Online Media Kit

Wildlife and GNWT Links

Check here for useful seasonal contacts.

Our Bird Species:

Four major flyways converge on the Mackenzie Valley and over 200 species of birds from all over North and South America can be spotted here in season, nesting and raising their chicks.

Some birds live here year round, notably the Raven, Ptarmigan, Snowy Owl, falcons, Gray Jay and Black-capped Chickadee.

The Northwest Territories is the summer home of the endangered whooping crane. These magnificent cranes, the largest birds in North America, migrate over 4000 km from wintering grounds in Texas to the Northwest Territories, where they nest and raise their young each summer. Their nesting grounds are protected and not available for visitors. Fort Smith’s Northern Lights Museum and Cultural centre offers some insight into the story of their recovery from near disappearance.

Other cranes are easy to spot - for example our sandhill cranes, which winter in New Mexico, are often visible beside our highways in the southern Northwest Territories, searching for food in drainage ditches.

Territorial Symbols

The Mace
maceThe symbol of the authority of the Legislature and the Speaker, the Northwest Territories mace is composed of silver and bronze. The top glistens with a snowflake crown surrounding a golden orb (the midnight sun) an ulu, a tipi and a house representing the cultures, and a 1.31 carat northern diamond. Pebbles, collected from the NWT's 33 communities, create a magical sound like a rain stick, and represent the voices of the people.
flagThe flag design was adopted in 1969. The design incorporates the territorial shield on a white centre section representing ice and snow, bordered by equal sized blue sections representing lakes and waters.
Coat of Arms
coat of armsThe coat of arms consists of two gold narwhals guarding a compass rose, symbolic of the Magnetic North Pole. The white upper third of the crest represents the polar ice pack and is crossed with a wavy blue line symbolizing the Northwest Passage. The diagonal line separating the red and green segments of the lower portion of the shield represents the treeline.
The Gyrfalcon - Official Bird (Falco rusticolus)
gyrfalconThe gyrfalcon is the largest and most magnificent of the falcons that breed in the Northwest Territories. They range in colour from white through shades of grey and brown, to almost black. Darker birds are more common in the NWT. Gyrfalcons are expert hunters, and extremely fast and powerful fliers.
Gold - Official Mineral
goldGold has played a major role in the development and prosperity of the Northwest Territories. Mines in Yellowknife operated for about 70 years. In May 1981, gold was proclaimed the Mineral Emblem symbolizing enduring wealth and the bright prospects and future of the Northwest Territories.
Mountain Avens - Official Flower (Dryas octopetala)
flowerThe mountain avens has narrow basal leaves and supports a single white and yellow flower on a short stem. This member of the rose family grows abundantly in the central Arctic, and in parts of the Mackenzie region.
Official Tartan of the Northwest Territories
tartanThe tartan includes many of the colors of the North - the white of the snow, the green of the forest, the yellow of the birches in fall, the red of the tundra and the blue of the lakes, rivers and oceans. The idea of the tartan was proposed by Janet Anderson- Thomson, a long-time resident of Yellowknife.
Tamarack - Official Tree (Larix laricina)
tamarackThe tamarack reaches heights from six to 15 metres. The tamarack is found throughout the NWT and was named the official tree on September 9, 1999. It is one of the few conifers that turns orange in the fall and loses its needles.
The Diamond - Official Gemstone
diamondThe diamond was adopted as the official gemstone on September 9, 1999, to recognize that the NWT is home to Canada's first diamond mine.
Arctic Grayling - Official Fish (Thymallus arcticus)
graylingThe small but elegant arctic grayling can be found in a broad range of habitats in the NWT and has the ability to live in the harshest environments, although susceptible to pollution. It was named the official fish of the NWT on September 9, 1999.


Population - 43,439 June 2009, approximately 50 percent Aboriginal. There are 11 official languages: Inuktitut, Innuinaqtun, Inuvialuktun, Gwich'in, North Slavey, Tlicho, South Slavey, Chipewyan, and Cree, as well as English and French. English is widely spoken in all communities.

Accommodation: All communities, with the exception of Kakisa, Lutselk'e, Tsiigehtchic, and Dettah offer accommodation. For more information please see the accommodations section of our website:

Visitors: Visitors to the Northwest Territories include business travelers (33600), pleasure travelers (24,000), sport fishers (7,300) and aurora watchers (5500). Approximately 2100 canoeists were also counted in 2009.

