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Carcajou Falls

CarcaJou falls after the center column collapse NWT

In June of 2023, Carcajou Falls, located in the MacKenzie Mountains in the Sahtu Region, underwent a natural and dramatic transformation. In the past, onlookers experienced the famous falls splashing over a stony column then spraying refreshing mist into the mountain air. The distinctive column made Carcajou an unmistakable Canadian landmark.

Then one fateful day, the defining pillar disappeared.  Although photos distinctly capture the before and the after of the great collapse, the exact moment when nature took its course, crumbling the pillar into a million pieces and sending it down the river, is uncertain.

Carcajou Falls is part of the Canol Trail, the longest wild hiking path in North America requiring three or more weeks to complete. Norman Wells is the nearest community, and the falls are typically experienced by aerial flight tours. 

Today, Carcajou Falls is still considered one of the crowning jewels of the Mackenzie mountains, and a testimony to the  colossal power and undeniable beauty of the natural world.

Alexandra Falls

A person standing on the cliff at Alexandra falls in the NWT_

A mandatory stop on the drive North of Sixty, this booming 10-storey spillover on the Hay River is the centerpiece of Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, not far from Enterprise. Shockingly, in 2003, an American daredevil kayaked over the falls – and lived.

This is a dramatically beautiful spot to enjoy a picnic, take a three-kilometre stroll to nearby Louise Falls, or just take in this magnificent waterfall from two viewing platforms. Interpretive displays along the trail provide historical information about the area, including the falls’ spiritual significance to the Dene people who regarded the Twin Falls as the sacred resting place of two spirits – Grandmother and Grandfather. The couple are said to remain here until the falls disappear, protecting the land and ensuring people respect creation. 

The day-use area here has picnic facilities, kitchen shelters, tables, drinking water, outhouses and, of course, ready access to the sights and sounds of the waterfalls.

Arctic Ocean

The best Northern lights in the world dance above the Arctic ocean sign in the Northwest Territories

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the top of the world. Travellers from all over the globe arrive in Tuktoyaktuk and head to the shore to take a dip in the brisk waters of the Arctic Ocean. It’s a mysterious, life-giving body of water that few get to see with their own eyes, let alone stick their toes in.

The smallest and shallowest (and coldest) of the world’s five major oceans, the Arctic Ocean is nevertheless teeming with life – from ice algae and phytoplankton to dizzying schools of fish and awe-inspiring marine mammals like seals, whales, walruses and polar bears.

Follow the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, and then onward on the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway, journeying north as the east channel of the Mackenzie River snakes its way towards the mouth of the Beaufort Sea. You’ll pass the treeline where the boreal forest ends and enter the wide-open tundra of the Barrenlands and the grazing range of Canada’s only herd of domestic reindeer.

The all-season highway, which takes about two-and-a-half hours to drive from Inuvik, ends at the furthest point north someone can reach by car in Canada. Take care on your journey as the highway can be rough in spots and the trip is almost all beyond cell service. Make sure you bring provisions and drive with caution.

Bush Pilot’s Monument

Rock art in Yellowknife's Old Town.

Yellowknife’s most popular lookout rises high above Old Town, providing a stupendous view over Great Slave Lake, Back Bay and the northern reaches of the city. The monument rests atop “The Rock”—a six-storey hill where the town’s original water tower once stood—and is accessed via a winding wooden staircase.

Back when Yellowknife was still young, travel between communities and camps was long and dangerous. Bush planes were a vital resource for transporting supplies, food, medicine and people. This monument is dedicated to those pilots and engineers whose lives were lost as they flew the wild skies of the Northwest Territories. But it also serves a practical purpose: When the light atop the tower is flashing, residents and visitors are warned that floatplanes or skiplanes are active on nearby Yellowknife Bay.

Reaching the base of Pilot’s Monument is easy. Just head down Franklin Avenue towards Old Town and you’ll see it rising up above the houses. Getting to the top is a little trickier. The climb is steep and unfortunately not wheelchair accessible. There are two resting areas on the staircase for those that need them. At the peak are two viewing platforms where many travellers take photos and gaze out on the beautiful scenery of Yellowknife.

Ehdaa National Historic Site

The papal ground teepee under the northern lights in Fort Simpson NWT

Festive sounds of celebration and solemn whispers of prayers have been heard seasonally at Ehdaa since oral tradition began for the Łiidlįį Kų́ę́ Dene. 

For centuries Dene have gathered at this site, located on inviting, low-lying flat land on the southwestern end of Fort Simpson Island, near the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers. Groups would journey here as part of their seasonal travels in order to strengthen and renew social and spiritual ties. Land use was allocated by the Elders, coming of age ceremonies were held, marriages were performed, disputes were settled, goods, knowledge and techniques were traded and games were played. Spiritual healing ceremonies, such as the drum dance, were practiced as well.

Today, the site remains an important location to the local Łiidlįį Kų́ę́ Dene, who continue to visit this sacred ground, holding seasonal celebrations at the Drum Circle, honoring their connection to the land and their culture.

Deh Cho Bridge

The Deh Cho Bridge near Fort Providence is the only bridge to straddle Canada’s biggest river, the Mackenzie. It’s twice as long as any other bridge in Northern Canada. It was also the costliest piece of infrastructure in territorial history, with a price tag of $202 million. RIsing more than 100 feet above the water, it provides excellent views both up- and downstream. 

Saoyú-ʔehdacho National Historic Site

Great Bear Lake in the Northwest territories in the SAOYÚ-ʔEHDACHO National Historic Site

In one of the most isolated parts of North America stands one of the most sacred and significant sites in the Northwest Territories. Saoyú-ʔehdacho is the largest National Historic Site in Canada. It’s made up of two peninsulas on Great Bear Lake: Saoyú (saw-you-eh or “grizzly bear mountain”) and ʔehdacho (aa-daa-cho or “scented grass hills”). Both feature flat summits several hundred metres above sea level, along with raised beaches containing evidence of human use from over 5,000 years ago.

The park itself is the first of its kind in Canada to be designed in consultation with Indigenous groups and jointly administered by Parks Canada and the Délı̨nę Got’ine Government’.  This sacred land of healing and teaching is very important to the Sahtugot’ine (“the people of the Sahtu”). It’s through this land and the stories that surround it that Elders in Délı̨nę pass on the history, laws, values and skills critical to their way of life. 

The Papal Site

The Papal Site in Fort Simpson NWT

On the floodplain where the Liard River flows into the great Mackenzie, a crowd of Northerners gathered in 1984 awaiting the arrival of Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, fog prevented His Holiness’ plane from landing and the visit was postponed. Three years later, the Vatican once again turned its eyes toward the Northwest Territories and the Pope finally arrived in Fort Simpson, holding a mass at this site for a crowd of 3,500.

Today, three structures still remain from the Pope’s visits: a 15 metre-high teepee log frame, used as a stage; a log-framed Drum Circle structure that reaches 38 metres in diameter; and a concrete podium/monument in the form of a cross, representing the four directions and the four natural elements.

This area of the Ehdaa Historical Site is still used in summer gatherings to celebrate and pray, as well as for community events like the annual Open Sky Festival.

North Arm Territorial Park Day Use Area

North Arm Territorial Park day use area in the Northwest Territories

Stop and rest on the picturesque shores of Great Slave Lake at this roadside park, a favorite stop for locals and visitors travelling the highway. Take some photos or simply relax with a picnic. But be sure to look around you – the scenery abruptly changes here from rolling, well-treed Mackenzie lowlands to the granite of the Canadian shield. This is also a prime waterfowl nesting area.

The park, located off of Highway 3 near Behchokǫ̀, offers washrooms, a kitchen shelter and a boat launch. 

Yellowknife River Territorial Park Day Use Area

Yellowknife River Territorial Park Day Use Area

Located on the Yellowknife River, the park is a perfect place to enjoy a picnic or fishing. There are washrooms here, a picnic area and playground, trails and a boat launch. For the more adventurous, boat up the river and into the string of lakes it connects to; or head into Back Bay and Yellowknife Bay on Great Slave Lake.