Fort Smith (Thebacha – “beside the rapids”) is located on the banks of the Slave River, which was once the main transportation route north. It lies below the rapids that forced river travelers to make a long portage. Today, these rapids are home to some of the most challenging and accessible whitewater for kayakers in the Americas, as well as a colony of white pelicans. The town also provides access to Wood Buffalo National Park. Within and around the town are the lands of the Salt River First Nation Reserve, one of just two Aboriginal reserves in the NWT. A regional government centre, Fort Smith is the headquarters of Aurora College and home to the largest of its three NWT campuses.
Residents have a relatively high level of education and the majority Aboriginal population is actively engaged in community activities and groups. There is good high-speed Internet access, and there are employment opportunities in government, education and tourism. Aurora College draws nursing, teaching and trades students.
Fort Smith is connected to the Mackenzie Highway system by Highway 5, which runs partially through Wood Buffalo National Park. Northwestern Air Lease offers air service to Yellowknife and to various locations in Alberta.
There are two schools, Joseph Burr Tyrrell Elementary and P.W Kaeser High as well as the Thebacha campus of Aurora College. Fort Smith has an extensive health and social services sector, a museum, a small retail sector, a variety of accommodation, two golf courses, a variety of housing and an RCMP detachment.