Cellular Coverage: Cell phone coverage across the NWT can be sporadic and is unavailable in some communities. The major carrier is Bell Canada, and currently Telus and Rogers cell packages are not compatible with this network.

Emergency: Local law enforcement can be contacted in most communities by dialing the local three digit prefix followed by 1111 (###-1111); local fire fighting services in most communities can be contacted by dialing the local three digit prefix followed by 2222 (###-2222). 911 service is not offered in the Northwest Territories.

Ferry Services: Five ferry services are operated in the Northwest Territories by the Department of Transportation: Lafferty (Hwy 1 near Fort Simpson), Johnny Berens (Hwy 1 at Camsell Bend), Merv Hardie (Hwy 3 near Fort Providence), Abraham Francis (Hwy 8 near Fort McPherson), and Louis Cardinal (Hwy 8 near Tsiighetchic).

All ferries are free, and carry cars, trucks and pedestrians. The schedule depends on demand - travelers looking for a ride park at the landing, and the captain keeps an eye out for traffic. Summer hours vary somewhat but ferries usually operate from 8 am to midnight. Hours of operation, and season information can be found at

Gas Stations: Gas stations can be found throughout the NWT, but the distance between stations can sometimes present challenges for motorists. If you plan on taking an extended road trip, it is recommended that you carefully plan your stops and fuel consumption in advance and take extra fuel in case of emergencies. A variety of grades of gasoline and diesel fuel are generally available.

Highways/Road Conditions: The latest road conditions and travel advisories can be found at

Holidays: The NWT observes all Canadian statutory holidays, with the addition of National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

Ice Roads: Made famous by the TV show Ice Road Truckers, the NWT has several public ice roads that visitors can travel during the winter months. The NWT map, available from NWT Tourism, shows the locations of the ice roads, which are unique extensions of our highway network. There is one private road that links Yellowknife to the mineral deposits to the north, however traffic is welcome on the ice road between Dettah and Yellowknife, between Tlicho communities, and along the Mackenzie River as far north as Fort Good Hope. All travel is at your own risk.

Extreme caution should be exercised when traveling the ice roads - speed limits are designed for safety. High speeds on ice creates waves under the road, that occasionally burst through the surface, destroying the road and sometimes swallowing a vehicle. Ice and road conditions can be viewed at the Department of Transportation's website

Radio/Television: CBC Radio and the Native Communications Society broadcast in all communities. Yellowknife and Hay River also have local broadcasters. Radio Taiga, the French language station, broadcasts in Yellowknife. CBC Television and APTN are available in most communities as well as most national and international channels, via cable or satellite service.

Taxes: Goods and services purchased in the NWT are subject to 5% GST. There is no provincial/territorial tax.

Taxi Service: Taxi service is available in the major centres, but may not be available in the smaller communities. In some communities taxis are shared with other passengers, like a bus, and a flat rate is collected from each person. Your accommodations provider can offer further assistance and contact information.

Time Zone: The NWT is in the Mountain Time zone. Daylight savings time is observed.

Photo Video Library

This is a link to our database of high resolution images and video clips of the Northwest Territories. These images are offered for the sole purpose of promoting tourism, and remain the property of Northwest Territories Tourism and the photographers.

To obtain high resolution images or video clips from the catalogue, you must sign in and provide information about the purpose of your project to Northwest Territories Tourism, which reserves the right to approve their use.

Video clips may be downloaded in QuickTime format. Higher resolution versions can be made available on request for a fee.


