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Little Nahanni River

Whitewater raft in rapids Rafting the Little Nahanni River
© L. Uunila
From minor rock riffles to steep short boulder sections, this narrow river is unlike any other. Climb to the top of Crooked (First) Canyon to scout; this winding canyon’s blind corners and limited eddies may not let you scout from shore again. Finish the last dog-leg and watch the canyon walls descend to forest.

Skill level:

The Little Nahanni River offers expert whitewater paddlers an exhilarating 90 km trip of Class II - Class IV rapids before joining the South Nahanni River between the Rock Gardens and Island Lakes.

Best Time to Go:

Mid-June to mid-July. The Little Nahanni may not be navigable after mid-July due to low water levels.

Popular or off-the-beaten track?

Off the beaten track. Only one or two groups paddle the Little Nahanni each year.

Road Access:

Road Access: If the Nahanni Range Road and Howard’s Pass Road to Flat Lakes are open, adventurers can drive to Flat Lakes. The drive is over 300 kms of unpaved mine access roads. Take extra fuel for the return trip; the nearest gas station is in Watson Lake, YT. Highway crews do not check or maintain the road beyond the Northwest Territories border. Prepare for unexpected events, including washouts and mechanical breakdowns. In 2012, a washout closed the Nahanni Range Road for two weeks. Watch for mining traffic and obey posted closures.
Flooded camp kitchen Overnight flooding put this camp kitchen underwater
© L. Uunila

Air Access:

Flat Lakes are accessible by air. Contact one of these air charter services to arrange your flight.


Rain upstream can raise water levels suddenly - even if it is not raining where you are. Choose your campsites accordingly, and secure your boats each night. This is a technical whitewater trip. Pinning or wrapping boats on rocks is possible. You must be skilled in whitewater rescue techniques. Bring your river pin kits, and know how to use them. Wood can be a hazard on the Little Nahanni.
log hazard
© L. Uunila

In 2010, paddlers encountered three river-wide wood obstructions - two sweepers and a small log jam. Floodwaters may bring new hazards, especially in Crooked Canyon, steep boulder garden sections, and narrow stretches of the river.


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