The South Nahanni River - a canoeist’s mecca

After discovering the beauty, grace, and adventure of canoeing in 1987, Michael and Kathleen Pitt devoted most of their free time to gaining paddling experience throughout southern British Columbia. Their first canoeing adventure in the Northwest Territories occurred in 1990, when they paddled three weeks and 565 km down the South Nahanni River.

The Kelsey Ecological Society will be hosting slide show on March 24, at Preeceville Club 60 featuring the adventurous couple.

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“The South Nahanni River enjoys a worldwide reputation as a premier wilderness canoeing adventure. Virginia Falls (twice the height of Niagara), canyon walls rising 1,000 m above river level, geological formations that escaped recent glaciations and abundant wildlife enhance the region's sinister reputation for danger, as evidenced in place names such as Deadman Valley, Headless Creek, Funeral Range and Broken Skull River," stated Michael and Kathleen.

The couple continued to return to the Northwest Territories and in 1993 they spent 37 days all alone in the Barren Grounds, paddling 950 km along the Thelon River to Baker Lake at the head of Chesterfield Inlet on Hudson Bay. They returned to the North in 1995 to spend four weeks traveling 650 km down the Coppermine River from the site of historic Fort Enterprise to the Inuit community of Kugluktuk on the Arctic Coast. Two summers later Michael and Kathleen descended the Seal River in Northern Manitoba, where they spent three weeks paddling 300 km to the western shore of Hudson Bay.

For their most memorable wilderness adventure, Kathleen and Michael spent the winter of 1999 living in a one-room cabin north of the Arctic Circle, from where they paddled four weeks and 550 km down the Anderson River to Liverpool Bay on the Arctic Ocean.  In 2001, Michael and Kathleen again journeyed to the Barren Grounds, to the same location where they began their 1993 Thelon River trip.  This time, though, they travelled east, over the height of land, and then down the Snowdrift River, along the tree line, toward Great Slave Lake. In 2017 they paddled for 17 days in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. They plan to paddle the Yukon River this summer, from Whitehorse to Dawson City.

In his professional life, Michael was employed at the University of British Columbia as associate dean and professor of grassland ecology in the faculty of agricultural sciences.  Kathleen also served at UBC as manager of production services in the information technology department. 

Work, however, interfered unacceptably with their true passion for isolated, unpeopled landscapes. Kathleen said goodbye to commuter traffic, deadlines, memos and office walls in 2000.  Michael escaped 18 months later. 

In 2008, Michael and Kathleen moved to a 565-acre parcel of land west of Preeceville, where they enjoy walking along snowy, crunchy trails beneath crisp, blue skies in winter, and a golden Saskatchewan sun in summer. As a part-time diversion, they operate Meadow’s Edge Bed & Breakfast. They have also written four books on their northern adventures.