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Practical information about living in the Northwest Territories.

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Douglas's Story - Fort Simpson

I came to work in the North, at Nahanni National Park Reserve, through my career with Parks Canada.  I’m originally from Bancroft, Ontario, earned my biology degree at the University of Guelph, and was initially attracted to Parks Canada through my interest in wildlife.  I didn’t know a lot about the North before coming here, but had heard stories of wildlife, such as the caribou herds, and the wide-open spaces. You can’t get much more wide-open than the North.

Actually, there were openings in both Wood Buffalo National Park at Fort Smith and Nahanni National Park Reserve at Fort Simpson.  I chose to come to Fort Simpson because of the Nahanni; it will take me a lot of years to have my fill of this park.

My day-to-day work differs by season. In winter it’s mostly correspondence, analyzing data, writing reports and planning for next season.  My summer season runs from late April to October and that’s when I collect data on water quality and do wildlife surveys. I spend a lot of time out in the field, and the long summer days allow me to get a lot done during a trip to the park; in summer planes can fly 24 hours a day, too. This past season I was collecting data on caribou herds, surveying forest birds, and doing research with Fisheries and Oceans on the bull trout that live in the South Nahanni River and its tributaries.

One thing I really enjoy is the chance to make discoveries; the North is not as well explored as southern Canada, and I have seen bird species here that were never before recorded in the Northwest Territories, for example. Another is the sheer scale of working in a national park here.  In Ontario, where I began working for Parks Canada, some parks like Point Pelee National Park are only about 20 km2.  Nahanni, on the other hand is 30,000 km2.  The wildlife ranges are much larger — hundreds of kilometres from winter range to breeding grounds for caribou, for example. The way we do our fieldwork is also very different; instead of going by foot or truck, travel here is usually by floatplane or helicopter. It means careful planning to maximize our time because travel is much more expensive.

If you enjoy outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and want to get involved in community organizations, there are great opportunities here.  In summer you can travel on water more extensively than roads, so fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating and camping along the rivers are extremely popular. My kids are active year-round, with indoor & outdoor sports such as curling, skating, minor hockey, roller-blading and soccer.  There are rec leagues for hockey, basketball, volleyball, etc., and volunteer organizations like the historical society and arts society, which organizes an annual festival.  

I’d encourage you to give Fort Simpson a try. There are plenty of opportunities in teaching, healthcare, and professional trades. Maybe there aren’t any theatres here for movies or live entertainment, but there is no shortage of other activities to be involved in.