The Nahanni River is the most iconic river in Canada’s North. Flowing 550 Km in total, it snakes past the tallest peaks in the Mackenzie Mountains and then plunges almost 100 meters off of Virginia Falls. It then passes through 4 towering and spectacular canyons before its waters merge with the Liard River, destined for the Arctic Ocean. Surrounded by a National Park in 1974 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the Nahanni’s incredible scenery, Indigenous History and relatively easy whitewater paddling have made this Canada’s canoeing mecca. This 14 day expedition gives an opportunity to experience almost everything that Nahanni National Park and the river have to offer at a relaxed pace.
Your journey begins in the small but busy village of Ft. Simpson, where you will meet guides and the rest of your group for a quick orientation. After double checking all the gear, its time to head off to the river. The flight over the spectacular Mackenzie mountains is an absolute highlight of the trip. Beautiful but nameless mountains, creeks and valleys stretch off over the horizon, and thought that you are truly in the wilderness now becomes very real. After a spectacular flyby of Virginia Falls, the float plane zips another 100km upstream to a the glacial Rabbitkettle Lake.
After setting up camp and enjoying the incredible view, a Nahanni Parks Staff will lead us on a hike to Rabbitkettle Tufa Mounds. This geological marvel is a terraced limestone feature created by the hot spring here over thousands of years. The next day, we complete a short portage to the river and set off on our Journey downstream! Over the next 13 days, you will have the opportunity to see best of what Nahanni has to offer, from the towering Virginia Falls, to the towering canyons, to the big skies and braided channels of the lower river. Our certified and professional guides will make every effort to make this experience the trip of a lifetime.
||Departure from Yellowknife on Canadian North, arriving Fort Simpson before noon met by guides, lunch in Fort Simpson, debrief and gear selection prior to charter flight departure to Rabbit Kettle Lake at 2pm. Stunning flight into the heart of the Mackenzie Mountains, including Ram Plateau and the Nahanni Range, arriving Rabbit Kettle Lake, set up camp and overnight.
||Before embarking on the river, we will go on an interpretive hike guided by a Nahanni National Park Staff (If staff are available) to explore Rabbit Kettle Hot Spring and Tufa Mounds. This is a 5km hike over easy terrain and takes between 3 and 4 hours. After lunch, we will begin the less than 1 km portage to the river! A short paddle to camp with a review of canoe safety and bow and stern strokes.
||This is a flat-water section with good current and lots of opportunity to coordinate our paddle partners and refine our canoeing techniques, to practice our river skills and to work together as a group. We travel through the U-shaped valleys of the Mackenzie Mountains. There is good opportunity for wildlife viewing. Arrive Virginia Falls!
||A scheduled layover day at Virginia Falls with an opportunity to hike to the summit of Sunblood Mountain and take in a spectacular view of Virginia Falls, Rabbit Kettle Valley and the South Nahanni Valley. Parks Canada Staff may offer an interpretive program discussing specific aspects of flora and fauna unique to Nahanni National Park.
||We complete the 2km portage around Virginia Falls and reload the canoes prior to entering Nahanni’s legendary canyons - the first which is known as Painted Canyon. The sheer-cliff vaulted canyons inspire the description of Nahanni as the Grand Canyon of the North. As the canyons narrow, the whitewater and standing waves will provide maximum thrill and adventure for our Team. We cover approximately 20kms on this first big day of whitewater.
||We paddle down through the Third Canyon with 1200m walls as it makes its way through the Funeral Range. We camp in the shadow of the Nahanni Gate and have an opportunity to embark on a short hike high above Pulpit Rock.
||Another glorious day on the river takes us through the 2nd Canyon traveling through the Headless Range and into Deadman Valley. Many of you will know of the mysterious deaths of the McLeod Brothers The valley expands with distant views of the Tigotsho Plateau. Camping is at Prairie Creek where there is a large alluvial fan.
||We run George’s Riffle before entering 1st Canyon dotted with hundreds of caves. Here the canyon cuts through the Nahanni Plateau creating the most dramatic canyon in Canada. This is a relaxing section of river to experience the majesty of the canyon. Camping will be at Lafferty’s Canyon.
||A short paddle to Kraus’ Hot Spring for a relaxing soak in the 32-degree waters. We then enter The Splits, a 70 km braided section of river where the current slows.
||Travel for a half day as traverse the final 45km of our trip into Nahanni Butte, a small indigenous community at the mouth of the Nahanni. From here we load ourselves into a river taxi that will take us the final leg to Blackstone Landing down the Liard River. Here we stay the night at the Lindberg’s B & B where Sue Lindberg will provide a final night dinner and breakfast.
||By van return to Fort Simpson for Canadian North Flight at 3pm arriving in Yellowknife at 4:05pm. You may overnight in Yellowknife or connect with flights to Edmonton and beyond.