Participants need to arrive in Fort Simpson with First Air, or before 12 noon with their own vehicle. Following a pick-up at the airport, your guide will hold a pre-trip orientation with lunch at the MacKenzie Rest Inn. Personal clothing and bags not required for the trip can be left in our van and our driver will bring them to our base. These will be waiting for you at Blackstone Territorial Park upon completion of your trip. Charter flight to Rabbitkettle Lake or Gravel Bar. (weather permitting) This breathtaking flight takes us over the Nahanni Range, Ram Plateau and on up the river to Rabbitkettle Lake. We will set up camp where we land, have dinner and get a good night's sleep.
Planned activities include an interpretive hike, guided by Nahanni National Park personal to view the Rabbitkettle Hot Spring and Tufa Mounds. We then begin down river canoeing to Virginia Falls. On the Nahanni River our trip continues with a few days of easy paddling which provides a good opportunity for refining canoeing skills. This section of the river is dominated by U -shaped valleys which were scoured out by advancing cordilleran glaciers thousands of years ago. We paddle 120 km (72 mi.) on the smooth flowing water to Virginia Falls where we arrive on day 5.
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 camping 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 2 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 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 its legend and mystery 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 First Canyon reach heights of over 1400 m. Groups often drift the length of this magnificent 26 km canyon, immersed in its splendor. 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 for a layover on day 12.
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 Blackstone Territorial Park. This beautifully situated park offers hot showers, a private day shelter, an information centre and tenting. 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 Simpson. We will arrive in time to meet your Southbound flight with First Air, or for you to begin the drive with your own vehicle.