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South Nahanni River from Moose Ponds

Camping below Nááts’ihch’oh Camping at Moose Ponds
© L. Dueck / Parks Canada

Paddle the wild headwaters of the South Nahanni River. Take a float plane to Moose Ponds and the base Nááts'ihch'oh, a powerful mountain for the Shútagot'ine (Mountain Dene). Next up? 50 km of thrilling whitewater known as the Rock Gardens.

Skill Level:

The Moose Ponds trip starts with over 50 km of Class II – IV rapids known as the Rock Gardens. Expert paddling and backcountry skills are required.

Trip Length:

Most paddlers take 18 – 23 days to paddle from Moose Ponds to Nahanni Butte. Earlier take-outs are possible at Island Lakes, Gahnîhthah Mįe or Rabbitkettle Lake, and Náilicho or Virginia Falls.

Best Time to Go:

This section of the South Nahanni River is best run mid-June through July. After August 1, you may need to line or portage sections of the Rock Gardens due to low water levels.

Busy or Off-the-Beaten Track?

Off the beaten track. Although several paddlers tackle the Moose Ponds trip each year, it is unlikely you will encounter another group.

Air Access:

The Moose Ponds are only accessible by air. Contact one of these air charter services to arrange your flight.


Like all rivers in the area, rain can cause water levels to rise suddenly - even if it is not raining where you are. Choose campsites accordingly, and secure your boats each night.

This is a technical whitewater trip. Pinning and wrapping boats is possible. You need to be skilled in whitewater rescue techniques. Bring your river pin kit, and know how to use it.


Paddlers must register and de-register their trip with Parks Canada through the Nahanni National Park Reserve office.