Journey to the Muskwa-Kechika, a sprawling, mountainous region straddling the northern part of British Columbia's Rockies and join a full-on wilderness expedition. This experience is not for the faint-hearted; guests will become an expedition member and share in all camp and trail activities such as saddling horses, fire-lighting, cooking, and horse wrangling. Accommodation is basic camping where riders supply their own equipment and there are no luxuries. Participants on this pack trip will be rewarded with an unparalleled opportunity to observe the areas wildlife and see first-hand this remote and majestic region of Canada. The expedition will leave the Alaska Highway in mid-June at Mile 172 and emerge near Mile 400 in mid-September, with riders joining for 2 week jaunts along the way.
This area encompasses one of the largest wilderness expanses on the continent, and supports exceptional wildlife populations providing space for one of the largest predator-prey system in North America. Carnivores in the Muskwa-Kechika such as grizzly and black bears, wolves, wolverine, and lynx prey upon caribou, Stone sheep, bison, mountain goat, moose, elk, and mule and white-tailed deer.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from AM of Ashford on 26/09/2019
The Muskwa-Kechika Expedition will be hosted by Wayne Sawchuk, a guide, photographer and conservationist who has been leading horseback expeditions into the Muskwa-Kechika since 1985. All expeditions are 14 nights long except Expedition 4 (22 August to 4th September) which is 13 nights. Participants can join the expedition on the following sections of the trail:
Expedition 1: Prophet River and the Eastern Slopes: June 15 - June 29, 2020
Mile 172 of the Alaska Highway to Prophet River. This expedition pack-trip features a traverse of the historic Caribou Range and a visit to the wildlife rich Zoo Valley. Participants will travel north up the Alaska Highway to the Sikanni Chief River and then fly back from the headwaters of the Prophet River by bushplane to Fort Nelson.
Outbound: Riders will travel north from Fort St. John with guides, the horses, and gear to the trailhead on the Sikanni Chief, Mile 172 Alaska Highway. Riders should arrive in Fort St John the day before the expedition begins in order to allow time to purchase food and last minute supplies.
Inbound: Riders will meet the bush plane at the Prophet River Head Camp strip for the flight into Fort Nelson. Riders should book their flight home for the day after arriving Fort Nelson, to allow for weather related delays.
Expedition 2: Zoo Valley: July 6 - July 20, 2020
Prophet River Head Camp to Tuchodi Lake
Spectacular passes, rugged rivers, elk, caribou, grizzly bears and peak flower season will satisfy the most hardcore wilderness and wildlife lover. Folks will fly to the head of the Prophet River by bushplane and return to Fort Nelson by jetboat via the Tuchodi and Muskwa Rivers.
Outbound: Riders will meet the bush plane at the Villers Air hanger located just east of the Fort Nelson Airport terminal, usually at 7am, for the one hour flight into the Northern Rockies where you will meet your guides and pack string. Contact Peter or Dan at Villers Air a week or so ahead of your flight to confirm meeting time and location.
Inbound: Riders will meet the jet boat at East Tuchodi Lake for the 3 hour trip down the Tuchodi and Muskwa Rivers to the Kledo. Creek boat launch. There, riders will catch a one hour ride with Riverjet Adventures back to Fort Nelson via the Alaska Highway.We suggest that riders should book their flight home for the day after arriving Fort Nelson, and recommend the Woodlands Inn in Fort Nelson.
Expedition 3: Rocky Mountain Divide West: July 20 - August 3, 2020
Tuchodi Lakes to Mayfield Lake. This remote and rugged route will take you over the Rocky Mountain Divide past rock glaciers, alpine flower meadows, and the Big Slide, with time for unforgettable day hikes. You'll reach the Tuchodi Lakes by jet boat, and a floatplane will take you back to Muncho Lake at the end of the expedition.
Outbound: Riders will meet in Fort Nelson, usually at 7am, for the one hour drive to the jet boat landing at Kledo Creek. After the 3.5 hour jet boat run up the Muskwa and Tuchodi Rivers riders will meet their guides and pack string at East Tuchodi Lake.
Inbound: Riders will be picked up by Liard Air floatplane at Mayfield Lake, for the one hour floatplane flight to Muncho Lake.
Outbound: Riders will be picked up by Liard Air floatplane at Muncho Lake, for the one hour floatplane flight to Mayfield Lake. We recommend booking a room at Northern Rockies Lodge, for the night before your flight. Wayne usually travels north at this time, and riders can often catch a ride to Muncho Lake with him or another rider etc. If no ride is available there is a shuttle service for approx CAD $100 pp.
