stating you have either purchased adequate insurance or that you will be personally responsible and financially liable for any costs incurred as the result of any delays/cancellations/evacuations to you on your trip.