Paddling in the Northwest Territories

Paddling and the Northwest Territories. They go hand in hand. This is the epic liquid realm where Alexander Mackenzie canoed to the Arctic Sea. Where expeditioners trace the fabled Nahanni. Where world-class kayakers frolic in the house-high waves of the Slave. And where paddleboarders explore the rocky shores of Yellowknife Bay. 

So what are you waiting for? Here's 27 reasons you need to get up here and grab life by the paddle. 

77 d826cba2-a23c-4e6f-80b5-5b9842ad33ae
whitewater excitement canoeing in the Nahanni

1. You can catch some sweet air

What a rush! Everyone loves it when they run a wave-train and their bow goes airborne ....

25 27c2e36e-56f9-4282-bc9c-cb3960cd3a09
Midnight kayaking in the Northwest Territories

2. Paddling at midnight ...

Don't you wish you were here? Nothing beats being out on the water during the dusky overnight hours, when our Northern world is orange, silent and still. 

34 7fd9ebab-ee11-4865-8c19-bfd328323772
Cooling off on a hot day on the river in the Northwest Territories

3. Getting wet on a hot day

Not only does it cool you off, it also cleans you up. No more campfire smell!

24 3949a063-5e8c-45b8-8841-eeb2c4ab66cc
Lake fishing and fly-fishing in the Northwest Territories

4. Landing a fish that's nearly the size of your vessel

Up here, any fisherman with a motorboat can catch a 40-pound Pike. But landing a lunker while you're in a canoe, kayak or paddleboard? That takes true skill. 

42 664a06e4-5933-4651-9ae1-15be42cf48e0
Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories

5. Being downstream of a roaring waterfall ...

Like Virginia Falls, shown here. That's a four-acre surface of thundering current. You don't want to float too close. 

28 79bd8f74-60bc-4614-8c22-d8e093f3e7b1
a floatplane on Glacier Lake in Nahanni National Park Reserve

6. That feeling when you wave goodbye to the floatplane ...

... and you realize you're all alone. It's like the weight of the modern world lifts from your shoulders, setting you truly free. 

34 a33b7632-5dc5-4c04-bcff-f7c58b536912
A caribou rack at dusk in the Northwest Territories

7. Seeing scenes like this

Paddling in the Northwest Territories takes you places you could never reach any other way. It puts you in the midst of vistas that are out of this world. It transports you – physically, and spiritually. 

42 4e2c4859-222e-4ed3-bd06-3abd55538b62
Portaging a canoe in the Northwest Territories

8. Portaging

But only when the distance is short, the trail is smooth and there's lots of hands to help. 

24 84ead1db-29b6-4bbf-b3db-95e5811df842
Life is a beach in the Northwest Territories

9. This campsite

It's on Little Doctor Lake, in the foothills of the Mackenzie Mountains.

16 c65da947-84ea-4611-a21d-27bc828704d8
Camping in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories

10. Or this campsite ...

... on Great Slave Lake's fabled East Arm.

12 2ed8938a-505e-4487-9968-7ec4817866fe
Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

11. Or this campsite

... on Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park

14 1e03734e-d408-4f40-8787-37d079955478
Kayakers watching other Paddlefest goers playing in the Slave River Rapids

12. Paddling celebrations

Like Fort Smith's Paddlefest, where there's tons of ... 

13 3ab0a2de-fe7f-46d9-82f4-f8419eaa2dda
Playboating in the Slave River Rapids near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

13. Epic playboating

Don't worry. Even if you can't do a "donkey flip," it's still fun to watch.  

21 2834162a-45f4-439b-91a2-5ae306045cae
young Dene drummers in Wekweeti

14. Paddling ashore to meet the locals

Including these talented young lads in Wekweeti.

16 690c916f-5cb3-4d8a-80bd-34366f57dc8d
Roadtripping with canoe on the Liard Highway in the NWT

15. The adventurous drive to the put-in 

... because getting there is half the fun. 

17 7eac1779-d81d-482e-b664-3ced7e527a0f
History is alive in the Northwest Territories

16. Paddling in the wake of history

Alexander Mackenzie canoed here. So did John Franklin. And Samuel Hearne. Hood and Back. Thomas Simpson. The list goes on.  

33 77a3c854-4623-4f88-8247-69fa32629623
Muskoxen on the shores of the East Arm of Great Slave Lake

17. Meeting shore companions

These muskoxen live around the rocky shores and red cliffs of Great Slave Lake's fabled East Arm. 

25 3bace5c8-d125-4913-b02c-51b70719d0f2
Scouting a river route in the Northwest Territories

18. Scouting 

And then running the route exactly as you'd planned. 

14 389c21b3-726c-4972-a895-715a821d3e22
Paddling in the NWT

19. Watching the river-bottom whoosh past ...

... in a clear, fast-flowing stream. 

13 477bc9c0-0e40-4378-9dde-920111b4d035
Day hikes or camping adventures in the NWT.

20. Day hikes

Give your arms a break and trot up to the nearest overlook. It's always great to get a new perspective on things. 

28 9db8d0b4-7659-4c76-b140-b318f24ec30c
Walleye Pickerel caught right from the canoe

21. Catching your dinner on a fly rod

When you land your own meal, it tastes twice as good.

20 c0e9508c-9e64-4027-ba1f-799f1ad65fa4
Relax in a hot spring in Nahanni National Park Reserve in the NWT

22. Riverside hotsprings 

Think of it as a spa in the wilderness. You earned it. Bask as long as you'd like. 

25 42a0b17f-714c-4e77-b2c7-673711f1a739
Canyon walls and cliffs about in the Northwest Territories

23. Canyons

Paddling along the foot of plunging shore-cliffs and sheer-sided gorges is a special sort of thrill.

19 a2ca1d69-8492-4d87-8ff7-2f3211beddb5
A rain storm blows in off Great Bear Lake

24. Storms

But only when they're in the distance and they stay in the distance. 

18 ea66d13f-730c-4d13-bfd1-559d69f22cc7
Whitewater paddleboarding on the mountain river

25. Thrills ...

and a few chills, but no spills. 

12 543295be-73a8-4888-85b4-588157c7f528
A white water section in the Northwest Territories

26. Learning how to execute a flawless bow draw ...

and then using it at the moment when it counts.  

23 1f4bc021-9e1c-4c2a-b0bf-d5fbf60c4b7b
Stand-up Paddleboarding outside of Yellowknife

27. Standing up

Because paddling doesn't have to cramp your style. 

13 76a0f05f-c392-47ff-b407-6eea59d469de
Here's 27 reasons why paddling in the Northwest Territories is a splash 18 e25bf450-8c12-474e-bdb2-2538d57ba856