First Settlement
Parts of the Northwest Territories were settled some 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, shortly after the end of the ice age according to archaeologists, who are adding more information to the records each year.
Giant Beavers
Around the time of first settlement, research suggests, there were giant beavers and mammoths roaming the northern plains. Giant beavers figure in the oral history of the Dene, whose great leader Yamoria killed three beavers and nailed their hides to Bear Rock at the mouth of the Great Bear River.
Ancient Fossils
Devonian era fossils (approximately 400 million years ago) are commonly found in limestone cliffs that formed under prehistoric seas that once covered parts of the Northwest Territories. The Hay River area, Sambaa Deh Park and Norman Wells are good spots to look for fossils.
Salt Plains
Salt is another deposit from the Devonian era. The Salt Plains in Wood Buffalo National Park are unique in Canada and constantly evolving. Spring water dissolves ancient salt beds below ground and brings the salt to the surface. In some locations, the salt forms mounds up to two metres high, and attracts wildlife. Salt was harvested in the past by Aboriginal people, the Hudson's Bay Company and the Roman Catholic mission at Fort Smith.
Early Visitors
The earliest visitor who left a record is Samuel Hearne, of the Hudson's Bay Company, who travelled with the Dene chief Matonabbee. Hearne mentions what must be Great Slave Lake on his epic walk across the north, circa 1770. Cuthbert Grant and Laurent LeRoux travelled north and built a post to trade for furs near Fort Resolution in 1786. A few years later, in 1789, Alexander Mackenzie, representing Montreal merchants, traveled Dehcho, the river now called Mackenzie. His explorations were based on maps developed by Peter Pond, who had recorded information he learned from the Dene about the rivers and lakes of the Mackenzie valley.
Northwest Company
The Northwest Company of Montreal established the first series of posts in the Mackenzie region in the early 1800s, among them Fort of the Forks, Fort Liard, Fort Norman, Fort Franklin, and Fort Good Hope. After several trading skirmishes with the British-based Hudson's Bay Company, the two companies amalgamated in 1821, and HBC factor Sir George Simpson and his wife took up residence at a former Northwest Company site, now called Fort Simpson. There are few visible remains of this era in the Mackenzie Valley, though many of the original post names survive. The Hudson's Bay Company charter included northern Canada, and this huge area in turn was passed on to Canada in 1870.
Sir John Franklin
Although he gained infamy in Northwest Passage history, Sir John first blundered on the mainland, exploring the barrenlands north of Yellowknife. In 1820 he headed up the Yellowknife River to Winter Lake, and explored part of the Arctic coast the following spring. He returned too late in the autumn for safety and lost ten men on the expedition. On his second, and more successful expedition, Franklin wintered at the old Northwest Company post on Great Bear Lake (renamed in his honour, and now called Deline) where he recorded a game of hurley on skates (the first recorded game of ice hockey in North America). Next spring he explored the northern coast of Alaska, while Dr. John Richardson explored the present Northwest Territories coastline.
Father Petitot
Where the traders went, the churches followed. One of the most famous of these religious explorers was Father Emile Petitot, who left an invaluable record of the lives and languages of Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories. He traveled extensively with the Dene in the Mackenzie Valley, and as far north as the land of the Gwich'in. He settled for a time in the late 1860s at Fort Good Hope where he had a hand in building and decorating Our Lady of Good Hope. This glorious little church is now a treasured National Historic Site. Petitot published his memoirs when he returned to France. The Anglican Church also dispatched men of great stamina to the north. Their stories too are part of the heritage of several communities. Although Christianity became more and more dominant, traditional Dene and Inuit beliefs continued to be observed in many communities, and have helped to sustain Aboriginal cultures.
Fort Smith
The route to the Northwest Territories, for almost 200 years, was by water via the Athabasca and Slave Rivers, interrupted by the Slave River Rapids, requiring a 25 kilometre portage. At the northern end of the portage, Fort Smith took shape with the establishment of a Roman Catholic mission in the 1870s and subsequent additions of a Hudson's Bay post and North-West Mounted Police post by 1915. The turbulent story of Fort Smith, once the capital of the Northwest Territories, is preserved in a heritage park, and the Northern Life Museum.
The Canadian Arctic Expedition
From 1913 to 1918, the Canadian Arctic Expedition conducted a major scientific expedition in northern Canada. Starting in Alaska, they travelled east, exploring the Arctic islands and the Arctic coast, recording for the first time in photographs and on film the people and resources of Canada's Arctic.
Gold, Oil, Radium and Treaties
Reports filtering back to Ottawa in the 1890s about the potential for petroleum discoveries in the southern Mackenzie region had an impact on the Canadian Government's determination to negotiate treaties with northern peoples. Two treaties involve Northwest Territories residents, one coinciding with the Klondike gold rush in 1899, and one in 1921. They set out criteria for federal intervention in the lives of northern people. This foresight proved beneficial for Canada, as royalties from the subsequent discovery of the Norman Wells oilfield (1921) the radium mines at Great Bear Lake (1929), gold at Yellowknife (1934) and diamond mines on the barrenlands (1998) have enriched the national treasury for close to 100 years.
Self Government
A highway to Hay River and on to Yellowknife ended the era of water travel on the Slave River. The highway was started in the 1950s and completed in 1961. The NWT government set up shop in Yellowknife in 1967. The first fully elected NWT legislative assembly took office in 1975 to govern all of the Canadian north east of the Yukon. The Dempster Highway, from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, was completed in 1979. In 1984, the Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic signed the first Aboriginal Land Claim in the North. Since that time, the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Tlicho have also signed agreements with the Government of Canada, in effect becoming regional governments in the Northwest Territories. The Nunavut Agreement of 1999 removed the eastern Arctic from the Northwest Territories and reduced the Territory in size by more than half. Today, as the potential for mining and oil and gas development continue to attract attention, the Government of the Northwest Territories is working to gain control over the resources and responsibilities assumed by the federal government close to 100 years ago.


