Regions

 

The NWT Film Commission is your primary gateway to a comprehensive network of Regional and Municipal contacts that support filming throughout the territory.

 

Every municipal government has guidelines regarding filming in its jurisdiction. This includes parking regulations and policies regarding late night activities and procedures for notification.

 

There are five identifiable regions in the NWT: North Slave, South Slave, Dehcho, Sahtu and Inuvik:

 

North Slave – Yellowknife

Access: Air from Edmonton (7 days a week), Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, or by road - Mackenzie Highway from northern Alberta, Liard Highway from northern British Columbia.

 

The largest community in the Northwest Territories is Yellowknife (pop. 19,200) the second smallest city in Canada. Yellowknife offers a wide range of city services for its size including skilled film and video professionals, set builders, electricians and actors.

 

The city, which regularly hosts the Arctic Winter Games, has the ability to accommodate up to 1000 visitors at almost any time of the year.  Yellowknife’s economy was originally based on gold mining, and some current and historic mine sites offer filming opportunities.  The city is set on rolling, pink and grey Precambrian rock, on the shore of Great Slave Lake. May, June and July offer long days with only a few hours of dusk between midnight and 3 am. One of the sunniest spots in Canada, Yellowknife has a dry, temperate climate, with summer highs reaching the low 80s, or about 25 degrees Celsius. Leaves appear in late May or early June, about the time the ice disappears from Great Slave Lake. By mid-August, the barren lands and the birches and poplars in the Yellowknife area are showing fall colours of yellows and bright reds.  Summer activities centre around the water, with excellent canoeing, boating and a growing sail-powered fleet (up to 50 foot craft). Float planes line a picturesque waterfront.

 

From September through January there is an excellent chance to record the best display of Aurora Borealis in North America. Travel services, which package the experience, provide knowledgeable assistance to film producers. From January to April, the silver thaw prevails. Days grow longer at the rate of about 25 minutes a week. Bright sunshine reflects on pristine snow cover. This spectacular outdoors season is suitable for shooting "Arctic" snowfields and ice on Great Slave Lake (Frostfire) as well as dogteam racing, snowmobiling and cross country skiing.

 

Four Dogrib Dene communities close to Yellowknife are situated on scenic lakes, surrounded by brooding boreal forest. The smallest of these, Wekweeti, is close to three hydro dams on the Snare River. Near Wha Ti, a large marsh with islands is a staging area for migrating waterfowl.

 

Yellowknife also provides air access to Great Slave Lake’s East Arm, a future park area with spectacular karst topography. North of Yellowknife, a short plane ride away, lodges and camps in the barren lands can locate and provide accommodation for crews filming the Bathurst caribou or muskoxen.


South Slave - Hay River/Fort Smith

Access: Mackenzie Highway from northern Alberta, and by air from Yellowknife (seven days a week) or Edmonton (six days a week).  The Hay River and Fort Smith areas offer driveable wilderness, with a variety of scenery   - from boreal forest, to foaming rapids, thundering waterfalls, and vast marshy plains.

 

Fort Smith (pop. 2500) sits on the Slave River, with braided, challenging Class I to Class VI rapids flowing through granite walls. Nearby Wood Buffalo National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where wood bison, (a relative of the buffalo), roam freely. Salt plains, spruce and pine forest and sweeping grasslands provide a range of scenery within a small area, with services nearby.

 

Just a few miles south and west of Hay River, spectacular waterfalls provide a scenic backdrop amid birch and poplar forests. Jet boat races are held on the Hay River each summer.  Hay River, a road and marine terminal, is a bustling port in summer. There are barges and Mississippi style tugs, acres of freight marshalling yards and rows of covered drydocks. A small fleet of fishing boats operates out of Hay River on Great Slave Lake and whitefish are processed here for southern markets.Several large wood frame and shiplap mission buildings from the last century have been restored. Dog teams are available for touring from January through March.

 

Fort Providence, at the mile-wide Mackenzie River ferry crossing, features a stately wooden church, a remnant of the early days of mission schools. Wood bison also roam free in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, a plains region which parallels the Mackenzie Highway north of Fort Providence. Young wood bison can be seen at a ranch in Fort Resolution.

 

Dehcho - Fort Simpson

Access: Liard Highway from northern British Columbia, Mackenzie Highway from northern Alberta, air from Yellowknife (six days a week).  Fort Simpson’s two airports are the point of entry for Nahanni National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its magnificent mountain and river scenery and Virginia Falls. Fort Simpson pilots know the scenic spots in the Park, and in the surrounding Mackenzie Mountains, a rugged extension of the Rockies.

