Great Bear Lake Library

Harold Written by 

(28 votes)
Tales from Cabin 14 Tales from Cabin 14

Perhaps because it is so isolated, and off of the main transportation and trade routes, not a great deal has been written about Great Bear Lake over the years.

Notations in the journals of various explorers and adventures constitute the bulk of the written record, but for the most part, these individuals were just passing through on their way to somewhere else. They rarely commented in much detail on the people who lived on and around the lake, or transcribed their feelings and thoughts about what impression that the big lake may have made upon them.

The following is a list of publications that, at the very least, have some references to the lake and the surrounding area. While many can be hard to find, as they are otherwise out of print, with a bit of digging you should be able to come up with a used copy. I have found many of the books and publications listed below, through Amazon, Alibris - Books On Line and

Other sources of information include, The Norther Miner:, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, NWT:, Library and Archives Canada:, and the Hudson's Bay Company Archives: In most cases you can either search on line, or make arrangements to visit their offices in person.

If you happen to know of or come across any other publications, please drop us a line and we will gladly put them up on the "book shelf."

  • To Great Slave and Great Bear: P.G. Downe's Journal of Travels North from Ile a la Crosse in 1938. - Downes traveled through the area by canoe, boat and aircraft and provides a detailed account of his feelings, thoughts and experiences as well as his observations on individual men and women, northern lore and geographic characteristics of the region. You can find this interesting read by Googling P.G. Downes.
  • Tales from Cabin 14 and More Tales From Cabin 14 by Harold Ball. Each book contains several stories about Great Bear Lake, the Coppermine and Tree Rivers. Harold has been visiting Great Bear for over 30 years and brings a somewhat unique perspective to what the area has to offer. These books, which also contain numerous photographs are available through his website
  • Thirty Years in the Arctic Regions by Sir John Franklin. First published in 1850 by H. Dayton, New York a reprint is (or was) available from Bison Books. This is an account of Sir John's two overland expeditions in 1818 and 1827. Although not much is said about Great Bear, he did stay on the lake during his second expedition in 1827 - after all they didn't call it Fort Franklin (now Deline) all those years for nothing!
  • The Mackenzie River Guide by Michelle N. Swallow**. Published in 2011 it provides and interesting and comprehensive guide to paddling Canada's longest river. There is a section on Tulita (formerly called Fort Norman) - Where the Waters Meet - that is at the confluence of the Mackenzie and Great Bear Rivers. While it does not contain much in formation on Great Bear Lake, it does provide some history about the area, the Great Bear River and Great Bear Rock. This book also provides some very interesting traditional Dene history. Check it out at:
  • North of Athabasca: Slave Lake and Mackenzie River. Edited by Lloyd Keith, McGill-Queens University Press (Montreal) 2001 these are documents of the North West Company - 1800-1821.
  • Dehcho: "Mom we've been discovered!" - Dene Cultural Institute (Yellowknife), 1989.
  • Rakekee Gok'e Godi: places we take care of; Sahtu Heritage Places and Sites Joint Working Group, [sn], c1999.
  • Yamoria the Lawmaker; George Blondin, NeWest Press [Edmonton], 1997.
  • When the World was New - Stories of the Sahtu Dene by George Blondin; Outcrop, The Northern Publishers, Yellowknife, 1990. George has written down much of the oral history of the Sahtu Dene that had been handed down through many generations. A must read if you are interested in the history of the area. The book also contains a map of Great Bear and the surrounding area with Dene place names.
  • Canada's Western Arctic: Including the Dempster Highway: The Western Arctic Handbook Committee (Inuvik), 2002.
  • Arctic Ordeal - The Journal of John Richardson - Surgeon-Naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822. McGill-Queens University Press, 1984. This is a very interesting account of the first Franklin overland expedition, although he did not visit Great Bear this time around but rather the area east of the lake. Good maps and illustrations of flora and fauna. Of the 20 who left only 9 returned - the stories of cannibalism shocked all Victorian sensibilities once the story became known throughout England.
  • Great Bear - A Journey Remembered - Frederick B. Watt. Outcrop, The Northern Publishers, Yellowknife, 1980. A great book recounting his experiences as a prospector's assistant during the Rush of 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. One of the few books that focus on Great Bear alone and his impressions of the people and area. If you have ever stayed at Branson's or Arctic Circle Lodge then many of the places mentioned in this book will be familiar to you. A must read.
  • Lands Forlorn, A Story of an Expedition to Hearne's Coppermine River by George M. Douglas - Zancudo Press, Tucson, Arizona - 2008. This book documents his 1911-1912 expedition to Great Bear and the lower Coppermine River in search of copper. He and two others tracked a York Boat up the Great Bear River, and then sailed the entire width of the lake to the mouth of the Dease River. He and his brother then canoed, walked and portaged up the Dease to the Dismal Lakes and then down the Kendall River to the Coppermine.
