My personal history with Rocky Mountain House goes back many years. When I was very young, good friends of my family moved from Coaldale to Rocky Mountain House and many of our summer vacations involved trips to visit them. “Rocky” and the surrounding area always seemed a bit like a second home for us, and I remember visiting the Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site when I was very young, certainly in single digits in terms of years. I’m sure if I knew where all the old family photo albums ended up, I could find a photo of me sitting in the York boat, circa 1980.
As an adult, it is great to see how little has changed here. While I have no memories of the visitors’ centre, the rest of the place seems trapped in a time warp. The small wooden kiosks still have the same “press a button and listen to a recording” setups that I remember from my first visits. I’m sure the recording quality has been improved a lot in the 35+ years though.
My favorite items from my childhood remain. In addition to the aforementioned York boat, the Red River cart is still here, as are the two chimneys which are the vast tangible remains of the trading post which once occupied this site.
There were actually multiple posts built here between 1799 and 1875. Both the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company established trading posts here as the fur trade moved west into what would become Canada. This area also served as a home base for David Thompson, the famed explorer and map maker.
I wouldn’t say there is plenty to do here, but the costumed interpretive staff were very friendly and willing to answer any questions we had, whether it was in regards to the fur trade or the blacksmithing demo taking place. The trails are nicely maintained and allow for a pleasant walk along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
With it being Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, the fee for visiting the site was waived, which is a nice bonus. A free history lesson and a good walk on a sunny day makes for a pretty decent outing in the late summer.