Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Northern Vignettes

Arctic Harpoons
Beechey Island
Crystal II
Deline/Fort Franklin
Fort Hope
Fox Moth
Kellet's Storehouse
Old Fort Providence
Old Fort Reliance
Stone Church
Thule Village
Fort Journal

Old Fort Reliance

Back's chimneysThe East Arm of Great Slave Lake is a land of spectacular beauty. Native people have lived and hunted here for thousands of years. Over the last two centuries the area, as the entry to the Barrengrounds, has drawn explorers from other parts of the globe. They, too, have contributed to the rich history of Great Slave Lake and its environs.

Restoring the chimneys One of the best preserved sites of early exploration in the western Subarctic is Old Fort Reliance. It was originally erected in 1833 as winter headquarters for the Arctic Land Expedition, led by George Back, R.N. His party travelled by way of the Back River (formerly the Thlew-ee-choh-desseth or Great Fish River) to the Arctic Coast in an effort to locate the missing John Ross expedition and conduct scientific studies.

A fort in name only, Fort Reliance consisted of a main house and smaller houses, heated with chimneys constructed of stone and clay. An observatory for scientific work was also built here.

  • Learn more about Old Fort Reliance's rebirth in 1855 and 1897

Today all that remains are the chimneys, storage pits, and the outlines of the log buildings in the earth.

After restorationThe Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, in conjunction with Parks Canada, has studied the site and carried out a programme to stabilize and preserve the falling chimneys.

There is still much to be learned from this site. These fragile remains are protected from disturbance by the Northwest Territories Archaeological Sites Regulations.