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1800 kilometres. Zero portages.

Person washing their hands in in the Arctic Ocean

There are a number of reasons to paddle the Mackenzie River. The best? Zero portages.

Lean in close. We have a secret to share.

It's about the longest paddling trip you can take in Canada without ever having to carry your canoe.

It's the mighty Mackenzie, washing through the Northwest Territories – past rugged peaks and boreal woodlands, across the Arctic Cricle, down the Mackenzie Delta, right to the sea.

If you promise not to tell, we'll give you the lowdown on how to experience it. Here's 21 sweet tips for anyone floating the Big Mac.

Hay River in the NWT

Put in at the friendly community of Hay River, the hub of the South Slave region ...

Kayaking on Great Slave Lake

... and the gateway to Great Slave Lake.

Bison in the South Slave of the Northwest Territories

Travel alongside the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, home to North America's largest land animal, the majestic wood buffalo.

The Deh Cho Bridge which links the Northwest Territories to southern Canada

Pass beneath the new Deh Cho Bridge, the only bridge to span the Mackenzie River.

Fort Providence along the Mackenzie River in the NWT

Pay a visit to Fort Providence, a friendly Dene and Metis settlement on the north side of the river.

Canoeing the Mackenzie River NWT from Fort Providence

Watch for plentiful waterfowl as you cross Mills Lake, which is so broad you can barely see from side to side.

Jean Marie River NWT

After the river narrows, keep your eyes out for tiny Jean Marie River. This idyllic traditional village is a great spot to enjoy a picnic up on the high bank.

Fort Simpson where the Mackenzie River and Liard River meet

And not far downriver, you'll come to Fort Simpson, where the Liard and the Mackenzie meet. This is a perfect place to stock up and enjoy the local sights.

Canoeing in the NWT

Near Camsell Bend the mountains appear. They'll be within view for most of the rest of your trip. 

Fort Wrigley in the NWT

Next up? Fort Wrigley. This quaint community sits at the end of the Mackenzie HIghway. After this, you'll spend the next several weeks beyond the reach of roads.

Bear Rock in Tulita

Tulita sits at the junction of the Bear and Mackenzie Rivers, in the shadow of legendary Bear Rock.

Mackenzie River near Norman Wells

Soon you'll pass the Mackenzie's famous oilfields. Here, on manmade mid-river islands, pumpjacks busily extract petroleum from deep beneath the streambed.

Norman Wells in the NWT

Industrious Norman Wells makes another great place to take a break from the big river. Here you'll find grocery stores, restaurants, museums – even a golf course. 

Paddling on the Mackenzie River

Marvel at the sheer-sided Ramparts, where the Mackenzie chokes through a narrow canyon ...

Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Fort Good Hope

Then go ashore at the Dene community of Fort Good Hope, home to this church – one of the oldest, most famous historic sites in Northern Canada.

The midnight sun shown through time lapse photography in the NWT

Cross the Arctic Circle!

... where you can watch the sun not set.

Tsiigehtchic, a community in the NWT

Now arrive in the historic Gwitch'in community of Tsiigehtchic, acccessible via the Dempster Highway.

Canoeing through the NWT

Here you enter the winding maze of the Mackenzie Delta. The countless marshy channels are an oasis of wildlife.

Town of Inuvik in the NWT

Welcome to Inuvik! It's the capital of the Western Arctic and the largest town along the Mackenzie River. Load up on supplies and check out the local culture.

Pingo Canadian Landmark in the NWT

Onward to Tuktoyaktuk, the "pingo" capital of the world. Parks Canada staff can take you on a tour of the fascinating Pingo Canadian Landmark.

Dipping a toe in the Arctic Ocean

You've made it! Here you are, at the mouth of the Mackenzie, where it pours into the Arctic Ocean. Dip your feet in this brisk sea and reflect on your remarkable journey. You've paddled 1800 kilometres – and no portages!

Get our Free Spectacular Guide

Is the Northwest Territories on your must-see list? Order or download our free Spectacular Guide to plan your trip of a lifetime.