  • Coppermine - The Far North of George M. Douglas by Enid Mallory, Broadview Press Ltd., 1989. Following his journey to the area in 1911-1912 he returned to the area once again in 1928. Chapter 16 in particular focuses on Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes and the book contains not only his narrative about the many changes taking place in the north but many fabulous photographs of the land as it was then.
  • Bloody Falls of the Coppermine - Madness, Murder, and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic, 1913 by McKay Jenkins - Random House Inc., 2005. Interesting story about two Catholic priests who were murdered and their livers eaten by the Inuit at the mouth of the Coppermine River. Not a great deal about Great Bear Lake per se, but they did cross the lake and travel up the Dease River.
  • British Law and Arctic Men: The Celebrated 1917 Murder Trials of Sinnisiak and Uluksuk, First Inuit Tried Under White Man's Law, by R.G. Moyles. Published in 1979 by Western Producer Prairie Books, this book is a historical examination of the 1917 murder trials of Sinnisiak and Uluksuk, the first Inuit tried under white man's law, focusing on the political aims of the trial. It is to some degree a follow up in regards to the story told in the preceding book, Bloody Falls of the Coppermine - Madness, Murder, and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic.
  • First Crossing by Derek Hayes - Published by Douglas and McIntyre Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, 2001. Relying heavily on Alexander Mackenzie's own words the author recounts Mackenzie's travels to the Arctic Ocean and to the Pacific. It contains both original and contemporary maps and pictures.
  • A Narrative or Journal of Voyages and Travels through the North-West Continent of America in the Years 1789 & 1793. Alexander Mackenzie. J. Lee [London], 1802. Ye Galleon Press [Fairfield], 1979; reprint.
  • As Long as This Land Shall Last - A History of Treaty 8 and Treaty 11, 1870-1939 by Rene Fumoleau. This book was originally published by McClelland and Stewart in 1975 and then published once again in 2004 by the University of Calgary Press. The 1975 addition is available on CD-ROM from the Dene Cultural Institute in Hay River. This book is a historical documentation of Treaties 8 (1900) and 11 (1921) between the Canadian Government and the First Nations people from northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Treaty 11 encompasses Great Bear Lake.
  • A Northern Experience - The Journals of Norman Robinson. Norman was a World War I veteran who spent five years in the Northwest Territories in the early 1920's. During his time there he was a trapper, guide and purser on the steamship Mackenzie River. He also spent time trapping with John Hornby, who was a regular visitor to Great Bear. His journals are available on line at:
  • Arctic Pilot - Life and Work on North Canadian air Routes - The Experiences of Walter E. Gilbert by Kathleen Shackleton - Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. - 1940. A great book chronicling the conquest of the Arctic by air. Gilbert is described in the book as having penetrated where "no plane has been before." Check out chapter VIII about Eldorado Mine on Great Bear as he describes his experiences in making the first commercial flights into Great Bear. There are also a couple of good pictures and an illustration of George M. Douglas described as "The first white engineer to land on Great Bear Lake" in this chapter as well.
  • True North - The Yukon and Northwest Territories by William R. Morrison - Oxford University Press - 1998. One book of a projected multi-volume illustrated history of Canada. Contains some interesting photographs and there are a couple of passing references to Great Bear Lake.
  • The Barren Ground of Northern Canada - 1917 by Warburton Pike - E.P. Dutton and Company, New York -1917. A British explorer while certainly not the first to visit the Barrens he in the vanguard when it came to writing about his adventures. This book details his exploits while hunter in the "Coppermine Country" north of Lac de Gras. A man with a keen sense of honor and duty he committed suicide in 1915 after being refused entry into the army - go figure. The book is an interesting read written by a guy with one of the best names out there! You can find a reprint of the original - and other rare and hard to find books by going to:
  • The Legend of John Hornby by George Whalley - John Murray, London, 1962. Before starving to death in the Barrens in 1927 Hornby had wandered over most of the Barrens and western Arctic. He spent a great deal of time in and around Great Bear Lake and this book describes a number of his experiences while there. Once known as Caribou Bay, this large bay on the east side of Great Bear now bears the name of Hornby Bay. A very interesting guy and the book is well worth reading. Edgar Christian, Hornby's nephew starved along with him but his diary survived. If you can find a copy, entitled "Unflinching - a diary of tragic adventure" it is a must read.
  • A Naturalists Guide to the Arctic by E.C. Pielou - The University of Chicago Press, 1994. While not about Great Bear Lake per se, it contains some very interesting information about the shy, climate and atmosphere, terrain, birds, mammals, insects, plants etc. that you are likely to encounter while up in that part of the world. If you take a bit of time to study this book the next time you are stomping around on the tundra you will have a better idea of just what it is you are stomping on!
