The Natla-Keele is one of the most spectacular, yet unknown, rivers in the Northwest Territories. The Keele River system drains a large area of the Mackenzie Mountains between the Nahanni and Mountain Rivers.
The trip begins with an awe-inspiring flight through the mountains to O’Grady Lake - a blue jewel near the Yukon border and the headwaters of the Natla River (the southern-most branch of the Keele River). The river drops over 600 metres (2000’) in 200 km of swifts and rapids - similar to the famous Rock Gardens on the Nahanni. This section of the trip is for the avid canoeist who has solid whitewater skills. After joining the Keele River, the route flows another 300 km through beautiful mountain ranges to the Mackenzie River. The river valley is home to caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, and wolves. The Keele is a fun stretch with lots of runnable rapids which are suitable for paddlers of all skill levels.
The Natla-Keele River trip is a good choice for those with solid whitewater skills, previous river canoe tripping experience, and reasonable fitness levels. A warm up paddling session at one of our springtime clinics is highly recommended! Those with intermediate skills should gain experience elsewhere - perhaps on the Broken Skull River or the Snake River, before considering this route. Novice paddlers can join the trip on Day 8 - July 5th, 2021 - for the more relaxing 12-day Keele River section of the expedition.
"The rapids on the Natla were fabulous - just what I came for. Seeing a grizzly bear and caribou was a bonus." Bob, Minnesota, USA
Recommended Skill Level And Dates
Guides 5:1 ratio
• 17 nights camping, 1 night in Norman Wells
• all meals and snacks from Day 1 dinner to Day 19 lunch
• 17’ ABS expedition canoes with spray decks and knee pads
• paddles, PFDs, throw bags, paddling helmets
• tents: free-standing expedition dome tents - 2 per tent
• "kitchen": tarp, fire box, cooking stoves, utensils, dishes, etc.
• containers for food and group equipment
• first aid, safety, river rescue, and repair kits
• communications equipment (satellite phone)
• charter float plane flight from Norman Wells to O’Grady Lake - Day 1
• shuttle of group and gear from the mouth of the Keele River to Norman Wells
• transportation of guides, group gear, food, etc. to Norman Wells
• ground transfer between Norman Wells Airport and Black Feather Base / float plane
docks on Day 1, and from the hotel to the airport on Day 19
Trip Rendezvous Point: Norman Wells, NWT