Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories of Canada, approximately 500 kilometres (311 miles) west of Yellowknife, protects a portion of the Mackenzie Mountains Natural Region. The centrepiece of the park is the South Nahanni River. Four great canyons, called First, Second, Third and Fourth Canyon, line this spectacular whitewater river. The name Nahanni comes from the indigenous Dene language and can be translated as 'spirit.'
At Virginia Falls, the river plunges 90 metres (295 feet) in a thunderous plume. It is more than twice the height of Niagara Falls. In the center of the falls is a dramatic spire of resistant rock, called Mason's Rock after Bill Mason, the famous Canadian canoeist, author, and filmmaker. There is a proposal to rename the falls after former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Aside from the falls, there are many notable rapids on the river including Figure Eight, George's Riffle, and Lafferty's Riffle.
The park's sulphur hotsprings, alpine tundra, mountain ranges, and forests of spruce and aspen are home to many species of birds, fish and mammals. A visitor centre in Fort Simpson features displays on the history, culture and geography of the area. The park was among the world's first four natural heritage locations to be inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1978.
Originally established in 1972, by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the park was 4,766 square kilometres (1,840 square miles) in area. In 2003, an agreement between the Dehcho First Nations and Parks Canada gave temporary protection to 23,000 km² (8,880 sq mi). In August 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that an extra 5,400 km² (2,085 sq mi) would be added, bringing the total area to 28,000 km² (10,811 sq mi), making Nahanni Canada's third largest national park.
The only practical way to get to Nahanni National Park is by float plane or by helicopter. Around 800-900 people visit the park every year.