The Northwest Territories contains three remote wilderness parks, best accessed by chartered plane, or float plane. Aulavik National Park is located on the northern tip of Banks Island, while Tuktut Nogait Park is located 170 km north of the Arctic Circle.
Nahanni National Park is situated in the Mackenzie Mountains, and famous for its whitewater river.
Aulavik National Park – Aulavik protects more than 12,000 square kilometres of arctic lowlands on the north end of Banks Island. The park encompasses a variety of landscapes from fertile river valleys to polar deserts, buttes and badlands, rolling hills, and bold seacoasts. At the heart of Aulavik is the Thomsen River, which offers visitors a chance to paddle one of the continent’s most northerly navigable waterways. This pristine arctic environment is home to both the endangered Peary caribou and to the highest density of muskoxen in the world.
Aulavik National Park is located on northern Banks Island, the most westerly island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Aulavik lies 250 kilometres northeast of the tiny community of Sachs Harbour and 750 kilometres northeast of the town of Inuvik. Aulavik is an isolated wilderness park. There are no facilities, campgrounds, developed trails or road access.
Chartering an aircraft is the most common and practical means of accessing the park. Aircraft charter services are available from Inuvik, on the Northwest Territories mainland, 750 kilometres southwest of the southern park boundary.
Nahanni National Park Reserve – Nahanni protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region offering the adventurous visitor a wilderness experience. A key feature of the park is the Naha DehĂ© (South Nahanni River). Four great canyons line this spectacular whitewater river. At Nailicho (Virginia Falls) the river plunges in a thunderous plume. The park’s sulphur hotsprings, alpine tundra, mountain ranges, and forests of spruce and aspen are home to many species of birds, fish and mammals.
In 2009, Parks Canada announced a massive expansion of Nahanni that increased the size of the park reserve by over six times.
Nahanni’s new boundary will now protect over 30,000 km2 of crucial habitat for grizzly bears, woodland caribou and Dall’s sheep. It will protect the length of the South Nahanni River in the Dehcho, the highest mountains and largest glaciers in the NWT and the deepest canyons in Canada. The globally unique caves, canyons, rock towers, poljes and sinkholes of the Nahanni North Karst will be inside the new park boundary
The vast majority of visitors travel to the park by chartered floatplane. Virginia Falls and Rabbitkettle Lake are the only designated aircraft landing sites within Nahanni National Park Reserve. Virginia Falls is the only day-use landing site in the park. Park use permits are required for aircraft landings in the park.
Tuktut Nogait National Park – With rolling tundra, wild rivers, precipitous canyons, and a variety of unique wildlife and vegetation, Tuktut Nogait (‘young caribou’) is one of Canada’s undiscovered gems. This remote park is located 170 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and is home to the Bluenose West caribou herd, wolves, grizzly bears, muskoxen, arctic char, and a high density of raptors. The wildlife and land have supported aboriginal peoples for thousands of years, from the Copper and Thule cultures to contemporary Inuvialuit.
Tuktut Nogait lies 425 km northeast of the town of Inuvik, N.T. Inuvik is the largest community in the region and is serviced daily by scheduled aircraft from southern Canada.