Rendezvous at the Fort Nelson airport upon arrival of the Central Mountain Air's flight from Edmonton. Anyone who drove to Fort Nelson can leave their vehicles at the airport for the duration of the trip. Following introductions we will load the van and canoe trailer. Our drive to the Alaska Hwy will take us through town where we will shop for additional food and items. Our route to the headwaters of the Nahanni River takes us west through the NE corner of the Rocky Mountains. The landscape has a rugged beauty of all its own. We will make sightseeing stops at Stone Mountain and Muncho Lake Provincial Parks. From the van we are sure to see stone sheep and mountain caribou along the way. We will camp for the night at Liard Hot Springs where we will enjoy a relaxing soak.
Back on the road again we'll drive to Watson Lake and walk through the historic Sign Post Forest. At Watson Lake, Yukon we drive north on the Robert Campbell Highway and then onto the Nahanni Range Road for our detour back into the Northwest Territories and the road to our flight base on Flat Lake. Weather permitting we will make the short 40 km (25 mi) flight to Island Lake. The beautiful scenery and inviting waters of Island Lake provide a delightful venue for our first camp on the Nahanni River. The lake's quiet waters provide a good location for hiking, fishing and practicing canoeing before setting out the next morning.
Our first river day will provide a visit to the Moore's Cabin and Hot Spring. Our paddle through "The Gap" will have everyone looking skyward to the soaring peaks of the Sapper and Ragged Ranges towering overhead. From here the Nahanni turns south and flows through a glacial valley, passing Broken Skull River, the lofty Vampire Peaks, with eerie red iron oxide stains, and on towards Nahanni National Park. Camp will be made at Britnell Creek - gateway to Glacier Lake.
Today we begin an off river sojourn into Glacier Lake to begin exploring the Ragged Range and its renowned "Cirque of the Unclimbables". Our destination will be the "Fairy Meadows" within the alpine Cirques. We follow a rough trail for 10k to Glacier Lake and then paddle some stashed canoes for another 3 km to the 'climber's camp' at the north end of the lake. On Day 6 we continue at lake level for another 3 km and then hike/scramble up 650m to Fairy Meadow.
Will be a rest day to watch for mountain goats and soak up the alpine scenery from our base at Fairy Meadows.
Today we begin retracing our steps back down to Glacier Lake with a midway stop at the 'climber's camp'. Following our hike out we will load our canoes and make a short paddle into Nahanni National Park and camp next to Rabbitkettle Lake.
Planned activities include an interpretive hike, guided by a Nahanni National Park warden, to explore Rabbitkettle Hot Springs and Tufa Mounds. We then begin down river canoeing to Virginia Falls. On the Nahanni River our trip continues with a few days of easy paddling that provides a good opportunity for refining canoeing skills. This section of the river is dominated by U -shaped valleys that were scoured out by advancing cordilleran glaciers thousands of years ago. We paddle 120 km (72 mi.) on the smooth flowing water to Virginia Falls where we arrive on day 12.
Everyone will appreciate a rest day at Virginia Falls. At over 90 m (300 ft.) Virginia Falls is twice the height of Niagara, and is the spectacular centerpiece of Nahanni National Park. The options for these days are many - you can lounge in the group camp area, explore the falls with your camera, or strike off on an invigorating hike to the grassy summit of Sunblood Mountain. Virginia Falls is a fascinating place to discover.
Following our layover day, we complete the 1.25 km portage around the falls and reload our canoes. For the following week we will immerse ourselves in the spectacular scenery of the lower Nahanni River. The lower Nahanni is canyon country and often described as the Grand Canyon of the North. Beginning with Painted Canyon, so named because of its brightly coloured walls, you will experience the thrill and excitement of this whitewater section. On this night we will camp in the vicinity of the confluence with the Flat River.
Downstream we enter Third Canyon with its imposing 1200 m walls formed as the Nahanni River has carved its way through the Funeral Range. We will camp in the shadow of the Gate; where the river has sliced a narrow chasm on the apex of a hairpin meander. An optional hike to the top of the Gate presents magnificent views of the river valley with imposing Pulpit Rock 460 m below.
Today finds us completing the 35 km Third Canyon and continuing on through 2nd Canyon, (15 km) where the Nahanni has carved its route through the Headless Range and into Deadmen Valley. This valley is known for its legend and mystery made famous by the mysterious deaths of the McLeod Brothers. Here the vista is noticeably different, as the valley opens up, with distant views of the Tlgotsho Plateau. Deadmen Valley offers an abundance of exploratory options. The massive Prairie Creek alluvial fan provides excellent camping, hiking and wildlife observations.
We start the morning with a run through the exhilarating waves of George's Riffle and on into First Canyon. The imposing walls of First Canyon reach heights of over 1400 m. Groups often drift the length of this magnificent 26 km canyon, immersed in its splendor. The canyon walls are dotted with hundreds of caves. Close to its exit we will camp for the night at Lafferty's Canyon, with good hiking opportunities.
DAY 19 -20
Following breakfast, it's down to Kraus' Hot Spring for a soothing dip in its 32 C plus waters. From here we bid farewell to the canyons and make our way to the Nahanni's Splits, a 70 km run through a maze of islands.
Following breakfast, we will continue on to the Native village of Nahanni Butte. (Pop. approx. 120) Remote yet surprisingly modern, a stroll into town provides insight into a culture far removed from most of North America. Following a snack from the village store we will board the Nahanni Butte River taxi for the 15 km ride to the Nahanni Butte Road Landing on the Liard River. The awaiting NWA shuttle van will take your group on the short drive to Blackstone Territorial Park. This beautifully situated park offers hot showers, a private day shelter, an information centre and tenting. Any baggage you left behind will be waiting for you. Sue Lindberg, a local homesteader, provides your meals, mainly from her garden for the last night and morning with inviting Northern hospitality.
After breakfast, we will depart with a van shuttle for Fort Nelson. We will make a gas stop in Fort Liard with an opportunity to visit the renowned Acho-Dene craft shop. We will arrive in time to meet your Southbound flight with Central Mountain Air, or for you to begin the drive with your own vehicle.