Great Canadian Parks / Northwest Territories

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The Parks / Northwest Territories / Nahanni National Park Reserve


This section of the South Nahanni River really begins at the Sluice Box Rapids. Fractures in the limestone riverbed cause the water to roil and crash over rocks as it begins to descend. The only way to see these rapids is by air, for in the next moment the river plunges 90 metres over Virginia Falls, the only mandatory portage on the South Nahanni River, and into the canyon lands The canyons are numbered from east to west, so one encounters Fourth canyon first, at the base of Virginia Falls. This canyon was formed by the recession of the falls, as the force of water erodes the rock at a rate of about half a centimetre per year. The river moves more swiftly as it proceeds down river, squeezed between the steep canyon walls and increasing in volume with each tributary. Below the confluence of the Flat River, it enters 19 kilometre long Third Canyon, with walls over 900 metres high. After negotiating a 90 degree turn at The Gate, it proceeds through Second Canyon, flanked by the Headless Range, and enters Deadmen Valley. The Park cabin here is a ritual check-in point for paddlers on the river, each leaving a carved memento of their journey and a record of their experiences in the log book. Below the valley, the cliffs of First Canyon rise almost 1200 metres above the river and are pock marked with openings of karst caves.

 

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