Madie's Bucket List: Summer 2022 Northwest Territories

The Gate, Nahanni National Park Reserve, canyon
The Gate, Nahanni National Park Reserve. Summer 2021 by Madison Pilling

Summer, I have been dreaming of summer since I got home from Costa Rica. I love winter, but summer here is the better than most! As you may or may not know, I am from Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories (NWT/NT). I was born and raised in the NWT and am passionate about exploring my home and sharing it with others. Over the last two years of COVID lockdowns, I turned from International destination dreams to enjoying my own backyards with some epic staycations. Based on the things I loved doing and have not seen yet, here is my summer 2022 Bucket List!

Summer 2021 NWT Bucket List

1. Folk on the Rocks

Folk on the Rocks was so much fun in 2021! It is a weekend music festival in Yellowknife, NT that features Northern and Indigenous artists. With COVID-boarder restrictions keeping out leisure travel last summer, it was a local party at Folk on the Rocks in 2021. I had never been before but every NWT resident knows, it’s always a great time. As a local, I ran into so many friends and colleges and my new southern friend was convinced I was famous. The event has multiple stages, food trucks, vendors and a beer gardens. It is an ideal event for families and solo travellers of all ages!

2. Golf the Southern NWT!

I golf with my family and friends all the time in Fort Simpson, my parents got me into the sport at the ripe age of four. It is a nine-hole course called the Seven Spruce Golf Course with lush grass fairways and artificial greens. Nightly rounds with friends where we play a few or many holes and a variety of scramble tournaments throughout the summer, makes for a fun summer of golf. In 2020, year one of COVID lockdown, my parents decided to do a Golf Staycation road trip around the Southern NWT where they golfed at every course. They played rounds in: Fort Providence, Hay River, Fort Smith and Yellowknife. They enjoyed all four courses and I would love to check them out. The only other course I have played in the NWT is Hay River. Inuvik also has a golf course, but the trip goes over budget if I included that one.

Golf and golf cart
Golfing the Seven Spruce Golf Course in Fort Simpson, NT with Aliexa on a Tuesday evening in September of 2021!

3. Camp in the Parks

There are so many National and Territorial Parks across the NWT and they are all awesome for their own reasons. Many are next to a waterfall, many are on the beach, others lookout over mountain ranges and some have all of the above. I personally booked a weekend at the Pine Lake Cabins in Wood Buffalo National Park already and I will book a long weekend at Sambaa Deh Falls (if I can, it goes quickly). I will also stay at a few different local and territorial camp grounds when I travel for slow-pitch or other weekend adventures.

4. Fish all night

Being up all night by accident is by far one of the best things about summer North of 60! I have spent countless nights awake all night without realizing it because it never gets dark. It gets less bright in the evening but at the peak of summer we have fires all night, we tee-off at midnight and go fishing until 3am when we have to be at work by 8:30am, because life is short. I captured the photo on the right on one July night at 2:42am while fishing a creek with friends. There are a ton of cool spots to go fishing in the NWT and every fisherman has their secret spots. I know some good spots around Fort Simpson and when I travel to other communities, I go along with a friend so they can show me the best spots there.

5. Fish Great Slave Lake

Lake Trout fishing on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. Photo by fishing guide and friend Chad Bullock (IG @guide_chronicles)

Great Slave Lake, as it name indicates, is great in size, depth, beauty and fishing. I have always been curious about what fishing in that lake would be like. In summer 2021, a friend of mine showed me a bunch of photos of when he was a fishing guide on Great Slave. The lake trout coming out of that lake are massive! I hope to save up and head to a local lodge out there this summer.

6. Swim in all the water

I love to swim and always have; I have swam in lakes, rivers, oceans, waterfalls, swamps, creeks and puddles. (The puddles get really big around here in the spring!) This summer I want to find new water to swim in, new waterfalls to jump off of and new swamps to portage through with friends.

7. 10-day backcountry!

This one might be hard to get the time off for with all my other plans….. But I love backcountry camping. It is an immersion in nature and I never feel more grounded than when I go and spend more than five days in the bush. Most of the people in my community are Indigenous and I have always been taught that being on the land is where we are safe because we are connected to mother earth. I am so thankful to the Dene elders, teachers and peers that I had who passed on their knowledge about nature because they taught me the respect they have for her.

South Nahanni River in Nahanni National Park
Somewhere on the South Nahanni River in Nahanni National Park August, 2020. Photo by Madison Pilling

8. Paddle a new route

There are so many routes to paddle that I cannot choose at the moment. I have been looking at different trips in all the regions of the NWT because at the end of the day you have to coordinate with at least three other people to find one that works for you all. I have been looking into trips down the Broken Skull, Mountain River and the Little Nahanni. The nice thing about long summer evenings is that on weeknights there is also time to go for evening trips to hike, bike, run and paddle all over the NWT!

Mackenzie River. It was a beautiful  paddleFort Simpson, NT).
June 2020 on the Mackenzie River. It was a beautiful and short paddle form the ferry landing to town (Fort Simpson, NT). Photo by Madison Pilling

9. Go to the Sahtu region

Perhaps I will paddle in the Sahtu and that will satisfy my desire to check out this beautiful region of the NWT. It is the only region that I have never explored and that sounds like a cool item to check off my bucket list in 2022! I have a few friends from Deline and they have shown me their photos of fishing at home on Great Bear Lake! Throughout winter, my uncle will trade fish for work with locals in Deline because that is some delicious Lake Trout! Here is an NWT Tourism article that I will use as a guide when I start planning my trip Tulita also has Great Gear Rock that towers 400 meters above the community. I have always wanted to see Tulita in person because it is the site of a famous Dene legend, the Legend of Yamoria. Read this blog I found by Shawna McLead, an Dene woman from Fort Providence, NT to find out more about Tulita and the Legend:

10. Glacier Lake & Fairy Meadows

I have seen the photos and it is beautiful. I want to see it myself in person. The Cirque of the Unclimbables in Fairy Meadows is a truly unique site. That is all.

Fairy Meadows in Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories.
Fairy Meadows in Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories. Photo by Chad Bullock (IG: @guide_chronicles)

The NWT is a beautiful place to explore and these are just 10 of the hundreds of things I want to do this summer across the #SpectacularNWT Check out more of the site for blogs and photos of my adventures at home. Follow me on Instagram to see what it is like to live north of the 60th degree parallel in a village (yes, an actual village) of 1200 people! Feel free to send me an email at if you want tips about traveling around the Northwest Territories.

**NWT entry requirements as of March 1, 2022: **
"Exempt tourists who have travelled to other parts of Canada (not applicable outside Canada) and are fully vaccinated are not required to self-isolate in the NWT. However, they are still required to submit a Self-Isolation Plan (SIP) so that the OCPHO is aware of your travel for contact tracing purposes if necessary."
Fishing boat in spring
Fishing in the May, 2020 with my mom on the lake I grew up fishing on.

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