Rocks stacked on the Barrenlands, in Canada's Northwest Territories

East of Great Slave is a regal, lonesome realm – the treeless zone of the Barrens, legendary for paddling, fishing and wildlife viewing. Here, rivers flow clear, herds of caribou stretch to the far horizon, and wolves survey their empire from atop ancient outcrops, impervious to human visitors.  

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Paddling the Thelon, Coppermine, Dubawnt and other wild rivers of the Barrenlands in Canada's Northwest Territories

The Barrenlands give birth to icy rivers that jostle through the rock-ribbed landscape, bound for the far Arctic. You’ve heard rumours of these waterways: the Thelon, Coppermine, Burnside, Dubawnt and Back. Reached by floatplane from Yellowknife, paddling them involves weeks of adventure – and provides a lifetime of stories.  

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Muskoxen live on the Barrenlands in Canada's Northwest Territories

Here, the forest dwindles to sticks and the Subarctic and Arctic collide. The beasts of the Barrens are a strange mash-up of the polar and the boreal: Muskoxen and moose, caribou and grizzlies, beavers and wolverines, ptarmigans and geese. For wildlife-watchers, this place is a strange paradise, intriguing to behold.

Charter a flight-seeing tour or paddle one of the region's wild rivers to see these creatures with your own eyes.

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The Barrenlands explode with colour in the fall in Canada's Northwest Territories

Think autumn colours are pretty in New England? Then you’ve gotta see the Barrenlands in August and September. Imagine a landscape of infinite crimson, as a million delicate flowers explode into colour and berries erupt on every bush. Photographers make pilgrimages here every year to capture this radiant spectacle.

You can join them, on photography-focused tours or your own independent adventure.

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The town of Wekweeti, Northwest Territories, Canada, on the cusp of the treeline.

Thriving at the cusp of the Barrenlands, placid Wekweètì is one of the North’s most scenic communities. The tiny Tłįchǫ settlement huddles among sandy eskers and tiny pines not far from the treeline – our closest community to the caribou country northeast of Great Slave Lake. You can fly into the town year-round or visit it by driving the Tłįchǫ winter road once the region's lakes freeze over.

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It’s better in the Barrenlands 17 2ffb0022-129e-4b00-839a-85978b21e789