Off-the-chart rapids, natural scenic features and incredible wildlife, such as polar bears, harbour seals and beluga whales make Manitoba’s Seal River an awe-inspiring experience known only to a few intrepid souls.
One of Manitoba’s largest undeveloped river systems, the Seal flows fast and freely across the province’s remote and majestic north en route to Hudson Bay. It’s a rugged but exhilarating whitewater journey for experienced paddlers.
The Seal has been used for thousands of years as a travel route, especially attractive for early caribou hunters and anglers. Ancient campsites, some more than 6,000 years old, have been found on eskers in the region. Eskers, wide ethereal ridges of sand and gravel—the remains of glacial river deposits—snake like huge worm casts over the treed landscape for miles.
The North and South Seal Rivers come together north of Tadoule Lake in the boreal forest, where Dene still live and hunt today. From here, the Seal River flows north through stunted spruce and tamarack with flattened, club-shaped tips, an area early Aboriginal peoples called the “Land of Little Sticks.”
The river continues east to Hudson Bay, tumbling over challenging rapids and fields of boulders that give stretches of the river a moonscape quality. The Seal rushes through scenic gorges and over sandpits and bars. Wildflowers and mosses skirt the riverbanks and cover the adjoining lands in a colourful tribute to nature during the brief, bright summers, June through August.
The Seal River may be the best place in the world to see seals in freshwater, before they return to traditional marine habitat 160 kms (96 miles) downriver. Harbour seals join a host of wildlife in the region, including golden and bald eagles, wolves, moose and in June and July, thousands of beluga whales.
Your adventure begins in the air – because there is no road access, your canoeing adventure begins long before you get to the water. To travel the Canadian Heritage River portion of the route by canoe, travellers must first fly to the community of Tadoule Lake, accessible from Winnipeg, Thompson or Gillam. From there, canoeists can begin their journey on the South Seal, a tributary 35 kms (21 miles) northeast of the Seal River. The main event will take paddlers roughly 300-km (180-miles) downstream to Hudson Bay.
Arrangements for coastal air or boat charter from the mouth of the Seal to Churchill must be made before departure. Due to its challenging nature, this waterway requires considerable skill, caution and advance preparation.