3.0 Defining Appropriate Levels of Visitor Use

Appropriate levels of visitor use must adhere to existing legislation, agreements and policies, most notably the Canada National Parks Act (the Act), the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA), the National Parks of Canada Businesses Regulations, the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, the Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve Impact and Benefit Plan, and the Nahanni National Park Reserve Interim Park Management Arrangement. Potential impacts to natural and cultural resources remain the primary consideration in managing visitor use. Additionally, the park reserves will be managed with the Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team and the Nááts’įhch’oh Management Committee in a way that maintains high quality wilderness experiences. Wilderness is defined in the Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies as:

“an enduring natural area of sufficient size to protect pristine ecosystems which may serve physical and spiritual well-being. It is an area where little or no persistent evidence of human intrusion is permitted so that ecosystems may continue to evolve”.

Nááts’įhch’oh and Nahanni National Park Reserves and our Indigenous cooperative management partners recognize that wilderness does not mean the absence of people. Wilderness as a place where people can connect with pristine nature is an important idea to Canadians, Parks Canada, and our Dene and Métis partners. Appropriate levels of visitor use should balance our mandate for presentation and protection.

3.1 Managing Visitor Experiences

Nááts’įhch’oh and Nahanni National Park Reserves and our Indigenous cooperative management partners foster opportunities for visitors to develop a sense of personal connection to the people and places of Nahanni and Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserves. The aim is to stimulate and reinforce personal connections to the land and Dene people who call these places home, while nurturing respect, understanding and care of these special places for present and future generations.

Nái̖li̖cho is one of the primary iconic experiences available to visitors at Nahanni National Park Reserve. The location offers stunning views of a spectacular waterfall which is enhanced by Indigenous interpretive programming. It also receives the highest level of visitation in the park. Nahanni National Park Reserve manages facilities and visitor access at Nái̖li̖cho to ensure quality visitor experiences. There are limitations for capacity as a result of the current infrastructure on site. Quality visitor experiences, managing impacts, and facility limitations are key considerations for managing visitors at Náįlįcho and these guidelines reflect those considerations carefully.

3.1.1 Nahʔą Dehé/Tehjeh Deé

    The South Nahanni River (Nahʔą Dehé/Tehjeh Deé) sees the highest levels of visitation in both parks. Following the expansion of Nahanni and establishment of Nááts’įhch’oh tributaries such as Pı̨́ı̨́p'enéh łéetǫ́ǫ́ Deé (the Broken Skull River) and Łáhtanįlį Deé (the Little Nahanni River) have seen increases in visitation. Visitation trends have been stable for the Moose Ponds/Rock Garden section of the South Nahanni River in Nááts’įhch’oh. There is room for more visitation in the headwaters, but management of visitor numbers is key to ensure that potential impacts along the South Nahanni River are appropriately managed.

    Nahanni will endeavour to receive and space visitation on rivers in a way that reduces the potential for significant overlap of large groups. This occurs through the registration system for both parks. In Nahanni groups should expect to share popular camping locations with other groups and can expect to see no more than 2-3 large groups per day while paddling on the river. Nahanni National Park Reserve will monitor visitor feedback, if groups are consistently reporting multiple encounters of more than 3 large groups per day while on their river trips, or there are significant impacts to park resources and facilities, then a review of visitation may occur.

    Nááts’įhch’oh spaces visitor groups by limiting bookings for arrivals at key lakes so that groups will not overlap and may space bookings to allow for appropriate spacing of groups, this is typically allowing maximum one group a day. There may still be overlap in groups, based on weather delays, travel speeds down the river, etc., however, overall disturbance on the wilderness character from flight arrivals is reduced.

3.1.2 Nááts’įhch’oh Tué (Moose Ponds)

    Nááts’įhch’oh Tué (Moose Ponds) is the starting destination for visitors paddling the Rock Gardens section of the South Nahanni River. Mount Nááts’įhch’oh, a powerful sacred place for the Shúhtaot’ine, is located here. The mountain is a Zone 1 area, and visitor access is not allowed. A Parks Canada commemoration plaque is located on the northern lake shore, across from the mountain with a tenting and kitchen area nearby. There are approximately 30 visitors a year who start their trips at Nááts’įhch’oh Tué.

3.1.3 Ǫtaa Tué Fehto (Divide Lake)

    Ǫtaa Tué Fehto (Divide Lake) is the starting location for the majority of paddlers on Pı̨́ı̨́p'enéh łéetǫ́ǫ́ Deé (the Broken Skull River). In 2018 there were approximately 65 visitors. Following a scouting trip in 2015, this river has seen increasing visitation by both guided and non-guided groups. This is the one location in Nááts’įhch’oh that has infrastructure. There is a rustic cabin located at the lake which can be used as an emergency shelter, as well as an outhouse. Most paddlers tend to camp on the lakeshore near the floatplane landing area.

