A few days ago I visited Wood Buffalo Park and Fort Smith, NWT and I was blown away by the hidden wonders. Wood Buffalo park is the largest park in Canada and its tucked away at the end of a long, lonely road, straddling Alberta and North West Territories. When I first added it to the trip plan, it was mostly just because it was an end of the road place…and I tend to like those. There was a time I considered taking it off of the plan. Even as I drove there, I wondered. I’ve been discovering that North West Territory has kind of boring highways. It’s generally flat, straight, and nothing but trees and trees and trees and trees. There are hidden gems, but they can’t usually be seen directly from the road. So I didn’t know what I was in for, but this area was set to be a highlight of the trip so far!
As I drove the 250km road down to Fort Smith, I noticed there was very little traffic. In fact in that stretch I saw 3 cars. I had heard I should expect to see buffalo, and I did. Three separate herds. Many more buffalo than cars on this highway. I’ll be honest, seeing buffalo isn’t that exciting for me as I’ve seen them before, but it did make an epic start to this part of the trip!
Fort Smith is a nice little town considering how far off the beaten path it is. The next morning, I went down to the information building for Wood Buffalo and was given tons of great info. I was planning to only spend half a day here, but it quickly turned into a whole day. And what a day it was!
I hiked down to the Rapids of the Drowned on Slave River, near Fort Smith. There were pelicans feeding and I managed to get some great shots. Slave River is huge as well…I’ve been finding it hard to take in the scale of the wonders I’ve been seeing, but they are glorious.
I had asked if they knew of any good back roads for the Jeep. The guy knew some and drew them on the map. I decided to start the day off with driving, then hiking. So I took the top down and went out trail driving. And what great trails! The best trail riding I’ve done. There were even a couple nice views along the way. The mud tires really showed their stuff too.
I then headed for the salt flats. I had heard of these, and they were the one thing I had initially planned on seeing. It was a very surreal place. Again, the scale of it was hard to capture and take in. So many patterns and colours. I was told the rocks all around were left by glaciers years ago. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.
After a few hours wandering the salt flats in the sun, I was tired. But I still had time in the day, and had been told that the salt plains were also worth seeing. I was apprehensive, but headed in that direction anyway. It was definitely worth it. The parking lot for the salt plains is way up on a viewpoint that allows you to see the plains for miles and miles. I also took the quick hike down and was able to see that all the salt comes from saline aquifiers that come out of the ground. When I got back to the viewpoint a guy was there who pointed out that way in the distance you could see some buffalo.
I returned to my campsite tired, but full of wonder from all the wondrous things I had seen. I proceeded to cook a steak over the fire and go to bed for a good nights rest before moving on the next day. More posts are coming.