True North, Pt. 3: Max Ward’s Bush Camp

This summer, Red Canoe founder Dax Wilkinson hopped into a Cessna 185 Amphib and headed north – way north – to Yellowknife, NWT. We recounted the first leg of the journey here, and last week we shared some pics from Yellowknife. Today, we’ll answer the question: What does Dax Wilkinson do after traveling about 3000 km north? (Hint: It involves going further north. Of course.)

Dax and his crew received an unexpected – and most welcome – invitation to visit Rock Haven, the camp of Canadian aviation legend Max Ward. Ward, who flew with the RCAF in WWII, and founded the now-legendary Wardair in 1953 with a single De Havilland Beaver. (He’d started an earlier bush airline in 1946 with a De Havilland Fox Moth, which is now in the Canadian Aviation Museum.)

Here, some highlights of Dax’s adventures at Rock Haven, about 400 km north of Yellowknife.


Where, exactly, is Rock Haven? See the sign, above, to get a rough idea. (That’s miles, not kilometres, by the way.)


When navigating the great north, every little puddle counts.


Under bright blue skies, the crew arrives. Paradise? Found.


Ward, who turns 89 next month, is said to have survived four crashes in the bush in his early flying days. Here, he shares some wisdom with a travel-weary Dax.


Dave Crerar (above, wearing a navy De Havilland cap), flies Max Ward’s Turbo Otter. Crerar is a virtuoso pilot, and he’s not afraid to get hands dirty: The muscles he’s flexing here were used to make a new concrete floor at the camp earlier that day.


There may not be many people this far north, but there sure are a lot of black flies and mosquitoes. Hence Pete Dozzi’s outfit, above.


Think Pete’s bug suit was overkill? Then see Exhibit A, above: The highest concentration of insects to ever sit on an RCAF Kit Bag.


The lake trout were biting: Think a 10-to-20-pounder every five minutes or so. Here, Dax holds a 14-pounder caught by the eight-year-old son of a member of Max Ward’s A-team of engineers and pilots. The lad had caught and handled so many fish that day, he didn’t want to get his hands dirty with another. Dax didn’t mind. (The fish, of course, were all caught with barbless single hooks – and promptly returned to the water.)


A very cool relic from the Wardair days.


Sunrise, sunset. Up here, it’s almost the same thing. This shot was taken at midnight.


One look back as the fellows begin the long journey home.

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