The Little Nahanni River is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada inside the newly established Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve. While it’s less well known than the classic canoe route down the nearby South Nahanni River, the Little Nahanni travels through an equally wild landscape, one that’s home to wolves, grizzlies and dozens of technical rapids.
Despite my limited whitewater canoeing experience, I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to join a fourteen-day paddling trip to scout this river for Parks Canada. In the summer of 2015, we launched on the Flat Lakes along the Yukon-Northwest Territories border. It would take our six-person crew ten days to travel 135 miles down the Little Nahanni River. The final four days were spent floating down the wide South Nahanni River to the Nahanni National Park Reserve where our Twin Otter plane would pick us up.
With the help of Ken MacDiarmid and Pablo Vermeulen, two great guides from the Black Feather outdoors team; Lyn Elliott and Vanessa Murtsell, two Parks Canada employees; and whitewater paddler and fellow photographer, David Lee aka The Passionate Paddler, we tackled the Little Nahanni River, but not without our fair share of thrilling moments. We had to maneuver around moose that stood staring at us from the middle of the river. Bears roamed around and into our camps and one young juvenile black bear, curious about my tent, decided to flip me over as I lay fast asleep. Lastly, we had to handle the constant Class III+ rapids while the Little Nahanni River did its best to dump us. In the end, we made it safely down the rivers. Each of us had our moments of frustration, anger, happiness, and relief, but it was a journey none of us would soon forget.