Things to See & Do Around Fort Liard
There are an amazing number of things to see and do around Fort Liard, but don't expect a big city style nightlife; there are no movie theatres, dance clubs or bars. What Fort Liard has is culture and nature, and lots of it. If you are visiting town, make some new friends or check out the recreation calendar and participate in an activity. Go out on the land hiking or canoeing and see the places that the Slavey Dene have called home for centuries.
Many recreation activities depend on the season. In the winter, many people enjoy ice fishing or traveling from place to place on their snow machines. In the summer, people go boating upriver and spend time at their camps. Swimming at the Muskeg River is a popular pastime. Regardless of the season, you are in a remote area and every activity has some risk involved. Ask local people for safety tips and precautions that you can take to make your trip more enjoyable.
Choose the links on the left for some ideas of things you can do around Fort Liard!
The traditional crafts of the Dene were more than just attractive objects; they all had a use. Birchbark baskets were used as dishes, for collecting berries, for storing items, and for moving things around. Moosehide clothing was used as protection from the elements. Snowshoes were used for hunting and moving about in the winter. Bark canoes were essential for navigating the river highways.
Today, as in the old days, a great deal of quality and care would go into the making of each item. Gifts of moose hide clothing with porcupine quillwork or beading were ornate and beautiful. The clothing that you wore was a visible display of the esteem and respect that somebody had for you. By looking closely at moosehide clothing, often smoked the traditional way, you can still see the care and attention to detail that persists to this day. Jackets, beaded slippers, and decorative gauntlets are all poplular and functional items of clothing.
The people of Fort Liard are particularly renowned for their birchbark baskets. These baskets are usually decorated with dyed porcupine quills and assembled using birchbark, sinew, spruce root and willow. Because the items used to make the baskets are taken from nature, each basket has its own character; no two baskets are the same. When the Grey Nuns lived in the area, they influenced how arts and crafts were decorated, shifting from traditional geometric designs to flowers, birds, and other amimals. To learn more about birck bark baskets, click here.
Jewelry and miniature birch bark canoes are also popular crafts. The creativity of the artisans is revealed in every item you will see from bracelets and keychains to the ever-popular moose dropping necklace.
During your visit to Fort Liard, you may have the opportunity to participate in a feast or drum dance or get to watch traditional hand games. Don't just sit back and watch - get involved! Ask questions and learn about the local culture from the people who know it best.
Please visit our regularly updated events page to see what special events are taking place in our community.
Fishing & Hunting
Obtain your territorial fishing license at the Visitor Information Centre, at the Liard Valley General Store, or at the local Resources, Wildlife, & Economic Development (RWED) office. See the local business and services page for more details. Contact the RWED wildlife officer at (867) 770-4300 for more details on fishing and hunting regulations and hunting licenses.
Nearly every river or lake in the area will prove successful for fishing, although you will have the most luck in clearer waters. Although you will probably catch something no matter what, different species of fish are active at different times, so it is good to have an idea of what you are fishing for and when to do it. See the Climate page for some information on local fish species. You will need an auger to drill holes for fishing in the winter. Always check the quality of ice carefully before venturing onto a river or lake.
There are a lot of things to see around Fort Liard. Be sure to get a copy of our Visitor Information Map at Acho Dene Native Crafts, or by contacting the Hamlet Office.
The Cliff is the site of an interesting local legend. From the baseball diamond, you can see a large cliff on the opposite bank of the Petitot River. Legend says that the Acho Dene once lived on the top of the bluff. This spot would have provided a good view of the rivers, and some say that arrowheads have been found around the top. One day, another tribe attacked the unsuspecting residents. In the ensuing battle, the attackers were eventually defeated, some being driven over the edge of the cliff. The fighting was so bad, and the victims so numerous, that blood seeped deep into the ground, causing the rocks and soil to turn the red colour you see today. Some of the elders say that when rocks fall off the cliff face, it is a sign of bad fortune.
