Discover Nahanni National Park’s 4 Hidden Gems

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Nahanni National Park is located along the South Nahanni River, one of North America’s most spectacular wildlife rivers. The park features distinctive limestone caverns, as well as steep ravines and large cascades.

Arctic creatures including grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou can be found in the area. In the surroundings of the park, you can find Dall mountain goats and sheep.

Among the most gorgeous national parks in North America is Nahanni National Park, which features deep valleys further than the Grand Canyon along with the two cascades of Niagara.

Nahanni National Park: All Amazing Things to Know

Nahanni National Park Canada - World's FIRST UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The superb and fascinating region is a famous tourist destination and there are also some best national parks in Southern California which you will love.

In one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world, there is great excitement for boaters to cross the uncharted Southern Nahanni River as it runs through the high peaks of the Mackenzie mountains. Yet, not even the most daring person could dare to ride the majestic Virginia Falls, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park
Image by: Parxpix. Flickr copyrights August 26, 2010

A section of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region is protected by the Nahanni National Park Reserve, which is located in the Dehcho District in the Northwestern territories, Canada, roughly 500 km west of Yellowknife. The South Nahanni River forms the park’s geographic center.

Their white river is bordered by First, Second, Third, and Fourth Canyons, four prominent gorges that are up to 1,000 m steep. As a result of the recent inexplicable disappearances and deaths of numerous gold miners, the area is also rumoured to have been cursed or haunted.

Nahanni National Park was established in 1976 and was listed on the World Heritage List in 1978. In 2009, Canada significantly expanded the park’s boundaries by adding 2,500,000 hectares to form the Nahanni National Park Reserve. The expanded protected area now covers 3 million hectares and provides significant protection for the natural ecosystem.

More than 95 percent of the World Heritage Site is now surrounded by a vast border of national parks, providing excellent protection and ensuring the integrity of its World Heritage Site.

Nahanni National Park Reserve 2022

Due to the remoteness, the absence of permanent residents, the low population density in a large area, indigenous support, and the national park law that prioritizes management to maintain environmental integrity, there are no major property threats. However, there is potential for resource development in the broader ecosystem around the area.

The Reserve is heaven for hikers in the long run. Alpinists are lured to the Cirque of the Unclimbables, while kayakers explore the reservation’s center and hikers enjoy the grasslands, karst, hand-held compasses, and cross-country ski routes.

1.1 Wildlife of Nahanni National Park

Wildlife is diverse compared to the high latitude of the Park and is adapted to seasonal movements or winter sleeps to a harsh winter. There are 42 species of mammals which you must not forget to capture in your camera.

A total of 180 bird species in 29 families have been identified, for which the birdwatchers go crazy. Yohin Lake is home to a sparse number of Canada’s uncommon Tumpeter Swans as well.

There are no known reptiles and a few aquatic animals. There are 16 known species of fish. 

Nahanni Wild: True Wilderness Adventure

1.2 Virginia Falls

The area around Virginia Falls on the Nahanni River is timeless and amazing of all the waterfalls in the world. It is the most beautiful scenic beauty you will witness.

Nahanni National Park
Image from: Northwest Territories Tourism

Located in the heart of Nahanni National Park, the first UNESCO World Heritage site, Virginia Falls is surrounded by an amazing 30,000 square kilometres of Canada’s protected and rare desert.

Over the past 200,000 years, the Arctic has been hit by recurring glaciers. Each time it has left its mark on the place you see today. Since the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age, melting snow allowed South Nahanni Watershed to occupy a thriving living environment.

As the Nahanni River paved its way through the valley its concentrated power left people with Virginia Falls and the fourth Canyon, the first in the Canyon Kingdom. It is a projection of just about everything that surrounds us and a state of chaotic beauty.

Virginia Falls, NT - Nahanni National Park

1.3 Experience the Nahanni River Adventures

The South Nahanni River is known to be the most amazing wild river. The Mountain Dene People of the Dehcho Area of the Northwest Territories, who are thought to have lived here for a period of a few 1000 years, have gathered the past significance of this river, which was made popular overseas by RM Patterson’s novel “Dangerous River,” released in 1957.

Náįlįcho, or Virginia Falls, doubles the size of Niagara Falls and is located in the heart of Nahanni National Park, one of Canada’s largest protected areas and the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The park also safeguards the Nahanni River’s numerous beautiful branches and the south slopes of Mackenzie Peak.

The South Nahanni River by Canoe: Into the Land of Dreams

The raft is a great way to explore this area, it offers all the possible comfort of a desert trip in our hands and allows you to relax and enjoy the amazing scenery and create new friends on the river. The experienced guides will navigate the river downstream, and bless you with northern legends, Dene land history and the amazing geography that formed the Nahanni River.

