River (Slavey language: Deh-Cho IPA: [tèh
tʃʰò], big river or Inuvialuktun: Kuukpak IPA: [kuːkpɑk],
great river; French: fleuve (de) Mackenzie) is the longest river
system in Canada, and has the second largest drainage basin in North
America after the Mississippi River. The Mackenzie
River flows through
a vast, thinly populated region of forest and tundra entirely within
the Canadian Northwest Territories, although its many tributaries
reach into four other Canadian provinces and territories.
The river's main stem is 1,738 kilometres (1,080 mi) long,
flowing north-northwest from
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake into the Arctic Ocean,
where it forms a large delta at its mouth. Its extensive watershed
drains about 20 percent of Canada. It is the largest river
flowing into the Arctic from North America, and including its
tributaries has a total length of 4,241 kilometres (2,635 mi),
making it the thirteenth longest river system in the world.
1.2 Main stem
1.3 Drainage basin
1.4 Flow characteristics
5 Human use
5.1 Natural resources
6.2 Full list
7 See also
8 Works cited
10 External links
Through its many tributaries, the Mackenzie
River basin covers
portions of five
Canadian provinces and territories
Canadian provinces and territories – British
Columbia (BC), Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, and Northwest
Territories. Thutade Lake, in the Northern Interior of BC, is the
ultimate source of the Mackenzie
River via the Finlay–Peace River
system, which stretches 1,923 kilometres (1,195 mi) through BC
and Alberta. The 1,231-kilometre (765 mi) Athabasca River
originates further south, in
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park in southwest
Alberta. Together, the Peace and Athabasca rivers drain a significant
portion of the eastern slope of the
Rocky Mountains and the central
Alberta prairie. The Peace contributes the majority of the water,
about 66 km3 (54 million acre-feet) per year, and the
Athabasca contributes 25 km3 (20 million acre-feet).
The Peace and Athabasca meet at the Peace-Athabasca Delta, a vast
inland delta at the western end of Lake Athabasca, which also takes
runoff from the northern third of Saskatchewan. The Slave
formed by the confluence of the two rivers and flows 415 kilometres
(258 mi) due north into Great Slave Lake, at Fort Resolution,
Northwest Territories. The Slave is by far the largest river flowing
into the lake, with an annual flow of 108 km3 (87 million
acre-feet). It contributes about 77% of the overall inflow, and
forms a large delta where it enters the lake. Other rivers
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake area the Taltson, Lockhart and Hay Rivers,
the latter of which also extends into
Alberta and BC.
River issues from the western end of Great Slave Lake
about 150 km (93 mi) south-west of Yellowknife. The channel
is initially several kilometres wide but narrows to about 800 m
(2,600 ft) at Fort Providence, which was historically an
important ferry crossing in the summer, and used as an ice bridge in
the winter for traffic along the
Yellowknife Highway. In 2012 the Deh
Cho Bridge was completed at a point about 10 km (6.2 mi)
upstream, providing a safer permanent crossing. It is the only bridge
across the main stem of the Mackenzie. West of
Fort Providence the
Mackenzie widens considerably, resembling a shallow, swampy lake more
than a river; one large widening here is known as Mills Lake.
After heading west for about 100 km (62 mi) the Mackenzie
narrows and turns northwest through a long stretch of fast water and
rapids, past the village of Jean Marie River. At
Fort Simpson it is
joined by the Liard River, its biggest direct tributary, from the
west. The Liard drains a large area in the southern
Yukon and northern
BC and carries a large amount of sediment during the summer melt
– which does not fully mix with the clear water in the Mackenzie for
almost 500 km (310 mi) downstream, with the resulting
phenomenon of a clear current on the east bank and muddy water on the
Dene fishing camp on the Mackenzie River, north of the Arctic Circle
The river continues west-northwest until its confluence with the North
Nahanni River, where it turns north towards the Arctic. It flows
through open taiga with its wide valley bounded, on the west, by the
Mackenzie Mountains and to the east by low hills of the Canadian
Shield. This mostly uninhabited area is called the Mackenzie Lowlands;
although partly forested, it is mostly covered by large areas of
muskeg, swamps and many small lakes. A number of major tributaries
join from the west, including the Root River, Redstone
River and Keele
River. Below the Keele River, the Mackenzie
River flows north along
the western base of the Franklin Mountains before turning northwest,
and receives the Great Bear River, the outflow of
Great Bear Lake
Great Bear Lake at
The Mackenzie widens considerably to about 6 to 7 km (3.7 to
4.3 mi) at Norman Wells, a major center of oil production. There
is a narrows at the Mountain
River confluence called the Sans Sault
Rapids, where the Mackenzie falls about 6 metres (20 ft). Below
River the Mackenzie flows due north until reaching The
Ramparts, a limestone gorge barely 500 metres (1,600 ft) wide and
up to 45 metres (148 ft) deep. Below The Ramparts is the village
of Fort Good Hope, where the Mackenzie turns northwest again, soon
crossing the Arctic Circle. The Mackenzie here flows slightly lower in
elevation than the surrounding tundra, as a braided river between low
bluffs about 3 to 5 km (1.9 to 3.1 mi) apart. It receives
Arctic Red River from the southwest at Tsiigehtchic, where traffic
Dempster Highway crosses via ferry/ice bridge.
