Slave River Paddlefest in Fort Smith

Held each year at the start of August in friendly Fort Smith, Paddlefest is the North's premier celebration of boats, rivers and fun. Scores of locals and dozens of visitors descend on the Slave River. There, they'll enjoy team races in traditional voyageur canoes, tours of the white-pelican nesting area, entry-level instruction on whitewater paddling, games that range from goofy paddleboard jousting to Olympic-style slalom kayaking – and the list goes on. Here's just a glimpse of what Paddlefest offers:  

88 56379f12-127d-41c4-b063-80b8adf7ca35
Fun on the rapids in Fort Smith

You don't have to be an oldster to have a thrilling time at Paddlefest. Youth-sized boats are available to rent or borrow, and young folks will enjoy instructional sessions in safe, flater water portions of the river. There are also paddling contests for kids, and all sorts of fun on shore (scroll down for weiner roast info!).  

65 061df9eb-0ab2-432e-b79e-365a46ae0f42
On the water in Fort Smith

This is the famous beachball race. You win by batting your team's ball downstream past the line ... or by batting the opponents' beachballs upstream. Who will win? Who knows. But you can be certain that hilarity will ensue. Other games on the Paddlefest schedule? The "International Pool Toy Race," swimming competitions, "boatercross" and more. 

58 a33e4f1a-196b-4f45-80cc-eebd9a477d4d
Tackle the white-water in Fort Smith

The Slave River is legendary for its waves. Some of them are placid little rollers like the one pictured above, perfect for having a fun and foamy time on a hot summer day. Other of the waves are the size of a two storey house. Paddling into them is like taking a ride in a washing machine. Don't worry, it's easy to steer clear of them. 

69 53714201-8560-44a8-bcbf-0e81d75485fa
Take an instructional clinic on the Slave River in Fort Smith

Even if you've never been in a canoe or kayak before, Paddlefest can get you up to speed. A wealth of instructional sessions take place throughout the weekend. You'll develop comfort and learn techniques – and, if you want to, maybe even ride a few waves

48 185ce564-1e6f-486f-b4b3-30fd9026f743
Take a tandem canoe ride in Fort Smith

Don't feel prepared to go solo on the Slave's big waves? Let an expert kayaker usher you through the rapids. When you go for a tandem-boat tour, all you have to do is hang on and grin ....

39 b77cd440-05b4-4267-91a7-0b984fe7b9aa
Take part in a team race at Paddlefest on the Slave River near Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

Each year, the local Smith's Landing First Nation sponsors the popular voyageur canoe race. The event is a nod to the traditional vessels of the region – massive skin boats that carried people, food and supplies along the watery highways of the North. 

46 f76bbd55-eb97-476e-98e3-3e9d6a7e6d81
Eat your heart out in Fort Smith

Hotdogs over a campfire. Pancake breakfasts. The always-exciting awards dinner. Paddlefest will keep your belly full. 

19 e3861659-e05f-4dab-8487-4221a040a15d
World-class kayakers compete at Paddlefest in Fort Smith.

Every year, Paddlefest draws a number of professional-grade paddlers from around the world, who show off their skills by performing tricks with ridiculous names – Space Godzillas, AirScrews, McNasties and more. It's a marvel to behold their acrobatics and cheer for them in the surf competitions. 

50 57ef8320-26f5-4fc6-95d1-3af3d3133728

Need we say more? 

7 f78bc5c3-7511-4ec1-9197-c8151c69d170
This festival goes with the flow 8 858443f8-8ff6-4eee-a5f5-a91914432569