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Bend down so you can hear about a marvel in the paddling world. Getting underway from the high-altitude Mackenzie Mountains of the Sahtu region, the Mountain River lives up to its name as it so kindly offers paddlers 320 kilometres of refreshing and revitalizing whitewater adventure that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. It has about only one portage, no bugs, gracious campsites, towering mountains and miles of runnable rapids. Hiking out after dinner offers spectacular views and the feeling of a day well spent. Canoeing this river extends to paddlers a significant physical, emotional and spiritual journey.
Expert paddlers will already have this river at the top of their wishlists due to its many challenges and rewards, but guided tours are available for less experienced paddlers. Offered out of Norman Wells by Black Feather, Canoe North Adventures and Nahanni River Adventures, the weeks-long canoe or rafting expeditions encapsulate all the wonder and mystery the North is famous for.
Six towering canyons, with walls that sometimes stretch two hundred feet high, mark your passage down this wonderful river. Although you will no doubt be transfixed by these marvellous chasms, carved out through eons of time, you will want to remain focused on the water. Make sure you take the perfect routing through the magnificent bends and splashing waves to appreciate U-Turn, Switchback and Battleship Rock canyons while remaining dry.
At Cache Creek Canyon, two sparkling rivers emerge from an ancient tufa mound and tumble down to flirt with the dramatic canyon entrance. The scene is reason enough to pitch a tent and set up camp, but to playfully swim in the pool or stand invigorated under the falls is pure bliss. No worries if the water is as cold as the ancient land from which it tumbles, you'll be cozy around your campfire soon enough.
Grizzly Meadows might as well be called Panoramic Paradise. Camping on a spacious tabletop is a perception-flipping experiencing and this view gives a glimpse of where the next day’s hike or paddle will cover. Bring your binoculars: Caribou are common here. And so are their counterparts in the circle of life, the bear and the wolf.
The Mountain River offers a luxurious respite at Gana River Hot Springs. Lying down in its warm mineral waters soothes the soul, as well as any aching muscles from the days on the water. Take time to reflect on the journey, to laugh about what has happened and get excited about what's still to come. Celebrate those around you. Appreciate the good fortune of being on a river that has offered the best of life.
Let the Mountain River be the start of a thousand hikes. The second half of the river is positively teeming with opportunities for day-long alpine treks though ever-changing landscapes and an infinite palette of colours. Thinning forests. Rocky scree. Pure white glaciers. Touch the sky and take a side-trip into the Dall sheep's home range.
Did a mountain collapse on itself? Or was a landslide responsible for the Moonscape? Either way, a contemplative walk along this peculiar, rocky and mostly-treeless vista is the ideal way to cap off a day of adventure on the water. If you hang around long enough, you may see some caribou pass by on their way downriver.