The water in the Firth River is so clear that when you fly over it, you can actually see fish swimming far below. As the Twin Otter comes in for landing along the riverbank, flashes of Dolly Varden char slice the current into ribbons of green and pink. Shimmery strands, they make up the tiny stitches in the grand tapestry that is Ivvavik National Park, a swath of wilderness that drapes the northwesternmost corner of the Yukon. Piled up at the centre of the park, the weathered British Mountains lay bare millennia past. It’s not until the plane touches down with a thud that I’m jolted back to the present.
I’m about to embark on a 13–day rafting trip with Canadian River Expeditions – a journey down Canada’s oldest flowing river with an opportunity to help preserve it. After setting up my tent, I join the 12 other guests for tea and trail mix. Most of us have come for the adventure of a lifetime in a hinterland that sees only 100 visitors a year, but ours is the only expedition done in partnership with Parks Canada. Every year, since the summer of 2016, it sends a team of scientists and Inuvialuit cultural interpreters to collect environmental data that will help them better understand – and protect – this unspoiled area of the Arctic.