Inbound: Riders will meet the jet boat at East Tuchodi Lake for the 3 hour trip down the Tuchodi and Muskwa Rivers to the Kledo Creek boat launch. There, riders will catch a one hour ride with Riverjet Adventures back to Fort Nelson via the Alaska Highway. We suggest that riders should book their flight home for the day after arriving in Fort Nelson.
Expedition 5: Eastern Slopes: September 7 - September 21, 2020
East Tuchodi Lake to Alaska Highway. This rugged trip explores the wildlife-rich Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. You'll traverse the broad alpine slopes of the Northern Caribou Range and the spectacular valleys and passes of the Chisca, Tetsa, and Henry Creeks, among others. Participants will travel to East Tuchodi by jet boat and back to Fort Nelson by vehicle.
Outbound: Riders will meet a Riverjet Adventures rep at the Woodlands Inn in Fort Nelson, usually at 7am, for the one hour drive to the jet boat landing at Kledo Creek. After the 3.5 hour jet boat run up the Muskwa and Tuchodi Rivers riders will meet their guides and pack string at East Tuchodi Lake.
Inbound: The pack string will arrive at the Alaska Highway near Mile 400 later in the day, and folks usually camp at the Highway where we will meet the stock truck, and then starting at 6 am in the morning load up and be on our way south for the 2 hour ride back to Fort Nelson . Riders will catch a ride back to Fort Nelson with the guides. Flights can be booked south after 3pm on that day or later.
The structure of all the expeditions usually involves spending two days riding before resting for a day at camp. During this rest day, you can explore the mountain surroundings in whichever way you chose eg hiking, or alternatively just relax at camp for a day. On riding days, you will aim to set off from camp between 9-10am and arrive at the next nights campsite around 6pm.
We recommend booking local accommodation for the night before and after the expedition at the following hotels:
Fort Nelson: The Woodlands Inn (quote MK adventures when booking for a discounted rate)
Fort St. John: Northern Grand Hotel
Further detailed information on logistics will be sent to participants in May 2020.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
Sawchuk's string is made up of proven, trusty mounts of draft/quarter horse crosses. There are 25 horses used for these expeditions, 12 of them are used for riding and the others are pack horses. All of the saddle and pack horses are members of a packstring and are kept together year round. Each year, a handful of new horses are broken in. The horses are between 14hh and 17hh and are calm and friendly. The horses are ridden in Western tack and are neck-rein trained. The terrain out on the range varies from grassy plateaus to mountainous, this will dictate the pacing of the rides and most are usually done at a walk and trot. There will also be times when riders are asked to dismount and walk beside, leading their horse.
Participants share in all camp and trail activities such as saddling, grooming, fire lighting, cooking and horse wrangling. Horse travel in the wilderness is rigorous and participants must be able to hike up and down steep trails, mount and dismount repeatedly and assist with camp and horse activities according to their abilities. Gaits used on the trail is mainly walking with some trotting so experience with horses is useful, but not necessary. Fitness however is mandatory, riders will be in the saddle for between 5-10 hours each day. On riding days the group will usually hit the trail by 9-10 am and pull into camp between 6-10pm.
The weight limit for this ride is 230 lb/105 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is camping in tents which participants supply themselves. We recommend bringing a tent that you are familiar with taking up and putting down and that is reasonably light. Your hosts will supply all cooking equipment, dishes and dish soap, camp shelter, horses and horse gear.
Foodpacks are prepared for riders by the guide and team i.e. food is purchased to fit your requirements. As such most dietary requirements can be accommodated. Keeping in mind this is a camping trip you will be asked what you like to eat for breakfast, lunches, dinner and snacks. These ites will be purchased for you and put into your food pack. Be as specific as possible when telling us what you would like to eat and bear in mind this is a camping trip. So if you say eggs for breakfast expect dehydrated eggs. As all meals have to be carried on the trail riders should expect rice, pasta, potatoes and other dried foods that keep. Dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice. Participants must bring their own drinks as required. If you are a coffee drinker, Wayne will provide 1 pound per week, ground for the coffee press (supplied). Tea and cocoa can also be requsted. The water in the northern rockies is drinkable so there's lots of fresh water on the trail.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request. General information: All travellers are required to provide details online 72 hours prior to travel.
Visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada are expected to have an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid Canadian visa.
To visit Canada, you will need to meet some basic requirements, such as:
• have a valid travel document, such as a passport,
• be in good health,
• have no criminal or immigration-related convictions,
• convince an immigration officer that you have ties—such as a job, home, financial assets or family—that will take you back to your home country,
• convince an immigration officer that you will leave Canada at the end of your visit, and
• have enough money for your stay. (The amount of money you will need can vary. It depends on things such as how long you will stay, and whether you will stay in a hotel, or with friends or relatives.)
Citizens of a few countries may also need a:
• medical exam and
• letter of invitation from someone who lives in Canada.
For further information please visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta.asp
The Canadian High Commission in the U.K is at Macdonald House, 1 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 4AB. Telephone: (020) 7258 6600. Email: email@example.com.
The British Consulate in Canada is at 80 Elgin Street, Ottawa, K1P 5K7. Telephone: + (1) (613) 237 1530. Email: generalenquiries@BritaininCanada.org.
The Northern Rockies get all kinds of weather, often in the same day. In June and July the days are long, with daytime highs reaching 20-30C. In September it can cool off to -5C at night, with snow during the day. Depending on the season, it can be a little cooler in the mornings and evenings, so it is good to bring a variety of clothing to cover all eventualities.
Giardiasis is present so do not drink water from streams. Tap water is safe to drink. Rabies is endemic in Canada, do not approach stray dogs. Lyme disease can be a risk in wooded regions; it is a rare tick borne disease. Check with your doctor for details but apart from general precautions against tick bites no prophylaxis is usually required.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org and the Deprtment of Health also gives medical advice on their web site at www.dh.gov.uk
The voltage is 110-120V, 60Hz in Canada as in the USA and you will need a flat blade plug and possibly an adaptor depending on the appliance.
A small digital camera is recommended for pack trips but please make sure that you have enough batteries to last for the trip as there is no electricity at the base camp or on overnight stops.
Fleece/pile/wool sweater or pullover
Down jacket or equivalent
Long underwear tops and bottoms
T-shirts (2 or up to you)
1 short sleeved shirt
3 long sleeved shirts (1 wool, 1 synthetic material like polyester or polypropylene, 1 cotton, is a good mix)
1 durable wool or synthetic long trousers suitable for use as an outer layer
1 jeans or equivalent
1 light trousers
1 pair of shorts (nylon or cotton)
1 fully waterproof rubber rain jacket and trousers (not a poncho as these are inadequate for riding)
1 fully waterproof rain hat (cowboy hat with raincover works well)
1 pair waterproof gloves/mitts (Gander Brand makes good ones)
1 pair rubber boots e.g. muck boots (these are important)
Hiking boots, waterproofed and broken in, preferably without large lugs that could easily catch in a stirrup
Lighter liner socks (min. 3 pairs)
Wool socks, thick (min. 3 pairs)
Light backpack for day hikes
Sleeping bag (rated to -10 to-15C for June-July and -20C for autumn trips)
Insulating pad (Therma-rest or closed-cell foam)
Headlamp (not needed on June/early July trips due to lack of darkness)
½ litre waterbottle
Small thermos for those who want coffee or tea
Camera and additional batteries
A leatherman or pliers multi-tool is not essential, but can be very handy
Lighter for starting a fire
Glasses or contact lenses as needed
Personal hygiene products
Lip balm with sunscreen
Snacks/munchies you can’t do without
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Any necessary medication
Toilet paper, 1 roll per week
Everything will go into the panniers on the pack horses. It is essential to pack items in plastic or dry bags One big waterproof bag doesn’t work well. Either lots of gallon and 5 gallon zip locked bags and plastic garbage bags or a combination of this and small dry bags. A small dry bag for your sleeping bag, and a few other smaller dry bags for miscellaneous clothes, certainly for all electronics that can be easily manipulated in the boxes works well. Even things like sundries you don't want drenched in the boxes needs to be bagged.
Your hosts will supply all cooking equipment, mugs, dishes, camp shelter, first aid supplies, horses and horse gear. No need to bring extra dishes or silverware. Please read the Accommodation and Meals section on our website and let us know what you would like to eat in as much detail as possible so the correct meal packs can be prepared for you to take on the expedition.
