The Hoarfrost River site, 260 km northeast of Yellowknife, is the homestead of Kristen and Dave Olesen. Since 1987 the Olesens have lived here year round, raised their family, and based their business, Hoarfrost River Huskies. They run a large kennel of working sled dogs and operate a commercial aviation service using two small bush planes on floats and skis.
The Hoarfrost River Homestead is perfectly situated for a variety of field experiences and research. It straddles several ecosystems, aquatic and terrestrial. McLeod Bay of Great Slave Lake is out the front door, and the taiga-tundra transition zone lies just to the north. Another facet, laying literally at the doorstep now, is that of fire ecology. In July 2014, a wind-driven wildfire claimed the Olesen’s family home along with their guest cabin and some other outbuildings. The homestead now stands in the midst of a wide swath of burned taiga forest, which will take many decades to pass through its various phases of regrowth. After the fire and its devastation, Dave and Kristen have considered their options and decided to remain, to build again, and meanwhile to immerse themselves in observing and experiencing the land’s recovery.
Though not until relatively recently designated as a “research site,” the Hoarfrost homestead has been a base camp for various researchers over the past 30 years, in diverse fields including vegetation studies, geology, seismology, lake sediments, and wildlife biology. The combination of bush planes, local field expertise, and a pre-established year-round base of operations, complete with living quarters and communication, has been a logistical advantage for dozens of scientists from Laurier and other institutions.
The homestead has also hosted training courses including wilderness first aid and backcountry survival. Every winter the Olesens and their dog teams teach cold-weather outdoor skills to groups of adventurous tourists and students.
The Hoarfrost River Homestead provides a friendly home base in the heart of a remote and diverse ecosystem. Along with this location come decades of local knowledge, two bush aircraft based on-site, and the waters of a pristine river and the most remote portions of Great Slave Lake.