FLIN FLON, Man. — Over 100 days, almost 3,800 kilometres and four provinces or territories - Dave Koop is heading on the adventure of a lifetime.
Koop is embarking on a months-long, one-man canoe trip that will take him from Flin Flon to well past the Arctic Circle. The paddler headed off from his home in cabin country off to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., located on the Arctic Ocean - a distance of 3,780 kilometres that, by his calculations, will take him 113 days to complete. He was slated to head out on the water for the first day June 2.
"I've been sort of planning this for 15 years. I guess ever since I started canoeing, I always wanted to canoe to the Arctic from Schist Lake," he said.
The route will take Koop from Schist Lake to Phantom Lake, then to Amisk Lake through Meridian Creek. From there, it's almost all north, heading from Amisk Lake up the Sturgeon Weir River up to Pelican Narrows, then on through established paddling routes up to Reindeer Lake, then to Wollaston Lake, Hatchet Lake and through to Lake Athabasca. After about a week's worth of paddling in Alberta, Koop will then head to the Northwest Territories, up the Slave River to the Great Slave Lake, then all the way up the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean, circling back once he reaches the river's mouth to head to Tuktoyaktuk.
Some of those rivers, lakes and streams have been well-travelled, dating back to the days of the fur trade in western Canada. Figures from those days are among the people that have inspired Koop the most to take on the challenge.
"The fur trade routes have all sort of centred around this area, right from the very beginning, from Cumberland House - the Churchill trading post was the first one the Hudson's Bay Company set up, then the next inland one was in Cumberland House. This area here was where David Thompson and Samuel Hearn all travelled through to explore routes into northern Saskatchewan, up into the Mackenzie River," he said.
It isn't the first time Koop has gone on a long paddle through unforgiving terrain. In 2020, Koop and a partner went from Stony Rapids, Sask. to Baker Lake, Nunavut, doing so with minimal assistance from lodges or camps in between due to COVID-19 considerations. That trip took 47 days from start to finish - less than half the time this next trip will take.
"Over the last 30 years, I've sort of canoed with extreme canoeists that have done similar trips, not quite as long but around a month and a half or two months. I've kind of gleaned information from them whenever I could, knowing I was going to attempt something like this in the future," he said.
Koop's day job with the geotechnical company he owned before selling it off this year also brought its own wanders through the bush. Commitments with running Koop Geotechnical kept him from being able to undertake such a trip, but with the sale, Koop's calendar opened up.
"I've tried to do this a couple times in the past, but it's very hard to set aside three-and-a-half months to do an extreme trip where you're gone. With running a business, you have to organize what's happening with the business before you go, you have to make sure all the administrative stuff is looked after," he said.
"It just so happened this year I sold my company, which allowed me to find time to do this."
The trip will require careful plans for supplies and resources. Koop has planned to have several supply and food pickups along the way, preparing freeze-dried food and going through remote communities along the way.
"I've measured out the approximate distances - I've got food drops along the way where I'll be mailing them out to various places as I'm travelling through," he said.
"About every three or four weeks, I'll be going through a community that has a store spot where I can pick up supplies."
Once he reaches Tuk, Koop will be met by his wife Sara-Lynne and his father-in-law Greg Foord, who will head north to pick him up and drive back home together.
Word got out about Koop's paddle late last month, leading to local companies and organizations sponsoring him and providing him with clothing and equipment. He's set up a social media page that will track the journey - while he won't be able to update much from the water or from remote areas, he plans to send back messages from the field when possible. He also hopes to raise money for a pair of groups that reached out to him during preparations - the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Canada, which plans to raise money for day camps and kids' clubs along with Koop's trek and Simonhouse Bible Camp.
He said the response from the public had been overwhelming and supportive.
"There's been huge support right from the get-go. My paddling friends and exploration friends have given me any support they could to help me prepare," Koop said.
Koop's trip will be updated on the Dave Koop Adventure Facebook page and on Koop's website.