Fort Providence is an idyllic, historic, easy-to-reach getaway – a blissful little town on the banks of the big Mackenzie. Here you'll find Canada's mightiest river, roaming herds of bison, and rich First Nations heritage, all within an easy drive of Yellowknife or Hay River.
This community of 770 is perched on the scenic north bank of the Mackenzie, not far from its source at Great Slave Lake. Here, the mile-wide waters dominate the view: You could spend hours watching the current slide continuously toward the sea. Along the Fort Providence waterfront, the fishing is stupendous – the waters swarm with Grayling, Trout, Pickerel, Pike and more. The waterfront trails are gorgeous and this is a perfect put-in for downriver paddling expeditions.
The surrounding forests and waters are home to lots of wildlife, but one species stands out – the majestic wood bison, the largest land creature in North America. Thousands dwell in the nearby Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, and often they can be seen right in town, wandering the streets and grazing in yards.
History is vivid in Fort Providence. In the local Dene language, this community is called Zhahti Kųę – "the mission house" – after the mission, boarding school and orphanage that was founded here in the 1860s by Roman Catholic Oblates. A few years later, the Hudson Bay Company arrived, opening a trading post and bestowing it with the name "Fort Providence." To this day, the stately old white-and-blue church is one of the most photographed historic buildings in the Northwest Territories.
The newest attraction is the Mackenzie River Bridge – the only bridge across the Mackenzie River, and the longest bridge in Northern Canada. Suspended more than 100 feet above the water, it provides idyllic views of the big river and the surrounding boreal woodlands.
Access Fort Providence year-round by highway from Hay River, Yellowknife or Fort Simpson.