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.
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.
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.
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.
Nahanni and Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve encompasses a watershed. Mostly undeveloped, rarely explored and spectacularly beautiful, each raindrop and snowflake is making its way through the South Nahanni watershed and into the Mackenzie basin. Looking at it on a map it is hard to comprehend the scale of these valleys. Part of what makes this area so unique are the limestone and granite heights of land that separate this watershed this watershed into areas with dramatic differences.
While the Nahanni’s landscapes, geology and ecological significance are truly on a scale that is difficult to comprehend, it is often the colourful myths and legends of the Nahanni that people first hear about. Tales from the Nahanni have found their way into our collective imagination in part through the many books written about this river with the beautiful name.
Nahanni is an evocative word. For many Canadians, whether you paddle or not, this word summons images of the renowned Nailicho (Virginia Falls), of towering mountains, and a kingdom of canyons. The word has become synonymous with adventure and wilderness. It is one of the finest representations of natural beauty in Canada.
Whether you like the idea of stretching your legs after a day of paddling, want to seek out wildflowers or have summit fever, the Nahanni holds hiking opportunities for everyone. Here are some of Dana’s favourite hikes that we share with guests on the guided trips we offer along the length of the Nahanni River.
In the Mackenzie mountains this awakening of life is still a month away but these first inklings in the south tell me it won’t be long until all the wild lands of Canada erupts into life. To see an ecosystem come alive with the strengthening sun is a profound experience. Contemplating the continuity of life while sitting back and admiring the river banks blushing with willowherb puts the rush of life in perspective.
With the expedition season fast approaching excitement levels are rising. As is often the case added interest means more departures being offered and we are very excited to be headed to the Broken Skull River this summer. This rarely paddled tributary of the Nahanni starts in the high mountains of Canada’s newest national park, Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve.
Each summer it is our privilege to guide expeditions, sharing remote corners of Canada's North. We know these are big trips, likely the adventure of a lifetime. The destination, your guides and an impeccable menu are the foundation of a successful expedition. But once you are out on trip it is often the small things that help make a portage comfortable and that boost your confidence before a big rapid. Our commitment to quality means no detail is overlooked and we have sourced the finest equipment made.