Nahanni River: Rabbitkettle Lake to Nahanni Butte (13 days / 337 km)

The Nahanni River is one of the most iconic canoe routes in Canada. Guided by canoeing legend Bill Mason, in the summer of 1970 Pierre Elliot Trudeau paddled the Nahanni River. Shortly after, in 1976 the Nahanni River National Park was created to protect the river; then in 1978, the Nahanni River was in the first round of sites designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I've had my eye on the Nahanni for years, but my dad has been keen to paddle it since he was 15 years old. After the pandemic delayed us several times, in 2023 we were finally able to make the trip a reality. Supported by wonderful Black Feather guides, my dad and I, plus six other people, spent two weeks paddling the Nahanni from Rabbitkettle Lake to Nahanni Butte.

I had anticipated the beautiful scenery and whitewater, but I hadn't expected how many wonderful side trips and sights (and the amazing friends) there would be along the way. This report goes into detail about each day of the trip, including all the side hikes and points of interest.

Trip Completed: July 2023

Trip Summary

Starting Point: Rabbitkettle Lake (km 225)

Ending Point: Nahanni Butte (km 562)

Total Distance: 337 km

Duration: 13 days

Difficulty: Intermediate

Location: This route takes place in Nahanni National Park Reserve, in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories. The nearest towns are Fort Simpson (2 hours from the put in by float plane) and Nahanni Butte, which is on the river at the take out.

Traditional Territory: This route is on the traditional territory of Dehcho First Nations.

Maps & Resources

Guidebook / Map: South Nahanni River Touring Guide - available as a paper copy from the Parks Canada Visitor's Center in Fort Simpson. This booklet contains both a map and a guide to features and day hikes.

Permits & Reservations

Campsite Reservations: For the most part, there are no campsite reservations in Nahanni National Park Reserve. However...

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