The Roman Catholic Mission is a must-see during any visit to Fort Liard. Father Zephirin Gascon, an oblate missionary of Mary Immaculate, was the first oblate priest to visit Fort Liard. He was born in Quebec in 1826, became a priest in 1854, and just a few years later founded the Fort Liard Mission in 1859. The present Mission building was built from 1913 to 1921. Father Mathurin Vacher, o.m.i., took nearly eight years to complete the building because he was practically alone to do the work. he even had to hand-cut his own lumber. At that time, most of the people lived out on the land, in the traditional way. The foundations of the mission were rebuilt in 1957 and the building was renovated in 1965. Inquire at Acho Dene Native Crafts for tours of the building.
The Money Tree is one of Fort Liard's quirky sights. Fort Liard has been blessed with good fortune. Maybe it's the work of the money tree. In the winter, if you are driving into town, look on the right side of the main road into town. It is hard to miss the tree shaped like a dollar sign ($).
There are still some old Hudsons Bay Company buildings still standing. Behind the Northern are two buildings and a house. The building in the centre, directly behind the Northern, was once the community's only store. These are not the original post buildings (which were built in the early 1800s and are no longer around), but are still an interesting place to take a walk and imagine how Fort Liard was in the old days. In time and with a little work, the old store may soon be converted into a heritage museum, displaying artifacts and documents from Fort Liard's past.
It is only in the last forty years that most people moved from living out on the land to houses in Fort Liard. Many people remember when the main street was nothing more than a walking trail. In those days, the only access to town was by air or up and down the rivers. As you walk along the river bank or stroll through town, keep your eyes open for log houses. The first buildings in the community were made from locally harvested logs. Today, most of the log houses that are still standing are beside modern and efficient frame houses, but they are a visible reminder of the remarkable changes that have happened over the past fifty years in Fort Liard.
Because of the "tropical" climate of Fort Liard, wildlife abounds. See the Climate page for information on just some of the wildlife that you might see in the area. In the summer, this area is especially excellent for bird watching, with hundreds of species calling the Liard Valley their temporary home. The fall is an excellent time to see moose. Always use caution when viewing a large game.
Things to See & Do Around Fort Liard in the Winter
Our Hockey season is in the winter time only. Come out to the Community Arena for our hockey nights in Fort Liard.
Skiing & Snowshoeing
If you're willing to break the trail, you're able to go wherever you want! Try the hiking trails listed in the Summer section of things to see and do.
Riding around on a snow machine is one of Fort Liard's most popular sports. Ask about great places to travel around the area. Two popular places to go are Fisherman Lake or Bouvie Lake.
Things to See & Do Around Fort Liard in the Summer
Hay Lake Campground, one kilometer from Fort Liard, has 12 free campsites with firewood and fireplaces, fresh water and a cooking shelter on the shore of tranquil Hay Lake. A cleared hiking trail around the lake will take you through the forest and past a beaver dam. The views from the top of the hill or from the end of the lake are excellent.
If backcountry camping is more your speed, make your way into the backcountry using your preferred method of transportation (hiking, helicopter, canoeing, etc.) and pick a good spot. Packing appropriate equipment and understanding how to act in bear country will go a long way to ensuring your safety and comfort. No-trace camping is a rule. Please show respect for the land that local people still depend on.
Canoeing & Boating
Ask about renting canoes at Acho Dene Native Crafts (867) 770-4161. When preparing to take a trip up or down any of the local rivers, it is a good idea to consult a local person who is familiar with the current river conditions. They will be able to tell you about some of the interesting sights you will see along the way.
The Petitot River
If you want to see wildlife, majestic forests, dancing river rapids, or the amazing geography of an enchanting river canyon, you must spend a day or two canoeing the Petitot River. The Petitot is the river of many names. The traditional Slavey name is mbehcholah. Often called "The Black" by local people, the Petitot River was once called the "Rivier Noire" in the early days of the fur trade. Today, it is named after Father Petitot, who belonged to the "OMI" order of priests from Fance. During his life here, he traveled throughout the north, even as far as the arctic coast. He taught the written form of the Dene language with local stories and history in the "Book of Dene." He taught the roman Catholic hymnbook written in syllabics.