If the river and the weather permit, travellers will be encouraged to steer their canoes out so that they can enjoy rowing on their own, and feel the tide of the raging ocean.

2. Fun Things to do at Nahanni National Park

Nahanni National Park: 4 Amazing Things To Know

2.1 Enjoy Canoeing on the Nahanni River

Along the way, the river flows through fearsome ravines, spectacular waterfalls, and hot springs, the heat of which produces unusual vegetation in the tropics.

Turning for 200 meters, the 200-mile trip up the Nahanni Rivers from Nahanni Butte to Virginia Waterfall is an incredible recreational adventure.

Boating this solid stretch is only suitable for those with white water experience (permission must be obtained from park officials). From Nahanni Butte, the first area is about 50 miles (80 km) upstream, where the river separates itself into numerous “cracks”.

🛶 Canoeing the wild Nahanni River

The river flows between the high walls of the first gorge (up to 1,200 feet high) passes through the Deadmen Valley, and crosses a mysterious high gorge, the second.

The river turns 90 degrees at the “Gate” in the 3rd gorge, which is defended by the massive Pulpit Rock. Across the valleys comes the foam-filled streams of Hell’s Gate, and, finally, after the fourth gorge, the river rotates a curve to provide a spectacular, spectacular view of the famous Virginia Falls.

2.2 Climb the Cirque of Unclimbables

Venture to the Cirque of the Unclimbables  |  Dispatches

Nahanni has long been a popular hiking destination for a good reason. Granite pillars from the ground provide all the challenging routes associated with beautiful landscapes.

Depending on your budget, access could involve both aircraft and helicopter connectivity to a main base.

The Cirque of the Unclimbables offers stunning rock climbing in a remote, beautiful landscape. Located in the Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada above the western border of the Northwest Territories, Cirque is beautiful. There are no roads leading within a hundred miles from Cirque.

It is often compared to Bugaboos but without snow and hard to reach, Cirque holds many spices and walls. Many are worth climbing, but Lotus Flower Tower and Mount Proboscis stand out as treasures. Mid-summer offers the best hiking weather and offers up to 20 hours a day due to the area north of Cirque.

Fairy Meadows, a common base camp for all routes in Cirque except the remote Mount Proboscis, is a magical, green, beautiful pasture. Rock gravel, about the size of a house, is littered with rubbish and presents the possibility of hailstones and tent shelters.

Many goals in the area are a one-hour walk from education. However, those planning to climb Mount Proscoscis should plan a steep getaway from the marshy area, which takes several hours and involves a climb with What Notch, as Proboscis lies in the lower cirque.

2.3 Do Fishing

Nahanni National Park
Image from: Nahanni River Adventures

The fishing opportunities in the Nahanni National Park Reserve should be experiencing as you will get to see several different kinds of fish you don’t even know about.

Whether you are a pro or completely new to the sport, don’t miss the opportunity to get your line wet.

The fish species up here reach unbelievable sizes, and because there is little fishing pressure, they are abundant and simple to capture.

Dolly Varden, Brown Trout, and walleye are among the species found in the Mackenzie and North Nahanni Rivers.

3. Some Famous Hiking Trails in Nahanni National Park

3.1 Glacial Lake

Nahanni National Park
Image from: Northwest Territories Tourism

The Ragged Mountains and the “Cirque-of-the-Unclimbables” are accessible from Glacier Lake, and you can get access to the route from the South Nahanni River

From the entrance of Britnell Creek, follow the trail that runs alongside the Southern Nahanni. After 1 km you will come across a side channel coming from South Nahanni. About halfway down, look for a burning pine tree.

At this juncture, the route makes a 90-degree left bend and continues southwest. Up until Britnell Creek, continue on the path over undulating terrain. From there, turn west and continue to the northern side of the river to Glacier Lake.

There can be many occasions when a track is temporarily lost or confused with game tracks which are also referred to as “thrash”.

3.2 Secret Lakes

The Secret Lakes are a collection of tiny, deeper lakes located in a ravine in a mountain range. Two access paths are described below:

  • Take off from the South Nahanni River’s steep, northwestern shore, just beyond the Rabbitkettle River’s entrance. 
  • After 15 kilometres, turn up the creek bed and meet the South Nahanni River. A lengthier but less taxing journey than the one described above, the creek bed leads you up a gradual slope further into Secret Lakes Valley. The majority of the river bottom is made up of sand and tiny stones.

(Sneak Peek) "Secrets of Nahanni" Expedition & Adventure Documentary

3.3 Sunblood Mountain

The Virginia Falls Campsite is located all across the river from the start. 

