Edson Trail and the Long Trail
The Long Trail was a route that settlers traveling to the Peace River country used until 1911. It took them from Edmonton along a wagon trail to Athabasca Landing were they would use a barge or raft to travel up the Athabaska River to the Lesser Slave River. After crossing Lesser Slave Lake they would travel the muddy Grouard-Peace River Trail to Peace River Crossing. Those who wanted to go to what is now Grande Prairie had to travel another 100 miles.
The first wave of settlement occurred in 1911 when the Edson-Grande Prairie Trail was established. The Edson-Grande Prairie Trail replaced the Long Trail for those who were traveling to the Peace River country. The Edson-Grande Prairie Trail lasted from 1911 until 1916 when the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway (EDBC) took its place.
The Edson-Grande Prairie Trail was funded by the province of Alberta and was rapidly developed with crews of axe men cutting a path through the forest to allow wagons to pass. The work continued to improve the “highway” or “road” as the years passed, but for many who traveled the trail, there were many obstacles to overcome, like sections that ran through muskeg or deep mud. When the rutted deep mud dried, the trail was like concrete and many would walk rather than ride the swaying wagons. The barges and rafts often overturned and many were drown as they traveled by river or lake.
Although the Edson-Grande Prairie Trail continued to be a rough passage to the Peace River country, it brought a wave of settlement that was remarkable. Early arrivals faced the prospect of breaking the land and seeding crops in a region that still had an uncertain future. Crops still had to be developed for the shorter growing season, and when there was a good crop there was no way to transport it to markets in the south. Many traveled the trail with hopes and expectations of a prosperous future.