The vast Northwest Territories of Canada cover more than 386,000 square miles (one million sq km) north of the 60th Parallel, extending far above the Arctic Circle. Inside this icy space are two out of the five largest lakes in North America: Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake, as well as some incredible mountain ranges and the ruggedly beautiful Nahanni National Park. Very few people inhabit this immense territory, (the Territories' largest city is the capital of Yellowknife, with a population of less than 20,000) but there are thousands of wolves, bison, bears and caribou on the stark Arctic plains and plenty of whales visible off the coast of the numerous islands.
This is the land of the long summer days of the Midnight Sun, and the winter phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in the night sky between late August and January. Adventurous visitors are drawn to this forbidding land for canoeing, hiking, snowmobiling, skiing and dog sledding, as well as for the unique natural beauty and legendary wildlife.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Centred on the river valleys in the southwest of the Northwest Territories, and accessible only by air, is the 1,840 square mile (4,766 sq km) Nahanni National Park, an outstanding example of northern wilderness with rivers, canyons, gorges and alpine tundra. One of the park's key features is the South Nahanni River, which originates as a small stream in the remote Mackenzie Mountains. In the park the silt-laden waters meander through scenic mountain valleys and hurtle through a series of deep canyons. Along the river are the Rabbitkettle Hotsprings, the Virginia Falls (with a vertical drop twice that of Niagara Falls), a series of river canyons and caves. Wildlife includes Dall sheep, mountain goats, woodland caribou, wolves, black bears, grizzly bears and trumpeter swans. Nahanni National Park was the first site in the world to be granted World Heritage status by Unesco in 1978. The very intrepid can reach the park via the badly maintained road (often impassable) to Tungsten, and then onwards by river, but most visitors fly in by chartered floatplane from nearby towns. Many operators offer day trips
Located within what is known as the 'Aurora Oval', Yellowknife is one of the three best places in the world to view the spectacular natural phenomenon known as the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis (Fairbanks, Alaska and Lapland in Norway are the other two). Aurora Village, located just 30 minutes from downtown Yellowknife, is fast becoming a major tourist attraction - offering visitors from all over the world a rare opportunity to see the luminous light-show in a geographically perfect setting. Consisting largely of tepees (heated for your comfort), Aurora Village is a traditional-feeling, suitably ambient place to spend a cold winter's evening, spellbound by the incredible, colourful patterns that grace the night sky overhead. Moreover, visitors who wish to spend more than a night at Aurora Village will find plenty of interesting things to keep themselves busy with, such as snow mobile and dog-sled rides, and dream catcher-making lessons.
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