You could travel all over the world and never find a more idyllic community than Jean Marie River. This tiny, tranquil Dene settlement is beautifully situated on the flats where the Jean Marie meets the Mackenzie, shrouded in the peaceful boreal forest of the upper Mackenzie Valley.
The TthedzehK’edeli Got’ie First Nation has used this area since time immemorial – harvesting moose and caribou, trapping beaver, and fishing the rivers and lakes of the Great Slave Plain. They called this place Tthets’ek’ehdeli, meaning “water flowing over clay.” The first permanent structures here were erected by locals approximately a century ago. In 1951, the community built its own school, and the Hudson’s Bay Company established a store in 1964.
Nowadays, fewer than one hundred people call Jean Marie River home. Traditional customs remain strong here, as does the Indigenous language, Dene Zhatie, which you will hear at least as commonly as English. Most residents still subsist off of hunting, trapping and fishing, along with seasonal work such as highway construction and forest-fire fighting. Most services are provided through Fort Simpson, approximately 130 kilometres away. A popular attraction are the hiking trails around Sambaa Deh Falls, located about a 30-minute drive from town.
Jean Marie River is accessible by river, of course, but these days most visitors get here by driving the Northwest Territories’ Highway 1, which is linked to the community via a 27-kilometre access road.