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South Nahanni | Nahʔą Dehé River


Northwest Territories
Nahanni National Park Reserve, NT

Natural Heritage

Nahʔą  Dehé (South Nahanni River) originates in the Selwyn Range of the Mackenzie Mountains, 200 km northwest of the western boundary of Nahanni National Park Reserve. The section of the South Nahanni River designated as a Canadian Heritage River is 300 km long.

The river’s outstanding natural Náįlįcho (Virginia Falls), one of North America’s great waterfalls, with almost twice the vertical drop of Niagara Falls. The four massive canyons below Náįlįcho form one of the most extensive canyon systems in the world north of 60 degrees. Further downriver, are the 35 degree Celsius waters of Tułetsęę (Kraus Hot Springs), often used as a spa by weary travelers, and Chitú (Yohin Lake), Nahanni’s largest lake and an important nesting area for the trumpeter swan. The boreal forest and alpine tundra that run along the river are the home to an abundance of plant and animal species.

Cultural Heritage

Dene peoples have been travelling, harvesting and hunting in these ancient mountains for thousands of years, following the natural corridors and the movements of the animals.A rich oral record tells the Dene history, legends, and knowledge of this land and its ecosystems.

Early trappers and prospectors were lured here by stories of gold. By the trappers and prospectors, the Dene people were referred to as the “Nahanies” – a word that sounded much like a word used by the Dene themselves. This eventually led to the adoption of Nahanni as the current name for the river.

Recreational Heritage

The South Nahanni, one of Canada’s premier paddling destinations, offers outstanding recreational opportunities such as river trips by canoe, kayak or raft. Between rapids, the flat water also makes some great photography possible.

The South Nahanni offers a number of river trips for visitors ranging from those who are new to the experience and are accompanied by guides and outfitters, to those who are skilled white-water enthusiasts. Fishing and hiking are also popular as is hiking on many exciting trails that are accessible only by boat.

Fun Fact

The Dene word “Dehé” refers to the main river system that flows through mountain ranges including that first range of mountains. Since the majority of this river flows through the Park Reserve, this name, Nah?a Dehé is also used for Nahanni National Park Reserve in respect of this rich heritage.

River Managers

The South Nahanni River is managed by Parks Canada.

Discover More


In recognition of its valuable natural and recreational heritage, the South Nahanni River was designated as a Canadian Heritage River within Nahanni National Park Reserve in January 1987. This unique wilderness river is located in the Northwest Territories, in the dramatic Mackenzie Mountains. The river includes the breathtaking Náįlįcho, as well as spectacular canyons and hot springs, and is home to many wildlife species.


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South Nahanni Monitoring Report 1998 - 2007 Archived / archive en anglais seulement Decadal Monitoring Reports PDF of South Nahanni Monitoring Report 1998 - 2007

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