Portage Brûlé Hot Spring
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Today’s update is written in the style of my favorite guide book (no points for guessing which one…)
Portage Brûlé Hot Spring
up to 48 ˚C (118 ˚F)
These seldom visited springs are situated on the north shore of the Liard River about 3 kms (2 mi.) downstream from the mouth of the Coal River. Round-trip hiking time is around 4 hours and may be longer if the water level in the Liard is high.
Coal River is 65 km North of Liard Hot Springs on the Alaska Highway. From the general store, drive 8.2 km (5 mi.) south on the Alaska Highway to a large pull-out with a big black sign. From here, walk or drive 1.3 km (1 mi.) north to a large culvert running down to the nearby Liard. Walk down the culvert to the Liard and hike about 2.5 km (1.6 mi.) upstream along the shoreline to the Portage Brûlé Rapids. 20 meters (60 ft.) before the rapids, rock cliffs will force you up onto the Portage trail which may be marked by flagging tape and is kept in useable condition by paddling enthusiasts. Continue along the trail which hugs the cliff edge for approx. 1.5 km (1 mi.) looking out for yellow colored limestone and tufa just above the waterline below. Hiking time from the highway to the springs is about 2 hours.
When the Liard is running high, there is little to no bank in many places, making it impossible to reach the rapids. I’m told an overgrown trail exists from the end of the airstrip behind the Coal River general store to the springs. I don’t know how difficult the bush whacking is and I was told numerous times this area is very popular with bear sows and cubs.
As many as 15 seeps issue from bedrock along about 300 meters (1000 ft.) of river bank between the Liard and a clay bank above. Many of the springs begin in large pools and have formed tufa terraces and mounds as they flow into the Liard. The best pool, formed from hardened tufa is about 3 meters (10 ft.) across by 1 meter (3 ft.) deep. Hot water (about 39 ˚C (102 ˚F)) swells up from the algae-covered bottom. Two nearby vents with good flow rates are 48 ˚C (118 ˚F). Many of the hottest springs were on the waterline so it’s very likely more were underwater at the time of my visit.
The spring water is colorless and odorless and gas bubbles from many of the springs.
Beware of rock slides as you walk along the bank of the Liard, it’s very steep and doesn’t leave much room for error.