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Historically, the Dene travelled up the Yellowknife River from Great Slave Lake and crossed the height of land near Snare Lake to the Coppermine River on the way to the Barrenlands. Sir John Franklin was saved from starvation by the Dene near Snare Lake in 1820. Today, Wekweètì, accessible by air, is the closest community to this historic route.
Storied and traditional canoe routes in the North Slave region include the Camsell, Cameron, Yellowknife, Beaulieu and Hanbury. These drain into or connect to Great Slave Lake and via the Yellowknife River route connect to the Arctic.
The Back and the Coppermine rivers also rise in this region and travel 800 kilometres or more to the Arctic. The Thelon, which connects by a portage to the Hanbury, flows east to Hudson Bay.