About 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of
Tsiigehtchic is Point
Separation, the head of the vast Mackenzie
River Delta, whose
branching channels, ponds and wetlands spread across more than 12,000
square kilometres (4,600 sq mi) of the coastal plain. The
delta is nearly 210 km (130 mi) from north to south, and
ranges in width from 50 to 80 km (31 to 50 mi). It is the
second biggest Arctic delta in the world, after the Lena
in Russia. Most land in the Mackenzie delta consists of permafrost,
with great depths to bedrock. A characteristic feature of the delta is
its numerous pingos, or hills of earth-covered-ice – some 1,400 of
them. The Peel River, carrying much of the runoff from the
northern Yukon, joins in the delta at a point northeast of Fort
McPherson. Below there, the Mackenzie diverges into several large
channels with the largest heading north-northeast, emptying into the
Beaufort Sea west of Tuktoyaktuk.
Satellite view of the lower Mackenzie River
At 1,805,000 km2 (697,000 sq mi), the Mackenzie River
drainage basin encompasses nearly 20 percent of Canada. About
980,000 km2 (380,000 sq mi), or 54 percent of the
basin, lies above Great Slave Lake.
Permafrost underlies about
three-quarters of the watershed, reaching up to 100 m
(330 ft) deep in the Mackenzie Delta. As a whole, the
Mackenzie basin receives only meager to moderate rainfall, averaging
410 millimetres (16 in) over the entire basin, though mountain
areas experience much higher precipitation, and areas near and north
Arctic Circle receive much lower precipitation.
The Mackenzie drainage basin is bordered by multiple major North
American watersheds. Much of the western edge of the Mackenzie basin
runs along the Continental Divide. The divide separates the Mackenzie
watershed from that of the
Yukon River, which flows to the Bering
Strait; and the Fraser
River and Columbia
River systems, both of which
empty into the Pacific Ocean. Lowland divides in the north
separate the Mackenzie basin from the
Arctic Ocean watersheds of the
Anderson, Horton, Coppermine and Back Rivers. In the east, the
Mackenzie borders on the
Hudson Bay watersheds of the Thelon and
Churchill Rivers, and to the south it is bordered by the
River system, which also empties into Hudson
Bay. The Mackenzie system is hydrologically connected to the
Hudson Bay watershed via Wollaston Lake, which is not only the source
of the Fond du Lac tributary of Lake Athabasca, but also of the
Cochrane River, which flows east into the Churchill River.
The eastern portion of the Mackenzie basin is dominated by vast
reaches of lake-studded boreal forest and includes many of the largest
lakes in North America. By both volume and surface area, Great Bear
Lake is the biggest in the watershed and third largest on the
continent, with a surface area of 31,153 km2
(12,028 sq mi) and a volume of 2,236 km3
(536 cu mi).
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake is slightly smaller, with
an area of 28,568 km2 (11,030 sq mi) and containing
2,088 km3 (501 cu mi) of water, although it is
significantly deeper than Great Bear. The third major lake,
Athabasca, is less than a third that size with an area of
7,800 km2 (3,000 sq mi). Six other lakes in the
watershed cover more than 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi),
Williston Lake reservoir, the second-largest artificial
lake in North America, on the Peace River.
The river discharges more than 325 cubic kilometres
(78 cu mi) of water each year, accounting for roughly 11% of
the total river flow into the Arctic Ocean. The river is
frozen for most of the year, with the ice typically breaking up by
early to mid-May in the south, and late May-early June in the
north. Ice breaks up earlier on the tributaries, sometimes causing
ice jams and flooding where they meet the Mackenzie. In the middle of
the larger lakes, such as Great Slave, ice can persist as late as
mid-June. The river typically freezes by late October or November,
starting in the north. Year round, the Mackenzie's outflow has a major
stabilizing effect in the local climate above the
Arctic Ocean with
large amounts of warmer fresh water mixing with the cold seawater.
Mackenzie at Tsiigehtchic
The average flow rate at the mouth is 9,910 m3/s
(350,000 cu ft/s), the second largest in
Canada after the St
Lawrence, and the fourteenth largest in the world. About
60 percent of the water comes from the western half of the basin,
which includes the Rocky, Selwyn, and Mackenzie mountain ranges out of
which spring major tributaries such as the Peace and Liard Rivers,
which contribute 23 and 27 percent of the total flow,
respectively. In contrast the eastern half, despite being dominated by
marshland and large lakes, provides only about 25 percent of the
During peak flow in the spring, the difference in discharge between
the two halves of the watershed becomes even more marked. While large
amounts of snow and glacial melt dramatically drive up water levels in
the Mackenzie's western tributaries, large lakes to the east retard
springtime discharges. Spring floods from the Peace-Athabasca system
are significantly slowed by the delta area at the western end of Lake
Athabasca causing the lake to rise, and the excess water can only flow
out after the rivers have receded. The same phenomenon occurs at
Great Slave Lake, which naturally regulates the flow from the Slave
River into the Mackenzie.
