Fort Smith

Fort Smith

Thebacha – “Beside the rapids”

Population: 2,536

Equal parts Métis, First Nations and non-Natives, this friendly, historic town was once the NWT’s front door: All northbound river travellers passed through here while portaging the Slave River Rapids. These days, visitors arrive by scenic Hwy 5, to tour sprawling Wood Buffalo National Park, paddle (or peer at white pelicans) in the Slave’s foaming whitewater, walk or cycle the riverfront Thebacha Trail, and check out museums, gift shops and historic sites.

Location: 60°00’N, 111°53’W    
Elevation: 205 metres
Population: 2,364
Named After: Donald Alexander Smith (Lord Strathcona)
Traditional Name: Thebacha, “Beside the rapids”
Claim to Fame: World-class whitewater paddling
Founded In: 1874, as a Hudson’s Bay Company post       
Historic Highlight: Town made administrative capital of the NWT, 1911
Historic Lowlight: Five fur-traders die in the Rapids of the Drowned, 1786
Quirky Fact: Has just about the only water tower North of Sixty
Visit For: Paddlefest, in early August
Gateway To: Wood Buffalo National Park
Best Daytrip: Flightseeing over the Peace River Delta, salt plains and bison herds
Best Expedition: Paddling the Slave from Peace Point to Fort Smith
Notable Locals: Frank Conibear (inventor), Francois Paulette (aboriginal activist), Mark Carney (former governor, Bank of Canada)


Our Stories

Intriguing tales from Canada's Northwest Territories

Pull off you shoes and socks and stride across the Salt Plains, nature's very own foot-spa...

A road-trippers’ tour of three great territorial campgrounds.

At this celebration of the heavens, you'll be over the moon. 

In the heart of Fort Smith, this must-see museum showcases the area’s First Nations, Métis and Euro-Canadian heritage. It boasts a collection of some 10,000 items, including local man Frank Conibear’s famous trap, which revolutionized fur-harvesting, and the...

This picturesque spot features six non-powered campsites. The area was devastated by a forest fire in 1981; nearly 40 years later it is now an ideal spot to observe how nature replenishes the land. Relax by the small waterfall, launch your canoe in the gorge...

Located just outside Fort Smith, this large, lushly wooded campground features 17 powered campsites, showers and washrooms, a kitchen shelter, firewood, a playground, and a walking trail leading to great views of the Slave River Rapids. 

What in the world? Just west of Fort Smith in Wood Buffalo National Park lies a shimmering, pearly desert, stretching to the far horizon. A quick hike downhill will bring you to the bizarre Salt Plains, where saline minerals leach from an...

The finest beach and campground in Wood Buffalo National Park, Pine Lake features soothing sand and shallow, warm, aquamarine waters, ideal for swimming or paddling when you're tired of gawking at the park's amazing wildlife. 

For most of its length the broad Slave River plods over the boreal plains, sliding listlessly toward Great Slave Lake. But at the point where it hits the Northwest Territories border, it is suddenly stirred by the Canadian Shield and detonates into a maelstrom....