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David F. Pelly Writer, Researcher, Historian, Photographer

A River Sanctuary
Published in 1996
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This is the definitive book about Canada's largest and oldest fully protected wilderness: an outstanding biography of a special place.

David was moved to write this book at a time when the Thelon Sanctuary was under threat, in what the federal government called a "Mineral Review."  Consideration was being given to opening the Sanctuary to exploration by mining companies.  Although it had been set aside in 1927, and had remained uniquely untouched ever since, the end threatened.  This book and David's cross-country speaking tour upon its publication – 40 venues in six weeks – contributed to raising the Canadian public's awareness and helped generate the letter-writing campaign which was instrumental in saving the Sanctuary.

In his preface, David writes:
"It is the richness of human experience, layered on top of the natural splendour of the river valley and its wildlife, that really sets the Thelon apart.  The place has a history, both Native and non-Native, which gives it standing beyond the intrinsic value of wilderness itself.  That may prove to be the difference between preservation and destruction of the Thelon wilderness; history may be its saving grace.  This book is my attempt to render that history accessible, thinking it may make a difference to the future.  Wilderness, to survive as wilderness, needs a voice.  Its own voice cannot be heard beyond those who enter it as a sanctum.  It cannot speak for itself, to defend itself against our intrusions.  That underlies my motive for writing this book, to add my effort to the communal voice speaking on behalf of the Thelon wilderness."

David tells the Thelon's story, exploring the mystery of Man's relationship with this special place in the heart of Canada's vast arctic barrenlands.  From Thanadelthur and Telaruk to JW Tyrrell, John Horny and Eric Morse, the history is detailed, complete and exciting.  The Thelon is the setting for a compelling Canadian adventure tale with all its drama, intrigue, joy and tragedy.
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"A classic that will endure through the years ... a must read!"

Alex Hall
Canoe Arctic Inc.
"What is very clear is that with this work, the culmination of a lifetime devoted to the North, Pelly wanted to convey a luminous vision of the river."

M.T. Kelly, author
Governor General’s Award winner
Books in Canada
"It's a toss-up what's more enjoyable: reading about the Thelon River's pristine arctic wilderness, or about the colourful cast of characters it has lured over the years ... It's all here."

Winnipeg Free Press
"superb ... exciting ... scrupulously researched ... some wonderful little gems ... hits all the right buttons."

The Journal of Canadian Wilderness Canoeing
"Thelon is a captivating, highly attractive and lively narrative ... [but] the author's message is a serious one."

Wildfowl & Wetlands (UK)
"Pelly writes in the introduction to this book that the Thelon is a place of mystery. He is able to convey that mystery to the reader. This is a great book for someone who has wide ranging interests and the imagination to be swept away to another place or time."

Katherine Robinson
CBC Radio
"Thoughtful, well-written, with vivid detail and a fascinating collection of historical photographs."

Canoe & Kayak
"The only single book that recounts the complete story of this river is Thelon: A River Sanctuary by David F. Pelly. From the geologic history, to the Aboriginal and European history, to the formation of the Thelon Game Sanctuary, it is all in this book – the  bibliography alone is worth the price."

Bill Layman, canoeist, writer, thinker
"A lovely and intelligent, comprehensive book."

Barbara Boote
Little Brown Publishers
London, England
"Real good!"

Archie Larocque
Barrenland trapper & RCMP special constable, 1930s
"It is an excellent book. I enjoyed it particularly knowing the life of the trapper in the Northwest, which I never forget. But a reader does not have to be a trapper to enjoy this book. It is well-written, entertaining, and it transported the Thelon right into my home. I have read it already two times, and I will certainly read it again."

Helge Ingstad, Norway, author
The Land of Feast and Famine
Barrenland trapper, 1926-30
"It captures exactly the feeling of being there ... had me almost weeping with longing to be back."

Pamela Morse, Ottawa
"As exciting as a well-plotted novel ... goes a long way toward explaining the almost magnetic pull the North can exercise on people."

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal
"... magnificent . . . The Thelon itself is very much the hero of this book. Definitely recommended for the Arctic bookshelf."

Above & Beyond
The Arctic Journal

Bibliographic data
Thelon: A River Sanctuary
Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association & Key Porter, 1996
216 pages • 7"x 9"
Colour and B&W photos, maps
Bibliography • Index
Paperback: ISBN: 1-895465-21-4

Distributed by Dundurn Press