Geographical Area

The NWT measures 1,171,918 sq km (452,652 sq miles). The highest point is 9,098 ft, (2,773 meters), and the lowest point is at sea level (the Beaufort Sea). The greatest distance, east to west is approximately 1325 km - Dubawnt lake to Christie Pass, Mackenzie Mountains. The greatest distance North to south is approximately 2000 km, from the 60th Parallel to Cape Malloch, Borden Island.

Mountain Ranges

The Mackenzie Mountains cover some 233,125 sq km and stretch 800 km.

The highest point in the Northwest Teritories is Mount Nirvana at 2773 metres (9098 ft)

The Richardson Mountains cover some 41,169 sq km and stretch 400 km

Highest point: 1240 metres

The Franklin Mountains cover some 37,158 sq km and stretch 500 km

Highest point: 1200 metres

Biggest Lakes

Our big lakes are Great Bear and Great Slave Lake, the two largest lakes entirely within Canada.

Great Bear Lake is fourth in size in North America, and the eighth largest lake in the world. It covers 31,328 sq km and is 413 metres deep.

Great Slave Lake is the fifth largest lake in North America and tenth largest in the world. Its surface area is 28,568 sq km and it is one of the deepest lakes in the world at 614 metres.

Major Rivers

For information on our rivers, please see the river section of the website:

The Precambrian Shield

This is the name of the world's oldest exposed bedrock formed some four billion years ago. It reaches north and east from Great Slave Lake to the tundra, west to the Mackenzie lowlands and east into Nunavut. Acasta Gneiss formed 4.03 billion years ago is considered to be part of earth's original crust, and the world's oldest exposed rock. The Acasta gneiss is located about 300 km north of Yellowknife.

The Treeline

The treeline, or the northern limit of trees, cuts an eastward trending line from Inuvik in the north to the Nunavut border east of Great Slave Lake. In some places the transition is quite dramatic, where the "land of little sticks" (the boreal forest) gives way to wizened willow and berry bushes and the tundra carpet.

Barrenland basics

The tundra or barrenland, stretching north and east from the treeline is far from barren. Some 1700 different plants grow in the Arctic and Subarctic, creating a dense carpet of low shrubs, reindeer moss, grasses, sedges and about 400 species of flowering plants. Natural features of the barrenlands include low relief, sandy eskers, muskeg, and thousands of lakes and ponds. This is home to migrating barrenground caribou, grizzly bears, wolves and foxes, and in summer, the nesting area for many thousands of migratory birds.

Mackenzie Delta

Canada's longest river, the Mackenzie, (1800 km) empties into the Beaufort Sea from the Mackenzie Delta. The Mackenzie Delta is some 13,500 sq km of braided streams and ponds laid over permafrost. The river delta freezes each winter and floods every spring when the river melts before the sea does. The delta is a favored summer habitat for breeding swans and many thousands of ducks, geese and songbirds from both North and South America.

The Mackenzie River

The river called Dehcho in the Dene language drains a major part of western Canada from Dawson Creek and Fort McMurray in the south to Lake Athabasca, Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes toward the North. The river is 1738 km long, the second longest river in North America. The river's flow varies from about 10,000 m/s to some 30,000 m/s in spring. This was once the major highway through the Northwest Territories and there are 10 communities along its banks. They are: Fort Providence, Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Tulita, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Tsiigehtchic, Aklavik and Inuvik.

