July 19, 2024
From Great Slave Lake to the Beaufort Sea, the Mackenzie River is 1,738 kilometres long. Its watershed covers parts of five provinces and territories.

Canada’s longest river at record low levels

The Mackenzie River’s water levels are about two metres below average, said territorial hydrologist Ryan Connon. Only two years ago, rivers and lakes in the Mackenzie system were at all-time highs.

Canada’s longest river is at historically low levels, stranding communities that rely on it for essential goods and alarming First Nations along its banks who have never known the mighty Mackenzie to be so shallow.

“This has never been seen before,” said Dieter Cazon, looking out at the water from his office as land and resources manager for the Liidlii Kue First Nation at Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

“We’ve asked elders, ‘Does anybody have stories about water being this incredibly low?’ Nobody has these stories.”

From Great Slave Lake to the Beaufort Sea, the Mackenzie River is 1,738 kilometres long. Its watershed covers parts of five provinces and territories.

But the Northwest Territories government reports flow rates at most locations along the river are either well below average or at their lowest recorded value for this time of year.

Water levels are about two metres below average, said territorial hydrologist Ryan Connon. Normal seasonal fluctuations are about 50 centimetres.

“Being two metres lower than normal is quite significant.”

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