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 new departure regulation system of the Park, which works to ensure that all river travelers have the same wilderness experience.
Trip length: 21 river days
Meals Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks are included from the pre-trip meeting until the final river meal. Any other meals off the river are your responsibility.
Day 1 Mountain Flight
This is the first day listed for your trip.
Your journey north from your home will be a refreshing departure. You will fly over the largest expanse of wilderness in the world with stunning views on cloudless days, pass through quieter and friendlier airports and generally begin to immerse yourself in the wilderness experience that is about to unfold.
Your trip leader will meet you to transfer you to the float plane base (if you arrive prior, please make your way to your accommodation).
There will be a chance for last minute questions concerning clothing, gear, packing and other details. You will also have time to transfer your gear into our river bags. You can leave unrequired items at our base/warehouse.
After loading our 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 visually stunning panorama unfolds in front of our eyes. You want to be sure to have your camera on your lap. Past participants have stepped off the plane declaring that “if the trip finished now, I would have my money’s worth!”
Please note – that under certain conditions (weather, forest fire, plane availability and upriver conditions), it may be necessary to make our upriver flight soon after arrival. On the other hand, we have occasionally found ourselves waiting for safe flying conditions. In any event, we will have supper and find ourselves camped in Ft. Simpson or on the shore of the Moose Ponds.
If we are required to overnight in Fort Simpson you are welcome to camp or take a hotel room (at your own cost).
Days 2 & 3 Mount Wilson
At the Moose Ponds we review strokes, and as conditions allow, a day hike may be made to the top of Mount Wilson. Fish may be had for supper. When the group is ready, we embark on the Nahanni and camp in the vicinity of Initiation Rapids.
Days 4, 5 & 6 Rock Gardens
We encounter spectacular whitewater comprised of continuous Grade II and III rapids known as the Rock Gardens. This continues until close to the junction of the South and Little Nahanni Rivers.
Days 7 & 8 Ragged Range
Here the river flattens out. Moores’ Cabin and Hot Springs are points of interest. We pass the Broken Skull River. It is along this portion of the river that we have spotted wolves in the past. Glacier Lake is in this vicinity. Camp is at the gravel bar opposite Rabbitkettle Lake.
Day 9 Rabbitkettle Hotsprings
Time is taken to explore the tufa mounds and Rabbitkettle Hot Springs. As this is one of the only two spots in the Park where float planes may land it is not unusual to see others here, although once back on the river we are alone.
Days 10 & 11 Mountain Peaks
These days are spent paddling through the broad U-shaped valley from Rabbitkettle Lake to Virginia Falls. Opportunities for fishing and hiking are possible if conditions allow.
Day 12 Virginia Falls
Virginia Falls (twice the height of Niagara) will be the destination. We will camp there for two nights. This is the other spot within the National Park where planes may land and we may see other campers here.
Day 13 Hiking
This is a day for exploring and photographing the area around Virginia Falls, nearly twice the height of Niagara. The vast expanse of the Falls captivates photographers and hikers with a tireless display of powerful drama. Keen and fit hikers may undertake an all-day expedition to the top of Sunblood Mountain for an excellent view of the surrounding area. Others can enjoy exploring the expansive area overlooking the brink of the falls.
Day 14 Painted Canyon
We will 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 is impossible to spend too much time at Virginia Falls! We will assemble the boats and, after a late shore lunch and briefing, we will 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 finally made for the evening below Wrigley Creek.
Day 15 The Gate
We enter Third Canyon, the walls of which rise 1200 metre over the river. Keen eyes may spot woodland caribou, moose and Dall sheep. Stopping at The Gate and Pulpit Rock for lunch, we will 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. Camp will be downstream of Pulpit Rock and The Gate.
Days 16 & 17 Deadmen Valley
Paddling through the Big Bend and Second Canyon and past Headless Creek we will find ourselves camped in the vicinity of Deadmen Valley. The view includes the Tlogotsho Plateau and Dry Canyon Creek. It was here, on the shores of Headless Creek, that the bodies of the Mcleod brothers were found in 1905 and the legend of the Headless Valley was born. Downriver at Sheaf Creek, R. M. Patterson and his partner, Gordon Mathews, wintered over in 1928. Patterson later wrote Dangerous River, one of the most eloquent accounts of the early days on the river. Around the campfire we will read from his book.
Day 18 & 19 Canyon Kingdom
The highlights will include First Canyon, Canada’s deepest river canyon at a depth of 1300 metre, George’s and Lafferty’s Riffles and White Spray Springs. After stopping at Kraus’ Hot Springs for a soak in the 37°C natural springs 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 Nahanni Butte
While negotiating the huge meanders prior to the native village of Nahanni Butte we will experience the river valley opening up to meet the forested flat lands. Camp will be in or near the village (population 80).
Day 21 Liard River
Following breakfast, we will continue on to the Naha Dene village of Nahanni Butte. (Pop. approx. 120) Remote yet surprisingly modern, a stroll into town provides insight into a culture far removed from most of North America. Following a snack from the village store we will board a small aircraft for a flight down the Liard River to Fort Simpson. The awaiting shuttle van will take you to your accommodation (not included). Your group will have a celebratory final evening recounting memories that will last a lifetime.
Day 22 Homeward Bound
We will be picked up by vehicle and driven to Fort Simpson to meet our plane home.