Begin your trip from the Petitot River Bridge, about 40km out of Fort Liard, just south of the British Columbia border. Canoeing and some simple white water experience is recommended. The difficulty and length time required for this trip varies, depending on water levels. In the spring, water levels are high and there are few obstacles in the river, although the currents are strong, the standing waves are larger, and the water is cold. In the summer, the water level drops and there are more obstacles in the river, although these are easily avoided with care. Because the speed of the water is slower, the trip will take longer, which will give you more time to enjoy the sights along the way. In the fall, the water may be at its lowest, depending on rainfall. It is an excellent time for admiring the changing leaves and for spotting moose. The trip can be done in one day in the spring and summer, although it is most certainly worth spending a night on the river.
The vigilant observer will not only be watching the river. You will have to opportunity to spot bears, moose, bald eagles, and any number of other species. There is spectacular geography all around, including a hidden canyon, the main canyon of the Petitot, and, if you know where to look, a cave that leads to a spectacular view of the canyon. The river leads right back to Fort Liard.
The Fort Nelson River
The Fort Nelson River is accessable from Fort Nelson, BC, or for a shorter trip, from the Liard Highway at the rest stop on the north side of the Fort Nelson River bridge. The river will take you to Nelson Forks, which was once a heavily populated area, where there Fort Nelson River connects with the Liard River, which you can take downstream to Fort Liard. This route can be done by canoe or powerboat. See information about the Liard River for more information about this route.
The Liard River
The Liard River can be accessed from a number of road-side locations. If your intention is to canoe into Fort Liard, you can access the Liard River via the Petitot River or the Fort Nelson River. Another option for a multi-day trip is to canoe from Fort Nelson, BC.
If you are extremely adventurous and are skilled at whitewater, canoeing or rafting, you can make the trip from the Toad River near the community of Toad River, BC or from Liard River, BC on the Alaska Highway. Because you will be passing through waters with names like the Grand Canyon of the Liard, Hell's Gate Rapids, and Rapids of the Drowned, you can be pretty sure that these are not simple, every-day trips. Use extreme caution and plan well in advance.
If you choose to start at Fort Liard, you can canoe down the Liard as far north as Blackstone Territorial Park or to where the Liard meets the Mackenzie River, stopping at Fort Simpson, NT.
The Liard is usually traveled using locally made skiffs and outboard motors. Some people use jetboats. Knowledge of the river is an asset, because the high silt content may conceal a gravel bar hidden just under the water. The current in the Liard is very fast, regardless of which part of the river you are on. Many local people like to make the long trip to the mountains to visit the Hell's Gate Rapids. You must be able to operate your boat very well and have adequate safety equipment to negotiate this portion of the river.
ATVs & 4-Wheelers
There are a number of excellent cutlines and trails that you can take in the Liard Valley. If you are planning on traveling on the west side of the Liard River, you will need a boat capable of moving you and your machines across the river. If you have a way across the river, the fire tower trail is suitable for ATVs and leads to an excellent view of the mountains and the Liard Valley. The Chevron Road is privately maintained road that is available for public use. The Chevron Road follows the Liard Range and eventually it ascends into the mountains. Another interesting ATV trip, if you have river transportation is to Nine Mile, where you can take the old winter road towards Fisherman Lake and Pointed Mountain.
In the east side of the Liard River, there are a number of cutlines and winter roads that you can explore. Most of these are not maintained. There is a trail to nearby Bovie Lake that provides an excellent view of an untamed forest wilderness that seems to go on forever.
If you would like more information about any of these trails or other routes that you can access with ATVs, please contact the Visitor Information Centre at (867) 770-4161.
There are a million places you can explore in the Liard Valley and it is impossible to see them all. Routes should be chosen by the amount of time you want to spend, the distance you wish to cover, and the trail difficulty you are willing to attempt. The bush here is thick and much of the ground is wet muskeg. Below are four hikes on relatively well-maintained trails that can all be completed within an hour to a day.
Chevy Lookout Trail
Within walking distance of anywhere in Fort Liard, the Chevy Lookout Trail offers an excellent view of the Petitot River, Mount Coty, and the Liard and Kotaneelee Ranges. Other than a few roots and two inclines, the trail is fairly short and easy.
