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Nahanni National Park Reserve by raft

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 24, 2010

Liidlii Kue/Fort Simpson - The Chasm of Chills, it's a name and just one of many experiences that 19 Thomas Simpson School students will remember for a long time.

The chasm was part of the student's eight day rafting trip through the Nahanni National Park Reserve from June 7 to 14. Located in Lafferty's Canyon, reaching the chasm involves hiking along a creek, swimming through a cavern and clambering up the rocks on the other side.

NNSL photo/graphic

Tyler Pilling, centre, shows his approval of the Thomas Simpson School's Nahanni River trip while in a raft with Reannda Cli, back left, guide Rob Vance and Paige McKay. - photo courtesy of Nicki Crawley

Once there, students took turns jumping from rocks into the frigid, mountain water. For Tyler Pilling, 16, who jumped five times, the chasm was one of the highlights of the trip.

"It was pretty awesome," said Pilling summing up the trip.

In addition to the chasm, other bright points of the trip included an epic two-hour water fight between the rafts and getting to know other students you don't normally hang out with, Pilling said.

"It's all thanks to Mrs. Byatt we got to go," he said.

This was the 10th river trip Thomas Simpson School has organized and the eighth that teacher Teresa Bezanson-Byatt has accompanied.

The purpose of the trip is to allow students to see and gain an appreciation for this amazing place, said Bezanson-Byatt.

"We need people who will be stewards of the future for the land," she said.

All of the students who've gone on the trip understand why the land in the park is protected, she said. For some the trip shapes their career choices. Six of the current staff members at the Parks Canada office in Fort Simpson went on the trip as students.

The trip also brings about other changes. The students learn camping skills, raft maintenance and handling and the importance of teamwork.

"When you are doing this you have to work together," Bezanson-Byatt said.

Some aspects of the trip remain the same each year including how much the students love the Chasm of Chills and water fights. Nobody escaped unscathed from this year's water fight, Bezanson-Byatt said.

"They had so much fun."

Other aspects change. For the first time all of the trip's gear was transferred from the top of Virginia Falls to the bottom by helicopter because of concerns by the park's staff over the boardwalk. This year's group was also the first to lash their six rafts together and use a makeshift sail to harness the wind and push them the final distance to Nahanni Butte.

Bezanson-Byatt's favourite part of the trip, "seeing the kids be kids and having fun."

For Rodney Leader, 14, the best parts of the trip involved water. The rapids, whether small, large or colossal, were great, he said.

"I like getting splashed by the water," said Leader.

The Kraus hot springs were also nice although they smelled of spoiled eggs, he said. Leader, who'd never been to the park before, described it as "beautiful."

"I'd recommend other people going, too," he said.

We welcome your opinions on this story. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.