Known long ago as the gateway to the Northwest Territories, Fort Smith tantalizes visitors with its history and mystery. Here, hugging the Alberta border, you’ll find giant bison, wild whitewaters, rich heritage, a vast national park and the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve.
Traditionally known as Thebacha, or “Beside the Rapids,” Fort Smith is home to about 2,500 people – and lots of wildlife. While travelling the roads keep an eye out for Wood Buffalo National Park’s herd of more than 5,000 free-roaming wood bison.
In summer, the land here abounds with birds, fish and animals. The trails are endless, and fences are rare. You can hike, paddle or swim in the Slave River, and watch the American white pelicans feed in the roaring whitewater rapids.
In winter, the summer’s scenic hiking trails turn into cross-country ski and snowmobile trails and Fort Smith becomes a peaceful oasis of sparkling snow, clear skies and Northern Lights. In fact, its latitude makes it a fantastic place view the Aurora Borealis. Winter is a favourite time for many travellers to visit and participate in classic winter activities here like dogsledding or, for the more adventurous, big air snowboarding.
In town you’ll find attractions like the Northern Life Museum, showcasing First Nations, Métis and Euro-Canadian heritage; the Fort Smith Mission, a territorial historic park; and, of course, the Pelican Rapids Golf Course, where you can tee off under the midnight sun.
Best of all, Fort Smith is easy to get to. It’s a day’s drive (or quick flight) from Edmonton or Yellowknife – and if you’re really up for an adventure, in winter you can drive here by the scenic ice road from Fort McMurray.