The South Slave is also a place of big wildlife and wild sanctuaries – especially the largest roaming herds of bison, endangered whooping cranes and regal wolves of Wood Buffalo National Park.
Finally, you'll find big-hearted people, living vibrant lives in the bustling port community of Hay River (terminus of Canada's most remote railway), the charming college town of Fort Smith, and welcoming Aboriginal villages, including log-cabin Kakisa, the Métis stronghold of Fort Resolution, and Fort Providence, where bison stroll the streets.
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The South Slave region is rich in beauty and character, both in terms of its history, geography, natural assets, economy, and of course, its people.
The region of Hay River is the ancestral territory of the Slavey people, becoming a permanent residence in 1892 it grew to an active trading post. Hay River over the years became the North’s most important trans-shipment centre and Vale Island (now know as Old Town) became a fishing village. The town-site that is now Hay River cam about as a result of serious flooding in 1963. Hay River’s place as the Hub of the North was further solidified when the Mackenzie north Railway made us the northernmost connection in the continental railway system.
For centuries the Dene and Metis hunted and fished the land and tributaries flowing into the Slave River. Explorers and fur traders later used the Slave River as a gateway from the Prairies, portaging the four impassable sets of rapids at the Northwest Territories border. One set of rapids that can be viewed directly from where the 2018 Snowboarding event is proposed to be held in Fort Smith, is known as the Rapids of the Drowned. In 1786, five paddlers from the Northwest Company were taken as they misread a signal and took the wrong path through these dangerous waters.
The heart and soul of the South Slave is the diversity and allure of its geography. The boreal forest has been called one of Canada’s top seven wonders. The Northern Lights, fresh air and clear starry skies await. Wood Buffalo National Park, which is the second largest national park in the world, protects Whooping Crane and Bison. The Salt Plains in the park are extremely rare, and one of the reasons Wood buffalo was declared a World Heritage Site. The Slave, Hay, Buffalo and Mackenzie Rivers are where we fish, boat, hike and camp. The sandy beaches of Great Slave Lake run for miles in every direction, and in the winter they become a place where we snowmobile or ice fish.
From Fort Providence, on the banks of the mighty Mackenzie River to Kakisa which rests against the lake of the same name, the South Slave’s smaller communities offer a chance to truly explore, the Northwest Territories in its most authentic form. Fort Resolution sits on the Great Slave Lake and lures visitors to the rich fishing offered by the waters. On the road between Fort Smith and Hay River, and often referred to as the “Gateway to the North,” Enterprise is witness to some of the most dramatic landscapes. Alexandra and Louise Falls see the Hay River plunge hundreds of metres provide iconic views of the natural beauty of the South Slave.