History of Empress & Area
Empress is on the Alberta side of the Saskatchewan Alberta border. Take Highway 41 north from Medicine Hat, approximately 130 km from the Trans Canada Highway # 1. Highway 41 is a very nice, well maintained route, with awesome scenery along the way to Empress.
Empress is also easily accessible from highway 9 at Oyen. If you are traveling from Saskatoon to Calgary, we are not far off. Make the trip down highway 41 to Empress, it’s well worth it. Need help? Contact us!
The Village of Empress is located off Highway 41 along the Alberta Saskatchewan border between the Red Deer and South Saskatchewan Rivers. Throughout its history, this location was of great significance.
First to the native people as it provided shelter and food during the winter months for the many different tribes that followed the Buffalo herds. Today you can still see many of the monuments erected and established such as Medicine Wheels, Stone Effigies, Buffalo Jumps and 1000’s of teepee rings.
Than to the fur traders with the first fur trader being Peter Fidler arriving in 1800 to establishment the Hudson Bay Company trading post known as Chesterfield House, followed quickly by the Northwest company as well as the XY Company trading posts. In 1801 Chesterfield house produced 1200 beaver, the best take of any post that year. For a time the trading posts and natives shared the valley with no trouble, however, by 1823 the trading posts were driven out by the warring tribes. Peter Fidler Park was established by the community to commemorate Chesterfield House, the original Hudson Bay company trading Post.
With the coming of the railway, Empress was to become a boomtown, and in 1914 the CPR station was built. The Empress Station was the only one of this design built in Alberta, with 1 1⁄2 stories distinguished by arched windows that allowed more light into the waiting rooms, and three carved roses at the end of each horizontal ridgeline. This rail station was intended to be a division point and the largest yard west of Winnipeg including a roundhouse, water tower, and coal chute. The Train Station was declared a historic site and has been restored and acts as a train museum.
Currently Empress is home to 188 residents made up of locals and a variety of newcomers who were drawn in by the history, culture, wildlife and scenery surrounding our community. Being located next to 2 rivers provides for a variety of water related activities and tourism businesses, – canoeing, kayaking, riverboat cruises, and fishing trips. As well, the rivers are a great draw for wildlife, making this an ideal location for bird and wildlife watchers as well as the hunting enthusiast, and we do have some outfitters and lodges in the area. For a sample of what we have to offer, checkout http://www.jcsriverfishing.com, http://www.riverbendjetboattours.com.
Empress has 2 campgrounds, one located in town, and one located in Peter Fidler Park by the Red Deer River, as well as a hotel and a bed & breakfast located in town, and a number of lodges surrounding Empress. Check out http://www.albertawesternuplands.com, or Valley Bed & Breakfast on Facebook The river is also used by the agricultural community for irrigating crops. Just out of Empress we are fortunate to have an entrepreneur who has worked with the University of Saskatchewan to develop an organic prairie orchard growing a wide variety of fruits: strawberries, raspberries, grapes, cherries, saskatoons, chokecherries, and a wide variety of apples. They have a U-pick, as well as a variety of tasty treats made from their crops, and they host an annual apple festival in September. Check out Forks Prairie Orchard on Facebook.
The Village of Empress and surrounding area has an amazing Native Canadian history. TeePee rings Buffalo jumps an Effigy and a Medicine Wheel can be found nearby.
Before the explorers, and before the settlers came to Alberta, the Empress area was alive with Native culture and daily life. Come and have a look!
Photos Courtesy of Aaron and Lori Steinley & Knarls n’ Knots.