People for millennia have recognized the Athabasca Region and the Athabasca River in particular, as a unique and important place. From Indigenous Peoples using the area for settlement and trade to the prospectors seeking a route to the Klondike, there is a rich history in the Athabasca area.
Here are some opportunities to experience History in the Town of Athabasca!
The Athabasca Regional Archives
The Athabasca Regional Archives is located adjacent to the Old Brick School in the south part of Downtown Athabasca. It shares a space with the Regional Library and is the main repository of historical information in Athabasca.
- Examine Athabasca newspapers since 1908 on microfilm
- Access the area’s homestead records on microfilm
- Look through the photo collection
- Look through the newspaper clipping file
- Reminisce with Edwin Parr yearbooks
- Browse through the collection of reference books and books by local authors
- See Athabasca’s first printing press
- View a large display of Athabasca Clay Products ceramics and other artifacts
- View paintings by local artists
- Explore an index of births and marriages from early newspapers
- Research the obituaries, and
- Ask any question you have about the people, places and times of the area.
If you are an art fan, several pieces of local art are also on display.
The Archives are open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12 to 5:30 pm or by appointment: 780 675 2811.
Visit their website: www.athabascaarchives.ca
The Athabasca History Walk
The best way to get into the history of the Town of Athabasca and the region is to take the Historical Walking tour. The Heritage Society in partnership with the Archives publishes a guide booklet with detailed descriptions of the landmarks and buildings.
There are many stops on the walk, 29 in total. At some places along the way, there will be signs that give you a brief history and context.
The walk starts at the Athabasca Train Station, moves through Downtown and up to the Archives and Old Brick School, then you head back down to the Riverfront.
Take a look at some of the sites you’ll visit: Athabasca Historical Walking Tour Gallery
So, put on some comfortable shoes, fill up your water bottle and enjoy this self-guided tour of Athabasca History.
Athabasca Landing Trail
The route from Edmonton up to Athabasca Landing remains today as a walking trail, part of the Trans Canada trail.
“The Athabasca Landing Trail was built in 1876 by the Hudson’s Bay Company to improve transportation between Edmonton and northern communities. The trail was 100 miles in distance and linked the North Saskatchewan River with the Mackenzie River system, giving it the nickname “The 100 Mile Portage.”
In the late 1800s, the trail was Canada’s busiest northern route and played an important role in the development of northern Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Fur traders, gold rush miners and settlers all followed the trail north, and stopping houses sprang up to accommodate their need for overnight accommodation, meals and stabling of animals.
With the development of railways and roads in this region, the trail became less used. Parts of the trail are still used as roads or recreational trails; others are overgrown or on private land.” – www.athabascalandingtrail.com
At the trailhead in Athabasca, there is a large parking lot, with public washrooms across the highway by the splash park.
As you walk along the trail that used to be the rail line, watch for signs of the trail’s past use… abandoned bridge foundations, machinery and tools. For the most part, it follows alongside the Tawatinaw River, providing great wildlife and nature viewing.
The trail is not continuous, as the old rail line now passes over private property and some bridge crossings are under repair. There are some really great sections that are still walkable: At Colinton going north, outside Rochester to the north, with great wildlife watching on the Tawatinaw River. The map at the Athabasca trailhead shows some of the other sections in the area that are walkable. Some sections are in heavily forested areas, so be wildlife smart.
Celebrate the Athabasca!
Coming up on July 13, 2023, is the “Celebrate the Athabasca!” event that will be welcoming a voyageur canoe brigade that is travelling the Athabasca River from Whitecourt to Fort Assiniboine to Athabasca to celebrate Fort Assiniboine’s 200th birthday!
“The main impetus for this Brigade is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of Fort Assiniboine by the Hudson Bay Company under the direction of George Simpson the governor of the Hudson Bay Company as a major stopover in the historic Columbia Express connecting eastern Canada to the Oregon territory as part of the company’s continental fur trade. Since Canoe Brigades were the main way of linking all the various fur trading posts on the route it is only appropriate that we have a Modern Day Voyageur Canoe Brigade arrive at the present-day community of Fort Assiniboine on July 8th to help commemorate their Bicentennial celebrations. It should be noted that Fort Assiniboine held exceptional celebrations at the end of the 2017 Athabasca Brigade as part of Canada’s 150th to honour the paddlers who participated in that particular Brigade. Due to the success of that Brigade, besides the communities listed above, Woodlands County, Barrhead County, the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River and Athabasca County have all enthusiastically endorsed our Brigade and are planning celebrations recognizing our upcoming Brigade. Showcasing the recreational opportunities on this section of the Athabasca River is an integral part of our mandate in 2023.”
The Canadian Voyageur Brigade Society celebrates the history of Canadian rivers that were used as transportation routes during colonial exploration and the fur trade. They travel in traditional-style “big” canoes and wear period costumes. They promote learning about canoe travel and safety.
The Brigade will finish their journey in Athabasca, at the Riverfront Park. There will be dignitaries welcoming them ashore and entertainment.
Come out and experience a taste of the history of the Athabasca River by welcoming the Voyageurs!
This is just a sample of the historical experiences in the Athabasca region. Watch for part 2 of this blog, where we will take a look at historical areas in the County and region such as Amber Valley, the Peace River Trail and a new museum in Calling Lake.