Posted in Canada, English, Northwest Territories

The Waterfall Route

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Imagine that you are standing all alone on the edge of a rock, right next to the rushing and falling water, no people, no railings, and no industrial noise around you. It is just you and the beauty of nature. Niagara Falls might be the biggest and the most popular waterfall in Canada, but there are some less known waterfall gems
in this country, which have some advantages over that first one.

I don’t want to say that Niagara Falls is not beautiful, indeed it is, but I just can’t understand the moron who built a noisy, casino city right next to that great natural monument. So today, we will take you to the place where you can hear one of the most amazing sounds in the world. The sound of waterfalls. I could sit and watch moving water for hours. Being hypnotized by the shapes it forms on rocks and roots, and the sight of the water hanging at the edge of the cliff just before it goes over.  If you feel like you need an intimate meeting with the water, without noisy crowds, or impersonal guard rails, forget about Niagara Falls and visit the Waterfalls Route in the Northwest Territories.

Everyone who drives to Yellowknife has to pass them by, simply because there is no other road up here. On the 60th parallel, Alberta Highway 35 becomes NWT Highway 1 and from this point to the junction with Highway 7 is known as the Waterfall Route. There are 3 waterfalls along those 180 kilometers: Alexandra, Louise and Lady Evelyn Falls.

Map of the Waterfall Route 

Last June we took a three day long trip down to the falls. It took us almost 6 hours to get to the most expensive campground I have ever seen  ($30 for night for one tent) near to a little tiny community called Kakisa. On our way, we saw a couple of bison herds and a few cranes… and that was pretty much it. There is not much on those 350 kilometers down south, just two small communities (Rae/Edzo and Fort Providence), a bridge crossing the Mackenzie River in Fort Providence, one left turn and one right turn. That pretty much sums up our 6 hours of driving.

The first day just after we got there, we went to check out Lady Evelyn Falls. They were so close, that we could hear them from our super expensive camp site. It was about a 5-10 minute long steep walk, or slide, down the hill to get to the bottom of the waterfall, from where you could even go behind the wall of water. Later the same day we went to Kakisa, a small native community with around 50 inhabitants. Most of its population speaks the South Slavey language and some speak English.  Who said that Canada has just two languages! We walked around looking for someone to ask if it was OK to put our canoe in the water.  There was no one around, besides one elder man sitting in front of his house, chewing and spitting his tobacco into his tin coffee can, but he didn’t speak English. We decided to risk it and put our canoe in the lake without any permission (I don’t think it was necessary, but we just wanted to be polite towards the local people). We didn’t go too far from the shore because it was very windy and we were barely able to steer our boat. That day, from Kakisa Lake, we saw the very first forest fire of that summer, which happened to be the worst fire season in many, many years. Just one month later, 300 fires were burning down the Taiga in the Northwest Territories.

The next day we drove to Louise and Alexandra Falls on the Hay River, located in the Twin Falls Territorial Park.  We hiked along a trail that linked the two falls together. We had a lot of time so we were checking out every little path on our way. Then we found a spiral staircase which brought us down to the bottom of Louise Waterfall. It was a bit of shock to see such a tourist infrastructure in the middle of nowhere. We spent some time down there all alone and then we went back to the main path. Without straying from the path, it would probably have taken us 20 minutes to walk from Louise to Alexandra waterfall. There are some view points on the way to Alexandra Falls with railings, but when you get to the actual waterfall there is no protection. You can get as close as you want to the 33 meters high drop. We went to the very edge, being amazed and scared at same time by this natural wonder.  Later we realized that we had been standing on a slab of rock that was hanging over the edge, with nothing but air beneath us.

After that we went to Hay River, a small town on the southern shore of Grate Slave Lake.  I had never been there, so it was a good opportunity to check it out. We drove through the town and went to a park where the waters of Great Slave Lake start down the big Mackenzie River. We planned on having a nice picnic there. Although, it was almost the middle of June, the wind blew over big chunks of ice, still drifting in the lake water, bringing crispy cold air towards the land.  We went out of the car, bravely unpacked our Spam and crackers, and by the time we put it out on the picnic table, we were shivering like crazy. We packed everything back and with grinding teeth, ran back to the car.  It was so freaking cold there!!!!

Next day morning we head back north to Yellowknife. It might seem like a little weekend trip we made, but in fact we drove over 1000 kilometers in those three days!

Here’s a link with a little bit of information about The Waterfall Route

7 thoughts on “The Waterfall Route

  1. Thanks for the photos and the info. I’ve been in southern Canada a few times (Canadian Rockies and across the plains) and now you’ve motivated me to visit up north. I have been in northern Alaska. North, as is fly into Fairbanks, get in a car headed north. It was beautiful. I see a trip to northern Canada in our future.

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  2. So beautiful! We love to hike, and if I can find a trail that takes us by a waterfall that is always my first choice! I’m saving this post in case we ever get up that way, thank you!

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