Whatever floats your boat: 9 wild ways to enjoy the water in the Northwest Territories

Whatever floats your boat

The Northwest Territories is a liquid Shangri-La, and the finest way to enjoy it is from just above the waterline. Boats are as common as cars here, and a heckuva lot more fun – whether you're canoeing a legendary river like the Thelon, powerboating to the cliffy East Arm of Great Slave Lake, fishing from a paddleboard in Yellowknife Bay, or practicing sick airscrews in the Slave River Rapids.

Here's nine wild ways to enjoy the water in the Northwest Territories:

canoeing

The canoe is the vessel that put the Northwest Territorties on the map, carrying Indigenous people and explorers to the literal ends of the Earth. Nowadays, canoeing probably remains the best all-purpose way to experience the Northland. These go-anywhere boats can carry hundreds of pounds of people and gear – enough to thrive for weeks, or even months. They can travel in big flat lakes and foaming whitewater rivers, and can be easily portaged overland. Even better, they can be strapped to a floatplane and flown nearly anywhere. Whether you're bobbing at the Hay River Beach or descending the full length of the Nahanni, we're pretty sure you'll want to grab life by the paddle. 

flatwater kayaking

There are two sorts of people in the world: canoeists and kayakers. The latter swear the former are insane. After all, with their narrow hull and double-bladed paddle, kayaks are much faster. They're safer, too – less tipsy and far more protected from wind and waves. For this reason, flatwater kayakers go places canoeists would never dare, making big-water journeys to the glorious East Arm of Great Slave Lake, or paddling on the ocean outside of Tuktoyaktuk or Paulatuk. They're even good for descending huge, languid rivers – it's not uncommon for kayakers to float the Mackenzie from its source to the sea.  

Pleasure boating
Get yer motor runnin'!
Head out on the waterway!
Lookin' for adventure ...
In whatever floats our way!
BORN TO BOAT WILLLLLLLD! Yeah!
 
Need we say more? Rent a pleasure craft or take a guided tour. With a million lakes and rivers to bomb around on, you'll be like a true nature's child....
Paddleboarding

Get up, stand up! Stand up for your ...  – OK, enough with the song lyrics. Have you tried paddleboarding? Wherever there's water, it's a huge craze. Rather than being cramped in the cockpit of a kayak or dependent on the motor of pleasure boat, stand-up paddleboards – or SUPs – will liberate you to explore placid inshore waters and flatwater rivers. Some people even use them to fish: They're like a floating dock that you take with you to the fishing hole. 

Rafting

The best part of running a river? Floating along in the glinting sunshine, watching the scenery go by. The worst part? The hard work of paddling. That's why rafting is the perfect compromise. Sign up for a raft trip on the Nahanni River and your guide will do all the labour, manning the oars while you kick back and sunbathe. Plus, rafting is perfect for newbie expeditioners, or old folks, or kids – anyone who isn't comfortable with canoeing but still wants to have a splash.  

car ferrying

Car ferries ain't pleasure craft – and yet riding on them is all sorts of fun. Currently, four of them operate in the Northwest Territories, carrying cars and trucks across our unbridged rivers. Though the crossings (of the Liard, Mackenzie, and Peel Rivers) usually take just a few minutes, they're a great chance for motorists to stretch their legs, chat with other travellers, take photos and just generally drink in the scenery. You'll get to interact, too, with the ferrymen – locals from nearby communities who are a wealth of advice and great stories. 

Whitewater kayaking

The Slave River Rapids, near Fort Smith, are a playboater's paradise. With thousands of huge waves, chutes and spillways, this whitewater wonderland draws professional-calibre kayakers from around the world. But you don't have to be a Class VI boater to have fun here. Come for Paddlefest, held annually in early August, and you'll join scores of other novice kayakers in experiencing the Slave's easier features – and watching the big boys get wet 'n' wild. 

Sailing

Surprising fact: Great Slave Lake is home to a large, active and adventuresome flotilla of sailboats. Most nights of the summer you'll see them leaned up in the wind, running down Yellowknife Bay. Head out to the East Arm and they're there, too, surfing on the breeze by day and bobbing in the bays at night, basically serving as fun, floating wilderness cabins. 

expedition cruising

Don't bother with your flipflops and sunscreen. Ship journeys through the waters of the Northwest Passage are more Roald Amundsen than Royal Caribbean. With medium-sized vessels – typically carrying between 75 and 250 passengers – the cruise companies that operate here are keen to introduce you to the landscape, culture and history of this place. Common stops include Aulavik National Park, with the world's largest muskox population; the community of Ulukhaktok, home to Earth's northernmost golf-course; and the Smoking Hills, where burning subterranean coal seams have belched smoke for centuries.  

