Your guide to self-guiding the Nahanni River

On a guided expedition with Nahanni River Adventures you have the opportunity to experience true wilderness while professional guides provide world class hospitality and adventure for you. However, for those with the skills and the desire to facilitate their own adventure, one that could include dangerous situations like complex rapids, first aid response, and a variety of other variables, self guiding could be an option for you.

This guide will help you prepare a checklist for a self guided adventure on the Nahanni River, it is not a replacement for a professional guide. Please note we are not liable for the success of a self guided adventure (but we definitely want to see you succeed!)


We are pleased to provide you with a one stop outfitting service from both Fort Simpson and Lindberg Landing on the Liard River. The majority of river travelers complete their Nahanni trip at Blackstone Territorial Park conveniently located within a few kilometers of our Nahanni River Outfitting Centre on the Liard Trail. Fort Simpson is home to our other outfitting base and has a variety of services for paddlers such as a small grocery store, accommodation and the Nahanni National Park office. Each season an increasing number of Nahanni paddlers are discovering the benefit of our outfitting locations.

When you are outside of the park (at the start and end of your adventure) we have a preferred list of accommodations which we recommend you to use.

Picking Your Adventure

With so much to see in Nahanni National Park, it’s a challenge in itself to pick the right adventure. For most visitors, Virginia Falls is part of their itinerary as it’s in a central location on the South Nahanni River: below the most travelled tributaries but above the most legendary canyons in the world. Here are the most common Nahanni River starting locations which include a visit to Virginia Falls. Note: many visitors will finish their adventure at Nahanni Butte and hire a water taxi to Blackstone Territorial Park.

Starting at Virginia Falls: 252 km to Nahanni Butte

Starting at Rabbitkettle Lake: 375 km to Blackstone Territorial Park

Starting at Divide Lake (Broken Skull River): 485 km to Blackstone Territorial Park

Starting at Island lakes: 473 km to Blackstone Territorial Park

Starting at Moose Ponds: 600 km to Blackstone Territorial Park

Starting at Divide Lake (Flat River): 440 km to Blackstone Territorial Park

For more information about Nahanni River tributaries, please checkout our post: “Tributaries of Nahanni National Park Reserve”.

Cirque of the Unclimbables

Visiting the Cirque of the Unclimbables requires a significant hike, but it is worth it. Hiking to the Cirque is also accessible to paddlers who come down the Little Nahanni River, which has road access via Flat Lake, a major appeal to visitors looking to reduce money expenditure and carbon emission tied with flight carters

The Portage at Virginia Falls

There is an unavoidable portage at Virginia Falls which is 1.3km long. It has mixed boardwalk and trail features with complex switchbacks. If you are renting a raft from Nahanni Wild, we suggest you also rent a dolly to ensure your portage goes smoothly.

Hiking in Nahanni National Park

Dana Hibbard has written a great guide to her 5 favorite hikes in the Nahanni. Check it out!

Canoe or Raft?

Ultimately this comes down to skill, prior experience and preference. Canoes and rafts both require significant skill and experience to successfully handle the swift current and challenging rapids on the Nahanni River.  Canoeing the Nahanni is a dream and a goal shared by generations of Canadians but should not be attempted without a solid foundation in whitewater canoeing skills. Rafts are great for families and allow you to pack more supplies and could provide a smoother ride over rapids, granted you have experience reading and navigating rapids. There is no substitute for experience. Do not overestimate your ability and do not ignore the warnings.

Outfitting Services

We offer a variety of outfitting services to suit your needs.

  • Maps & guides – Printed materials to help you navigate and prepare. Visit our map store.
  • Transportation – Road shuttles, river taxis, and flight referrals
  • Rafts, canoes & accessories – Everything you need from the vessels to their repair kits
  • Safety equipment – Bear spray, first aid kits, etc.
  • Kitchen equipment – everything you need to get the job done properly and efficiently
  • Food – dry and fresh packed food which follows the well planned Nahanni Wild river menu (easy and delicious recipes!)

View our rentals & pricing page.

Essentials (FAQs)


No. It is illegal to have a campfire in the park; however, you are permitted to use a firebox on your campsite. This supports no-trace camping principals, and is safer for everyone. We provide fireboxes free of charge to all our self-guided groups. Learn more information about fireboxes.


Please contact Nahanni National Park for full information about fees or visit the Parks Canada website:


Bathe in river using biodegradable soap or portable showers may be used.


A few campsites along the river have composting toilets. Please use these facilities where available.  Otherwise, please dig a hole deep into mineral soil in a discreet area far away from the river, creeks and the tenting area.  Out of respect for all park visitors, please fully burn your TP!

Learn more about low impact camping.


Yes. Some items may be burned in your fire box; however, you must pack out most garbage!

  • Food scraps, paper, sanitary napkins can be burned
  • Plastic, foam and cans should be washed to remove smell, then pack out
  • Fish entrails should be deposited into deep, fast flowing river
  • Please read more on our low-impact camping page

If you are interested in a self guided adventure, please review our Self Guided Adventures section on our website where you can register or inquire.

If you have more questions we’re also pleased to offer a 1 hour phone or web-based consultation for your group. We charge $100 for this service but you will find it invaluable in your trip planning and execution.

If you have suggestions for this page, please let us know via the form below.

Yours for adventure,

The Nahanni River Adventures Team

Interested in learning more?

Whether you journey to experience abundant wildlife, verdant wildflowers or glacial vistas, our journeys are sure to exceed your expectations.

Featured Trips

Stay in touch

Sign up to our mailing list.