There are river gages at several upstream points along the Mackenzie
River. The average flow rate at the outlet of
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake is
4,269 m3/s (150,800 cu ft/s). At Fort Simpson,
below the Liard River, it is 6,769 m3/s
(239,000 cu ft/s). At
Norman Wells it is 8,446 m3/s
(298,300 cu ft/s), and at the Arctic Red confluence it
is 8,926 m3/s (315,200 cu ft/s).
Mackenzie monthly mean discharge at
Arctic Red River (m3/s)
As recently as the last glacial maximum about 30,000 years ago, the
majority of northern
Canada was buried under the enormous continental
Laurentide ice sheet. The tremendous erosive powers of the Laurentide
and its predecessors, at maximum extent, completely buried what is now
the Mackenzie watershed under thousands of metres of ice and flattened
the eastern portions of the watershed. When the ice sheet receded for
the last time, it left a 1,100 km (680 mi) long postglacial
lake, Lake McConnell, of which Great Bear, Great Slave and Athabasca
Lakes are remnants.
River is very young in geologic terms – its
channel formed over a period of no more than several thousand years as
the ice sheet retreated. Prior to the ice ages, only the Peel River
tributary flowed through what is now the Mackenzie Delta into the
Arctic Ocean. The other tributaries of the Mackenzie combined into the
"Bell River" which flowed east into Hudson Bay. During glaciation the
weight of the ice sheet depressed northern Canada's terrain to such an
extent that when the ice retreated, the Mackenzie system was captured
to lower elevations in the northwest, establishing the present flow
direction to the Arctic.
Fluvial deposits and other erosional evidence indicate that around the
end of the Pleistocene, about 13,000 years ago, the Mackenzie channel
was scoured by one or more massive glacial lake outburst floods
unleashed from Lake Agassiz, formed by melting ice west of the
present-day Great Lakes. At its peak, Agassiz had a greater volume
than all present-day freshwater lakes combined. This is believed
to have disrupted currents in the
Arctic Ocean and led to an abrupt
1,300-year-long cold temperature shift called the Younger Dryas.
The Mackenzie carries a very large sediment load, transporting about
128 million tonnes each year to its delta. The
Liard River alone
accounts for 32 percent of the total, and the Peel
20 percent. Essentially all of the sediment is contributed by
areas downstream of Fort Providence, since upstream sediment is
trapped in Great Slave Lake.
Lakes and black spruce forest in the Mackenzie Delta
The Mackenzie River's watershed is considered one of the largest and
most intact ecosystems in North America, especially the northern half.
Approximately 63% of the drainage basin, or 1,137,000 km2
(439,000 sq mi), is forested (mostly boreal forest).
Wetlands comprise about 18%, or about 324,900 km2
(125,400 sq mi), of the basin. More than 93% of forested
areas are virgin old-growth forest. However, human activities such as
oil extraction have threatened water quality in the headwaters of the
Mackenzie River. In addition, a warming climate in northern parts of
the watershed is melting permafrost and destabilizing soil through
Most of the taiga consists of black spruce, aspen and poplar forest.
In the north, the river's shores are lined with sparse vegetation like
dwarf birch and willows, as well as extensive areas of muskeg and peat
bogs. South of Great Slave Lake, there are much larger reaches of
temperate and alpine forest, prairie, and fertile floodplain and
There are 53 fish species in the basin, none of them endemic. The
River has a similar range of fish fauna to the Mississippi
River system. It is believed that the two river systems were connected
during the Ice Ages by meltwater lakes and channels, allowing fish in
the two rivers to interbreed.
Fish in the Mackenzie
include the northern pike, several minnow species, and lake whitefish.
Fish in the southern half of the watershed are genetically isolated
from those of the northern half due to large rapids on the Slave River
preventing fish from swimming upstream.
Migratory birds use the three major deltas in the Mackenzie River
basin – the Mackenzie Delta and the inland Slave and Peace-Athabasca
Deltas – as resting and breeding areas. The latter is located at the
convergence of four major North American migratory routes, or
flyways. As recently as the mid-twentieth century, more than
400,000 birds passed through during the spring and up to a million in
autumn. Some 215 bird species in total have been catalogued in the
delta, including endangered species such as the whooping crane,
peregrine falcon and bald eagle. The construction of the W.A.C.
Bennett Dam on the Peace
River has reduced the seasonal variations of
water levels in the delta, causing damage to its ecosystem. Bird
populations have seen a steady decline since the 1960s.