  • Across Time and Tundra - The Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic by Ishmael Alunik, Eddie D. Kolausok and David Morrison - Raincoast Books, Vancouver, British Columbia - 2003. This well written and well-illustrated book is an attempt to present an overview of Inuvialuit history. If you have ever visited the Tree, Coppermine, Anderson and Kugaryak River areas then you will have been in their traditional lands.
  • Catch the Feeling - 1989 Fishing Guide - Arctic Development Library. An interesting, albeit somewhat dated guide to fishing in the Arctic, including Great Bear Lake and the surrounding area. Contains information on the lodges, record catches etc. Just Google - Catch the Feeling - 1998 Fishing Guide.
  • How Uranium from Great Bear Lake Ended Up in A-Bombs by Gordon Edwards, Ph.D. - - A very interesting summary of the history of uranium and the role Great Bear Lake played in the development of the first atomic bombs. There are several good pictures of the early mining activities, as well as some insights into the effect of radiation exposeur on the people who mined the ore - in this case the Sahtu Dene - who once carried it on their backs in nothing more than burlap sacks for $3 a day.
  • The Great Bear Lake: It's Place in History by L. Johnson - - An historical overview of Great Bear Lake, including it's prehistory, ethnography, origin of the name, and even a place where you can find some Walleye!
  • Travels Around Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lakes, 1862 - 1882 by Emile Petitot - The Champlain Society - - The Oblate missionary's twenty years in the Canada's western Arctic are revealed through this selection from his own writings. Published by the Champlain Society (2005) translated and edited by Paul Laverdure, Jacqueline Moir & John S. Moir This book is a translation from French of two of five books written by Father Émile Petitot, O.M.I. that were published in Paris between 1887 and 1893, and detail his experiences as both a missionary and explorer in the Arctic. Petitot was apparently burdened by physical torment and mental instability, and was a controversial figure both within the church, and for his attitude towards the native peoples, he was nevertheless a keen observer, linguist, cartographer, and a tireless explorer who travelled throughout much of the western portion of Great Bear Lake, the area around Colville Lake, descended the Hare Indian River and claims to have found the source of the Anderson River. Unfortunately the book is no longer in print, but used copies are available through some on line book sellers such as Amazon.
  • Observations on Great Bear Lake in 1867, by Bishop William Carter Bompas - - Some interesting observations on Great Bear by Bishop Bompas, a missionary of the Anglican Church who travelled throughout Canada from 1865 to 1907. This article first appeared in the September 1867 edition of the Church Missionary Intelligencer on pages 275-277.
  • The New North - Being Some Account of a Women's Journey through Canada to the Arctic by Agnes Deans Cameron - First published in 1910 by D. Appleton & Company, this book chronicles her 16,000 km journey in the spring and summer of 1908 along the Athabasca, Peace and Mackenzie rivers. To record and illustrate her travels she took along some of the newest technologies of the day, including a Kodak camera that used film rather than plates, which was first introduced in 1888, and a "front striking" Underwood typewriter, that was introduced commercially in 1895. Her comments and observations regarding Great Bear Lake can be found in Chapter 11. This is an excellent book in every respect, and a free electronic copy can be downloaded by going to:
  • From Barrow to Boothia - The Arctic Journal of Chief Factor Peter Warren Dease, 1836-1839 - Dease became very familiar with Great Bear Lake during the course of his career. In 1825 he was put in charge of supplying the second Franklin expedition, and supervised the construction of Fort Franklin - now Deline - on Great Bear, where Franklin ultimately wintered. From 1836 to 1839 he was assigned the task of exploring and mapping the Arctic coast, from the mouth of the Mackenzie to Point Barrow, in order to fill in the gaps left be others who had been searching for a northwest passage. During that time he spent 2 winters at Fort Confidence on Great Bear. Dease was also stationed at Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie from 1827 to 1829, and you will see from his journal, that he knew the area and the people who lived there, very well. A copy of his journal can be purchased at
  • Assessment and Evaluation of the Lake Trout Sport Fishery on Great Bear Lake, NWT., 1984-85 by M.M. Roberge and J.B. Dunn - Published in December 1988, this comprehensive study was undertaken on behalf of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Data was collected both by netting and a creel census involving 4 of the 5 lodges on Great Bear Lake. For reasons unexplained apparently Branson's Lodge did not participate in the creel census. If you would like to read the study, go to:
  • Canoeing North Into the Unknown: A Record of River Travel, 1874 to 1974 by Bruce W. Hodgins and Gwyneth Hoyle - First published in 1994, this book contains a history of northern river travel, with the canoe being the primary means of transportation. It covers rivers in the Hudson Bay, Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic watersheds, and has an extensive bibliography that for the canoeist, can be a very valuable tool as you plan your next trip. Chapter 7, Even the Lakes Contribute: Eastern Tributaries of the Mackenzie, outline many trips taken on the Hare Indian, Dease and the Great Bear Rivers, including Great Bear Lake itself. A copy can be found at:
