Rendezvous at the Fort Nelson airport upon arrival of the inbound Central Mountain Air flight. 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 route to the headwaters of the Nahanni River takes us through the northeast 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 on the shores of Muncho Lake.
Following breakfast your guides will organize a half day whitewater skills session starting on Muncho Lake and then proceeding down the exciting class II Trout River. This will be a fun warm up and skills refresher for the Rock Gardens. A short drive from the takeout is the Liard Hot Springs where we will enjoy a meal and 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 NWT and our base on Flat Lake.
Weather permitting we will fly this morning into the Moose Ponds. Our flight takes us north along the divide between the Yukon and the NWT. From the plane we will be amazed with the remarkable views of the Logan and Selwyn Ranges. Our destination is the picturesque ponds at the base of Mount Naats’ihch’oh which provide a delightful venue for our first camp on the Nahanni River.
The Moose Ponds provides an opportunity to explore the alpine country of the continental divide between the Yukon and Northwest Territories. This land is rich in wildlife such as moose, caribou and trumpeter swans. An optional hike up Mount Wilson may be planned. Leaving the Moose Ponds, we join the Nahanni flowing as a stream; just over a canoe length in width. Over the next 40 kms the Nahanni swells to a formidable river, tumbling through the boulder strewn "Rock Gardens". This stretch offers some of the best whitewater canoeing in the country.
Paddling on, the down river view is blocked by the massif of the Ragged Range. Popular stops are the Island Lakes, Moore's cabin and Moore's Hot Spring. Paddling through "The Gap" we pass the east flank of the soaring Vampire Peaks, shortly after we make a stop at Rabbitkettle Lake.
Planned activities include an interpretive hike led by a Nahanni National Park warden (subject to Park staff availability), to explore Rabbitkettle Hot Springs and Tufa Mounds. The Tufa deposits are some of the largest in the world! We then begin down river canoeing to Virginia Falls. This easy flowing section of the river is dominated by U -shaped valleys which were scoured out by advancing cordilleran glaciers thousands of years ago. In this section the river meanders 120 km (72 mi.) 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 is 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 large volume 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 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 the legends and lore 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 FirstCanyon reach heights of over 1400 m.
Groups often choose to simply drift the length of this magnificent 26 km canyon, immersed in its splendour. 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 18 will be a rest day with an optional hike up the Lafferty's side canyon.
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 Lindberg’s Landing. This beautifully situated homestead offers hot showers and rustic cabins where your group will spend a celebratory last night. 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.