CBC Digital Archives

The white waters of Nahanni

Wonders of nature and marvels made by people stretch all across Canada. From a preserved Haida village in B.C. through Alberta's rich dinosaur fossil grounds to old Quebec City and a Viking settlement in Newfoundland, 15 remarkable Canadian places have been deemed World Heritage sites by the United Nations. CBC Digital Archives takes a tour of some of these internationally recognized national treasures.

media clip
One final turn on the hike toward the cliff and there it is: Virginia Falls. At twice the height of Niagara Falls, it is the crowning jewel of Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories. No less spectacular is the wild South Nahanni River, where a group of teenagers from Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, are on a once-in-a-lifetime whitewater rafting expedition. In this CBC-TV report from Northbeat, the teens challenge the mighty rapids, camp under the stars and learn why the United Nations chose Nahanni as the world's first Heritage site in 1978.
• Nahanni National Park is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories, in the traditional territory of the Dehcho First Nations. It was originally established in 1972 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with a total area of 4,766 square kilometres.
  • On June 9, 2009, the Canadian government, in conjunction with the Dehcho First Nations, announced legislation for a dramatic expansion of Nahanni Park, to over 30,000 square kilometres. The new boundary serves to protect the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, which lies on Dehcho land. As the Parks Canada website explains, it will protect the length of the South Nahanni River in the Dehcho, the highest mountains and largest glaciers in the N.W.T. and the deepest canyons in Canada.

• On its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization explains its rationale for designating Nahanni the world's first heritage site in 1978. "Nahanni National Park is a 4,700 sqare kilometre undisturbed natural area of deep river canyons cutting through mountain ranges, with huge waterfalls and complex cave systems ... Within the park are examples of almost every distinct category of river or stream that is known along with one of North America's huge waterfalls, Virginia Falls." UNESCO calls the Nahanni "one of the most spectacular wild rivers in North America."

• The Parks Canada website describes the ecological importance of the park. "Nahanni National Park Reserve protects a representative example of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region. The park area overlaps two major ecozones - the Taiga Plains to the east and Taiga Cordillera to the west - and touches the Boreal Cordillera Ecozone to the south. The park occupies approximately one-seventh of the total area of the South Nahanni River watershed."

• Among Nahanni's unique features are Rabbitkettle Hotsprings, source of the largest known tufa mounds in Canada. (Tufa is a rock composed of calcium carbonate that forms at the mouth of a spring, from lake water, or from a mixture of spring and lake water). The park also contains Virginia Falls, with a vertical drop of over 90 metres (about 295 feet); a series of river canyons up to 1200 metres deep; and caves such as Grotte Valerie with its ancient skeletons of numerous Dall's sheep. Nahanni's wildlife includes Dall's sheep, mountain goats, woodland caribou, wolves, black bears, grizzly bears and trumpeter swans.

• Nahanni offers an array of outdoor adventures, including guided canoeing, kayaking and whitewater rafting trips. There are also hiking excursions.

Medium: Television
Program: Northbeat
Broadcast Date: Sept. 2, 1996
Host: Paul Landrum
Duration: 28:38

Last updated: July 15, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Inuit Education: To save a language

What is the mother tongue of a child raised by English television and Inuktitut-speaking grand...

Elections after the boundary makeover

The newly drawn N.W.T. holds its first election after the creation of Nunavut.

Elections Canada targets youth in the North

Elections Canada combats voter apathy.

Thinking outside the parliamentary political ...

Debating the pros and cons of consensus government.

A tour of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly

Michael Ballantyne takes CBC's Peter Gzowski on a personal tour.