|Aerial view of a section of the Nahanni valley|
Native tales tell of an unknown evil lurking within 200 Mile Gorge, and most avoid the area. Local oral history also tells of a mountain-dwelling tribe known as the Naha. The Naha were feared by the region's Dene people, as they often descended to raid nearby villages. These tales end with the rapid, mysterious disappearance of the Naha. No trace of this tribe has ever been found.
The eerie nickname attached to 200 Mile Gorge is the Valley Of The Headless Men. This name comes from a series of unexplained incidents in the Gorge during the Gold Rush of the early 20th century. Two brothers, Willie and Frank McLeod left in 1906 in an attempt to reach the Klondike through Nahanni. Nothing was heard from them for the next two years. Rumours spoke of the two finding the "mother lode" of gold. Despite this, no efforts were made to find them. In 1908, another prospecting expedition discovered two bodies, later identified as the McLeod brothers. Both had been decapitated. This incident would likely have been marked up as just another macabre tale of North had they been the only headless bodies. In 1917, the body of a Swiss prospector by the name of Martin Jorgenson was found next to his burned cabin. Decapitated. In 1945, the body of a miner from Ontario, whose name seems to be lost to history, was found in his sleeping bag, without a head. A trapper named >John O'Brien was found frozen next to his campfire, matches still clutched in his hand. I cannot find any reference to the state of his head.
Theories abound as to what happened to these men, and others (up to 44 people are said to have disappeared there). Some put these attacks down to grizzly bears, some feuding prospectors, others natives. Some say the area is naturally heated by hot springs, and is practically a tropical paradise, a Shangri-La if you will, with the valley floor covered in gold nuggets. These theories often speak of the valley being a haven for the Sasquatch. Some even claim the valley is an entrance to the "Hollow Earth". My view lies somewhere in-between all these. I believe that the native Naha people discovered this sheltered valley, and settled there. Theoretically, food would be plentiful if the valley is the veritable paradise described in some reports. These people then likely became highly territorial over their lands, and killed any trespassers. The decapitation is reminiscent of certain other tribal practices designed to instill fear in their enemies. The image provided is for reference only, and as far as I am aware, there are no images of the 200 Mile Gorge available online.