  • Mackenzie River Basin - State of the Aquatic Ecosystem Report - 2003, by The Mackenzie River Basin Board - The report introduces the study as follows: "According to Dene mythology, Denendeh, the homeland of the Dene people and an area that overlies much of the Mackenzie River Basin, originated from the fallen body of an Arctic giant, who was slain in battle. The giant's fallen body stretched from south of present-day Lake Athabasca in the southeast to the Bering Strait in the northwest. Many different landmarks in Denendeh came to be associated with different parts of the giant's fallen body. For example, the giant's blood flow became the Mackenzie River and its tributaries. The giant's body symbolizes the connections among all the different parts of the Mackenzie watershed. The image of rivers arising from its blood embodies the notion of water as a life force, or as a substance that is essential for supporting our livelihoods and in sustaining our lives." Chapter 7 deals with The Mackenzie Great Bear Sub-basin, and can be found at:
  • Northwest Territories & Yukon Radio System History Project - - This site has been established to research and compile a record of the achievements of the Royal Canadian Signal Corps' Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System, which operated from 1923 to 1959, and played a significant role in opening up Canada's north. It is a very rich site that not only contains the history of the work of the Corps', but also stories, vignettes and some very rare photographs of places, air and watercraft. Great Bear Lake figures prominently from approximately 1932 on, as there were once stations at Lindsley Bay, Cameron Bay, Port Radium and on the Camsell River. Specific information regarding Great Bear can be found at and
  • Report on the Topography and Geology of Great Bear Lake and a chain of lakes and streams thence to Great Slave Lake by J. Macintosh Bell - Published in 1901 by S.E. Dawson.
  • Rae to Great Bear Lake, Mackenzie District, N.W.T. - Canada. Geological Survey. Memoir 187 by Desmond Fife Kidd
  • Data on the lake and round whitefish, lake cisco, norther pike, and Arctic grayling for Great Bear Lake, N.W.T., 1971 - 1973 (Data report series CEN/D) (Unknown Binding)
  • Some observations on the Coregonine fish of Great Bear Lake, N.W.T (Bulletin - Fisheries Research Board of Canada) by William A Kennedy (1949)
  • Creel census and biological data from the sport fisheries occurring at Great Bear Lake and adjacent areas, N.W.T., 1984-85 (Canadian data report of fisheries and aquatic sciences) by J. B Dunn (1989)
  • The Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy - A very interesting site that outlines what is described as a "community - based process" to establish a network of protected areas across the Northwest Territories. Included in those areas currently protected, are the Scented Grass Hills and Grizzly Bear Mountain on Great Bear Lake. Maps and background information about each site are available as well.
  • A Review of the Status and Harvests Of Fish Stocks in the Sahtu Dene and Metis Settlement Area, Including Great Bear Lake - Published in 1996, and written by D.B. Stewart, this report was prepared to assist the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board to co-manage fisheries in the Sahtu Dene and Metis Settlement Area. It reviews information on stocks of fishes that are harvested for subsistence, commerce and sport in the Settlement Area, including Great Bear Lake. There is some interesting information on the Lodges that were operating on Great Bear at the time, and if you would like to really get into the "science" of the fishery in these areas, there is a comprehensive list of references included within the report.
  • Denison's Ice Road -Written by Edith Iglauer and published in 1974, this book chronicles the building of the 325 mile ice road from Yellowknife to Great Bear Lake, that was used to service the silver mine located at Port Radium. This book is still in print, and a copy can be found on Amazon.
  • Return to the Drum: Teaching among the Dene - Published by NeWest Press in 2000, this book by Miggs Wynne Morris, chronicles her unique experiences and memories after accepting a teaching position in the Great Bear Lake community of Deline in 1965.
  • Way Down North by Rene Fumoleau- Published in 2010 by Novalis, it is a beautiful collection of Rene's photographs - some of the more than 10,000 he took over the years in and around the Mackenzie River - including Great Bear Lake - that are arranged to reflect the four seasons, in this, one of the most beautiful places on earth.
  • Denendeh: A Dene Celebration by Rene Fumoleau and the Dene Nation - Published by the Dene Nation in 1984, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Dene Nation. The books contains photographs by Rene Fumoleau and excerpts of Dene writing.
  • Here I Sit by Rene Fumoleau - Published in 1995 by Novalis, this book chronicles Dene culture and their way of life in a very interesting and different way through the use of poetry.
  • The Secret by Rene Fumoleau - Published by Novalis in 2002, this, Rene's second book of poetry paints a picture of the Dene people,who were poised between their ancient traditional ways, and the modern world, and the impact this was having on their culture.
  • The People of Great Bear Lake on Film - There are two films directed by Rene Fumoleau that depict Dene life. The first, I Was Born Here, was first released in French - Mon Pays set Ma Vie - in 1977, and can be viewed, and the second is,Dene Nation-made in 1979.


