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Imagine reading a textbook on a rollercoaster, that’s sort of what visiting a ghost town is similar to. Well, minus the imminent and unavoidable nausea that would surely occur if you were to try to read a book on a rollercoaster. But think about it; ghost towns are interesting and informative preserved portraits of time periods and cultures that once existed – and they’re scary. Nordegg, Alberta, which was once a busy and growing mining town, is a perfect example.
The town, which was established in 1911, is located 150KM west of Red Deer, Alberta off of David Thompson Highway. In 1914, The Canadian Northern Western Railway built a railway to Nordegg, and the town grew to 3,000 people, most of which worked in the local Brazeau Collieries coal mine. But as trains shifted their fuel source from coal to diesel, Nordegg’s population began to decline until there were only a few people left, in effect, turning Nordegg into a true blue ghost town. In 1993, at the urging of former residents, the 79-acre Brazeau Collieries mine was declared a provincial historical resource, and in 2002, it became a National Historic Site.
Today, the town is but a few buildings, but guides offer access to the mine site during the summer season. As a result of the tourism opportunities, there has been a small amount of redevelopment with a golf course, a fire department, and a library all developing in the area.
But don’t get the wrong idea, visiting is still eerie. Wallboards and walls bang as the wind blows through gaps and spaces of the still standing structures, and mining equipment remains at the ready to use as if people just walked away from their daily tasks and jobs. Additionally, there is a bit of a dark history in Nordegg. Like many mining towns of the time, Nordegg was not without disaster. On Halloween, 1941, a massive explosion tore through the mineshaft, killing 29 miners. Nine years later, a fire destroyed the coal plant. But it was the shift to diesel fuel that ultimately killed the town, for in 1955, the mine closed for good.
Nordegg happens to be remote enough that it also acts as a great backcountry hub for pretty much any outdoor pursuit you desire. After you are sufficiently spooked by the relic town, you can decompress on a nine hole golf course, or hike the expansive Albertan countryside. Alternatively, you can mountain bike the surrounding peaks and domes, or fly fish and canoe the many surrounding streams that feed nearby Abraham Lake. Nordegg is also worthy of a winter adventure as there are easily accessible snowmobile and cross country skiing trails,as well as great ice climbing in the nearby Kootenay Plains. Lastly, cowboy fantasies can be lived via horseback tours.
Bring – Hiking boots, mountain bike, fly fishing rod, golf clubs, canoe, and swimwear.
Go – Because of all the outdoor activities available to visitors, Nordegg is a great place to visit during any season, but opt for the summer months if you really want to explore the town and it’s history as the mine is only accessible during these time.
Like this post? Check out Explore The Best Of Alberta This Winter In One Amazing Road Trip and Be A Cowboy For A Day At Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, too!