Ever since the first waters flowed, waterfalls have mesmerized. And Canada’s Northwest Territories, with an almost unseemly share of the world’s H2O 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 pouriover in the Barrenlands, a visit to a Northern waterfall is an encounter with nature at its most powerful, peaceful and primeval. So make the journey – and let the tumbling waters wash your soul.
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. For eons, Dene made pilgrimages here; today, hearty travellers in Nahanni National Park Reserve join them. All depart feeling blessed.
So perfect it seems planned, this road-accessible cascade is just outside the little village of Kakisa. It occurs where the Kakisa River jumps off an ancient coral reef, forming a crescent-shaped, 17-metre-high curtain of spray.
A mandatory stop on the drive North of Sixty, this booming, 10-storey spillover on the Hay River is the centerpiece of Twin Falls Territorial Park, not far from Enterprise. Shockingly, in 2003, an American daredevil kayaked the falls – and lived.
A four-kilometre dayhike downriver from Alexandra Falls or upriver from Enterprise, this tiered, 15-metre-high cataract in the Hay River Canyon can be viewed from one of the finest (and most popular) campgrounds in the Northwest Territories.
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 Lutselk'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 picknickers 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. And here's a bonus: Take a stroll upstream and you’ll come to Coral Falls, a sweeter, shyer falls that you’ll likely have all to yourself.
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 – except by lucky adventurers like you.