Ron Bilawey’s Trip of a Lifetime

Harold Written by 

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In late June of 1976 a group of 4:

 John Zigarlick Jr.: President and CEO of Echo Bay Mines 

Bill Compton: Mine Superintendent    "        "      " 

Ted Lewis: Mine Security                        "        "      " 

Ron Bilawey: Corporate Secretary and Assistant to the President, Northern Transportation Company Limited.

We left Hay River NWT in a new 20’ fibreglass day cruiser, open bow with a 140hp I/O, and a new 35hp O/B. Full survival equipment + gear + food, and 8, full 5 gallon plastic gas containers. 

Proceeding across the base of Great Slave Lake, we made our way to the mouth of the Mackenzie River (90 miles), then down the Mackenzie to the confluence of the Bear River and the Mackenzie, to cover a total of 500 miles. 

John and I rotated roles of Captain and Navigator during the trip.

While at Fort Norman, now called Tulita, which in Dene means "place where the waters/rivers meet”, a hamlet founded just a stone's throw from the river banks Mackenzie/Bear, we met a local fellow whom we invited to join us for tea. 

During the course of our chat he told us his story of how he makes a trek every 3rd year to visit his mother in a Yukon village 300 miles away  "as the crow flies"!  

No maps, no roads, he just travels with rifle in hand and a backpack, all the while en route, living off the land and what nature provides.

We then made our way up the Bear River (88 miles) on a Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) barge, portaging around the St, Charles Rapids, trans-shipping twice to the mouth of the Bear River. 

Unloaded the boat and associated equipment at the NTCL camp 6 miles across the Bay from Fort Franklin, (now Deline) and waited for 3 days for a lead in the ice to make our way out onto Great Bear Lake. 

Travelled 250 miles across Great Bear Lake to the Echo Bay Mine Site, where after a few day's of fishing on the Company Yacht "Silver John,” I flew back to Edmonton on the Company's DC6.

Other than the ice delay, the trip was without incident. 

The expedition took 22 days, and we all caught countless Lake Trout and Grayling.

The "consecutive catch record" for the group was the catching and releasing of a Graying on 47 consecutive casts!

Needless to say, "trip of a lifetime" barely expressed our overall feelings!


Ron Bilawey

Last modified onSaturday, 27 May 2017 23:43
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