Norman Wells Attractions

Strung out along the north-eastern bank of the broad Mackenzie River, and backed by the Franklin Mountains, Norman Wells has a spectacular setting. It also has a variety of accommodation and restaurant services.

Norman Wells is unequalled in the Northwest Territories as a starting point for mountain wilderness adventure. There are ten outfitters each with over ten years in the travel business offering first class canoeing, hunting and fishing packages based out of Norman Wells. Add to that access to world-class mountain scenery and hiking trails, exceptional flightseeing packages, and there’s plenty of options for visitors of all abilities and interests.

There are three distinct areas of Norman Wells appealing to the visitor: the town centre which comprises town hall, two small grocery stores, and two hotels and restaurants, the area including the Norman Wells Historical Centre, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the celebrated four hole Ptarmigan Golf Course, and finally DOT Lake – the aviation float base for Norman Wells, now incorporating the region’s aviation history.

The town has several unique attractions.  Foot bridges over streams and gullies on town walking trails are constructed of huge driftwood logs from southern forests. The logs, salvaged along the river, are woven into the supports for some unique and attractive bridges designed by local resident and outfitter Rick Muyers. That good humoured approach to bridges is carried through in the town’s street signs – designed as ravens in various poses.

Many trails lead from Norman Wells into the mountains behind the town – with a popular and well developed camping area at Jackfish Lake, just below Mt. Hamar. There’s a summer “Eco-challenge” held on June 21, Aboriginal Day, with prizes for those who can complete the challenging canoe, bike and running trail to Mr. Hamar’s summit. The trail passes through Fossil Canyon, a unique area once a seabed where visitors can find Devonian era fossils.

Local tours might include an overview of the six artificial islands built to access the oilfield under the Mackenzie River, drives around the perimeter of the Esso production site, once the actual townsite at Norman Wells, and drives up the Jackfish Lake road with its scenic vistas.

A new and attractive site designed for visitors is an historical aviation museum at the North-Wright dock on DOT Lake. There are now two log buildings – one the original North-Wright base, and one built by Canoe North Adventures as a shelter for canoeists in transit. In addition, there are small buildings once used by the four airlines that operated in Norman Wells – Canadian Pacific Airlines, Nahanni Air Services, Northward Air and North-Wright. The buildings and an open air hangar for a gull wing float plane are all part of a working museum designed to appeal to visitors, and provide freight and cargo services.