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... it seemed to be such a picturesque spot in which to spend the winter -- so promising in the comfort of the deep spruce-wooded valley and in the resources of the fishing lake at the head of the creek, where we had always found the caribou plentiful whenever we sought them the winter before ... on September 16th [1910] we moved camp down into the bottomlands of Coal Creek, about half a mile east from Horton River, at a place where I intended we should build our winter house.

- Vilhjálmur Stefánsson (1913)

28 Days on the Horton River:

I recently returned from a filming trip to the Horton River. Bathed in 24 hours of summer sun above the arctic circle, the Horton is located 200-300 miles east of the community of Inuvik and flows north to Franklin Bay and the Arctic Ocean. On its way it passes through a beautiful series of canyons and the spectacular and surreal Smoking Hills. The famed explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson made his winter home on the Horton in 1910-1911, and whalers plodded its waters and established winter quarters along its wooded shores in the heyday of the industry. Two communities maintain historic links to the Horton and its vital caribou herds: the Inuvialuit community of Paulatuk located 75 miles east of the mouth of the river, and the Sahtu Dene community of Colville Lake located 100 miles west of Horton Lake and the upper river. Archaeological sites, such as the Crane Site (ObRv-1) along the Old Horton River Chanel, document thousands of years of human history in the region.

I began my trip in late June with the long drive to Inuvik, Northwest Territories.  I coordinated travel plans with friends from Vancouver, and we chartered a Twin Otter to drop us off close to Horton Lake on July 06, 2007.  I canoed 28 days solo on the river.  The upper Horton is a swift and exceptionally clear body of water.  The river stones glow chartreuse and golden, and the steep banks of scree, bedrock shale, and cretaceous sandstone form a well defined river valley.  It is a particular joy to travel solo with a video camera and other photographic equipment near at hand.  In the summer, the twilight sun shines at midnight, and any time of day is good for a hike. Small changes in light and color draw your attention.  I cherish moments of quite reflection on the river: the opportunity to create visual art in a steady and consistent manner, and the experience of deep serenity that comes from extended periods of self-reliance and physical immersion in a landscape hundreds of miles from roads and industry.  My film will take many months to complete (schedules willing).  In the meantime, I am providing a selection of photos as an indication of some of the many moods of my trip.  If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to write.  I welcome feedback and enjoy hearing from others who have canoed in the region, or who otherwise share an appreciation for northern lands, communities, and rivers. Travels bring together diverse groups of people, and perhaps web pages also do the same.  I hope you enjoy.

Gallery 1 - upper river and canyons

Gallery 2 - upper river and canyons

Gallery 3 - lower river and smoking hills

Gallery 4 - lower river and smoking hills

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