Top Ten Canada Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures

Raft the South Nahanni
By Bill McRae

A calm channel flowing between ponds, slowly gathering force to claw a chasm through the mountains, dropping in a series of powerful waterfalls into a canyon with walls nearly 4,500 feet deep: The South Nahanni River is one of the wildlest rivers in Canada. When it plunges 344 feet at Virginia Falls, it's twice as high as Niagara Falls and carries almost twice as much volume.

Whitewater rafting the South Nahanni River is a wilderness trip: The park is only accessible by floatplane, and you'll probably come face-to-face with some of the park's native denizens. Nahanni has a significant population of wolves, black and grizzly bears, moose, and caribou.

The most popular trip starts at the base of Virginia Falls, as the river enters its canyon system. From here to the take-out at Kraus Hot Springs a week later, the river drops nine feet per mile through a series of Class III rapids. For even more intrepid whitewater fans, the upper reaches of the South Nahanni provide wilder rapids. Beginning at Moose Ponds and ending at Rabbitkettle Lake, the river drops through almost constant rapids, many rated Class IV. This section of the river can only be run by raft in spring and early summer, and is well suited to river kayaks. A highlight of this portion of the trip is the Rabbitkettle Hotsprings, which bubble out of a riverside tufa mound nearly 150 feet high.


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