  • The Highway of the Atom - Written by Peter C. van Wyck, this book outlines some of Canada's involvement in the Manhattan Project. Great Bear Lake played a prominent role as much of the uranium used in the project came from the Eldorado Mine. Copies are available from McGill - Queen's University


  • Shelter - an Opera by Juliet Palmer & Julie Salverson - Inspiration for this piece came from Peter c. van Wyck's work on his book, The Highway of the Atom (see above), in which Great Bear Lake plays a prominent role. Produced by Tapestry New Opera in Toronto and presented by the Edmonton Opera Company in 2012, it is about a nuclear family adrift in the atomic age and the challenges they face, both real and imagined.


  • Somba Ke - The Money Place - A documentary film written, directed and produced by Linda Henningson, Petr Cizek and David Henningson. This documentary is the story of the Sahtu Dene, whose lives were forever changed by being witness to the dawn of the atomic age. For more information on this film please go


  • They Never Told Us These Things - An article by Julie Salverson - co-writer of the opera, Shelter - published in the August, 2011 edition of Maisonneuve. The article outlines her journey from Deline on Great Bear Lake - where much of the uranium to build the first atomic bombs came from - to Ground Zero, where the bomb was first tested. It contains some interesting photographs of early mining activities on Great Bear, and interviews with a number of Deline elders. The full article may be found at:



  • Village of Widows a Documentary Film by Peter Blow - This is the story of the Sahtu Dene people who worked as "coolies" transporting the uranium ore that went into the first atomic bombs. Because many of the men who carried the ore have died from cancer, Deline has become know as the "Village of Widows." Information about this film and the impacts of uranium mining at Port Radium can be found


  • The Port Radium Story by Robert Jenkins - Published by Valley Publishing in 1999, this hard to find book, chronicles the history of Port Radium and the Eldorado Mine on Great Bear Lake. The book provides an interesting view of life at the mine by Jenkins's who was at the time, an employee of Eldorado.


  • Miners and Moonshiners by Fred "Tiny" Peet - Published in 1983 by Sono Nis Press out of Victoria, BC, Peet provides the reader with an autobiographical account of his experiences in regards to mining activities in northern Canada, including the Eldorado Mine on Great Bear. Copies of this book are readily available through various on line book sellers such as Alibris and Amazon


  • The Eldorado Radium Silver Express - Reprinted from the 2005 edition of the CNS bulletin, this article speaks to the restoration activities being undertaken by the Western Canada Aviation Museum with respect to a Bellanca Air Cruiser known as the Eldorado Radium Silver Express, that once serviced the Eldorado Mine on Great Bear Lake. The full article can be found



  • Grandfather and the Great Bear - This paper, which chronicles the early days of uranium mining in Canada, was presented by H J M Spence at the 14th International Symposium held by the Uranium Institute in London, in September, 1989. It is both an interesting read and contains a very good list of references for other publications for anyone interested in this topic.


  • Winter by Cornelius Osgood - Described as:"The strange and haunting story of a lone man's experience in the far north" this book, fist published in Great Britain in 1955, chronicles the winter Mr. Osgood spent on Great Bear Lake. Of particular interest are his regular encounters with Neidja - the femme de neige - or woman of the snow.


  • Arctic Journal: Novalis, 1998. 226 p., maps, b&w illus. and Arctic Journal II: A Time For Change: by Bern Will Brown: Novalis, St. Paul University, 1999. 350 p., map, colour illus. - These two journals take the reader through much of Brown's 50 plus years in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta. A former Catholic priest, came north as an Oblate Father for the diocese of the Mackenzie in 1948. Volume 1 contains several very interesting chapters outlining the time he spent in Deline on Great Bear Lake. Now living Colville Lake, just north of Great Bear Lake, Brown, who would likely be in his 90's, is an author, photographer, painter, filmmaker and without a doubt northern legend. If you are a student of northern history you will find these books provide a fascinating insight into the role of the Church, and the lives of the people who worked and lived in the communities of the Mackenzie drainage during the second half of the 20th century.


  • Free Spirits: Portraits From The North. By Bern Will Brown. Toronto, Ontario: Novalis Press, 2007. ISBN BN 978-2-89507-900-2. - Free Spirits contains 22 short stories focused largely on some fascinating northern characters that Brown either met or heard of during his travels through the North. His stories, most of which were told to him in person, tell us about the remarkable deeds of many trappers and traders, herders and explorers, clergy and prophets, sailors and artists. Some of the stories chronicle tragedies such as the accidental drowning of Father Joseph Frapsauce on the Dease Arm of Great Bear Lake in 1920. As something of an aside, the person who found Father Frapsuace was the father of the husband of a Great Bear Lake Outdoors member. There is also a chapter on Jeanne and Johnnie Branson - of Branson's Lodge fame. These are beautifully written stories that chronicle 50 years of history in the Northwest Territories during a period of dynamic and significant change.


  • Alexander Mackenzie: The Lord of the North - Filmed on the great Mackenzie River, this short fiction film recreates the amazing voyage of the man who gave his name to it. Following the path outlined in Mackenzie's journal, the film depicts his arduous journey by canoe all the way to the salt water of the Arctic Ocean - one of the great epics of northern exploration. This docudrama by David Baristow, National Film Board of Canada features a number of people from Deline on Great Bear Lake and can be found


  • Son of the North by Charles Camsell - Published by the Ryerson Press, Toronto in 1954. Born in the late 1800’s in Fort Laird, a tiny, isolated HBC fur trading post, located on the south bank of the Laird River near the point where the current boundaries of British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory now meet, he paints a fascinating picture of life in the Mackenzie District. 3 full chapters of this book are dedicated to his experiences on Great Bear Lake, including his exploration of the area south of Great Bear, and the river that now bears his name – the Camsell. The book contains a number of photographs, and if you are a fan of northern history, this book is well worth the read.


