Hornaday River

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Hornady River
Country Canada
Main source South of Bluenose Lake (Takipaq), Nunavut
River mouth Amundsen Gulf, Northwest Territories
Sea level
69°19′50″N 123°47′41″W / 69.33056°N 123.79472°W / 69.33056; -123.79472Coordinates: 69°19′50″N 123°47′41″W / 69.33056°N 123.79472°W / 69.33056; -123.79472
Basin size 13,120 km2 (5,070 sq mi)[1]
Physical characteristics
Length 190 km (120 mi)
  • Average rate:
    52.2 m3/s (1,840 cu ft/s)[1]

Hornaday River (variants: Big River, Homaday River, Hornaaa River;[2] or Rivière La Roncière-le Noury[3]) is a waterway located above the Arctic Circle on the mainland of Northern Canada.

The upper reach of a river first discovered in 1868 was named Rivière La Roncière-le Noury in honour of Admiral Baron Adalbert Camille Marie Clément de La Roncière-Le Noury, commander of the Mediterranean Squadron, and president of the Société de Géographie. The lower reach of a river discovered in 1899 was named Hornaday after American zoologist William Temple Hornaday. Decades later, the Roncière and the Hornaday were ascertained to be the same river.


The river originates (67°52′10″N 120°13′16″W / 67.86944°N 120.22111°W / 67.86944; -120.22111 (Hornady River (head))) in the western Kitikmeot Region, Nunavut, 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Bluenose Lake[2] (Takipaq).[4][5] It initially flows west-southwest, passing into the Northwest Territories along the southern edge of the Melville Hills within the Settlement Region of the Inuvialuit,[6] just south of the Tuktut Nogait National Park boundary. It then flows northwest through Tuktut Nogait, its canyons and waterfalls making it one of the main features of the park. The river empties into Amundsen Gulf's Darnley Bay, 14 kilometres (9 mi) east of the Inuit hamlet of Paulatuk.[7]

The Hornaday is approximately 190 kilometres (120 mi) long. Its main tributary is the Little Hornaday River northwest of the park. First Creek, Second Creek, Aklak Creek, George Creek, and Rummy Creek drain the Hornaday. Rummy Lake (69°07′31″N 123°30′08″W / 69.12528°N 123.50222°W / 69.12528; -123.50222 (Rummy Lake (Hornady River))), Seven Islands Lake (69°17′02″N 123°00′16″W / 69.28389°N 123.00444°W / 69.28389; -123.00444 (Seven Islands Lake (Hornady River))), and Hornaday Lake are part of the river's system.[6] Hornaday River runs parallel with the Horton River to its west, and the Brock River to its east.

Located at an elevation of 274 metres (899 ft) above sea level,[8] La Roncière Falls (69°08′16″N 122°52′37″W / 69.13778°N 122.87694°W / 69.13778; -122.87694 (La Roncière Falls (Hornady River))) is a 23-metre (75 ft) waterfall on the Hornaday, south of the main tributary. Its name was adopted by the Geographical Names Board of Canada in June 1952.[9]

Natural history[edit]

The area is part of the Arctic, Interior and Hudson Platforms. Deposit characteristics are coal seam.

The river's drainage basin includes the area between Great Bear Lake and the Arctic Ocean.[10] Its middle course supports a wide channel for 65 kilometres (40 mi).[3] The river's stretches include a broad bedrock valley, bedrock canyons, and a delta into the Arctic Ocean. Its tundra has a permafrost layer 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) below the surface which minimizes groundwater flow and storage, forcing rainstorm flow directly into the river.

Flora along the river is characterized by typical tundra vegetation such as sedge and lupine meadows, and some willow patches along the lower Hornaday.[6] While a dense cover of spruce is found along the nearby Horton River, there are no spruce along the Hornaday.[9]

Arctic charr, plentiful, are monitored by the Paulatuk community. Commercial fishing occurred between 1968 through 1986, sports fishing occurred in 1977 and 1978, while currently, the Hornaday is only a food fishery.[6] Other fish species with the river include Arctic cisco, Arctic grayling, broad whitefish, burbot, longnose sucker, and nine-spined stickleback. Capelin are an abundant food source for the fish species.[6]

The bluenose barren-ground caribou herd's calving grounds are west of the Hornaday River, south to the Little Hornaday River.[11]


Mapping controversy[edit]

The Rivière La Roncière-le Noury was discovered in 1868 by Émile Petitot, a French Missionary Oblate and a notable Canadian northwest cartographer, ethnologist, and geographer. He traveled most of the course of the river, mapping it in 1875. He admitted that he did not explore its lower reaches because of heavy fogs. In error, he charted its mouth to be in Franklin Bay instead of Darnley Bay.[3] Petitot made the mistake based on hearsay, possibly from the Dene (Hare Indians) that traveled with him.[12] However, in the same year, his accounts and maps were published in Paris, where he was awarded a silver medal by the Société de Géographie.

