The story of two brothers, Willie and Frank McLeod, who were found without their heads is one of the Nahanni’s most infamous tales. Guide, Nils Aslfeldt, has encapsulated the legend and the lore of the headless men in a poem he wrote while guiding on the Nahanni. We are pleased to share Nils’ poem The McLeod Brothers Three. Read on for a glimpse into one of the mysteries the Nahanni is steeped in...
The Nahanni watershed has been recognized as a place of value for millenia. A place of nourishment, shelter and spiritual significance, the Nahanni region has been home to the Dene for thousands of years. Since contact with Europeans, a new set of values lured people into the Nahanni country. Europeans arriving in the early 1800s recognized the uncharted territory as a place of potential wealth.
My favourite way to start the day in summer is sitting on the deck of our log house in the boreal forest of the Northwest Territories, sipping a coffee, listening to the birds and watching the squirrels’ antics. Late in the season, the squirrels are continuously zipping up spruce trees with chunks of mushrooms as big as themselves, setting them on the outer reaches of the branches to dry and store for the winter.
Through their participation in camp activities and wilderness experiences, the youth of Kilcoo are encouraged to become leaders in their communities while also learning outdoor skills and training. The values they learn on these expeditions—those of independence, stewardship and responsibility towards each other and the environment they’re exploring—have always resonated with us and we are proud to continue the legacy of this adventure.
On a recent expedition to the Firth River we marvelled at the robust populations of birds of prey in the region, a heartening sign of a healthy ecosystem. This journey was one of the Rafting with Researchers expeditions offered by our sister company, where guests are treated to the firsthand expertise of Parks Canada researchers.
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.