Begin your walk at the ball diamond. Follow the road (parallel to the Petitot River) upstream and turn left on Bypass Road (parallel to the runway). Make a right immediately past the "Granular Materials Storage Site." From there it is just a short stroll to the gravel pit. On your left there will be some old trucks and a road/trail. Follow the road/trail to the top of the gravel pit for a fantastic view. Your trip can end there, or you can continue to follow the trail up another hill. Stay on this trail and after about 0.5km you will come upon some benches and a table. Relax and enjoy the view before heading back to town.
Hay Lake Trail
The Hay Lake trailhead starts at the Hay Lake campground. The trail is generally easy and fairly flat, although there are some wet spots and some exposed roots. At the north end of the lake, the trail is often wet, but can be easily traveled. Take a break at the far end of the lake and watch the coming and goings of the beavers as they swim in and out of their lodge. Listen to the frogs and song birds, then climb to the top of the cleared hill for a great view of the mountains.
The Waterfall Trail
The Waterfall Trail begins at Km 72 of the Liard Highway, about thirty minutes drive north of Fort Liard. At Km 72, a well-defined cutline (winter road) leads to the right and a smaller trail leads to the left. Take the smaller trail. The trail is nearly always wet, and you are bound to get wet up to your knees, but it is always worth the trip. The trail also grows over quite quickly, but it is still easy to find your way. Follow the trail for about 30-40 minutes until you cross a small stream. The waterfall is not much further away. You will be looking for a trail that leads to the left. There is more than one, and one of them will take you down to the Liard River. When you can hear the waterfalls, you are close to the trail you want. Except for the winter, you can almost always hear the falls. If you passed the small trail, you will come to another, larger stream that you would have to cross on a log. Don't cross it, but follow the water downstream and within a few minutes you will be at the waterfall. In the early spring, keep your eyes open for the elusive snow flower, and in the summer look for tiny and beautiful orchids. Please, "take only pictures, leave only footprints".
The Fire Tower Trail
The Fire Tower hike is a fantastic full-day hike that leads to the top of Mount Coty. To access the trail, you need a way across the Liard River. Inquire at Acho Dene Native Crafts for information on getting across the river. You will likely be dropped off at the trailhead. From there, you follow the one and only trail to the top of the mountain. The trail conditions are excellent and the incline may seem challenging at times, but it can never be considered steep. The trail is approximately 18 km long (round trip) and takes anywhere from 1 1/2 - 3 hours to hike each way, depending on the hiker's conditioning. The view of the Laird Valley is obscured by giant poplar, spruce, and mixed forest right to the top. Upon reaching the fire tower, you will feel more than amply rewarded by the amazing view. On a clear day you can see Fort Liard, the Liard Valley, British Columbia, the mountain range that marks the NWT/Yukon border, and even the famous Nahanni Butte. Perhaps best of all, you can visit with Peter Bertrand, the fire tower's resident observer. A consummate guide and wonderful host, Peter can tell you all about the sights you see, the history of the area, and what it's like to work at the fire tower.
Construction of The Hamlet Pool is now finished. The pool opens from June to September every summer.
For those who prefer to swim outside, the Petitot River near the ball diamond is a popular swimming area. In the spring, the current is strong and the water is cold, but becomes quite pleasant in the summer. Later in the summer, the water level drops to reveal a large gravel bar.
Another popular swimming hole is the Muskeg River. "The Muskeg" as it is known locally is far more pleasant than the name implies. Take the Liard Highway north of Fort Liard for approximately 10 km and park on the opposite side of the bridge. The sandy beach is a great place to lie back and enjoy the sun. Just upstream, the shore is rockier and great skipping stones can be found. Those with sharp eyes will be able to find fossils. The fossils are the remenants of an ancient coral bed from when the area was covered by a warm shallow sea, millions of years ago.
The Muskeg River was once a highway that the people would use when traveling to Trout Lake. Though few use the river to travel to Trout Lake anymore (most travel by plane, or by truck or snowmobile in the winter), the river is still used for hunting and trapping.