Our History

The tale of two outfitters

It all began back in 1984 when Neil Hartling, at age 23, headed up to Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories from his home in Edmonton to experience and paddle a river that had haunted him since he was 15 years old. Hartling was so enchanted by the legendary mountain stream that flows through some of the deepest canyons in North America that he paddled it twice, convinced the second time that guiding people down the river was how he wanted to make a living. And that’s just what he did! Nahanni River Adventures was born.

As the years passed, Nahanni River Adventures acquired other companies as owners retired. We always sought the best practices that they had developed and pulled them into the operation. The results have been the-best-of-the-best, with hundreds of years of experience funneled into one operation.

In 2006 another leading company, Canadian River Expeditions, was brought into the family. Founded in 1972 – the first river expedition company in Canada, Canadian River Expeditions represents a proud history and continues to stand as the benchmark for rafting exploration in North.

1989 saw David Hibbard first venture to the Nahanni as a guide and within the space of his first expedition he knew what his future held. In 1993 the opportunity to arose to take on the leadership of Nahanni Wild and a family business was born. Over the years he and his children led expeditions to the far reaches of Nahanni National Park Reserve. First decent of Prairie Creek and the Flat River’s “Cascade of the 13 Steps” and exploration of first accents in the ice capped Ragged Range allowed him to share his love of wild, unexplored areas with his family and thousands of guests.

After the first seasons of expedition both Neil and Dave realized the most frequent comment from guests was: “That was fantastic! Where do we go next?”. Soon they were offering the Tatshenshini and adding new rivers as they slowly explored the incredible watersheds across the North. This slow growth allowed quality of their expeditions to remain unparalleled. Surveying the guests after each trip helped steadily fine-tuned the design to meet with the changing needs and desires of the growing clientele. This encouraged a high return rate of loyal guests. Seeking out new adventures for returning guests, lead us to over 20 spectacular northern rivers, and has allowed us to remain at the forefront of wilderness travel.

In 2018, after 30 years as friendly competitors, Nahanni River Adventures and Nahanni Wild came to see the opportunity that lay in seeing the next generation of outfitters succeed. That by build on the success of Neil and David would help ensure that their passion for sharing and conserving the North’s wonders would continue.

David’s children Joel and Dana, then leading Nahanni Wild, saw the potential to amplify their message of sustainable, wilderness exploration as a basis for conservation. With the legacy of three foundational companies, a guide team with hundreds of years of cumulative experience they knew their energy and enthusiasm would help see their vision through. The future of exploring Northern wilderness is now!

In 1992 Nahanni River Adventures moved its base from Alberta to Whitehorse, Yukon. This brought us closer to the rivers we run and made it easier for us to achieve the goals of sustainable tourism, spending locally and supporting the northern economy.

Joel Hibbard has joined the office there and the companies passion for the North and the opportunities for exploration continue! With an energetic and positive community and wilderness out the back door the north is home!

Conservation and sustainable tourism practices are key to all we do. Over the last 30 years we have played leadership roles in some of the largest conservation campaigns in the world, resulting in wilderness preservation that will be a legacy for future generations.

More about our conservation story >

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