dehcho roadtrip car canoe camping highway

There’s a secret among Northerners in the NWT – yes, for much of the year the territory is chilly with frozen lakes and blanketed in snow, but there’s a region that heats up quicker than the rest of the territory, maybe even quicker than the rest of the country. We’re talking about the Banana Belt of the North – the Dehcho.

Named for the mammoth river that winds its way to the Arctic Ocean, the Mackenzie River, known around here as the Deh Cho or “Big River,” the Dehcho Region of the NWT reaches those golden summer temperatures a solid month before Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik.

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mackenzie wood bison

If you're coming from Yellowknife, your first stop is Fort Providence. This town is in the South Slave region, but it's right on the doorstep of the mighty Mackenzie River. Gas up, get a bison burger and marvel at the incredible engineering of the Deh Cho Bridge. The Deh Cho Bridge is the only bridge that straddles the Mackenzie, the longest river in Canada and second largest in North America (after the Mississippi). It spans over a kilometre, rises 100 feet above the river and carries over 150,000 vehicles per year.   

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alexandra falls

Alternately, if you've begun this adventure from Alberta, your first stop en route to the Dehcho is Enterprise, also in the South Slave region, where you will find the incredible Alexandra Falls. Take a few moments here to get out and stretch your legs, walk down to the viewing platform to view the 32 m cascade, and maybe enjoy a picnic at the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park day use area. 

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Just over two hours from Fort Providence, or two and a half from Enterprise, you'll reach Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park. This park features not one but two stunning waterfalls, Sambaa Deh Falls of course and Coral Falls, as well as a hiking trail between the two chutes. The Trout River (Sambaa Deh) that winds through the area was an importation transportation route in the fur trade days and the hiking trail is the same portage fur traders would have used in order to get around the powerful waterfalls. It's crucial to book your campsite here in advance as Sambaa Deh Falls is one of the most popular parks in the whole territory. Visitors to this Dehcho gem tend to be sunbathing while their North Slave and Western Arctic camping counterparts are still wearing their puffies!

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fort simpson largest wooden teepee

After a relaxing stay at Sambaa Deh Falls, continue on to the Dehcho's regional centre, Fort Simpson. Here you'll find the world's largest wooden teepee, explore Gold Rush-era history and walk along the Ehdaa Historical Site where many important Dene gatherings still occur. Take a guided walking tour of the town to learn all the historical points of interest, camp out at Fort Simpson Territorial Park, and treat yourself to a flight-seeing tour of the stunning Nahanni National Park Reserve. 

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