For most people, whether experienced or first-time canoeists, the advantages of a trip down the South Nahanni River with a licensed outfitter far outweigh the disadvantages.
The two outfitters I recommend are Nahanni River Adventures (867/668-3180 or 800/297-6927, www.nahanni.com ) and Nahanni Wilderness Adventures (403/678-3374 or 888/897-5223, www.nahanniwild.com ). Each offers trips of varying lengths—8–12 days from Virginia Falls, two weeks from Rabbitkettle Lake, or up to three weeks from Moose Ponds. Crafts used are rafts, two-person canoes, or longer voyageur-type canoes.
Trips start at $3,900 for an eight-day float. The best way to get a feeling for which trip suits your needs and interests is by talking to the outfitters (they all love “their” river, so getting them to talk is no problem). Guided trips operate mid-June–early September, and many dates fill up fast. The staging area for both outfitters is the north end of the old airstrip in downtown Fort Simpson .
Experienced white-water enthusiasts planning their own trip down the Nahanni have four main components to organize: permits and fees, transportation into Nahanni National Park , transportation down the river, and supplies. The best place to start planning your trip is the Parks Canada website (www.pc.gc.ca/nahanni ), where you can download reservation forms and pay the park use fee ($147.20 per person).
Only 12 non-guided visitors are allowed to start down the river each day, so reservations are an absolute necessity. Most expeditions begin with a floatplane trip to Virginia Falls  and end outside of the park, where the Liard River flows alongside the Liard Highway .
The charter cost from Fort Simpson  to Virginia Falls for two people, one canoe, and 500 pounds of gear, is around $1,200. This is just an example—if there are four of you, you would travel in a bigger plane (a Beaver) and the cost would run around $2,000.
For detailed quotes contact Simpson Air (867/695-2505, www.simpsonair.ca ) or Wolverine Air (867/695-2263, www.wolverineair.com ). These are the same two companies used by commercial guides, so they’re flying into the park all the time.
A few years ago, I picked up a guy who’d just come down the river and was hitchhiking back to Watson Lake  from Blackstone Landing. He’d started at Moose Ponds, which is closer to Watson Lake (Yukon) than any Northwest Territories community; therefore chartering a plane from Watson Lake costs less, but it seemed an inconvenient way to save a couple hundred bucks.
If you need a canoe or other equipment, contact the floatplane companies or the commercial outfitters for rentals.