Water mammals such as beavers and muskrats are extremely common in the
Mackenzie Delta and surrounding areas of muskeg. The Mackenzie
estuary is also a calving area for beluga whales.
The Mackenzie Rver enters the Beaufort Sea, July 2017.About 7 percent
of the fresh water that flows into the
Arctic Ocean each year comes
out the Mackenzie and its delta, and much of that comes in large
pulses in June and July after the freshet—when inland ice and snow
melts and floods the river.
The Mackenzie valley is believed to have been the path taken by
prehistoric peoples during the initial human migration from Asia to
North America more than 10,000 years ago. However, archaeological
evidence of human habitation along the Mackenzie is scant, despite the
efforts of many researchers. Many archaeological sites have probably
been destroyed by flooding, freeze-thaw and erosion. The Inuvialuit,
Gwich'in and other indigenous peoples have lived along the river for
thousands of years; however, the oldest evidence of continuous
occupation stretches back only about 1300–1400 years, at the
Gwich'in community of Tsiigehtchic.
The Mackenzie provided the major route into Canada's northern interior
for European explorers as early as the late 18th century. Scottish
explorer Alexander Mackenzie, who travelled the river in the hope it
would lead to the Pacific Ocean, but instead reached its mouth on the
Arctic Ocean on 14 July 1789. The river he named "Disappointment
River" would later be renamed in his honor. No European reached its
mouth again until Sir
John Franklin on 16 August 1825. The following
year he traced the coast west until blocked by ice while John
Richardson followed the coast east to the Coppermine River. In 1849
William Pullen reached the Mackenzie from the Bering Strait.
Steamboat Wrigley on the Mackenzie River, c. 1901
In the following decades the
North West Company
North West Company established forts on
the river, the precursors of present-day settlements such as Fort
Simpson (formerly Fort of the Forks). A lucrative fur trade was
carried out, as the Mackenzie basin teemed with beaver and muskrat;
however, the short summer and harsh winter conditions limited
trappers' activities. During the late 19th century
Fort Simpson was
regional headquarters for the Hudson's Bay Company. The first fur
trappers were native, but starting in the 1920s increasing numbers of
European trappers entered the region. Beaver and muskrat populations
were heavily depleted, especially in areas around and south of Great
Catholic missionary Henri Grollier founded missions at Fort Simpson,
Fort Norman and
Fort Good Hope
Fort Good Hope between 1858–59.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century epidemics of
introduced European diseases swept through indigenous communities
along the river, and thousands of native people lost their lives. One
particularly severe influenza in 1928 killed as many as one in ten
native people along the Mackenzie River.
Fort Providence lost
20 percent of its population, and some smaller villages and camps
were completely wiped out.
Steamboat service on the Mackenzie
River began in the 1880s, and the
number of vessels surged in the early 1900s as the Klondike Gold Rush
brought a wave of prospectors to the Yukon. The Mackenzie
one of the main routes into the northern interior, with sternwheelers
transporting passengers, domestic supplies and industrial goods from
as far upstream as the Athabasca
River all the way to the delta,
though with several areas such as the huge rapids on the Slave River
requiring portages. The route taken by gold seekers started in
Edmonton and followed the Athabasca, Slave and Mackenzie Rivers as far
as the Peel River, then up the Peel and its tributary the Rat
the headwaters of the Porcupine River, which flows to the
Many who attempted the 3,200-kilometre (2,000 mi) journey died
along the way or turned back before reaching the Yukon.
Oil was discovered at
Norman Wells in the 1920s, beginning a period of
industrialization in the Mackenzie valley. Oil was initially shipped
out by steamboats, supplying mines and towns across the NWT. This
demand grew when gold was discovered on the northern shore of Great
Slave Lake, leading to the settlement of
Yellowknife and the opening
of several mines in the area. By the 1940s steamboats had been
replaced by modern gas and diesel-powered craft, which continue to
serve the river today. During
World War II
World War II oil pumped in Norman Wells
was shipped to Fairbanks,
Alaska via the 1,000-kilometre (620 mi)
Canol pipeline. The pipeline was considered a "fiasco", going five
times over budget and losing as much as 20 percent of the oil due
to poor construction. It only operated for thirteen months, shutting
down in 1945. Much abandoned equipment remains along the corridor
today; part of the pipeline route has been designated the Canol
Heritage Trail. In 1964 the
Mackenzie Northern Railway
Mackenzie Northern Railway (now a
subsidiary of CN) reached the shore of Great Slave Lake, to serve the
new Pine Point zinc mine near Hay River. Although the mine shut down
in 1988, the railroad remains an important transportation link between
River waterway and the rest of Canada.
River near its head at Fort Providence
In the 1950s the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed the North
American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), a vast series of dams,
tunnels and reservoirs designed to move 150 km3
(120,000,000 acre⋅ft) of water from northern
Canada to southern
Canada, the western United States and Mexico. The system would involve
building massive dams on the Liard, Mackenzie, Peace, Columbia, and
Fraser river systems and pumping water into a 650 km
(400 mi) long reservoir in the Rocky Mountain Trench. The water
would then flow by gravity to irrigate more than 220,000 km2
(85,000 sq mi) in the three countries and generate more than
50,000 MW of surplus energy. The projects were never built due to the
massive cost and environmental impact.
The Royal Canadian Mint honoured the 200th anniversary of the naming
of the Mackenzie
River with the issue of a silver commemorative dollar
In 1997, a cultural landscape along the section of the Mackenzie River
Tsiigehtchic was designated the Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River)
National Historic Site of
Canada due to its cultural, social and
spiritual significance to the Gwichya Gwich'in.
In 2008, Canadian and Japanese researchers extracted a constant stream
of natural gas from a test project at the Mallik methane hydrate field
in the Mackenzie Delta. This was the second such drilling at Mallik:
the first took place in 2002 and used heat to release methane. In the
2008 experiment, researchers were able to extract gas by lowering the
pressure, without heating, requiring significantly less energy.
The Mallik gas hydrate field was first discovered by
Imperial Oil in
River State School opened on 21 May 1973.
A frozen Mackenzie
River at Fort Good Hope, March 2007
As of 2001, approximately 400,000 people lived in the Mackenzie River
basin – representing only one percent of Canada's population.
Ninety percent of the population lived in the Peace and Athabasca
River basins, mostly in Alberta. The cold northern permafrost regions
Arctic Circle are very sparsely populated, mainly by
indigenous peoples. Most of the Mackenzie watershed is unbroken
wilderness and human activities have little influence on the overall
water quality, although there are some localized impacts.
Some parts of the Mackenzie basin are rich in natural resources –
oil and gas in the
Northwest Territories and in central Alberta,
lumber in the Peace
River headwaters, uranium in Saskatchewan, gold
and zinc in the
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake area and tungsten in the Yukon. As of
2003 there were two operational gold mines in Yellowknife, and many
more abandoned mines dot the region. Communities along the
River depend on subsistence fishing, although there is also
some commercial fishing on the river.
Agriculture in the Mackenzie
River basin is mainly concentrated in the
Peace and Athabasca valleys to the south. The valley of the former
river is considered to be some of the best northern farmland in
Canada, due to the high concentration of minerals found in the
soil. These conditions are expected to be improved even more by
trends in climate change, such as warmer temperatures and a longer
growing season. According to the British Columbia
Environmental Network, "there is enough agricultural capability in the
River Valley to provide vegetables to all of northern
The only functioning oil pipeline in the Mackenzie basin connects
Norman Wells with Zama City, Alberta.
Norman Wells was the main oil
producing area on the Mackenzie
River until the 1970s, when new oil
fields were discovered further north in the Mackenzie delta and
the surrounding coastline. As of 2016, there were an estimated 166
billion barrels of oil reserves in this region. There is a proposal
for a Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, which has not been built due to
environmental concerns and falling oil and gas prices.
The extraction of oil and gas in
Alberta along the Mackenzie River
headwaters is detrimental to its ecosystems because it involves the
oil companies to remove large amounts of vegetation in order to make
way for all of the equipment that they use to extract the oil from the
ground. When the vegetation on the banks get and by removing these
plants it destabilizes the soil and with the currents causes the river
banks to erode, thus causing the accumulation of sediments in the
river. In the event of a pipeline being constructed, the risks of
pollution of the Mackenzie
River are very high due to the destruction
of the environment around it and the chance of an accidental oil spill
that could destroy the ecosystems found inside the river. Not only do
oil and gas extractions in the north are damaging to the Mackenzie
River, they also have detrimental effects on the people who live on
the banks of this river because they rely on the water to supply them
with the necessary things that they need in order to survive: food,
water, and transportation.
During the ice-free season, the Mackenzie is a major transportation
link through the vast wilderness of northern Canada, linking the many
isolated communities along its course. Wide, calm sections of the
river are frequently used to land seaplanes in the ice-free season.
Canada's northernmost major railhead is located at the town of Hay
River, on the south shore of Great Slave Lake. Goods shipped there by
train and truck are loaded onto barges of the Inuit-owned Northern
Barge traffic travels the entire length of the Mackenzie in long
"trains" of up to fifteen shallow-draft vessels pulled by tugboats.
Goods are shipped as far as the port of
Tuktoyaktuk on the eastern end
of the Mackenzie Delta, where they are transferred to oceangoing
vessels and delivered to communities along Canada's Arctic coast and
the numerous islands to the north. In winter, the frozen channel
of the Mackenzie River, especially in the delta region, is used as an
ice road, firm enough to support large trucks, although travel between
northern communities is mostly by dog sleds and snowmobiles.
Although the Mackenzie
River is generally wide and deep, navigation is
"notoriously difficult" due to the locations of sandbars and shallows
changing from year to year. In some narrower parts of the river,
barges must be uncoupled and towed one by one through hazardous
stretches, despite attempts to widen and deepening the channel by
River at Fort Simpson, at the confluence of the Liard River
Although there are no dams along the main stem of the Mackenzie, many
of its tributaries and headwaters have been developed for
hydroelectricity production, flood control and irrigation. The W.A.C.
Bennett and Peace Canyon hydroelectric dams on the upper Peace River
were completed in 1968 and 1980 by BC Hydro. They have a combined
capacity of more than 3,600 megawatts (MW). The reservoir of
W.A.C. Bennett, Williston Lake, is the largest body of fresh water in
BC and the ninth largest man-made lake in the world, with a volume of
70.3 km3 (57,000,000 acre⋅ft).
By acting as a massive stabilizer on the water flow of the Peace
Williston Lake reduces flood crests on the Peace, Slave and
Mackenzie rivers as far downstream as Fort Good Hope. This has
made the Peace Valley more suitable for farming, but has had
significant impacts on downstream wildlife and riparian communities.
The more stable annual flow slows down the spread of essential
nutrients which builds up in the form of sediments, thus causing the
river to become more polluted.
Other smaller hydroelectric plants are located along the Snare and
River tributaries, providing power to mines in the Great Slave
Lake region. There have been many proposals to dam the tributaries
of the Mackenzie
River which would lead to further impacts on water
quality and seasonal flow patterns. The
Site C Dam
Site C Dam on the Peace River,
which would generate enough power for about 460,000 households, has
been controversial since the 1970s, and a final decision on the
project has not yet been reached. A potential US$1 billion,
1350 MW hydro plant on the Slave
River was canceled in 2010 after an
agreement could not be reached with First Nations people in the area
to be flooded by the reservoir.
North Nahanni River
Great Bear River
Arctic Red River
Great Slave Lake
61°12′00″N 116°40′56″W / 61.19994°N 116.68219°W /
61.19994; -116.68219 (Great Slave Lake)
61°04′08″N 117°10′04″W / 61.06888°N 117.16782°W /
61.06888; -117.16782 (Kakisa River)
61°28′37″N 118°04′56″W / 61.47689°N 118.08234°W /
61.47689; -118.08234 (Horn River)
61°13′56″N 119°02′09″W / 61.23230°N 119.03584°W /
61.23230; -119.03584 (Bouvier River)
61°13′28″N 119°22′08″W / 61.22446°N 119.36891°W /
61.22446; -119.36891 (Redknife River)
61°18′15″N 119°50′40″W / 61.30423°N 119.84453°W /
61.30423; -119.84453 (Trout River)
Jean Marie River
61°31′58″N 120°38′05″W / 61.53288°N 120.63469°W /
61.53288; -120.63469 (Jean Marie River)
61°34′48″N 120°40′24″W / 61.58009°N 120.67331°W /
61.58009; -120.67331 (Spence River)
61°46′56″N 120°41′51″W / 61.78209°N 120.69758°W /
61.78209; -120.69758 (Rabbitskin River)
61°51′01″N 121°18′07″W / 61.85037°N 121.30185°W /
61.85037; -121.30185 (Liard River)
61°52′22″N 121°19′33″W / 61.87277°N 121.32580°W /
61.87277; -121.32580 (Harris River)
61°55′35″N 121°34′41″W / 61.92633°N 121.57814°W /
61.92633; -121.57814 (Martin River)
62°06′00″N 122°11′34″W / 62.10005°N 122.19286°W /
62.10005; -122.19286 (Trail River)
North Nahanni River
62°14′44″N 123°19′43″W / 62.24562°N 123.32874°W /
62.24562; -123.32874 (North Nahanni River)
62°26′13″N 123°18′37″W / 62.43685°N 123.31020°W /
62.43685; -123.31020 (Root River)
62°41′55″N 123°06′53″W / 62.69863°N 123.1148°W /
62.69863; -123.1148 (Willowlake River)
River Between Two Mountains
62°56′12″N 123°12′39″W / 62.93655°N 123.21081°W /
62.93655; -123.21081 (
River Between Two Mountains)
63°14′39″N 123°35′13″W / 63.24410°N 123.58691°W /
63.24410; -123.58691 (Wrigley River)
63°28′05″N 123°41′23″W / 63.46801°N 123.68962°W /
63.46801; -123.68962 (Ochre River)
63°42′53″N 123°54′45″W / 63.71486°N 123.91245°W /
63.71486; -123.91245 (Johnson River)
63°56′38″N 124°10′19″W / 63.94386°N 124.17194°W /
63.94386; -124.17194 (Blackwater River)
63°59′05″N 124°22′26″W / 63.98472°N 124.37399°W /
63.98472; -124.37399 (Dahadinni River)
64°17′39″N 124°29′58″W / 64.29422°N 124.49947°W /
64.29422; -124.49947 (Saline River)
64°17′13″N 124°33′18″W / 64.28701°N 124.55492°W /
64.28701; -124.55492 (Redstone River)
64°25′00″N 124°48′00″W / 64.41662°N 124.80005°W /
64.41662; -124.80005 (Keele River)
Great Bear River
64°54′24″N 125°36′01″W / 64.90671°N 125.60034°W /
64.90671; -125.60034 (Great Bear River)
Little Bear River
64°54′57″N 125°54′16″W / 64.91581°N 125.90435°W /
64.91581; -125.90435 (Little Bear River)
65°37′28″N 128°43′01″W / 65.62446°N 128.71682°W /
65.62446; -128.71682 (Carcajou River)
65°40′27″N 128°50′19″W / 65.67409°N 128.83856°W /
65.67409; -128.83856 (Mountain River)
65°49′34″N 128°50′55″W / 65.82613°N 128.84869°W /
65.82613; -128.84869 (Donnelly River)
66°07′55″N 129°02′28″W / 66.13182°N 129.04099°W /
66.13182; -129.04099 (Tsintu River)
Hare Indian River
66°17′38″N 128°37′26″W / 66.29391°N 128.62381°W /
66.29391; -128.62381 (Hare Indian River)
66°28′11″N 128°58′15″W / 66.46969°N 128.97091°W /
66.46969; -128.97091 (Loon River)
66°37′44″N 129°19′34″W / 66.62877°N 129.32616°W /
66.62877; -129.32616 (Tieda River)
66°43′45″N 129°47′26″W / 66.72907°N 129.79042°W /
66.72907; -129.79042 (Gillis River)
66°59′33″N 130°16′02″W / 66.99237°N 130.26712°W /
66.99237; -130.26712 (Gossage River)
67°28′41″N 130°54′24″W / 67.47803°N 130.90673°W /
67.47803; -130.90673 (Thunder River)
67°15′11″N 132°34′13″W / 67.25315°N 132.57030°W /
67.25315; -132.57030 (Tree River)
Rabbit Hay River
67°13′29″N 132°45′40″W / 67.22483°N 132.76102°W /
67.22483; -132.76102 (Rabbit Hay River)
Arctic Red River
67°26′49″N 133°44′51″W / 67.44700°N 133.74743°W /
67.44700; -133.74743 (Arctic Red River)
67°41′48″N 134°31′52″W / 67.69665°N 134.53102°W /
67.69665; -134.53102 (Peel River)
67°48′17″N 134°04′17″W / 67.80485°N 134.07145°W /
67.80485; -134.07145 (Rengleng River)
List of rivers of Canada
List of rivers of the Northwest Territories
Steamboats of the Mackenzie River
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unknown: a record of river travel, 1874 to 1974. Dundurn Press.
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Glaciated North America. University of Chicago Press.
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Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
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State of the Aquatic Ecosystem Report 2003.
Authority. pp. 15–56. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4
March 2016. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
^ Daqing Yang, Xiaogang Shi, Philip Marsh (2015-09-04). "Variability
and extreme of Mackenzie
River daily discharge during 1973–2011".
Quaternary International. ScienceDirect. 380-381: 159–168.
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maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
^ a b Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural
Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest
Association, Inc. p. 220. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
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of Natural and Manmade Lakes. International Association of
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^ "Where Does the Water Flow? - NWT Water Stewardship".
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State of the Aquatic Ecosystem Report 2003.
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^ "Bridge linking N.W.T. capital with rest of
Canada opens". CBC News.
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^ "Mills Lake". IBA Canada. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
^ a b c "Magnitude and Sources of Sediment Input to the Mackenzie
Delta, Northwest Territories, 1974 - 94 (PDF Download Available)".
^ Penn, James R. (1 November 2017). "Rivers of the World: A Social,
Geographical, and Environmental Sourcebook". ABC-CLIO – via Google
^ a b NRCAN Topo Maps for
Canada (Map). Cartography by Natural
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^ Hodgins and Hoyle, p. 135
^ Major Drainage Areas of the
Yukon Territory (Map). Cartography by
Yukon Environment Geomatics.
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original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
^ a b "Mackenzie
River near Fort Providence". R-ARCTICNET.
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^ Burridge, Mary; Mandrak, Nicholas (2011-08-16). "105: Lower
Mackenzie". Freshwater Ecoregions of the World. World Wildlife Fund,
The Nature Conservancy. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012.
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Atlas, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. Commission for
Environmental Cooperation (CEC). Archived from the original on 14
April 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
^ a b "Great Bear Lake". World Lakes Database. International Lake
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^ Arnell, Nigel W. (2005-04-08). "Implications of climate change for
freshwater inflows to the Arctic Oceans" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical
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^ "Water Sources: Rivers". Environment Canada. Retrieved
^ Woo, Ming-Ko; Thorne, Robin (2003-03-04). "Streamflow in the
Mackenzie Basin, Canada" (PDF). Arctic Institute of North America.
^ "The Peace-Athabasca Delta". Northern
River Basins Study Final
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September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
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River at Norman Wells". R-ARCTICNET. 1943–2000.
^ a b "Mackenzie
River at Arctic Red River". R-ARCTICNET. 1972–2000.
^ Pielou, p. 193
^ Dewar, Elaine (4 March 2011). "Bones". Random House of
via Google Books.
^ Schiermeier, Quirin (2010-03-31). "
River reveals chilling tracks of
ancient flood". Naturenews. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
^ "The Younger Dryas". NOAA Paleoclimatology. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
^ a b c d Wolh, Ellen. "The Mackenzie:
River on the Brink." In A World
of Rivers, Environmental Change on Ten of the World's Great Rivers,
300-27. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
^ "Northern Lifeblood: Empowering Northern Leaders to Protect the
River Basin from the Risks of Oil Sands Development" (PDF).
Pembina Institute. Retrieved 2011-09-16.
^ "Mackenzie Watershed". EarthTrends: Watersheds of the World. World
Resources Institute. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011.
^ Pielou, p. 190-191
^ Burridge, Mary; Mandrak, Nicholas (2011-08-16). "104: Upper
Mackenzie". Freshwater Ecoregions of the World. World Wildlife Fund,
The Nature Conservancy. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012.
^ "Peace-Athabasca Delta: Tar Sands Oil Expansion Threatens America's
Premier Nesting Ground". Save BioGems. Natural Resources Defense
Council. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ "Peace-Athabasca Delta". Important Bird Areas. Bird Studies Canada.
Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved
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^ Pilon, Jean-Luc. "Archaeological Potential Along the Lower Mackenzie
River, N.W.T." Canadian Archaeological Association Occasional Paper
^ Piper, p. 44
^ Piper, p. 43
^ "To the Klondike via Athabasca Landing".
^ "ExploreNorth". www.explorenorth.com.
^ LaRouche, Lyndon H. (January 1988). "The Outline of NAWAPA". The
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^ Nelson, Barry (2009-12-04). "The Rip Van Winkle of Water Projects
– NAWAPA Reemerges after a 50 Year Slumber". Switchboard. Natural
Resources Defense Council. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ Nagwichoonjik (Mackenzie River) National Historic Site of Canada.
Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
^ Thomas, Brodie (2008-03-31). "Researchers extract methane gas from
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original on 8 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
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^ "Media Release: Significant BC food source might go under water"
(PDF). It's Our Valley. 2010-04-09. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ Feinstein, Asa (February 2010). Churchill, Brian; Rowan, Arnica,
eds. "BC's Peace
River Valley and Climate Change: The Role of the
Valley's Forests and Agricultural Land in Climate Change Mitigation
and Adaptation" (PDF). It's Our Valley. Retrieved 2011-09-17. CS1
maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
^ a b "Peace
River Valley: Habitat for biodiversity, food security for
British Columbia". The
British Columbia Environmental Network.
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^ Investment, Industry, Tourism and. "Mackenzie Delta and Arctic
Islands NWT Oil and Gas Rights". www.iti.gov.nt.ca.
^ "The $20 Billion Arctic Pipeline That Will Haunt
Canada Forever". 9
^ Wolh, Ellen. "The Mackenzie:
River on the Brink." In A World of
Rivers, Environmental Change on Ten of the World's Great Rivers,
300-27. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2010.
^ "What does
North America look like to Canada's Northern
Transportation Company?". Arctic Economics. 2008-06-12. Retrieved
^ "Mackenzie River: Barging ahead – The North's Native-owned
transportation service". Canadian Council for Geographic Education.
Archived from the original on 28 October 2011. Retrieved
^ Jozic, Jennifer. "Transportation in the North". Northern Research
Portal. University of Saskatchewan. p. 3. Retrieved
^ Van Wyck, Peter C. (2010). Highway of the Atom. McGill-Queen's
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^ "40 Years On: The Story of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam". Hudson's Hope
Museum. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011. Retrieved
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^ "Williston". BC Hydro. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ "Williston Lake". World Lakes Database. International Lake
Environment Committee. Archived from the original on 5 August 2011.
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Monitoring Program. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ Fawcett, Max (2010-04-05). "The Case against the Site C Dam: A
River journey against a powerful current of dubious
assumptions and official spin. First of five parts this week". The
Tyee. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
River hydro project nixed". CBC News. 2010-10-18. Retrieved
^ Jaque, Dom (2009-03-12). "Proposed Slave
River Hydro Project Update"
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(PDF) on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
^ "Some Canadian rivers at risk of drying up". WWF Global. World
Wildlife Fund. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mackenzie River.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Information and a map of the Mackenzie's watershed
Canadian Council for Geographic Education page with a series of
articles on the history of the Mackenzie River.
Atlas of Canada's page devoted to Arctic rivers of Canada.
MAGS: Daily Discharge Measurements.
Hydrography of the Northwest Territories
Fond du Lac
Lac de Gras
Lac des bois (Northwest Territories)
Lac La Martre
Dolphin and Union Strait
Prince of Wales Strait
Richard Collinson Inlet
Prince Albert Sound