Soper River Trip

[The Magical Soper River | How to Get There | Soper History | Inuit use of the Soper River Valley | On Becoming a Heritage River | Development of Katannilik Park | Use of the Soper River Today ]


The Magical Soper River

A ribbon of silver looping across a green valley, the Soper River, known as the Kuujuaq by the Inuit, runs from the barren, brown highlands of the Meta Incognita Peninsula to Pleasant Inlet on the south coast of Baffin Island.

The deep Soper Valley offers a rich microclimate that supports a profusion of flowers and a forest of willows. The abundance of plants, in turn, sustains a large number of caribou, fox, wolf and Arctic hare.

Most of the rivers on Baffin fluctuate from flood to trickle due to a quick runoff caused by permafrost. The Soper, however, with a drainage basin over 2,500 sq km, offers about 50 km of navigable waterway from July to September.

[Goto Top]

How to Get There

The Soper River is located on the southernmost peninsula on Baffin Island, called the Meta Incognita Peninsula, It runs north to south, starting halfway between Iqaluit (on Frobisher Bay) and Lake Harbour (on the south coast).

Access to the Soper River is through Iqaluit, the administrative and transportation centre of the Baffin Region, by daily jet service from Ottawa and Montreal. From Iqaluit you charter a bush plane, or helicopter, to the Soper River, or take a scheduled flight to Lake Harbour. As of 1995, there are flights three times a week (For more information see Planning Your Trip.)

The names of places that appear in this text come from a number of sources. For centuries the Inuit have traveled the Kuujuaq, 'great river', and given descriptive names to prominent features. In 1931, Dr. Dewey Soper surveyed the river valley and added many of the names found on the Canadian Topo maps. In 1993, Bruce Downie wrote a guidebook on the Itijjagiaq Trail and created names to facilitate interpretation of route information, (The Itijjagiaq Trail starts on Frobisher Bay, crosses over the highlands, and follows the east side of the Soper River to Lake Harbour.) Descriptive names have also been added for river features.

[Goto Top]


History of the Dorset, Thule and Inuit People

Archaeological research along the coastal region of Lake Harbour shows evidence of the Dorset culture dating back 4,000 years. Between 800 and 1,000 years ago, waves of people, called Thule, migrated from Alaska across the Arctic displacing the earlier Dorset people. The Thule were hunters of bowhead whales and lived in large, permanent villages. A climatic change between 1650 and 1850 called the "little ice age" forced the whales south and the Thule to become more nomadic in the search for food. This event transformed the Thule culture and marked the beginning of the Inuit culture as we know it today.

[Goto Top]

Inuit Use of the Soper River Valley

Although archaeological sites along the Soper River have not been analyzed, it is surmised that early Arctic people use the Soper River valley, a natural inland corridor, to hunt caribou for food, clothing and shelter. For centuries the Inuit from Lake Harbour traveled up the Soper Valley and north to rendezvous with Inuit families from Pangnirtung, Cape Dorset and Frobisher Bay at Amadjuak Lake, the caribou calving grounds. In the winter Inuit traditionally traveled by dog sled up the valley and over the peninsula to visit family groups on Frobisher Bay.

When the whaling industry started to decline in the early 1900s, Europeans turned to fur trading and mineral exploration. Mica was mined in the Lake Harbour area between 1900 to 1913. In 1911, the Hudson Bay Company established its first post on Baffin Island at Lake Harbour. Demand for Arctic fox established the Soper Valley, with its lush vegetation, as an important trapping ground.

In 1931, Dewey Soper, a biologist with Federal Department of the Interior, undertook exploratory surveys around Lake Harbour that included the Soper River. The river now bears his name.

Today, Inuit still use the Soper River, which they call the Kuujuaq, much as they did in the past. Although motorized canoes and snowmachines now zip them up the valley to hunt year-round, pick berries in the fall and travel overland to Iqaluit in the winter.

[Goto Top]

On Becoming a Heritage River

In 1992, the Soper River was officially designated a Canadian Heritage River by the Canadian Heritage River Systems. This program is directed by the park administrations of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Soper River was chosen for its outstanding historical value, natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Heritage Rivers are carefully managed to maintain their natural value, and to enhance their recreational use and enjoyment.

The area designated to the Canadian Heritage River System contains the entire 2,500 sq km drainage basin of the Soper River and its two major tributaries: the Livingstone and the Joy Rivers.

[Goto Top]

Development of Katannilik Park

To further protect and simultaneously encourage the recreational use of the Soper River valley, the Katannilik Territorial Park Reserve was established in 1994. The park takes its name from the Inuit word Katannilik which means "the place where there are falls" (referring to the many waterfalls that cascade down the valley walls). The park includes over 1,500 sq. km. encompassing a large portion of the Soper River drainage and a corridor along the Itijjagiaq Trail. (Itijjagiaq means "over the land" in Inuktitut.) This trail follows a traditional route used to cross the Meta Incognita Peninsula between Hudson Strait and Frobisher Bay.

Minimal facilities have been provided to help maintain the park's wilderness character. Between Frobisher Bay and Lake Harbour, seven small emergency huts were built plus a group/warden shelter and a picnic area at the Soper Falls. (For further information on the park see Park Use and Regulations.)

[Goto Top]

Use of the Soper River Today

The development of the Katannilik Territorial Park Reserve and the designation of Soper River as a Canadian Heritage River has drawn increasing numbers of visitors to the area. While the Inuit continue to travel and hunt along the Soper River, adventurers from all corners of the world descend the river by raft, canoe and kayak, hike the Itijjagiaq trail and hire Inuit guides to take them up and down the river by motorized canoe.

[Goto Top]

Previous Page Home Next

Previous | Home | Next

Mail us on our actic adventure at:

These Web pages designed by the Arctic Adventure Webmaster