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Fort Resolution, Travel Guide – wild and beautiful

The side-trip to Fort Resolution, the Chipewyan and Métis town on the south shore of Great Slave Lake, was one of the highlights of my trip to the Northwest Territories.

The boardwalk along the Great Slave Lake Shore from Fort Resolution to Mission Island
The boardwalk along the Great Slave Lake Shore from Fort Resolution to Mission Island

It was not only the beautiful town itself that captured my heart, but it also was the wonderful people I met during my short stay.

This tiny, remote community of 570 residents seems to be a forgotten destination on the tourist trail.

Getting there

I stopped to get gasoline in Hay River the day before and mentioned my intention to visit Fort Resolution to the cashier behind the desk. He just shrugged his shoulders: “Fort Res, waste of time” he muttered, “nothing there”.

I didn’t let myself get off the hook so quickly. One purpose of my northern road trip was to visit all of Northwest Territories small communities with access roads.

The 84 kilometres drive to Fort Resolution from the Fort Smith Highway junction seemed to be a small price to pay to find out what this place was all about. And I’m glad I did.

Why go there

It’s hard to imagine what it is like living in a remote northern community, surrounded by wilderness with hardly any people. The majority of southerners, as well as the rest of the world, know little about what life is like in Canada’s North.

Not many travellers venture this way and it’s easy to miss. Like other roads in the Northwest Territories, Fort Resolution Highway 6 takes you to where the road runs out; it takes you to a magic place.

The calm waters at Great Slave Lake, Fort Resolution, NWT
Calm waters at Great Slave Lake, Fort Resolution

Location

Historic Fort Resolution is situated in the South Slave Region of the Northwest Territories, in the land of waterfalls and wonders.

The region includes the glorious deep freshwater Great Slave Lake, North America’s second deepest lake. It is also the gateway to wildlife and sanctuaries with roaming herds of bison, endangered whooping cranes and wolves at Buffalo Provincial Park.

Houses along the shores of Great Slave Lake, Fort Resolution NWT
Houses along the shores of Great Slave Lake

History

Fort Res, as it is called by locals, is the oldest documented European settlement in the Northwest Territories. It was founded when the Hudson Bay Company began trading for furs in the 1780s.

First located at the mouth of the Slave River, the hamlet was moved to its present site in 1796. The first settlers were Cree-Métis. By 1852 priests arrived and established a mission and a school. During the 1840s and 1850s, Fort Resolution was the largest trading post on Great Slave Lake.

Historic Catholic Church, oldest building in Fort Resolution

Today trapping remains an important way of life in the community, together with commercial fishing and timber harvesting.

Arriving at the Hamlet

I drove into the Hamlet on a gorgeous sunny morning in June after camping for a night at Little Buffalo River Crossing Territorial Park, only 30 km away,

Highway 6 is paved all the way to Fort Resolution but it was a bumpy ride. Roller coaster bumps are an effect of melting permafrost on northern highways.

Along the beach at Fort resolution
Along the beach at Fort Resolution

The streets were empty and the town looked sleepy when I arrived, but not for long. I parked at the waterfront and strolled along the sandy beach. A man was walking his dog, two others walked over to me and asked whether I needed help. By that time I was sure that I was the only stranger in town.

Warning about bears

Shortly after, I met Louis Balsillie, the Chief of the hamlet. He answered some questions I had and shared insight about life in this remote northern community. Additionally, he warned me about bears on the boardwalk trail to Mission Island, a 45-minute hike along the lakeshore.

Boardwalk from Fort Resolution to Mission Island
Boardwalk from Fort Resolution to Mission Island

Since bears don’t scare me, I, of course, hiked this beautiful trail, enjoying deep blue skies and stunning lake views on a steaming hot day.

Mission Island

Tipis at Mission Island near Fort Resolution, NWT
Tipis at Mission Island, near Fort Resolution

Mission Island is a piece of heaven stretching out into Great Slave Lake. It is connected to Fort Resolution by a long boardwalk along calm, shallow waters and rocky beaches stretching as for as you can see.

When I got to Mission Island I felt like arriving in another world. Log cabins and tipis with Information panels along the lakeshore shaped the landscape telling the stories of an era gone by.

According to Chief Louis Balsillie, today the site is used for healing workshops and cultural events for his community.

The only original building left at Mission Island near Fort Resolution NWT
The only original building left at Mission Island

Chief Louis turned up shortly after I started exploring this magical place, once he saw that I arrived safely he left again.

The church at Mission Island, NWT
The church at Mission Island

Reflections

I left Fort Resolution late afternoon after an extraordinary day and was thankful that I drove to the end of the trail.

Fort Resolution is a place that will tell you a story, and give you a story to tell once you get home. If you venture this way you will be left with special memories, forever.

Stopping at the Ghost Town of Pine Point

All what is left of Pine Point, the old mining town in the NWT
All that is left of Pine Point, an old mining town in the NWT

I knew that my day’s adventure wasn’t over yet as I left town and headed to the abandoned site of Pine Point located 45 minutes down the highway. Pine Point was once of the largest mining towns in the North and all that is left today is an eerie network of paved roads and sidewalks blending in with the wilderness.

The abandoned Pine Point Mine
The abandoned Pine Point Mine

I parked my car in the middle of a street and stepped out onto the cracked concrete. A few poplar saplings had broken through the pavement where I stood and reached towards the bright sky. Looking around me I could feel a kind of sadness and nostalgia in the air. The town only existed from 1964 until 1988. All that’s left today is a story about people’s lives, tragedy and the hard truth of a lost town.

Gas stations and services

Fort Resolution has two gas stations, a ‘Northern’ general store, a convenience store and two snack bars.

General Store at Fort Resolution
General Store at Fort Resolution

Accommodation and Camping

For information on accommodation and camping at Fort Resolution, stop in at the friendly village office.

Little Buffalo River Crossing Territorial Park

The Park is located on Highway 6, along the shores of Little Buffalo River and minutes away from Great Slave Lake. It serves as a pleasant base to explore Fort Resolution, 23 km down the road. The park has 20 sites with power right on the river.

Relax by the river and watch the beavers at work or launch your canoe and try some fishing. This is a popular park for locals, therefore arrive early to get a spot or make a reservation online.

Bison along the highway near Fort Resolution, NWT
Bison along the highway

More about the North

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES