The following is a tentative agenda and has been designed with much thought to capitalize on the most scenic and exciting parts of the river, while making time on other sections. Your guides will adjust the schedule to make the best use of river and weather conditions.
We adhere to the departure regulation system of the park, which works to smooth out the flow of river travellers so that everyone has the same wilderness experience.
Trip length: 21 river/hiking days
Breakfast = B | Lunch = L | Dinner = D
Day 1 (D) FORT SIMPSON
Your journey north will be a refreshing departure from everyday life. You’ll fly over the largest expanse of wilderness in the world, pass through quieter airports, meet friendlier service personnel, and generally begin to immerse yourself in the wilderness experience that is about to unfold.
Your trip leader will meet you at the airport. (If you arrive the day prior, please make your way to your accommodation.) Once everyone has arrived, we’ll have an orientation talk and equipment check.
You’ll have time to check out the sites of this small northern community, as well as become acquainted with your fellow travellers. You’ll require accommodations this night in Fort Simpson (your responsibility).
Day 2 (B/L/D) MOUNTAIN FLIGHT
After loading our supplies and gear into the aircraft we begin one of the major highlights of the adventure – the upriver flight. Flying over the majestic Nahanni Range and Ram Plateau, a stunning panorama unfolds in front of our eyes. You’ll want to have your camera ready! Past participants have stepped off the plane declaring that, “if the trip finished now, I would have my money’s worth!”
Weather permitting, we’ll depart by Twin Otter for Island Lakes, which is situated about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the park boundary. It’s here that we’ll begin our adventure. We’ll spend the day preparing to depart, exploring the region around Island Lakes and relaxing in Moore’s Hot Springs.
Day 3, 4 and 5 (B/L/D)
While enjoying the superb canoeing and views of the sharp granite peaks of the Ragged Range, we’ll make our way to Rabbitkettle Lake.
Day 6 (B/L/D)
We’ll hike the 7 kilometres (4 miles) to the tufa mounds of Rabbitkettle Hot Springs. Here we find unique geological features that help weave together the history of the Nahanni.
Day 7 and 8 (B/L/D)
We depart the lake. This portion of the river above Virginia Falls is a flat, meandering section that allows opportunity to learn the necessary canoeing skills from the guides or brush up on techniques. The mountains and U-shaped valley created by the glaciers will dominate the scenery. Camping will be in the choicest spots between Rabbitkettle Lake and Virginia Falls.
Day 9 (B/L/D)
We’ll camp at a small oxbow lake just off the river. This is a great site to see moose, as well as fish or hike in the surrounding mountains.
Day 10 (B/L/D)
Our destination will be Virginia Falls. The vast area around the falls provides unlimited opportunities for exploring this natural wonder.
Day 11 (B/L/D)
The day may be spent exploring the area surrounding the falls. If weather permits, those who are up to an all-day hike may strike out for the summit of Sunblood Mountain for a panoramic view of the area. There is also an overland hike to Marengo Falls – take a bath in the cool water as it tumbles over these scenic falls.
Day 12 (B/L/D)
We’ll make the final portage around the falls. The trail is downhill and well defined. You need carry only what is comfortable for you. Everyone pitches in to carry what they can, and we take as long as we need to complete the task. It’s impossible to spend too much time at Virginia Falls! We’ll assemble the boats and after a late shore lunch and briefing, embark in the late afternoon on an exhilarating run through Painted Canyon (also known as Fourth Canyon). The final challenge for the day will be Figure 8 Rapids (Hell’s Gate). Camp is made for the evening below Wrigley Creek.
Day 13 & 14 (B/L/D)
We enter Third Canyon, the walls of which rise 1200 metres (3937 feet) over the river. Keen eyes may spot woodland caribou, moose and Dall sheep. Stopping at the Gate and Pulpit Rock, we’ll hike to the top of the canyon for a bird’s eye view of the narrow gorge below and the expanse of the canyon walls. The following day camp will be downstream of Big Bend and inside of Second Canyon.
Day 15 (B/L/D)
Another hiking day spent in the vicinity of Second Canyon will offer more dramatic views.
Day 16 (B/L/D)
Paddling through Third Canyon and into Deadmen Valley, we’ll stop for a walk up a dry creek bed for an overview of this immense region. After passing Headless Creek, we’ll camp near Prairie Creek. The view includes the Tlogotsho Plateau and Prairie Creek Canyon. It was here, on the shores of Headless Creek, the bodies of the Mcleod brothers were found in 1905 and the legend of the Headless Valley was born.
Down river at Sheaf Creek, R. M. Patterson and his partner, Gordon Mathews, wintered in 1928. Patterson later wrote Dangerous River, one of the most eloquent accounts of the early days on the river. Around the campfire, we’ll read from his book.
Day 17 (B/L/D)
Camp will be in Deadmen Valley. You can spend a relaxing day around the campsite or explore the massive alluvial fan of Prairie Creek. There’s a natural sheep lick located on the fan where we often see Dall sheep. For birders, it’s the nesting grounds for Upland Sandpipers, common nighthawks, White-winged Crossbills, Chipping and Savannah sparrows. Fisherman will find both Dolly Varden and Arctic grayling inhabiting the pools and eddies of the creek.
Day 18 (B/L/D)
The highlights will include First Canyon, Canada’s deepest river canyon at a depth of 1300 metres (4265 feet), George’s Riffle and a quick stop at White Spray Springs. We camp at Lafferty’s Creek to allow us time for a last night to hike in the canyons.
Day 19 (B/L/D)
After a quick splash through Lafferty’s Riffle and a stop at Kraus Hot Springs for a soak, we leave the canyons and carry on to camp in the area known as The Splits. Here the river braids and twists into many channels.
Day 20 (B/L/D)
While negotiating the huge meanders prior to the First Nation village of Nahanni Butte, we’ll experience the river valley opening up to meet the forested flatlands. Camp will be in or near the village (population 80).
We’ll be hosted by a member of the community who will show us through the village, sharing the history and culture of the people who have made this area home for thousands of years. They will treat us to tea and bannock, and answer any questions we may have about life in this remote part of the world.
Day 21 (B)
A powerboat ride down the voluminous Liard River will take us to Lindberg’s Landing where we’ll be the guest of Sue Lindberg for showers, a BBQ and an overnight stay at her cabins.
Day 22 (B)
We’ll be picked up by vehicle and driven to Fort Simpson to meet our plane home. There may be time to explore around town.