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Fort Good Hope

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Home DestinationsSahtu Fort Good Hope

If you want to find out why the Sahtu is the beating heart of the North, look to Fort Good Hope. Established in 1805 as a fur trading post, this charter community on the banks of the Mackenzie River still follows the traditional ways of fishing, hunting and trapping.

In many ways, this community of under 600 reflects the migratory and changing nature of modern Arctic history. The settlement was established as a trading outpost known as Fort Good Hope, but also called Fort Hope and sometimes Fort Charles. Located on a peninsula between Jackfish Creek and the east bank of the Mackenzie, the original Fort Good Hope was relocated several times in the early 19th century as river flooding forced evacuations. The fur outpost closed up in 1918, but a resilient community carried on. 

It’s also now known as the Charter Community of K’asho Got’ine. The traditional Dene name for this part of the river is Radeyilikoe, meaning “where the rapids are.” The mighty Mackenzie River isn’t usually known for its white waters. Just the opposite, in fact. Canada’s longest river rolls along at a leisurely pace — with the exception of the ramparts, just south of Fort Good Hope. Here, the river narrows from two kilometres in width to just 11 metres as it rushes by the 40-metre tall limestone cliffs.

Fort Good Hope has dozens of trails that lead to rich berry-picking and trapping areas — just don’t expect a local to share their secret spots! Try the Old Baldy Trail, a five-kilometre network that will take you up to the top of a long esker where you’ll be met by a stunning view. For a longer trek, the 20-kilometre Rapids Trail will take you along the banks of the Mackenzie to Tsintu River, also known as Bluefish Creek. Or stroll along the Fred Kelly Express Ski Trail, named for one of the territory’s first Olympians; the cross-country skier who represented Canada in the 1972 games in Japan.

The real showstopper in town is Our Lady of Good Hope, a 19th-century Gothic Revival style church that was built between 1865 and 1885, and designated a National Historic Site in 1977.

It’s the oldest permanent structure in northern Canada. The church was designed and built by Oblate missionaries with stunning interior murals painted by Father Emile Petitot. It’s an absolute must-see for any northern voyager.

Fort Good Hope can be reached all year long by flights out of Inuvik, Norman Wells and Colville Lake, or by the winter road from Wrigley via Norman Wells.