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MCNALLIE CREEK TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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CHAN LAKE TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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60TH PARALLEL TERRITORIAL PARK

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CAMERON RIVER CROSSING TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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PROSPEROUS LAKE TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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MADELINE LAKE TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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TETLIT GWINJIK TERRITORIAL PARK DAY USE AREA

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Nitainlaii Territorial Park

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MacKinnon Territorial Park

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Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site

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Houseboat Bay

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Reid Lake Territorial Park

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Prelude Lake Territorial Park

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Fred Henne Territorial Park

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Little Buffalo River Falls Territorial Park

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Fort Providence Territorial Park

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Hay River Territorial Park

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Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park

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Queen Elizabeth Territorial Park

Located just outside Fort Smith, this large, lushly wooded campground features 17 powered campsites, showers and washrooms, a kitchen shelter, firewood, a playground, and a walking trail leading to great views of the Slave River Rapids. 

Lady Evelyn Falls Territorial Park

Make the trip to see the falls, even if you do not plan to camp overnight. From the Mackenzie Highway, an access road leads 6.8 kilometres south to the park. From the parking lot, a short trail leads to Lady Evelyn Falls. The falls form a giant curtain of water as the Kakisa River spills...

Cameron Falls

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Twin Falls Gorge Trail

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Frame Lake Trail

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Salt Plains

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Canol Trail

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Louise Falls

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Alexandra Falls

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Cameron Falls

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Sambaa Deh Falls

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Lady Evelyn Falls

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Whatı̀ Waterfall

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Hay River Beach

On blazing hot days, Hay River’s driftwoody beach draws travellers from the nearby campground – some of whom are bold enough to dunk themselves in Great Slave’s cool water.

Pine Lake Beach

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Long Lake Beach

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Road’s End Golf Club

Built in 2009, Inuvik's Road’s End Golf Club boasts a grassy, 250-yard driving range and a three-hole course. Keep an eye out for ravens as you swing – the course once had to close when the sneaky birds made off with all the golf balls. 

Ptarmigan Ridge Golf Course

Located next Norman Wells' Heritage Hotel near the banks of the Mackenzie River, the grassy, evergreen-lined Ptarmigan Ridge course offers the only golfing in the Sahtu region, with four holes – soon to be expanded to six.

Seven Spruce Golf Course

Within easy walking distance of downtown Fort Simpson, the Seven Spruce Golf Course in features rolling, grassy fairways and a laid-back vibe. Rent clubs and tackle the sun-soaked nine-hole course or put up your feet in the clubhouse for a relaxing afternoon.

Ulukhaktok Golf Course

With artificial greens atop the tundra, Ulukhaktok is the coolest place you’ll play golf. The town’s nine-hole course if the world’s northernmost, and the annual Billy Joss Open draws visiting celebrity golfers. Word to the wise: Let the muskoxen play through. 

Yellowknife Golf Club

Eighteen holes. Sand fairways. Grassy putting greens. Jackpines, bedrock and ravens. It’s safe to say you’ll never play golf anywhere like the Yellowknife Golf Club – especially if you come for the Midnight Sun Golf Tournament, which tees off on the summer solstice every year.

Hay River Golf Club

This manicured nine-hole course follows the curvaceous contours of Hay River’s namesake river. Grassy and aspen-shrouded, it’s a duffer’s delight. There’s also a driving range and a beautiful log clubhouse with a deck overlooking the water – a great place to spend the afternoon even if golf...

Tuktut Nogait National Park

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Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve

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Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park

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East Arm

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Gwich'in Territorial Park

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Knut Lang’s Place

The trading post known as Knut Lang’s Place is on the Peel Channel of the Mackenzie Delta, about 48 kilometres upstream from Aklavik. The post was built in the 1930s and includes includes standing log buildings, some with sod roofs. It was built by independent trader Knut...

Frame Lake Trail

This seven-kilometre loop around Frame Lake is the recreation trail for activity in the heart of the capital. While the eastern half is paved and passes by residential neighbourhoods, the western half consists of boardwalks over muskeg and wayfinding over rolling, forested-shrouded...

The Ramparts

The closest thing to whitewater on the mighty Mackenzie River, this fast-flowing section occurs a few kilometres upstream from Fort Good Hope where the river is choked between 40-metre-high limestone cliffs.

