There was a time when forts were scattered across the wild western frontier that is present-day Alberta. Some were built for the fur trade and others were built by the Mounties as beacons of law and order. These outposts were places of refuge and centres of trade around which entire communities were built. Many Alberta municipalities can trace their origins to forts, including our two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton.
Today, Alberta’s forts are among the most interesting historical places in Canada and visiting one is a great way to experience the raw western heritage that still beats in the heart of modern-day Alberta. Unique hands-on activities make it fun to connect with the past and bring it to life.
Forts of Alberta
- Fort Edmonton Park is a living history museum with costumed interpreters that depict different eras in Edmonton’s history. You can meet fur traders at the fort, visit an Indigenous camp, ride a real steam train, a wagon or a 1920s streetcar and stroll streets representing 1885, 1905 and 1920. There’s even an antique 1920s midway complete with rides and carnival games. Visitors can stay overnight inside the park or enjoy afternoon tea at Hotel Selkirk, a 1920s style hotel.
- When the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) built Fort Calgary, it laid the foundations for the vibrant city we see today. At the fort’s interpretive centre, you can explore colourful stories of Calgary’s past, try on an authentic RCMP uniform or spend some time in jail. The fort was built to take advantage of the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers – take time to stroll along the RiverWalk to admire their natural beauty.
- Watch a re-enactment of Canada’s iconic Musical Ride in the very place where it began, learn how to properly groom a horse and wear the red serge at the Fort Museum of the NWMP in Fort Macleod.
- Parks Canada protects the archaeological remains of four fur trading forts at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. You can see the remains of the forts and learn about this unique site where rival trading posts competed for trade with fur traders and nine different Indigenous cultures beginning in 1799. You can also learn about the life of explorer, fur trader and mapmaker, David Thompson who used one of the posts as a base while searching for a pass through the Canadian Rockies.
- Explore the lives of Canada’s early fur traders, First Nations and notoriously corrupt whiskey traders at the forts of these other national historic sites: Fort Vermillion on the Peace River in northern Alberta, and Fort Whoop Up in Lethbridge.
- More for your must-see list: Fort George and Buckingham House, Fort Saskatchewan Museum and Historic Site, Fort Normandeau and Fort Dunvegan.