A group of 11 adventurous middle-aged travellers, along with guides, headed out on a three-week journey down the Nahanni River this past summer, keen to escape the workaday world and test their personal limits. “When they asked for an extreme experience, they didn’t realize what I could offer them,” laughs Dave Hibbard, owner of Nahanni Wilderness Adventures. "Their breath was taken away in terms of the quality of the wilderness."
The group – coming from southern Canada as well as England, France and Holland – tackled a mix of paddling, hiking and mountaineering on their off-the-beaten-track tour of the famous Nahanni. One of the group’s organizers was a 58-year-old who’d travelled the world on eco-escapes from the hectic and the humdrum. “He’d been well-travelled on about every continent,” says Hibbard. “He wanted to explore some wild and untouched wilderness.”
Hibbard knew Nahanni National Park Reserve was ideal for such an experience. Starting at the Flat Lakes, the group navigated inflatable kayaks through the whitewater of the Little Nahanni. One of the guides paddled a “kataraft” – an inflatable catamaran with the food, guide gear and safety equipment.
There was a wide range of skill levels among the paddlers, but with the help of some training at the outset, and thanks to the forgiving inflatable kayaks, Hibbard says everyone paddled successfully and safely. After four days on the Little Nahanni and two on the South Nahanni, they made it through the crux of the trip, Crooked Canyon, where drops and boulder gardens give the river a “three-plus” rating – moderately difficult. After that, it was smooth sailing through the mountainous Eden of the legendary national park.