Mackenzie River Attractions
With a length of 4250 km (2641 mi.), the Mackenzie River is the second largest river in North America, one of the longest in the world (from the mouth to the source of the Finlay River, its longest tributary) and has a catchment area of 1.8 million sq. km (69,480 sq. mi.). The main sources of the Mackenzie are the Peace River and the Athabasca which merge to form the Slave River. On leaving Great Slave Lake this becomes the river bearing the name of the Scottish explorer Sir Alexander Mackenzie.The river was already an important artery for the canoes of the fur trade in the 18th c. and is navigable today in summer by steamers as far upriver as Fort Smith, about 2000 km (1243 mi.).Big oil and natural gas reserves have been discovered in the Mackenzie Delta and the Beaufort Sea, which opens out into the Arctic Ocean.Most of the towns along the Mackenzie River were North West or Hudson's Bay Company trading posts, used for storing and trans-shipping skins and furs.
The Mackenzie Delta can be reached by road along the Dempster Highway or by air from Edmonton, Yellowknife and Whitehorse. Sightseeing charter flights can be booked in Inuvik.The Mackenzie River Delta extends over about 12,000 sq. km (4632 sq. mi.) between the Richardson Mountains in the west and the Caribou Hills in the east, and its origins are partly interglacial, possibly pre-glacial. About 200 km (124 mi.) before the river enters the Beaufort Sea its broad stream meanders and breaks up into countless smaller rivers and lakes.The vegetation of this delta landscape is mostly low bushes and shrubs, junipers, lichens and mosses, with magnificent displays of color from flowers and mosses during the brief but intensive summer (from June to late July this is the land of the midnight sun). To complete the picture, this very special environment also has a great variety of wildlife on water as well as on land.There are no more than about 7000 people in the delta. Their homes are in Aklavik, Tukoyaktuk, Inuvik, Fort McPherson and Arctic Red River, and they still live mostly from hunting and fishing.
Fort Simpson, Canada
Fort Simpson is a community where the Liard runs into the Mackenzie River west of Great Slave Lake about some 480 km (298 mi.) from the Northwest Territories' southern boundary with Alberta.It is the oldest settlement on the Mackenzie River and was founded by the North West Company in 1804 for the trans-shipment of skins and furs at this strategic junction.The town got its name from the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Sir George Simpson, after the two companies merged in 1821. In the decades that followed Fort Simpson was vital as a staging post for the vessels carrying furs, food and raw materials up the Mackenzie River.It is possible to catch a planes from Fort Simpson to Nahanni National Park Reserve.
The fur traders, gold and oil prospectors were followed here by Christian missionaries who began tilling the fertile soil which has since earned the region the nickname of "Mackenzie Garden" on account of the vegetables and cereals grown in the area. Besides having a Roman Catholic mission, Fort Simpson has since 1858 also been a base for the Anglican Church.
Archeological digs in the area around Fort Liard show the region has been occupied by humans for 9,000 years. The town is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area and Nahanni National Park.