The Kazan River flows through a transitional area of boreal forest and treeless tundra, with the 615 km-long designated section flowing between the outlet of Ennadai Lake to Baker Lake.
In the Kazan watershed, the forest, where it exists at all, is made up of sparse black spruce and tamarack, rarely more than a metre or two high. Rocky terrain with sandstone, granite, and volcanic rock can also be found in the region. Of particular interest are the tilted layers of blood-red sandstone formed by giant wind-blown dunes more than 1.8 billion years ago. These formations are visible on the east side of the river.
Some regions of the river have lush concentrations of vegetation surrounding swift-water narrows and imposing waterfalls. Notable features on the river include The Three Cascades, a series of five to seven metre-high waterfalls, as well as the beautiful Kazan Falls.
Signs of the Caribou Inuit and the people who came before them are everywhere along the river, evocative of a time when they lived entirely off the land. Local Caribou Inuit still travel by canoe and kayak, going about their daily life hunting and fishing on the Kazan.
Their Dene and Inuit ancestors used the river during summers for more than 5,000 years, retreating to the tree line or the coast for the rest of the year. The Kazan was unmapped until J.B. Tyrrell, the first geologist on the river, canoed from its headwaters to Forde Lake in 1894.
For six to eight weeks, from July to September, wilderness paddling enthusiasts can explore the river. Campsites are plentiful and easily accessible. Virtually every site has been occupied in the past, and travellers often feel like they are walking through recent Inuit camps, hunting grounds, trails, lookouts and gravesites.
Fishing for Arctic grayling and lake trout is excellent along the river. Caribou trails cross the tundra, and the long twilight hours of summer are often filled with the distinctive clicking of caribou ankle bones, giving rise to their Inuit name, ‘tuk-to’. Birdwatchers can also enjoy many species rarely seen in the south: Arctic terns, tundra swans, snowy owls and ptarmigans.
Who Manages the River?
The Kazan River is managed jointly through a collaboration of several community partners, coordinated by Nunavut Parks and Special Places, a division of the Government of Nunavut.
Both wolverine and muskox inhabit the area. Once decimated by 19th century European demand for muskox robes, the muskox population is now thriving along the river as a result of conservation efforts.