The Nahanni river is an antecedent river. It meanders much like a slow prairie river might, taking the course of least resistance through the softer sedimentary rock where it can. This is not typical of most mountain rivers, which descend rapidly and on a straight course from high to low. What this means, then, is that the Nahanni did not begin life as a mountain river. Rather, it began life as a plains river wending its way through the sedimentary rock of an ancient ocean bed. It was much later that the mountains began to form by the tectonic forces that created the Rockies. The river carved its way through the mountains as they formed, faster than the mountains rose, hence the sweeping, meandering turns known as oxbows.
Our destination today is a curiosity that sometimes emerges as a result of a change in the river's flow around and oxbow (a hair-pin turn in the river). Sometimes the river will push through a new channel, stranding the outside of the turn in the oxbow, this forms a lake known as an oxbow lake. We were told by Ann, the Warden at Rabbitkettle lake, that the last campsite before Virginia Falls was at Oxbow lake ten kilometres from the falls.
We broke camp today at 11:30, later than expected. It seemed that people were tired from the last day's paddle. While we were having breakfast the "Rub-a-dub 8" rafters passed by on their way to the falls.
The paddle in this section was relatively slow. We managed an average of about 8 - 10 km/hr. The current was not much help to us and we had to work at making any headway. In addition to a slow current, we fought a moderately strong head wind for most of the day.
Our first break was at a campsite on an island called Last Chance. This was a very nice spot with a creek entering from river right. We took advantage of the creek to refill our water bottles and drink. Lunch was leftovers from yesterday's chili supper and today's multi-grain cereal served on tortilla wraps. The resulting concoction had a distinct resemblance to grizzly bear scat, more tasty than it sounds.
Leaving Last Chance we paddled for another three hours until we found a gravel bar about 500 metres upstream from the creek entering from the Oxbow lake. There were dark clouds gathering all around and we anticipated a late afternoon storm. We had just enough time to pitch the tents and put up the rain tarp before the rains came. It was a brief and intense storm that lasted about an hour and was followed by a clear and sunny evening. Our spirits were high knowing that tomorrow morning we would be able to arrive at Virginia Falls in time to enjoy a full day of exploring. We spent the evening enjoying the scenery, playing guitar, singing and telling stories by the campfire.
We had traveled 35 kilometres today and it had felt like 50!