Great Canadian Parks / Northwest Territories

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The Parks / Northwest Territories / Nahanni National Park Reserve

The first white man to visit the land of the Naha was the chief Hudson Bay trader at what is now Fort Simpson. Alexander McLeod recorded his exploration in 1823, spurring other adventurers to seek their fortunes in gold and fur. There were numerous tales of loss and death that seemed to give credence to the ‘evil giants’ legend of the Naha.

The most famous story recounted the demise of the McLeod brothers, who had gone up the Nahanni River in 1906 in search of gold. Rumour had it they had hit the motherlode, but their headless skeletons were discovered in 1908, cause of death unknown. That part of the river became known as Deadmen Valley. Other mysterious deaths followed. Prospector Martin Jorgensen's skeleton was found a few years later, also without a head, beside the burnt remains of his cabin along the Flat River. Twisted Mountain claimed trapper John O'Brien who was found frozen beside his campfire, his matches still held in an icy grip. Their deaths are remembered in place names like Headless Creek, Broken Skull River and the Funeral Range.


More recently, Albert Faille made eight trips upriver convinced he would find gold. He survived and is even celebrated in a film by the National Film Board of Canada. He did not however find a gold mine on the Nahanni River.

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