Participant Information

The information on this page is from Paddlefest 2022. The next Paddlefest in 2024 will be similar. Updated details will be announced closer to Paddlefest 2024.

So you’re coming to Paddlefest—that’s great! But if you’re new, you may need a little guidance to help navigate the process and make the most of your experience. So here’s your very own guide to what you can expect at Slave River Paddlefest!

Mark Your Calendar

Slave River Paddlefest is always held on August long weekend, which means this year’s event the upcoming event will take place August 4th through August 7th, 2023. Some important dates to keep in mind include:

  • Registration is discounted until July 28th.
  • It’s best to register as soon as possible.
  • You will need to check in on the first day at the Parks Canada office.
  • All paddlers must attend the Mandatory Paddler Safety Meeting after the Opening Ceremony at Mountain Portage Rapids on Saturday, August 5th at 12:30pm.

Head over to our Schedule page to see everything that’s going on during Paddlefest.

Festival Locations

Paddlefest has a variety of activities and events which take place at several different locations.

  • Parks Canada Visitor Centre
    149 McDougal Road – Everyone needs to check in here on the first day before attending the festival.
  • The Boat Launch
    Most of Friday’s paddling activities happen or start here.
  • Queen Elizabeth Campground (Queen E)
    The Friday and Sunday evening dinners are held here as well as the Monday morning pancake breakfast.
  • Mountain Portage Rapids (The Playground Rapids)
    The main festival site and where most of the paddling events take place on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Dirty O’Fergies
    152 McDougal Road – Location of the Saturday night Beach Party.
  • Fort Smith Paddling Club Tent
    28 Warbler Crescent – Meet here on Monday morning for the River Trip and Edge King Competition.

You can view a map of Fort Smith with all of the Paddlefest locations highlighted for you over on our Map page. There you’ll also find a link to open the map in Google Maps on your phone for a fully interactive experience with directions and navigation.

Transportation between the festival locations is not provided by Paddlefest. However, you can usually find another participant who will let you carpool.

Important Notes & Rules

  • Bring your own equipment if possible. Label each item with your name.
  • Bring your own picnic lunch for the Friday family canoe picnic.
  • Paddlers will be required to fill out a legal waiver (for those 18+) or acknowledgement of risk (for those under 18). A parent or legal guardian must sign with a minor.
  • No littering. Help us keep festival sites clean by packing out what you pack in.
  • You must wear your wristbands at all times.
  • Children must wear life jackets when on the rocks at Mountain Portage Rapids.
  • Parents and guardians are responsible for the safety of their own children.
  • Glass bottles and other glass items are not allowed at festival sites.
  • Dogs are not allowed at festival sites during Paddlefest.


Registration with a Paddler Pass is required if you want to participate in any water-based activities at Paddlefest. The only exception are the Intro-to-Awesome Raft and Duo Rides.

Instructional Clinics

We offer clinics so participants can work with instructors to build their paddling skills. The clinics are offered separately from the main festival events for an additional fee and are limited in capacity.

You can add clinics to your paddler registration at any time by editing your registration. However, your participation isn’t guaranteed as clinics may already be full. We will confirm which clinics you are registered for via email, and we’ll add you to a wait list for those that are already full.

There are a few free clinics which are aimed at beginners and are mandatory for those who haven’t paddled before. You cannot use any equipment provided by the Fort Smith Paddling Club until completing the beginner paddling clinic. This is automatically added to your registration if you indicate that you’re a new paddler.

Note that all paid clinics are payable by cash or cheque (made out to Fort Smith Paddling Club) on-site at the beginning of the course, unless otherwise noted.

Paddling & Safety Gear

It’s best to bring your own PFD, paddling gear, and boat if possible. During much of the festival we have gear available to paddlers thanks to our partners and sponsors, including the Fort Smith Paddling Club. This gear is not available to rent, instead it is shared among paddlers who don’t have their own gear for certain events.

Paddlers will be asked to complete a wet exit before using closed boats such as whitewater kayaks with spraydecks. If you will be paddling for the first time at Paddlefest, then we ask that you attend the First-Timers Introduction to Kayaking clinic. Simply add the clinic to your paddler registration to attend for free.

Please double check whether you will need to have your own gear for instructional clinics.

Respect the Pelicans

The Slave River is home to a unique colony of pelicans whose nesting grounds are located on the islands of the Mountain Portage Rapids, near the main festival site. During the spring and summer, these islands are a protected area and closed to human activity. As such, we ask participants to observe the following: 

  • Do not go near or step foot on their islands. There is a 100-metre buffer zone around each island.
  • If a juvenile pelican comes to the shore, quietly paddle or walk away and vacate the area to allow it to freely travel around the beach or eddy.
  • Do not bring dogs to the Mountain Portage Rapids.
  • Do not feed, crowd, or touch the pelicans.
  • Pack out what you pack in. Make sure there’s no trash left behind.

Ride Sharing

If you’re looking for a ride up or have an extra seat for someone, you can coordinate a ride-share with people using this Google Sheet:

More Information

How to get to Fort Smith and where to stay.

What, where, & when activities are happening at Paddlefest.

Instructional clinics are here to help you build your skills.

For those not paddling, you can always join as a spectator.

Take a look at the colourful pictures of past events.

Get directions and see all of the festival sites around Fort Smith.

Still have questions? Look no further than our FAQ.