Fort Simpson | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Fort Simpson

Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories (NWT), incorporated as a village in 1973, population 1,202 (2016 census), 1,238 (2011 census). The Hamlet of Fort Simpson is located on an island at the confluence of the Mackenzie and  Liard rivers, 378 air km southwest of Yellowknife.

Settlement and Development

The Dene have historically inhabited central and northwestern Canada in an area known as Denendeh, meaning “the Creator’s Spirit flows through this Land” or “Land of the People.” This region includes the Mackenzie River Valley and the Barren Grounds in the Northwest Territories. The original fort, called Fort of the Forks, was built by the North West Company in 1804; in 1821 it was named after Hudson’s Bay Company governor Sir George Simpson. The oldest continuously occupied trading post on the Mackenzie, the community in the late 1960s became a base for oil exploration and a NWT government administration centre.It was the terminus of the Mackenzie Highway until 1994 when the highway was extended to Wrigley.

Simpson, Sir George
An able administrator and indefatigable traveller, Simpson was imperious when it suited his purposes.
(courtesy Notman Photographic Archives/McCord Museum)

The population is now employed in government, the transportation industry or traditional hunting and trapping activities. The headquarters for Nahanni National Park is also located in the village. Pope John Paul II visited here 20 September 1987, three years after his first Canadian visit.

Fort Simpson, Aerial View
Aerial view of Fort Simpson, NWT.
(photo by T.K. Tomlinson)