HAY LAKES CAMPGROUND

This municipal campground is located about four kilometres along the access road to Fort Liard. It's next to a small lake, and offers a kitchen shelter and several campsites.

Bear Rock

Towering 400 metres above Tulita, sacred Bear Rock is said to be where Yamoria, the great law-giver of Dene lore, confronted a gang of giant beavers that had been drowning hunters. Yamoria killed three of the beavers and draped their vast pelts on Bear Rock – forming three dark circles that...

North-Wright Airways Ltd.

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NARWAL Northern Adventures

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Northern and Remote Wilderness Adventures Ltd. (NARWAL) is a small, friendly, majority Aboriginal owned and operated family business. Our reputation as a competent, safety conscious outdoor adventure school is well... Read more

Nahanni River Adventures

For over 30 years we have delivered guided natural history/wilderness adventures by canoe and raft. Our qualified and friendly guides are authorities on the Nahanni, Cirque of the Unclimbables and we maintain a low ... Read more

Kasba Lake Lodge

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Canoe North Adventures

Since 1987, offering guided canoe trips and hiking expeditions, logistical support and rentals for self-guided clients accessed through Norman Wells in the Sahtu Region of the Northwest Territories including the... Read more

Canoe Arctic Inc.

For more than 40 years, Canoe Arctic Inc. has operated guided canoe trips on the most remote wild rivers left on our planet. With chartered amphibian aircraft based in Fort Smith, we fly our clientele in to the Thelon... Read more

Black Feather - The Wilderness Adventure Company

Guided wilderness canoeing, sea-kayaking and hiking adventures. Nahanni, Natla-Keele, Mountain, Coppermine, Hood Rivers. Photography, wilderness camping. Fully qualified guides, outfitted with top quality expedition... Read more

Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Arctic Watch is a Nunavut resort, located 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle. A world-class beluga whale observation site, Arctic Watch offers access to hiking, kayaking, Arctic safaris with beluga whales, muskox,... Read more

Arctic Adventure Tours & Arctic Chalet

Real Arctic Adventure Tours out of Inuvik - way up north above the Arctic Circle! We offer a variety of summer and winter tours. In summer we feature Cultural Tuk Tours, a spectacular flying tour and... Read more

Air Tindi

Air Tindi is an airline company based in Yellowknife offering scheduled flights to a number of NWT communities. We are able to assist our customers whether it be a city tour to getting paddlers to their dream... Read more

Tundra North Tours Ltd.

Thinking about visiting Canada's North? Let us organize your trip so you can focus on enjoying your #AuthenticArcticExperience! Local tour operator offering tours in the Mackenzie Delta area, including boat and... Read more

Yellow Dog Lodge, Inc.

* 7 LAKES TO CHOOSE FROM * Yellow Dog Lodge is a comfortable lodge with 3 private cabins for our guests. The lodge is a short (15 minute) floatplane ride from Yellowknife.  Located on Duncan and Graham... Read more

Yellow Dog Lodge, Inc.

* 7 LAKES TO CHOOSE FROM * Yellow Dog Lodge is a comfortable lodge with 3 private cabins for our guests. The lodge is a short (15 minute) floatplane ride from Yellowknife.  Located on Duncan and Graham... Read more

Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures

For a Great Northern Experience! Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures offers a variety of day trips ranging from 2 to 10 hours in all seasons and for all ages. We can tailor outdoor day programs or packages to suit your... Read more

Jackpine Paddle

Paddling brings us back to our basic rhythms. Our goal is to improve your kayaking and canoeing skills in an atmosphere of fun and friendship, and share our pristine land and water with you. You can count on our... Read more

Nahanni Wild

At Nahanni Wild we outfit and guide canoe and raft trips on Canada's renowned South Nahanni River and a select offering of the finest mountain and tundra river trips across the North. Each of our adventures has been... Read more

Nahanni Mountain Lodge

Remote private wilderness paradise on Little Doctor Lake, 100 km west of Fort Simpson. Accommodates 20 in cabins. Fishing, swimming, canoeing. Satellite phone.  June 1 to September 30. Three months advanced booking... Read more

Lynx Tundra Lodge

An Arctic Barrenlands trophy fishing adventure for the serious sportsman. Located on Lynx Lake (420 km east of Yellowknife) Lynx Tundra Lodge is your destination for trophy class Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling, Pickerel,... Read more

Great Slave Lake Tours

Great Slave Lake Tours offers winter and summer trips on Great Slave Lake, the ninth biggest lake in the world and the deepest lake in North America. Tour by boat in summer or Bombardier snowmobile (B12) in winter.... Read more

Canoe North

Canoe North, located in Hay River, Northwest Territories offers kayak and canoe rentals and sales. We can set you up for a self guided trip on a number of northern rivers and the Great Slave... Read more

Bluefish Services

With Bluefish Services you’ll get an unforgettable taste of Great Slave Lake. During the summer, travel by boat to the best fishing spots around Yellowknife. During the winter, travel to the best spots from the comfort... Read more

Bathurst Inlet Lodge Ltd.

