A tributary of the fabled Nahanni River, the Broken Skull River takes everything that has made the Nahanni River famous and ups the ante again. Beautiful mountain scenery, pristine wilderness, fun whitewater, steaming hot springs, ancient tufa mounds and stunning canyons. Our Broken Skull River trip is a different experience in that the group paddles all the way to Virginia Falls to get the chance to see the beating heart of Nahanni National Park.
Deep in the Mackenzie Mountains, your journey down the Broken Skull begins at Divide Lake, the headwaters of the river. For the next 110 km the river grows from a small creek into a crystal-clear azure ribbon that snakes its way towards its junction with the Nahanni. Continuous rock dodging and rapids make this river a blast to paddle and travelling this high up in the mountains the scenery is truly out of this world. Highlights of the trip include paddling through the “mini-gate” and soaking in the piping hot Broken Skull Hot Springs as well as many opportunities for wildlife sightings and nights spent socializing under the midnight sun. There are many incredible hiking opportunities at 3 valley gap. This hidden gem of a river is one that we consider to have the best of the best that the Mackenzie Mountains have to offer.
After seven or eight days descending the Broken Skull, the journey continues on the Upper Nahanni. With the whitewater behind you, it’s time to enjoy a calm but fast float past the tallest mountains in the Northwest Territories all the way to Virginia Falls.
There is also the option to continue down the Nahanni to make a 22 or 23 day trip. Please inquire for information.
Nahanni River/Broken Skull Webinar
||Arrival in Norman Wells NWT, Group Orientation and Outfitting, Paddle training on DOT Lake in evening, first night dinner at Lodge, and final trip preparations
||Fly from Norman Wells to Divide Lake in a floatplane over the spectacular Mackenzie Mountains. Set up camp on the shores of this pristine mountain lake and enjoy the day! This can include hiking one of the surrounding mountain peaks, paddling around the lake, or just enjoying the views.
||After breakfast and packing up, it is time to start the journey by finding the outlet of aptly named Cold Feet Creek on the south end of Divide Lake. The next few hours are spent getting to know your canoe partner by lining and floating the canoes down this twisting and shallow creek until it meets the much larger Divide Creek. As you arrive at the confluence, you will immediately see the river drop precipitously over the lip of the beautiful Swallow Falls, named because of the cliff swallows that nest along the shore here. After a short portage and some exploring around the Falls, a canyon section awaits where, depending on the water and skill level, the group will line or paddle some exciting and technical rapids, before finally camping at the meeting of Divide Creek and the Broken Skull River.
||The first day on the water shows the incredible character of the Broken Skull. The fast and crystal-clear river weaves its way through a spectacular alpine mountain valley with beautiful views at every turn. As the group slips through continuous, well-spaced Class I-II+ rock gardens you might feel like a slalom skier on the water, weaving your way through the boulders. After a fantastic day of paddling, the group arrives at camp near the Three Valley Junction, invigorated from the rapids, and ready to enjoy the long arctic evening.
||A layover at Three Valley Gap Allows us the time to explore and hike into the alpine
||A short, but very fun section. Here the Broken Skull cuts right through a mountain range. The river is hemmed by towering peaks that reach right down to the river. . The spring’s hot waters are the perfect temperature for bathing, and they emerge from the base of a nearby mountain, hidden up a tributary of the Broken Skull. After relaxing in the hot spring for a few hours, the group will make its way back to camp feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
||2 full days of challenging and fun whitewater paddling awaits. Upon departing, a short, braided section leads to the “Mini Gate” and then through miles and miles of continuous and fun whitewater.
||A short while after leaving camp the Broken Skull meets the waters of the larger Nahanni River. It is a quiet joining of current but still fast waters will carry you past the tallest mountains in the NWT, which is truly an amazing way to end this section of the Journey! After a long paddle, you finally arrive at your destination, Rabbitkettle Lake, a beautiful mountain oasis.
||A morning beside the lake allows for quiet contemplation. Join a Parks Canada Ranger on a guided hike to the tufa mounds if available, otherwise enjoy the serene mountain scenery.
||Depart down the Nahanni Valley and enjoy the incredible views of the surrouding mountains. Camping is on comfortable side creeks with legendary history such as Hell Roaring Creek.
||We paddle through the broad mountains and relaxing Nahanni Valley, as the river meanders its way towards Virginia Falls.
||Having camped just a short distance upstream of Virginia Falls, we arrive early in the morning at our destination. After a short hike to view the falls, your plane arrives and whisks you back to civilization
||Its time to say goodbye to the north. Your flight leaves late in the morning for the south.