Population: 2,396

Fort Smith is located in Northwest Territories on Highway 5 (part of the Deh Cho Route), 162 miles southeast of Hay River, on the Slave River.

Visitor Information

Contact Town of Fort Smith, 174 McDougal Rd., P.O. Box 147, Fort Smith, NT X0E 0P0; phone 867- 872-8400; [email protected].

Free Wi-Fi at Mary Kaeser Library, 170 McDougal Road; phone 867-872-2296.

Wood Buffalo National Park Visitor Centre, 149 McDougal Road, is open year-round. Phone 867-872-7960; website: www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/nt/woodbuffalo for current hours of operation. Email [email protected]. 24-hour hotline 867-872-7962.

Fort Smith began as a trading post at a favorite campsite of the portagers traveling the 1,600-mile/2575-km water passage from Fort McMurray to the Arctic Ocean. The 4 sets of rapids, named (south to north) Cassette, Pelican, Mountain and the Rapids of the Drowned, separate the Northwest Territories from Alberta. In 1872, Hudson’s Bay Co. established a permanent post, and the Roman Catholic mission was built here in 1876. By 1911 the settlement had become a major trading post for the area.

There are 2 hotels/motels, multiple bed and breakfasts, 2 grocery stores, post office, 3 gift shops, several restaurants and a take-out place, a bar, convenience store, gas stations and several repair service locations.


Attractions include hiking trails in Wood Buffalo National Park and along the Slave River, and unique wildlife, such as pelicans and bison. Fort Smith is also one of the best places for star gazing and northern lights, as it is right next to the largest dark sky preserve in the world.


The Slave River offers world-class paddling opportunities for all levels of paddlers, from beginners to experts. Contact the Fort Smith Paddling Club for more information; phone 867-621-2025 or visit www.fskayak.webs.com.

Daily guided tours and many local arts and cultural events are scheduled throughout the summer months. Be sure to check out the Slave River Paddlefest on the first weekend in August. For more information visit www.slaveriverpaddlefest.ca. Another event is the Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival. For more information visit www.tawbas.ca.

Wood Buffalo National Park

Wood Buffalo National Park was established in 1922, to protect the last remaining herd of bison in northern Canada. It also serves to protect the Canada Northern Boreal Plains and the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Must-see locations in the park include the world-class Salt Plains (stop at the overlook at Milepost E 163.5), the aquamarine-colored Pine Lake, and the moon-like landscape of Grosbeak Lake.

Fort Smith Mission Park

Fort Smith Mission Park historic site, which includes the fascinating grotto, is open mid-May to mid-September. The park provides a self-guided tour of the site.

Northern Life Museum & Cultural Centre

The excellent Northern Life Museum & Cultural Centre showcases Native basketry, the fur trade and birdlife, especially the miraculous comeback of the Whooping Crane. They have new exhibits in their galleries every few months and host many art workshops, including traditional indigenous and contemporary art forms. Open Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat. 1-4 p.m., June–Aug.; weekdays only, Sept.–May; 867-872-2859; www.nlmcc.ca.

Pelican Rapids Golf Course

Tee-up with a view of Slave River Rapids at the 18-hole Pelican Rapids Golf Course.

Slave River

A lookout with viewing telescope is located at the north edge of town, overlooking the Slave River. Enjoy the network of walking trails along the riverbank. The Slave River offers world-class paddling opportunities for intermediate and expert paddlers.

Walk down to Rapids of the Drowned to watch the most northerly colony of nesting white pelicans fishing for walleyes, eels and suckers; interpretive sign at overlook.

Pine Lake

Drive out to Pine Lake in Wood Buffalo National Park. Watch for bison, black bears and other wildlife. There are 2 cabins for rent on Pine Lake.

Non-powered campsites at Pine Lake Campground for RVs/tents, with 3 pull- through sites, dump station, firepits, firewood; $15.70 CAD. Day-use area with beautiful beach, picnic sites, flush toilets, kitchen shelter, and playground. Located 61 km/38 miles south of Fort Smith.