17 ghost towns in Alberta that you need to check out this summer

Aug 17 2021, 10:35 am

COVID-19 continues to present a risk to public health. While restrictions have been lifted across Alberta, it is recommended to continue practicing health and safety measures, including frequent hand-washing, wearing a mask on public transit, at City facilities, and in healthcare settings, and staying home if you are sick.

Alberta is home to lots of beautiful places: the Rocky Mountains, the Badlands, and the wide-open prairies, along with some vibrant cities.

But sometimes you want to visit somewhere that’s a little less obviously beautiful, a place that’s a little different, a little quieter, a little more… spooky.

Luckily, there are plenty of abandoned places and ghost towns across the province, where you can wander around and scare yourself to your heart’s content. They may not be officially haunted, but you’ll probably still get goosebumps.

From the slightly neglected to full-on abandoned, each of these Alberta ghost towns definitely brings spooky vibes.

Many of these spots are the result of a booming coal industry that was deserted when operations failed, resources were depleted, or the world simply moved on to other forms of energy. Whatever the reason, it’s always fun to explore somewhere new, especially when you don’t know what (or who) you’ll stumble across there!

Here are 17 ghost towns to check out on your next Alberta road trip.

Retlaw

According to the Ghost Towns website, Retlaw was expected to be a major town in its area, and in the early 1900s it was a hub of activity, with a pool hall, railway, church, hotel, and more, but when irrigation was brought to the neighbouring town of Vauxhall in the 1920s, Retlaw was soon left abandoned.

What you’ll find: Restored church, abandoned buildings, foundations
Distance from Calgary: 235 km
Distance from Edmonton: 491 km

Nordegg

 

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This town closed up in 1955, leaving behind the remnants of buildings and mining equipment. There had once been about 3,500 citizens living in the area, which is easily accessible with 2WD.

What you’ll find: The original townsite, with many old buildings still intact, but boarded up.
Distance from Calgary: 305 km
Distance from Edmonton: 301 km

Orion

This southern Alberta town was booming in the early 20th century, but a decade of dust storms, drought, and grasshoppers left it dry. Today, the tiny hamlet has a few current residents, with many of the original buildings still standing to check out.

What you’ll find: Many original buildings
Distance from Calgary: 367 km
Distance from Edmonton: 601 km

Nemiskam

According to the Ghost Towns of Alberta website, there are just two citizens left in Nemiskam. This spot is located nearly dead centre in a group of pioneer communities that were created every 10 to 12 kilometres along the rail line paralleling Highway 61. When the community’s only remaining grain elevator was toppled in the 1990s, Nemiskam lost its last notable landmark for those looking to visit the area.

What you’ll find: Abandoned buildings and rarely-used sidewalks in front of empty lots
Distance from Calgary: 341
Distance from Edmonton: 590 km

Rowley

 

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This ghost town has come back to life – a little. There are about 12 residents in Rowley, and they’ve restored many of the old pioneer buildings, including Sam’s Saloon, which is open on certain days and makes for an excellent spot to grab a slice of pizza and check out some entertainment.

What you’ll find: Many old buildings have been restored, but there are still lots of abandoned structures to visit in Rowley and area.
Distance from Calgary: 171 km
Distance from Edmonton: 251 km

Etzikom

One of many CPR sites, many of Etzikom’s residents perished in the 1918 influenza epidemic. Today, visitors will find the thriving Etzikom Museum & Canadian Historic Windmill Interpretive Centre, featuring windmills along with plenty of other unique historic collections and displays.

What you’ll find: A windmill museum and two churches
Distance from Calgary: 352 km
Distance from Edmonton: 601 km

Fort Normandeau

Located near Red Deer, Fort Normandeau offers This spot dates back to 1885 when, instead of building a fort, Lieutenant Normandeau commandeered a hotel and turned it into a fort. Today, visitors to the area will find the restored fort and historic site celebrating the history of Red Deer and the three founding cultures.

