Many pilots dream of making the trip to Alaska, but let’s not forget neighboring Canada. If you love fishing and have an amphibious floatplane, we have the adventure of a lifetime for you! Beginning in the Flathead Valley of northwestern Montana and stretching 950 nautical miles to Canada’s Yukon Territory is a scenic valley known as the Rocky Mountain Trench. This trench is the most direct route to the Yukon. Along the way you’ll find places to camp, hike, and fish, as well as several luxurious fishing lodges. This trip requires careful planning, but you’ll see beauty others only dream of.
Fortress Lake, Hamber Provincial Park, British Columbia: 52*22’09’’N, 117*48’00”W
Stop in Cranbrook, British Columbia, for customs and then fly northwest up the Rocky Mountain Trench 115 nm to Golden for fuel at the self-service pump. From Golden, continue 74 nm up the Trench over McNaughton Lake to Wood Arm east of Mica Dam. Turn east and follow the Wood River about 30 nm. You’ll pass a mountain buttress on your right, and then Fortress Lake comes into view. Fortress Lake Retreat is mid-way down the lake's south shore (see photos for details on this fabulous lodge). On departure, fly back to the trench; it’s 120 nm to McBride for self-serve fuel. From there it’s another 120 nm northwest to Mackenzie, at the south end of Williston Lake, the last fuel stop for a while.
Departing Mackenzie, continue 114 nm up the Trench the length of Williston Lake to the Tsay Keh airstrip (CBN4), then turn west and fly 15 nm to Pelly Lake. Pelly Lake Wilderness Lodge sits near the northwest corner of the lake (see photo for details on accommodations). Fish for kokanee, rainbow trout, and bull trout, hike around the lake, or look for birds. Departing Pelly Lake, you can either retrace your route back to the Trench and then continue about 225 nm to Watson Lake, Yukon, or head northwest to Kitchener Lake and Cold Fish Lake, and then fuel at Dease Lake. Your next fuel is either at Watson Lake or Dease Lake.
Kitchener Lake, Tatlatui Provincial Park, British Columbia: 57*02’40”N, 127*35’27”W
Kitchener Lake, 71 nm northwest of Pelly Lake, offers excellent rainbow trout fishing and off-trail hiking. A public cabin (see photo) sits near a gravel beach at the west end of the lake and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cold Fish Lake, Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park, British Columbia: 57* 41’ 58” N, 128* 50’ 48”W
Cold Fish Lake is 56 nm northwest of Kitchener Lake, which has a dock and six roomy cabins at its northwest corner. On-site park personnel can provide detailed local information. From here you’ll fly 59 nm northwest to Dease Lake for fuel and then 125 nm to Watson Lake, Yukon (see photo for details on Watson Lake). From here you can fly west 200 nm to Whitehorse or about 100 nm northwest to Inconnu Lodge.
Inconnu Lodge, McEvoy Lake, Yukon: 61*48’30”N, 130*11’42”W
Inconnu Lodge, on the north shore of McEvoy Lake, is a luxurious fishing and outdoor activity destination. The lodge supplies excellent rods, reels, lures, and flies at no charge; bring waders and buy your license at the lodge store. Lake trout, Dolly Varden, arctic grayling, bull trout, inconnu (sheefish), and northern pike are all caught here. The adjacent dirt airstrip makes this lodge accessible for wheeled aircraft as well as floatplanes. See photos and the website for details on this incredible retreat.
Glacier Lake and Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories: 62*05’33”N, 127*35’02”W
A fitting climax to this trip lies just past the eastern Yukon border: Glacier Lake, one of Canada’s most spectacular floatplane destinations. Because the area is now inside Nahanni National Park Reserve, you’ll need a permit to land (free), plus pay visitor fees of $24.50 per person per day inside the park. Call the park office in Fort Simpson (867/695-7750). You can apply from home and then call again from Watson Lake, where you can receive your permit via fax. Or fly to Fort Simpson and get your permit in person. Have your permit include a landing above Virginia Falls on the South Nahanni River (see photo for details). Or have Inconnu Lodge fly you here; you’ll never forget it!