In 1799, David Thompson was one of the first European explorers to arrive in the region. Despite the exploration activity, Lesser Slave Lake wasn’t officially named until almost half a century later.
Shortly after Thompson’s arrival, no less than five fur trading posts were established around the lake, capitalizing on the abundance of fur-bearing animals. The Hudson Bay Company established a post at the eastern end of the lake, an area that eventually became a primary location for the Northwest Company.
Here, at the mouth of the Lesser Slave River, a tiny settlement formed. It was known as the community of Sawridge. In the early 1930’s a major flood wiped out most of the community and the residents decided to re-locate about 5 km south of the river’s mouth. This new community was known as Slave Lake. The Village of Slave Lake was incorporated in 1961 with 500 residents and in 1965 it was officially incorporated as a town.