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Canoeing the south Nahannii

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The South Nahanni in the northwest of Canada is one of the most impressive wilderness rivers in the world. Canoeing the south Nahanni is something you must add to your bucket list. The river flows 580 km from its origin in the remote MacKenzie Mountains southeast to its mouth in the Liard River.
The river flows through an area that has been inhabited for centuries. The river flows quickly and is a very attractive journey for experienced open canoe enthusiasts. In 1979 this magical area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 500 canoeists visit this river annually.

With names like Vampire Range, Ragged Mountain Range, Dead Man Valley and Broken Skull River the river remains mysterious. The Nahanni can be cut into four pieces, first an alpine landscape, then a U-shaped glacier valley, followed by the Virginia Falls. This spectacle of water violence, twice as high as Niagara, divides the river in two. Downstream there are four gorges, each with its own characteristics, different rock formations and colors.

It will take you around a week to canoe the whole Nahanni river. It will take you through four gorges and there are always new highlights, a new landscape or finding a dream camping spot to rest. You might have a chance to see bears and other animals on the shore. The river is very varied. Quiet canoeing is mixed by exciting rapids with large waves that significantly increase the adrenalin level.

How to get there

Most of the Nahanni River expeditions start in the small town of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. You can get to Fort Simpson by flying from Yellowknife or you can make the 18-hour drive from Edmonton to Fort Simpson in two days along the Mackenzie Highway.The flight to the Nahanni is fantastic. From the small window you have a view of a magical landscape with mountain tops  and closed dry valleys. Some flights go to a small lake called Haywire Lake. You will enjoy the lake with its crystal clear water, the surrounding mountains and the silence.

When to visit

The river is navigable from June to September, with July being the warmest month. For more climate details in Fort Simpson click here.

Where to stay

The best place to stay in Fort Simpson is the Bannockland Inn. It is in a beautiful setting facing the river with friendly owners. On they get an average review of 9.2 and you can book it here. 

This article was last updated on March 31, 2020.