A Chicago man who paddled away from Hay River on June 15 has successfully completed an “amazing” solo journey of the Mackenzie River.

“I would say this trip was the greatest experience in my life. It really was,” said David Yanowski. “It couldn’t have been more perfect.”

Yanowski contacted The Hub last week to update an earlier story about his departure from Hay River.

“I made it to Tuk on July 30,” he said by telephone from Ontario.

In 46 days, he visited all the communities along the river – Fort Providence, Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Tulita, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Tsiigehtchic, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

Afterwards, he paddled for another six days on the Husky Channel of the river to see Fort McPherson and Aklavik.

“I ended up spending 59 days in the Northwest Territories,” he said. “It was the most amazing trip of my life. Just the way people treated me and the kindness. It was unbelievable. Just one great experience after another after another.”

Yanowski was impressed by the welcome he received in every community.

“It was beyond belief,” he said.

People would offer him food, invite him into their homes and show him around their communities.
“Things like that kept happening over and over again, and it’s just the generosity of people,” he said.

David Yanowski, a kayaker from Chicago, has successfully completed a solo journey down the Mackenzie River from Hay River. Afterwards, he paddled the Husky Channel of the river. photo courtesy of David Yanowski

In the process, Yanowsky said he learned about Indigenous issues and concerns from talking to people, including their efforts to counter the effects of the residential school system.

One of his goals was to learn about people living along the river, and he said he did that more than he could have ever imagined.

The 61-year-old, who is originally from Toronto, has been living in the United States for almost 30 years.

In Chicago, Yanowsky, who has a fifth-degree black belt, operates a karate school teaching martial arts to inner-city young people.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.