Our "Rush Hour" you'll actually enjoy!

"Commute" with nature in the Spectacular Northwest Territories

Life is too short to spend it stuck in stop-and-go traffic. For the finest, funnest way to get around, hang up your keys, grab your paddle and launch into the Northwest Territories.

Our waterways are famous – the Nahanni, the Slave, the Horton and more. When you ride their rapids, you'll be cruising in the wake of legendary explorers, following the ancient routes of Indigenous travelers, and experiencing a world untamed.

Wanna be transported by the rivers of the Northwest Territories? Check out these six whitewater legends:

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Ominous-sounding but actually quite friendly, the newly popular Broken Skull River boasts 150 kilometres of splashy, scenic fun. The river slides south through the peaks and gorges of two alpine parks, Nááts’ihch’oh and Nahanni, before finally disgorging into the fabled South Nahanni River. Along the way, guided beginners and do-it-yourself intermediates will bask in hotsprings, slink through tight canyons, gape at virgin mountainscapes, and bounce through delightful rapids with names like Pinball, Thank You, Landslide Alley and Lafferty’s Rival.

Location: Sahtu & Dehcho regions
Indigenous name: Pı̨ı̨p'enéh łéetǫ́ǫ́ Deé
Attractions: hotsprings, falls, tufa mounds
Length: 150 kilometres
Source: Divide Lake
Mouth: South Nahanni River
Environment: Alpine
Rating: Flatwater to Class II+
Access from: Fort Simpson, Norman Wells

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There's wild country, and then there’s the Barrenlands. The largest unpeopled expanse in the Western Hemisphere, the rock-ribbed, treeless sprawl of the eastern Northwest Territories is fabled among wilderness paddlers: where else can you float for weeks without seeing another soul? The Horton is a legendary Barrenlands river, featuring exotic wildlife (like caribou and muskoxen), big-sky scenery, and swift, crystalline waters. Near the end, three limestone canyons offer technical whitewater.

Location: Western Arctic region
Attractions: Muskox, caribou, beluga, the Smoking Hills
Length: 618 kilometres
Source: Nunavut border
Mouth: Franklin Bay, Arctic Ocean
Environment: Barrenlands
Rating: Flatwater to Class IV
Access from: Yellowknife, Inuvik, Paulatuk

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Washing through the vast valleys of the Mackenzie Range, the broad, turquoise Keele combines staggering wilderness scenery with gentle, entry-level whitewater. Rapids consist of swirls, riffles and wave-trains that can be run for fun or, for those more cautious, easily avoided. Jawdropping vistas include features like the towering Flowerpot, Shezal Canyon and the Talking Cliffs. And be sure to bring your fly-rod – the alpine fishing is (so to speak) off the hook.

Location: Sahtu region
Indigenous name: Begádeé
Attractions: Moose, Dall sheep, Shezal Canyon, the Talking Cliffs
Length: 410 kilometres
Source: Macmillan Pass
Mouth: Mackenzie River
Environment: alpine tundra, mountains, boreal plains
Rating: Flatwater to Class III
Access from: Tulita, Norman Wells

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A favourite among river guides, the Mountain is a frisky, tireless romp through the trackless Mackenzie Range. This remote and muscular river offers days-on-end of continuous rapids with just one portage. The paddling is technical and the current – squeezed by six steep-walled canyons – is intimate, with the perpetual whitewater forcing even seasoned paddlers to stay on their toes. Expeditioners can also expect wild caribou, badland “moonscapes,” tufa mounds and fields of wild strawberries.

Location: Sahtu region
Attractions: Grizzlies, Dall sheep, canyons
Environment: Alpine
Length: 370 kilometres
Source: Yukon border
Mouth: Mackenzie River
Rating: Class II-III
Access from: Norman Wells

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Where the burly Slave River smacks into the immovable Precambrian Shield you’ll find a frothing labyrinth with the finest “playboating” in Canada. The Slave River Rapids are legendary: monstrous features like Rockem Sockem, Rollercoaster, Molly’s Nipple and the Edge lure professional-grade kayakers from all over the world. Novice boaters have fun here too, as there are literally thousands of mild channels, eddies and play-waves. Be sure to launch with a local; they’ll keep you away from the gnarly stuff. Slave River Paddlefest, held in early August, is the best time to come.

Location: South Slave region
Indigenous name: Des Nedhé
Attractions: Bison, pelicans, house-high waves
Environment: Boreal forest, Canadian shield
Length: 434 kilometres
Source: Peace River Delta
Mouth: Great Slave Lake
Rating: Flatwater to Class VI
Access from: Fort Chipewyan, Fort Smith & Fort Resolution

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Deservedly the most hallowed wilderness river in Canada, the South Nahanni washes through its namesake, the paradise of Nahanni National Park Reserve. Lucky paddlers embark on trips here ranging from one to three weeks. The wildlife is epic, the hikes panoramic, the canyons humbling, and the rapids – with names like Hell's Gate, the Rock Gardens and Lafferty’s Riffle – are thrilling for intermediate canoeists. Plus, of course, there’s Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara and a must-see wonder of the natural world.

Location: Dehcho & Sahtu region
Indigenous name: Tehjeh Deé
Attractions: Virginia Falls, Kraus Hotsprings, hoodoos, tufa mounds, canyons
Environment: Alpine
Length: 540 kilometres
Source: Mount Christie
Mouth: Liard River
Rating: Flatwater to Class IV
Access from: Fort Simpson, Nahanni Butte

To learn more about the spectacular rivers of the Northwest Territories, check out our Paddling section, where you can find more stories, great packages, and plenty of operators that'll ensure you experience the trip of a lifetime.

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