Slave River Rapids National Historic Event

Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
Slave River Rapids (© Free)
Slave River Rapids
(© Free)
Address : River Bank Park, Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1969-10-23

Other Name(s):
  • Slave River Rapids  (Designation Name)
  • Bell Rock Portage  (Other Name)

Importance: Only obstacle to navigation from Lake Athabasca to the Arctic Ocean


Existing plaque: River Bank Park Fort Smith, Northwest Territories

The long rapids between here and Fort Fitzgerald are the only obstacle to navigation from Lake Athabasca to the Arctic Ocean. In 1789 Alexander Mackenzie took a whole day to portage his canoes around the rapids. Later, York boats were dragged on rollers over the portage. By the 1880's a cart trail joined the steamer terminals at Forts Smith and Fitzgerald. During World War II a highway was built over the old route. The portage thus embodies the history of transport on the Mackenzie system, the main commercial artery of the Northwest Territories for almost two centuries.