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Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 191: Historic Trails: Edmonton to St. Albert

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

In the days before highways and rail lines, people travelled on foot or by horse and cart along trails carved-out of the wilderness.

As historian Merrily Aubrey explains, maps drawn-up by the Dominion Land Surveyors show the Alberta landscape was criss-crossed by a network of trails.

Some were created as portages by the fur traders, bringing them from one good waterway to another. Others were older, overland paths used by the nomadic aboriginal people, taking them from food group to food group.

Subsequently, they were used by travellers and settlers. And, in most cases, they were the most direct routes, but in others, they were paths of least resistance.

In the early days, travellers lived off their own rations, supplementing their food with local game or berries found along the way.

As more settlers moved into the region, stopping houses sprung-up along the main trails.

On a 1903 sectional map which was put out by the federal government, you can see a spider's web of trails, leading out of Edmonton.

You had Edmonton to St. Albert, St. Albert to Athabasca Landing, Edmonton to Fort Saskatchewan, Fort Saskatchewan on the Sturgeon Trail to Victoria Settlement, Strathcona to Calgary, to Cooking Lake, to Wabamum Lake, and there were many others.

One well-used trail was that between Fort Edmonton and the Catholic mission of St. Albert that was established in 1861. The Hudson's Bay Company also operated a post there from 1866 to 1875.

The trail from Edmonton to St. Albert would take you from the fort, just below where the Alberta Legislature now sits, through the Hudson's Bay Company reserve, the west end of which became 121st street - and that's why there's that nice wide boulevard, because that was the end of the Hudson's Bay Company land - northwesterly past the east side of Mistitim Lakes, which were located between the current 156 and 170th streets, on to St. Albert.

Mistatim means "horse" in Cree, or more literally, Big Dog, which is what they thought they were right at the beginning when they saw the horses that came. But once you're past Mistitim Lakes, you're about two thirds of the way from the fort to the St. Albert settlement.

A century later, the St. Albert Trail is a paved highway joining two thriving Alberta cities.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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