Slave Lake Tourist Attractions
In the past, the town of Slave Lake, at the south-east end of Lesser Slave Lake, lived primarily from the timber trade, but owes its rapid expansion since the 1960s to the petroleum and natural gas industry. David Thompson, in 1799, was the first European to reach Lesser Slave Lake and realize the territory's potential for the fur trade. The North West Company's first trading post on Lesser Slave Lake went up that same year, followed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1815. The trading posts developed into a general center for servicing the north, known until 1923 as Sawridge, with landing stages for the paddle-steamers that plied the lake. Many prospectors passed through here during the Klondike Goldrush, and the paddle-steamers carried on until 1915, when the railroad first reached Slave Lake. The town is still the point of departure for trekking northwards today, as hunters take off from here after bear and moose in the hunting season. The lake gets its name from the Slave Indians who lived here when the first Europeans arrived. Like the Beaver Indians further north, they were among the Athabascan tribes, but subservient to the Cree Indians, part of the Algonquin nation. The 18th c. was a time of intertribal strife, particularly once the Cree became the first to obtain guns from the White Man, and a peace treaty only came when the Cree had been decimated by smallpox. Descendants of the original local peoples, along with the more recently arrived Métis, live on in Lesser Slave Lake territory today. The Slave Lake Native Friendship Center, with its own management structure and leisure facilities, helps with integration, and also has handmade moccasins, jewelry and Indian garments for sale.