The Little Nahanni River Expedition members will rendezvous at the Fort Nelson airport upon arrival of the Central Mountain Air's flight from Edmonton. Those who drove to Fort Nelson can leave their vehicles at the airport for the duration of the trip. Following introductions we will load the Nahanni shuttle and canoe trailer. Our route to the Alaska Highway will take us through town where we will shop for additional food and any last minute items. Our route to the headwaters of the Nahanni takes us west through the NE corner of the Rocky Mountains. The landscape has a rugged beauty of all its own. We will make a sightseeing stop at Stone Mountain Provincial Park and camp for the night at Muncho Lake Provincial Park. From the road we are sure to see stone sheep, mountain caribou and bears along the way.
Following breakfast your guides will organize a half day whitewater skills session starting on the lake and then proceed down the exciting class 2 Trout River. A short drive from the takeout is the Liard Hot Springs where we will enjoy a relaxing soak. Back on the road we drive to Watson Lake, Yukon and walk through the historic Sign Post Forest. From Watson Lake, we drive north on the Robert Campbell Highway and then onto the Nahanni Range Road for our detour back into the NWT and our base on Flat Lake.
Flat Lake is the source for the Little Nahanni River with an elevation of 1,140m (3,705'). Close to treeline the area around the lake is sparsely wooded with views of higher peaks and ridges to the east and west. The lake is home to loons, beaver, swans and moose. We are sure to see some of these as we paddle the 3k north to the outlet. The river begins with wandering curves through willow and stands of black spruce. The flow picks up with each kilometer made through the section known as the Warm Up. This leads to the Staircase our first whitewater section with sets of class 2/3 rapids. Aptly named, this section has notched a route through numerous boulder drops to pools below. We will make camp in this area for the night. The pools are sure to provide some exciting fishing for Arctic Grayling.
Following the Staircase the river meanders its way through a steep valley gathering speed towards the three kilometer long Crooked Canyon. Our plan for this canyon will depend upon water levels and the members of the group. A 2.5k portage on river left is a feasible option.
Following the Crooked Canyon the valley opens up but the river continues fast with fun whitewater sections. The junction with Steel Creek provides paddlers with an inspiring view of the surrounding peaks. Just beyond the 60k spot the river flows over a 1m (3') drop called The Step. There is a short portage on the left, good camping and fishing holes.
From the Step we have a full day of whitewater paddling ahead of us as we make our way through the Second and Third Canyons with exciting class 2/3 whitewater all the way to the junction with the South Nahanni River. From here a few more hours will bring us to Haywire Lake, part of the popular Island Lake group where planes sometimes land with groups embarking for a down river trip. The beautiful scenery and inviting waters of Haywire Lake provide a delightful venue for camping and fishing. To the south looms the massif Ragged Range rising up to 2154m (7,000') above the Nahanni River.
Leaving Haywire Lake the next stops will be Moore's Cabin and Hot Spring. Following the construction of this cabin and a year of wilderness living at this site John and Joanne Moore made the trip down river by canoe. Their story is told in their popular book, 'Trailhead Nahanni' . 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 and the lofty Vampire Peaks. The flank of these peaks are streaked with eerie red iron oxide stains. Camp will be made at Britnell Creek ? the trailhead 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 canoes for another 3 km to the 'climber's camp' at the north end of the lake and the foot of Mount Harrison Smith.
Destined to reach Fairy Meadows we continue by trail around the lake for another 3 km and then hike/scramble up 650m (2100') to Fairy Meadow.
Day 12 will be a day of rest. From camp we can watch for mountain goats and play with the marmots while soaking up the alpine scenery. The heads of various cirques hold alpine glaciers. A foot path leads to high point with a commanding view of the renown "Lotus Flower Tower", the prize of rock climbers from around the world.
Today we begin retracing our steps back down to Glacier Lake.
We will take a morning flight from Glacier Lake over the glaciers and peaks of the Ragged Range to our Nahanni shuttle at Flat Lake. The road home will take us to the welcoming Liard Hot Springs for the evening.
Our final days will see us bid the rivers and mountains fare well as we drive east along the Alaska Highway to Fort Nelson.