Escape to an Arctic Oasis at one of Travel and Leisure's "World's 25 Top Ecolodges" and a recipient of Nunavut Tourism's Award of Excellence - Bathurst Inlet Lodge. Remote wilderness lodge with spectacular tundra... Read more

2 Seasons Adventures

We are the Hay River adventure experts. See Hay River like you have never seen it before. We offer boat tours on Great Slave Lake, fishing tours to Brabant Island at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and many other... Read more

Simpson Air

Simpson Air (and its predecessor) is the oldest continuously-operated flying service in the Mackenzie Valley, established in the early 1960s. Air charters and flightseeing tours are our specialty. Read more

Yellowknife Tours

Come experience world-class Aurora Borealis viewing in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. We are the only guides in the Northwest Territories to offer services in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. With over 20... Read more

B. Dene Adventures

Your Dene Connection in Yellowknife. B. Dene Adventures is a Traditional Dene Culture Camp business which teaches the Dene way of life through our history, our language and our unique connection to the land. B. Dene... Read more

Ahmic Air Ltd.

Floatplane charter service using classic DHC-2 Beaver aircraft based in Yellowknife's historic Old Town. Sightseeing flights over Yellowknife and surrounding areas, day trips, and transportation to remote camps,... Read more

North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge

Full service lodge located on Cli Lake 72 miles (115 km) west of Fort Simpson in the Nahanni Mountain Range. Fishing, hiking, birding, wildlife viewing, cultural activities, Aurora viewing and conferences. Access... Read more

Nahanni Shuttle Partnership

Nahanni Shuttle provides charter van shuttles from the Nahanni to Fort Simpson. Read more

Bathurst Arctic Services

Paddle our Arctic rivers! Canoe outfitting in the Central Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Burnside, Mara, Hood, Thelon, Back, Coppermine Rivers and more. One call does it all; we arrange air transport, rent canoes,... Read more

Banks Island Tundra Tours

Sightseeing, camping trips, snowmobiling and ATV and boat trips. Banks Island Tundra Tours is mostly for people who like camping. Read more

Adventure Canada

Family owned and operated tour company specializing in Arctic expedition cruising. Read more

Taltson Big Pike Lodge

Boat tours in the wildlife-rich Slave River delta and fishing at Taltson Big Pike Lodge. Read more

Northwest Territories Parks

To truly experience the Northwest Territories, take your camping gear for a highway driving adventure! Long ribbons of road without traffic jams or urban clutter take you through vast landscapes with unrivaled vistas -... Read more

Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve

Paddle the Broken Skull River or go for the Triple Header: three rivers in one trip. Stop for epic hikes or soak in a hot spring in the traditional lands of the Shúhtaot’ine (Mountain Dene).    ... Read more

Old Town Paddle & Co.

Old Town Paddle & Co. are the most northern Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) outfitter in Canada. Read more

Shehtah Adventures

Call us about our exciting year-round packages and experience the best of the Dehcho region and Denendeh. Read more

Liidlii Kue First Nation

Liidlii Kue First Nation provides day and evening activities, in all seasons. Aurora viewing, cross country skiing, snowmobile tours, canoeing, community tours, hiking/packpacking, kayaking, motorized boat tours, and... Read more

Liidlii Kue First Nation

Liidlii Kue First Nation provides day and evening activities, in all seasons. Aurora viewing, cross country skiing, snowmobile tours, canoeing, community tours, hiking/packpacking, kayaking, motorized boat tours, and... Read more

Only Way Outfitting

Born & raised in Inuvik, Northwest Territories our experienced lead guide Jimmy Kalinek is ready to help you discover the alluring Mackenzie Delta in Canada's Western Arctic. An avid hunter, a skilled outdoors-man,... Read more

Tah-Chay Adventures

Join us for an unforgettable experience on the mighty Mackenzie River. Day trips are available for a full or half day. Exceptional nature and wildlife viewing, fishing, hiking and historical tours are available. We will... Read more