  • Keep Your Nose on the Horizon by John C. Nesbitt - Published in 1979 by Floyd W. Hall/Printer and Publisher/Lindsay, Ontario. - This book can be best described as a series of vignettes chronicling his experience as a bush pilot and prospector in the north over a 40 year period. While flying for Eldorado Mines John made many trips to Great Bear Lake, and in fact loved to fish Gunbarrel Inlet. Although the book suffers from a lack of professional editing, making it somewhat difficult to follow from time to time, it does provide some excellent insight into the joys and hazards of flying in the Arctic. Perhaps my favourite vignette involved a trapper who the RCMP had under house arrest for making home brew. One of his jobs was to cut the winter supply of wood for the detachment. When John flew him back to his trap line after having served his sentence, the RCMP found that he had carefully cut every piece of wood just long enough so that it would not fit into the stove!


  • End-of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene by Bern Will Brown - Dundurn Publishing, Toronto - 2014 - At 94 years young, Bern Will Brown continues to write books about the Arctic and it’s people. Mr. Brown became intimately acquainted with the Sahtu Dene over his 66 years or living and working in the Arctic, and provides a unique insight into the history and culture of the people of Great Bear Lake the Sahtu Dene, or as Alexander Mackenzie referred to them in his 1793 journal – the “Hareskin.” This book features a number of maps, and many of Mr. Brown’s own photographs that have captured a people, and a way of life that has, and continues to undergo profound and rapid change.


  • Lake Trout – North America's Greatest Game Fish - by Ross H. Shiickler & Edward M. Eveland** - This book contains a number of references to Great Bear Lake, including interviews with several anglers who have fished the "Bear" over the years. One of the only books we have seen that focuses solely on Lake Trout.


  • A Painter's Country: The Autobiography of A.Y. Jackson by A.Y. Jackson - Published by Clarke, Irwin 1958 (Hardcover) and 1976 (Loose Leaf) - Jackson visited Great Bear Lake in 1938, 1949 and 1959, and while there created an impressive body of work that came to be know as his "Port Radium" collection. Although pieces from this collection are rarely exhibited, his painting Radium Mine came up for auction in 2012, where it sold for $643,500. 
  • Creel Census and Biological Data From the Lake Trout Sport Fishery on Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, Northwest Territories, 1979 by M. R. Falk, D.V. Gillman and M.M. Roberge. Published in 1982, this study contains data from a creel census and biological sampling program carried out at two sport fishing lodges, Great Bear Lodge on Great Bear and Trophy Lodge on Slave. Results from experimental and domestic gillnetting on these lakes in 1977 and 1978 are included. Creel census data includes catch, effort and harvest statistics. Biological information includes length, weight, age, sex and maturity characteristics of lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush. In addition, an interesting component of this study involved the impact of the disintegration of a Russian satellite. On 24 January 1978, a U.S.S.R. satellite (Cosmos 954) disintegrated in the air above Great Slave Lake, N.W.T. and scattered radioactive debris across the lake and ENE to the vicinity of Baker Lake. The satellite, containing a highly enriched 235U fuelled nuclear reactor power source and radioactive components of the fuel, fission products and activation products were found on the lake ice. The full report can be found at:


  • Journey from Great Bear Late to Wollaston Land - Dr. John Rae - - Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London. This publication contains excerpts from Rae's Journal as he crossed Great Bear Lake in his search for the lost Franklin expedition. A very interesting read that contains many fine old maps as well.


  • Striking Phenotypic Variation yet Low Genetic Differentiation in Sympatric Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) - - While the title is certainly a mouthful, this is a comprehensive study regarding genetic variations in Lake Trout, including reference to those found in Great Bear Lake. The paper also includes a host of reference materials should anyone wish to pursue this further. 
  • The 1972 Sports Fisheries of Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, Northwest Territories by by M.R. Falk, D.V. Gillman, L.W. Dahlia - Falk et al- (73) 1972 sports fishery.pdf - Very comprehensive study commissioned by the Department of the Environment - Fisheries and Marine Service which included a creel census and biological sampling programs were carried out on the lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and other species in both Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes. 4,386 anglers were interviewed from the 6 sports fishing lodges. An estimated 46,897 and 25,286 kg of Lake Trout were harvested on Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes respectively, with 3,212 Lake Trout being sampled for length, weight, sex and maturity during the course of the study.


  • A History of Canada in Ten Maps by Adam Shoalts. Written by Canada's modern day "Indiana Jones," this book tells the history of Canada through ten classic maps. The map that accompanied Sir Alexander Mackenzie's published account of his voyages (1801), and the 1828 map that accompanied Sir John Franklin's published account of his second overland Arctic expatiation, both contain some of the very first images of Great Bear Lake to appear on maps.


