Five Historic Alberta Highlights July 24, 2018 · 9 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.
One of the first historic places you should visit in Alberta is Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. This location is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is dedicated to preserving a 6,000-year-old First Nations hunting ground.
Although I've known about Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump for years, I was surprised to learn about the museum they build right into the iconic cliff. This museum explores the Blackfoot culture and talks about many aspects of their lives outside of just the jump and its hunting uses. It talks about how the Blackfoot lived, how they tamed wolves to help them hunt, and how they survived the harsh prairie winters.
Another historic site worth visiting is in Cardston, Alberta, which is just an hour south of the Buffalo Jump. This community might be small, but it is home to one of the most unique museums in all of Alberta: The Remington Carriage Museum.
This museum is housed in a 64,000 square-foot building, with over 270 carriages from across North America and Britain. Some carriages date back to the 1800s and were used by the pioneers that came and settled in Alberta while others were used by dignitaries such as Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Pioneers came to Alberta for the freedom of a new world but stayed for the mining industry. In southern Alberta, along The Crowsnest Pass, you'll find lush green valley disappear to a sea of rock and stone. This sea of limestone is what remains of the town of Frank, a once booming mining community referred to as the upcoming "Pittsburgh of Canada".
The town's main industry was mining, and they mined the nearby Turtle Mountain. They were warned by local First Nations people that the mountain wasn't safe to mine as it tended to move, but they disregarded their warnings. On April 29th, 1903 the mountain moved, and 90 million tones of limestone fell off the mountain and buried the town. The landslide, today known as Frank Slide, lasted less than 100 seconds and took the lives of over 90 people, making it one of Canada's deadliest natural disasters.
Today the site is a popular tourist attraction and is home to an impressive information centre. The slide also offers a driving tour, named "Drive Through the Slide" which takes guests into the heart of the stony field and up to the mountain. One of the stops even takes you to Manitoba Avenue, one of the streets in the town where many of the miner's cottages once stood.
Mining has always been a dangerous activity, but the need for mining changed in 1914 with the discovery of oil and natural gas in Alberta. This boom – which still drives Alberta's economy today – had to start somewhere, and that somewhere is the Turner Valley Gas Plant. This gas plant is a national and provincial historic site and is the first commercial oilfield processing plant in Alberta.
Today the building is a museum, but much of the original early 20th Century processing equipment is still inside, such as the compressor plant, the scrubbing plant, and the gasoline and propane plant. Between the machinery and the equipment is a spot dedicated to where, on May 14th, 1914, wet natural gas first sprayed out of a wellbore and changed Alberta's history forever.
As the years roll by, the resource that made Alberta such a wealthy province changed, and although it is still driven much by the oil and gas industry, today the province is also known for its natural beauty. Last year, during Canada's 150th birthday celebrations, Alberta punctuated this by opening Castle Provincial Park.
This park is over 105,000 hectares of mountains, hills, forests, meadows, waterfalls and rivers, all with the idea of preserving the original land of the Piikani Nation people. Similar to how Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump shares the stories of the Blackfoot, Castle Provincial Park embraces that of the Piikani.
One of the Piikani people that shared their stories about growing up in the park was 86-year-old Elder Margaret Plain Eagle. Margaret was born in a tipi on these lands and explored them as a child. She even went on a vision quest to the massive Table Mountain in the park, which is today a popular hiking trial.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
It's been about fifteen years since I last visited Grey Owl's Cabin. I went with my elementary school's Outdoor Ed program when I was about thirteen, and the only highlight I remember was missing school when I got back because of the blisters on my feet.
It was also around fifteen years ago that I last paddled a canoe.
I have been told my entire life that Winnipeg was just like Regina, but slightly larger. This gave the impression that there wasn't much to see in Winnipeg and that it, along with Regina, were more-or-less "fly over destinations". Since starting my blog, I've learned Regina is an absolutely incredible city so I imagined Winnipeg was the same. I then proceeded to contact Tourism Winnipeg and Travel Manitoba to find out the true Winnipeg, and ended up going on a multi-day excursion of their city.
Since a lot of my readers are from Regina and they almost all know somebody heading there for the Banjo Bowl in a couple of days, I thought I'd put this list together. There's a lot more to see there than just Investors Group Field, and the city's history is incredibly fascinating, so I hope you enjoy this list of 100 things about "Canada's Gateway to the West".
Several of these facts are taken from Frank Albo's tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building, but there are many I didn't mention. If you enjoyed them, I encourage buying his book: "The Hermetic Code"