Fort McPherson is located on the Dempster Highway in Northwest Territories, Canada, on the Peel River, 24 miles/38 km from its junction with the Mackenzie River; 100 miles/160 km southwest of Aklavik by boat along Peel Channel.
The Hamlet of Fort McPherson (or Tetl’it Zheh, Town of the Head Waters) is home to the Teetl’it Gwich’in people. It is a pleasant community with 2 grocery/general stores and 2 service stations with gas/diesel. Lodging at the Peel River Inn, phone 867-952-2091. Fort McPherson is an alcohol-restricted community and there are strict limits on transported quantities allowed. To be compliant, do not bring more than you could reasonably consume in one day.
Fort McPherson was named in 1848, for Murdoch McPherson, chief trader of the Hudson’s Bay Co., which had established its first posts in the area 8 years before. Between 1849 and 1859, there were frequent feuds with neighboring Inuit, who later moved farther north to the Aklavik area, where they established a furtrading post.
In addition to subsistence fishing and hunting, income is earned from trapping (mostly muskrat and mink), handicrafts, government employment, commercial enterprises and local retail outlets.
Visitors can stop by the Fort McPherson Tent and Canvas factory and shop the outlet store inside the factory for unique canvas items.
Photos and artifacts depicting the history and way of life of the community are displayed in the Chief Julius School. The Lost Patrol Gravesite is in the cemetery outside the Anglican church. Buried there are Inspector Francis J. Fitzgerald and 3 men from the ill-fated North West Mounted Police patrol of 1910–1911 between Fort McPherson and Dawson. A plaque inside the church commemorates the Lost Patrol. The original church, St. Matthew’s, was built in 1860. It was replaced about 100 years later by the present-day church.
Inspector Fitzgerald and the men had leftFort McPherson on Dec. 21, 1910, carrying mail and dispatches to Dawson City. By Feb. 20, 1911, the men had not yet arrived in Dawson, nearly a month overdue. A search party led by Corporal W.J.D. Dempster was sent to look for the missing patrol. On March 22, 1911, Dempster discovered their frozen bodies only 26 miles from where they had started. Lack of knowledge of the trail, coupled with too few rations, had doomed the 4-man patrol. One of the last entries in Fitzgerald’s diary, quoted in Dick North’s The Lost Patrol, an account of their journey, reads: “We have now only 10 pounds of flour and 8 pounds of bacon and some dried fish. My last hope is gone. … We have been a week looking for a river to take us over the divide, but there are dozens of rivers, and I am at a loss.”