  • Eldorado: Canada's National Uranium Company, 1984 by Robert Bothwell - On May 16, 1930, Gilbert LaBine discovered pitchblende on the shores of Great Bear Lake. This story chronicles the beginning of Canada's uranium industry, and tells how Gilbert and his brother Charlie developed the mine at Port Radium. The book contains a number of excellent photographs of Port Radium. New and used copies are readily available through Amazon. 


  • Alexander McKenzie, Journal of Great Bear Lake, 1805 to 1806. To find the electronic copy of this journal go to: and search under "Manuscripts" and then browse by title. Contains some interesting observations regarding his interaction with the people of Great Bear Lake.


  • A Trip to Great Bear Lake : Written by Ryan Silke, who embarked on an investigative tour of historic mine sites on Great Bear Lake including Contact Lake, Port Radium, Elbonanza, Bonanza, Crossfault Lake, and Cameron Bay. Interesting account of many mines on Great Bear Lake that most people have probably never heard of.



  • The Industrial Transformation of Subarctic Canada by Liza Piper, published by UBC in 2008. Between 1821 and 1960, industrial economies took root in the North, effectively superseding the historically dominant fur trade. Imported southern scientists and sojourning labourers worked the Northwest, and its industrial history bears these newcomers' imprint, including the development of Port Radium on Great Bear Lake. Definitely worth reading if you are interested in what the human impact of this transformation was upon the North.

  •  The Northward Expansion of Canada 1914-1967 by Morris Maslow, published by McClelland and Stewart, 1988. A study of the evolution of the Canadian North since Confederation, that documents the northward progress of agriculture, industry, transportation, government, etc. from World War I to 1967. Includes chapters on the impact of this development on the native peoples, including the Great Bear Lake people.

  •  Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, NWT: This is not only a great place to visit if you are in the area, it is the repository of any number of journals, scientific papers/publications and the like, regarding Great Bear Lake and much of the NWT and Nunavut. For information on Great Bear Lake itself, you can click on:   

  • What are We Really Doing in the North by Peter C Newman and What the North Really Looks Like by Blair Fraser: Published in the November 7, 1959 edition of Maclean's Magazine. Both are very interesting articles from the perspective of how we viewed the north and the indigenous peoples in 1959. Great Bear Lake, and the Camsell River are featured as well. To access these articles go to, click on the "Archive" heading and search by article name, year and author.




  • Collected Papers on the Human History of the Northwest Territories - Occational Papers of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Number 1 (One) by Patterson, Margaret Jean; Arnold; D., Charles; Janes, Robert R, Yellowknife, NWT: Government of the Northwest Territories: Topics include: the government's role in N.W.T. recreation; Slavey Quill Bands; A frozen glimpse of British exploration in the Canadian Arctic; Eleonor McNeil of Fort Smith; The Mounted Police and Canadian Sovereignty in the Western Arctic, 1903-1924 and the Archaeology at Great Bear Lake.


  • Magnetic and Meteorological Observations at Lake Athabasca and Fort Simpson by Captain J.H. Lefroy ... ; and at Fort Confidence in Great Bear Lake by Sir John Richardson ... 1855.


  • Report on the topography and geology of Great Bear Lake and of a chain of lakes and streams thence to Great Slave Lake 1901 by James Macintosh Bell.


  • Distant Summers. P. G. Downes' Journals of Travels in Northern Canada, 1936-1947. Vol. 1: 1936-1938. by DOWNES, P.G. (Edited by R. H. Cockburn) Ottawa. McGahern Stewart Publishing. 2012: This book contains the accounts of P. G. Downes' 1936 and 1937 trips in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and of his 1938 journey to Great Bear and Great Slave lakes.


  • Sketches of the life of Mgr. de Mazenod, Bishop of Marseilles, and founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate : and of the missionary labours and travels of members of that society in Canada, Labrador, the Red River regions, Saskatchewan, on the borders of the Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes, in the Mackenzie regions, to the confines of the Arctic Ocean, and in British Columbia 1879 by Robert Cooke.


  • Journey from Great Bear Lake to Wollaston Land Volume 22 1852 by John Rae.


  • The New Desperado by Denis Hicks, Rachelle Books, 1967: "A giant duel of blood and wits between Spender the British agent and Rechler the Nazi war criminal fought one short stormy summer beside Canada's Great Bear Lake." and according to The Daily Mirror it is "Packed with sex and violence." This is likely the first and only fictional publication we have in the library - lets hope so anyway!


  • The Musk-Ox: a Journal on the North , Number 11 by Barr, W. (editor) Saskatoon: Musk-Ox Circle, University of Saskatchewan: Interesting articles on polar and sub-polar regions of the world. This issue contains references to the people of Great Bear Lake.


