The South Nahanni River is a Canadian Icon. Flowing through its namesake Nahanni National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the river plunges almost 100 meters over majestic Virginia Falls before carving its way through 4 incredible canyons filled to the brim with adventure. Towering canyon walls soar as you canoe through this incredible untouched landscape. This trip, beginning at Virginia Falls, is perfect for those who want to revel and explore all of the hidden secrets of the Nahanni River’s canyons at a slower pace than our 13 day expedition, which is also 100km longer starting at Rabbitkettle Lake.
Nahanni National Park was originally created by Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1972, thanks to its unique canyon landscape. Together with its sister park Nááts’įhch’oh protecting over 35 000 km² of pristine mountain wilderness, this is a magical land that will capture your imagination. The Nahanni River flows through the heart of the park, and traditional Dene Territory of the Dehcho and Sahtu Regions, and we are grateful for the vision of the elders from these regions in protecting this vast wilderness area.
Paddlers from all over the world consider the Nahanni to be their mecca. It travels 375km through the park as it descends to the Liard River that connects to the Mackenzie River at Fort Simpson. Fort Simpson is the leaping-off point for the incredible floatplane flight into NahʔĄ Dehé (Virginia Falls) where the trip begins. There is one 1.5 km portage around Virginia Falls on a sturdy board-walk and of course it is downhill all the way!
Starting out at the spectacular Virginia Falls, this trip offers the best that Nahanni has to offer in a slightly more condensed and leisurely package, with more opportunities to explore and hike through the wilderness surrounding the Nahanni River. Our guides are great teachers and are dedicated to assisting in developing your canoeing skills in order to handle the large-volume wave-trains through the famous Nahanni Canyons. All camp chores are shared equally – including preparing our hearty camp meals. You will be amazed at the quality of fresh foods and frozen meats that we include in our delicious menu. Dried meals are available for the last few days of the trip.
||Arrive in Fort Simpson before noon, meet your guides, lunch in Fort Simpson, debrief and gear selection prior to charter flight departure to Virginia Falls at 3pm. The next morning enjoy the stunning scenery around Virginia Falls on this scheduled layover day with an opportunity to hike around the falls or to the summit of Sunblood Mountain and take in a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape.
||We complete the 1.5km portage around Virginia Falls and load the canoes prior to entering Nahanni’s legendary canyons - the first which is known as Painted canyon. Inside its towering walls lay some of the biggest rapids on the Nahanni River, up to class 3 in difficulty, and we will rise to the challenge to meet them. . We cover approximately 15kms on this first big day of whitewater.
||We canoe to the gate of Third Canyon at the confluence with the Mary River, with 1200m walls awaiting us downstream. On our way we pass through Figure 8 and tricky currents rapids. This beautiful day of paddling also features some tricky moments with whirlpools and boily water.
||Another glorious day on the river takes us through the 3nd Canyon to the Gate, a huge cleft in a canyon wall that the Nahanni river squeezes through. Arriving around noon, we take our time to set up our camp and then ascend up to the top of the gate for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
||After taking one last look at the spectacular Gate, we depart down river through 3rd Canyon Past the Big Bend and arrive at the Gate of 2nd Canyon, where we will stop to enjoy a hike.
||We move through 2nd canyon into the Headless Valley, a place shrouded in mystery, myth and legend. A longish day, we arrive late in the afternoon at Dry Canyon camp, with 1st canyon just in sight downstream.
||Upon awaking people have the opportunity to take a short early morning hike up Dry Canyon before we descend into the maw of 1st canyon. Nahanni has saved its best for last! Guarding its secrets however is the famous Georges Riffle, a class 2-3 rapid that cannot be walked around. After navigating through this thrilling maelstrom, we paddle through the deepest canyons in Canada, in awe of their beauty. After some time we arrive at Lafferty creek where we will camp!
||Layover day to, weather permitting, explore the spectacular side canyon of Lafferty Creek. After a pleasant but boulder strewn 5km hike you arrive at a slot canyon carved in the limestone through the eons which you will have to swim up while exploring!
||We leave the canyons behind and after shooting Lafferty's Riffle, a class 2-3 wavetrain, bathe ourselves in the relaxing waters of Kraus's Hotspring. A long day of paddling through the braided channels of the splits gets us to Last Chance camp, just 20km upstream from the end of our Journey..
||After 20km of flatwater we arrive at the lovely hamlet of Nahanni Butte- a short distance upstream from the end of the Nahanni River. From here we take a short plane ride back to Fort Simpson where we will stay the night and celebrate our adventure together!
||After a scrumptious brunch, its time to say our goodbyes. Depart Ft Simpson around 11 AM.