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World Heritage: Canada

Northwest Territories


Painting presenting one of the multiple forms of karstic terrain. Rock under the influence of erosion has taken the form a big balls.
Painting by Bernard Pelletier
© Parks Canada, Bernard Pelletier

Prospectors started searching the South Nahanni River in the Northwest Territories for gold a century ago. They found little. But they did encounter vast reaches of the most varied and spectacular environment imaginable — towering mountains and tundra plains, wetlands and sand dunes, badlands and luxuriant forests, grizzly bears and trumpeter swans. There are steaming hot springs and complexes of caves, some lined with ice crystals, others with colourful stalagmites and stalactites.

And everywhere rivulets and streams and rushing rivers, all feeding the restless, prodigious South Nahanni, alive with frenzied rapids and whirlpools, with meanders and braids, crashing over the cataract of Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls, cutting for kilometres through canyons 1,000 metres deep, then bending through a tortuous constriction called Hell’s Gate.

Today, remarkably, nothing has changed. The South Nahanni still swirls and crashes, the hot springs steam, the grizzlies prowl. There are no roads nor human communities. This is a wilderness largely unmodified by humans. Indeed, running water remains the major agent of change. Rivers cut canyons through the Mackenzie Mountains and spread alluvial fans. And since the region escaped glaciation during the last Ice Age, canyon walls remain sharp and deep, neither widened nor smoothed by grinding ice.

More information

Parks Canada Web site:
Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada 

World Heritage Centre Web site:
World Heritage - Nahanni National Park



More Images

Picture of the most majestic Virginia Falls, twice the height of Niagara Falls, and mountains in the background.
Virginia Falls
© Parks Canada, Mia and Klaus
Picture of rock formation which looks like a medieval tower,the Pulpit Rock. At the foreground, the South Nahanni River.
Pulpit Rock
© Parks Canada
Aerial view of a stretch of the Nahanni river partially  invaded by alluvions which have taken the form of a fan which has change the Nahanni river's course. All around, the forest, and the plain far away.
Nahanni Alluvial Fan
© Parks Canada, Mia and Klaus
Picture of singular geological feature which would look like a gigantic wasps' nest followed by all round stretches of water it is the Rabbitkettle hotspring. All around, the forest and the mountains in the background.
Rabbitkettle Hotspring
© Parks Canada, Mia and Klaus