Chances look good that you will see the aurora while in Fort Smith. Can we guarantee that? Yes we can! Well, almost! Fort Smith is located in an area of 85-95 percent aurora activity. This means that on any clear night, you are almost guaranteed to see some level of aurora activity. Although we reccomend viewing in the months from late August to mid-April, when the sun sets at a reasonable hour.
Our other claim to fame is Wood Buffalo National Park's designation as the largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world! The title means the park has minimal lighting, and as a result, the night sky and aurora borealis displays are incredible.
Here are some of our favourite places to view the northern night sky:
1. Fort Smith Star Park & Observatory: Close to town but still perfect for grand views of the night sky. Run by the Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society, this active group of night sky enthusiasts love to share their passion with visitors. To book a viewing session call or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 872-0243.
2. Pine Lake Dark Sky Observation Site: This is the site of the Dark Sky Festival, and is about a 40 minute drive from town, with no artificial lights unless you bring them. This gorgeus location is on the shores of Pine Lake with cabins set up for an overnight stay and a star gazing platform for you to use.
3. Salt River Day Use Area in Wood Buffalo National Park: A shorter 20 minute drive into the park where you experience complete darkness, silence and brilliance!
3. Fort Smith Ski Club: The ski trails are magical at night and only a 10 minute drive from the community but the stars and aurora still sparkle.
4. Mountain Portage Rapids: A favourite summer beach spot turns into a great fall and winter hiking and star gazing area. There are multiple hiking trails where you can find a peaceful oasis to look up and contemplate the universe.
Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival
The Annual Dark Sky Festival is a celebration of the return of dark skies to our northern latitude (60°N). The festival activities take place in Fort Smith, NWT and in the world's largest Dark Sky Preserve, Wood Buffalo National Park. This festival runs on the third week of August, often with acitivites, seminars, and viewing sessions both in the town of Fort Smith and at Wood Buffalo National Park.
For more information go to: Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival
Click here for more information about: Wood Buffalo National Park
Click here for more information about camping in the area: Camping and Side Trips