A tributary to the majestic Mackenzie, don’t let the classification fool you, the Mountain River is an important waterway and spectacular journey for adventurous paddlers.
In June I travelled to Rádeyı̨lı̨kóé (Fort Good Hope) in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories. I was heading there to pay a visit to a friend, Daniel T’selie. We had paddled the Mountain River together in the summer of 2018 and through the course of the winter had hatched a plan to catch up. Northern communities are all unique, and the chance to learn from Daniel and his family had me full of anticipation.
For the past 30 seasons, Nahanni Wild guides have come together for spring training in May. This year is no exception; this season we saw a talented and energetic group of guides gather on the Kananaski river for three days of skill building, pre-season training and a chance to socialize with their colleagues before dispersing across the North for the summer.
Imagine sipping red wine while watching the Northern sun settle closer to the horizon. The beautiful canyon walls of First Canyon on the Nahanni are glowing pink and yellow with the early evening light. Someone is reading a section from Patterson’s The Dangerous River. The smell of melting cheese wafts in front of your nose, as your guides crack the lid on the Dutch oven to check on this evenings entrée.
I have this memory of waking up and find that my father had moved the furniture in the living room to the side and had covered the floor in 1:50 000 maps from the Canadian Geological survey. Each crisp, grey and white square had its corner held down with a rock or shell; treasures from past adventures helping let the next one take shape. Whether those were maps for the Nahanni or the Thelon I can’t say but the source material for my bedtime stories was laid out in front of me.
The Dangerous River was written by one of the most well known adventurers of the Nahanni, Raymond M. Patterson. Originally published in 1954, it is the true story of Patterson’s explorations of the South Nahanni River. It is a phenomenal tale of exploration, comradery, and survival which has gone down in history as one of the most outstanding pieces of Nahanni literature.
I love this time of year as winter gives up its grip on the landscape and signs of spring are in abundant evidence. I can’t wait to see the wild flowers pushing their way up through the damp, pungent earth and the buds and blossoms appearing on shrubs. At our Northern base on the Liard Trail in the Northwest Territories, one of my favourite flowers to enjoy every season is the foamy white blossom of the Labrador tea bush.
More than simply talented musicians, the Jerry Cans bring heart and clearly articulated values onto the stage with them and into the communities they perform in. There is a significance to the music they offer. A non-indigenous lead singer singing his heart out in Inuktitut. A violin and a throat singer going note for note, beat for beat. The Jerry Cans do more than make me want to get up and dance. They give me hope.
The classic South Nahanni River whitewater canoe expedition from the Moose Ponds is our most popular Nahanni Headwater expedition. This trip takes place on the traditional territory of the Sahtu and Naha Dene and explores the entirety of the Nahanni River beginning in the newly formed Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve at the foot of the stunning Mt. Naats'ich'oh.
Twenty years ago these majestic birds were a rarity on the Nahanni River. Known to nest in the Yohin Lake area, a cenote on the eastern edge of Nahanni National Park, these birds have recovered from the brink of extinction in the 1930’s. Hunted extensively in the 1800’s for subsistence and for their distinctive plumage Hudson’s Bay’s records show how their population plummeted in the course of only two decades. After decades of conservation, the population has now grown to close to 50,000 animals. As their population has expanded so too has a paddlers’ chance to interact with them.
Over the last 200,000 years the Arctic has seen repeated glaciation. Each period has left its mark on the landscape we see today. Since the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age, the melting ice allowed the South Nahanni Watershed to host a thriving ecosystem. As the Nahanni River has carved its way through the valley its focused energy has left us with Virginia Falls and fourth Canyon, the first in the Canyon Kingdom. It is a scene of chaotic beauty, a reflection of everything around it.
As the days grow long, the snow drifts recede and the first hints of green appear in the trees I let bird song wash over me, a spring baptism of sorts. Many of the birds that I see in April and May in the forests of northwest BC are migrating north to nesting grounds and their seasonal homes. We are on the same trajectory these birds and I as we both prepare for our yearly pilgrimage to the Arctic.
Guide & Outfitter Dana Hibbard will be sharing stories from growing up on northern rivers in a family that encouraged her to take the stern and choose her own line. Three decades later she continues to share her deep love for these rivers with others through her family businesses, Nahanni Wild and Canadian River Expeditions.
Join us for our dramatic presentation with spectacular images of the "Best Northern Rivers" with Neil Hartling and Joel Hibbard of Nahanni Wild & Canadian River Expeditions. Enjoy the stories and find out why National Geographic Adventure designated us one of the ‘Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth’. You have dreamed of that bucket-list river journey.
This fall saw Nahanni Wild grow as the team at Nahanni River Adventures and Canadian River Expeditions joined the family. After years as friendly competitors we are so excited to bring together two incredible teams of guides and to continue our growth from two of the most experienced guides and outfitters in Canada, Neil Hartling and David Hibbard. Their decades of experience allows our guide teams to ask important questions and ensures our expeditions remain unparalleled. There is no substitute for experience!
Standing at the edge of the Nailicho (Virginia Falls) on the South Nahanni River it is easy to understand the formation of Fourth Canyon and it’s colourful walls that line the river below the Falls. The power of the Nahanni is immediately evident amongst the spray and towering rock formations and it is hard to believe that the precipice does not crumble faster.