  • Cultural Persistence: Continuity in Meaning and Moral Responsibility Among the Bearlake Athapaskans by Rushforth, Scott and James S. Chisholm. Tuscon: University Of Arizona Press: This is an Ethnographic study of Athapaskan-speaking Bearlake indians of Canada's NW Territories.


  • Archaeological Reconnaissance in Northern Interior District of Mackenzie, 1969, 1970, and 1972 by Clark, Donald W. Ottawa: National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museums of Canada: Report on examination of about 75 prehistoric sites and nearly 50 historic and recent camps in area north and west of Great Bear Lake.


  • THE GREAT BEAR LAKE MEDITATIONS by Yates, J. Michael, Canada: Oberon Press, 1970: "'A man comes north to become an animal, to turn the whole day toward food and a place to sleep warm." So Michael Yates speaks of his encounter with the Canadian Arctic.


  • Inuk by Buliard, Roger. New York: Farrar, Straus & Young, 1951: Outlines the history of the Catholic missions in the Great Bear Lake area.


  • Northern Adventure by Jean McGill: The exploration of Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, in the Northwest Territories. It contains numerous black and white photographs and 8 maps.


  • Rae to Great Bear Lake, Mackenzie District, N. W. T by D. F. Kidd: Canada Geological Survey Memoir 187, 1936.


  • Data Record Limnological Survey Great Bear Lake N.W.T. 1963 (Series, No. 13), Fisheries Research Board of Canada.


  • ARGOSY August 1972, Fishing Great Bear Lake by Robert C. O'Brien: Argosy was once a popular men's adventure magazine, and this story was published in Volume 375, #2.


  • Lost In The Barren Grounds. The Great Bear Lake Region: An original article from the Wide World Magazine, 1936 by H. A. Dodd. Available from


  • Preliminary Map, Great Slave Lake to Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, by Geological Survey of Canada (Topographical Survey) Geological Survey of Canada Paper 41-2, 1941.



  • The History of Plummer's Arctic Lodges: If you are interested in the some of the history of Plummer's Lodges both on Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes, you will find a number of stories from the early days of the lodges at:  


  • Down North by Tony Onraet, first published in 1944 by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London – Alden Press: Sets out his experiences on and around Great Bear Lake, as a trapper, prospector and even restauranteur. This is simply one of the very best books in this particular genre. A must read.


  • Sport And Travel in the Northland of Canada by David T. Hanbury, published in 1904 by Edward Arnold, 37 Bedford St., Strand, London: Traces Hanbury’s journey from the shores of Hudson’s Bay, along the Arctic Coast, up the Coppermine, across the Dismal Lakes, down the Dease River and across Great Bear Lake, to Fort Norman, ultimately arriving in Edmonton. The book contains detailed descriptions of the animals, and people with whom he traveled and encountered along the way, together with many photographs, drawings, and comments on the botanical, geological and entomological specimens he collected en route. Copies of the original book are somewhat hard to come by.


  • Rakekée Gok'é Godi Places We Take Care Of - Report of the Sahtu Heritage Places and Sites Joint Working Group. Prepared By: The Sahtu Heritage Places and Sites Joint Working Group January 2000 (2nd Edition). Written by Tom Andrews.





  • OTTER TALES – Flying Memories by Jack Ireland: Jack’s book covers everything in his varied and interesting flying career from single engine aircraft to satellites – yes satellites. Having flown throughout much of Canada’s north – including Great Bear Lake and the Tree River (Chapter 17 – Wind and Currents) he describes the challenges inherent when flying in such remote areas often times with the only aide to navigation being what you could – at least most of the time – see out of the window! Copies may be purchased at:  


  • Preliminary Map, Great Slave Lake to Great bear Lake, Northwest Territories/Geological Survey of Canada (Topographical Survey) – 1941. Copy obtained from Eryops Books, PO Box 2051, Stephenville, TX 76401, USA.


  • Lost in the Barren Grounds: Charles Bunn’s experience on J.M. Bell’s geographical expedition to the Great Bear Lake region/ H.A. Dodd of Usk, Canada, illustrated by W.R.S. Stott. Wide World Magazine, Newnes, London, 1935, First Edition, Disbound. Copy was obtained from Cosmo Books, Tudor House, 47 High St., Wern, SY4 5DG, United Kingdom.


  • Cameron Bay, Great Bear Lake - The Story of the Northwest Territories’ First Boom Town by Ryan Silke: Author Ryan Silke chronicles the history of the town site together with the extensive mining activity that went on in the surrounding area, the crown jewel of which was the Eldorado Mine where radium was found, and which was located only a short distance from the town.

    This book is comprehensively researched, well written and contains a number of very interesting historical photographs, newspaper/magazine articles and maps, thereby making it a great read for both Great Bear Lake history buffs, and/or for those who just want to know what our fellow Canadians were up to in the far north during what was a very exciting time for the Canadian mining industry in the Northwest Territories.

    A copy may be found at: 




** For more detailed information regarding this book, please refer to the Book Review section that can be found on this site. 


Last modified onFriday, 22 July 2022 08:21
More in this category: Mare incognitum - The Unknown Sea »