Written by Harold
- Published in Stories and Articles
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Now there’s a question that I suspect has just as many answers, if not more, than the number of people who choose to answer it.
To say that Great Bear Lake and the rugged environs that lie beyond its borders are special is akin to describing the Titanic as just another boat.
The Bear is hands down, like no other place on earth.
How many places have you visited, or dreamed of visiting that can be described as uncompromising, gentle, harsh, peaceful, unforgiving, serene, spectacular, subtle, unrelenting, magnificent, beautiful and even mysterious?
My guess is not many, if any at all.
Over my 40 plus years of being a “visitor” to Great Bear Lake, I have from time to time asked people why they went to all the expense and bother of coming this far north, and while receiving the occasional shrug and/or puzzled look, the answers I did get were as varied and unique as the individuals themselves.
They came to:
- Set world records
- Boldly go where few have gone before
- See the Northern Lights and/or Midnight Sun
- Drink the purest, best tasting water on the planet
- See unique and spectacular wildlife
- Have shore lunch
- Walk through history
- Test themselves
- Connect with old friends
- Canoe/raft the giant lake and/or wild tundra rivers
- Marvel at the incredible diversity and beauty of the plant life
- Take photographs
- Check out some muskoxen
- Find themselves
- Travel back in time
- Cross one off the bucket list
- Find peace
- Be amazed, and
- To be continued…
For many, including myself, it simply gets into your blood, and not actually being there, or facing the prospect of never returning, leaves a giant hole that is difficult, if not impossible to fill.
I asked this question on our Facebook page a few years back, and here are some of the reasons why these folks think it’s so special:
“After spending almost 2 decades guiding on the lake I could write a book on why, but in a few simple words it was when the world was new, a quote from a local man, can't remember his name, but to his credit the area should be protected like it was when the world was new! It should be a protected national park controlled by the local First People's!
Catch and release national Park!”
“Great Bear Lake is Awesome, love the smell of the lake smells so Good n Fresh n love the people of Deline Firstnation”
Phoebe Menacho Esau
“Privilege to be Sahtuotine, GBL people.”
“Everything about Bear is special, the potential for greatness with every fish hooked, seeing the different colour patterns and morphs, fishing in true solitude, the scenery is other worldly, the wildlife everywhere, being truly connected to the environment, and last but not least, the crazy characters that inhabit our little villages!
The best place on earth!”
“Brandon I love spending time with my family fishing and exploring the arctic. There is no other place like it. Knowing that you are the only people, boats on a huge lake that is full of lake trout. You never know how big the next strike will be.”
“Every morning guiding in the arctic I wake up thinking "today could be the day". On this particular day I was "guiding" my dad and brother and we landed this 30+ lb. lake trout.
The day’s dreams are made of. When it's with family - it's the days you'll remember forever.”
“Great Bear Lake and the land, lakes and rivers that surround it, are in my estimation national treasures, a land frozen in time that has provided me with a unique opportunity to see and experience the world as it was many thousands of years ago.”
Fredrick B Watt
In his book “Great Bear – A Journey Remembered,” which chronicles his experiences on the lake as a prospector’s assistant in the early 1930’s, he says:
“It is giant among the world’s freshwater seas. Astride the Arctic Circle, it is instantly identifiable on the smallest-scale map of Canada.
This is Great Bear Lake, long shrouded in mystery and superstition.”
I’ll leave you with this comment from a Tłı̨chǫ elder made to Father John Paul Beaulieu in 1864, on the subject of his land - which at the time encompassed much of the area in and around Great Bear Lake - as compared to what was described to him as “white man’s” heaven.
“Tell me father is it like the land of the little trees when the ice has left the lakes?
Are the great musk oxen there?
Are the hills covered with flowers?
There will I see caribou everywhere I look?
Are the lakes blue with the sky of summer?
Is every net full of great, fat whitefish?
Is there room for me in this land, like our land, the Barrens?
Can I camp anywhere and not find that someone else has camped?
Can I feel the wind and be like the wind?
Father if your heaven is not all of these, leave me alone in my land, the land of the little sticks.”
“Why” is a small word that packs an awfully big punch.
So take a few moments to think about “why” the Bear is special to you, and we’ll ensure that your thoughts are incorporated into this ongoing story.
A few words, or for that matter a photo is all we ask – although feel free to write a book about it if your so inclined - but even a single word or photograph can at times be more than enough.