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Aurora and float plane on the Mackenzie River, Fort Simpson

Fort Simpson

Fort Simpson

Perched at the scenic confluence of the big Liard River and the even-more-massive Mackenzie, Fort Simpson is the Dehcho's friendly and vibrant regional centre – the gateway to Nahanni National Park Reserve, and a hotbed of Indigenous culture and tradition.

Many visitors come here on their way to the stunning Nahanni or surrounding mountains, but even if you remain right in town, you'll be charmed and entertained – by the wealth of riverfront heritage sites, by a rolling nine-hole golf course, and by local trails, craft shops, activities and more.

Home to more than 1,200 residents, Fort Simpson is the hub of the Dehcho region, with an energetic population of Dene, Metis and Euro-Canadian inhabitants. For eons, First Nations people used this as a seasonal gathering place, appropriately calling this island, at the junction of the Liard and the Mackenzie, Łíídlı Kųę – "the place where rivers come together." European traders arrived in 1803, founding "Fort of the Forks." A few decades later the Hudson's Bay Company constructed a post named for George Simpson, then the Governor of Rupert's Land. It was called Fort Simpson.

History has always been rich here. Historic buildings showcase the legacy of local gold-seekers, fur-traders, missionaries, Metis and more. The most recent historic highlight was in 1987, when Pope John Paul II visited, holding mass on the flats beside the river (now known as the Papal Site) and blessing the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Notable locals have included Nahanni pioneer Albert Faille, former territorial premier Jim Antoine, senator Nick Sibbeston, and legendary bush pilot Ted Grant.

Fort Simpson is easy to get to: Daily direct flights will bring you here from Yellowknife, or you can access the community via a scenic four-hour drive from British Columbia on the Liard trail (watch for bison!) or a seven-hour drive from Alberta, skirting the Mackenzie River.

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