What you’ll find: The old fort
Distance from Calgary: 151 km
Distance from Edmonton: 159 km

Bulwark

 

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At point in time, Bulwark was bustling, the heart of a huge grain district with three lumberyards, two general stores, two churches, a hardware store, a Bank of Commerce, garage, drug store, dance hall, pool room, five grain elevators. Today, it sits empty, with abandoned buildings, the old cemetery, and a few houses.

What you’ll find: A number of old buildings and homes, along with grain elevators.
Distance from Calgary: 310 km
Distance from Edmonton: 254 km

Bankhead

Located in Banff National Park, Bankhead was established in the early 20th century as a place to supply coal for the locomotives of the Canadian Pacific Railway. At its busiest, the community boasted a population of 1,500 people, however the mine site’s poor quality of coal and continuous labor strikes forced the mine to close in 1922, and many of its residents chose to move to the town of Banff.

What you’ll find: Many original structures remain
Distance from Calgary: 126 km
Distance from Edmonton: 412 km

Alberta Coal Branch

 

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Bordering Jasper National Park, the Alberta Coal Branch features a number of old mine building ruins. One of a number of mining towns in the area, the community prospered for over 30 years, particularly during the Second World War, however as the demand for coal diminished, the Alberta Coal Branch found itself abandoned.

What you’ll find: Lots of mine building ruins, foundations, and machinery
Distance from Calgary: 418 km
Distance from Edmonton: 270 km

Wayne

 

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To get to Wayne, you’ll cross 11 historic bridges through the Alberta Badlands, making the journey part of the destination. About 40 residents still live in the area, and visitors will find a saloon and ice cream shop in the townsite.

What you’ll find: Abandoned homes and mining artifacts, plus a historic saloon, hotel, and campground
Distance from Calgary: 146 km
Distance from Edmonton: 295 km

Minnewanka Landing

Located just minutes from the ghost town of Bankhead and the Banff townsite, Minnewanka Landing was a coal mining community during the first world war. According to the Ghost Towns website, in the late 1930s, the Canadian Government wanted a new source of power for Calgary, and the town was fully flooded over by a new dam, remains the main road to Lake Minnwanka to this day.

What you’ll find: Many original remains
Distance from Calgary: 129 km
Distance from Edmonton: 415 km

Anthracite

 

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Four miles north of Banff is what used to be the coal mining community of Anthracite. Forget the lakes on your next trip into the Rockies, because this place hasn’t been crowded since the 1800s. All that remains is a grave marker for a child who drowned in a river all those long years ago.

What you’ll find: Building foundations
Distance from Calgary: 120 km
Distance from Edmonton: 406 km

Buffalo Jump Station

Many of the original Buffalo Jump Station structures still remain, and it used to be a CPR stopping point along the Trans-Canada Highway. The boarded up building was last used in the 1970s, and was named after an abandoned arts and crafts store metres away. The railway station has since been moved to the town of Cochrane, Alberta alongside Highway 1A, where it still remains in its original condition.

What you’ll find: Many original buildings
Distance from Calgary: 37 km
Distance from Edmonton: 316 km

Caldwell

Named after a family of Mormon refugees, a number of log buildings were left behind when Caldwell was officially abandoned back in the 1950s. This tricky-to-find spot is located in the southwest corner of Alberta.

What you’ll find: A number of log buildings

Duhamel

Those travelling on Highway 21 should make a stop at the Alberta Government campsite on the south side of the Battle River. Duhamel is an old Laboucane settlement and is the former home of a large Metis colony.

What you’ll find: A church
Distance from Calgary: 272 km
Distance from Edmonton: 96 km

Fort Edmonton and Fort Augustus

 

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Both of these forts still stand along the Saskatchewan River after having been built by competing fur trade companies.

What you’ll find: The old forts
Distance from Calgary: 333 km
Distance from Edmonton: 28 km

If you’re looking for more chills and thrills, be sure to check out the Ghost Towns website for a list of over 50 locations to explore in Alberta.

With files from Chandler Walter

Elle McLeanElle McLean

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