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.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
Click the + and - signs to expand or collapse full accounts of information under each topic. You can also view the entire list of information by clicking Expand all on the top left.
Description of values
Exceptional natural beauty
Exceptional representation of on-going geological processes
The Upper Nahanni caribou herd numbered 1635 (± 259) animals in 2009 (Hegel et al. 2010) and occupies a home range of 17,500 km2 (Weaver 2006). Importantly, these caribou have traditional winter ranges around iconic Virginia Falls and migrate in spring >150 km to traditional calving and breeding sites at higher elevations in the headwaters area of the South Nahanni River watershed. The lower Nahanni caribou herd (comprised of the Coal River and LaBiche groups) numbered approximately 731-878 animals in 1990s (Weaver 2006) and occupies a home range of 32,000 km2 (Weaver 2008). These caribou spend the winter on traditional ranges near the confluence of Flat River and the South Nahanni River in Nahanni National Park. Importantly, they migrate 200-240 km in spring to traditional calving and breeding sites on alpine plateaus outside of Nahanni National Park in southeast Yukon Territory (headwater areas of Coal River and LaBiche drainages) (Weaver 2008). These treks represent the longest migrations yet reported for woodland caribou (Weaver 2008). Members of the Redstone caribou herd (5000-10,000 animals: Alasdair Veitch, personal communication) have traditional calving and calf-rearing sites in the very headwater region of the South Nahanni River, whereas some have traditional winter sites north of Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park (Clearwater, Cathedral Creeks) (Weaver 2006).
The South Nahanni River watershed provides habitat and security (from human-caused mortality and disturbance) for >500 grizzly bears (Weaver 2006). Importantly, the Nahanni grizzly bears exhibit the highest genetic diversity recorded thus far for grizzly bears in North America (Weaver 2006). A trail near Rabbitkettle Lake in Nahanni National Park provides a unique opportunity to interpret tree-rubbing behavior by grizzly bears (Weaver 2006).
Dall’s sheep number 800-1200 Dall’s and occupy some 27 sheep ranges throughout the South Nahanni River watershed, which represents the southeast terminus of Dall’s sheep range in North America (Weaver 2006). These sheep exhibit a distinct genetic structure, likely due to the Mackenzie Mountains being an ice-free refugium during the latter period of the Wisconsinan glaciations (Worley et al. 2004). Importantly, the highest concentration of karst caves used by wild sheep in North America was discovered on the Ram Plateau in Nahanni National Park (Weaver 2006).
Upgrading this road would provide year-round access for hunters/poachers to sites used by grizzly bears and Dall’s sheep, and additional risk of human-caused mortality to grizzly bears. Given that it is an all season road, there are also potential effects on the superficial geological features of the Nahanni Karst.
Parks Canada also noted that the number of parameters that do not meet Site-specific Water Quality Objectives based on the reference condition approach approach at low and average flows of Prairie Creek and the lack of analysis of the impacts of those exceedances indicates that there is a potential for significant impacts to the ecological integrity of Nahanni.
The risk of pollution has the potential to be exacerbated by the fact the area is seismically active and earthquake prone.
Selwyn Chihong Mining Limited’s Howard’s Pass mine does not fall within the boundaries of the World Heritage site, however, the Environmental Assessments both planned and currently underway will consider the potential downstream implications of development and associated activities on the Nahanni National Park World Heritage site.
The exploration and potential mine development at Prairie Creek, a major north bank tributary, is of high concern. Serious chemical pollution of air, surface and ground waters can be anticipated if the Prairie Creek Mine goes into production. (Ford Report to Parks Canada, 2006 and 2007). The main concern is the water quality in the park because of the close upstream location of mines on direct tributaries to the South Nahanni River (SOC Report, 2006).
The amended Final Draft Plan was submitted to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) for the GNWT, and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) for their approval and favourable consideration on June 13, 2006. The Committee received letters from the approving ministers for the GNWT and Canada in August and September, respectively, indicating they were reviewing the Plan and would consider meeting the Committee once complete to discuss any outstanding issues.
Over the course of Winter 2006 and Spring 2007 the Land Use Plan was discussed at main table negotiations on the Dehcho Process. On April 27, 2007 the Dehcho First Nations, the GNWT and the Government of Canada signed a "Terms of Reference and Workplan" for the Committee that is to guide the Dehcho Land Use Plan revisions. The Terms of Reference also set a target date of April 2008 for the approval of an Interim Land Use Plan. At the time of this assessment the plan has not been approved.
Using their traditional skills and knowledge, the indigenous peoples of these regions now play a major role in cooperatively managing these activities.
Innovative survey methods on the ground, combined with the latest imaging technology in space, are providing long-term insights into the diverse array of ecological systems within the parks system.
In this way, Canada is committed to caring for these special places today while preserving them for future generations.