Finally, some feedback from a previous rider:
After day 1 I never wore my Ariat endurance boots. They were sopped. Waterproof Ariats mean nothing when the water is almost up to you knees!. High rubber boots with good soles for walking (I bought Ariat hunting (camo) boots at a greatly discounted price) were PERFECT!!! What a great tread they had (and we needed that for walking) but they also rode well. There were multiple water crossings every day, lots of muck and mire and low boots just don’t make it. One person had gaters and this was a suitable alternative but they were still, in my estimation, inadequate to fast moving water. Everyone in the know wore high rubber boots almost all the time. You must be able to walk steep and slippery terrain with whatever water boots you have. They better be comfortable. A good camp shoe is also important, just for the simplify of getting up in the night to go to the bathroom. I though I was smart to bring light weight rubber shoes with holes. They worked OK, but I didn’t realize how often if might be raining or very muddy. I’m not exactly sure what I’d bring in the future.
I lived in 2 layers of merino pants, several long sleeved merino tops. In the future I’d entirely skip jeans or anything cotton. I’d look for a heavier layer of wool pants. I omitted the shorts and would in the future. A pair of light weigh fast drying pants that can be rolled up would serve multiple purposes if it were hot.
I know for the fall trip the riders who have been on many trips REALLY needed sleeping bags rated to -20 to -30C!!!!! Again, I HIGHLY recommend this trip and Wayne. I hope you get to ride this amazing land with him.
The 2019 Muskwa-Kechika Expedition will be hosted by Wayne Sawchuk, a guide, photographer and conservationist who has been leading horseback expeditions into the Muskwa-Kechika since 1985. Participants can join the expedition on the following sections of the trail:
Expedition 1: Prophet River and the Eastern Slopes: June 15-29, 2020
Expedition 2: Zoo Valley: July 2-20, 2020
Expedition 3: Rocky Mountain Divide West: July 20-August 3, 2020
Expedition 4: Rocky Mountain Divide East: August 24-September 7, 2020
Expedition 5: Eastern Slopes: September 7-September 21, 2020
The Penguin History of Canada - Kenneth McNaught. A basic but useful primer on the country's history.
Native Peoples and Cultures of Canada - Allan Macmillan. This provides a historical framework and raises contemporary issues regarding Canada's Native people.
City to City (also published as O Canada!: Travels in an Unknown Country - Jan Morris. This is a collection of essays written after she travelled in Canada from coast to coast.
For a taste of Canadian literature, read Margaret Atwood's Surfacing and Booker-winning The Blind Assassin, Alice Munro's The Moons Of Jupiter short story collection, Michael Ondaatje's In The Skin Of A Lion or Robertson Davies' Fifth Business .
The expeditions are structured so that you generally ride for 2 days, then have a camp day - perfect for hiking, wildlife photography, writing, or exploring the mountains around you in whatever way you choose.
The Muskwa-Kechika is located in north eastern BC and encompasses 6.4 million hectares (16 million acres) of land with varying levels of conservation, preservation and land use practices. Encompassing large areas of the Northern Rockies and Cassiar mountains, it is named after two great rivers that flow through it: the Muskwa and the Kechika. It has more species in greater abundance than anywhere else on the continent and that makes it of global importance. Guests are likely to spot elk, caribou, stone sheep, moose and even black bears.
The cost of your scheduled flights in and out of the mountains are included in the fee and are arranged by your hosts. All floatplane flights depart/return from Liard Air’s facilities located at Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake.
People migrating from Asia crossing the Bering Strait first settled the North American continent. They formed a number of tribes that can be distinguished by language: the Algonquian in the eastern sub-arctic and maritime areas spreading into the prairies and plains of the mid-west; the Iriquioian speaking tribes mostly in the St Lawrence Valley and around Lakes Ontario and Erie; the Salishan, Athabascan and other linguistic groups lived along the rivers and coastline of British Columbia. Small, isolated Inuit bands developed a unique culture in the harsh environment of the Arctic.
John Cabot, a Venetian working in the service of the English sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. This and later explorations formed the basis of the English claim to Canada. The Frenchman Jacques Cartier undertook a series of explorations, mainly along the route of the St Lawrence River during the 1530s and 1540s and he claimed the land for France.
It's the edginess between Canada's indigenous, French and British traditions that gives the nation its complex three-dimensional character. Add to this a constant infusion of US culture and a plethora of traditions brought by migrants, and you have a thriving multicultural society.
Canada is between 3.5 and 8 hours behind GMT depending on where you are in the country. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The international dialling code is +1.