Because the river's mouth was mapped incorrectly, later explorers believed the Roncière did not exist.[13]

In 1899, naturalist Andrew J. Stone of the American Museum of Natural History investigated the shores of Franklin Bay and Darnley Bay, discovering the mouth of a large river entering Darnley Bay, but he did not travel up the river. Stone named it Hornaday River in honour of William T. Hornaday, director of the New York Zoological Society.[10]

Between 1909 and 1912, Arctic explorers Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Rudolph Anderson explored Franklin and Darnley Bays. In the 1913 The Stefánsson-Anderson Arctic expedition of the American museum : preliminary ethnological report, Stefansson concluded that "...River la Ronciere is represented to be on the chart, and that the River la Ronciere is in fact non-existent".[14] Stefansson did not mention the river Stone found in 1899.[3]

In 1915, the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-18 finally delineated the southern shore of Darnley Bay, including the mouth of the Hornaday, but again, the expedition did not travel up the Hornaday. The subsequent map still showed the Hornaday to be a short stream drained a few miles inland by a large lake.[3]

It was not until 1949 that aerial photography by the Royal Canadian Air Force produced a Topographical Survey showing the 190-kilometre (120 mi) Hornaday.[3] But the photographs were not used to create Canada's 1952 Geographical Branch, Department of Mines and Technical Surveys map as, again, the Hornaday is charted as a short stream.[15]

After studying maps and aerial photographs, and investigating the area in 1951 with geomorphologist J. Ross Mackay.[16] J. Keith Fraser of the Geographical Branch, Department of Mines and Technical Surveys ascertained that the Roncière did in fact exist; it was now known as the Hornaday.[17]


Hundreds of archaeological sites have been found along the Hornaday within Tuktut Nogait from Thule culture times or earlier. Most of the campsites are temporary, seasonal, or multi-generational. They include markers, rock alignments, hearths, hunting blinds, meat-drying areas, and artifacts, such as komatik parts.[18]


An old coal mine site (69°10′N 123°22′W / 69.167°N 123.367°W / 69.167; -123.367 (Coal mine (Hornady River))), both open-pit mining and underground, is located on the west side of the Hornaday River, north of the junction between George Creek and Rummy Creek, and 32 kilometres (20 mi) southeast of Paulatuk. It operated during the period of 1936 to 1941.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ayles, G. Burton; Snow, Norman B. (January 2002). "Canadian Beaufort Sea 2000: The Environmental and Social Setting". Arctic (Arctic Institute of North America) 55 (5, Supp. 1): 9. doi:10.14430/arctic731. ISSN 1923-1245. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Hornaday River (Nunavut and N.W.T.)". oclc.org. Retrieved 2009-03-06. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f Davis, Richard Clarke, ed. (1996). "Emile Petitot (1838 - 1916)". Lobsticks and Stone Cairns: Human Landmarks in the Arctic. Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary Press. pp. 153–154. ISBN 1-895176-88-3. 
  4. ^ Stevenson, Marc (1991). Survey of the proposed national park at Bluenose Lake. Northern Past Heritage Consultants (Report) (Arctic Science and Technology Information System). Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  5. ^ Jones, T. A.; Jeffersen, C. W.; Morrell, G. R. (April 1992). Assessment of Mineral and Energy Resource Potential in the Brock Inlier - Bluenose Lake Area, N.W.T. (Report). Ottawa, Canada: Geological Survey of Canada. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Hornaday River Arctic Charr (PDF). DFO Science Stock Status Report D5-68 (1999) (Report) (Winnipeg, Canada: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Government of Canada). February 2000. ISSN 1480-4913. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  7. ^ "Activities - Experiences to Discover - Paddling". Tuktut Nogait National Park of Canada. Parks Canada. 2015-05-15. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  8. ^ "La Roncière Falls ca. 274 m". GeoNames. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  9. ^ a b Fraser, J. K. (January 1952). "Identification of Petitot's Riviere La Ronciere-le Noury". Arctic (Arctic Institute of North America) 5 (4): 231. doi:10.14430/arctic3914. ISSN 1923-1245. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  10. ^ a b Fraser (January 1952), p. 227
  11. ^ "Bluenose-West Herd". nwtwildlife.com. February 12, 2009. Archived from the original on 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  12. ^ Fraser (January 1952), p. 232
  13. ^ Fraser (January 1952), pp. 224, 234
  14. ^ Stefansson, Vilhjalmur (2004). My Life with the Eskimo. Kessinger Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 1-4179-2395-4. 
  15. ^ Fraser (January 1952), p. 228, Figure 3, "Portions of Anderson River Sheet... showing latest published mapping of the Horton, Hornaday and Brock Rivers."
  16. ^ Fraser, J. Keith (January 1957). "Activities of the Geographical Branch in Northern Canada, 1947-1957". Arctic (Artctic Institute of North America) 10 (4): 246–250. doi:10.14430/arctic3770. ISSN 1923-1245. 
  17. ^ Fraser (January 1952), p. 224
  18. ^ Savauge, Stephen; Cockney, Cathy (2001). "Tuktut Nogait Cultural Resource Inventory". Annual Report of Research and Monitoring in National Parks of the Western Arctic 2001. Parks Canada. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  19. ^ "Hornaday River Coal Mine". Northwest Territories Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 

External links[edit]