Traditionally the Sawridge First Nation used the sprawling Boreal forest and the numerous lakes and rivers of the Slave Lake Region as their territory for centuries prior to the arrival of colonialists.
The Sawridge Namesake
Noted explorer David Thompson arrives at the mouth of the Lesser Slave River in the early spring. He is the first white man to see the vast Lesser Slave Lake. Thompson establishes a townsite called Sawridge - the namesake of which comes from the saw-toothed appearance of the large sand ridges along the north shoreline of the Lake.
Hudson's Bay Outposts
By the 1890s the Hudson’s Bay Company had two posts in the Slave Lake Region, using the knowledge and labour of the First Nations people to fish and fur trap.
Historic Treaty Signed
Signed on the banks of Lesser Slave Lake, Treaty 8 was an historic agreement between Queen Victoria and various First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake area, including the Sawridge First Nation. Treaty 8 is one of eleven numbered treaties made between the Government of Canada and First Nations.
Peace River Jim's Steamboat
The Sawridge townsite became a trading and transport center at the turn of the century, relying on the rivers and lakes of Northern Alberta to bring goods and people from Edmonton to the Peace Country; Colonel “Peace River Jim” Cornwall built the first steamboat to ply the Lesser Slave Lake.
The Beginnings of Smith
As goods and people come from Edmonton via steamboat, a small outpost called Mirror Landing was founded 70 km east of Sawridge, opposite what is now the Smith townsite. It supplied those making the journey to the Peace Country, and offered weary travellers food and rest.
CP Rail Forges North
In 1913 the railroad expanded north to Lesser Slave River from Edmonton. Laid on the south shore of Lesser Slave Lake, this new railway replaced earlier steamboats and supply outposts.
The Growth of Forestry
the late 1920s and early 1930s there was substantial activity in the Chisholm, Smith and Sawridge areas. Logging trains brought heavy shipments of logs to the sawmill in Chisholm and provided many jobs for newcomers to the area. As the Sawridge townsite grew, the name changed to Slave Lake in 1923.
Floating Internment Camp
About 40 members of a captured German U-boat crew find themselves prisoners of war at Fawcett Lake’s lumber camp – their home for the next 2 ½ years. During the winter the prisoners live in a sawmill camp on the West Shore. In the summer they occupy a floating camp that moves along the shore in an easterly direction as required by the logging operations. The rules were simple: ten hours of work per day, six days per week, with 50 cents’ credit in the camp store for each day worked.
Record-Breaking Grizzly Kill
63 year old Bella Twin encounters an enormous grizzly while walking a cutline near Slave Lake.With only seconds to react, Twin lifted her bolt-action .22 rifle and felled the bear with a single shot between the eyes. To this day, Twin's grizzly stands as the longest reigning provincial big-game record in Alberta, and it may well never be broken. There are varying accounts of the incident, but all agree on one thing: Twin did the job with the humblest of
rifles, a single-shot .22.
Reeve Garratt Elected
Denny Garratt is voted in as Reeve for the MD of Lesser Slave River. Midway through his term, Reeve Garratt is tasked with leading the region out of the ashes of the devastating May 2011 wildfires – first to safety, then later to recovery.
In the early Sunday afternoon, disaster strikes the Lesser Slave River region when a series of forest fires, fanned by high winds, cut through the heart of the region. This bleak event stands as the largest natural disaster in Canadian history, and its effects continue to resonate to this day.
Reeve Kerik Elected
Rancher, firefighter and third-generation resident Murray Kerik is elected as Reeve of Lesser Slave River. Prior to his new position, Reeve Kerik served two consecutive terms as Councillor for the MD. Reeve Kerik continues to help write the next chapter of this special northern Alberta region’s story. As a family man, a business owner and a dedicated public servant, it is a story that's very near and dear to his heart.
Just a few hours due north of Edmonton, Lesser Slave River is a truly unique place to live, work and play. From breathtaking expanses of boreal forest and unspoiled natural wonders to a thriving economy and genuine work/life balance, opportunities abound. Here you'll discover a place of rugged beauty. A place of real people. A place you'll never want to leave.