Katz Corner: Playtime in the Nahanni National Park Reserve

The floatplane skips along the water in staccato bursts, churning up water in its wake. Then it lifts off, leaving the picturesque village of Fort Simpson behind. As we soar over Nahanni National Park Reserve, the South Nahanni River weaves its way through steep canyons and past jagged peaks. This meandering Canadian Heritage River is at the heart of Canada’s third largest national park.

Nahanni, one of Canada’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, can be appreciated in oh so many ways. Licensed outfitters and private groups take multi-day paddling or rafting trips along the South Nahanni and Little Nahanni rivers.

Avid climbers can test their mettle at the Cirque of the Unclimbables, which is considered a bucket list climb for serious climbers. First explored 50 years ago, the inspiring views atop the peaks of the Ragged Range continue to lure experienced climbers the world over. I’m content to fly over them.

Since I’m a bit of a smorgasbord kind of girl, I decide to take a flight-seeing tour so that I can sample as many of the sights as possible. The trip quickly turns into a feast for the eyes.

Our first stop is Virginia Falls. It’s late August and the foliage is alive with fall colours. We hike to the top of the falls, but it’s slow going. I’m like a squirrel with a camera – I keep stopping to take pictures. My companion repeatedly threatens to abandon me there. I secretly wish that she and the pilot would do just that.

Then we take off again and head to Glacier Lake. The Cessna lands on pristine blue-green waters. The peaks and colours are jaw dropping. “If Moraine Lake can be on a Canadian bill, I think Glacier Lake should be, too,” I tell my companion. She agrees. As we fly back to Fort Simpson following the river, I wonder what it would be like to look up toward the tops of the peaks instead of peering down between them.

I think I can hear a rafting trip calling me.

Hélèna Katz is an award-winning travel writer and journalist who lives on an alpaca farm in Fort Smith, NWT. From being romanced on an ice road to getting kissed on the lips by a sled dog, she has stories to share.