Tatshenshini River - Story in Pictures 1995

The Tatshenshini is a glacier fed river that flows out of Canada into the southernmost land strip of Alaska where the river enters the Pacific Ocean. It is preserved through great efforts by two nations.

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Stick with me through the beginning. Pictures get better.

This was just a side excursion up a small tributary about mid trip. Could be a creak anywhere USA.

After taking (great) pictures during our entire first paddling day, a full day of whitewater and the heaviest of the trip, it was good to be at a tranquil campsite deep in "god's country" when I discovered the camera had no film in it. (View across the river from our campsite)

Yours truly make breakfast for the group, second morning on river. The white patch on the ground is a fire blanket to prevent unsightly campfire residue which otherwise would remain visible for a long time (leave it the way you found it policy).

Caught this immature eagle while cruising by on our fast moving river. Just think, all you have to do is keep your camera dry, your mind on approaching river hazards, get the camera out of and back to it's water tight box while not missing the photo op.

A little about the river. The Tatshenshini River trip starts at Dalton Post, Yukon, Canada, passes through British Colombia and ends near the coast on the southern tip of Alaska.

The dense, tall vegetation is about to change.

The Tat is a glacier fed river. It's extremely cold and carries an opaque silt created by an ice-flow grinding rocks against rock creating a fine gray powder. Suspended in the water, it's so thick you can't see an object 1/4 inch below the surface.

We've just taken a short hike up a hill (900-ft vertical) to see miles of the valley we will follow downriver. The stream in the immediate foreground is a tributary.

There are no hiking trails here. We're sitting on a rare, known game trail even if you can't make it out in the photo. It's about 1,500 feet above the river. The trail keeps climbing. There's only one way out of here for people, it's the river in the distance.

Maybe we'll just climb 2,000 feet vertically.

It doesn't look like it from this camera location, but downstream river direction is to the upper right.

We're about 2,500 feet above the river and looking skyward. Even on this harsh windblown slope an occasional small full blossom. Taken within inches via close-up lens, you're likely seeing it larger that the original plant.

This is tundra, a carpet of small plants surviving atop a carpet of former small plants. Winter and wind level any vegetation that stands "up". Where did this one broadleaf come from? There are no others within site or down the mountainside.

At 3,000 vertical feet above the river, the notion of being prepared is reinforced by the view of a rainstorm back upriver. We started out to get a view from atop a 900-foot hill 2,100 feet below.

George is just double-checking where we are. Reading topographic maps against an enclosed terrain is as much knowing where you have been immediately before as it is reading the surrounding topography.

Morning. Time to get up and paddle.

It may be chilly, but we might be able to eat, get tents down and gear packed before it rains.

This grizzly had only one thing on its mind. It wasn't us whizzing by pushed by a fast moving current at around 8 mph. His question was "Do I feel lucky?" The river had spread out to at least 1/4 mile wide.

Another daily group chore. Find and filter the group's water supply. With the Tat's silt, we stop at side streams. The filter pump will remove anything organic down to 2 microns. Metals and the like are another subject and usually not a worry in this kind of environment. The river was just saved by the Canadian government. A mining company wanted to level one of the mountains. Where was the mining company going to put all the tailings; according to the company  "without harming the environment"?

A glorious sight to wake up to!

The dark layer is not deep blue sky, itís mountain.

There's a landslide stretching across the base of this "small"  glacier.

Perhaps 2 miles off from this vantage point, it will be the first glacier we can touch.

The photo below may be around the 1 mile mark.

Look close, you may spot the person at the top of the brown surface, extreme right?

That brown surface we started out on now shows itself to be carrying human size boulders and is just part of the glacier complete with waterfall cutting down through the center of the ice sheet. There must be an under ice river. We never figured out where the outflow was.

Winter parkers and mittens. It's considerably colder standing on the glacier than standing near  the cold river.

End of trail without ropes and pitons.

Glacier fed waterfall dead center far side. Hue patch of earth in glacial transport shows why the dark surface down below. We've climbed with difficulty up the mountain for a view from above. Can't see up the glacier yet. More climbing to go if we are not prevented by the landscape.

Why are these people laughing? Can you set up a camera on a rock, click the shutter, run and get balanced on some tiny boulders to be visible in the picture, all without knocking someone off there spot before the camera timer goes off? (Curt's not that tall.)

A 300 millimeter telephoto view up the glacier shows it has miles to go beyond sight.

This is a composite of five photographs; an approximate 200 degree view (2/3 of a circle)


20-ft high ice spikes (two stories) crown the glacier's edge.

Goodbye glacier, on to river adventures.

Moving fast on a wide river, somethingís strange in the distance. (Make note of the large darkened mound left of center, and low level white snow patches center and right.)

We're entering a lake. The mound is a mountain, the white snow icebergs.

Though not raining there is dense moisture in this cold air.

Think of 4 to 5 story buildings. Now consider their width. As freshwater icebergs, 90% is underwater. These are trapped in the lake until they melt small enough to flush down river some Spring thaw. It will take years. The water temperature is 34 degrees. (Check out "big blue" in both photos.)

Just a small burg left, about 25 feet exposed, rolled over on its side.

With glaciers on two sides of a lake 2 x 3 miles across, this place is about size not easy to convey. See anything in the water first photo? Look at the second photo (300 millimeter telephoto). See the minute (speck) dark object in the water left side? Now look at the left photo again. I had to search to find the canoe in real life knowing they had to be out there. See it near the shadow on the water?

Big Blue

We're leaving the lake and headed toward the takeout.

Looking back up-river, a glacier is still visible high in the far distant mountains; the lake is well beyond sight. Center is a fast moving canoe, mostly from river current.

It's a salmon industry gravel runway with no support for landings and no scheduled flights such as the one landing in the first photo. The building is locked. There's no other way out accept paddling via the ocean. It was good to see our charter show up on time the morning after we took off the river.

A view of the lake from the air and only one of the two glaciers. Remember that "mound"? It's center right.