Get Outta Town!

The August long weekend is fast approaching. Before we know it Heritage Day – Monday, August 4 – will be upon us. If you are wondering what to do with your day off, why not consider a heritage-themed outing? This is the perfect time of year to explore Alberta’s rural historic resources.

The cover of the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet.
The cover of the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet.

If you are in the Edmonton area, an ideal destination for a heritage day trip is the Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site, located one hour and forty minutes northeast of the city. It is a perfect location for a picnic, and there’s plenty to see there. Before you head out of town, make sure you download or print out the Victoria Trail Historical Walking and Driving Tours booklet that is available on the Alberta Culture website. It contains information about the buildings at the settlement, and, once you’ve finished exploring the historic site, you can follow the tour back towards Edmonton along the historic Victoria Trail.

There are two Provincial Historic Resources at the Victoria Settlement Historic Site: Fort Victoria, a Hudson’s Bay Company building dating from the 1860s, and the 1882 Free Trader’s Cabin on River Lot #3. In addition, you can see the Reverend McDougall Graves, where four of the missionary’s family members – victims of an epidemic of smallpox in the 1870s – are buried. A 1906 Methodist Church on the site recalls the important role of the church in the settlement of the area.

Victoria Trail Plan
This plan of Indian Reserve No. 126 shows the Victoria Trail as it follows a curve in the North Saskatchewan River. (NCR 291)

The Victoria Trail is a scenic drive that winds along the bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Unlike many other historic routes, it has remained largely undeveloped and evocative of days gone by. As you traverse the Victoria Trail, it is easy to imagine yourself in the company of those who came before. After 1860, convoys of Red River carts carrying supplies to Edmonton wore ruts into the sod. In 1874, the first North-West Mounted Police contingent famously trekked west along the trail. After the turn of the century, traffic flowed the other way, with Ukrainian settlers coming east from Edmonton to settle on the land. Until the coming of the railway in 1918, the Victoria Trail remained the most important overland route linking Edmonton the Victoria Settlement.

Red River Cart
Red River carts like this one were a common sight on the Victoria Trail in the 1860s. (PAA B5806)

This Heritage Day, treat yourself to a journey back in time, along the Victoria Trail.

Written by: Dorothy Field, Coordinator, Heritage Survey Program

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