Northwest Territories

The heart of Fort Simpson

Nahanni National Park is a must-see for visitors to Fort Simpson

by Breanne Massey
Fort Simpson lies at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie rivers. — Terry Parker photo

The Dene people were the original inhabitants of what is now Fort Simpson, and they refer to the area as Liidli Kue—the place where two rivers meet.

History lesson

Historically, Fort Simpson played a significant role in the progress of the Hudson's Bay Company in northern Canada. The area was named after Sir George Simpson to honour the impact his trading group made on Canada's fur trade.

In the 1890s, Fort Simpson participated in the rush to the Yukon goldfields. Stories of prospectors lost in the mountains and of their incredible determination shine through on the historical tours that are offered in Fort Simpson.

Present day

Today, the village is an Arctic community that boasts excellent displays of the aurora borealis, among other wonders. Fort Simpson is also the place from which visitors can access Nahanni National Park Reserve.

The popular Nahanni National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers breathtaking views of mountain ranges, gorges, waterfalls and a unique limestone cave. The only way to access the park is by air, and local tour operators (Simpson Air and Wolverine Air) have competitive prices on flight tours and expeditions.

Visiting the area provides the opportunity to explore geological and ecological wonders—several of which can be found along the Nahanni River. Virginia Falls, for instance, has a vertical drop that is twice the height of Niagara Falls.

“We often get RVs coming up the Dempster Highway during the summer,” said Philippe Morin, a resident of Yellowknife. “It's called one of Canada's great road trips.”

Fort Simpson has a population of 1,246 people who reside on an island between two rivers and two highways—both known as the Liard and the Mackenzie. The area is a cultural gem offering regional amenities to locals and visitors alike and is famous for being an integral part of the Deh Cho Travel Connection.

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