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Cushy log building puts Norman Wells, NWT, on the map

© By Teresa Earle
Great Slave Lake

The last time I got off a two-week river trip, we piled out of a floatplane and into a smelly van for an anticlimactic day-long drive back to civilization. In Canada's North, the return to hot showers, clean clothes and an airport can be somewhat protracted. After all, these are the country's most remote rivers, and the price to be paid for all that blessed isolation is a long slog home, right?
     Not so anymore in the Northwest Territories' Sahtu region. This past summer, Canoe North Adventures (CNA) opened a canoe and hiking outfitting facility in Norman Wells. Now, clients returning from a trip in the Mackenzie Mountains are delivered to the door of a well-appointed timber-and-log building with all the amenities. Canoe centres at the edge of wilderness may be standard fare in southern Ontario, but CNA's new Outfitting Centre is one-of-a-kind in the North.
     The company's Al Pace remembers the day this past summer when the impact of his new hospitality centre really dawned on him. " North-Wright Airways brought us back to Norman Wells after 12 days on the Keele, and right away, two people hit the showers, a couple more kicked back with beers, two people thawed steaks, one went for a nap and someone went upstairs to put together a slideshow. A few hours later, we were hanging out on the deck having a barbecue, reflecting on our trip and watching photos on a wide-screen TV. And I realized: this is what it's all about!"
     Having the float base right next door makes the combined Canoe North Adventures/North-Wright site a major new visitor attraction in the NWT. It may be a private facility, but Pace knows what a centre like this means for a town like Norman Wells, and CNA hopes to make it available for other users. A top priority is using the centre to increase the number of self-guided trippers coming to the Sahtu to paddle its spectacular, but remote, rivers. Norman Wells is an access point for a dozen world-class rivers-including the Mackenzie, Mountain, Keele, Bonnet Plume, Snake and Horton.

Norman Wells NWT

Slave River NWT

Teresa Earle grew up in Vancouver, BC, and headed north a dozen years ago after dog-mushing sojourns in Minnesota and the Northwest Territories. A freelancer who now lives in Whitehorse, YT, she also consults to the tourism industry and teaches writing workshops. Earle has travelled Canada coast to coast to coast, and her adventure-travel articles have appeared in Up Here, The Globe and Mail and Canadian Geographic. teresa@earle.ca

Photo Credits
Article & Photo Courtesy of Canadian Tourism Commission

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Kayaking The Slave River
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