Parks and Heritage Sites

Parks Canada operates four major parks and a campground in the NWT - Tuktut Nogait National Park, serviced from Paulatuk; Aulavik National Park, accessed via Sachs Harbour; Nahanni National Park, serviced from Fort Simpson, and Wood Buffalo (Canada's largest), located near Fort Smith.

Nahanni National Park: 30,000 sq km, a World Heritage Site

Wood Buffalo National Park: 44,800 sq km, a World Heritage Site

Aulavik National Park: 12,200 sq km

Tuktut Nogait National Park: 16,300 sq km

A campground is operated at Pine Lake within Wood Buffalo National Park. More information can be found at

Territorial Parks
The Northwest Territories offers a range of impressive parks and campsites, each with a variety of services. More information can be found at and


The weather in the NWT varies significantly from season-to-season. In the summer you can expect highs in the mid to upper 20s Celsius, and in the winter you can expect the temperature to reach below -40 degrees, not counting the wind chill factor. Current and historical weather information can be found at or by contacting Environment Canada.

Aurora Borealis: The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon that appears along a narrow band circling the magnetic North Pole. Much of the NWT lies in this auroral zone, where the lights can often be seen directly overhead. The aurora is best seen during the cool, dark fall and winter nights.

Midnight Sun: At the summer solstice, places above the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories (such as lnuvik) enjoy 24 hours of daylight. Yellowknife has approximately 20 hours of daylight in midsummer, with four hours of dusk.


A first rate collection of books and periodicals about Canada's North and the Northwest Territories is available from

A northern periodical recently named Magazine of the Year in Canada is Up here magazine:

Here are some classics for a starter Northwest Territories library.

Aurora - The Mysterious Northern Lights: Savage, Candace. Why and how the northern lights exist. Explains both legends and scientific facts.

Blue Lake & Rocky Shore: Bastedo, Jamie. Field guide to the trails around Yellowknife.

Canada's Western Arctic Including the Dempster Highway: the Western Arctic Handbook Committee, 2002.

Canoeing Canada's Northwest Territories: McCreadie, Mary. Canoeing guide includes history and river profiles.

Fire Into Ice, Charles Fipke: Frolick, Vernon. True story of Chuck Fipke, the man who staked the first diamond claim in the NWT, resulting in a mining boom.

Fly Fishing in the Northwest Territories: Hanks, Chris. How and where to fish in the NWT.

Great Bear, A Journey Remembered: Watt, F.B. Prospecting around Great Bear Lake in the 1930s.

Hunters of the Alpine Ice, The NWT Ice Patch Study: Thomas D. Andrews, Glen MacKay & Leon Andrew. Human and environmental history is revealed as 5000 year-old ice retreats in the Mackenzie Mountains.

Mad Trapper of Rat River: North, Dick. Popular telling of the first ever aerial search for a killer.

Nahanni - River Guide: Jowett, Peter. Guide to the Nahanni Region, including river descriptions and hiking attractions.

Nahanni: River of Gold: Nahanni River Outfitters. Visual journey on the South Nahanni River.

The Dangerous River: R.M. Patterson. Classic story of the Nahanni.

Walk on the Canol Road: Gage, S.R. The one and only guide to the Canol. (May be out of print).

Yamoria the Lawmaker: Blondin, George. Stories of the Dene medicine man and lawmaker Yamoria.

Online Media Kit

Where to get more info

Check here for useful seasonal contacts.


Aurora Village – Hideo Nagatani -

Canol Heritage Trail

Government of Northwest Territories, Industry, Trade and Tourism, Box 130 Norman Wells, 867 587-3500 or

Dempster Highway

Dempster/Delta Information Centre, Dawson City, Yukon – 867 993-6167 summer only, or 777-7237 winter



Contact one of our fishing outfitters: please see the fishing section of the website,


Contact one of our canoeing outfitters:

For information on our canoeing rivers and for trip logs, please visit or contact one of our canoeing outfitters listed in the canoeing pages.

Hiking Trails

For information on hiking in the Northwest Territories, please visit


Mackenzie Mountain Outfitters,

or NWT Barrenground Caribou Outfitters Association,

Highways and Airports

Department of Transportation, Government of the Northwest Territories, includes river crossing information.Opening and closure dates, highway conditions

Airport info

Yellowknife airport arrivals and departures

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