ATV and Snowmachines
Rent a 'quad' or a 'sled' when you get to town. There are literally hundreds of trails to explore due to the oil & gas companies' pipelines intersecting the province. Loads of wildlife, never far from amenities....you've GOT to try it! Kids of all ages love it. There are several places to rent ATVs in town - you can't miss them.
Off the beaten path Nightlife
The young people in this area really enjoy bush parties. If the weather is nice, there's a good chance everyone will spend the night somewhere out in the forrest partying around a fire pit. Your best bet to attend one of these is to befriend a local, infact, i don't know if i'd recommend going if you didn't know anybody. Your other option is to hang out on mainstreet and ask loitering teenagers where the party is tonight. To get there, you'll probably have to catch a lift from one of the kids going so try to make arrangements or just hang out infront of the liquer store and try to catch a ride.
Kootenay Plains Ecological Reserve
As you approach Banff National Park from Highway 11 at Saskatchewan Crossing, you will encounter a rather broad plain bordering the river for about 20km or so. This is the Kootenay Plains Ecological reserve which hosts a variety of wildlife and plant species unique to this area.
The warm Chinook winds melt the winter snows early and provide the area with an abundance of grasses for the grazing deer, moose, bison and elk. Migrating birds also frequent this area. I encountered several flocks of Canada geese on my recent trip there.
Visit historic Nordegg, about an hour's drive west of Rocky Mountain House. It is the site of the former Brazeau Colleries which was a coal mining operation here for many years.
Here's a link to some of the historic significance to this area as provided by the Nordegg Historical Socieity
Historical Rocky Mountain House
"A bit of history..."
Cirrus Mountain dramatically looms 3270m (10,728 feet) above the Icefield Parkway, near the Athabasca summit.
During the late 1700's, the presence of British and Canadian fur traders in Canada's West played an important role in opening the vast uncharted lands surrounding what is now known as Rocky Mountain House.
In 1799 the North West Company (Nor Westers') and the Hudson Bay Company established two fur trading posts known as Rocky Mountain House and Acton House. Fierce competition for the Indian trade with the Kootenay and the Blackfoot was the rule of the day until 1821 when the two companies merged. The Nor Westers' post was closed, but the name "Rocky Mountain House" remained. The original Hudson's Bay post was replaced, only to be burned to the ground during the winter of 1861 and replaced in turn by the final Rocky Mountain House completed in 1868. The fur trade era ended, however, when this last fort was closed in 1875.
Although these locations were established as fur trading posts, they were also used as a base for exploration. David Thompson, the famous explorer, surveyor and geographer spent several years here searching for a passage west to the Pacific Ocean. This search led to the extensive surveying and mapping of the west. His achievements are commemorated by the naming of highway #11west, "David Thompson Highway". In the early 1900's, a new wave of adventurers began to arrive.
They came seeking the opportunities offered by the numerous other natural resources in the area, and by 1912, the Town of Rocky Mountain House was firmly established. Many historic sites have been preserved in this area, like the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Park and Brazeau Collieries at Nordegg.
Rocky Mountain House is not in the mountains itself, but approximately 100 miles east, where the foothills merge into the Great Plains. The North Saskatchewan River was the chief transportation route through this area.
Today, the area is still relatively desolate, with a few logging and oil & gas companies exploring the area for resources. East of Rocky, there are numerous farms and ranches.
For a high resolution view of my GigaPan images, please visit my Gigapan web pages: GIGAPANS
"Nordegg, coal town of the past."
About 90 km west of Rocky Mountain House lies the sleepy little ghost town of Nordegg which up until the 1950s was one of the largest coal mines in the province, dedicated to producing coal briquettes.
Today it is all but a memory. The town once boasted a population of more than 3000. Today it's barely 50. Regular tours can be taken of the old mines.
"The gateway to the Rockies"
Past Nordegg, the vistas change from miles of forested foothills and become dramatically changed to the spectacular Rocky Mountains, beginning with Mount Mitchener, named for The Rt. Hon. Roland Michener who was Governer General of Canada from 1967 to 1972.
Mount Michener sits on the far side of Abraham Lake and rises to nearly 8200 feet.