You can ascend Sunblood Mountain via sheep paths and broad hillsides, but be cautious of the dangerous gravel as you travel northeast through an established spruce woodland until you hit an exposed scree slope. Water bottles should be packed in abundance for the journey.

Nahanni National Park
Image by: Mike Beauregard. Flickr. Copyrights July 1989

3.4 Marengo Falls (4 km One Way)

A GPS or compass and a map are important requirements for this hike as the route might be confusing. Depart Virginia Falls Campground following the compass direction to Marengo Falls. Head southwest through a terrain of rolling hills, mossy spruces and musks interspersed with higher ridges of pines.

A drier alternative route is a departure 1.5 km upstream from the campsite.

You will reach Marengo Waterfall, where Marengo Creek cascades 100 ft over a succession of limestone cliffs if your orientation is generally accurate.

You will most likely approach the creek from either the upward or downward direction. Get your perspective right and de-stress by looking at the stream.

It wanders across flat, lush plains above the waterfalls before flowing somewhat more quickly through a broad gravel bed beneath.

Marengo Falls

3.5 Scow Creek – Headless Range 

Depart Scow Creek at its 214-kilometre junction with the South Nahanni River. On the partially dried stream bed’s sand and rocks, turn south.

After 2 km you will reach the fork in the stream bed, and continue on the right side of the western fork. After another 1.5 km, you can use the smaller stream bed on the left along with the open ridges to climb the ridge.

Once at the summit and above the tree line, sheep tracks lead northeast along ridges across small rock plateaus and stunted alpine vegetation. Several small protrusions and waterfalls in the streambeds will have to be overcome by a detour. 

3.6 Prairie Creek

Landing Prairie Creek, Nahanni

The Prairie Creek flood fan is the main feature of Deadmen Valley. Start rowing upwards (north) and steer clear of the left (west) streams of Prairie Creek. A steep, swampy bank crosses the creek bed after 1.5 kilometres. You must either mount this bank, which is covered in thick, entangled brush or cross the creek, which has icy, swift water, before going back to the west side.

You can approach a little floodplain surrounded by very steep canyon cliffs by ascending over the crest to the western region of the divide.

Bears are frequently encountered on the Prairie River alluvium, so keep an eye out the entire way to prevent an unexpected encounter. Mountain sandpipers nest in fan prairie areas. Until June 10, it is asked that you limit your activities to gravel areas to minimize disturbance to nesting birds.

3.7 Sheaf Creek

You must frequently cross the stream, therefore keep on or close to the river bottom. A significant raging wildfire in the 1980s resulted in numerous trees falling across the creek bed, making this section of the route a slow and challenging detour.

Continue along the creek towards the right, up the steep ridge. When trekking in rainy weather, extra caution should be exercised because of the ridge’s rocky, moss-covered transition to a scree slope. Towards the summit, there is a modest ledge and a wooden seat.

Bring plenty of water with you since higher elevations in the summertime may not always have access to it. Be ready for climate variability and cloud cover, which can start appearing and render navigation very challenging.

3.8 Dry Canyon Creek 

Nahanni River, day 4, the Gate to Dry Canyon Creek

In the very eastern tip of Deadmen Valley, there is a dried gravel fan known as Dry Canyon Creek. Take the first short distance into an impressive canyon with steep walls on gravel beds. As the canyon narrows down, the large boulders will have to be climbed carefully, over and under sometimes.

Even though no clear path has been built, the Nahanni Plateau can be reached through several valleys and hills to the east. The most frequent mention of Dry Canyon is as a daytime trip that follows the stream bed through the valley.

Long and overnight trips to the Nahanni Plateau are exciting and also possible but it requires enough preparations as well as important equipment necessary for hiking.

3.9 Ram Creek 

Ram Creek offers a more wooded alternate path to the T’ogotsho Plateau. Steep, eroded banks and occasional mudslides along the way will require several creek crossings.

Around 6 miles, a little stream empties into Ram Creek, which might be your final opportunity to fill your bottles before you reach Boundary Lake. The valley narrows after travelling south for around 8 km. To discover the sheep track, proceed 150 meters more up the northern slope. By following this path through the old burn, you will reach an area with open terraces.

4. How to Reach Nahanni National Park?

Nahanni National Park Reserve 2022

Since there are no roadways in this magnificent park, tourists typically travel there by floating plane, which is a fascinating method of discovering this inaccessible region. From Fort Simpson, this exhilarating Cessna 206 flight goes towards Nahanni National Park.

Your pilot will explain the stories associated as he flies you to the first, second, and third tributaries of the south river to rest atop Virginia Falls. The airplane has four seats.

Nahanni National Park is a paradise for nature lovers, the high mountain ranges waterfalls and varied wildlife. The weather conditions are amazing which is why it is a place worth visiting and having the best experience.

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