Emergencies and rescue capability

Nahanni National Park Reserve is one of the most isolated parks in North America, and rescue services and facilities are limited. Park search and rescue operations may be delayed by poor weather conditions, geography, and staff or aircraft availability. For an extended period of time the only first aid available to your party is the expertise your party holds. Consequently, park visitors must be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and able to handle emergencies on their own.

You are responsible for your own safety

We expect you to:

  • be self-reliant and responsible for your own safety
  • have the required equipment, knowledge, skills and physical fitness
  • consider the visitor safety information and advice provided by Parks Canada
  • seek out additional advice from park staff if you are uncertain about the hazards and risks you may encounter
  • comply with the visitor safety registration and de-registration program
  • be prepared for medical, wildlife and weather-related emergencies

When will a search be initiated?

A Search and Rescue response will be initiated when a group has failed to de-register and an initial investigation suggests a group is overdue or when a distress signal is reported. In the case of an overdue group, a physical search likely will not begin until at least 48 hours after the de-registration date has passed. The information that you are required to give park staff during the registration process, such as a detailed description of your itinerary and equipment, will become very important for rescuers trying to locate you.

Parks Canada maintains a professional search and rescue capability and will provide visitors with the information necessary to plan a safe and enjoyable trip. If an accident occurs within Nahanni National Park Reserve boundaries, Parks Canada will provide an appropriate search and rescue response. Normally such responses will be free of charge for the individual or group being rescued. However, Parks Canada may not provide search and rescue services free of charge for those individuals who do not comply with legal requirements such as the registration/de-registration process. Individuals who, through court proceedings, are found to be negligent, may be held responsible for the full cost of search and rescue.

Emergency cabins and supplies

In a true emergency, visitors are encouraged to break into the following park staff cabins: Gahnįhthah Mįe (Rabbitkettle), Sunblood, Náįlįcho (Virginia Falls), Flat River and Deadmen Valley (locations marked on river guides) to get assistance. Personal Locator Beacons (with instructions), park radios (operational from June 01 to September 30 only) food supplies and first-aid are located in each cabin. Non-emergency use of cabins is prohibited.

There are logbooks situated at the locations below. These locations are all on River Right, except Moore’s Cabin, which is on River Left, and Glacier Lake, which is over 10 km from the South Nahanni River.

  • Moore’s cabin near Island Lakes
  • The northwest gravel bar on Glacier Lake
  • Information kiosk at Gahnįhthah Mįe (Rabbitkettle Lake) portage landing (river side)
  • At Náįlįcho (Virginia Falls)
  • The Parks cabin in Deadmen Valley
  • The cabin at Kraus Hotsprings

These check-in stations are not mandatory, but could assist rescuers in locating missing parties. Providing information such as planned off-river hiking routes will allow a search party to narrow the focus of a search if your group fails to de-register as scheduled.

Climbing in Nahanni

Potentially harsh conditions and a lack of local rescue services make climbing and mountaineering in this area inadvisable for all but the most experienced. Climbers are expected to be completely self-sufficient.

Our visitor safety staff are trained in swift water rescue, wilderness first aid, patient stabilization and evacuation in non-technical terrain. For high-angle technical evacuations, assistance from outside of the Northwest Territories is required. Search and rescue operations may be delayed by poor weather conditions, geography, and aircraft or staff availability.

Poor weather, rock fall, wildlife, and avalanches as well as crevasses in adjacent ice fields are some examples of hazards with potentially severe consequences.

The Cirque of the Unclimbables rock climbing routes are not monitored. Climbing protection (e.g. bolts) found on walls is of unknown origin and quality. The decision to use existing protection is at the climber’s sole risk and discretion. Food must be stored so that it is inaccessible to wildlife. Grizzly Bears have been known to pass through these areas and rodents, such as Hoary Marmots, have chewed through bags to access food. You are welcome to store food inside the caches outside the Glacier Lake cabin on a first come first served basis.


Visitor Safety | Minimizing Risk | River Hazards | Wildfire | Bear Safety | Registration and De-registration | Rating River Difficulty | Search and Rescue Program