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Your Great Northern Paddling Adventure Awaits in the NWT

The legendary lakes and renowned rivers of the Northwest Territories are at the top of the bucket list for any experienced canoeist, whitewater rafter, or kayaker. Their names are as memorable as the stories of the people who have paddled them – the historic Nahanni River, the coveted whitewater of Mountain River, the stunning and remote Thelon River, and the colossal Mackenzie River flowing from the south all the way to the Arctic Ocean. No matter where in the NWT you decide to start your legendary Canadian paddling trip, you’ll quickly discover what makes them so famous – they’re beautiful, wild, challenging, rewarding, and timeless.

The Northwest Territories is known for legendary Northern paddling trips, and these destinations are just a few of the canoeing, rafting, or kayaking experiences that make up our world of waterways. Whether you’re a life-long canoeist or an adventurous ecotourist, there’s no better place to find an unforgettable and life-changing experience than the waters of the NWT. Whether you’re looking to paddle your way up to the Arctic Ocean, across the Barrenlands into Nunavut, or just conquer a few world-famous Class 4 rapids on your list, the Northwest Territories is the place to make all your paddling dreams come true.

The ultimate way to experience the best Canadian paddling destinations is on a multi-day canoeing, kayaking, or rafting trip through the NWT. Take your pick of challenging whitewater rapids or meandering journeys across the most remote regions left on the continent. You can find paddling trips from 4 to 16 days through the most remarkable and historic landscapes in the world.

No matter where you find yourself in the NWT, you’re never far from a historic river or spectacular lake. For life-long canoeists, the South Slave Region can be the start of your journey along the Mackenzie River to experience the sheer variety of landscape and communities that have made its banks their home for countless centuries. Slave River in Fort Smith is the testing ground for whitewater kayaking and home to the Slave River Paddlefest. The North Slave region is vast, with innumerable lakes and rivers to tackle on your own or with a guide. You’ll be amazed how interconnected Northern lakes and rivers can be as paddling adventure guides traverse routes and maps from the long history of Northern canoe travel.

The Mackenzie River crosses through the Dehcho, Sahtu, and Western Arctic regions, but there are plenty of choices for unforgettable paddling adventures through the territory. The Dehcho can challenge you with the Liard River and Nahanni River which travel through the mountainscapes of the Nahanni National Park Reserve – Canada’s most storied adventure destination. In the Sahtu, your mountain canoe adventure or Canadian whitewater rafting experience can start on the banks of the rolling Keele River, or across the wide watery horizons of Great Bear Lake. Where the roads end, travel by water still reigns supreme. The Western Arctic is home to the Hornaday River and Thomsen River, but the possibilities to travel along the Arctic coast and islands are endless for an unforgettable canoeing experience through a place unlike anywhere in the world. The sheer variety of canoeing, kayaking, and rafting trips in the NWT is enough to keep life-long paddlers dreaming of their next great Northern adventure.

Preparing for your kayaking, rafting, or canoeing adventure in the Northwest Territories is as essential as it is for any multi-day wilderness experience. Rafting and canoe trip operators employ expert paddling guides with robust knowledge about your trip’s route and what best to bring on your paddling trip based on the season. Paddling outfitters and operators can often supply or rent canoeing and rafting equipment – from dry bags to compact air mattresses.

On these trips, paddling adventure operators provide you with cultural history – from the centuries of Indigenous use, to early exploration and mapping, to modern conservation and environmental protection efforts. Beyond your amazing canoeing, kayaking, or rafting experience, your paddling trip will include plenty of opportunities for nature hikes through stunning landscapes, touring timeless Indigenous archeological sites, enjoying world-class fishing, meeting the North’s wildlife face-to-face, and even witnessing phenomenal Northern Lights – the NWT is undoubtedly the home of the world’s best Aurora.

The best place for experienced paddlers to find the trip of a lifetime has always been the NWT. Welcome to the home of the most renowned kayaking, whitewater rafting, and canoeing journeys on the planet.