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The historic route to the Lesser Slave Lake region and further into Peace River was via an overland-and-marine route that involved wagons, watercraft and dog sled teams.

The dry-land route began at Fort Edmonton and ended at Athabasca Landing (now Athabasca), where travelers and trade goods were loaded onto paddle wheelers and York boats. Traversing Athabasca River and Lesser Slave River, the boats first arrived at Sawridge (Old Town Slave Lake), and then carried on across Lesser Slave Lake to Grouard; the largest settlement in the area.

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The final leg of the route was an overland trail from Grouard to Peace River. Depending on the season, horse-drawn wagons or dog sled teams were employed.

Everything changed when the railway was constructed in 1914. The Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia line connected Edmonton to Lesser Slave River communities, and parts further north via the tracks you see below.

While rail travel facilitated rapid growth and settlement in our region, it also led to the demise of commercial river transit.

In the winter, dog teams often were used to transport passengers and supplies. With the opening of the railway line from Edmonton to Slave Lake in 1914, boat transportation and dog trains steadily declined.

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A Vital War-Era Corridor

Highway No. 2 was constructed parallel to the railway line in 1931. As you drive along the comparatively modern Southshore Drive, you’re retracing part of the original highway.

These rail and road arteries proved strategically advantageous to the American military as it rapidly built the Alaska Highway during the Second World War. In 1964, the railway was further extended to Hay River in the Northwest Territories. This provided a strategic link for barges carrying supplies via Mackenzie River to Canada’s Arctic and returning south with natural resources.

The Majesty of Marten Mountain

With an elevation of 1,020 metres (3,346 ft.) above sea level, Marten Mountain is easily visible from here. Drive to its lookout for an awe-inspiring view of the lake below.

A 61-metre (200 ft.) forestry observation tower at the peak of Marten Mountain is used for spotting fires in the Slave Lake Forest Area. Take the scenic drive up to the adjacent lookout for one of the most stunning vistas in the region. From here, adventurous souls can embark on the trailhead to the pristine Lily Lake nestled in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park.

To the left of Marten Mountain you can spot Nine Mile Point from here. Then look to its right and see if you can find Dog Island or Devonshire Beach.

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