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Ever since the first waters flowed, waterfalls have mesmerized. And Canada’s Northwest Territories, with an almost unseemly share of the world’s water and no end of cliffs for it to spill from, is a waterfall wonderland. Whether it’s a frothing roadside chute in the South Slave region, an ear-splitting tsunami in the Mackenzie Mountains, or an idyllic pour-over in the Barrenlands, these Northern waterfalls are examples of nature at its most powerful, peaceful and primeval.
A liquid avalanche that never quits, the North’s showcase waterfall each day sends 100 million tonnes of the Nahanni River down a 30-storey face.
So perfect it seems planned, this road-accessible cascade is just outside the little village of Kakisa, a five-minute turnoff of Highway 1. It occurs where the Kakisa River jumps off an ancient coral reef, forming a crescent-shaped, 17-metre-high curtain of spray.
In Tuktut Nogait National Park, 200 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, the Hornaday River takes this 21-metre plunge near the end of its canyon-flanked journey to polar sea.
This booming, 10-storey spillover on the Hay River can be found just off of Highway 1 and it's the centerpiece of Twin Falls Territorial Park, not far from Enterprise. Shockingly, in 2003, an American daredevil kayaked the falls – and lived.
Eight-metre-high Parry Falls, on the Lockhart River at the the east tip of Great Slave Lake, is a sacred site. Here is found Ts’ankui Theda, the Old Lady of the Falls – a medicine woman who is said to sit in a cave behind the waterfall. The people of Lutsel K'e host a spiritual gathering here every summer, paying their respects and making offerings.
About 45 minutes by road east of Yellowknife, a short, scenic trail leads over the undulating outcrops to 17-metre Cameron Falls. Here, the Cameron River takes a tumble en route to Great Slave Lake. A bridge straddles the river, allowing picnickers to access the placid bank on the far side and anglers to descend to the fish-filled pools at the base of the waterfall.
Roaring directly beneath the Mackenzie Highway not far from the community of Jean Marie River, flashy, splashy Sambaa Deh Falls gets deserved attention from motorists. Roughly one kilometre upstream, there is another waterfall - Coral Falls, a sweeter, shyer falls that invites fossil-seekers.
Stunning Whatı̀ Waterfall features two thundering spillways with fine grayling fishing in the rapids below. It's accessible by road from the fly-in North Slave community of Whatı̀.
Not far from the Canol Trail west of Norman Wells, Carcajou Falls splashes over a stony escarpment, sending spray into the mountain air. It's considered one of the most idyllic waterfalls in the Northland, and it's almost never visited.