Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Canada’s Northern Jewel Enlarged

Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories. Created in 1972 and officially designated a park reserve in 1976, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Until now, Nahanni has covered an area of 4,766 km2, and encompassed only the lower reaches of the South Nahanni and Flat Rivers.

Lotus Tower and the Cirque of the Unclimables - CPAWS

Lotus Tower and the Cirque of the Unclimables - CPAWS

Today, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is celebrating an historic announcement by Environment Minister Jim Prentice and DehCho First Nations Grand Chief Gerald Antoine.

The newly expanded Nahanni will be nearly seven times the size of the original park reserve. It will permanently protect over 30,000 sq. km of Boreal wilderness, an area roughly the size of Vancouver Island, and will be Canada’s third largest park.

The expansion will cover much of the South Nahanni River watershed and 91 per cent of the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem, thus protecting an entire watershed area.

Commercial development is prohibited within its boundaries, although two mines operate on the outskirts of the current park boundaries. Those mines will be allowed to stay, but otherwise the area will be off-limits to development.

The Nahanni is a spectacular example of intact Boreal wilderness that is also of spiritual importance to local First Nations. The watershed contains Virginia Falls, deep canyons, and unique limestone caves and formations. It is home to woodland caribou, wolves grizzly bears, Canada lynx, mountain goats, wolverine and Dall’s sheep. The South Nahanni River, with a waterfall twice the height of Niagara, is a whitewater paddler’s dream destination.

The birds of Nahanni show an interesting diversity, with a mixture of cordilleran, boreal and great plain species. A total of 180 bird species have been documented, with 21% of these species remaining in the north year-round.

Yohin Lake and Rabbitkettle Lake are important habitats for breeding waterfowl. Yohin Lake supports a small nesting population of trumpeter swans.At Rabbitkettle Lake, one may find up to four species of loons, as well as red-necked grebes.

Sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels and both bald and golden eagles can be seen along the South Nahanni River. Peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons have been occasionally spotted.

Nahanni North Karst - CPAWS

Nahanni North Karst - CPAWS

Today’s announcement caps a 35-year effort by CPAWS to expand Nahanni National Park Reserve. When the CPAWS’ campaign went national six years ago, thousands of Canadians across the country became involved, writing letters and demonstrating their support.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the Nahanni is an ecological treasure of global significance.  Today’s announcement guarantees its future and promises that generations of Dehcho First Nations, northerners, other Canadians, and visitors from around the world will have the chance to experience this unspoiled wilderness,” says CPAWS National Executive Director Eric Hébert-Daly.

For more information on Nahanni visit the CPAWS website, or Parks Canada.

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