Please note that several NWT communities are still under evacuation alerts or orders due to the wildfire situation: see more information about the affected communities.
Launch Into a World of Waterways Perfect for Canoeing and Kayaking
The Northwest Territories is a land of interconnected lakes, rivers, and waterways. On these timeless and storied routes across the territory, your unforgettable canoeing and kayaking experience awaits. The waterways were the highway system of the NWT long before there were roads. Today, they are still the most scenic way to immerse yourself in the landscape, follow the paths of Indigenous peoples, and experience a spectacular part of the world. Whether you want to challenge wild mountain rivers or recharge on the shores of a Northern lake, get ready to embark on the best canoeing and kayaking adventure. You’ll find something spectacular on the magnificent waters of the Northwest Territories.
To this day, people in the North canoe and kayak the historic rivers and lakes of the NWT for recreation, to travel between communities, or simply to get out on the land and reconnect. Here, the historic canoe routes follow the paddle strokes of the Indigenous people and travellers that have known them for centuries, and they continue to provide unforgettable canoeing and kayaking experiences.
In every region of the NWT, you can find the names of famous lakes and rivers known for their spectacular canoeing and kayaking possibilities. In the NWT, you’re never far from a body of water to launch your kayak or canoe into. It’s easy to rent your equipment and set off on a local canoeing day trip from Yellowknife and many of the other communities around the territory. From here you can get your feet wet, but the biggest adventures are found out on the spectacular waters of the North.
Whether you're paddling solo or tandem, whitewater or flat, most adventures fall into one of three categories: a mountain paddling adventure, an Arctic paddling adventure, or a Barrenlands paddling adventure.
Mountain Canoe and Kayak Adventures
Most Mountain canoe and kayak adventures take place in the magnificent Mackenzie Mountains which wind through the Sahtu and Dehcho regions along with some of the most scenic vistas in the North. Here, there are legendary rivers that will challenge you with rapids for whitewater canoeists and kayakers - the South Nahanni River in the Nahanni National Park Reserve is world-famous for its grandeur. Slave River in the South Slave region attracts whitewater kayak enthusiasts from around the world, and the Liard River, Keele River, and Mountain River round off just a few of the names that make the “must-see” list of any canoeist or kayaker who can appreciate their history.
It’s not all challenging rapids and coursing whitewater through the mountains though. With a guide, there are routes to paddle through the remarkable mountains that are rewarding and memorable for novices and experts alike. Multi-day canoe and kayak trips offer plenty of opportunities to hike the mountains, fish from the shores, see the unique wildlife and relax beneath the Aurora before starting another day on your amazing mountain paddling journey.
Arctic Canoe and Kayak Adventures
Very few people will ever be able to say they’ve touched the waters of the Arctic Ocean, and even fewer have pushed off from the Northern shores to get closer to the very top of the world with each paddle stroke. A trip to the Western Arctic to canoe and kayak in the Arctic waters will immerse you in a completely different world to see a remarkable way of living.
Where the roads end, travel by water still reigns supreme. People and communities all along the Mackenzie Delta and the coast of the Arctic Ocean still canoe, kayak, or boat between communities regularly when the waters open up. Where so much of daily life has stayed rooted in traditional ways, the experience of an Arctic canoe trip will let you fully distance yourself from the modern world. The Hornaday River and Thomsen River can provide you with a route to follow, or maybe you’d rather canoe the timeless paths between the islands and coasts that have been crossed for centuries. Whatever you choose, there is no paddling experience like canoeing and kayaking in the Arctic.
Barrenlands Canoe and Kayak Adventures
The Barrenlands is the expansive eastern part of the Northwest Territories, and one of the most pristine and remote places left in the world. There is nowhere else that lets you get so far from the life you know and nowhere that you can immerse yourself in a part of the world that feels quite as timeless and powerful. Canoeing and kayaking through the waterways of the Barrenlands can be as varied as the landscape itself - kayak past the colossal red cliffs of Thaidene Nëné or canoe between the rolling sandy eskers of the Thelon River, which can take you all the way through Nunavut to waters of the Hudson Bay.
The Barrenlands is a uniquely Northern and Canadian landscape for your paddling adventure and a world-class canoe destination for wildlife viewing. Here you will see muskoxen, moose, wolves, caribou, and even bears across the infinite horizon. On a guided multi-day canoe trip or your own adventure, paddling in the Barrenlands is an unforgettable experience.
Canoeists and kayaking enthusiasts who want an adventure of their own can find equipment outfitters in hubs like Yellowknife to rent or purchase canoe and kayak gear from. Below you can find more operators who can provide information on routes, sights, packages and charters to make your self-led experience truly spectacular.
The Northwest Territories is where you will find the scenic Canadian canoe adventure of a lifetime and the wildest whitewater kayaking destinations. With endless opportunities to see spectacular Northern wildlife, the world’s best Aurora, and the timeless beauty of the Northern landscapes, it’s no wonder why the Northwest Territories has a legendary reputation for life-changing canoeing and kayaking trips.