2010 Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada Management Plan

Executive Summary

Parks Canada is responsible for administering a system of world-renowned national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. These protected areas showcase our country's natural, cultural and historic treasures, and are a living legacy of our heritage. Parks Canada's goal is to ensure that Canadians have a strong sense of connection through meaningful experiences and that these protected places are enjoyed in ways that leave them unimpaired for present and future generations.

Nahʔą  Dehé is the traditional name for Nahanni National Park Reserve, reflecting its Dene heritage. The park was established in 1976 to protect the South Nahanni River from hydroelectric development. It was expanded in 2009, and now includes a diverse array of unique landforms and important wildlife habitat. The park protects a significant portion of the Nahʔą  Dehé watershed, a traditional homeland of the Dene. As such, cooperative management is at the heart of operations for the park. Dehcho First Nations and Parks Canada work together on park management issues through the Nahʔą  Dehé Consensus Team.

This management plan was developed by the Naha Dehé Consensus Team, with community, stakeholder and public involvement. It will be the primary reference document for decision-making and accountability for the park. Building on the foundation of previous plans and amendments and the strengths and challenges presented in the 2009 State of the Park Report, this management plan contains twelve objectives and more than eighty-five actions designed to improve and monitor the state of the park, address needs and opportunities, and focus efforts and resources towards achieving the park vision. The plan sets the foundation to:

  • Protect the Nahʔą  Dehé watershed and respect the wilderness character of the park;
  • Become a centre for northern mountain research;
  • Encourage exploration and discovery of Nahʔą  Dehé by visitors and others;
  • Expand visitor experience opportunities and products;
  • Build training, employment and business opportunities for Dehcho First Nations;
  • Develop operational infrastructure in Fort Simpson and Nahanni Butte; and
  • Create a zoning plan for the park expansion area.

The plan integrates the three elements of the Parks Canada's mandate - the protection of heritage resources, the facilitation of visitor experiences and the provision of public outreach education - into a new park vision, three key strategies and three area management approaches.

Key Strategy #1: Taking Care of Naha Dehé

The Northwest Territories' highest mountains, largest glaciers and some of Canada's deepest canyons are all found in Nahʔą  Dehé. The park includes a Canadian Heritage River and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nahanni National Park Reserve must work with others to help maintain the highest possible standards of quality for the waters, lands, air and wildlife of Naha Dehé. Understanding this area is a big task which is best undertaken through cooperative monitoring and research. Parks Canada works in partnership with Dehcho First Nations, traditional users, academic institutions, government agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations and independent researchers to fulfill this task. The scientific work conducted in Nahʔą  Dehé presents exciting opportunities to enhance management, stewardship, education and visitor programs.

Key Strategy #2: Naha Dehé - A Gift to be Shared

For many, dreams of dipping a paddle in the waters of the South Nahanni River, listening to the roar of Náįlįcho (Virginia Falls) or feeling the rough granite of Lotus Flower Tower in the Cirque of the Unclimbables may remain just a dream. People who come for the wilderness or the challenge of adventure, leave with fond memories of their interactions with Dehcho people and culture. With park expansion, there are many new opportunities for discovery which will be developed in conjunction with partners. Ensuring that Nahʔą  Dehé is in the hearts and minds of Canadians and people around the world is key for continued support.

Key Strategy #3: Waters for Life

The threat of hydroelectric development was the catalyst for the creation of Nahanni National Park Reserve in the 1970s. Dehcho First Nations' desire to ensure clean water for current and future generations served as the impetus for park expansion. Water is important for the people, wildlife and plants that live in and are connected to Nahʔą  Dehé. Water quality continues to be of great importance, given that the primary recreational experience is travelling the South Nahanni River and that there is regional industrial development in close proximity to the park.

To support the key strategies, the management plan includes three area management approaches: Gahnihthah (Rabbitkettle), Nailicho (Virginia Falls) and the Expansion Area.

Gahnįhthah: Rabbitkettle Area

The Gahnįhthah Area includes a place of great cultural and geological significance, and a nearby lake which is an overnight access and registration point for park visitors. Focussing on this area will allow the park to examine, consider and improve public safety, the visitor offer, and monitoring programs while respecting cultural values. This will ensure the continuation of a low-impact, quality overnight visitor experience, while assessing the potential for different opportunities around Gahnįhthah Mie (Rabbitkettle Lake). By 2013 an area plan will be developed to provide detailed guidance for this key visitor hub.

Nailicho: Virginia Falls Area

The Náįlįcho Area is at the heart of the visitor experience, paddlers on the South Nahanni River either start or pass through here; campers have access to several hikes; and day users fly in to see the falls. This area needs to meet expectations of a wide variety of visitors; infrastructure, programs and visitor opportunities will be assessed and improved.

Expansion Area

New partnerships and environmental remediation are required for the expansion area. In addition, new research and guidance needs to be developed for cultural resources, ecological integrity, public safety, environmental hazards and appropriate zoning. Over the next five years Nahanni National Park Reserve will develop a better understanding of the expansion area so detailed management direction and zoning can be included in the next management plan. In the interim, decisions will be based on the precautionary principle and adaptive management.

This management plan includes targets that will be used to measure and annually report on progress in achieving the objectives and the vision. In accordance with the Canada National Parks Act, this plan and its implementation will be formally reviewed five years after its tabling to ensure that it remains relevant and effective for the management of Nahanni National Park Reserve.

In an effort to make this information available to you in a timely manner, the complete plan is currently only available in PDF format. Should you require an alternate format or a hard copy please contact us by e-mailing nahanni.info@pc.gc.ca

2010 Nahanni National Park Reserve of Canada Management Plan (PDF, 3.3 MB)


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