The Nahanni River which starts out as a small stream in the icefields of the Selwyn Mountains stretches over 540 kilometers wending its way through diverse geography and the deepest canyon system in the world north of the 60th parallel.
A 300 kilometer stretch of the river is found within the boundaries of the Nahanni National Park Reserve a region designated as an official wilderness area in 1972 to counter the threats of those lobbying for hydroelectric power development.The first area to be designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site the Nahanni remains a true outdoors adventure.
At almost dead center of the park is found Virginia Falls...named after the daughter of an American Fenley Hunter who was employed by the Canadian Geologic Survey in 1928...which at 380 feet is twice the height of niagara.Within the park area there is a great diversity of both plant and animal life such as rare orchids at the base of falls and Dahls Sheep which are often seen grazing along the riverbank. The Nahanni is what is termed an antecedent river in other words it existed before the process of mountain building occurred. Moreover due to its unique position it was mostly untouched by the last period of glaciation giving rise to what is a somewhat pristine prehistoric landscape. Although the confines of the Nahanni Park are a protected area there remain threats to the park watershed, the greatest coming from an opportunistic zinc mine at Prairie Creek.As in all mining operations there are tons of toxic waste products many of which have been neither neutralized nor removed safely from the area.The present owners of this mine have little care for the Nahanni or for that matter anything apart from the monetary reward. These people are not from the region and are not even Canadian.Presently there are thousands of gallons of such waste...stored in barrels...on the mine site.This is an immediate threat to the Nahanni Park watershed so much so that debate has continued as of 2004 in the Senate of Canada on a non-binding motion urging the federal government to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve to protect the entire South Nahanni Watershed including the karstlands. Hopefully in the immediate future the people of Canada will discover whether the Conservative government has the courage to continue what Pierre Trudeau began over 30 years ago.