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||Data deficient||Data deficient|
|№||Site need title||Brief description of potential site needs||Support needed for following years|
|1||Integrity of geological features and processes.||The major geologic and morphological features of Nahanni provide a combination of geological processes that are globally unique (Statement of Significance, 2006). Its designation was based on the area of the original park.The new park protects roughly 75% of the entire 38,000 sq km watershed. The national park now also includes the spectacular karst areas of the Ram Plateau (the largest Arctic and SubArctic karst area in the world), the Ram River watershed and the Cirque of the Unclimbables. What is required is a project to determine the integrity "wholeness" of the geological features of the sites designation.||
|2||A study to consider the integrity of the site in relation to mining and mineral property development||The original designation of this world Heritage Site was based upon its exceptional representation of on-going geological processes and exceptional natural beauty. Threatened wildlife species and an outstanding landscape of high ecological integrity are also included in the statement of values of this site assessment. A study on the effects of current and potential mining on these values needs to be undertaken. In addition a rapid response plan in the event that a catastrophic failure of a tailing pond or major pollution event related to something such a earthquakes at a mine site were to occur.||
|3||Traditional Indigenous Knowledge of the features and relation to the statement of Significance.||Traditional Indigenous Knowledge of the features and this knowledge as it relates to the statement of Significance, is severely lacking. Many legends and stories passed down through the generations and a comprehensive documentation of peoples traditional use of the World heritage site would be important to is value and continued protection. This study should be conducted by the first nations of the local adjacent communities.||
|1||Brook, G.A. and Ford, D.C. 1980. Hydrology of the Nahanni Karst, northern Canada, and the importance of extreme summer storms, Journal of Hydrology 46; 103-121.|
|2||Brook, G.A. and Ford, D.C. 1975. "The karstlands of the South Nahanni region, N.W.T." Contract 72-32C, Parks Canada, 501 p., 60 photo plates.|
|3||Ford D.C. 2008 Report upon the Expansion of South Nahanni River National Park Reserve, Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories. Report to Parks Canada. 91 pages.|
|4||Ford, D.C. 1991.Antecedent canyons of the South Nahanni River. The Canadian Geographer, 35 (4), pp. 426-431.|
|5||Ford, D.C. and Worthington, S.R.H. 2009. Final Report to Parks Canada upon Cave and Karst Research and Evaluation in the South Nahanni and Ram river basins, (NT, Canada), 2007. iii, 137 pages.|
|6||Ford, D.C. 1974. "Geomorphology of South Nahanni National Park, N.W.T.", Contract 72-32B, Parks Canada, 186 p., 7 map plates.|
|7||Ford, D.C. 1976. Evidences of multiple glaciation in South Nahanni National Park, Mackenzie Mountains, N.W.T. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 13(10); 1433-1445.|
|8||Ford, D.C. 1984. Section 3; Geology (24 p., 7 figs. 4 maps): Section 4; Geomorphology (118 p., 7 tables, 31 figs., 6 maps) and Section 5; Hydrology (58 p., 14 tables, 14 figs., 2 maps) in Nahanni National Park Reserve: Resource Description and Analysis. Natural Resource Conservation Section, Parks Canada, Prairie Region, Winnipeg, Manitoba.|
|9||Ford, D.C. 2001. The geomorphological case for including the Ram Plateau and Ram River canyon in the proposed expansion of South Nahanni National Park Reserve. Parks Canada, 3 pages.|
|10||Ford, D.C. 2010a. Notes and Suggestions for the Development of Walks and Backpack Treks in the Karst Areas of the Expanded South Nahanni National Park. To Parks Canada. 16 pages.|
|11||Ford, D.C. 2010b. Limestone Landscapes of the South Nahanni Region, Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada. in Migon, P. (Editor). Geomorphological Landscapes of the World. Berlin, Springer Verlag. 13-20.|
|12||Hegel, T.M., W.J. Rettie, K. Russell, T. Pretzlaw, and D. Tate. 2010. A mark-and-multiple-resight population estimate of the South Nahanni caribou herd (abstract). Page 94 in 13th North American caribou workshop. Winnipeg, Manitoba.|
|13||Parks Canada, 2000. Nahanni National Park Fact Sheet July 2000. MVEIRB Public registry EA00-002. 14 pages.|
|14||Parks Canada, 2009. Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada. State of the Park Report 2009.|
|15||Parks Canada, 2010. Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada. Management Plan.|
Parks Canada, 2011.Technical Report
Canadian Zinc Corporation Prairie Creek
Mine Proposal. MVEIRB public registry Prairie Creek Mine - EA0809-002 
EA 0809-002. 29 pages
Parks Canada, 2016. State of Canada’s Natural
and Cultural Heritage Places. 59 pages
|18||UNEP-WCMC, 2011. Nahanni National Park. Fact sheet.|
Weaver, J.L. 2006. Big animals and small parks: implications of wildlife distribution and movements for expansion of Nahanni
National Park Reserve. Conservation Report No. 1. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. Toronto, Ontario.
Weaver, J.L. 2008. Conserving caribou landscapes in the Nahanni trans-border region: using fidelity to seasonal ranges and
migration routes. Conservation Report No. 4. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. Toronto, Ontario.
|21||Worley, K., C. Strobeck, S. Arthur, J. Carey, H. Schwantje, A. Veitch, and D.W. Coltman. 2004. Population genetic structure of North American thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli). Molecular Ecology 13:2545-2556.|