Great Slave Lake is accessible for many types of boats, while many smaller lakes and rivers in Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve are suitable for exploration by self-propelled craft, such as canoes and kayaks. Regardless of vessel type, boaters and paddlers need to be well prepared for travel on the water. The East Arm can be a challenging place to travel, as there can be significant wind and waves, as well as unmarked shoals.

If you are planning to paddle whitewater, make sure you have adequate information about your route, and be aware of any unnavigable features such as waterfalls and canyons. Scout rapids and hazards as needed and ensure you are wearing a drysuit and helmet.

Parks Canada recommends that you choose a route that is suited to your boat type, skills, experience, fitness level and preparedness. Always wear a lifejacket and be extremely cautious about any open water crossing. Know your craft and how to handle it in both calm and rough conditions.

Book with an Outfitter

For less experienced boaters or for visitors looking to experience the luxury of catered meals, you may want to consider travelling with a guide outfitter. Outfitters provide the necessary equipment along with pre-trip customer service to ensure your trip is comfortable, well organized and above all, memorable.

Safety Equipment

The Office of Boating Safety has equipment requirements and recommendations.

Dress for the water temperature. Consider wearing cold water protection gear suitable to your activity, such as wetsuits, drysuits, immersion suits, survival suits or exposure coveralls.

Satellite phones are the recommended form of communication in the Great Slave Lake area. Other satellite GPS message devices, such as a SPOT or inReach, are also effective.


Great Slave Lake is typically ice-free by late June. Be aware of strong winds. If needed, head toward a safe location near shore to wait for calmer conditions. Check the marine weather forecast regularly and be ready to adapt your plan as needed.

Cold Shock

The waters of Great Slave Lake are extremely cold. Temperatures are not much warmer than 10° Celsius in summer in McLeod Bay. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause cold shock. If your boat capsizes, or you fall or jump into cold water, you may experience involuntary inhalation and uncontrolled gasping. This can result in drowning if you are underwater. Cold shock can also trigger a heart attack because blood vessels constrict. Water temperatures that are less than 15° C are extremely dangerous and may be life threatening.


Hypothermia can occur when your body temperature drops below normal. Immersion in cold water can lead to hypothermia. It can inhibit your ability to move and swim, which can result in drowning. Proper skills and gear, extra clothes and food, in addition to good planning and decision making are required.

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