 

There are tiny lodges tucked on gem-like lakes, hot springs, and Dall’s sheep as well as mountain plateaus.  From a base at Fort Simpson, fly or drive to Fort Liard, the model for Lynx River in "North of 60". The scenic community features a large number of log houses surrounded by tall spruce trees.

 

Nahanni Butte with its picturesque log church, school and log houses is set on the shores of the South Nahanni River with a backdrop of mountains. Nahanni Butte, Trout Lake and Jean Marie River still echo the traditional Slavey Dene lifestyle. Access by road is limited by the season. Wrigley, on the Mackenzie River, is connected by highway to Fort Simpson.

 

 

Sahtu - Norman Wells

Access: Air only, daily flights to Yellowknife, Edmonton and Inuvik.  The Sahtu, with its beautiful landscape and authentic Slavey Dene traditions, lies between the spectacular Mackenzie Mountains and the vast mysterious Barren Lands. Rich oil deposits in the area were used by the Dene and noted by the explorer Alexander Mackenzie.  Norman Wells is the transportation hub for the Sahtu. 

 

Man-made islands in the Mackenzie River continue to support production of sweet crude, first "discovered" in 1921. During WWII, "The Wells" served as the eastern terminus of the Canol Project, a pipeline from Norman Wells to Whitehorse, designed to supply fuel for the American war effort in the Pacific. Today the oil flows south to Alberta through a pipeline. Norman Wells offers most services, and features a museum which portrays the Canol story.

 

The Canol Heritage Trail offers access to spectacular mountain scenery and the remains of pipeline construction camps and roads abandoned at the end of the war. The Canol region is home to large mammals such as moose, caribou, black and grizzly bears, and Dall’s sheep. A naturalist lodge provides a base for operations.

 

From Norman Wells, scheduled flights offer access to wild rivers and communities still steeped in Dene tradition. Colville Lake (pop. 90) is a traditional community in every sense. In a small circle of log cabins, community life is based almost exclusively on hunting, fishing, and trapping. South of Colville Lake, on the shore of Great Bear Lake, Deline offers access to a huge inland sea, and a traditional transportation route down the Bear River to the Mackenzie. Tulita, at the mouth of the Bear River, is set in the shadow of Bear Rock, a Mackenzie landmark. Fort Good Hope, downriver, features the National Historic site "Our Lady of Good Hope" church, adorned with unique and beautiful murals, in a pretty setting of small log buildings.

 

Guides and outfitters in the area are knowledgeable of the history and can provide essential introductions.  They can be located through the community administration or through listins in the government travel publication the Explorers’ Guide.

 

Inuvik Region

Access: Air, daily flights to Yellowknife, Norman Wells, Edmonton. Also service to Dawson, Whitehorse. Road, Dempster Highway, from Dawson, Yukon.  Inuvik is the largest centre in the Mackenzie Delta, the region where Inuvialuit and Gwich’in have settled claims and are working toward a regional government. The regional visitor centre offers an introduction to the area. Other landmarks include Ingamo Hall, a large log building and the famed igloo-shaped church.  Located above the Arctic Circle, Inuvik features 57 days each summer when the sun never sets, and a month in December when it never rises.

 

Sachs Harbour, on Banks Island, is the base for filming a herd of muskoxen some 60,000 strong, and spotting exotic waterfowl in nesting season. In spring, polar bear hunts are conducted with dog teams on the sea ice. Paulatuk, on the mainland, is near the dark Smoking Hills, seams of sulfur which continue to burn unchecked. The community is on the edge of Tuktut Nogait National Park Reserve, caribou calving grounds and home to muskoxen. Ulukhaktok (Holman), on Victoria Island, offers a spectacular bay setting, with brooding black cliffs rising behind. This is an art community famed for its stone prints.  To the west, Aklavik provides access to the Richardson Mountains with spectacular scenery summer and winter. Threaded with wild rivers, and accessible by air or in winter by snowmobile, the mountains offer rugged outdoor adventure locales.Local airlines can provide considerable assistance to reach points of interest, including Herschel Island, the former whaling station, the Mackenzie and Richardson Mountains, and present day beluga whaling camps in the Mackenzie Delta. Inuvik hosts a week long arts festival in July. Northeast, accessible by air in summer and ice road in mid-winter, lies Tuktoyaktuk, on a sandspit on the shore of the Beaufort Sea. Some 1400 pingos (ice cored hills) rise from the coastal plain nearby.

 

Fort McPherson is the closest community to the scenic Richardson Mountain stretch of the Dempster Highway, a rolling, treeless area where the sun can be followed as it passes behind the hills to the north at midsummer, and where thousands of Porcupine caribou cross the highway in spring and fall.