13. Scotty Creek, NWT

Channel fen connecting Goose Lake and First Lake, Scotty Creek, NWT (Photo: Bill Quinton)

Location and Physical Characteristics

  • Scotty Creek is located at roughly 61°18'N, 121°18'W, which is about 50 km south of Fort Simpson in the lower Liard River valley of the Northwest Territories;
  • The drainage basin is 152 km2 in area;
  • Landscape dominated by both discontinuous permafrost and peatland complexes - typical of the 'continental high boreal' wetland region;
  • Area also typical of the southern extent of permafrost, where insulating peat preserves isolated patches of permafrost in the form of raised peat plateaus;
  • Scotty Creek basin is covered by 3 m to 4 m of peat overlying thick clay and silt deposits;
  • Fort Simpson region climate is characterized as dry continental with short, dry summers and long, cold winters;
  • Avearge annual air temperature is -3.2 °C and total annual precipiation is about 369 mm (46% of which falls as snow)


  • Discharge measurment of Scotty Creek began in 1995 by the Water Survey of Canada, and continue to the present time;
  • Field-based monitoring of permafrost condition and thaw rate, water table elevation, soil temperature, and surface energy balance at Scotty Creek began in 1999 by the Cold Regions Research Centre of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Current Science Focus and Instrumentation

  • Research is mainly focused on investigation of vegetation and permafrost dynamics, and their effects on the hydrological cycling in the northern boreal forest;
  • Other work examining carbon fluxes and biogeochemical cycles;
  • Discharge measurements available by the Water Survey of Canada beginning in 1993;
  • Peat plateau and wetland meteorological stations (measuring air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, incoming and outgoing shortwave and longwave radiation, soil moisture, soil heat flux, snow depth) established in 2001;
  • extensive soil moisture and shallow groundwater (active layer) measurements in different landcover types;
  • Other data collection activities and available datasets include annual snow survey, annual frost table survey across some peat plateaus, extensive tree mapping work (see link to presentation on Scotty Creek below), soil moisture survey and remotely sensed data acquisition; Lidar-derived digital elevation model and vegetation canopy structure.   

Other Resources and Further Information

For further information contact:

Professor William L. (Bill) Quinton
Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Hydrology
Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Ave. West
Waterloo Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
519-884-0710 ext. 3281