For most of its length, the broad Slave River meanders over the boreal plains, sliding leisurely toward Great Slave Lake. However, at the point where it hits the Northwest Territories border, it’s suddenly stirred by the Canadian Shield and comes to life transforming into world-class rapids.
Beginning at Fort Fitzgerald and ending 10 kilometres downstream at Fort Smith, are four furious sets of rapids — called Pelican, Rapids of the Drowned, Mountain Portage and Cassette, respectively. With waves as tall as houses, the dizzying whirlpools and gushing channels provide a playground for first-class kayakers, while also protecting the world’s northernmost white pelicans, who nest on midstream islands.
Visitors can watch the rapids from the safety of various lookouts along the shore, or they can get a feel for the river’s incredible might by attending the annual Slave River Paddlefest — a celebration of whitewater fun. Just be sure to contact local paddling outfitters for guidance before tackling any of the more challenging rapid routes.