Population: 1,238

Fort Simpson is located at the end of the Mackenzie Highway (NWT Highway 1), at the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard rivers, 390 miles from Yellowknife, 588 miles from Grimshaw and 282 miles from the Alaska Highway via the Deh Cho Route.

Visitor Information

Very nice Visitor Information Center with a wealth of historic photos and historical displays. The visitor center is typically open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, noon–8 p.m. weekends, from May to September. Winter hours are typically 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays only. Ask for a Historical Walking Tour booklet and guide. Phone 867-695-3182; [email protected]. Also visit www.fortsimpson.com.

Fort Simpson or Łíídljj Kųḝ (Deh Cho First Nations meaning “the place where the rivers come together”) is the administrative headquarters for the Deh Cho (Big River) region. It is the oldest continuously occupied site on the Mackenzie River, dating from 1804, when the North West Company established its Fort of the Forks. There is a National Historic Site plaque on the bank of the Mackenzie, overlooking the confluence, and another National Historic Site plaque commemorating Ehdaa, a traditional gathering place of the Dehcho First Nations.

Ehdaa is adjacent the Territorial campground on the river flats. It is home to the world’s largest wooden tipi.

The Hudson’s Bay Co. began its post here in 1822. At that time the fort was renamed after Sir George Simpson, one of the first governors of the combined North West Company and Hudson’s Bay Co. Fort Simpson served as the Mackenzie District headquarters for the Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading operation. Its key location on the Mackenzie River also made Fort Simpson an important transportation center. Anglican and Catholic missions were established here in 1858 and 1894.

Fort Simpson continues to be an important center for the Northwest Territories water transport system. Visitors may walk along the high banks of the Mackenzie River and watch the boat traffic and floatplanes.

NWT Highway 1 leads north from Fort Simpson to WRIGLEY (pop. 146), home of the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation; limited visitor services. Driving time to Wrigley, 137 miles/221 km from here, is approximately 3 hours. Allow at least 2 hours from Wrigley to the N’Dulee/Camsell Bend ferry/ice crossing of the Mackenzie River. The MV Johnny Berens operates daily, late May–October.

Lodging & Services

Fort Simpson is a full-service community. Accommodations at motels and bed-and-breakfasts.

There are 2 restaurants; 2 gas/diesel stations, one with repair service (unleaded and propane available); 2 grocery stores, department store, hardware store, a bank, laundromat, post office, and 1 craft shop. Small engine repair shop and mechanics available.

Recreational facilities include an arena, curling rink, gym, 24-hour fitness center, ball diamond, tennis court, small indoor pool, a 9-hole golf course (longest hole is 475 yards) with clubhouse and gear rental, and a boat launch at government wharf.

One of the easiest places to get down to the water is by Albert Faille’s cabin on Mackenzie Drive. Faille was a well-known Fort Simpson pioneer and prospector.

Camping at Fort Simpson Territorial Park on village access road; 21 powered campsites $28 CAD fee, 11 non-powered campsites $22.50 CAD fee, 4 picnic sites, playground, interpretive area, sani-dump, water, firewood, kitchen shelter and showers. Reservations at www.NWTparks.ca.


Fort Simpson features Dene crafts, such as birch-bark baskets, bead-work, moosehide crafts, northern carvings and other hand made crafts.

Fort Simpson Heritage Park

Fort Simpson Heritage Park, overlooking the National Historic Site Ehdaa, also known as the Papal Grounds where Pope John Paul II landed in 1987, features the McPherson House, built in 1936, and home to local pioneers George and Lucy McPherson and “Doc” Marion. Some old structures are from the Experimental Farm, or Research Station, which operated at Fort Simpson for more than 20 years.

Flightseeing trips to Nahanni National Park are a major attraction in Fort Simpson.
Nahanni National Park

Fort Simpson is also a jumping-off point for fly-in trips with Simpson Air to Nahanni National Park (Nah?a Dehé). Visitors are welcomed to the land by the Dehcho First Nations, whose ancestors have called Nah?a Dehé home for untold centuries (the question mark is not a mistake, it represents pronunciation of a glottal stop). Nahanni is a Dehcho First Nations gift to Canada, and Canada’s gift to the world. As a UNESCO world heritage site, the park is globally renowned for its diverse landforms, waterways, wildlife, forests and First Nations history.

Howard’s Pass Access Road on the west boundary of the park is a 79-km/50-mile one-way, unserviced remote dirt/gravel mining operations road. To use this route, you must first obtain a permit signed by the Superintendents of both Nahanni National Park Reserve and Nááts’Ä ̄hch’oh National Park Reserve. Please contact Nahanni NPR office prior to travel.

The park is accessed predominantly by aircraft for day flightseeing tours and overnight recreation. On average it takes 1 to 2 hours to fly into the park from Fort Simpson, depending on aircraft and destination.

Located southwest of Fort Simpson near the Yukon border, air charter companies operate day-trip flightseeing tours to Little Doctor and Glacier lakes, Ram Plateau, Cirque of the Unclimbables, the Ragged Range and Virginia Falls on the South Nahanni River.

Virginia Falls

Virginia Falls (Nlcho) in Nahanni National Park has a total drop of 315 feet/60m high, making it twice the height of Niagara Falls. One of the most popular attractions for experienced river paddlers is running the South Nahanni River or its tributaries, the Flat River, the Broken Skull River and the Little Nahanni River.

The park has a mandatory reservation, registration and de-registration system for overnight use. A Northern Backcountry Excursion Permit (annual or daily fee) is required. Contact Nahanni National Park Reserve; phone 867-695-6558, email [email protected] or visit online at www.pc.gc.ca/nahanni.