Hess River: Keele Lake to Mayo (14 days / 450 km)

Trip Report - Hess River

This trip was initially planned for 2022 as a solo canoe adventure. We made all the preparations on our own, except for the plan to rent an outfitted canoe from UpNorth Adventures. However, one month before the trip date, we changed our decision. I had already started planning my 2024 adventure to the Kuujjua River and learned that the only boat types I could bring there were packboats and packrafts. Taking into account our positive experience with whitewater kayaking and assessing that our kayaking skills were better than our canoeing skills, we decided to take packrafts to Hess. This turned out to be a good choice.

From that moment on, I strongly believed that canoes are suitable for Class II/III rivers, but Class III+ rivers are a great playground for packrafting.

We journeyed along the Hess River starting from stunning Keele Lake; however, there's an option to extend the trip by launching from Potters Puddle, which allows for additional days on the river. I would definitely come back and do that route. Hess is beautiful with and without it.

We were incredibly fortunate with the weather during our trip. Apart from a single rainy night, we encountered minimal bug activity and the water levels were within the normal range. The only unfortunate aspect was the presence of forest fires.

Trip Completed: August 2023

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Keele Lake

Ending Point: Mayo

Total Distance: 450 km

Duration: 14 days

Difficulty: Expert

My difficulty rating is quite subjective and is based on "Normal" water level conditions. Here are the ratings for the different sections:

Whitewater, Keele Creek - Advanced/Expert: This section can be navigated, but there's a mandatory portage at the beginning and end. Successful navigation requires scouting and advanced whitewater skills. If unsure, I recommend against attempting it.

Whitewater, Hess River - Intermediate: This part features extended sections of Class II/III whitewater afte...

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