Nahanni National Park Canada


By Gene Shannon

If there's such a thing as a quintessential Canadian wilderness experience, paddling down the Nahanni River may be it. While the remote Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories has always had a degree of recognition -- it was the world's first-ever UNESCO World Heritage Site, and canoe legend Bill Mason called it "the greatest river trip in the world" -- its profile increased dramatically in 2009 when the park underwent a massive expansion to become more than 11,500 square miles of protected land -- nearly the size of Switzerland.

But what draws people to it is the breathtaking scale -- most trips start at the wild Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara, then spend days passing through four towering (and geologically unique) canyons that can be as much as 4,000 feet deep. While the park's remote nature means that this is not a budget trip, you also don't have to be a grizzled outdoorsman to enjoy it -- warming in the north means that the season gets a little bit longer every year, and many people choose to float comfortably down the river in a whitewater raft, enjoying the abundant wildlife.

Prohibitions on hunting in the national park meant that dall sheep, mountain goats, grizzly and black bears are common, as well as over 170 species of birds.

Gene Shannon is a Frommer's guidebook editor based out of Toronto, Canada. He did his first whitewater canoe trip down the Nahanni River in 2006.