Nahanni National Park
Located along the South Nahanni River, one of the most spectacular wild rivers in North America, this park contains deep canyons and huge waterfalls, as well as a unique limestone cave system. The park is also home to animals of the boreal forest, such as wolves, grizzly bears and caribou. Dall's sheep and mountain goats are found in the park's alpine environment.
Statement of Significance
Nahanni National Park is a 4,700 sq. km. undisturbed natural area of deep river canyons cutting through mountain ranges, with huge waterfalls and complex cave systems. The geomorphology of the park is outstanding in its wealth of form and complexity of evolution. Fluvial processes and features predominate. Within the park are examples of almost every distinct category of river or stream that is known along with one of North America’s huge waterfalls, Virginia Falls. The Flat and South Nahanni rivers are older than the mountains they dissect and have produced the finest examples of river canyons in the world, north of 60º. The injection of igneous rock through tectonic activity has resulted in spectacular granitic peaks.
(vii) The Nahanni River is one of the most spectacular wild rivers in North America, with deep canyons, huge waterfalls, and spectacular karst terrain, cave systems and hot springs. Exposure of geologic and geomorphologic features includes the meanders of ancient rivers, now raised high above present river levels.
(viii) In Nahanni National Park, there is exceptional representation of on-going geological processes, notably fluvial erosion, tectonic uplift, folding and canyon development, wind erosion, karst and pseudo-karst landforms, and a variety of hot springs. The major geologic and geomorphologic features provide a combination of geological processes that are globally unique.
Located in the south-west corner of Northwest Territories, along the course of the South Nahanni and Flat rivers, the park lies in a diverse mountainous area comprising mountain ranges, rolling hills, elevated plateaus, deep canyons and huge waterfalls, as well as a unique limestone cave system.
The dissected sandstone, shale and limestone mountains ranges in the east and central areas of the park sharply contrast the Ragged Range of harder igneous rocks in the park's western extremity. The park encompasses parts of the Hyland Plateau, Selwyn Mountains, Liard Plateau, Mackenzie Plain and Mackenzie Mountains and a major part of the Nahanni River, one of North America's finest wild rivers.
In the valley below the Ragged Range, tufa mounds known as the Rabbitkettle Hotspring, rise in a succession of terraces to a height of 30 m. Other features of the area include three major canyons; Virginia Falls; extensive karst terrain with a complex underground river system, caves, labyrinths, closed canyons and sinkholes; wind eroded sandstone landforms known as the Sand Blowouts; and large areas that have remained unglaciated for up to 300,000 years.
The park contains transitional and vegetation types of two major biomes: Nearctic boreal forest; and Nearctic alpine tundra. All stages of boreal forest occur, from recent burns to mature spruce forests, and with associated variations on wet, mesic and dry habitats. Densely growing white spruce and poplar dominate valley bottoms. At higher altitudes and on the northern slopes, black spruce is more prominent. An area of spruce-larch/lichen taiga with several orchid species is present near Virginia Falls. Alpine tundra characterized by sedges, lichens, grasses and shrubs occurs on the higher mountains of the Tlogotsho, Headless and Funeral ranges. Wild mint, golden rod, yellow monkey-flower and aster are among the many flowering plants that grow in abundance near mineral springs in the vicinity of Flat River. Almost 600 species of vascular plant and 325 species of bryophyte have been identified in Nahanni.
40 species of mammal, including grey wolf, grizzly bear, black bear, woodland caribou, moose, white-tailed deer, mountain goat, Dall's sheep and beaver are present. A total of 170 species of bird in 29 families have been observed including peregrine falcon, golden eagle, trumpeter swan and bald eagle. Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout occur in the streams that flow into the Nahanni and Flat rivers.
The original inhabitants of this area are ethnologically known as Goat or Mountain Indians and Kaska Indians, who were found living in the area when the Northwest and Hudson Bay fur trading companies established their trading posts along the Mackenzie River in the 1820s.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Established as a national park reserve in 1972. Accepted as a World Heritage site in 1978.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
- Property inscribed for both geological and ecological values under natural criterion N (ii) before 1994. Criterion N (i) [Operational Guidelines 2002] was added. For more details see Decision 30.COM 8D.1.