Map of the Peace-Athabasca Delta
Located at Located on Mackenzie Avenue, the Fort Chipewyan Visitor Reception Centre features visitor information and backcountry registration services, a small exhibit area, and audiovisual presentations about the park. Friendly staff will help make your visit a memorable one. Open Monday to Friday year-round, and intermittent weekends during the summer months. Phone: 780-697-3662.
Fort Chipewyan and Lake Athabasca
Fort Chipewyan is a remote fly-in community for nine months of the year. Winter road access is available from mid-December to mid-March. Commercial air service is available from Edmonton and Fort McMurray year-round. Contact a travel agent for details. For canoeing information, please read the Guide to Waterways In and Around Wood Buffalo National Park.
Located on the south bank of the Peace River, this primitive backcountry campsite is the access point for the trail to Sweetgrass Station. The campsite may be accessed in the following ways:
- By canoe from Peace Point (an approximate 10-12 hour paddle downstream from Peace Point)
- By boat from Peace Point or Fort Chipewyan
- By floatplane (a landing permit is required)
Facilities include a picnic table, firepit, and outhouse.
See remnants of historic corrals and a few remaining buildings from the bison round-up days of Sweetgrass Station. Located 12 km from Sweetgrass Landing, Sweetgrass Station is in the middle of vast deltaic meadows. The blue waters of Lake Claire shimmer in the distance, and the surrounding marshlands form a rich oasis for waterfowl, raptors and other bird species such as sandhill cranes. This is a great location for wildlife viewing as bison and wolves, as well as many other bird and animal species, frequent the area. While signs of wildlife are abundant, actual sightings are random and cannot be guaranteed at any given time or location.
Sweetgrass Station is accessed by a rugged 12 km hike from Sweetgrass Landing on the south bank of the Peace River, or by a rugged 4.3 km canoe portage from Sweetgrass Landing to Sweetgrass Creek, from which point one can canoe the rest of the way.
The backcountry campsite has a picnic table, fire grate, food cache, and outhouse. Tenting is permitted anywhere in the meadows. Visitors will encounter tall grass and biting insects in the vast meadows, as well as deteriorating infrastructure. Campers should pack in as much potable water as possible. Water from Sweetgrass Creek should be boiled thoroughly for at least five minutes.The Sweetgrass corrals were first used for round-ups in 1957 when large numbers of bison were corralled for disease testing and some were slaughtered for meat. The Sweetgrass corrals were used off and on over the years for disease testing and meat slaughters, and later for anthrax vaccinations. The final meat slaughter at Sweetgrass Station occurred in 1967 when the meat was sold commercially to Expo 67. The final round-up at Sweetgrass Station occured in 1972 for anthrax vaccinations.
Sweetgrass Trail follows an overgrown cutline through the forest from Sweetgrass Landing to Sweetgrass Station. While there is little variety in the scenery along the trail, avid birdwatchers will see and hear many species of songbirds along the way. Animal scats and tracks provide clues to the diversity of wildlife in the area. There may be times when bison are encountered along the trail – the rutted texture of the trail is due to their hoofprints. If you encounter bison, always maintain a safe distance. They may be particularly aggressive during the rutting season in late July and August. Hikers should also be prepared to cope with biting insects.
The unmarked trail starts in the meadows behind the campsite at Sweetgrass Landing. Look for a narrow overgrown gap in the trees that opens out to a cutline that used to be a road allowance to Sweetgrass Station. The trail follows the cutline for 10 km but is very overgrown as it hasn’t been maintained for many years. Approximately 2 km in, where the overgrowth is the thickest, care must be taken not to divert off onto a bison trail that branches to the left and leads to a meadow. Once you have crossed the culvert at “Big Dip” (at a little over 4 km), the cutline widens out. It narrows again due to overgrowth as you approach the corrals at the end of the trail, approximately 10 km in. Once you exit the trail, follow the corrals for 2 more km through the meadows to the remnant buildings and backcountry campsite of Sweetgrass Station.
The culvert at the “Big Dip” is a reference point for the canoe portage – once past the culvert, look for an unmarked path to the right that leads to Sweetgrass Creek (approx.4.3 km from the trailhead). You cannot see the creek from the main trail.
Once you are on the creek, it is a lovely 1-1/2 to 2 hour paddle the rest of the way to the Station. Kingfishers and raptors are often seen along the creek, along with a diversity of aquatic vegetation. There is no signage indicating when a paddler has arrived at the Station, nor are the buildings visible from the creek. Paddlers should watch for an opening in the trees on the left (east) where the corrals are visible. From there they should continue on until they see a bit of a clearing with willows on the left (east) bank which serves as a bison crossing. It is approximately a 7 - 10 minute walk inland along the bison trail to the buildings of Sweetgrass Station. Sweetgrass Creek continues past Sweetgrass Station to Lake Claire. Portages across beaver dams may be needed closer to Lake Claire.
Winter road near Fort Chipewyan
A winter road connects Fort Smith, Fort Chipewyan, and Fort McMurray for approximately three months from mid-December to mid-March. The park section between Fort Chipewyan and the Peace River winds narrowly through the forest with many sharp turns. There are several river crossings on ice bridges. The park cannot guarantee regular road patrols, so travellers must be responsible for their own safety and should be prepared for cold weather survival in the event of a breakdown. For an update on winter road conditions, contact the Park Hotline at 867-872-7962. Please click here for more detailed information.