3.1.4 Glacier Lake and the Cirque of the Unclimbables

    Glacier Lake is the staging area for access to the Cirque of Unclimbables, a world renowned climbing destination. This area currently receives the second highest level of visitation in Nahanni. The Cirque averages 35 climbers staying 442 visitor days annually. An average of 86 hikers take a side trip from paddling the South Nahanni River staying approximately 258 visitor days. Total average Cirque visitor days is 700. Glacier Lake also receives an annual average of 274 day flight seeing visitors. Total average Glacier Lake visitor days is 522. Rustic visitor facilities consisting of trail rerouting, pit toilet, food locker installation and shelter construction were completed in 2015. Nahanni National Park Reserve continues to learn about this area and is committed to monitoring future visitation trends.

3.1.5 Gahnįhthah Mįe

    Gahnįhthah Mįe is a popular access point and camping area. Unlike Glacier Lake and Nái̖li̖cho, Gahnįhthah Mįe is not a landing location for day flight seeing tours. On average, there are 440 annual overnight visitor days at Gahnįhthah Mįe. Rustic campsite facilities and landing docks have long been established at this location. Visitation during peak berry season may be limited to mitigate the potential for bear-human conflict.

3.1.6 Nái̖li̖cho

    Nái̖li̖cho receives the highest level of visitation in Nahanni. On average there are 900 overnight visitor days at Nái̖li̖cho and an additional 370 flight seeing day visitors annually. The total annual average visitor days at this location is 1270, which includes river travelers and day trippers. Overnight visitors stay an average of two nights at Nái̖li̖cho while completing their portage. Basic infrastructure has been established to manage impacts and facilitate visitation requirements. The campgrounds can accommodate 54 people overnight. Although capacity is rarely reached, visitors have expressed feelings of overcrowding when visitation nears capacity. Nahanni National Park Reserve is sensitive to this and will manage visitation to avoid exceeding 54 overnight visitors on any given night at Nái̖li̖cho.

3.2 Indigenous Values and Perspectives

3.2.1 Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team

The Interim Park Management Arrangement (IPMA) was signed by the Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Grand Chief of Dehcho First Nations and the Chief of the Nahʔą Dehé Dene Band in 2003. The IPMA establishes the composition of, and matters to be addressed by, the Nahʔą Dehé Consensus Team. The Consensus team meets approximately 7-8 times per year.

The Naha Dehé Consensus Team provides advice to the Superintendent on the management of Nahanni National Park Reserve. Applicants are encouraged to engage with Indigenous communities and organizations early as they are preparing their applications. Nahanni National Park Reserve and our Indigenous cooperative management partners may review new applications following the framework outlined in Appendix B.

3.2.2 Nááts’įhch’oh Management Committee

The Nááts’įhch’oh Management Committee provides advice to the Superintendent on the management of Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve. Members include representatives from the Tulita Renewable Resources Council, the Norman Wells Renewable Resources Council, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Parks Canada. Applicants are encouraged to introduce themselves to the Management Committee and engage with the local communities of Tulita and Norman Wells, and the Tulita Land Corporation, Norman Wells Land Corporation and Fort Norman Métis Land Corporation. Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve and our Indigenous cooperative management partners may review new applications following the framework outlined in Appendix B.

3.3 Group Size, Thresholds & Spacing

Group size is limited to 12 people for non-guided groups and 15 people (including guides) for guided groups. The purpose is to manage the potential impacts at popular campsites and maintain the river’s wilderness character. Visitation on the South Nahanni River is limited by the infrastructure at Nái̖li̖cho which can accommodate a maximum of 54 people overnight. Nahanni National Park Reserve manages visitation at Nái̖li̖cho by splitting the daily arrivals between guided and non-guided user groups. The overnight capacity is 30 people for guided groups and 24 people for non-guided groups. Excluding day visitors, arrivals at Nái̖li̖cho are limited to 12 people for non-guided groups and 15 people for guided groups. The maximum length of stay at Nái̖li̖cho is 2 nights. In principle, daily departures from Nái̖li̖cho should not exceed 12 people for non-guided groups and 15 people for guided groups per day.

The onus is on river travellers to communicate with each other to reduce overlap at popular campsites as they travel down river. At this time, Nahanni National Park Reserve does not see a need to extend the reservation system to river campsites. However, the introduction of best management practices, closures, or restrictions may be necessary to manage popular campsites.

The national park reserves will monitor visitation trends for sustainability and manage the potential for impacts to park resources, visitor experience, facilities and services and respond accordingly.

3.4 Quota for Issuance of Licences

To properly manage the natural and cultural resources of Nahanni National Park Reserve, facilities, visitation and wilderness qualities, it is recommended the Superintendent of Nahanni National Park Reserve issue not more than five (5) licences. One licence is set aside for a Dehcho business. See Appendix A for more information about licences. Nááts’įhch’oh is attempting to grow its visitation, tourism products and partners. A licence quota is not in place. If a quota is required, the number of licences for commercial river outfitters will be determined in consultation with the Nááts’įhch’oh Management Committee. Currently, the Superintendent of Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve issues three (3) licences.

The Superintendent(s) must consider section 5 (1) of the Regulations in determining whether to issue a licence. In making a determination on licences the Superintendent(s) may also consider section 3.0 Defining Appropriate Levels of Visitor Use.

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