The communities along this route take you from the South Slave region to the Dehcho, through boreal forest and of course, along the Mackenzie (Deh Cho) River.
The gateway to the South Slave, Enterprise is the first community you’ll encounter after crossing the Alberta border. A tiny community of 122, Enterprise welcomes you with stunning waterfalls and excellent hospitality. Don't miss the Dene craft shop.
Situated on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, Hay River is the second largest community in the Northwest Territories. Known for its fishing and the best beach in the territory, it’s no wonder 3,528 people call Hay River home. It was founded as a town in 1892, on a site occupied by the Slavey Dene for millennia. The K'atlodeeche reserve across the Hay River includes two historic churches. Explore the shops and the museum, hike the trails along the river or visit the West Channel fishing village. There's Saturday market through the summer at Fisherman's Wharf. Golf is big at the Hay River Golf Club, and don’t forget to check out the beach.
Fort Smith’s traditional name Thebacha translates to “Beside the Rapids,” The town is nestled into the boreal forest beside a set of rapids on the Slave River. A destination for kayakers and canoeists, the Slave River rapids offer spectacular wild water. The population of 2,542 is composed of Dene, Métis and non-indigenous peoples. The Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre is one of the attractions and there is the Pelican Rapids Golf Course overlooking the Slave River. Fort Smith is also the starting point for many Wood Buffalo National Park adventures.
The oldest community in the Northwest Territories, Fort Res is located at the confluence of the Slave River and Great Slave Lake. This tiny Chipewyan and Métis community of 524 goes back to 1791 when the North West Company opened a trading post here.
With a population of 45, Kakisa is the smallest Dene community. But what Kakisa lacks in size, it more than makes up for in natural beauty. Don’t miss Lady Evelyn Falls and the excellent camping around Kakisa, or K’áagee, which translates to “Between the Willows.”
Keep an eye out for bald eagles as you drive across the Mackenzie River on the Deh Cho bridge enroute to Fort Providence, traditionally Zhahti Kue or “Mission House Place.” This community of 815 is an essential stop on any South Slave road trip. It is known for its craft shop featuring Dene arts including porcupine quill work and moose hair tufting. Sometimes bison can be spotted wandering through the community. Be sure to gas up for your trip to Yellowknife or Fort Simpson.
The largest Dene community (Pop. 2,039) is located at the point where Great Slave Lake’s North Arm connects with Marian Lake. It is the first community you’ll encounter in the North Slave. Formerly known as Fort Rae or Rae-Edzo, Behchoko is headquarters of the Tlicho Government.
Yellowknife, population 19,569, is the capital of the Northwest Territories and its only city. The most common Dene name for Yellowknife is Somba K’e which translates to “Where the Money Is,” which makes sense for a town with gold-mining history. Here you’ll find excellent restaurants, comfy accommodations and a whole host of colourful locals that make up this vibrant and cosmopolitan place. Regardless of what time of year you visit, there’s always something happening in Yellowknife from a weekend musical festival in the sand, to month-long activities at a snow castle on the frozen bay.
Jean Marie River
Jean Marie River is the first community you’ll reach as you make your way into this trip’s namesake region, the Dehcho. Originally a trading post, this settlement of 71 is a beautiful place to stop for a picnic or to launch a canoe on the Mackenzie River.
Fort Simpson, or Liidlii Kue, “The Place Where the Rivers Come Together,” is the regional centre of the Dehcho and at 1,244 is its largest community. You’ll find it at the confluence of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers. From Simpson, you can begin an epic Nahanni National Park Reserve adventure, or just book a Nahanni flight-seeing tour for the day. Visit the Papal Flats and see the world’s largest wooden teepee.
Wrigley, the northernmost Dehcho Dene community, sits at the terminus of Highway 1. But those who make it to the end of road are rewarded with a view of the Franklin Mountains. The 146 Dene who make Wrigley their home maintain their traditional lifestyle of hunting, trapping and fishing.
Nahanni Butte is named for the mountain that watches over the hamlet. Its traditional name is Tthennáágó meaning “Strong Rock.” If you are planning a summer visit, you’ll have to call ahead for a river taxi, but in the winter access is via ice road across the Liard River. Nahanni Butte is home to 113 South Slavey Dene.
Welcome to the tropics of the North. Located just off the Liard Trail, this hamlet of 619 enjoys warm weather, lush vegetation and the tallest trees in the NWT. As the last NWT community before you reach the B.C. border, Fort Liard is a great place to gas up, buy some birchbark baskets from the famous Acho Dene Native Crafts store, or just relax on the banks of the Liard River.