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Explore our Rugged-and-Real Region

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.

Commonly referred to as “Lesser Slave River” or simply “The MD,” the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River No. 124 is a governing body in north-central Alberta, Canada. Its main administrative office is situated just outside the Town of Slave Lake, about three hours north of Edmonton. There's another admin office located in the Hamlet of Flatbush on the southern border of the MD.

The MD takes its namesake from Lesser Slave River, which drains Lesser Slave Lake into the Athabasca River. These waterways were the main links to the Peace River district until the Northern Alberta Railway appeared in the early 20th century.

A Dark Claim to Fame

Many folks know of Lesser Slave River due to the historic wildfires that began on May 15, 2011 and laid waste to much of Slave Lake and the surrounding communities. At the time, it was the worst natural disaster in Canada's history.

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A Rich and Colourful Community Fabric that Continues to be Woven

Our storied past is filled with thriving indigenous communities, intrepid explorers, and the march of progress and industry into our northern region.

From downing giant grizzly bears with a sigle-shot .22 rifle to guarding Nazi POWs on a floating barge, Lesser Slave River's legacy is as colourful as they come.

Though Canada was founded in 1867, we can trace back the roots of our communities nearly 400 years prior. The timeline below captures some of the key happenings, highlights, catastrophes and triumphs that have shaped the path of our progress.

1500 — First Nation Legacy

Famed 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.

1799 — 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.

1890 — 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.

1899 — Historic Treaty Signed

Signed on the banks of Lesser Slave Lake on June 21, 1899, 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.

1900 — 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.

1905 — The Beginnings of Smith

As goods and people come from Edmonton via steamboat, a small outpost called Mirror Landing was founded 70 kilometrers 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.

1913 — 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.

1920 - 1930 — 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.

1943 — 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.

1953 — 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.

1994 — Incorporation of the Municipality

Formerly known as Improvement District no. 124, our region is incorporated by the Alberta Government as the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River no. 124.

2011 — Historic Wildfires

In the early afternoon on Sunday, May 15, 2011, disaster struck 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.

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