Nahanni National Park Reserve, established in 1976, protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region. It is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories, in the traditional territory of the Dehcho First Nations.
When created, Nahanni covered an area of 4,766 sq km (1,840 sq mi); but now, it covers over 30,000 sq km (11,583 sq mi).
The park area is mostly mountainous, with a diversified topography which includes mountain ranges, rolling hills, elevated plateaux, broad depressions, and incised river valleys.
Elevations range from 180 m (591 ft) above sea level at the eastern park boundary to a peak of 2,640 m (8,661 ft) above sea level in the Ragged Range in the park’s northwest.
Three major events influenced the geology of Nahanni National Park Reserve. The first was a long period of sedimentary rock deposition during the Palaeozoic Era.
The second event was the deformation and uplift of the sedimentary rocks by continental drift forces to form mountain ranges. The third significant event was glaciation.
There are relatively few lakes in the park. The four largest lakes range in size from 61 to 345 hectares. The South Nahanni River was designated a Heritage River in 1987. The park was named on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1978.
Dene peoples have used the lands in and around Nahanni National Park Reserve for thousands of years, hunting the abundant ungulate populations of the area and fishing.
First contact with European fur traders expanding into the region occurred in the 1700s, and was increased with Alexander Mackenzie’s exploration of the Mackenzie River, and building of trading posts at Fort Simpson and Fort Liard.
See map of the park.
See also: National Parks of Canada.
(This page was updated in November 2012.)